For fans of cult movies (mostly horror and science fiction), Mystery Science Theater 3000 is a great diversion and a source for new titles to add to their collection. This TV series spends 99% of its time mocking the cult horror films of the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s, and the other 1% of its time being just plain goofy. Originally airing on a local cable channel (KTMA), the series eventually made its way to Comedy Central and the SciFi Channel.
MST3K (as the series is sometimes known by fans) was a simple formula--awful horror and sci fi movies are screened by a (literally) captive audience, and the prisoners forced to watch the movies survive the experience by making fun of the films. Their wisecracking, sometimes called "riffing," is what made the show famous.
During its run, from 1988 to 1999, Mystery Science Theater 3000 gained a huge cult following among audiences as varied as film nerds, sci fi geeks, and horror movie junkies. Fans disagree as to the "best episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000," although the seven episodes listed below are generally considered the cream of the crop.
This 1964 cult classic is a permanent presence on the list of the worst movies ever made. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians makes the double mistake of a) movies about Santa Claus and b) combining two different cultural myths. No one cares about a potential meeting between these two characters, and the movie is awful.
The cast of MST3K makes quick work of highlighting the most ridiculous aspects of this movie, and even the "cutaway" scenes of this Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode are great, including Crow's Christmas song homage to his favorite movie: Road House.
A really bad Gremlins spoof is the perfect movie for the goofballs at Mystery Science Theater 3000. A cheesy plot and really bad filmmaking combine to create one of the worst movies ever to screen on the Satellite of Love. This episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 is one of the only times when the captives actually start to cry and freak out a little bit about just how bad this movie is.
Hobgoblins is your typical "gremlins escape from a vault and a security guard goes after them to save the world" type of movie. Really bad special effects and low-budget goodness all around.
Donald Pleasance stars in The Puma Man, maybe the worst superhero movie ever made. In The Puma Man, our main character is a regular Joe who discovers he is, well, The Puma Man, and has the powers of a Puma . . . which apparently include flying.
What's really bad about The Puma Man is that the "hero" is anything but. His powers are pretty weak, he doesn't do any of his own fighting, and the "flying" scenes are so poorly shot that it's really easy to see just how the director achieved the effect. I won't spoil it for you--watch the episode for yourself.
This episode is a true Mystery Science Theater 3000 rarity--an episode with both hosts Mike and Joel. Soultaker is a really bad 1980s Hellraiser knockoff starring Joe Estevez. As Joel says: "Can a movie really be starring Joe Estevez? Isn't that kind of an oxymoron?"
Soultaker is about a group of teenagers who get hurt in a car crash and have to escape Death to return to their bodies so they don't go to hell. Soultaker looks like a hybrid of a bad after school special and an even worse hair metal music video.
Fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000 have a hard time making it all the way through this episode--The Screaming Skull is so boring it is a wonder the cast got through without putting guns in their mouths and ending it all. The plot is hard to decipher; something about a haunted house trying to spook a newly-married couple or something. The plot isn't important.
The "cutaway" scenes are particularly bad in this episode, but the in-theater riffing is fast and spot-on and hilarious, making this an easy addition to my top ten MST3K episodes list.
Another great MST3K episode for no other reason than the fact that the movie the crew is watching is just plain awful. Space Mutiny is about a mutiny on a spaceship, but that's about all it's about.
What makes this episode stand out is how bad Space Mutiny is. The female lead is clearly meant to be a sex symbol, but the actress is pushing 60 years old attempting to play a nubile teenager. It doesn't hurt that much of the cast looks like famous actors, prompting plenty of good jokes from the crew on the Satellite of Love.
To give you an idea of just how bad this movie is--all the external shots are taken directly from the 70s TV series Battlestar Galactica. That's right, the filmmakers couldn't even come up with their own exteriors, they just stole them from BSG.
An awful movie about juvenile delinquents in the style of Reefer Madness. I Accuse My Parents is slow, boring, poorly scripted, and perfect for Mystery Science Theater 3000. This episode is memorable because it seems like the crew is getting extremely tired of movies like this, turning in the same old jokes and pretty much letting their brains melt out of their ears.
If you're looking for a way in to Mystery Science Theater 3000, viewing these seven episodes plus the feature film version of the show is a great way to get used to the antics of Mike, Joel, Crow, Tom Servo, and the rest.