Films Directed by Mel Brooks
Long before the Wayans brothers hit paydirt with the Scary Movie franchise, Mel Brooks movies were leaving audience members rolling in the aisles with his subversive and edgy take on the parody genre. While Brooks hasn’t directed a film in over 15 years, his legacy as a comedic pioneer is assured.I grew up watching a number of Mel Brooks movies on this list, and I’ve continued to revisit them over the years on television and the home video market. From racism to Hitler, there was no subject that Brooks was scared to tackle. And the fact that his films are being talked about decades later is a testament to his broad appeal and ability to make complete strangers void their bladder while laughing.
The following list includes all the Mel Brooks films I’ve seen over the years, as well as a bit of commentary about each. I’ve also written about those Mel Brooks projects I’ve skipped, intentionally or otherwise. Fans of Brooks are invited to share their memories or opinions in our comments section.
Mel Brooks Movies I’ve Seen
The following make up the list of Mel Brooks movies I’ve seen over the years:
The Producers (1968) – Brooks’ debut movie went on to a successful Broadway run and a modern Hollywood remake, but none of that removes the fact that it was overrated. I first saw the film a few years ago, and its reputation had me expecting an instant comedy classic. Gene Wilder was surprisingly obnoxious as Leo Bloom, and even the entire “Springtime for Hitler” play seemed desperate to draw a laugh. While the formula worked, it’s not among my favorite Mel Brooks films.Blazing Saddles (1974) – My favorite Mel Brooks release, this Western parody stars Gene Wilder and Cleavon Little as a mismatched pair of gunfighters who must rally the town of Rock Ridge to resist the schemes of a crooked politician (Harvey Korman). In the process, the first on-screen fart is heard, racism gets knocked down a peg or two, and the fourth wall is broken so many times that you can still see the duct tape holding it together. Alex Karras knocking out a horse with his bare hands remains an iconic movie image, and it became only the tenth film in history to exceed the $100 million mark at the box office.
Young Frankenstein (1974) – Gene Wilder headlines in this singing, dancing parody of classic horror films from the 1930s. But the real star is Peter Boyle, who gives his misunderstood and well-hung monster a distinctive personality amidst the sight gags and juvenile puns. Gene Hackman is effective in a small role as a blind hermit, and who hasn’t tried to walk like Marty Feldman’s Igor on at least one occasion? And I’d almost forgot how fine Teri Garr was in the ’70s and ’80s.
High Anxiety (1977) – The Gene Wilder/Mel Brooks collaboration continues in this entertaining parody of Hitchcock films and suspense movie in general. It’s been over 20 years since I last watched it, but I remember liking it at the time. Now that I’ve got a few more Hitchcock films under my belt, I’m betting I would enjoy it even more.
History of the World, Part I (1981) – Narrated by Orson Welles and featuring Brooks in roles ranging from Moses to a guy responsible for carrying a container for King Louis of France to pee in, this irreverent parody takes on the history of the human race from caveman times to the French Revolution. The usual cast of actors (Harvey Korman, Madeline Kahn, and Cloris Leachman) appear, and my favorite part remains the scene where King Louis blasts peasants from the sky during a lethal game of human skeet.Spaceballs (1987) – The last solid parody movie that Mel Brooks ever made, Spaceballs pokes fun at a George Lucas franchise that sort of writes its own jokes these days. Bill Pullman co-stars in the Han Solo role, while John Candy steals a few laughs as his Chewbacca-like companion. Since Star Wars geeks are pretty forgiving (they have to be considering the quality of the second trilogy), I remember a lot of my pals were Spaceballs fans upon its release.
Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993) – Despite Cary Elwes in the title role and Dave Chappelle in his first major part, this parody of Robin Hood movies was just plain awful. Unlike previous films from Brooks, every joke labored to find a laugh. I’d rather watch Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood for a second time, which is an indication of just how unfunny this “comedy” was.
Mel Brooks Movies I Haven’t Seen
I haven’t seen all the Mel Brooks movies currently available. Here’s a list of those films, as well as my reasons for skipping them:
The Twelve Chairs (1970) – Just before an aristocratic old woman passes away, she reveals that a fortune in jewels are hidden in one of the family’s twelve dining room chairs. This instigates a madcap race for riches between her son-in-law (Ron Moody), a con-artist (Frank Langella), and a Russian Orthodox priest (Dom DeLuise). One of the rare non-parody movies from Brooks, I wasn’t aware of its existence until I started researching this article.
Silent Movie (1976) – Brooks parodies the silent movie era. While I’ve seen a few silent films that I enjoyed, it’s not a style that I’m immediately drawn to. So even a modern parody is going to be low on my list of priorities. I’m sure I’ll see it one day, but the presence of overrated fattie Dom DeLuise isn’t making me hurry.
Life Stinks (1991) – Brooks strayed from parody territory in this comedy-drama about a slum lord who prepares to spend 30 days as a homeless man to win a bet. When you hear the name Mel Brooks, you’re expecting a comedy, and I remember the trailer for this film looked decidedly unfunny. I wasn’t the only one who felt that way, as box-office numbers were pitiful, and the film holds a Rotten Tomatoes freshness rating of under 20%.
Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995) – After the train wreck that was Robin Hood: Men in Tights, I had pretty much given up on Mel Brooks movies. Even with the presence of deadpan comedy genius Leslie Nielsen, I couldn’t muster up the energy to see this parody of Dracula and several other vampire flicks.
If you’re in the mood to laugh, give one or more of these Mel Brooks movies a try. Fans of Curb Your Enthusiasm should be especially delighted, as there are more Jewish jokes and performers than you can shake a dreidel at.