Tonight, Community finally—FINALLY!—makes its return to TV screens, and we couldn’t be more excited. As previously reported, the season four premiere will be a Hunger Games spoof in which Greendale’s best and brightest compete in a series of physical challenges to win a spot in the coveted History of Ice Cream class.
It won’t be the first time Community’s poked fun at a popular flick; clever movie parodies are the show’s bread and butter, and if “The Hunger Deans” is anything like the show’s previous brilliant cinema-inspired episodes, we’re in for a treat tonight. To tide us over in the meantime, we’re counting down Community’s 10 best movie parodies.
Note: In an attempt to whittle down the show’s many pop-culture references here, we’ve limited it to movie parodies only here, which means the fantastic Law and Order episode is ineligible for this one.
Abed’s hilarious Christian-Bale-as-Batman impression cropped up again last season when he donned the Bat Mask to hunt down the villain who took his limited-edition Dark Knight DVD, but it’s his initial appearance as the Caped Crusader here that features some of the best lines.
When the study group gets trapped in a space flight simulator being towed away from Greendale, Abed—left behind and only able to use his knowledge of the craft to help guide his classmates home—channels Gary Sinise in the classic space adventure to bring his pals back to familiar turf.
This one’s more of a reverse Good Will Hunting, as a janitor discovers Troy’s incredible plumbing abilities and tries to get him to abandon his eduction and pursue the trade. Inspired by the movie, Abed tries to follow the Ben Affleck supportive best friend template, but it doesn’t go over quite as well.
When it was announced that Community was doing another pinball episode, some fans were understandably nervous. After all, the first one was so great, it’d be nearly impossible to top. But they wisely chose a new type of movie to spoof this time around, and all those fears melted away when they completely nailed the spaghetti Western genre—right down to their The Good, The Bad and The Ugly-inspired opening credits.
This episode’s a bit of a bait-and-switch: we think we’re getting a Pulp Fiction parody when the group organizes a birthday party for Abed with a theme based on the Quentin Tarantino flick and dresses up as its characters, but Abed’s got a different movie in mind for his special night. Instead, he and Jeff pull a My Dinner With Andre and spend all evening in deep conversation over a nice meal. Twist!
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.