As the longest-running sitcom in U.S. history, It’s Always Sunny always finds ways to keep itself fresh, including hilarious movie parodies.
With its latest season, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia became the longest-running live-action sitcom in U.S. television history (in terms of season count, at least, not episode count), and in that time, the show has done all kinds of episodes. In fact, its ability to continually adapt its formula and experiment with new ideas has been the key to its longevity.
Along the way, the show has parodied movies a bunch of times. From old-hat classics to more recent Hollywood offerings, no cinematic target is safe from the writers of It’s Always Sunny. So, here are the 10 best movie parodies on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, ranked.
The Season 3 premiere “The Gang Gets Invincible” sees the Philadelphia Eagles holding try-outs for the general public, just like in the movie Invincible, which stars Mark Wahlberg as Vince Papale, who joined the Eagles after similar try-outs.
In the episode, Dennis and Mac spend the day smoking cigarettes, assuming they’ll be good enough to make it onto the team without really trying, while Dee dresses up as a man to prove that she’s a better athlete than her friends.
Artemis was first introduced to It’s Always Sunny fans in the most Artemis way possible. In the Season 1 episode “Charlie Has Cancer,” she auditioned to work at Paddy’s as a Coyote Ugly-style bartender.
Sweet Dee actor Kaitlin Olson can actually be seen in a minor role in Coyote Ugly, which might be why the writers of It’s Always Sunny chose to spoof the movie in the show’s first season — or it could just be a coincidence.
The Season 11 episode “The Gang Hits the Slopes” spoofs a lot of movies, but none more than the 1990 comedy Ski School. The episode even guest-stars Ski School’s Dean Cameron as ski instructor Drisko.
The bathroom wall gag from Porky’s is also spoofed hilariously, with its very problematic nature being called out, but on the whole, this episode is a pitch-perfect lampoon of Ski School.
Million Dollar Baby
In the episode “Hundred Dollar Baby,” Dee decides to learn how to defend herself after the guys abandon her during a mugging. Frank offers to help her train, having been a boxer back in the day, and they develop a dynamic akin to Clint Eastwood and Hilary Swank in the movie Million Dollar Baby.
Frank’s old rival’s daughter challenges Dee to a fight, and she accepts. However, Dee is arrested on the day of the fight and doesn’t show up. Frank offers to take her place, fighting his old rival, and knocks him into his daughter, who falls onto an overturned stool in the ring, just like Swank in the movie. Frank flees the scene.
When the McPoyles burst into Paddy’s and hold the Gang hostage in Season 3’s “The Gang Gets Held Hostage,” Frank manages to escape. He adopts the John McClane role in this Die Hard parody, although he’s not as quick to save the day as McClane, since his last will and testament is at stake.
The sight of a sweaty Frank crawling through the vents in a tank top will bring a smile to any action movie buff’s face.
In Season 3’s “Bums: Making a Mess All Over the City,” Frank buys a decommissioned police car to park outside Paddy’s to deter masturbating homeless people. He and Dennis end up going overboard with the ploy, and pretend to be cops to get free hot dogs. Meanwhile, Charlie goes undercover in the guise of Frank Serpico — specifically, Al Pacino’s portrayal of Serpico in Sidney Lumet’s masterful biopic.
Charlie Day’s exaggerated Pacino impression perfectly lampoons the actor’s eccentric performance in the role of Serpico. There’s a neat Easter egg in this episode for fans of the movie, too: the actor playing the masturbating homeless man, Tracey Walter, appeared in Lumet’s Serpico.
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial
Although Season 7’s “The Gang Gets Trapped” primarily parodies the Indiana Jones movies — what with Frank’s fedora and bullwhip and the ongoing “It belongs in a museum!” rhetoric — there’s also a great moment that spoofs E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.
When Frank is in a little girl’s bedroom, trying to find the vase that the Gang broke into a house to steal, he hears the girl coming upstairs and has to hide. He conceals himself among the girl’s collection of stuffed animals, just like the adorable little alien in Steven Spielberg’s suburban sci-fi masterpiece.
In the Season 7 premiere “Frank’s Pretty Woman,” Frank wants to marry his favorite prostitute, Roxy. In a dark twist on the Richard Gere/Julia Roberts romcom Pretty Woman, Frank is the wealthy business mogul who wants to save a lady of the night from a life of turning tricks on the street.
However, before they get their happily-ever-after, in the middle of Frank’s passionate proposal, Roxy overdoses and dies on the apartment floor. The Gang drags her out into the hallway and leaves her there, set to the sounds of Roy Orbison’s “Oh, Pretty Woman.”
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
This one gets bonus points for featuring an actor who was in the actual movie. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a classic of the anti-establishment cinema of the ‘70s. In the episode “Sweet Dee Has a Heart Attack,” Frank goes overboard with his health concerns, and takes a cocktail of pills that leaves him so spaced-out and disillusioned that he’s picked up off the street and institutionalized.
In an homage to Cuckoo’s Nest’s ending, Frank gets a burly fellow patient to throw a hydrotherapy unit through the window, allowing him to escape.
The Gang has produced not one, but two fan-made Lethal Weapon sequels. Mac and Dennis played Riggs and Murtaugh (although who plays which character depends on which scene you’re watching, as they have a tendency to switch parts midway through production), while Frank and Charlie played the bad guys.
The unconvincing greenscreen effects and reuse of locations show how many corners Frank cut on the budget. From the jazz score to Murtaugh’s gravelly voice, It’s Always Sunny’s Lethal Weapon sequels are spot-on parodies of the franchise.
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