One of the great things about Star Wars is the way it took corny clichés from the golden era of science fiction pulps – stuff like Flash Gordon or The Lensman series – and gave them new life in a film that looks amazing and feels epic.
But there’s a thin line between awesome and awful as you’re about to discover with these knockoffs made to cash in on the Star Wars craze.
1. Starcrash (1978)
I believe that StarCrash is an artifact from a parallel bizarro universe where everything is opposite. How else to explain a space opera about a noble Empire threatened by the evil Rebels where a gorgeous space smuggler played by Caroline Munro saves prince David Hasselhoff?
StarCrash is a gift that keeps on giving. Just when you think it couldn’t get any more insane, out of nowhere comes a giant toy space station shaped like a claw or the benevolent Emperor Christopher Plummer.
2. Message From Space (1978)
In this Japanese space opera, it’s all about seeds. Space seeds, to be exact. After the evil Gavanas conquer his planet, a wise old space ruler sends out magical seeds to seek heroes. His daughter follows the seeds with her space clipper. She finds some cowardly teenagers, a drunken ex-general and a rather angry Sonny China wielding a space rapier. Together, they have to defeat space evil.
Told like this, Message From Space actually sounds coherent. That’s because I haven’t mentioned the laser flintlocks, goofy robot, the overacting and did I mention the space clipper?
3. Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)
This is a film that introduced me to the glory of Sybill Danning. When warlord Sador threatens to destroy the peaceful planet Akir if they don’t give him all the food come harvest time, villagers decide to hire mercenaries to defend them.
Sound familiar? Yes, it’s Seven Samurai… IN SPACE! A young farm boy flies a sexy space ship – seriously, get a bra – and assembles a ragtag group of adventurers including a space cowboy called a Space Cowboy. Wacky shenanigans ensue.
4. Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone (1983)
This one is a crossover between Star Wars and Mad Max 2. Wolff, a down-on-his-luck adventurer has to rescue three maidens whose escape pod crash-landed on a post-apocalyptic planet that they promise is not Tatooine.
With the help of Molly Ringwald he fights an army of mutants led by android Michael Ironside whose name is Overdog but who should have totally been named Ironside.
5. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
OK, so I’m only joking about this one. Or not. But the first Star Wars prequel wasn’t all that bad really. Oh, who am I kidding? Of course it was.