For almost fifty years, Saturday Night Live has remained one of the most influential comedy shows on television, introducing iconic characters to the world, and constantly bringing new voices in comedy to the forefront of the public’s consciousness. For nearly half a century, Saturday Night Live has been an integral part of the comedy landscape, introducing such comedians as Adam Sandler, John Belushi, Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Kristen Wiig, Gilda Radner, Eddie Murphy, and many more into the public consciousness.
But while Saturday Night Live has remained an icon of sketch comedy on television, SNL’s attempts at jumping into film have been a mixed bag. While some are fantastic expansions on characters we know and love, many others can highlight just how thin some of these characters are, and that something that works in a five-minute comedy sketch maybe can’t expand into a feature-length film. On the 30th anniversary of Wayne’s World’s theatrical release, let’s take a look at the past of Saturday Night Live movies and rank the 11 SNL movies that have been released over the years.
11. It’s Pat
It’s Pat isn’t just the hands-down worst Saturday Night Live movie, it’s arguably in the conversation for one of the worst comedies from the 1990s. The entire joke around Julia Sweeney’s title character has always been the ambiguity in Pat’s gender, as characters desperately try to figure out is Pat is a boy or girl, while Pat gives equally ambiguous answers. It’s Pat spreads this concept through a feature-length film, while Pat is also possibly one of the most intentionally irritating characters ever put on screen. Pat’s staggering selfishness and lack of self-awareness made Pat difficult to stand over the course of a sketch, but an entire feature film is almost unbearable. It’s Pat was pulled from theaters after a week, but it’s shocking that it lasted that long.
10. Blues Brothers 2000
Right out the gate, Blues Brothers 2000 is a weird idea, considering that one of the two Blues brothers—Jake Elwood (John Belushi)—died years before the making of this film. Also, why make a movie called Blues Brothers 2000 and release it in 1998?? Semantics aside, Blues Brothers 2000 is a deeply weird movie, one where Elwood Blues (Dan Aykroyd) quickly moves on from the death of his brother to add a child to the group with Buster Blues (J. Evan Bonifant) and John Goodman’s “Mighty” Mack. Blues Brothers 2000 makes strange choices like recreating scenes from the original, focusing far too much on the supporting Blues Brothers Band, the members of which can’t really act, or having Erykah Badu play an 130-year-old cannibal voodoo witch who turns the band into zombies. But worst of all, Blues Brothers 2000 completely ignores the manic energy and insanity that made The Blues Brothers such an enduring classic, instead, turning this sequel into an unusual revision of the first film, but in a way that’s more suitable for kids.
9. The Ladies Man
From 1998 to 2000, Saturday Night Live pushed out a series of movies based on extremely thin characters, almost as if Lorne Michaels had a quota of SNL movies to meet. The worst of this period comes from Tim Meadows’s Leon Phelps character, a Lothario who runs his own radio advice show. Throughout The Ladies Man, we see how Phelps’ ways have caused a raving group of angry husbands to chase after the man who slept with their wives to form, led one man to attempt suicide, and even led to the probable death of a nun. Basically, Leon Phelps’ schlong has wreaked havoc around Chicago, yet the film still wants us to like and enjoy Leon as our protagonist. The Ladies Man works best when he’s playing opposite his kind-hearted producer Julie (Karyn Parsons), but again, this is another example of an SNL sketch spread extremely thin in this new format.
Another problem with SNL films from this period is they feel the need to stick to the few things we know about these characters from these sketches, and reiterate those elements again in each scene. That’s certainly true of Superstar, starring Molly Shannon as Mary Katherine Gallagher, who dreams of becoming, well, a superstar. Superstar sticks to the basics of this character: she’s extremely awkward, she loves made-for-TV movies, and she loves to perform. Superstar barely ever veers from these primary building blocks of the character. In maybe the most interesting scene of Superstar, Mary Katherine Gallagher discusses how insecure she is and how she sometimes hates herself, and while that may be too much to explore in a straightforward comedy, it does show layers to a character that Superstar never even attempts to dig into. At the very least, there definitely should’ve been more comedies starring Shannon after Superstar.
7. A Night at the Roxbury
In the late 90s, there was no hotter duo on Saturday Night Live than Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan. Their energy in a sketch together was almost always gold, so it made sense to put them together in a movie. Ferrell and Kattan make the most of A Night at the Roxbury, at least attempting to explain why these two act the way they are. Yet A Night at the Roxbury begins as a film about two brothers trying to start their own nightclub, then quickly turns into a story about Ferrell’s Steve Butabi turning on his clubbing ways to get married to Molly Shannon’s extremely demanding Emily. Kattan is a ball of energy here, while Ferrell hasn’t quite become WILL FERRELL in the way we would get to know him in later films. This pairing makes for some fun moments, but it’s still clear that A Night at the Roxbury was difficult to expand to even just 80 minutes.
Fifteen years after the last “Coneheads” sketch aired, Aykroyd and Jane Curtin returned as their aliens Beldar and Prymatt for the extra-terrestrials big-screen debut. Coneheads isn’t just a stretched out retelling of past sketches, but instead, a surprisingly charming family comedy that acts as a strangely compelling look at how immigrants are treated in the United States, what it’s like starting a new life in a foreign land, and what it’s like to raise a child in that new world. It also doesn’t hurt that Coneheads is packed with SNL greats like Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, Phil Hartman, and David Spade, possibly as a way to attract younger fans who might not be interested in characters that hadn’t appeared on the show since the 70s. But even though the Coneheads could’ve come off as a one-note joke, Coneheads manages to elevate its idea into something more substantial.
5. Stuart Saves His Family
Al Franken’s Stuart Smalley is all about recovery, and Stuart Saves His Family almost takes the phrase, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference,” and builds an entire film around this concept. It’s an extremely smart way to tackle this relatively basic character, that makes this structurally completely different from what one expects with SNL films. Stuart Saves His Family is a candid and warm film in which Franken tackles how family can affect moving forward in life, how building one’s own family can be essential to finding happiness, the difficulties of alcoholism, amongst many other topics. This is an SNL film where the climax is a failed intervention. This doesn’t go for easy answers or solutions, and by the end, Stuart has only made his family more muddled and confused, but that’s sort of the beauty of what Stuart Saves His Family is attempting. By placing Stuart Smalley into more of a dramedy, Stuart Saves His Family becomes one of the most unique and structurally interesting of all these films.
4. Wayne’s World 2
Wayne’s World 2 is the cinematic equivalent of The Simpsons’ fireworks factory, as the entire film seems like it’s building towards the Waynestock concert, then only shows it in small pieces during the credits. After boasting an incredible lineup for this massive show, Wayne’s World 2 abandons the concert near the end, instead, putting Wayne (Mike Myers) in an extended The Graduate parody. But Wayne’s World 2 does at least attempt to see where Wayne and Garth (Dana Carvey) could theoretically go once they “grow up,” and these two are a joy to spend time with, even if this sequel does keep them separate for a majority of the film. At times, Wayne’s World 2 really doesn’t seem to know where it’s going, but it’s always great to see these two continue to party on.
3. The Blues Brothers
With The Blues Brothers, the first Saturday Night Live film released in 1980, Aykroyd and Belushi proved that even the thinnest sketches could be turned into films. What started as this duo simply singing and dancing at Studio 8H occasionally turned into one of the most anarchistic and insane comedies of the 1980s. The Blues Brothers works best when it focuses on the absurd about of mayhem this duo can cause, or the incredible musical performances from legends like Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, and James Brown. And yet, despite how much fun The Blues Brothers can often be, at close to two-and-a-half hours, The Blues Brothers can drag in scenes that seem like they might be never-ending. Still, when The Blues Brothers is really cooking, there are few comedies as wild and chaotic as this one.
Hands down, the best example that even the dumbest, smallest SNL sketches can be turned into something great. MacGruber took extremely short bits that felt like little more than filler for a standard episode, and turned it into an action spectacle starring Will Forte’s MacGruber. Sure, MacGruber often feels like a series of sketches sewn together to make a larger narrative, yet when pulled off in this ridiculously hilarious way, it’s impossible to fault MacGruber for its occasional structural shabbiness. Forte is perfectly over-the-top in every situation, while Ryan Phillippe and Val Kilmer are both brilliant, playing their roles as straight as possible. MacGruber is a ludicrous take on action films that if you don’t like it, you’re a friggin turd.
1. Wayne’s World
Wayne’s World is hands down the best Saturday Night Live movie, an expansion of two extremely likable characters in a story that never relies too heavily on the jokes we’ve already seen countless times on SNL. As the most successful SNL film, Wayne’s World became deceptively influential, not only leading the way for a string of Saturday Night Live movies, but also in making Mike Myers one of the biggest comedy stars of the 80s and early 2000s, as well as set the table for future SNL actors to make their own star-making movies, like Tommy Boy and Billy Madison. For better or worse, Wayne’s World would become the template for so many comedies of the time, and for SNL films in particular.
But Wayne’s World is the most successful SNL film because of how smartly Myers expands this world. By focusing on the expansion of Wayne and Garth’s show Wayne’s World, this pair can poke fun of the idea of taking a small operation and making it into something bigger than they could’ve ever imagined. In this expansion of this concept, Wayne’s World never feels like a regurgitation of frequently told jokes.
Wayne’s World is also extremely endearing because of how much time is spent focusing on the genuinely sweet friendship between Wayne and Garth. There are entire scenes that aren’t integral to the plot of the film, but only exist to show the bond these two share. These two are great separate, with Garth’s puppy dog attitude, and Wayne’s inherent charm working on their own, but together, this bond is impossible not to love.
Wayne’s World is a clever evolution for this world and these characters, centered around two lovely performances by Myers and Carvey, in a movie that single-handedly brought “Bohemian Rhapsody” back into the public consciousness. Wayne’s World is easily the best movie to come out of Saturday Night Live, and frankly, we’re not worthy.