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J.D.'s Top 10 Saturday Night Live alum Movies

by JD Warnock on June 3, 2008

in Top 10s

In honor of the queasy feeling in my guts resulting from the trailers for the upcoming releases “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan” and “The Love Guru,” starring SNL alums Adam Sandler and Mike Myers respectively, I thought it might be a good time to point out the positive work done by some of the talented exports of “Saturday Night Live.” This list includes films that star SNL cast members and may have taken place before or after they were on the show. A list of the worst films made by SNL alums would have to include Sandler’s “Little Nicky.” Here’s hoping that “Zohan” and “Guru” aren’t also destined for that alternate list.

10. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997) Mike Myers SNL Austin Powers

Mike Myers may be one of the most likeable characters to have emerged from SNL, but he’s also entirely responsible for “Shrek,” so I guess things have a funny way of evening out. Myers new flick “The Love Guru” looks like a tired re-hash of his specific, now dated, brand of humor, right down to the casting of “Mini-Me” Verne Troyer again. The O.G. Myers, on the other hand, was pretty funny. The first film in the Austin Powers series was as inescapably quotable as “Borat” or “Napoleon Dynamite” for its time, and Dr. Evil’s miniature henchman, like the rest of the spy spoof, was hysterical and fresh. I’m not so sure I wouldn’t choose “So I Married An Axe Murderer” over this film most nights of the week, but the introduction to Austin Powers tops the list of the best of Myers’ feature film work. The “Austin Powers” sequels suffered as they became less timely, and also partially due to leading ladies whose aesthetic beauty was trumped only by their questionable acting and comedy chops. (Heather Graham and Beyonce Knowles, anyone?)

Dr. Evil: Ladies and Gentlemen, Welcome to my underground lair. I have gathered here before me the world’s deadliest assassins, and yet, each of you has failed to kill Austin Powers. That makes me angry, and when Dr. Evil get angry, Mr. Bigglesworth gets upset, and when Mr. Bigglesworth gets upset people die!

9. The Wedding Singer (1998) Sandler SNL The Wedding Singer

Sandler is about as hit or miss as it gets. He’s tried just about everything at this point and you really have to give him credit for that. His dramatic films “Punch Drunk Love” and “Reign Over Me” are both above-average pictures that prove he’s capable of a remarkably wide range of roles. On the other hand, he’s also rocked some of the most absurd and ridiculous comedies (not in a good way) in recent memory like “Little Nicky” and “Mr. Deeds.” “The Wedding Singer” is Sandler’s best work to date, although I do have an odd soft spot for “Happy Gilmore.” The film captures the extremes of the 80s era in a perfect homage that is equal parts parody and adoration. It doesn’t hurt to have great chemistry with Drew Barrymore either, which also worked in the underappreciated “50 First Dates.” While they aren’t exactly the new Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks, Sandler and Barrymore have a strange yet compelling onscreen partnership that just works. Throw in some 80s music, sweet feathered hairdos, and dated fashion and you’re good to go. Consequently, SNL alum Jon Lovitz, has his best 3 minutes on-camera since “Three Amigos” in this film as Sandler’s sinister wedding-singer competition.

Glenn’s buddy: Robbie Hart? Oh, man, I heard what happened to you at your wedding, that was so cold! You must’ve felt like shit!
Robbie: No, it felt real good, thanks for bringing that up, man. Hey, my parents died when I was ten, would you like to talk about that?
Glenn’s buddy: No, why would I wanna talk about that?
Robbie: I don’t know.

8. Scrooged (1988) Bill Murray SNL Scrooged

There are plenty of reasons to argue for any number of other Bill Murray films, including, but not limited to “Ghostbusters,” “Caddyshack,” “Groundhog Day,” “Lost in Translation,” “Rushmore,” “The Life Aquatic,” or even “Broken Flowers,” but when it comes right down to it, my favorite just might be “Scrooged.” A modern update of “A Christmas Story,” Murray plays Frank Cross, the head of a television network who has lost his concern for anyone in the world but himself. The film was directed by Richard Donner (the “Lethal Weapon” series) and co-stars Karen Allen (“Raiders of the Lost Ark”) Carol Kane (“The Princess Bride”) and Bobcat Goldthwait (“Shakes the Clown”). I love the contemporary bearded and subdued Murray, but this comedy classic is a holida- must and some of his best work, even if it is a bit cheesy.

Frank Cross: Grace, what in the hell is this?
Grace: Oh, it’s a painting, one of my kids did. See, there’s Santa Claus and there’s Mrs. Claus.
Frank Cross: Honey, how many fingers does Mrs. Santa Claus have here?
Grace: Eleven.
Frank Cross: Eleven. Right.
Frank Cross: It’s crap. Lose it. I don’t want it on the wall.

7. National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983) National Lampoon's Vacation Chevy Chase

Good old Chevy Chase. Where oh where has that funny man gone; where oh where can he be? I honestly had a hard time deciding between “Vacation” and “Fletch.” Both are Chevy classics that belong on this list. Frankly, thanks to Randy Quaid – also a SNL alum! – “Christmas Vacation” may even have a right to fight for a spot, but the first film in the “Vacation” series is by far the best. No SNL alums have had a careers quite like Bill Murray or Eddie Murphy, but in the early post-SNL days it seemed like Chevy Chase was an institution that, like those two SNL titans, wasn’t likely to go away. But he did. Thankfully, we can always go back and visit the Griswalds on their cross-country trek to Wally World and Christie Brinkley in the second best girl-gets-out-of-the-swimming-pool-in-slow-motion shot ever (For number one, please see “Fast Times at Ridgemont High”).

Eddie: I got laid off when they closed that asbestos factory, and wouldn’t you know it, the army cuts my disability pension because they said that the plate in my head wasn’t big enough.

6. The Blues Brothers (1980) The Blues Brothers SNL

Director John Landis and star Dan Aykroyd gave it their college best in 1998 with the tragically flawed sequel “Blues Brothers 2000” to undo what Aykroyd and John Belushi’s Elwood and Jake Blues had done twenty years earlier on their mission from God. Fortunately, even that mystically horrid film can’t upend a true classic. Stephen Spielberg has made some sneaky cameos over the years, but his role in “The Blues Brothers” as the Cook County Assessor’s Office Clerk is his cameo high watermark and honestly, one of my favorite scenes in the film. Sadly, Belushi’s SNL career is a large chunk of what we have to go on to measure his incredible talent, but “The Blues Brothers” represents arguably the best SNL characters adapted for film in the long and varied relationship between SNL and features.

Jake: You were outside, I was inside. You were supposed to keep in touch with the band. I kept asking you if we were gonna play again.
Elwood: What was I gonna do? Take away your only hope? Take away the very thing that kept you going in there? I took the liberty of bullshitting you.
Jake: You lied to me.
Elwood: Wasn’t lies, it was just… bullshit.

5. Mean Girls (2004) Tina Fey SNL Mean Girls

Recent SNL alum and current “30 Rock” star Tina Fey wrote and co-starred in “Mean Girls” with Rachel McAdams and a mostly pre-spectacle Lindsay Lohan. “Mean Girls” is the bright shining moment in teenager comedies over the last decade and may be the first truly great dark comedy about high school since “Heathers.” As a fan of SNL, I can tell you that Tina Fey is sorely missed as a writer and anchor on “Weekend Update,” but with her obvious talent, there’s very little question that TV and features is where she belongs.

Janis: Gretchen Wieners knows everybody’s business, she knows everything about everyone.
Damian: That’s why her hair is so big, it’s full of secrets.
Janis: And evil takes a human form in Regina George. Don’t be fooled because she may seem like your typical selfish, back-stabbing slut faced ho-bag, but in reality, she’s so much more than that.
Damian: She’s the queen bee – the star, those other two are just her little workers.

4. Weird Science (1985) Weird Science Downey Jr. Hall SNL

The same year “Weird Science” was released, both Anthony Michael Hall and Robert Downey Jr. were doing their very abbreviated stints on SNL for the 1985-86 season. As a dorky young boy growing up in the 80s, “Weird Science” and “Real Genius” came along at just the right time. About then, I wanted to be a starship commander aboard the Millenium Falcon or a Naval aviator, but when I came back down to reality, I needed to see movies about geeks winning. Directed and written by the same John Hughes that wrote and directed beloved 80s classics “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” “The Breakfast Club” and “Sixteen Candles,” “Weird Science” is my favorite Hughes picture by far.

Garry: It can’t be a dream! How can 2 people have the same dream. Ok lets analyse this. In the middle of the night… did I get up… and yack in your sink?
Garry: Didn’t throw up? No? Maybe it was a dream then, you know… a very weird… bizarre… vivid… erotic… wet… detailed dream. Maybe we had malaria.

3. Coming to America (1988) Eddie Murphy SNL Coming To America

Outside of Bill Murray, it’s hard to argue that any SNL alum has had a more successful and prolific career than Eddie Murphy. While I loved the “Beverly Hills Cop” series as a kid, there’s no film that can top “Coming to America.” Also one of the more quotable films of all time, “Coming to America” features two of my favorite actors in James Earl Jones and John Amos, as well as a breakout performances from “ER”‘s Eric La Salle and a little-known Samuel L. Jackson (and the best fast-food humor ever). “Coming to America” was also directed by John Landis. Weird. I had no idea I was so down with the Landis until this list. Who knew?

Cleo McDowell: Look… me and the McDonald’s people got this little misunderstanding. See, they’re McDonald’s… I’m McDowell’s. They got the Golden Arches, mine is the Golden Arcs. They got the Big Mac, I got the Big Mick. We both got two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions, but their buns have sesame seeds. My buns have no seeds.

2. Waiting For Guffman (1996) Christopher Guest Waiting for Guffman

Easily one of the most indispensable films in my DVD collection, “Waiting for Guffman” is pure genius. Christopher Guest was another short-lived SNL cast member, around only for the 84-85 season, but that’s plenty to qualify his exceptional films for this list. I’m a big fan of all the films he’s made with his rotating ensemble of Chris Guest players in the films “Best in Show,” “A Mighty Wind,” and “For Your Consideration,” but none of them have eclipsed the glory of “Guffman.” Directed by Guest and written by Guest and SCTV alum Eugene Levy, “Guffman” deserved an Oscar for the brilliant original music in the film, but was completely overlooked. I don’t know what it is about this small-town community theater parody, but Guest tapped into a comedy goldmine and we get to reap all the benefits.

Libby Mae Brown: I been workin’ here at the D.Q. for about, um… eight months? Seven? I don’t know, somethin’ like that, it’s fun. Just do the cones… make sundaes, make Blizzards, ‘n… put stuff on ’em, ‘n… see a lot of people come in, a lot of people come to the D.Q… burgers… ice cream… anything, you know? Cokes… just drive in and get a Coke, if you’re thirsty.

1. This is Spinal Tap (1984) This is Spinal Tap Shearer SNL Guest McKean

Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest were around for the 84-85 season. It took Michael McKean another decade to do his time on SNL in 1994. The trio’s collaboration with director Rob Reiner is at the top of so many of Eric and I’s top ten lists that we typically exclude it out of hand from the running, but it fit to perfectly into this list to skip it. All three stars are SNL alums, and “Spinal Tap” also features cameos from a few of SNL’s finest in Dana Carvey and Billy Crystal – who incidentally almost made the list with “When Harry Met Sally.” Not to mention, Spinal Tap actually performed their Satanic Christmas-themed nonhit “Christmas with the Devil” on SNL. (Since Lorne Michaels takes down anything SNL-related on YouTube at the drop of a hat, look at the video below for the Tap doing “the Devil” on Arsenio Hall instead– if anyone finds a link to the SNL version, please post!) I’ve said it before and look at me saying it all over again, “This is Spinal Tap” is the greatest comedy of all time, period.

Jeanine Pettibone: If it got solved, that would be alright, but it doesn’t get solved. I mean what do you think happened out there? What got solved tonight?
Ian Faith: For one thing that goes wrong… one… one single thing that goes wrong, a hundred things go right. Do you know what I spend my time doing? I sleep two or three hours a night. There’s no sex and drugs for Ian, David. Do you know what I do? I find lost luggage. I locate mandolin strings in the middle of Austin!

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{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Reed June 3, 2008 at 2:58 pm

J.D., normally I come over here and laud your lists because they’re pretty much always incredibly on-point. Today, I have to say you missed the mark.

First of all, The Blues Brothers should top this list. Even though I love Spinal Tap slightly more, they took characters first developed on the show and made one of the greatest comedies ever. Having it at #6 is a sin against God. Go see the penguin and she’ll tell you what’s what.

Second of all, where is Trading Places? Yeah, I know you don’t want to over-Landis, but the man’s put out great work. It’s the best performance Dan Aykroyd has ever delivered and featured a young Eddie Murphy at the top of his game. Coming to America is awesome, but with these two major SNL alumni, it should be in its place.

Third of all, Mean Girls? I respectfully disagree.

Fourth of all, this is more about my personal preference, but I’d put The Waterboy in for a Sandler vehicle. I can’t get enough of that movie (one of the few I watched twice on a single rental). Plus he was adjusting his “Canteen Boy” character from SNL.

Fifth of all, I’d go with Groundhog Day, not just ’cause I like it better, but also because Chris Elliot (20 SNL episodes in 1994-5), Robin Duke (58 in 81-84) both had pretty decent roles in it. But Scrooged is cool, too.


2 Dana June 3, 2008 at 3:18 pm

No Waynes World?!!


3 chris June 3, 2008 at 3:46 pm

missing Groundhog Day and Hard Candy


4 Eric Melin June 3, 2008 at 4:09 pm

“Hard Candy,” the pedophile movie with Ellen Page and Patrick Wilson? Just cuz she hosted SNL doesn’t make her an alum…


5 RCM June 3, 2008 at 5:14 pm

This is a tough list because there are so many. If we can just include all of the Bill Murray films in you’re number eight pick than I would say that’s a pretty decent list. I feel no need to dredge up and print all the SNL alum movies you missed.

I’ll agree with Reed, I’m not a big “Mean Girls” fan, but I don’t hate it.

Am I in a major minority if I admit I like “Christmas Vacation” more that the original “Vacation”?


6 RCM June 3, 2008 at 5:19 pm

When did Ellen Page host SNL? She almost surely did that after “Juno” not “Hard Candy”.


7 James Howlett June 3, 2008 at 8:45 pm

I like your list. I just wish Austin Powers wasn’t ruined by the terrible sequels (Possible Top Ten List?) and in my opinion Adam Sandler should have received honourable mention for Big Daddy. But other than that, Yay Christopher Guest! Top 2!


8 Tristan June 3, 2008 at 11:03 pm

Replace Mean Girls with Superstar.

Otherwise great list, always fun to read!


9 J.D. Warnock June 3, 2008 at 11:44 pm

Sorry to disappoint Reed. I’ll admit “Trading Places” is a great film, but with only ten spots I had to make a call and I’ll stand by “Coming To America” with my head held high. And I’m sorry my friend, but the Tap bows to no one, not even Jake and Elwood.


10 Eric Melin June 4, 2008 at 8:46 am

Yeah, it was after “Juno” came out.
Also, I will never understand the growing surge of tolerance for “Christmas Vacation,” a movie so obvious and obnoxious its almost unwatchable. The original is the only one I can finish in one sitting. If I had to pick a Chevy Chase movie, it might be “Foul Play” with Goldie Hawn. Now that was bizarre.


11 Kevin Quinn June 4, 2008 at 9:02 am

Personal Opinion on some pictures I would have added…

Tommy Boy
Dirty Work (I just love Norm, the movie wasn’t brilliant)
and of course…

Wayne’s World.

I am merely one man with an opinion. You are a qualified film reviewer and I respect that.


12 RCM June 4, 2008 at 10:18 am

Well, at least I know there is a “surge of tolerance” for my favorite Vacation movie and I’m not alone. More often than not I like to think that I’m smart and smug ( as much of a dig against my self as it is film critics) enough to tell the difference between good and bad filmmaking, but sometimes you like something against all your better intentions and knowledge. This is sort of how I felt with the recent “Sex and the City” movie. Really, I have no excuse in my preference to “Christmas Vacation” over the others except that I just find its horrid ridiculousness funnier. In all honesty, they all kinda suck and are obnoxious.

Does anyone else have movie they enjoy despite knowing better? Eric, J.D., anyone?

I promise I’ll stop ending my posts with questions.


13 Reed June 4, 2008 at 11:44 am

I sometimes think that Christmas Vacation has some good scenes with the grandparents. Then I remember that I’m thinking about the “making breakfast” scene in Sixteen Candles.

Fair enough with Coming to America, J.D. It is brilliant as well. And I of course adore Spinal Tap, but I still think that the Blues Brothers should be at least #2.

Interesting that Wayne’s World is getting a lot of love here. When I saw the name of the list, I figured it might be included. But I also believe its success is the reason we’ve had to endure the following: Night at the Roxbury, The Ladies Man, It’s Pat, Stuart Saves His Family, Superstar, Coneheads, and Wayne’s World 2. I’m surprised we never got an “Annoying Man” movie with Jon Lovitz.


14 RCM June 4, 2008 at 12:06 pm

“Annoying Man” staring Jon Lovitz; the perfect self parody movie. If he wrote it himself for himself I’d almost go see that. Actually, no I wouldn’t, but still, funny comment.


15 awas1980 June 4, 2008 at 12:47 pm

“Office Space”, anyone? – the Milton shorts aired on SNL.
RCM: My answer to your question (#12) is “Kingpin” – Bill Murray, Randy Quaid, Chris Elliott.


16 chris June 4, 2008 at 4:00 pm

I meant the Kids in the Hall movie Brain Candy….sorry it was a brain fart

I was trying for the hipster; “Mark McKinney was on for one season, but we all know Kids in the Hall was funnier” thing but as we all know, i’m far too old to play the hipster card.

By the way, if you get the chance to see the current KitH tour, go; it’s all new material, and they do a great job of making fun of themselves.


17 jb June 5, 2008 at 5:37 am

spies like us?


18 RCM June 6, 2008 at 9:14 pm

“Spies Like Us” is a good one. I guess I would include “Caddyshack”; I know you mentioned it in “Scrooged”, but it’s also a good Chevy Chase movie.


19 Charles June 10, 2008 at 5:29 pm

The Blues Brothers sucks. The only movie more overrated than The Blues Brothers is Princess Bride, which could also technically be included in this group.


20 RCM June 11, 2008 at 4:39 pm

You don’t like Princess Bride? Ouch, I still love that movie despite its “classic” status.


21 chuckgeorge June 13, 2008 at 12:59 am

I said good morning, Gil!

Where’s “What About Bob?”

… I feel good… I feel great… I feel wonderful..


22 Jeremiah Watkins June 13, 2008 at 9:18 am

I think at least one of Chris Farley’s movies definitely needs to make the list. And possibly a Will Ferrell flick?


23 NOYB June 18, 2008 at 8:54 pm

Groundhog Day should definitely beat out Scrooged. This is Spinal Tap is in its rightful place as #1. As much as I like the Wedding Singer it wouldn’t make my list, but both Trading Places and Caddyshack probably would. What About Bob would as well. Animal House would be in there. Now that I’ve gone this far I’ll just complete my list. National Lampoon’s Vacation, The Jerk, Kingpin-this was listed as someone’s film they were ashamed to admit they liked- granted it’s lowbrow humor but both Bill Murray and Woody Harrelson give great performances- I could take or leave Randy Quaid in it but I don’t know that I’ve ever laughed harder the first time I’ve seen a film- “That’s a bold faced lie, I pulled out way early on that one”, and I may hear flack for this one- When Harry Met Sally. Blues Brother and Waiting for Guffman would be runner-ups.


24 Edward Melendez July 1, 2008 at 8:16 pm

Ghostbusters! Where in the hell is Ghostbusters?


25 Melusine August 21, 2008 at 10:30 pm

RCM I’m with you. I love Christmas Vacation. I’ve called many people “worm-headed sacks of monkey shit” and frequently will call my mom and leave her a voicemail that says only: “The shitter was full. Have you checked our shitter lately.” She’ll call me back and all I’ll hear is laughing. We used to watch that movie when I was little and when I go home during the holidays we still watch it and crack up.

I also have to say that I am missing Tommy Boy on this list. The deer of destruction cracks me up and I’ve been to the Prehistoric Forest (I was in the 5th grade and I believe it is actually in Michigan) which makes it all the funnier after the hood scene. Poor David Spade, he might as well have hung it up after Chris Farley died because he’s just sort of blah now.


26 Brittany December 5, 2009 at 10:11 pm

In response to the person above me, Prehistoric Forest is in Marblehead, OH. I love that they have it in a movie!


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