Mystery Science Theater 3000, or MST3K as it’s often called, is a true cultural treasure. Without the show and its merciless and hilarious takedowns of bizarre B-movies from decades past, how would we ever know that such screen gems even exist? It’s not like the Library of Congress is going to select something like Manos: The Hands of Fate for cultural preservation, so without Joel (or Mike in the later years) and the ‘bots to rescue these films from obscurity, we would be robbed of the chance to witness their awfulness, and by that I mean their greatness. But which are the best examples of MST3K‘s formula?
While all of the nearly 200 episodes of the series are worth checking out, doing so is obviously a pretty daunting task. So I’ve combed through their history to uncover what I believe are the 12 funniest, weirdest, and just overall best episodes of MST3K ever made. So take a look at the list below and see if your favorite made the cut.
1. Manos: The Hands of Fate
Yeesh, where to begin? This may well be the worst movie ever made. A 1966 horror film about a family terrorized by a pagan cult, the scariest thing about it by far is the ineptitude of the filmmakers, the actors… basically everyone involved in this disaster. Except for the guy who plays Torgo, he’s amazing.
2. Pod People
This movie is a super bizarre E.T. ripoff/horror film featuring a hideous Alf-like creature named Trumpy. Its charming effects are not lost on the gang, who come up with one of their greatest host segments ever, the song “Idiot Control,” and even manage to squeeze in a Donald Trump joke — in 1991. It’s still timely today, and it stinks!
3. Cave Dwellers
Where is this movie supposed to be taking place? That’s one of the many questions you’ll be left asking after witnessing this ’80s-riffic fantasy smutfest, which mixes Japanese and Medieval European cultures along with out of place modern touches like, uh, sunglasses.
Look, it’s Jaws from James Bond! And he’s playing a giant caveman! And he’s… licking up shaving cream… OK, this is gross.
The last episode starring Joel Hodgson, and it’s quite a way for him to go out. The ’70s detective film stars Joe Don Baker, one of the few recognizable actors featured in a film lampooned by the gang, and he was reportedly so upset over their treatment of him that he publicly declared his desire to beat up everyone involved with the show.
Unlike most MST3K movies, which are usually decades old by the time they’re spoofed, Werewolf had come out just two years prior to its 1998 episode. That’s how horrendously bad it is.
7. The Beginning of the End
Ever wonder what the difference is between grasshoppers and locusts? You’ll find out in this episode, thanks in large part to Tom Servo’s stand up set. Oh, also giant grasshoppers conquer the world in the movie, because of course they do.
8. The Final Sacrifice
This Canadian student film inspires some of the best lines the gang ever came up with, like this gem when protagonist Troy finds a map of his late father in a folder labeled “Lemon Mines”: “No wonder dad lost his money… he invested in lemon mines!” The film also features what is maybe the greatest character name of all-time: Zap Rowsdower.
9. Teenagers From Outer Space
Bet you’ll never guess what this one’s about! This is perhaps the most ’50s movie ever made: Flying saucers, teenagers, and a giant monster. OK, it’s actually just the shadow of a giant monster. All right, it’s not a monster at all. It’s the shadow of a lobster. Happy?
10. Night of the Blood Beast
In addition to the feature, a 1958 monster movie which includes plenty of fodder for the gang, this episode also includes the terrifically terrible short Once Upon a Honeymoon, which features an obnoxious angel trying to help a married couple have a proper, ahem, consummation.
11. Space Mutiny
Make no mistake, this movie is an absolute mess that gets appropriately torn apart, but the best part of the episode is actually during the closing credits, when the ‘bots absolutely destroy Mike and his ’80s upbringing.
12. The Pumaman
This superhero film features, hands down, the greatest flying sequences ever put to screen. It truly must be seen to be believed — and the gang’s comments regarding it couldn’t be more on point.
You can watch a number of these classics, including “Manos: The Hands of Fate” and “Eegah,” during our Super Sunday MST3K marathon, starting Sunday, February 5 at 10 a.m.
Images: Shout! Factory