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Little-Known Sci-Fi Comedies That Are Worth Watching

Science fiction comedies that you haven’t laughed at yet!

Przemysław Mudlaff

13 April 2024

Little-Known Sci-Fi Comedies That Are Worth Watching

Although science fiction and comedy are film genres that seem to rarely combine in one cinematic creation, in reality, the history of film is filled with titles that merge them. Unfortunately, most of these are forgettable productions that often discourage viewers from exploring further entries in the subgenre. Consequently, it’s quite easy to overlook truly funny and valuable science fiction comedies. As evidence of this, consider the following compilation, where I’ve opted for lesser-known and underrated examples over well-established representatives of the sci-fi comedy subgenre, all of which are equally intelligent and/or entertaining. Let me know in the comments which films you would add to this list!

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, 1984

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension has an incredibly interesting but also quite sad story, which serves as a cautionary tale for all filmmakers. In the film industry, nothing can be taken for granted. You can’t blindly believe that you possess a timeless tale that will be analyzed, dissected, and quoted for all eternity. In other words, you shouldn’t spend money you don’t have yet. W.D. Richter and Earl Mac Rauch were so convinced that The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai would be a huge success that they announced a sequel within the film itself. As you can easily guess, the story of a neurosurgeon, adventurer, and rock ‘n’ roll star all in one, who saves the world from invaders from the eighth dimension, flopped in theaters. The character of Buckaroo Banzai only gained popularity when his adventures were released on physical media. The film gained a cult following too late. The studio for which Richter and Rauch worked had gone bankrupt years earlier. Why did The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai fail so spectacularly in its premiere year? It seems that what makes this production exceptional today was considered back then as a oddity meant only for geeky outcasts. It’s also hard to shake the impression that in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, they tried to cram in too much… of everything. However, this doesn’t change the fact that Richter’s production is now a cult classic. It’s a film unlike anything you’ve seen in cinema. Hilarious, optimistic, with great, perfectly portrayed characters (the brilliant John Lithgow!). Actually, if the title itself doesn’t entice you to watch this masterpiece, then perhaps you’re not a fan of science fiction comedies.

Innerspace, 1987


Since we’re talking about movies where it seems like there’s too much going on at first glance, it’s worth mentioning Joe Dante’s Innerspace at this point. It’s truly remarkable how talented the creator of Gremlins showed himself to be in this production, combining so many different genres. In Innerspace, we have elements of adventure cinema, action, thriller, buddy film, comedy, and science fiction. What’s even more interesting is that this mishmash really works well, maintains a good pace, and still looks fantastic. Inspired by legendary productions like The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957) and Fantastic Voyage (1966), Innerspace is a great, captivating ride. A big part of this is due to the excellent special effects (for which the film won an Oscar in 1988) and the performances of Martin Short and Dennis Quaid.

The Man with Two Brains, 1983

człowiek z dwoma mózgami

The Man with Two Brains is another film about a neurosurgeon, following in the footsteps of The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai. Michael Hfuhruhurr (yes, that’s his real name) didn’t get bored with his profession like Buckaroo did. In fact, his character even develops a rather peculiar but effective method of brain surgery. I won’t spoil the plot of this crazy film for you. Carl Reiner’s The Man with Two Brains is a parody of science fiction thrillers from the 1950s and 60s. It’s also one of the most absurd productions featuring Steve Martin. And while I understand that his brand of humor may not be to everyone’s taste, it’s undeniable that in The Man with Two Brains, he delivers a true comedic performance. He’s skillfully supported by the beautiful Kathleen Turner as his on-screen wife Dolores, and Sissy Spacek, who voices… a brain trapped in a jar. One more important thing! While Steve Martin may be associated with comedies full of gags and jokes suitable for all ages, I advise against watching this film with children.

Real Genius, 1985

prawdziwy geniusz

Across the ocean, Martha Coolidge is a symbol of youth cinema for many millennials. In their memories and hearts, Coolidge is known as the director of films like Valley Girl (1983), Rambling Rose (1991), and, of course, Real Genius. Although Real Genius primarily tells the story of 15-year-old prodigy Mitch Taylor, played by Gabriel Jarret, the whole show is stolen by the exuberantly energetic and youthful Val Kilmer in the role of Mitch’s older caretaker and mentor, Chris Knight. But don’t get me wrong. Val Kilmer is just one of the reasons why it’s worth getting acquainted with Martha Coolidge’s production. There’s so much energy, relaxed vibes, fantastic youthful humor, rebellion, and the atmosphere of the 1980s in this film that it’s hard not to love it. Before I move on to the next title in my list, I owe you an explanation of where the science fiction element came from in 80s teenage comedies. Well, the young geniuses mentioned earlier receive a task from their professor to design a prototype laser of unimaginable power, which is intended to be used as a military weapon to eliminate political enemies and threats to the country. The trouble is, Mitch and Chris have no idea that their extraordinary knowledge is being used for such purposes.

Dark Star, 1974

Science fiction cinema has accustomed us to the idea that space travel provides transcendental experiences, as well as being a source of extraordinary adventures, dangers, and relentless, passion-filled work. Dark Star, an expansion of John Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon’s school film project, is a total contradiction to this perception of cosmic journeys. According to the creator of Halloween, Dark Star is like Waiting for Godot in space. The film depicts the monotony and loneliness of life aboard the titular ship. The crew’s work, which they’ve been doing tirelessly for two decades, involves destroying unstable planets that could threaten the colonization of the extraterrestrial zone. The ship, stranded in space for 20 years, is continually breaking down. The system cooperates less and less. Meanwhile, the crew onboard loses their desire to perform their tasks and longs for their earthly activities. All this leads to worsening communication among them and frequent clashes. In Dark Star, you’ll find numerous parodic references to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). However, it’s not just a successful parody of the legendary science fiction work. Dark Star offers much more. It’s an incredibly intelligent, absurd, naturally humorous, cynical, and somehow touching film. It contains motifs that serve as the basis for well-known, later outstanding science fiction works. Don’t believe it? Please explain the following! Do you know why the intelligent system of the spacecraft USCSS Nostromo was called Mother? Because there was also a Mother on the Dark Star, and the scriptwriter for both Carpenter’s satire and Ridley Scott’s masterpiece was Dan O’Bannon. The mentioned example is just the tip of the iceberg of the wealth of inspiration provided by the modest Dark Star.

Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel, 2009

Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel is the only full-length feature film directed by Gareth Carrivick, who tragically passed away from leukemia in 2010. Interestingly, in his 2009 production, the British filmmaker mentions so-called “editors,” special officials who time travel to eliminate artists from the world shortly after they create their greatest works. This is done so that the audience of their art does not experience a decline in its quality. It’s difficult to determine whether the concept of “editors” is Carrivick’s dark humor at its most extreme or just a crazy idea without subtext, as there are quite a few of such wild ideas in Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel. Carrivick’s film belongs to those created by science fiction fans, nerds, excuse me, engineers of imagination for fans of science fiction. So, there are plenty of jokes and references to the genre’s classics here. From E.T. through Close Encounters of the Third Kind to Aliens as well as questions from the film’s subtitle. Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel is a pleasant and well-executed science fiction comedy. It may not have you rolling on the floor with laughter, but you’ll certainly chuckle sincerely more than once. Plus, Anna Faris is in it, which automatically adds a huge plus for all comedy fans.

Attack the Block, 2011

atak na dzielnicę

It’s hard to understand why a full-throttle, action-packed film with British humor about an alien invasion in a certain London neighborhood earned less than half of its budget at the box office, especially considering that its budget, by modern science fiction film standards, was rather modest ($13 million). It seems illogical and impossible! Yet, it’s true. Attack the Block is a comedic, fantastical, science fiction gem that seemed to have fallen into a black hole upon its release and, it feels like, has remained there ever since. Okay, I get it, it’s the director’s feature film debut, and in 2011, names like Jodie Whittaker and John Boyega didn’t mean much to a large portion of the audience, but it’s been 13 years since Attack… premiered, and still, when I ask someone about this film, I often hear that it’s unfamiliar to them. However, Joe Cornish’s debut shouldn’t be missed, because it hits the mark in every aspect. It’s honest, genuine, clever, uproarious, engaging, moving, and on top of all that, it’s stylish and spectacular. If you haven’t seen Attack the Block yet, please, do yourself a favor and watch it. I beg you!

Przemysław Mudlaff

Przemysław Mudlaff

He appreciates the truth and sincerity of the intentions of its creators in cinema. He loves to be emotionally kicked and abused by the film, but also happy and amused. A hunter of film curiosities, references and connections. A fan of the works of PTA, von Trier, Kieślowski, Lantimos and Villeneuve. What he likes the most is talking about the cinema over a beer, and the beer has to be cold and thick, you know what.

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