Laughing with Star Wars, not at it
It's no surprise that the cultural phenomenon that is Star Wars has been widely parodied by all kinds of people and in all kinds of mediums. And, as fans of the movie franchise know, these spoofs are of the affectionate variety, created out of reverence for the films rather than to mock them – most of the time, anyway.
You could spend days trawling through the endless parade of spoof videos on YouTube, ranging from Robot Chicken to Family Guy to Community. So to save you time we've compiled a selection of some of the best Star Wars parodies the internet has to offer – we're sure you'll find a few you haven't seen before.
1. Family Guy: Blue Harvest
If there was a prize for completeness of a parody, then without doubt the award would go to the Blue Harvest episode of Family Guy. Blue Harvest itself is a Star Wars reference – it was the 'cover' name used for Return of the Jedi when it was in production.
In the episode the electricity goes out, so Peter retells his family the story of A New Hope, with the show's characters playing the leading roles – Chris is Luke, Peter is Han, Brian is Chewbacca – and Stewie is Vader, of course.
Seth MacFarlane had to get George Lucas's permission first – apparently the only condition was that the characters looked "exactly like they do in the movies", which obviously they don't.
Blue Harvest even spawned two sequel parodies, one based on The Empire Strikes Back (Something, Something, Something, Dark Side) and another on Return of the Jedi (It's a Trap!).
2. Various episodes of The Simpsons
The Simpsons first hit our screens four years after the release of Return of the Jedi, and by the time The Phantom Menace was released we were reaching the point where the show's decline began (Simpsons nerds tend to agree it was around Season 12).
In the course of 600 episodes, it's perhaps inevitable that the show has parodied and referenced Star Wars countless times. There are obviously episodes like Mayored to the Mob, in which Mark Hamill guest stars as himself (and who Homer saves from a crowd of braying nerds), and even the full lightsabre duel between Bart and Principal Skinner featured below.
But the vast majority of nods and references are hidden in the background – from a coffee shop called Java the Hut to Darth Vader appearing in the clouds as Lisa speaks to a deceased Bleeding Gums Murphy.
The show's love affair with Star Wars took a slightly bizarre turn in the Season 15 episode Co-Dependant's Day. Bart and Lisa go to see The Gathering Shadow, the latest movie in the Cosmic Wars series, which leaves them disappointed. So they go to see the series' creator and tell him he's lost his way, in an obvious reference to criticism levelled at George Lucas.
3. Adam and Joe
Long before their radio career, Doctor Buckles and Cornballs first found fame on the UK's Channel 4, in a show called Takeover TV and then in the Adam and Joe Show. Both shows were compilations of sketches and pranks, and essentially pioneered internet mash-up culture before the internet was even a thing.
Some of the most memorable elements were the sketches made using Star Wars toys – like the one below, which features Chewbacca appearing on Who Wants to be a Millionaire while Yoda watches at home.
4. Robot Chicken
Robot Chicken is a stop-motion animated show for adults that has some similarities to the Adam and Joe Show, and which took aim at various pop culture icons. One 2007 episode was dedicated to parodying Star Wars – and the creators managed to persuade George Lucas, Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams (Lando) and even Ahmed Best (Jar Jar!) to lend their voices to the special.
A particularly memorable scene replays A New Hope's cantina scene from the perspective of Ponda Baba, who loses an arm to Obi-Wan's lightsaber. Poor guy, so misunderstood.
5. Ken Loach's Star Wars
And now for a film set a long time ago, in a place far, far away – the 1970s and the north of England, to be precise. Have you ever wondered what would happen if Star Wars was reimagined by gritty left-wing filmmaker Ken Loach?
Here's A New Hope with more northern bleakness than you would ever have expected…
6. Weird Al
If there's one good thing to come out of The Phantom Menace debacle it's the parody song The Saga Begins, created by Weird Al Yankovic. Set to the tune of American Pie by Don McLean, it was mostly written before Al had even seen the film, with only minor lyrical observations added afterwards.
The song essentially tells the entire Episode 1 story from the perspective of Qui-Gon Jinn, and received both McLean's and Lucasfilm's seal of approval when it was released.
This was actually the parody singer's second Star Wars take-off – in 1985 Yankovic released Yoda, to the tune of Lola by The Kinks.
7. Epic Rap Battles of History
We all know Darth Vader is evil… but can he spit rhymes? The phenomenal Epic Rap Battles of History has pitted Vader against Hitler three times in three seasons. Admire the lyrical complexity, the references, the jokes… and then realise that this is one of the few occasions when you want Vader to actually win.
8. The Disneyfied Force Awakens
When Disney bought Lucasfilm in 2012, fans had mixed feelings. On the one hand it meant that George Lucas could no longer continue to destroy his legacy one frame of unnecessary digital effects at a time, but on the other hand it meant… a great big unknown. Would Disney treat the franchise with the reverence it deserved?
Here's a look at a dystopian alternative future in which Disney executives micro-managed the production of The Force Awakens…
9. For a Few Paintballs More
One episode of the cult sitcom Community leaned heavily on Star Wars for inspiration – even including the movies' opening crawl.
In the episode, we see the characters play paintball with Stormtroopers, Abed imitate Han Solo, and a number of other shots and motifs reminiscent of Star Wars.
10. Amy Poehler/Tina Fey Sisters Promotion
With The Force Awakens widely expected to set box office records when it opens next week the rest of the film industry has been running scared, leaving the pre-Christmas release schedule looking decidedly thin. However, in what Universal executives presumably think is a savvy piece of programming to attract non-Star Wars fans who've been dragged along to the multiplex, the Amy Poehler/Tina Fey comedy Sisters is released on the same day in the US.
Ordinarily this would present a bit of a dilemma marketing-wise – how do you compete with the Star Wars juggernaut? But cleverly, the team behind the film has produced an almost shot-for-shot remake of the Force Awakens Comic Con teaser. The message is simple: #youcanseethemboth.