Should I Watch..? 'Spaceballs'

Updated on May 24, 2019
Benjamin Cox profile image

Benjamin is a former volunteer DJ at his local hospital radio station. He has been reviewing films online for over fifteen years.

Film's poster
Film's poster | Source

What's the big deal?

Spaceballs is a sci-fi comedy film released in 1987 and was co-written, produced and directed by Mel Brooks. The film is a parody of the original Star Wars trilogy as well as other sci-fi films in general and sees rugged space adventurer Lone Starr and his companion Barf attempt to rescue a beautiful princess from the evil clutches of President Skroob and his Spaceball minions. The film stars Brooks alongside Bill Pullman, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Daphne Zuniga and Dick Van Patten. Despite a mixed reaction from critics and underwhelming domestic earnings of just over $38 million, the film has since become a cult classic and even led to a short-lived animated spin-off on TV. Rumours persist of a possible sequel in the aftermath of more recent Star Wars films like The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi but no concrete announcements so far.


3 stars for Spaceballs

What's it about?

In a suspiciously familiar galaxy far far away, the leader of Planet Spaceball has foolishly exhausted his planet's supply of fresh air. However, the neighbouring world of Druidia has plenty of air sealed beneath a planet-wide barrier. Skroob concocts a plan to kidnap the daughter of the king of Druidia, Princess Vespa and her robotic maid Dot Matrix, before she is due to be married to the handsome but dull Prince Valium. In exchange for the princess' release, King Roland must hand over the security code to Druidia's barrier and their supply of clean air. However, before Skroob's right-hand-men Dark Helmet and Colonel Sandurz can kidnap Vespa, she flees with Dot Matrix in her Mercedes spaceship.

Desperate for someone to rescue Vespa before she is captured, Roland hires intergalactic mercenary Lone Starr and his half-man, half-dog sidekick Barf to find her. With their Winnebago spaceship Eagle 5 able to locate Vespa, the pair of them soon realise that there are out of fuel and are forced to crash on the desert world of Vega. As Skroob and his Spaceballs close in, Starr discovers an ancient mystic with a horde of Spaceballs merchandise who introduces him to the mystical power of the Schwartz...


Main Cast

Mel Brooks
President Skroob / Yogurt
Bill Pullman
Lone Starr
John Candy
Rick Moranis
Dark Helmet
Daphne Zuniga
Princess Vespa
Dick Van Patten
King Roland
George Wyner
Colonel Sandurz
Lorene Yarnell
Dot Matrix*
*voice performance by Joan Rivers

Technical Info

Mel Brooks
Mel Brooks, Thomas Meehan & Ronny Graham
Running Time
96 minutes
Release Date (UK)
11th December, 1987
12 (2000 re-rating)
Adventure, Comedy, Sci-Fi
The film has its moments of inspired brilliance such as breaking the fourth wall and watching the film's own video to determine what their next course of action should be.
The film has its moments of inspired brilliance such as breaking the fourth wall and watching the film's own video to determine what their next course of action should be. | Source

What's to like?

At first glance, the film feels like a simple light-hearted re-tread through every sci-fi cliché imaginable but Spaceballs is much smarter than you might think. Yes, the original Star Wars trilogy may be a soft target and the subject of many imitations since their initial release but few go for the jugular quite like Brooks when he is on form. From the unrelenting tide of merchandise to the comically absurd characters, Brooks leaves no stone unturned in his search of a gag and while not all of them are funny, you have got to applaud the man's effort. Even the casting of the then-relatively unknown Pullman mirrors George Lucas' faith in the inexperienced cast of Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher.

The movie, despite the occasionally immature humour, is a lot of fun thanks to Brooks' sleazy Skroob (an anagram of his own name, of course) and especially Moranis' brilliant comic timing as Dark Helmet, looking faintly ridiculous in his oversized black attire. The film isn't afraid of anything, shamelessly taking the mickey out of other esteemed sci-fi franchises like Alien or the original Planet Of The Apes as well as breaking its own fourth wall on multiple occasions. The sense of anarchy feels reminiscent of Blazing Saddles when the film seems to run completely off the rails but thankfully, Spaceballs keeps a tight grip on the lunacy even though the film's overall narrative is quite silly.

Fun Facts

  • Brooks sought agreement with George Lucas that he could parody Star Wars without getting sued. Issuing Lucas a copy of the script before production began, Brooks not only got Lucas's permission but also acquired the use of Lucas' special effects company Industrial Light And Magic to help with production. Ironically, Lucas' only condition was that Spaceballs had no merchandise arising from it which Brooks agreed to. Lucas later sent a note to Brooks after the film's release, saying that he found the film so funny that he was afraid he was going to bust something by laughing so hard.
  • The famous scene involving Dark Helmet playing with his dolls wasn't in the script. The idea came to Brooks on set one day and the scene was improvised almost entirely by Moranis, including the dialogue.
  • Brooks later admitted that he felt ashamed for the number of Jewish jokes included in the film. However, he also admitted that he was proud that he left them all in the film.
  • One of the troopers sent out to comb the desert is played by Tim Russ, who would go on to appear in the TV series Star Trek: Voyager as the Vulcan Tuvok. This was only his third feature film appearance.

What's not to like?

So if the film is such a likeable satire on the marketability of sci-fi franchises for an ever-demanding and increasingly rabid fanbase, why doesn't it score higher? Well, I did have a couple of issues with it. Firstly, it hasn't dated well and even at the time of its release, it felt a little late to the party. After all, A New Hope was released a decade before (Planet Of The Apes was more than twenty years earlier!) so many of the film's references were already outdated. Another problem is Brooks' predilection for Jewish humour - granted, it isn't an issue in most comedies but here, it almost feels like a barrier for non-Jewish viewers due to the sheer volume of jokes reliant on it.

But my biggest issue is with the tone of the comedy which is far too immature for my liking. I don't mind certain low-brow comedies - Ted is a great example - but this film's dependence on innuendo, swearing and casual sexism belies the film's age and doesn't appeal to me that much. In many ways, it reminded me of Caddyshack which I found hilarious in my youth but much less so when I watched it again years later. The frustrating thing about Spaceballs is that underneath the silly costumes and daft names, there is a serious and well written comedy trying to get out. It picks apart Lucas' space opera with such precision that the nonsense of the film's actual plot seems to get in the way.

The film also pokes fun at the relentless merchandise produced by George Lucas, bravely tackling the sci-fi industry as a whole.
The film also pokes fun at the relentless merchandise produced by George Lucas, bravely tackling the sci-fi industry as a whole. | Source

Should I watch it?

It might not have aged as well as you may hoped but Spaceballs is an inventive and occasionally inspired comedy that relentlessly pokes fun at cinema's most successful sci-fi franchise. Brooks once again demonstrates an uncanny ability to break down conventions in search of a gag and while it's more uneven than his earlier efforts, this silly spoof deserves to be seen at least once. It also underlines Moranis' under-rated ability as a genuine comedy star.

Great For: fans of Star Wars, anyone looking for a decent comedy, Winnebago owners, Jewish audiences

Not So Great For: anyone who doesn't watch sci-fi, anyone hoping for a classic (see below), George Lucas' sides

What else should I watch?

If anyone mentions Mel Brooks to me, my first immediate thought is Blazing Saddles which is another convention-busting satire of westerns and the supposed racism inherent in Hollywood films of the time. Cleavon Little stars as a black sheriff in an all-white town supported by Brooks' dim-witted Governor, Gene Wilder's alcoholic gunslinger and Harvey Korman's scheming Hedley Lemarr. While not quite hitting the same heights, Brooks also scored hits with his horror spoof Young Frankenstein while his debut film The Producers enjoys continued popularity with a recent and hugely successful stage revivial.

Star Wars has become more of a cultural phenomenon than a simple sci-fi film, continuing to inspire film-makers and a dedicated fanbase ever since it destroyed the box office back in 1977. Of course, Lucas himself was the first to produce a new trilogy of films starting with the over-hyped The Phantom Menace, the underwhelming Attack Of The Clones and the slightly better Revenge Of The Sith. Of course, with Disney getting their hands on the series, the series continues to produce sequels and spin-offs with varying degrees of success and I suspect that they will for some time. Whether any will touch the quality and excitement of the original trilogy, I seriously doubt.

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Benjamin Cox

    Soap Box

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.


      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

      Show Details
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)