Mystery Science Theater 3000 is a truly unique comedy show, and it’s been around since 1988. It’s hard to believe that after such a long hiatus and so many Rifftrax filling the void, it would return. But the revelation of streaming television finally allowed the niche creativity and unusually overlong formula their due. As well as a successful crowdfunding endeavor, of course.
And thanks to some sharp writing, and terrific casting, it’s as though the show never left. There’s an equal share of pop culture references, song and dance, and even invention exchange returned. This show is something of a cult classic. So, here’s how fans rated the top ten episodes on IMDb.
10 Atlantic Rim
This episode very distinctly covers the most modern film that’s been given a riffing, a knock-off of Pacific Rim. This consequently made the riffing a little difficult, with less dead space to work with. And ultimately, it’s almost too easy to laugh at the movie itself rather than the riffing. But the jokes are predominantly solid. Anyhow, the sign of any great MST3k episode is also an entertaining framework.
Those refreshing breaths in between long stretches of an awful movie can often be crucial. This invention exchange has a somewhat juvenile play on words with Supoosi-stories, but the Inflatable Air-Dancer Organ is pretty creative. Also, the song has a fun callback. But the most memorable skit is a meta-joke. Kinga wants the guys to recreate the success of “Every Country Has a Monster” from the prior season.
9 Ator, the Fighting Eagle
This was the season finale of the Gauntlet, and it actually had a few threads to tie up. And given that it might be the last we see for a while if ever, this was truly an important episode. But it still finds time for a charming, food-based invention exchange.
And, surprisingly, the canon ending is a happy one. The movie itself is ripe for riffing, a truly bizarre non-story. The protagonist’s disturbing relationship with his adoptive sister brings the Star Wars revelation to mind. Kinga breaks the fourth wall to point out the audience’s stubborn involvement, which is relatively fun. The riffing may not necessarily be up to par, but it’s serviceable enough. Certainly given the thrilling ending, which may be the most plot this series has had since the movie adaptation.
This riffing is a rewarding assault on a very unapologetic Star Wars ripoff. To the point that we get to see an adorable BB-8 Tom Servo. In fact, a great deal of the framing segments and jokes prod at the plagiarism in Starcrash.
The movie is very difficult to plod through, and it’s actually saddening to see Christopher Plummer embarrass himself. The script is an absolute mess, and the Satellite of Love crew makes the most of it. The riffing has a great pace, which isn’t always the case, and many of the jokes land.
This premiere episode of Mystery Science Theater: The Return was definitely the promise of a powerhouse comeback. Firstly, it does a terrific job of acknowledging all the new changes. Jonah establishes himself as a solid new host and the Mads tie into previous fan favorites.
Kinga goes out of her way to mention Disney’s latest conquest for control of everything on the planet. Later on, we get the instant classic “Every Country Has a Monster” song, pointing out the derivative nature of Reptilicus. And the riffing is spot-on throughout, having plenty to work with. This episode had the difficult job of smoothing over the transition period. That goes for unfamiliar newcomers and longtime fans alike. Overall, it does so surprisingly well. It feels like the reboot is just as much a fan of the original show as the audience.
If you thought that a Godzilla ripoff couldn’t get more shameless, you were wrong. Kinga must have been inspired by the monster rap from the previous selection. Because Yongary is literally the exact same kind of imitation but from a different country.
In fact, the monster itself looks identical to Godzilla, with the exception of the horn on its nose. The whole movie is unforgivably obvious. Fortunately, the riffs are funny enough to help audiences endure what amounts to an extremely boring story, or lack thereof. Many times, the movie being riffed is so awful, that it’s impossible to even laugh at it. This is one of those cases, and luckily, the framing sketches also work enough to make it bearable.
5 Wizards of the Lost Kingdom
One thing is for certain of 80’s movies—the fantasy genre was popular. With films like Ladyhawke, Labyrinth, and The NeverEnding Story, there was an equal share of creativity and tropes alike. This selection covers a movie that’s absolute dreck to its core. At what point is something a Star Wars ripoff, or just a cut-and-paste derivative of every single cliché?
Of course, there is the Han Solo archetype and a haunting Wookie-like creature. Picture a snowy white Chewbacca, with a miserable suit that makes you weep for the man inside. It wasn’t until the sequel that we even got a fun character actor like David Carradine to watch. But the majority of any episode is the riffing. The volume and success of those riffs determine a higher rating every time, and many of these jokes are instant classics.
In the 70’s, disaster movies became a big deal. With the success of The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno, Irwin Allen ushered in a series of similar films. Unfortunately, many of them failed to muster even a fraction of the entertainment value. You see, the disaster genre has gone unchanged since inception. That means you’ll be spending a lot of time with melodrama among an ensemble of characters without any character development.
But that’s why they’re often populated with stars. Here, you actually get legitimately talented actors like Mia Farrow and Robert Forster. They do nothing to rescue this film whatsoever. But the riffing is swift, sweet justice. And the moment when Tom Servo goes out of his way to cover the scene of nudity is absolutely priceless! But the framing segments don’t all necessarily work, like the invention exchange. Neil Patrick Harris gets a cameo and does the usual, but it’s fun enough anyway. The best part is easily the Rock Hudson cosplay.
3 The Day Time Ended
Now this was truly Deep Hurting. The Day Time Ended is set in the desert, and it’s as boring as it is bizarre. The acting is terrible all-around. Also, the special effects are unbelievably crude and awful. That even goes for the claymation, which can sometimes be charming. But there’s no artistry here. There isn’t even effort, even though the story could probably have made for a legitimately effective horror film. A family, stuck in the desert, has a series of run-ins with aliens.
The first encounter, at the bed of the young girl, is absolutely haunting for its farcical and horrific execution. It’s also lengthy. This episode is difficult to survive, even with some decent riffing. But we do get a welcome cameo from Joel Hodgson.
2 Cry Wilderness
Pearl, Bobo, and Brain Guy are back! What a surprising and satisfying return for some characters from the later seasons of the original series. If there’s one thing The Return has been consistently effective with, it’s delivering great fan service. The riffed movie is about a boy who befriends a Bigfoot and goes looking for his missing father in the forest.
There isn’t much more than that, because the writers never cared to add a plot. The movie is both offensive and offensively bad. But every single framing sketch is both creative and terrific, and the same goes for the riffing. This is some of the sharpest writing the show has to offer. Sometimes, selecting just the right movie to riff can make all the difference.
1 Mac And Me
For some reason, people seem to have genuinely positive nostalgia for this movie. Mac and Me is an unabashed E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial knock-off with a giant McDonald’s commercial worked in. It’s one of the most shameless, bizarre attempts to manipulate children ever made. And Mac itself is a disturbing design. Wacky gags like his flattened self are just visually upsetting. The entire production is equally needless and despicable. It’s easily one of the worst movies ever made, but not in the fun Plan 9 From Outer Space kind of way.
And yet, these are the kind of features that this show thrives on. The whole attitude of the movie is easily mocked, and the nonsensical elements inspire some great framing sketches. But even the preceding invention exchange is fantastic. “Spez dispenser” is a hilarious play on words, when physically realized. And the episode also playfully introduces its clever Gauntlet premise for season two, acknowledging our unhealthy binging habits.
NEXT: Ignore The Critics: 10 Good Comedy Movies With Bad Rotten Tomatoes Scores