Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Six Best Episodes

Turn Down Your Lights (Where Applicable)

Kinga: I’ll send him cheesy movies
The worst that I can find (La la la)
He’ll have to sit and watch them all
And we’ll monitor his mind

Band: Now keep in mind: Jonah can’t control
When the movies begin and end
So he’ll have to keep his sanity
With the help of his robot friends!

Mystery Science Theater 3000 “Reptilicus” (Season 11, Episode 1)

Mystery Science Theater 3000 is a cult classic. The network and hosts have changed through the years, but the core remains the same. Mad scientists known as The Mads force an unlucky human and two wisecracking robots to watch terrible movies. The only way to stay sane is to mock them.

MST3K has riffed on more than 200 movies, and we’ve found the six best episodes for you. If you’re wondering why we chose six, and other science facts (La la la) just repeat to yourself: “It’s just a list. I should really just relax.” Now with all that out of the way, let’s ge- [article starts to shake] OH, WE’VE GOT MOVIE SIGN!!

#6 Wizards of the Lost Kingdom

Host: Jonah Heston

Jonah: [as Shurka] “Crabby, you need more savoir faire.
Crow: [as Crabby] “Boss, you don’t pay me enough for subway fare.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 “Wizards of the Lost Kingdom” (Season 11, Episode 10)

Roger Corman directed a lot of movies, and this is unfortunately one of them. But when most of the film is stitched together with footage from his previous movies Deathstalker and Sorceress, it can’t be that bad, right? Right?! Uh-oh…

Synopsis: An evil sorcerer named Shurka has conquered the kingdom of Axhome. Only Prince Simon and his magic ring can defeat the wizard, but he loses it escaping from the castle. Simon joins forces with a drunkard called Kor the Conqueror and a yeti/Chewbacca… thing called Gulfax to reclaim the ring and stop Shurka.

Why This Movie: The ragtag party is easy pickings for the host’s jokes, including potshots at arrogant brat Simon, unflattering ideas how Kor became “the Conqueror,” and trying to figure out what the hell Gulfax is.

The best character isn’t even a real character, as Jonah and the Bots turn Shurka’s goofy crab hat into a sentient animal adviser named Crabby. It’s a bad sign when a hat has more brains than all the movie characters combined. The sketch segments also gave viewers a necromancy-themed puberty song: “The Magic Inside of You.”

#5 Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

Host: Joel Robinson

[a trio of Martians sneak into a toy factory]
Tom:It’s Joseph Biden, Howard Metzenbaum, and Ted Kennedy as you’ve never seen them before!

Mystery Science Theater 3000 “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” (Season 3, Episode 21)

Christmas specials are a time-honored tradition on MST3K. The very first featured the natural enemy of Jolly old St. Nick: Martians! Wait… what?

Synopsis: Martian children have grown despondent after seeing an interview with Santa and realizingthat their world is boring by comparison. The Martian King orders his troops to abduct Santa Claus and bring him to Mars, also kidnapping a pair of children to help find him. However, one Martian wants to kill Santa so the children will return to normal. Can Santa help the children and return home?

Why this Episode: The crew had plenty to harp on with this gloriously goofy movie. There’s incompetent villains, annoying child actors, Santa jokingly portrayed as a drug abuser, and the sheer absurdity of the premise.

The sketch segments feature the crew discussing the meaning of Christmas and The Mads trying to ruin presents. The hosts also perform the world’s first Roadhouse-themed Christmas carol: “(Let’s Have) A Patrick Swayze Christmas.”

#4 Mystery Science Theater 3000: Cry Wilderness

Host: Jonah

Bigfoot:Ho ho ho!
GPC:Merry Bigfoot!

Mystery Science Theater 3000 “Cry Wilderness” (Season 11, Episode 2)

MST3K’s eleventh season was an uphill climb. The show had been off the air for eighteen years and needed to reclaim its audience. Reptilicus was a good start, but Cry Wilderness is when the afterburners fired.

Synopsis: A boy named Paul has befriended Bigfoot off-screen by sharing a soda. Bigfoot warns Paul that his father is in danger, causing Paul to run away from boarding school and go to a national forest where his dad works. Something is killing animals there and must be stopped by Paul, his father, and their magical Indigenous friend.

Why this Episode: Cry Wilderness’ characters are the highest caliber of morons. Paul constantly ignores the grown-ups orders and startles them while they carry loaded guns. After the first few times, the hosts just say “BANG!” whenever he does it. Paul and friends also treat the wild forest animals as cutesy Disney-esque critters. After all, what could go wrong with hugging a bear, cuddling baby raccoons, or chasing bobcats?

The sketches focus on Jonah making escape plans while the Bots act like the animals seen in the movie. Meanwhile, new Mads Kinga and Max get some tips on being evil from former Mads Pearl, Professor Bobo, and Brain Guy.

#3 Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Final Sacrifice

Host: Mike Nelson

Rowsdower: [waking up from a nightmare] “AHHH!
Mike: [as Rowsdower] I FORGOT THE LIQUOR STORE CLOSES AT EIGHT!

Mystery Science Theater 3000 “The Final Sacrifice” (Season 9, Episode 10)

What do Canada, alcohol, cults, Eighties hair, bad writing, and stupidity have in common? This movie!

Synopsis: Sartoris, leader of an evil cult, has discovered that a teen named Troy has a map to an ancient city. He attempts to kidnap the child, who is rescued by surly drunk Zap Rowsdower. Troy and Rowsdower must traverse Alberta to find the lost city and stop the cult’s plan.

Why this Movie: Troy is the type of dweeb that other nerds mock, but even he can’t stand up to the buffoonish brilliance of Rowsdower. The hosts have a lot of fun with this drunken should-be hero, alternating between mockery and hyping him up as the one true savior of humanity.

Outside the theater, Tom Servo struggles to get the other hosts to stop mocking Canada. The crew and The Mads also contend with outbreaks of hockey hair and Grizzled Old Prospector Syndrome.

#2 Mystery Science Theater 3000: Mac and Me

Host: Jonah

[aliens wander through a desert]
Servo: [as an alien] “No, go on and do the movie without me, please…”
Crow: “They’re so close to inventing clothes. Come on guys!
Jonah: “This is like if humanity had evolved from Pinky and the Brain.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 “Mac and Me” (Season 12, Episode 1)

You know what’s a really good movie? E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. You know what’s a really bad knockoff? Mac and Me.

Synopsis: A family of aliens escape from a research lab. The youngest stows away in a car and soon meets a lonely, wheelchair-using child named Eric. The alien is named Mac (Mysterious Alien Creature, certainly not connected to the Big Mac) Eric and his siblings must reunite Mac with his family and protect them from the government.

Why this Episode: Mac and Me is a target rich environment for the riffers. The weird, lumpy aliens that communicate by whistling. The atrocious child acting. The film’s obsession with McDonalds, including an irrelevant dance scene inside the restaurant and (thankfully unrealized) plans for Ronald McDonald to be a mentor figure. Oh, and the aliens can only survive on Coca-Cola products, because of course that’s how they evolved. 

This episode was the first part of The Gauntlet, a season-long story arc where the hosts were forced to riff six movies in a row to finally break their spirits. This was also a perfect movie for Kinga and Max, who are greedy and loved the rampant product placements.

#1 Manos: The Hands of Fate

Host: Joel

Joel:Come on, you guys, stay frosty! We survived Monster a Go-Go, we can survive this!

Mystery Science Theater 3000 “Manos: the Hands of Fate” (Season 4, Episode 24)

Competition can be a good thing, but it is never a good sign when you’re dueling Plan 9 From Outer Space for the title of worst movie ever made. There’s a reason this is often considered the signature episode of MST3K.

Synopsis: A family is on vacation when their car breaks down. They stay at a creepy house owned by Torgo, a satyr with odd speech patterns. Unbeknown to the family, Torgo is part of a cult that worships the dark god Manos. The Master, leader of the cult, wants to take the family’s mother as his newest wife and kill the others.

Why this Episode?: Manos spends half the film being incredibly boring and the other being too nonsensical to understand. The crew struggled with sketches for the movie because so little happens.

In-universe, this movie came close to breaking the hosts. The Bots spend most of the sketch segments in tears. Joel gets pissed at the slow pace and outright boos a movie for the first time when the family’s young daughter is taken as The Master’s bride. The Mads even call the crew to apologize for making them watch the movie, despite their goal of driving Joel and the Bots mad. I guess even evil has standards.

What is your favorite episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000? Is there one you like better than these? Tell us in the comments and keep circulating the tapes.

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