A fluorescent full moon dominates the azure night sky above suburban California, broken only by the unmistakeable silhouette of a child riding his bicycle across the blue yonder with a passenger in the front basket.
You’ve seen this magical image a thousand times. ET the Extra-Terrestrial was released 35 years ago, and to celebrate that and Spielberg’s 70th birthday on 18 December we’ve chosen it to grace the cover of the 2017 edition of the Radio Times Guide to Films.
But you’ve probably also seen it spoofed – a testament to its instant recognisability. In Naked Gun 2 1/2, when Richard Griffiths’s boffin is sent flying out of a window in his wheelchair, he forms his own silhouette. There, too, went Beavis and Butt-head.
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then parody is the most affectionate. Movie spoofs are now unstoppable thanks to the Scary Movie franchise, but they’re also part of a noble tradition that stretches back to the early days of cinema and TV (check out Stan Laurel in the silent horror spoof Dr Pyckle and Mr Pryde).
Mel Brooks made a career out of lovingly crafted, definitive parodies: Blazing Saddles (westerns), High Anxiety (Hitchcock) and Young Frankenstein (horror). Meanwhile, the Carry Ons staked a British claim with Cleo (historical epics), Screaming (Hammer horror) and Cowboy. Christopher Guest pilloried heavy rock with This Is Spinal Tap.
Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost sent up zombies, hi-octane action and aliens in the “Three Flavours Cornetto” trilogy (its title a spin on the Three Colours film series).
French and Saunders’s comedic homages to the movies are legend – Titanic (see their 1998 Christmas Special, Tuesday Gold), Thelma & Louise, Harry Potter – while advertisers have also been known to get in on the act – think of Carling Black Label’s note-perfect re-creation of The Dam Busters.
Our longlist (see below) has been lovingly compiled from skits seen on TV or at the cinema that parody a scene or moment. We want you to vote for your favourite. If it’s not there, you can nominate it. If you do, we’ll be over the moon!
VOTE FOR YOUR FAVOURITE: Here’s our choice of the best ever spoof moments, but which one is your favourite? You can vote here – and for more details, scroll down and watch all the clips…
In a spoof of Airport 1975, the stewardess strums a guitar to cheer up a sick kid, but knocks out her drip.
Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
Mike Myers pastiches Blofeld: the cat, the scar, the insane – but dated — plans for global rule, in this homage to You Only Live Twice.
Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey
Slacker duo challenges the Grim Reaper, not to a game of chess – as in The Seventh Seal – but to Battleships, Cluedo and Twister.
Carling Black Label AD (1989)
A Dam Busters-style bouncing-bomb raid on Germany is thwarted by a soldier’s lager-fuelled goalkeeping skills.
Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid
Film noir send-up splices Steve Martin into an exchange with Bogart – in Big Sleep mode – mainly about his lack of necktie.
French & Saunders 1998 Christmas special
French plays Leo and Saunders plays Kate, perched less gracefully on the prow of the doomed ship Titanic.
Mel Brooks is attacked not by crows – as in The Birds – but by pigeons, and not with their beaks but their droppings.
Rural cop Nick Frost apes Keanu Reeves in Point Break by emptying his gun into the air.
MTV Awards 2000 & Sex and the City
Carrie finds herself caught up in The Matrix – she follows the rabbit, picks up Neo, mocks Morpheus and wakes up in a pod covered in goo.
Morecambe and Wise 1976 Christmas Special
Ernie dances like Gene Kelly, Eric is the policeman, in a note-perfect homage to Singin’ in the Rain… except without the rain.
The Naked Gun 2 1/2: the Smell of Fear
Richard Griffiths’s scientist exits press banquet in motorised wheelchair via balcony, passes Moon à la ET.
The 1992 Oscars
Spoofing hit thriller The Silence of the Lambs, host Billy Crystal is wheeled on by orderlies in cage and mask: “I’m having the Academy over for dinner”.
Seinfeld (series 3/17 The Boyfriend Part 1)
A spitting incident leads Jerry to stage a JFK-like courtroom moment – the “Magic Loogie Theory” complete with Zapruder-esque footage.
Sesame Street (Les Mousserables)
Full-on re-creation of Les Misérables with Cookie Monster, biscuit revolution and dessert-restyled names: Flantine, Creamette.
Shrek and Fiona’s From Here to Eternity beach embrace is ruined by the unwelcome appearance of the Little Mermaid, who’s thrown back to sea.
The Simpsons (series 3/23 Bart’s Friend Falls in Love)
Spaced (series 1/1)
Parodying The Shining, flat-hunters Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes open a cupboard to find twin Girl Guides.
Toy Story 3
In a knowing reference to the first Mission: Impossible, Woody falls from a tree while escaping the daycare centre and is saved by his voice cord millimetres from the ground.
Victoria Wood with All the Trimmings (2000)
Wood gets a mince pie in her eye in her tearoom homage to Johnson and Howard’s Brief Encounter.
The Creature visits Bride of Frankenstein’s blind hermit, who, oblivious to his companion’s ugliness, pours hot soup into his lap and lights his finger instead of a cigar.
AND THE WILD CARD…
Red Nose Day: Armstrong, Miller, Mitchell and Webb
Armstrong and Miller’s teen-talking pilots spoof the entire genre of Second World War RAF movies.