Right about now is a great time to saddle up the couch, turn the fan on, and watch some movies. As comedy fans, we remember often being sad about summer because, at one point, Saturday Night Live was actually funny on a consistent basis. When SNL would stop airing new shows and go on hiatus, most of the funniest folks from the show would be off making movies during the summer. So here at Jackalope Ranch, we thought it would be fun to look at some of the more interesting movies that SNL alums have made over the years.
Please note that we said "interesting" and not "best." The "best" ones are another list altogether. These are some of the odd, quirky, and just plain silly movies that might help you get through the dog days.
10. Wholly Moses
Wholly Moses starred original SNL cast member Larraine Newman and British funny man Dudley Moore. This movie is probably long forgotten, but it worth a look while you peruse the online movie sites. Basically, it is a knock-off of Monty Python's Life of Brian and a lesser predecessor to Mel Brook's History of the World Part I, but fans of these films and parodies like them will definitely enjoy this film. There are some very clever lines, and it's Newman's only starring role on anything outside of Saturday Night Live. There is a good reason for this, as Newman's unique style was definitely not for everyone, but we love her. And if you give it a chance, so will you.
Bill Murray's first starring role in a feature film is a ludicrous summer camp romp with a heart. Released 35 years ago, it also featured actor Chris Makepeace who would gain further recognition for My Bodyguard a year later. Murray's character, Tripper Harrison, is sort of an amalgamation of several of the characters he played on SNL, with a bit of his lounge singer, Nick Winters, and Todd DiLaMuca (boyfriend to Gilda Radner's Lisa Loopner) in there, but he also portrays a pretty kind and caring friend. This is a must for Bill Murray fans, as well as people who dig the late 1970s and early '80s teen movies.
8. Cabin Boy
Chris Elliot was not a member of the best SNL casts, nor was co-star Brian Doyle-Murray, but their film Cabin Boy is definitely one of a kind and worthy of a summer viewing. A self-proclaimed "fancy lad," Elliot's Nathaniel Mayweather is not exactly the kind of hero that is easy to root for, but he does manage to create some fairly hilarious scenes containing semi-heroic deeds throughout this sea-faring comedy. There is also a very cool cameo by Ann Magnusson as Calli, a six-armed temptress who teaches Nathaniel a thing or two about life. Doyle-Murray manages to get his trademark smirk going quite a few times in the film as he berates Elliot's character.
7. Where the Buffalo Roam
This 1980 film features Bill Murray playing Hunter S. Thompson in the first of three films depicting the famed writer. For our money, this is the best portrayal of Thompson done on screen, even if the movie itself leaves something to be desired. It's worth a watch, though, as you hide from the heat and you'll undoubtedly enjoy watching Murray sink further and further into his film persona. Supposedly, Bill Murray got so far into becoming Thompson that when SNL started filming again in the fall of 1980, he showed up in New York still in character.
6. A Night at the Roxbury
The only film on this list that began as a recurring skit on SNL, it deserves to be here as it is easily one of the silliest movies of all time. Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan are the Butabi brothers, Steve and Doug (respectively) who are also complete and total dweebs. The word "thick" might be used to describe them as well, but there is also fairly clever writing here that allows them to insert themselves into a variety of situations where other characters in the film show their complete and total dismay at the idiocy the Butabis are allowed to get away with. SNL regulars Molly Shannon and Colin Quinn also play significant roles in the film, as well as Chazz Palminteri whose turn as a nightclub owner is priceless. Even if you never saw this skit on the show, you can enjoy this movie.
5. Three Amigos
Martin Short, Chevy Chase, and Steve Martin (who is an honorary SNL'er due to his 15 turns as the host, in addition to numerous guest appearances) star in this bumbling take on the Western, which is also a mini-tribute to Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai. The threesome are silent movie stars who end up being tested by real, if buffoonish, criminals. One of the best things about watching this film is observing the fun the actors are having on screen. It was never going to win an Oscar, but you can't help but smile while you watch and some of the gags are laugh-out-loud funny. The late Phil Hartman, who was one of the funniest of the post not-ready-for-primetime players, and Jon Lovitz (ACTING!!!) were also in the film, which debuted in 1986.
4. Trading Places
Easily the best all-around movie on this list, Trading Places is, in our opinion, a classic. Starring Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd (with cameos from Tom Davis, Senator Al Franken, and Jim Belushi) this 1983 comedy is funny if it is your first time seeing it or your 50th. Murphy and Aykroyd are at their best and they were teamed with Jamie Lee Curtis, who was in her first non-horror movie role. In addition to the comedy, the juxtaposition of grifting and good, old fashioned hard work adds to the allure of this excellent movie. Denholm Elliot is also especially great as Aykroyd and Murphy's butler, Coleman.
John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd were tagged to bring this excellent Thomas Berger novel (of the same name) to life and everyone expected Belushi to be the wild and crazy neighbor, Vic, and Aykroyd to play the straight-laced, mild mannered neighbor, Earl. During pre-production, however, Aykroyd and Belushi decided to switch roles and the movie they ended up making became something of a Hollywood enigma as the role switcheroo created an even murkier element to an already darkly comedic tale. The backstory on this one is almost as interesting as the film itself, but fans of Belushi and Aykroyd's antics will appreciate this 1981 depiction of suburban desperation. Tim Kazurinsky, who was a writer and cast member during the early days of SNL, has a memorable cameo as well.
2. Modern Problems
Chevy Chase is alternately at his best and worst in this odd look at a sad, jealous air traffic controller, Max Fiedler, who gets doused with some chemical waste and becomes telekinetic. From this point forward, Chase picks up the pace and the film builds steadily to an awesome finale at Max's friend Brian's (Brian Doyle-Murray) house. Dabney Coleman is at his finest in this 1981 film, as a completely narcissistic self-help guru/therapist that squares off with Chase's beleaguered character. Nell Carter also has a supporting role as Brian's housekeeper, Dorita, who partners with Chase in one of the funniest scenes poking fun at cocaine use we have ever seen. If we were ever going to get a Chevy Chase tattoo, this movie has his best look ever.
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1. Doctor Detroit
Dan Aykroyd's least appreciated film role, by far. "The Doctor" as Aykroyd's character is called by just about every other actor in this movie, is fun, unpredictably badass, and hilarious. Alter-ego Clifford Skridlow, mild mannered college professor whose diverse tastes would make most of today's hipsters jealous, is also fun to watch and as this film teeters on the edge of being out of control, it is super fun to watch the two characters parallel worlds begin to intertwine and eventually collide. Howard Hessman, Fran Drescher, and TK Carter also have memorable roles in this 1983 movie that features an appearance by the late James Brown and two contributions to the soundtrack from Devo. Dr. Detroit makes us smile and we think it will do the same for you.