A few years back a friend of mine wanted a breakdown of my favorite Mystery Science Theater 3000 episodes. I found this nearly impossible to do, but after some serious thinking and discussing with my wife, I decided the best approach was to pick my favorite episode from each of the 10 seasons of the show. This provides a nice spread of episode types and styles. Of course some of my bias toward movie types is evident. I think it's a good time to resurrect the list, add some fun elements. So here you go, my top ten favorite MST2K episodes in Season order.
|I think Valeria is gloating, but I can't understand her.|
Fun Fact: Our protagonist is named Neo, and he has super powers, faces down a robotic overlord and frees an enslaved people. Any similarities to The Matrix are coincidental, right?
I'm so surprised that they got to riff on Godzilla vs. Megalon, but I'm so happy they did. Made in the early 70s, this film seems like the little annoying brother to the other Godzilla films. It's got all the typical moments you expect in a Godzilla movie, but then it has a whole host of other oddities, my favorite being the robot randomness of Jet Jaguar. Joel and bots have a lot of fun with this one, and it is one of funniest episodes they ever did. I hope one day Sony lightens up, so this episode can see an official release - because it is gold.
Host Segment Highlight: The boys attempt to translate the Jet Jaguar song at the end of the film. it is silly, random, and yet I've seen enough translations of J-pop to say, they make plausible alternate lyrics
|Here's to good friends, tonight is kinda special.|
Favorite riff: (sung to the sassy brassy musical score) This is the song, written for the train chase. This is the chase: Rocky and Ken. He tried to kill me with a forklift. OLE!
How can you not include "Manos": The Hands of Fate on this list? That movie is so well known now because of MST3K, and the classic riffing they put this movie through. In so many ways, it's almost become it's own cliche, and yet when you watch the episode they do such a great job with it. Torgo provides so much fodder for them of course, but every character is so poorly executed and filmed and recorded that there are countless riffing opportunities. Joel and bots are deeply scarred by the film, and yet it remains one of the funniest episodes they ever did.
Personal Favorite Episode: If the list was for myself, I'd pick Hercules Against the Moon Men. It was the first episode I ever saw, and holds a place in my heart for that. It is also the funniest sword and sandal epic they ever tackled.
|Yes Satan! Speak to me through this song!|
Worthy Second Pick: Well you can always go with Mitchell. Not only was it Joel's farewell episode, but it has one of the funniest riffing sessions of the season in it. They didn't do too many 1970's flicks, but this was a great one.
You want proof that you can riff on anything, then check out Red Zone Cuba. This is juggernaut of a bad film. It is soul crushing in the worst way, and yet it is clearly the work of a man trying to tell us something. It is Coleman Francis at his most epic, and it takes a top notch trio of riffers to tackle it. Mike, Kevin and Trace do an amazing job with this episode keeping the quips flying fast and furious. What should have been a slog is an amazing testament to how good these folks (writers and performers) were at their mode of comedy.
"But I Just Want to Laugh" pick: Don't feel like marveling at the skill of of cast and crew of MST3K and just want some hilarity. No problem. Season six also contains the wonderfully 70s Angels Revenge the low budget Charlie's Angel wannabe. Can't go wrong there.
|They call him old pasta marinara face.|
Favorite "What the hell?" moment in the movie: The entire rant that Dr. Ted Nelson goes on about having crackers for his soup. Atchka indeed my friend, Atchka!
The first season with the Sci-fi channel ended with a trilogy of wonderfully goofy 1980s sci-fi films - one of my favorite genre's for riffing. But the king of those three films is Space Mutiny hands down. Another movie that seems tailor made for riffing. The costumes, the acting, the plot, the sets, the hair (oh sweet God, the hair) all lend themselves to jokes. Our big beefy hero ends up with so many alternate names, and each one is hilarious. And let's not forget Kalgon and his maniacal glee. For the chase scene finale alone - you need to see this episode.
Favorite moment: When Chunk Manmuscle screams in rage, and then calmly exits the vehicle.
|I think he put on the goofy suit.|
Favorite riff: (to the Pumaman theme) Puma Man, he flies like a moron.
This "movie" comes straight from the riffing gods, because no one else could have cobbled together such a weird "movie" from so many loose parts, and hoped it would entertain. And yet there it is, Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders. Part horror film, part kids flick, and none of it working any way. I love how the two different eras of film don't mesh at all. I love the stupid framing within a framing story idea. I love the acerbic and angry Jonathon, I love the angry psychic, and I love the Rock and Roll Martian - whoever the hell he is. This should have been the final episode of the series, because it really is one of the best they ever did.
Favorite Riffing Moments: When Mike and bots attempt to reconcile that Ernest Borgnine is telling these horrible stories to his grandson. "Grandpa Borgnine no!" "Oh you just wait, what happened to the cat was nothing to what was about to happen to Sparkle the dog."
|'And no one can wait to leave this seething cauldron|
Favorite Riff: (after a long discussion about who gets to eat first during dinner, Mike adds the following) "Father feigns eating, draws Junior out and then disowns him!"
Ok so this one is a bit of a cheat, because there is only one MST3K movie: Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie. I know a lot of folks don't enjoy this one half as much as I do, but I think the combination of This Island Earth with one of the best riffing teams of the series delivers one of the funniest movies of the 1990s. I get a kick out of the movie every time I watch it and that is quite a bit.
Favorite Riff: (as Tom Servo scans the opening credits) Let's see... Shatner, Shatner, Shatner... he's not in this one. We're safe.
|Jet Jaguar and Godzilla try out for cheer.|
So there you go, my top ten favorite episodes from my favorite television series. What is great about this show, is that fan favorites are all over the map. One person may think that Radar Secret Service is the funniest thing they've seen, others will swear by The Rebel Set, It Conquered the World, Hercules Unchained, Overdrawn at the Memory Bank or Mad Monster. But when it comes down to it, the show has a perfect mix of writing and comic timing, and it's hard to find an actual weak episode. Hopefully this list can guide those looking to dive into the fun.