Mel Brooks has been getting a lot of love lately. Recently, the AFI gave him a Lifetime Achievement Award. PBS aired an American Masters episode about him. Last December, HBO aired a lengthy interview with him. This type of attention is well-deserved for a man who contributed so much to the world of comedy in his lifetime. He was the right man at the right time- a brilliant mind, unafraid to cross the line, and he dabbled in rich parodies of pop culture in an age that embraced that type of humor. Here are the ten best Mel Brooks scenes.
And if you don’t think these are the best, please add more in the comments. Culling ten scenes from Brooks’ career is an almost impossible task.
Springtime for Hitler, The Producers (1968)
Not many scenes combine all of Brooks’ talents as well as this one. Creating a whole song about Hitler and placing it in the middle of his film showcases a lot of talent, while simultaneously showing off Brooks’ irreverence.
For the Birds, High Anxiety (1977)
Alfred Hitchcock is famously known as the master of suspense. Brooks deflated that balloon in his Hitchcock spoof, High Anxiety, wherein one of Hitchcock’s most famous sequences became littered with bird poop. Brooks loves to tell the story of Hitchcock screening the movie and loving it. Here’s a side-by-side comparison:
Putting on the Ritz, Young Frankenstein (1974)
I can’t even watch this without laughing myself to tears. It starts the second that Peter Boyle’s monster wails out the song title, and doesn’t stop until well after the clip is done. SUUUPER DUUUPER!
The Inquisition, The History of the World: Part I (1981)
This classic Brooks scene firmly established his flair for irreverence by turning a massive historical, homicidal witch hunt into a song and dance number.
A Bloody Mess, Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995)
Admittedly, Brooks’ take on the Dracula franchise wasn’t his best work. But this scene was classic Brooks, and it ranks as one of Brooks’ personal favorites.
It’s Twue! It’s Twue!, Blazing Saddles (1974)
This list would be incomplete without Madeline Kahn, and without Brooks’ use of race for humor in Blazing Saddles. Enter the schnitzengruben scene.
Mongo, Blazing Saddles (1974)
Alex Karras was the source of a lot of humor in Blazing Saddles as Mongo. One of the best examples comes during his very first scene- his arrival in town. That poor horse never stood a chance.
A Busted Spring, Silent Movie (1976)
I’m a firm believer that Silent Movie is Brooks’ most underrated work. Everyone knows Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, and History of the World, but I’d put Silent Movie right there with any of them because of how hard Brooks had to work to make his film funny. And it is absolutely hilarious. The scene involving James Caan and a busted spring in his trailer is a perfect example of the visual humor, as well as his clever (and vulgar) use of inter titles. Unfortunately, embedding is disabled and the best version I can find of it comes from a German video site. You can see the clip here.
The Fifteen Commandments, The History of the World: Part I (1981)
It’s so simple, and so perfect. There’s nothing I need to say to set this up.
Check, Please, Spaceballs (1987)
If you’ll permit me one very personal choice, the tenth selection comes from the first Brooks film I ever saw- Spaceballs. I was 11 when I saw it and I had no idea who Mel Brooks was. All I knew was that his film was spoofing Alien (1979) in a parody of Star Wars, using a classic Looney Tunes gag. It’s the first really great belly laugh that I ever got from a Brooks film.