Space adventure movies often depict serious situations involving distant space travel, alien encounters, and intergalactic battles, but a sub-genre of the theme can also produce some of the funniest moments in sci-fi history. As a result, the article that I have compiled here lists the top 10 funniest space comedy movies out there, which is itself quite a challenge as the genre belongs in a category that is notoriously less crowded than one might imagine. With that in mind, here is my recommendation for those people looking for some hilarious sci-fi outer space action, listed in chronological order:
Dark Star (1974)
Director: John Carpenter
Sometimes even the oldest of movies can produce some of the freshest of comedy films. Take this odd, unknown little gem called “Dark Star,” for instance, whose plot is as pretty simple as it gets, making it fairly clear what you’re in store for. In the far reaches of space, a small crew, 20 years into their solitary mission, find things starting to go hilariously wrong. This 2001: A Space Odyssey hippie satire doesn’t always strike oil, as sometimes it’s just too old-fashioned to be funny, but it’s silly and absurd enough that somethings just work without much effort, like a “smart bomb” that thinks its god, a runaway alien that looks remarkably like a beach ball, as well as a good dose of genuine human slovenliness and boredom. If that kind of wacky space hijinks hilarity is your cup of tea, then this should provide you with just the right sort of fun outer-space vintage ride you crave.
Flash Gordon (1980)
Director: Mike Hodges
There are few films as campy and outrageously 80s as the big budget adaptation of “Flash Gordon”. The story follows a football player and his friends as they travel to the planet Mongo and find themselves fighting the tyranny of Ming the Merciless to save Earth. This is comedy on an unintentional level, but that doesn’t mean they don’t do it fantastically well. The blinding colors, glowing costumes and rocking soundtrack performed entirely by Queen will certainly leave you speechless. This is a dated piece of comedic silliness that is way too goofy to take seriously, but too well done to miss out without seeing at least once in your lifetime.
Director: Joe Dante
Explorers is another 80s flick that certainly produces just as much charm, camp fun and goofy goodness as most of the other entries on this list. The plot follows a boy obsessed with 50s sci-fi movies about aliens, who has a recurring dream about a blueprint for some kind of circuit board, which he draws for his inventor friend. With the help of a third kid, they build themselves a spaceship, kicking off this offbeat comedy adventure set in space, whose main characters are a daydreamer, a sceptical science geek, and a rebel in need of a confidence boost. As well as being a warm, fun family sci-fi, the movie also has plenty of humor, and a hidden joke approach that comes from the nostalgic, “Goonies” and “Flight of the Navigator” comedy field of film making.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
Director: Leonard Nimoy
“Star Trek” movies aren’t known for their comedy chops (Unless you’re talking about some of the poorer entries), but “The Voyage home” is an animal breed all its own. To save Earth from a huge cylindrical alien probe that has taken up orbit around the planet and is disrupting its systems, Admiral James T. Kirk and his fugitive crew go back in time to San Francisco of the late 20th century in order to retrieve the only beings who can communicate with it: humpback whales. It’s about as silly as it sounds, but this fish out of water story with bizarre plot devices, and a whole lot of future-meets-80s style culture clash surprisingly makes for good chuckles. This wonderfully entertaining film takes place mostly in San Francisco, instead of outer space, making it one of the most unusual of the franchise, and while it was not what anyone had expected from a “Trek” movie, it surpassed every expectation of both fans and critics alike, helped along by its superb cast, and simplistic morality format that helped make the original TV series such a hit.
Director: Mel Brooks
One of the greatest comedies of all time, Spaceballs is a Mel Brooks enduring classic that is much more than a simple parody spoof of the “Star Wars” franchise, and mocks just about every space film made, including Planet Of The Apes, Star Trek, and Alien, to name but a few. Centering around a pair of unlikely heroes rescuing an unusual princess from the evil Darth Helmet, and his attempts to spread control of the Spaceballs fleet across the whole galaxy, this is just comedy gold in which the gags come fast and furious. Amongst the comedic masters helping to make this send up such a great success with their unforgettable lines is Bill Pullman, Rick Moranis, John Candy, Dom DeLuise, as well as Mel Brooks himself.
Galaxy Quest (1999)
Director: Dean Parisot
A parody classic if ever there was one, “Galaxy Quest” features a “Star Trek” style TV show’s cast getting canned after airing for four years, and for the following twenty years making a living by attending sci-fi conventions for their legions of die-hard fans. Matters take a turn for the bizarre, however, after they are mistaken for real space heroes by actual aliens, and abducted in order to battle an impending threat from a deadly alien menace. Since being released, this movie has become a cult classic, especially amongst Star Trek fans, with the comedic tone absolutely out of this world, and a top-notch cast which includes the likes of Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Tony Shaloub, Sam Rockwell, and the late great Alan Rickman. This is an underappreciated gem that deserves your attention.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Director (2005)
Director: Garth Jennings
An adaptation of a sci-fi novel by Douglas Adams, this movie had been many years in the making, and revolves around a lowly Brit named Arthur Dent who gets saved by his alien friend Ford Prefect just as the Earth is destroyed by bureaucratic aliens looking to make way for a hyperspace bypass. Arthur then finds himself being dragged half way across the universe by his friend in a comical adventure that reflects the strange but very funny humor of its English author. The comedy ranges from surrealistically brilliant to the nonsensical, while Visually stunning effects, practical puppet alien effects, and innovative characters still provide a uniquely entertaining movie experience that will certainly linger.
Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005)
Director: Jon Favreau
Made by the same author as Jumanji (1995), namely Chris Van Allsburg, Zathura is a more child friendly science fiction version of the story, that has plenty of good effects, and thrills to make for a highly entertaining movie from start to finish. The tale revolves around a mystical board game that comes to life and unleashes its space/alien themed dangers on a pair of young bickering siblings who discover it in their basement. What ensues is an imaginative comedic adventure, complete with a sly wit that ensures that both adults and children alike will be equally as entertained by its twists and surprises, making it perfect family viewing.
Director: Andrew Stanton
My absolute favorite Pixar movie (right after “The Incredibles”), this mostly silent space story is full of heart and charm; comedic yes, but heartwarming is definitely a more suitable description for this robot love story. Wall-E, which is short for ‘Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class’, is the last functioning clean up robot on a desolate, garbage ridden Earth. He then comes across Eve, a new robot who was sent by the outer space starliner Axiom, which is now home to a population of obese, feeble, and technologically dependent human beings who abandoned the barren planet centuries earlier. Together, they subsequently embark on a journey that will change the course of their lives, and humanity’s forever.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Director: James Gunn
Marvel’s biggest cinematic gamble, considering how obscure these comic book characters are, but hoo boy did it pay off in spades. Human outlaw Star Lord comes across a slew of outrageous, alien criminals while investigating a mystical orb that everyone seems to want. Now an evil fanatic is after the orb and Star Lord, forcing him to band together with the biggest A-holes of the universe to preserve the galaxy. This was a strange, but supremely satisfying new movie for Marvel to add to its already stellar record. In fact, Guardians of the Galaxy has everything: comedy, action, great chemistry with its unique roster of well-developed characters, amazing soundtrack and it’s just a fun movie throughout its whole 122 minute run time. Without doubt, one of the liveliest, most unique space comedies out there.