Expanding comedy sketches into feature-length films was, and always will be, a gamble. Saturday Night Live
's attempts were no exception. Today, the 10 "official" SNL
movies range from classics to watchable fluff to tests of loyalty for even the most diehard fans.
Which sketches seamlessly translated to screen and which felt like Mary Katherine Gallagher stumbling over a chair in slow motion? To know, we had to be picky; we didn't include anything only tangentially related to the show (such as Bob Roberts, a character whose origin traces back to a 1986 sketch, or Blues Brothers 2000, a film with SNL roots that wasn't produced by Lorne Michaels). Considering the caveats, here are the best SNL-inspired films of all time:
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10. It's Pat (1994)
The question of whether Pat was a man or woman gave Julia Sweeney a breakout Saturday Night Live role. The question of whether or not her vehicle It's Pat is comedy or straight-up psychological horror killed the character's future. The movie -- which earned an uncredited rewrite by none other than Quentin Tarantino -- turns the innocuous Pat into as big a creep as fellow SNL alum Charles Rocket's obsessive villain. (If you enjoy seeing someone type every word in the dictionary into a computer to discover its password, this is the film for you!) What's meant to be cringe comedy ends up being simply cringeworthy.
9. A Night at the Roxbury (1998)
The Haddaway song ("What is love? Baby, don't hurt me!") that propelled this sketch to popularity plays approximately 672 times in the movie version -- an accomplishment, as it's only 82 minutes long. When this song isn't pummeling you into submission, the close-talking lead pair (Chris Kattan and Will Ferrell) take over. A Night at the Roxbury revels in pickup artist antics as it also tries to undermine them with Dumb & Dumber-style idiocy. You might be nodding your head along to this movie while its protagonist bounces along to Haddaway, but you'll be nodding "no" instead of "yes."
8. The Ladies Man (2000)
Tim Meadows belongs on the all-time underrated SNL cast list. Sadly, The Ladies Man does him no justice, outfitting Meadows with outdated fashion, offensive mannerisms, and a houseboat that would more likely send women running away rather than scrambling to remove their clothes. On the plus side, the SNL alum and co-star Karyn Parsons have legitimate romantic chemistry. If you want to play a drinking game based around the word "wang," The Ladies Man might be right up your alley.
7. Stuart Saves His Family (1995)
Al Franken recently told Vanity Fair that he didn't think this was really an SNL movie, and I can see why; though based on nearly 20 recurring sketches starring the self-help guru, Stuart Saves His Family is often entirely devoid of humor and treats its themes of addiction and rehabilitation seriously. Old episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show shown seen in flashbacks provide more laughs than the film itself. A bittersweet ending involves failed interventions and relapsed relationships. Director Harold Ramis went a similar direction in Groundhog Day just two years prior, but no one involved with Stuart was good enough or smart enough to quite make this work, doggone it.
6. Coneheads (1993)
Fresh off the success of Wayne's World, Lorne Michaels scoured the back catalogues of SNL for another potential hit. Coneheads maintains the legendary sketch's punch line -- the Coneheads generally say 40 words when four would suffice, often with alien words inserted for English ones -- though it grates at feature length, even with an all-star SNL talent from past and present. This movie is amiable, but mostly just grabs you by the base of your snarglies and refuses to let go.
5. Wayne's World 2 (1993)
Intermittently laugh-out-loud funny, Wayne's World 2 has a flimsy plot -- the guys throw a big concert! -- and is loaded the kind of pop-culture homages that would drive Mike Myers' Austin Powers franchise. An attempt to win over Wayne's potential father-in-law turns into a straight-up kung-fu flick; Kim Basinger's femme fatale character is named "Honey Hornée." The film isn't bad, but it's also far from EXCELLENT, which is the kind of review Wayne and Garth might like.
4. Superstar (1999)
Based on a character known for smelling her fingers and crashing through walls, Superstar is a surprisingly dark film and shockingly funny. Putting Molly Shannon's popular Mary Katherine Gallagher into a pre-fab, high-school rom-com allows for an organic transition from SNL to movie. It also helps that Will Ferrell pulls fantastic double duty here as both Mary's love interest and God (a role that feels more SNL than almost anything else on this list).
3. MacGruber (2010)
In an alternate reality, the Lonely Island trifecta of Hot Rod, MacGruber, and this summer's Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping are all mega-hits. Here, they're all criminally ignored spoofs with wildly entertaining stories. MacGruber, the only official SNL movie of the bunch, is both a send-up of early '90s action franchises and a satire of their macho men stars. Yes, the movie is juvenile -- you'll never look at celery the same once you've seen it up Will Forte's butt -- but it's sharp and perfectly polished.
2. Wayne's World (1992)
The most lucrative film on this list is also one of the best -- the right material for the right actors at the right time. Director Penelope Spheeris' connection to SNL dates back to its inception, when she produced Albert Brooks' classic short films for the series. There's a looseness to her movie that keeps the original spirit of the sketch alive, allowing for gags both small (the "No 'Stairway to Heaven'" bit) and epic (the "Bohemian Rhapsody" scene, which will probably outlive us all). Like the sketch itself, it's very silly but very warm. The camaraderie between Mike Myers and Dana Carvey makes for compelling viewing, no matter the format.
1. The Blues Brothers (1980)
This infectious, genre-defying mix of music, comedy, and action is a miracle. Despite well-documented behind-the-scenes drama and a more tenuous connection to the SNL stage, The Blues Brothers has a scope that makes it feel self-contained rather than owing to its origins. Underplayed performances make the film stand out: whereas most characters on this list shout to be heard, audiences had to lean in to hear Jake and Elwood speak. Endlessly quotable ("Four fried chickens and a Coke!"), and with fantastic musical numbers interwoven throughout, it's the first and best of the SNL movies. The Blues Brothers would soldier on into half-baked sequeldom despite losing half the duo -- Belushi passed away two years after the release -- but fans will always have this one mission from God.
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