Not everyone likes watching bad movies, but everybody likes watching good television. The genius of Mystery Science Theater 3000 was that this cult show combined the two pastimes, transforming incompetent motion pictures of little cultural value* into the subject of a new and infectious form of humor. Yes people had talked back to the movie or television screen before, but now they had a frame of reference. Now they had “riffing.”
The premise was charmingly absurd: a hapless boob was shot into space and forced to watch bad movies, so that his mad scientist captors could discover the one film bad enough that they could use it to conquer the world. To save his sanity, Joel Robinson (Joel Hodgson) and later his replacement Mike Nelson (Mike Nelson), teamed up with a group of robots who were specifically design to keep them company, joke about the dumb goings-on in monster movies, and sing adorkable new show tunes.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 debuted 27 years ago, spawned 11 seasons of television and a theatrically-released motion picture, and inspired a generation of imitators. The cast and crew of the original shows have moved on to similar endeavors like Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic. But although riffing lives on in many forms, those of us who grew up on Mystery Science Theater 3000 (affectionally abbreviated to MST3K) will always prefer the original. The characters, the sketches, the soul of the series was a unique entity that none of the follow-ups have captured… yet.
Yes, as MST3K approaches its latest resurgence under series creator Joel Hodgson, we look to the future with hope. And since it’s Turkey Day – when Comedy Central used to run an all-day marathon of MST3K episodes, much to the delight of their pre-DVR audience – we’re celebrating with a retrospective of Crave’s picks for the The 15 Best MST3K Episodes Ever! We’re looking back at the weirdest movies, the funniest riffs, the most memorable sketches, and only highlighting the best of the best of the best.
Keep circulating the tapes!
The 15 Best MST3K Episodes Ever!
*To be fair, some MST3K movies are actually more significant than they were given credit for, including (but not limited to) the influential Euro thriller Danger Diabolik and Roger Corman’s proto-feminist western The Gunslinger.
Photo: Comedy Central
William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most Craved and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.