10 Movies Spoofed By The Zucker Brothers

Parody movies have all but faded away from the moviegoing landscape, but some of the funniest movies of all time have been spoofs. The comedy classics of the Zucker brothers all used parody as a springboard for absurdist fun: Airplane! is a parody of disaster movies; The Naked Gun is a parody of hard-boiled police noirs; Top Secret! is a parody of both Elvis musicals and Cold War spy movies.

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Throughout their storied filmmaking career, the Zuckers have lampooned all kinds of movies, from Old Hollywood classics like Casablanca to New Hollywood game-changers like Dirty Harry.

10 Zero Hour! (1957)

Ted Striker piloting a plane in Zero Hour

The Zuckers’ screenplay for Airplane!, co-written with Jim Abrahams, is practically a remake of the made-for-TV disaster movie Zero Hour! with jokes added to each scene. In Zero Hour!, much like in Airplane!, a pilot named Ted Stryker has to overcome his fear of flying to land a plane when the crew falls ill.

Some of the lines in Airplane! are lifted verbatim from Zero Hour!’s dialogue. A prime example of one played completely straight is Leslie Nielsen’s line, “The life of everyone on board depends upon just one thing: finding someone back there who can not only fly this plane, but who didn’t have fish for dinner.”

9 Casablanca (1942)

This scene from The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear is a two-for-one parody. When Frank Drebin reunites with Jane, they ask a pianist named Sam to play their song one more time. This is a hilarious nod to the old flames’ reunion in Casablanca, widely regarded to be one of the greatest movies ever made.

The song that Sam plays for them is “Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead” from The Wizard of Oz, another Hollywood classic widely regarded to be one of the greatest movies ever made.


8 Jaws (1975)

Jaws coming out of the water at Roy Scheider.

The Zuckers must’ve enjoyed Steven Spielberg’s Hitchcockian shark thriller Jaws, because they’ve spoofed it a couple of times. It was the first movie they ever spoofed as directors. The opening credits of Airplane! parody Jaws by playing its iconic theme over images of a plane’s fin lurking among the clouds.

RELATED: 10 Things That Made The Original Jaws Great (That The Sequels Missed)

The brothers also used the Jaws theme to comedic effect in their next movie, Top Secret!, to underscore the tension while approaching the disguised cow.

7 Dirty Harry (1971)

Clint eastwood dirty harry

When Frank Drebin is being chewed out by the mayor for bending the law in his investigation, Drebin explains his unconventional methods: “When I see five weirdos dressed in togas stabbing a guy in the middle of the park in full view of 100 people, I shoot the bastards. That’s my policy.” The mayor quips back, “That was a Shakespeare in the Park production of Julius Caesar, you moron! You killed five actors!”

This is a hysterical subversion of a similar line from Dirty Harry in which Harry tells the Mayor of San Francisco that he doesn’t have time to follow the proper procedures when he witnesses a crime underway.

6 Saturday Night Fever (1977)

The plot of Airplane! is largely confined to the titular airplane, but there are plenty of globetrotting flashbacks. One of the flashback sequences shows when Ted met Elaine in a bar.

They dance to the Bee Gees’ disco classic “Stayin’ Alive,” popularized by Saturday Night Fever. Ted even wears the same white disco suit that John Travolta wore in the movie.

5 Ring (1998)


The Zucker brothers didn’t create the Scary Movie franchise, but they ended up taking the helm from the second sequel onwards. The opening scene of Scary Movie 3 parodies Ring – or, more specifically, its American remake – with two young women who discover a deadly videotape.

Jenny McCarthy and Pamela Anderson guest-star in the scene. Much like its unsettling spoof target, this sequence ends with their deaths.

4 Ben-Hur (1959)

Ben-Hur chariot race

During the car chase in The Naked Gun, one of the cars has spikes attached to its wheels. This is a nod to the iconic chariot sequence in Ben-Hur, in which one of the chariots has spikes on its wheels for the purpose of sabotaging opponents.

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Directed by William Wyler and starring Charlton Heston in the title role, Ben-Hur is one of the most acclaimed religious epics ever made.

3 From Here To Eternity (1953)

The scene in From Here to Eternity in which two wartime lovers make out on the beach is recreated in Airplane! with Ted and Elaine.

It’s a sweeping romantic moment in the original movie, but the Airplane! spoof points out the impracticality of making out right at the edge of the ocean. Waves crash over their heads and seaweed washes over them. Suddenly, the mood isn’t so romantic.

2 Saw (2004)

Cary Elwes in Saw

After parodying The Ring franchise in the opening scene of Scary Movie 3, the Zuckers parodied the Saw franchise in the opening scene of Scary Movie 4.

Shaquille O’Neal and Dr. Phil cameo as themselves waking up chained to a bathroom and being forced to play a sadistic game by the Jigsaw killer. The scene’s punchline sees Dr. Phil, like Cary Elwes in Saw, bowing to the pressure and sawing off his leg – only to find that he’s sawed off the wrong one.

1 Telefon (1977)

Charles Bronson holding a gun in Telefon

Don Siegel’s thriller Telefon formed the basis of the plot of The Naked Gun. It has nothing to do with an assassination attempt on the Queen, but it does involve code phrases being used to turn ordinary people into hypnotized killers.

Siegel is best known as the director of such Clint Eastwood starring vehicles as Dirty Harry and Escape from Alcatraz, but he cast Charles Bronson as the lead in Telefon.

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