Spaceballs is a 1987 American satirical comic science fiction film co-written, produced and directed by Mel Brooks. Starring Brooks, Bill Pullman, John Candy and Rick Moranis, the film also features Daphne Zuniga, Dick Van Patten, George Wyner and the voice of Joan Rivers. In addition to Brooks in a supporting role, the film also features Brooks regulars Dom DeLuise and Rudy De Luca in cameo appearances.
The film’s setting and characters parody the original Star Wars trilogy, as well as other sci-fi franchises and popular films including Star Trek, Alien, The Wizard of Oz, 2001, and the Planet of the Apes. It was released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer on 24 June 1987, and was met with a mixed reception. It has since become a cult classic and one of Brooks’s most popular films.
Planet Spaceball, led by the incompetent President Skroob, has squandered all of its fresh air. Skroob schemes to force King Roland of the neighbouring planet Druidia to give them the code to the shield that protects Druidia, allowing them to steal all their air, by kidnapping his daughter Princess Vespa on the day of her arranged marriage to the narcoleptic Prince Valium. Skroob sends the villainous Dark Helmet to complete this task with Spaceball One, an impossibly huge ship helmed by Colonel Sandurz. Before they can arrive, Vespa abandons her wedding and flees the planet in her Mercedes spaceship with her droid of honour, Dot Matrix.
Roland contacts mercenary Lone Starr and his mawg (half-man, half-dog) sidekick Barf, offering a lucrative reward to retrieve Vespa before she is captured. Lone Starr readily accepts, as he is in major debt with the gangster Pizza the Hutt. In their Winnebago spaceship, Eagle 5, Lone Starr and Barf are able to reach Vespa before Spaceball One, rescue both her and Dot, then escape. Spaceball One tries to follow at “light speed”, but Helmet orders the ship to “ludicrous speed” causing it to overshoot the escapees by a large distance.
Out of fuel, Lone Starr is forced to crash-land on the nearby “desert moon of Vega”. The escapees travel on foot in blazing sun and pass out. They are found by the Dinks, a group of diminutive sparkly brown-clad aliens, and are taken to a cave occupied by a sage named Yogurt. Yogurt introduces Lone Starr to “The Schwartz”, a metaphysical power parodying the Force. Yogurt also introduces the audience to the film’s merchandising campaign. Starr and Vespa begin to flirt, but Vespa insists she can only be married to a prince.
Helmet and Sandurz break the fourth wall by using a VHS copy of Spaceballs to discover Vespa’s location, and Helmet orders Spaceball One to the moon. The Spaceballs capture Vespa and Dot, and return with them to planet Spaceball. Their captors threaten to reverse Vespa’s nose job, forcing Roland to give the code to the shield that protects Druidia. Helmet and Sandurz take Spaceball One to Druidia, while Lone Starr and Barf rescue Vespa and Dot from the Spaceballs prison complex. When they arrive at Druidia, Spaceball One transforms into Mega Maid, a colossal robotic maid with a vacuum cleaner. The vacuum is then turned on, sucking the air off the planet. When the vacuum bag is almost full, Lone Starr uses the Schwartz to reverse the vacuum, blowing the air back onto the planet.
Once the air is returned to the planet, Lone Starr and his allies enter Mega Maid and attempt to destroy it. Lone Starr is forced to fight Helmet with lightsaber-like “Schwartz rings” near the ship’s self-destruct button. Lone Starr defeats Helmet, causing him to involuntarily strike the button. Lone Starr and his friends escape the ship while Skroob, Helmet, and Sandurz fail to reach any escape pods in time, trapping them in the robot’s head as the ship explodes. They subsequently crash-land on a nearby planet, much to the chagrin of its Planet of the Apes-like population.
With Lone Starr’s debt to Pizza nullified by the gangster’s untimely death, he returns Vespa to Roland and leaves, taking only enough money to cover his expenses. After a lunch break at a diner, and a strange incident involving an alien and an astronaut similar to the events in Alien, Lone Starr finds a final message from Yogurt informing him that he is a prince and thus eligible to marry Vespa. He reaches Druidia in time to stop her wedding to Valium, announces his royal lineage, then marries Vespa.
- Bill Pullman as Lone Starr (based on Han Solo and Luke Skywalker).
- John Candy as Barf (based on Chewbacca).
- Daphne Zuniga as Princess Vespa (based on Princess Leia).
- Mel Brooks as Yogurt (based on Yoda)/President Skroob.
- Rick Moranis as Dark Helmet (based on Darth Vader).
- Dick Van Patten as King Roland.
- George Wyner as Colonel Sandurz.
- Michael Winslow as Radar Technician.
- Dot Matrix (based on C-3PO) is portrayed by:
- Joan Rivers who provides her voice.
- Lorene Yarnell who provides her on-screen physical performance.
- Ronny Graham as Minister.
- Jim J. Bullock as Prince Valium.
- Leslie Bevis as Commanderette Zircon.
- Jim Jackman as Major Asshole.
- Sandy Helberg as Dr. Schlotkin.
- Brenda Strong as Schlotkin’s Nurse.
- Rudy De Luca as Vinnie.
- Dom DeLuise as the voice of Pizza the Hutt (based on Jabba the Hutt).
John Hurt makes a cameo appearance credited as himself, parodying his character Gilbert Kane’s death in the film Alien (1979). Various actors and comedians appear in unnamed roles, with Sal Viscuso, Michael Pniewski, Stephen Tobolowsky, Robert Prescott, Tom Dreesen, Rick Ducommun, Rob Paulsen, Tommy Swerdlow and Tim Russ all appearing as soldiers of Dark Helmet. Additional unnamed appearances include Ronny Graham as the wedding minister, Dey Young as a waitress, Jack Riley as a newsman, Ken Olfson as the head usher, Bryan O’Byrne as an organist and Brenda Strong as a nurse. Denise Gallup as Charlene, Dian Gallup as Marlene, Ed Gale, Felix Silla, Tony Cox, Antonio Hoyos, Arturo Gil and John Kennedy Hayden appear as the Dinks (based on the Jawas).
Animated Series and Sequel
Spaceballs was developed into an animated television show which debuted in September 2008 as Spaceballs: The Animated Series on G4 (US) and Super Channel (Canada).
Moranis claimed in a 2013 interview that he and Brooks had discussed a potential sequel, with Moranis pitching the title Spaceballs III: The Search for Spaceballs II. However, he and Brooks were unable to structure a deal that would allow the project to move forward.
In February 2015, Brooks said that he would like to make a sequel to be released after the next Star Wars film and hopes that Moranis would reprise his role. This proposed film, Brooks said, may be called Spaceballs 2: The Search for More Money.
- Spaceballs has made an impact on popular culture and been used as a referent and inspiration in other properties.
- Tesla Motors has used Spaceballs’ starship speeds (Light Speed, Ridiculous Speed, Ludicrous Speed, Plaid Speed) as inspiration for naming their acceleration modes. In homage to Spaceballs, Tesla has Ludicrous Mode for acceleration beyond its Insane Mode, and Plaid Mode, overtop Ludicrous.
- As part of its merchandising, The Boring Company sold 20,000 “flamethrowers” in 2018 inspired by the Spaceballs merchandising scene.
Star Wars Series
- Overview of the Star Wars Franchise.
- Overview of Star Wars Films.
- Overview of Star Wars Parodies.
- Hardware Wars (1978).
- Spaceballs (1987).
- Spaceballs: The Animated Series (2008).
- Thumb Wars: The Phantom Cuticle (1999).
- Family Guy TV Series:
- S06E01 – Blue Harvest (2007).
- S08E20 – Something, Something, Something, Dark Side (2009).
- S09E18 – It’s a Trap! (2010).
- Robot Chicken TV Series:
- Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode I (2008).
- Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II (2008).
- Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode III (2010).
- Phineas and Ferb TV Series:
- S04E40 – Phineas and Ferb: Star Wars (2014).
- Rick and Morty TV Series:
- S04E10 – Star Mort Rickturn of the Jerri (2020).
- Overview of Star Wars TV Series.
- Overview of Star Wars Documentary Series.
- Overview of LEGO Star Wars.
Production & Filming Details
- Director(s): Mel Brooks.
- Producer(s): Mel Brooks.
- Writer(s): Mel Brooks, Ronny Graham, and Thomas Meehan.
- Music: John Morris.
- Cinematography: Nick McLean.
- Editor(s): Conrad Buff IV.
- Production: Brooksfilms and MGM.
- Distributor(s): MGM/UA Communications Co.
- Release Date: 24 June 1987.
- Running Time: 96 minutes.
- Country: US.
- Language: English.