Shortly after the success of Star Wars, many movies tried to copy the space opera format. Suddenly there was a demand for space adventures that also contained elements of fantasy such as wizards, swords and princesses.
Here is my list of the top 5 cult classic Star Wars rip-offs from the 1980’s that weren’t that good, but we watch them anyway.
5. Ice Pirates (1984)
In the distant space of the future, ice has become a rare commodity. Robert Ulrich (at his Han Solo-est) leads a band of pirates whose bounty of choice is…you guessed it: ICE!
This purposefully campy movie did have some successful comedic scenes, castration machines, kung fu robots and Space Herpes. The Ulrich led cast, including Michael D. Roberts and Ron Perlman, also had that drunken fraternity house feel that you couldn’t help but root for.
Favorite quote from the movie: “Pretend it happened…or it will happen”
4. Battle Beyond The Stars (1980)
This was borderline making the list. Not because it doesn’t rip off Star Wars (oh, it does!) but because the ship models are more of a Battlestar Galactica rip off than Star Wars Rip off.
Except for the main ship which looks to have either Peter Griffith’s chin, a pair of size “D” boobs or a set of scrotum on the front. Just weird.
Basically A young farm boy sets out to recruit mercenaries to help defend his peaceful planet from a tyrant. If you think it sounds a little like Star Wars (which sounds a little like Seven Samurai) that is because it does. But it is also a rare chance to see George Peppard and Robert Vaughn together prior to A-Team jumping the shark in season 5.
Side Note: I was shocked to learn there is a 30th Anniversary Blu Ray Edition of Battle Beyond The Stars available!?!
3. Krull (1983)
A prince, who can wield a mysterious weapon, enlists an old wizard and a group of rogues to accompany him on a quest to an evil castle to rescue his bride from alien invaders.
The alien troops bore a startling resemblance to Imperial stormtroopers in appearance and marksmanship level. Also the evil castle is how I envision Skeletor’s Snake Mountain would have looked in Masters of the Universe movie… if Snake Mountain had actually been in Masters of the Universe and Masters of the Universe didn’t SUCK like it did.
Side Note: In this film, Liam Neeson had more of an unparticular set of skillz..
2. The Last Starfighter (1984)
The Last Starfighter was a video game that actually turned out to be a test simulator used to find and recruit the best starfighter pilots in the galaxy! How awesome is that!
Well it was awesome for Alex Rogan who beat the arcade game with his entire trailer park cheering him on! (I wonder how often an entire trailer park cheers on an underachieving teenager playing an arcade game? But, hey, it is science fiction.)
He is soon picked up by a creepy guy with a flying car and flown to outer space. There he must choose between piloting the last remaining Gunstar against an evil tyrant with a vast army (and an awesome scepter)…or go back to the trailer park.
Side Note: Did I mention he has a weapon called “DEATH BLOSSOM”
1. Flash Gordon (1980)
George Lucas said that the old Flash Gordon serials were one of his inspirations for Star Wars. So, technically, I am not sure that this counts as a “rip-off” since Flash Gordon existed first but this is my list with my rules!
This is the story of New York Jets quarterback Flash, New York reporter Dale Arden and mad scientist Dr. Hans Zarkov who team up with a kick-butt Queen soundtrack to stop the evil tyrant Ming the Merciless from destroying Earth.
Along the way they team up with Prince Barin (future 007 agent Timothy Dalton) and Hawkmen leader Prince Vultan (played by a dude with the awesome last name is actually of “Blessed”).
Some of the actors in this film went on to bigger things. Timothy Dalton briefly became James Bond when Pierce Brosnan was unable to get out of his Remington Steele contract and Max von Sydow was later scene in Star Wars: The Force Awakens as Lor San Tekka. How come we never saw Sam Jones in anything of note again until he played himself in 2012’s “Ted”? Heck even Melody Anderson had a recurring role on Jake and the Fatman.
By the way, if you watched the trailer and you are not singing “Flash! Ahhhh!” in your head right now, you are either not human or a liar.
Side Note: Good thing this happened in 1980 when Flash was the Jets QB and not last year. I can’t imagine Geno Smith or Ryan Fitzpatrick tackling Ming!
Honorable Mention: Masters of the Universe (1987)
But I think I spent enough time on this embarrassment to Dolph Lundgren’s career with my previous article Just How Awful Was The 1987 Masters Of The Universe Movie?
What did you think of my list?
What movies do you think I missed?
Please comment below with your suggestions.