Spaceballs is a 1987 science fiction parody film of Star Wars co-written, directed by, and starring Mel Brooks. It was released on June 24, 1987, and earned only modest returns, but has gone on to become a seminal cult classic on video.
Its plot and characters contain numerous parodies of elements from the original Star Wars trilogy and Star Trek in particular, as well as other popular science fiction films. The script was written by Mel Brooks in only six months, and was approved by George Lucas, as he was a big fan of Brooks's previous films. Special effects were done by Apogee, Inc.
In 2008, an animated sequel TV series premiered on Super Channel in Canada. It also premiered on G4 in the United States on September 21, 2008.
Planet Spaceball, led by President Skroob (Mel Brooks
), has wasted all of its air
and, desperate to find more, plans the extraction of all the air from planet Druidia. They plan to kidnap
the Druish Princess Vespa (Daphne Zuniga
), who is about to marry the narcoleptic
(Jim J. Bullock
). Resenting this marriage, Vespa runs off from the altar with her Droid of Honor, Dot Matrix (voiced by Joan Rivers
), and escapes into space, where she is attacked by the Spaceballs under the command of Dark Helmet (Rick Moranis
Vespa's father, King Roland (Dick Van Patten), hires Captain Lone Starr (Bill Pullman) and his mawg (half-man, half dog) sidekick Barf (John Candy) who are desperate for money to pay back their debts to the Mafioso Pizza the Hutt (Dom DeLuise), to rescue his daughter. They manage to rescue her and escape the Spaceballs, but crash-land on a desert planet. There, they meet Yogurt (Mel Brooks), who introduces Lone Starr to The Schwartz. However, the Spaceballs trick Vespa and capture her again. Lone Starr and Barf rescue the Princess again, but not before the Spaceballs have succeeded in forcing King Roland to reveal the entry code to Druidia's atmosphere (1, 2, 3, 4, 5...the kind of thing an idiot would have on his luggage). Their spaceship Spaceball I transforms into Mega Maid with a vacuum cleaner, which starts to extract the air from Druidia. Lone Starr uses his Schwartz ring to reverse the procedure, from suck to blow, defeats Dark Helmet in a duel using lightsaber-like weapons emanating from their Schwartz rings, and causes Mega Maid to self-destruct (Mega Maid's head, its hand, and the handle of the giant vacuum -- which resemble parts of the Statue of Liberty -- fall onto a planet where they are found by humanoid apes (Planet of the Apes) who say "Shit, there goes the Planet.")
Lone Starr returns the Princess to Druidia and, since his creditor Pizza the Hutt, while locked in his car, ate himself to death, leaves without taking the agreed payment of one million spacebucks (though he takes 248 spacebucks for gas, food and tolls). Shortly afterward, on finding out that he is a "certified Prince", he returns in time to interrupt the marriage and marry Vespa.
The budget for Spaceballs was $22,700,000 (estimated). The film grossed $38
,119,483 during its run in the United States
, taking in $6,600,000 on its opening weekend.
When the film was released, Spaceballs: The Soundtrack
was also released on Atlantic Records
, featuring many of the songs heard in the film, as well as three score cues by composer John Morris.
For the '19th Anniversary', La-La Land Records released the score presented in its entirety for the first time, with bonus tracks featuring alternate takes and tracks composed for, but not used in the film. It has been released as a "limited edition" of 3,000 units.
The plot is deliberately evocative of fairy tales
, as are the scenes on the planet Druidia. Throughout the film, the Spaceballs characters regularly break the fourth wall
, often to promote their merchandise, and they are aware that they are making a movie, and the events are not real life. For example, at one point the villains succeed in capturing the main characters' stunt doubles, while at another accidentally kill one of the filming crew during a fight scene, and even being hit by the camera in a close up. In fact, in one scene, they pull out the video version of Spaceballs
being shown in real time, as it is being filmed and temporarily take a look at the scene they're in: "now".
The majority of the scenes and characters are parodies of Star Wars, although the film parodies other movies as well, most notably:
- Jaws (gigantic shark-like space ship with Jaws-like music)
- Indiana Jones, Barf remarks "...this looks like the Temple of Doom!"
- Battlestar Galactica Villians occationally use the word "Imperious", this is a reference to the Cylon term "Imperious Leader". Others also argue that Lone Star dresses like a Colonial Warrior
- Superman: The Movie (musical score)
- The Police Academy movies (Michael Winslow sound effects; Winslow has a cameo in the film as a Spaceball navigations officer)
- The Sir David Lean films The Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia, includiandng their theme music.
- The Wizard of Oz (first meeting with Yogurt)
- Planet of the Apes (crashed remains of Spaceball One/Mega Maid as a reference to the Statue of Liberty ruins)
- Star Trek The beaming sequence with the character Snotty (a parody of Scottish character Montgomery "Scotty" Scott), and the scene where Lone Starr attempts to knock out a Spaceball by performing (at first, unsuccessfully) the Vulcan Neck Pinch.
- Star Wars Main parody
- Max Headroom
- Back to the Future
- Rocky (including its supposed continuation up to "Rocky Five ... Thousand")
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- It Happened One Night
- Alien (John Hurt reprising his famous death scene from that movie, and even groaning in despair, "Oh no! Not again!"; the chestburster emerges from the victim, shrieks, smiles, and in stereotypical vaudeville fashion, puts on a straw boater hat with a miniature cane in one hand, and begins dancing and singing like Michigan J. Frog, performing Hello! Ma Baby)
- Dumbo (Yogurt saying to Lone Starr that he doesn't need the ring)
- Transformers (When Spaceball I is transforming, Barf says "It's a Transformer!")
- The transformation itself is also similar to Unicron's transformation in The Transformers: The Movie, released in 1986. The head even remains intact floating through space after its destruction.
- Thunderbirds The Mercedes Benz launching from the Planet Druidia platform.
The film also satirizes various aspects of 1980s culture, including video rental, fast food, Mr. Coffee, action figures, and merchandising. During a scene in which Dark Helmet and various other crewmates try to locate a copy of Spaceballs on video (which confuses Dark Helmet, as they are still making the movie at the time), Sandurz passes by video cassettes of several of Brooks's earlier movies (The Producers, The Twelve Chairs, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Silent Movie, High Anxiety, History of the World, Part I, and To Be or Not to Be) before he finds the video he is looking for. Scenes from Rocky can also be seen.
At the end of the final battle, in the final minute of the self-destruct countdown, Spaceball One's computer reminds Dark Helmet that there is a self-destruct cancellation button. Rushing to the button, he, President Skroob and Colonel Sandurz find it out of order, to which Dark Helmet curses, "Fuck! Even in the future, nothing works!"
One of the features of Skroob's presidential office was beverage cans filled with air, branded "Perri-air".
Moranis reportedly modeled Dark Helmet's "mask-down" voice on that of Geoffrey Holder, a popular performer with similar voice intonations to James Earl Jones, the actor who provided Darth Vader's voice in the Star Wars films.
Druidia may be a reference to Druidic culture, and also Jewish culture. The king's daughter is a "druish princess" (see "Princess Vespa", below"). Another Jewish joke is Barf saying the princess doesn't look "Druish" which pokes fun at how Jews from different parts of the world are expected to look by those living there.
- Captain Lone Starr combines traits from Star Wars' two male heroes, Han Solo and Luke Skywalker. His name is derived from Isaac Asimov's Lucky Starr series and the Lone Star of Texas. He hails from the Ford Galaxy, in reference to Harrison Ford (who played Han Solo), and also a play on the Ford Galaxie, a car made by the Ford Motor Company. Lone Starr is revealed as being a prince from an unknown kingdom at the end of the film. Exactly where in the Ford Galaxy he's from has to this day never been revealed. The only clue to his true identity was a pendant which later turned out to be 'a royal birth certificate', according to Yogurt; by film's end, the pendant is what allows him to marry Vespa. A further clue is hinted at, but never followed up in the film: Just before their fight, Dark Helmet "reveals" to Lone Starr that he is a former roommate to one of his cousin's cousins (your father's brother's nephew's cousin's former roommate, which could also make him Lone Starr's ex-roommate, but Lone Starr does not seem to remember any such thing). Lone Starr's costume is intentionally misplaced, resembling Harrison Ford's Indiana Jones costume (he is seen wearing a fedora in his first scene, which is set aside and not seen for the remainder of the film) rather than that of Han Solo or Luke Skywalker. Some people say that Lone Starr dresses in a similar manner of Colonial Warriors in the original Battlestar Galactica.
- His companion Barf (Barfolomew), a mawg (half-man, half-dog), is a parody of the Wookiee Chewbacca (Chewie). Notably, in Russian translation "a mawg" was rendered as "chelobakka", a portmanteau of words "chelovek" (a man) and "sobaka" (a dog) also spoofing the name Chewbacca.
- Their ship Eagle 5 is a modified Winnebago RV. Its shabby state resembles the Millennium Falcon. The name Eagle 5 also refers to both Luke Skywalker's call number (Red 5) and Han Solo's ship (Millennium Falcon) in Star Wars, and possibly the Eagle Transporters on Space: 1999. Also the seal for the Eagle 5 is an altered parody of the Apollo 11 patch. Bumper sticker says "I (love) Uranus."
- Yogurt, a parody of the Jedi master Yoda (named after the food yogurt), is a sage with deep knowledge of the mysterious power called The Schwartz (The Force). His bombastic entrance resembles that of the wizard in The Wizard of Oz. Like many characters played by Mel Brooks, he embodies several Jewish stereotypes.
- He is assisted in his work, particularly merchandising, by the Dinks, a group of red-clad little people who resemble the Jawas from Star Wars while making sounds similar to the Seven Dwarfs (Lone Starr even asks "when did we end up in Disneyland?") and singing a version of the Colonel Bogey March and Bridge on the River Kwai.
- Princess Vespa resembles Princess Leia in her noble heritage and her love/hate relationship with Lone Starr/Han Solo. Her name references the motor scooter Vespa. She is a Druish princess (a play on Jewish princess), a characterization of a spoiled young Jewish-American woman. She was spoiled by her father and is used to a life of luxury, which includes a Mercedes Benz spaceship. Her hooked nose was changed by rhinoplasty as a 16th birthday present. In one scene she appears to have a hairstyle similar to Princess Leia in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, but it is revealed that she is actually wearing headphones.
- Dot Matrix, Vespa's droid-of-honor, resembles C-3PO, whose placid nature is only broken by her dedication to keeping Vespa safe. Her name is a reference to the old dot matrix style printers. The voice of Dot Matrix is performed by Joan Rivers.
- Prince Valium, the last (known) prince in the galaxy and Vespa's fiancé. He takes his name from the comic strip Prince Valiant but combines it with the sedative drug to reflect his narcolepsy. Dot also refers to him as "a pill".
- President Skroob, though in the place of Star Wars's Emperor Palpatine, appears more like a modern president without any supernatural powers. His name is an anagram of "Brooks," but also resembles the verb to screw (to cheat) and Ebenezer Scrooge. It is also notable to realize that if you combine his name "Skroob" with the latter half of the movie title, it becomes "Skroob ball", sounding quite similar to "screwball"
- Dark Helmet, the Space Balls' second-in-command, is a parody of Darth Vader. He resembles Darth Vader in appearance, but is much shorter, has a much larger helmet, and wears a tie. (However, he changes into a khaki uniform and an equally oversized pith helmet during the desert scene.) He speaks in a deep bass voice and breathes audibly, as the helmet hinders his breathing. This often causes him to lift his visor, revealing his bespectacled face and his intentionally incredulous high-pitched voice. Helmet is the commander of the Spaceballs' "Imperious Forces" (a parody of the Imperial Forces in Star Wars, as well as the Imperious Leader from Battlestar Galactica), and commands the flagship Spaceball One (see below). He uses The Schwartz to discipline his subordinates, not by force grip (as with Darth Vader) but by crushing their testicles with the Schwartz. He enjoys playing with Spaceballs action figurines, taking special pleasure in acting out a scenario in which he seduces Princess Vespa, but is embarrassed when anyone notices his playing. Vader's relationship to his nemesis Luke Skywalker is parodied by Helmet declaring himself Lone Starr's "father's brother's nephew's cousin's former roommate", which he sums up as making them "absolutely nothing."
- Colonel Sandurz is a parody of the leading Imperial Officers from Star Wars, such as Veers and Piett or Moff Tarkin. His name is a pun on KFC's founder Colonel Sanders. (At one point, Dark Helmet says to him, "What's the matter, Colonel Sandurz? Chicken?")
- Snotty, who operates the transporter beam in planet Spaceball's capital city, is a reference to Star Trek's engineer Scotty. His thick Scottish accent, stereotypical Scottish attire (kilt and tam o'shanter) and his referring to "Loch Lomond" also point to Snotty's Scottish background.
- Major Asshole and Gunner's Mate First Class Philip Asshole are two cross-eyed Spaceballs serving aboard the Spaceball One. Both being generic parodies of Imperial personnel from the Star Wars films - Major Asshole being the officer and Gunner Asshole the gunner respectively. Their family name is a reference to their apparent stupidity. Both characters are played by Jim Jackman. When Helmet learns how many relatives these two have on board, he is left to exclaim "My God, I'm surrounded by Assholes!"
- Commanderette Zircon is a dominating female Spaceball officer and the head of Central Control in Spaceball City. She perpetually keeps in touch with President Skroob via a Videophone. Like Sandurz, she appears to be a parody of various Imperial officers, but may possibly be a parody of dominant female characters such as Maya from Space: 1999. She is played by Leslie Bevis.
- The Captain of the Guard is an effeminate officer who appears briefly as the Head of Security of Spaceball City, and accidentally captures the stunt-doubles of the heroes. He is a parody of the Prison Wardens seen in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, and is played by Stephen Tobolowsky.
The Spaceballs' weapon of conquest, Spaceball One
, is a powerful spaceship. The opening scene is an homage to the opening scene of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
with the ridiculously long, wide angle continuous shot of Spaceball One
. Its shape resembles Battlestar Galactica
and the Super Star Destroyers
, while its name is a pun on Air Force One
, the U.S. president's airplane. The Spaceballs' attitude toward others is expressed by the ship's large bumper sticker
: "We brake for nobody."
The ship's absurd size is a frequent point of references:
- The ship is so large that it contains a shopping mall, a zoo, and a three-ring circus (complete with a freak show).
- The ship takes about 1 minute and 47 seconds to cross the screen at the beginning of the film. This is emphasized by the music theme (based on the musical theme from Jaws) which stops and resumes again several times, each time growing louder and louder, implying that the orchestra is getting frustrated with the ship's seemingly endless length.
- President Skroob is once forced to jog to the bridge in order to arrive before the end of the film. He references this by saying "This ship is too big. If I walked, the movie would be over."
Spaceball One is capable of traveling at four different speeds: sub-light speed, light speed, ridiculous speed, and ludicrous speed. When going into ludicrous speed all crew members must use a seat belt for their own safety. Ludicrous speed results in the ship leaving a trail of plaid, parodying the "warp trail" seen in the first few Star Trek films.
Spaceball One's secret weapon is its ability to transform into Mega Maid, a colossal cleaning woman holding a gigantic vacuum cleaner used to extract air from other planets and take it back to planet Spaceball. It can also reverse that process, expelling air. When Spaceball One begins to undergo its metamorphosis into "Mega Maid," the command is given stating "Ready Kafka." An allusion to Kafka's novella The Metamorphosis.
The ship's destruction resembles the destruction of the Death Star in Star Wars as well as the demise of Unicron in The Transformers: The Movie: Lone Starr's ship flies through Mega Maid's ear to reach the self-destruct button. Mega Maid's head and the hand holding the vacuum cleaner crash into a nearby planet, with the pieces resembling the Statue of Liberty as seen in the final scene of Planet of the Apes.
- Pizza the Hutt, named after the pizza restaurant chain, is a half-man, half-Pizza Mafioso and a parody of Jabba the Hutt.
- His companion Vinnie, taking the place of the various courtiers and associates of Jabba, such as Bib Fortuna. He resembles a stereotypical gangster with an outlandish costume, and exhibits stuttering speech patterns and mannerisms similar to Max Headroom
is the toy store chain which distributes the Star Wars toys, therefore it is yet another parody on film merchandising, as in the entire first Yogurt scene. The lightsabers
emanating from the Schwartz rings held in front of their crotch also form a phallic
symbol, a play on the word Schwantz/Schwanz which is Yiddish
slang for penis. 'Schwarz' is German for 'black'. In the dubbed German version of the film 'Schwartz' is translated as 'Saft' ('juice'). The Light and Dark sides of the Force
are parodied by being called the "up side" and the "down side".
Breaking the fourth wall
, the possibility of a sequel
was already included in the film itself: "God willing, we'll all meet again in Spaceballs 2: The Search for More Money
". In September 2004, news
about a sequel (possibly hoaxes), parodying the Star Wars Prequel trilogy
, appeared on the internet. It was rumored that there was going to be a Spaceballs sequel entitled "Spaceballs 3: The Search For Spaceballs 2"
, but the operation was canceled due to unknown reasons. In January 2005, it was revealed that Spaceballs
would be turned into an animated television show. On September 21
, Mel Brooks announced that he was developing an animated TV series based on Spaceballs
, which debuted in September 2008.