Mystery Science Theater 3000 just released a new season on Netflix a few weeks ago, and after making my way through the entire season, I have decided to compile the three episodes I think are absolutely worth watching (if you enjoy that sort of thing).
The whole season is worth watching, and the comedy bits in between the movies actually work to form a cohesive narrative, which means that it’s certainly preferable that you watch the episodes in order (some of the better jokes build on familiarity with gags from earlier episodes), but if you just want to see bad movies get riffed in delightful ways then there are better and worse episodes to view. With all that in mind, here are the three that I think are most worth your time (and one that is only worth watching for bits with Jonah and the robots).
Episode 2: “Cry Wilderness”
I don’t know how to describe the plot of this movie. There’s a kid at boarding school who befriended Bigfoot one summer when he was staying with his father in a nature preserve, and then Bigfoot shows up to warn the kid that his father’s in some kind of vague danger, and then the kid hitchhikes across the country to find his dad and his dad’s incredibly problematic Native best friend of indeterminate tribe Joe who only laughs when it’s highly inappropriate as they’re trying to hunt down a wild animal that’s been attacking other wild animals. There’s also a dude who wishes he were John Rambo and really likes cold chicken. Pad the movie’s run time out with random bits of nature documentary footage that marvels at the beauty of nature and its creatures, and you have Cry Wilderness. In case you’re wondering, Bigfoot really isn’t that important a part of the story, but he’s… there.
Episode 6: “Starcrash”
David Hasselhoff stars in the third act of this blatant Star Wars ripoff that follows the adventures of Stella Star (I know) and her buddy Akton (he has ill defined space powers that let him be a walking, talking plot device) as she tries to save the galaxy from some evil dude with a funny looking mustache. It’s very progressive for having a female lead who’s an expert space pilot, but then that all gets undermined by the fact that she’s constantly being saved by her all male crew and inexplicably changes into ever more skimpy outfits as the movie progresses. The third act goes on a little too long, but there’s so much absolutely bonkers stuff happening in this movie that it’s an easy one to enjoy.
Episode 10: “Wizards of the Lost Kingdom”
This one is actually the first of two movies in this franchise that MST3K tackles in the new season. For some measure of “better” the first Wizards of the Lost Kingdom is a better movie than its sequel Wizards of the Lost Kingdom II, but (let’s be honest) if you have time to watch one you’ll probably make time to watch the other. Both movies have pretty much the same plot: young boy with magical talent goes on a quest to save the land from an evil sorcerer but is very bad at avoiding the temptations of women. Also, there’s an older mentor figure who enjoys drinking and chicken. The details beyond that are mostly irrelevant, but you will definitely want to see MST3K‘s take on this movie because they somehow manage to seamlessly turn the bad guy’s hat into a fully functioning character who has just as much impact on the story as anyone else.
And the one to skip:
Episode 12: “Carnival Magic”
Just don’t. The conflict is nearly nonexistent, the characters are bland even by bad movie standards, and the music choices are invariably the wrong ones for the mood any given scene is trying to create. The only redeemable part of the episode is the guest appearance by Mark Hamill singing about how awesome his invisible circus in the dark is.