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11 Movies Based on 'Saturday Night Live' Sketches

No Laughing Matter

By

For a show that prides itself on being the first name in comedy, Saturday Night Live inspired some of the worst comedies released in the 1990s (when SNL films were the most abundant). Proof that characters could be funny in four minute sketches but not in 90-minute films, the majority of movies on this list were both critical and commercial flops. To this day, they remain blights on the sketch comedy show's reputation, which became known more for bad movies than for good TV. Let's all be thankful that the Sprockets movie never came to be.

1. The Blues Brothers (1980)

© Universal
The first -- and still best - of the SNL films, largely because it isn't based on one-joke characters. Actually, there isn't much to the characters of Jake and Elwood Blues (John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd), meaning they just provide the framework for director John Landis to stage some incredible musical numbers and smash up half the city of Chicago. Since the Brothers only appeared on SNL performing songs, there was no need to call back to the sketch comedy; the movie was allowed to create its own world with its own rules. No SNL movie would share the same luxury again. You'd be hard pressed to find a movie as raucous or fun as The Blues Brothers.
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2. Wayne's World (1993)

DVD cover art for Waynes World
© Paramount
If The Blues Brothers was the best SNL movie ever made, Wayne's World can at least enjoy a comfortable number two slot (the fact that the first two SNL films produced were the best doesn't bode well, as another eight movies were still to come). This is the movie that created the formula for future SNL films: take popular, possibly one-joke characters from the show and fill 90 minutes with a thin plot while reference the original sketches as often as possible. Amazingly, this one works; there's a sense that Mike Myers, Dana Carvey and company are getting away with something -- probably because there wasn't yet a standard of success set. Unlike Blues Brothers, the movie hasn't dated well, but there's no denying the huge impact it once had.
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3. Coneheads (1993)

DVD cover art for Coneheads
© Paramount

Here's where it all went off the rails. Lorne Michaels and SNL Studios began greenlighting any movie based on Saturday Night Live characters -- even those nearly twenty years old. Original Not-Ready-for-Prime-Time Players Day Aykroyd and Jane Curtain reprise their roles as Beldar and Prymaat Conehead, aliens who come to Earth and attempt to assimilate into American culture. The movie boasts the biggest roster of SNL talent of any film to date, including David Spade, Chris Farley, Adam Sandler, Phil Hartman, Michael McKean, Julia Sweeney and more. Sadly, all the comedic talent in the world couldn't save this movie, which was ill-conceived from the word "go." There's a reason they never made a "Land Shark" movie.

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4. Wayne's World 2 (1993)

DVD cover art for Waynes World 2
© Paramount
Given the success of the pop culture phenomenon that was the first Wayne's World, Mike Myers and Lorne Michaels were quick to strike while the iron was hot. The sequel finds Wayne (Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey) putting on a rock concert and battling Christopher Walken's sleazy music promoter. Myers takes everything that once felt fresh and funny in the original film and recreates it to lesser effect, all the while self-consciously winking at the audience in that "Remember this? Isn't it great?" way. It's the exact same sin he would commit a few years later with the Austin Powers franchise; the first feeling new and fun, while future installments felt bloated, lazy and smug.
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5. It's Pat: The Movie (1994)

DVD cover art for It's Pat the Movie
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We all remember Julia Sweeney's beyond androgynous, is she/he or isn't she/he character from SNL right? And we can all agree that the idea could barely be stretched to the length of a single sketch, right? Wrong. Someone clearly believed an entire film could be sustained by characters trying to guess the gender of Sweeney's whiny creation. They may have been wrong. The movie barely received theatrical distribution, opening in only three cities. Despite a rumored script polish by Quentin Tarantino, and a cast including Kids in the Hall member Dave Foley, comedian Kathy Griffin and the late Charles Rocket, the movie was a total disaster. You may think it would've marked the death knell of SNL films. You may be wrong.
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6. Stuart Saves His Family (1995)

DVD cover art for Stuart Saves His Family
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Another one-joke sketch turned into a full-length feature, the Al Franken-penned Stuart Saves His Family isn't quite as bad as one might expect. Based on the self-help expert Stuart Smalley sketches ("I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and, doggone it, people like me."), the film was probably too focused on addiction and recovery for it to be a hugely successful comedy. But that's also much of what makes it worth seeing; unlike other SNL movies, Stuart is actually about something. As directed by Harold Ramis, it doesn't just feel like a sketch stretched to feature length; it feels like an actual movie. Still, nobody saw it and it lost some $10 million.
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7. Blues Brothers 2000 (1998)

DVD cover art for Blues Brothers 2000
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Proof that lightning rarely strikes twice. Everything about this project was ill-conceived. John Belushi was long gone (he died in 1982), so for this 1998 sequel the filmmakers replaced him with John Goodman. And because that's really no substitute, they also added Joe Morton (Terminator 2). And a kid. And the Chicago locations so crucial to the first film were replaced by Canadian locales trying to pass as the Windy City. And it was called Blues Brothers 2000, despite the fact that it came out in 1998. Though the returning Dan Aykroyd and director John Landis tried to recapture the magic with numerous musical guest stars and chaotic car crashes (the most in any movie in history), 2000 is a pale imitation of the original.
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8. A Night at the Roxbury (1998)

DVD cover art for A Night at the Roxbury
© Paramount
A Night at the Roxbury takes its inspiration from those late-'90s Chris Kattan/Will Ferrell sketches about the two creepy, pushy guys bobbing their heads in a nightclub and trying to get women to dance with them. Those sketches weren't even about the characters -- who never had any dialogue -- but about the situation. Since you can't make a 90-minute movie about that situation, naturally the makers of Roxbury decided that what audiences wanted was tons of plot and back story. That way, we understand their hopes and dreams and why they dance in a nightclub. Yuck.
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9. Superstar (1999)

DVD cover art for Superstar
© Paramount
Continuing the downward spiral that would eventually end Saturday Night Live movies, 1999's Superstar (directed by Kids in the Hall member Bruce McCulloch) finds Molly Shannon's Mary Katherine Gallagher auditioning for the talent show at her Catholic high school and trying to win the heart of the school hunk (played by SNL co-star Will Ferrell). At some point, she also sniffs her armpits and falls through a table or something. I never found Gallagher funny even in four minute sketches, so you can imagine how I feel about a full-length film. Now that Will Ferrell is a big star, one has to assume he wishes that movies like Roxbury and Superstar weren't on his resume.
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10. The Ladies' Man (2000)

DVD cover art for The Ladies Man
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Given the box-office failure of at least five SNL movies before it, it's a wonder that 2000's The Ladies' Man ever saw the light of the day. Taking Tim Meadows' smooth-talking, lispy radio host and giving him his own movie may not have seemed like any worse an idea than Superstar or Roxbury, and, truth be told, it wasn't. It's just more of the same: a comedy based on a one-joke character that had no business sustaining an entire film. Amazingly, this one also starred Ferrell, who must have been contractually obligated to appear in every Saturday Night Live movie. The Ladies' Man was also the last movie based on an SNL sketch to be produced...for now.
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11. MacGruber (2010)

Will Forte stars in MacGruber
© Universal/Rogue Pictures

After an entire decade without an SNL movie, Lorne Michaels and company finally released MacGruber, based on the recurring sketch featuring Will Forte as a MacGyver-like hero who's forever unsuccessfully trying to stop a bomb from exploding. Co-starring Ryan Phillipe, Val Kilmer and Forte's SNL cast mate Kristen Wiig and directed by Lonely Island member Jorma Taccone, MacGruber deviates from the conceit of the sketch and instead places the character inside a parody of '80s and '90s action films. It's also probably the raunchiest of the Saturday Night Live movies, well deserving of its hard-R rating. Whether or not it inspires a new wave of SNL films remains to be seen.

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