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Best MST3K episodes

  • Best MST3K episodes

    “Mystery Science Theater 3000”—a show that took some of the worst films ever made and turned them into some of the best TV ever produced.

    The premise of the show seeks to discover which horrible and utterly demoralizing film will break the human spirit. Joel Robinson (played by "MST3K" creator Joel Hodgson) and later Mike Nelson, are the test subjects marooned upon the Satellite of Love (SOL) forced by mad scientists with ambitions of world domination to watch one bad movie after another to find the worst one. Joel builds himself robots to maintain his sanity, Crow and Tom Servo become Joel’s closest companions.

    The trio turns what is meant to be torturous experimentation into pure hilarity, through the show’s signature uses of wry wit, snarky banter, observational riffs/dialogue, pop-culture references, and cheesy puns. In doing so, the mad scientists’ attempts to break their spirits are foiled.

    Whether you are long-time MSTie or just experiencing the show for the first time, it can be easy to forget that the movies featured in each episode—rife with gaffes, kitsch, and unintended humor—were made in earnest, and not for the sole purpose of being lampooned by Joel, Mike, Tom Servo, and Crow. But keeping this perspective makes every riff cut just a little bit deeper and makes us laugh a little bit harder.

    The brilliant irony of the whole show is that it shares some of its most defining features and characteristics with the abysmal movies that it mocks. Low production values, improvised props, exaggerated characters, even down to the tropes of mad science experimentation and world domination—it was meta before meta became trendy.

    "MST3K’s" humble origins are a major part of it’s enduring, quirky charm. The show first ran on a local station—KTMA—in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region in 1988. When Comedy Central launched in 1989, the show was picked up as its flagship series where it ran until 1996. It was then picked up by Sci-Fi, now known as SyFy, in 1997 where it ran until 1999. The network continued to air reruns until 2004. But the "MST3K" fervor never went away, and its fanbase proved itself as the most dedicated in television history, at least by crowdfunding standards.

    In 2015, Joel Hodgson launched a Kickstarter campaign to produce new episodes of "MST3K," the number of which would be determined by the amount of money raised. The campaign raised more than $1 million in the first 24 hours and finished with a total of $5.7 million raised by over 48,000 backers—a new Kickstarter record that usurped the previous record-holding campaign, The Veronica Mars Movie Project. Those involved with the show throughout its history continue to find new ways to revitalize the "MST3K" brand of comedy including Rifftrax, featuring Michael Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett, and most recently Mystery Science Theater 300 Live: The Great Cheesy Movie Circus Tour launched by Joel Hodgson.

    But the original product will always have an audience. Stacker wanted to provide established MSTies with a reminder of what some of the most classic episodes have to offer and give new fans a place to jump in.

    The huge amount of content in each "MST3K" episode—between five different segments across multiple storylines and characters, post-credit stingers, one feature film, and often one featured short film—means a few summarizing sentences couldn’t possibly showcase the show’s genius. There are entire websites dedicated to dissecting the nuance and context of riffs made on the show.

    Instead, we are focusing just on the awful films for which each episode is titled. To understand what makes "MST3K" appealing, it is important to first appreciate the shlock they sit through, and how those films are integral to other aspects of each episode and the broader series. This list will illustrate how 50 of the worst movies ever made could finally be a part of a favorable, enduring legacy thanks to these 50 episodes of "MST3K."

    We gathered data for every episode of the original run of "Mystery Science Theater 3000," and ranked each episode according to its IMDb user rating, with all ties broken by vote count. Only the 1988–1999 episodes of the show were considered.

    Click through to read about the best "MST3K" episodes and the movies that made them so. 

    You may also like: 100 worst horror movies of all time

  • #50. Soultaker (1999)

    - IMDb user rating: 7.9
    - Votes: 537
    - Season: 10
    - Episode: 01

    In this episode, Mike and the gang are subjected to the 1990 horror film “Soultaker,” which follows a group of teens as they evade the Angel of Death coming to harvest their souls after they are ejected from their bodies in a car accident. This "MST3K" episode ranks among the favorites for critics and fans in part because Joel Hodgson, creator of the show and the original host, reprises his role as Joel Robinson. His cameo was viewed by fans and critics as a stamp of approval fof the show’s subsequent success after his departure.
    Favorite riff: “Story there will be a story. That's encouraging.”

  • #49. Fire Maidens of Outer Space (1992)

    - IMDb user rating: 8.0
    - Votes: 250
    - Season: 4
    - Episode: 16

    “Fire Maidens of Outer Space”—a 1956 Cy Roth sci-fi film about a team of astronauts that discovers a civilization of Atlantean women on Jupiter’s 13th moon—provides the "MST3K" crew with endless fodder. This episode also sees the first and only appearance of Timmy the Dark Crow (Crow’s impish double) who wreaks havoc on the Satellite of Love. Timmy’s character is actually Crow’s black puppet used in the theater segment of each episode.
    Favorite riff: “Please remain seated until the movie grinds to a complete halt”

  • #48. Daddy-O (1991)

    - IMDb user rating: 8.0
    - Votes: 276
    - Season: 4
    - Episode: 07

    If you’re in to drag racing, beatniks, the good guys winning, and a predictable romance between the two main characters, then the 1958 film “Daddy-O” starring Dick Contino is the film for you. If riffing on those, cheesy, trite conventions is more your speed, look no further than Joel and the crew’s interpretation. This episode also features the series’ first education short, “Alphabet Antics,” during which Joel and the bots give their take on the film’s outdated and often politically incorrect subject matter. “P is for PETA who’s boycotting this!” they riff in response to footage of animals like elephants and camels performing farm work.
    Favorite riff: “P is for plagiarism from Ogden Nash”

  • #47. Secret Agent Super Dragon (1993)

    - IMDb user rating: 8.0
    - Votes: 320
    - Season: 6
    - Episode: 04

    “Secret Agent Super Dragon” is a 1966 Eurospy film about an international crime syndicate that smuggles drugs in imported vases. Combine a killer, cliched plot coupled with a titular character fit for a bond movie, and you’ve got yourself a most riff-worthy "MST3K" episode. Host segments throughout the episode include Crow's sensitive screenplay, "The Spy Who Hugged Me," a jazzy rendition of the “Secret Agent Super Dragon” theme, and micro golf.
    Favorite riff: “Superagent superjerk if you ask me.”

  • #46. Night of the Blood Beast (1996)

    - IMDb user rating: 8.0
    - Votes: 320
    - Season: 7
    - Episode: 01

    There’s no shortage of truly terrible reviews for the 1958 sci-fi horror film “Night of the Blood Beast.” The film tells the tale of an astronaut who becomes a host for alien embryos as part of a larger plan for an alien race to save humanity by taking it over. Mike Nelson and the Bots do some of their best riffing not only to this featured movie but also to a short called “Once Upon A Honeymoon” — a short film from the AT&T archives about a wife who laments never having a honeymoon. She copes with the help of an angel who sprinkles a dusty-substance onto the house. Before you know it, she’s dancing, singing, and fantasizing new home decor with matching phones in every room. A perfect body of work for the "MST3K" treatment.
    Favorite riff: “Aim high, sister!”

  • #45. The Creeping Terror (1994)

    - IMDb user rating: 8.0
    - Votes: 333
    - Season: 6
    - Episode: 06

    “The Creeping Terror” is regarded as one of the worst films of all time, so naturally it made for one of the best "MST3K" episodes of all time. The 1964 horror sci-fi film—most of which is narrated by a local radio DJ because the original audio is said to have been lost (or perhaps just too bad to use)—is about a giant tardigrade-like alien that crashlands on Earth and devours humans. The lumbering alien(ish) in the film is rumored to be the creation of a hastily-stitched-together pile of carpets—one of the many details that make “The Creeping Terror” singularly terrible and perfect fodder for Mike and the Bots dry humor and merciless mocking.
    Favorite riff: “I was afraid this alien was going to be goofy…”

  • #44. Time Chasers (1997)

    - IMDb user rating: 8.0
    - Votes: 526
    - Season: 8
    - Episode: 21

    “Time Chasers” was the first movie of the 1990s to be featured on the show. The 1994 sci-fi film directed by David Giancola is the story of an amateur inventor who masters time travel but sees his technology used for evil by a corporation that wants to alter history for financial gain. While the film gives Mike and the Bots plenty to riff on with its unimaginative effects and cast that leaves much to be desired, Crow’s commentary on the protagonist is a fan favorite: “This... is not our star, is it? I will not accept this as our star, sorry.” The “Time Chasers” cast and crew had a reunion/viewing party when the "MST3K" episode aired. While some people deeply appreciated the "MST3K" treatment, embracing the show’s “don’t take yourself too seriously” attitude, others took offense to the lampooning.
    Favorite riff: “We could send Bob Saget to meet Charlemagne!”

  • #43. Laserblast (1996)

    - IMDb user rating: 8.0
    - Votes: 566
    - Season: 7
    - Episode: 06

    The epic awfulness that is “Laserblast”—a 1978 sci-fi film about an angsty teenage boy who finds an alien laser cannon, goes on a rampage, and eventually is consumed by the extraterrestrial tech—was succinctly captured by Crow in this episode: “Could Leonard Maltin be wrong, and this movie isn't worth two and a half stars?” For those who have endured the film, even with the SOL crew’s clever riffing, it would seem two and a half stars was a generous review.
    Favorite riff: “Look...are you ready for some football?!"

  • #42. 12 to the Moon (1994)

    - IMDb user rating: 8.1
    - Votes: 214
    - Season: 5
    - Episode: 24

    “12 to the Moon” is the tale of an international team of astronauts on a mission to explore the moon. The crew encounters an emotionless alien race living below the lunar surface who fear their way of life will be threatened by Earthlings. The moon-beings trigger a freeze over North America, plunging Earth into another ice age as a means of retribution. After two astronauts journey back to Earth to save the planet, risking their own lives, the Moon-beings realize that Earthlings are loving and peaceful. And they all live happily ever after, for the most part. But many fans consider the star of this particular episode to be the featured short “Design for Dreaming” — a story about a woman who dreams of a masked man who takes her to test drive cars and take some new kitchen appliances for a spin. It’s the kind of dated fantasy ripe for riffing, and it’s these riffs that are among some of the best according to fans.
    Favorite riff: “Holly-Go-Weirdly!”

  • #41. Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster (1991)

    - IMDb user rating: 8.1
    - Votes: 223
    - Season: 2
    - Episode: 13

    When Godzilla, Mothra, and a giant crustacean named Ebirah converge in one place for a truly monstrous battle, you can be sure that Joel and the Bots will be at their prime. Especially when you consider a rumble of this scale was produced with all of the cinematic magic of 1966. The role of Godzilla was actually written for King Kong, a fact that seems to shine through in some confusing plot developments. “Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster”, originally titled “Ebirah, Horror of the Deep,” is so campy, it’s almost fun. This was the first of two Godzilla movies featured on "MST3K." Favorite riff: “It’s the Mothra Graham Dance Troupe.”

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