The Best Sci-Fi Comedies You’ve Never Seen

guardians of the galaxy 2

(Welcome to The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. In this edition: some of the best sci-fi comedies you’ve never seen!)

A little movie called Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 hits theaters this week, and while it’s a Marvel comic/superhero movie, it also looks to follow its predecessor in being a fairly funny comedy as well. The sci-fi/comedy sub-genre is one with a universe worth of material to have fun with, but it isn’t nearly as crowded as you might think. There are great ones (Back to the Future), bad ones (Morons from Outer Space), unintentional ones (Battlefield Earth), ones you think you love but haven’t actually seen recently enough to realize they’re actually terrible (The Ice Pirates), and, of course, the best one (Galaxy Quest).

You know what there aren’t a lot of though? Great ones that haven’t found the audience they deserve. So yes, this is probably the least collectively obscure of these columns so far, but hopefully there are at least a few on here you haven’t seen yet.

And with that it’s time to look at some lesser-known sci-fi comedies guaranteed to leave you laughing, giggling, or maybe just slightly smiling while you shake your head and wonder what the hell is wrong with this Hunter guy.

now you see him

Now You See Him, Now You Don’t (1972)

Three years after an accident turned young Dexter Riley (Kurt Russell) into a walking computer, the friendly troublemaker is still making his college dean’s life hell. This time around, he’s fiddling in the science lab, hoping to invent invisibility when he accidentally succeeds. It should be a moment of joy, but when the crook (Cesar Romero) he jailed last time is released and gets wind of the experiment, the entire school’s future comes into question.

Walt Disney’s “Dexter Riley” trilogy, all starring Russell in the lead role, are fun-filled slices of pure innocence and utter goofiness. He goes from being a genius, to being invisible, to being far stronger than his frame would suggest – all over six years at college. But while The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes and The Strongest Man in the World are commonly mentioned and referenced, this middle film never seems to get the same level of recognition. It’s odd, as all three are basically interchangeable in the best ways with their silly setups, sillier characters, and wacky mix of physical gags and blunder-filled action.

Now, who do I talk to about pitching my long-overdue fourth film in the series featuring the return of Russell as an older, wiser, and recently one-eyed Dexter Riley? For years he’s lived off the grid and off the land, avoiding technology and communication with a world gone mad. It’s a world partially of his making though, as all three of his previously documented “inventions” have become commonplace – just about everyone is an incredibly strong genius capable of turning invisible – but when an old friend appears with a possible cure for what ails humanity, Dexter leaps at the chance for one last groovy adventure.

a boy and his dog

A Boy and His Dog (1976)

World War IV has left the earth in ruins. Roaming the planet’s surface is a young man (Don Johnson) and his faithful friend, a dog named Blood. They scavenge for food, water, and the scarcest commodity…women. Did I mention Vic and Blood communicate telepathically? And that Blood can use his psychic abilities to scope out both trouble and lady parts?

Including this one in a list of comedies may say more about my sense of humor than anything else, but for me, it remains a terrific, blackly-comic look at sexual politics and the cliches of post-apocalyptic films. Our “hero” is atypical at best, and while he’s humanized somewhat through his canine companion, his actions still leave a lot to be desired when it comes to how he treats the woman he finds. It all leads to an ending that, for me at least, matches David Cronenberg’s Crash for the best, bleakest, and most darkly comic final line.

It’s somewhat boggling to me that one of our greatest living writers, Harlan Ellison, only has one proper feature adaptation of his work. (There are three other films, two of which are actually based on his stories, but I’ll be damned if I’ve ever seen any of them in the real world.) That said, it’s easy to see why this movie (and the novella that spawned it) appeal to a limited demographic. It’s harsh at times, it’s weird at others, but for me at least it’s never less than engaging and interesting throughout. The layer of dark comedy running through it all elevates it beyond a mere post-apocalyptic adventure towards a sharply satirical look at mankind. It’s not a positive look, but it sure is a wickedly entertaining one.

[Buy A Boy and His Dog on Blu-ray or watch via Amazon Video]

faq about time travel

Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel (2009)

Three friends, including the science fiction-loving slacker Ray (Chris O’Dowd) head to a local pub to commiserate and drown their sorrows in a pint or six, but what they find is an adventure through time! Ray bumps into an American named Cassie (Anna Faris), who claims to be from the future, and then things turn really weird after a visit to the bathroom.

Who doesn’t love a good time travel flick? Hitler, that’s who. As Ray and his friends discover though, there’s a lot more to moving backward and forward through history than debating the ethics of killing a baby dictator. Travelers called “editors” kill people off immediately after their greatest success – thus ensuring their place in history – and guess who the guys discover become famous for the goofy ideas they’ve been writing down in a notebook? With killers on their trail, time itself out of whack, and a romance blossoming between Ray and Cassie the film packs a lot into a single location.

The film’s budget keeps the “action” mostly contained inside the pub with some monstrous events being mentioned but barely glimpsed (if glimpsed at all) outside, but that just means the film has to focus on dialogue, character, and performance. Happily it pulls it off delivering both laughs and smarts as the friends discuss their situation, make plans, see those plans implode in their faces, and readjust on the fly. It’s an ensemble film, but O’Dowd steals most of it with the snarky antics he honed in The IT Crowd. He and the others banter back and forth with pop culture references, verbal jabs, and commentary on the ups and downs of time travel. It’s a fun little movie that sets up a sequel we’ll never get but I’d love to see.

[Watch Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel via Amazon Video]

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