5. Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse/Synecdoche, New York, “Documentary Filmmaking: Redux”
The parallels to Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse are the more obvious ones here—Abed even points out the similarities for those viewers unfamiliar with the Apocalypse Now documentary. A director (in this case, the Dean) goes mad as he gets sucked deeper and deeper into his pet project (the new Greendale commercial). However, can we all take a minute to appreciate the brilliant Synecdoche, New York nods that crop up? The use of doubles (Jeff as the Dean, Chang as Jeff-as-the-Dean) mirrors Charlie Kaufman’s tale of a neurotic director and his play-within-a-play-within-a-play. We never thought we’d see the day when Kaufman would be parodied on a network sitcom—but we’re sure glad we did.
4. Goodfellas, “Contemporary American Poultry”
The group’s underground chicken finger operation gets recounted by Abed a la Ray Liotta in Goodfellas, complete with voiceover narration and montages of the Greendale crew living large thanks to the school’s chicken addiction.
3. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer/Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas”
These Christmas classics were technically made-for-TV movies, but they’re too iconic to leave off this list. “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” is spot-on, from its claymation to the musical numbers it works into the episode. But what truly makes the episode an unforgettable one is the character development that gets worked into it. It’s not just an empty parody or a shot-for-shot remake; it’s an often-meloncholy look inside the mind of Abed.
2. Day of the Dead/28 Days Later/ Night of the Living Dead, “Epidemiology”
There’s hardly a zombie movie that doesn’t get paid homage to in this hilarious genre parody, and even recurring horror themes get poked fun at, like when Abed tells Troy to “make me proud. Be the first black man to make it to the end.”
1. Die Hard/Rambo/Scarface, “Modern Warfare”
This is the episode—delivered to us near the end of the first season—that started it all, the first of Community’s grand movie parodies. It’s also no coincidence that this is the episode that really caused critics—ourselves included—to sit up, take notice and recognize that this show would be something special, a uniquely clever series that somehow snuck its way onto a network lineup.