The Schwartz is strong with this one. From the deranged mind of Mel Brooks, Spaceballs is a spot-on parody of Star Wars that delivers jokes at ludicrous speed, and the epic comedy is streaming now on Max.
Spaceballs tells the story of Princess Vespa, a young woman who flees her home planet of Druidia in order to escape an arranged marriage. Unbeknownst to her, she is now a vulnerable target for the evil Dark Helmet, the enforcer of Planet Spaceball’s corrupt and incompetent President Skroob.
The best Star Wars parody of all time, Spaceballs, is streaming on Max.
Dark Helmet is tasked with kidnapping the princess in order to gain leverage over her father, King Roland, and force Druidia to give up its defenses so that Skroob can steal Druidia’s air for his own oxygen-depleted planet.
King Roland enlists Lone Star, a Han Solo-esque drifter, to bring Vespa back before Dark Helmet finds her. Along with his sidekick, Barf, Lone Star sets out on a space adventure that is even more ridiculous than it sounds.
When Mel Brooks set out to make Spaceballs, he wanted it to resemble the structure of Star Wars as closely as possible. George Lucas gave his blessing to Brooks on the condition that no Spaceballs action figures be produced.
Lucas feared that Spaceballs merchandise would be too similar to Star Wars toys, thus creating competition. Brooks obliged but responded by including Spaceballs merchandise in the movie as a meta joke.
With Lucas’s approval, Mel Brooks set out to find the stars of Spaceballs. He sought big names for the role of Lone Star, courting actors like Tom Cruise and Tom Hanks. Brooks became disheartened as A-listers named Tom kept declining the part, but the film’s supporting characters were soon filled by comedy legends.
John Candy boarded Spaceballs to play Barf, the film’s lovable Chewbacca counterpart. Stepping into the role of Dark Helmet was the inimitable Rick Moranis, whose geeky presence perfectly contrasted his Darth Vader persona.
With some of the biggest names in comedy on the project, Brooks still had to find his leading man. While out at a play with his wife, Brooks found on the stage a young actor by the name of Bill Pullman.
George Lucas enjoyed Spaceballs so much, his company, Industrial Light and Magic, handled post-production work.
Brooks had his stars already, so he took a chance on Pullman in the lead role. At that point, Pullman had not even seen Star Wars.
Daphne Zuniga joined Spaceballs as the spoiled Princess Vespa. Though she was not a fan of Mel Brooks’s previous work, finding it too crude, she grew to love the filmmaker. She commented that Brooks was certainly wacky, but praised his ability to get the most out of actors.
Mel Brooks directed the ensemble and even played two characters himself. He appears as both the film’s evil “mastermind”, President Skroob, and as the “wise” mentor, Yogurt. A play on Yoda, Yogurt is a gold alien that guides Lone Star in the ways of the Schwartz – and great merch.
George Lucas’s company handled post-production on Spaceballs, giving Star Wars one more layer of protection. When the film was released, Lucas called Brooks to praise the film, fearing he might “bust something from laughing” too hard.
Critics were not quite so kind. The film received mixed reviews, with averages falling slightly below the middle. Most admitted that Spaceballs had its moments, but felt Mel Brooks may have passed his prime.
The middling critical response did not slow moviegoers down. Spaceballs grossed $38 million against its $22 million budget. Since its release in 1987, the movie has become a cult classic.
Many critics were tired of Star Wars knockoffs in 1987; the world was a decade into the craze, and the original Star Wars trilogy had only ended four years prior. Today, many fans consider Spaceballs the definitive Star Wars parody film.
The middling critical response did not slow moviegoers down. Spaceballs grossed $38 million against its $22 million budget.
Full of memorable quotes, fourth wall breaks, and witty references, Spaceballs is a classic in its own right. It is best to take the movie for its silly romp, but some of the film’s best jokes are at the expense of consumerism and franchises, making it perhaps even more timely than it was when it came out.
You can’t find Spaceballs in a Cracker Jack box, but you can stream it today on Max. Just make sure your signal isn’t jammed.