What separates Rick and Morty from other animated series like Family Guy is that it focuses more on plot and character than gags and pop culture references. Still, the gags and pop culture references are there.
On a few occasions, the show has parodied a specific movie with its episodes, either by taking the concept of a recent sci-fi movie and Rick and Morty-izing it or making an overt reference to the movie itself, like Rick’s quote about Inception: “It’s like Inception, Morty, so if it’s confusing and stupid, then so is everyone’s favorite movie.” So, here are Rick And Morty’s 10 Greatest Movie Parodies, Ranked.
10 Needful Things
Although it isn’t identified as such, “Something Ricked This Way Comes” is pretty obviously a parody of Stephen King’s novel Needful Things and its subsequent film adaptation. In both stories, a mysterious man comes to town – in Rick and Morty, his name is literally Mr. Needful – with a store whose products come at an ironic price.
In Needful Things, this is really creepy and Twilight Zone-y, but Rick isn’t impressed. He sets up his own store where he removes the curses from people’s stuff for free. At the end of the episode, he and Summer get jacked up on ‘roids and beat him up. That’s one way to end the story.
9 Cloud Atlas
When Rick first shows the Smith family his interdimensional cable hook-up, one of the first channels they come across is showing a version of Cloud Atlas that stars Jerry instead of Tom Hanks. It was an obscure choice for the writers and Jerry even says, “What’s Cloud Atlas?”
But that’s what makes it a good choice, because it shows that even being a movie star is no guarantee of feeling fulfilled. Jerry is a rich and famous movie star in this world, but no one’s heard of Cloud Atlas, so he wouldn’t feel any happier in that dimension as he does in this one.
In the season 1 finale of Rick and Morty, Beth and Jerry go on vacation, leaving Rick, Morty, and Summer to throw a wild interdimensional party. They go on a recreation of the Titanic that hits a fake iceberg and simulates the sinking of the actual ship.
It’s the kind of tacky, tourist-y thing that people love, based more on the James Cameron movie than the actual historical event. At the episode’s climax, the ship’s crew starts panicking as they realize the ship they initially declared “un-unsinkable” might miss the iceberg and not sink. It’s a really fun take on a real tragedy and a silly movie based on it.
7 Guardians of the Galaxy
Season 3’s “Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender” is more of a general parody of the MCU than just Guardians of the Galaxy, but Guardians is clearly the movie it takes most of its inspiration from.
The episode makes a lot of sharp satirical points about the characters and storylines in everyone’s favorite cinematic universe: all of the characters’ powers and backstories are interchangeable, a huge villain like Worldender is just a stepping stone to another huge villain who will take his place, needless romances are forced between members of the team, and the team is led by a creepy chauvinist.
6 The Purge
In “Look Who’s Purging Now,” Rick and Morty arrive on a planet that has a legal system in place like the movie The Purge. As Morty kills an aspiring screenwriter who’s walking him through his script beat by beat, he gets into it and he and Rick start to enjoy the Purge, leading to one of the show’s most violent sequences.
In the episode’s final moments, we see Rick abolish the planet’s Purge laws before leaving, and then the second they leave, we see this civilization devolve into re-Purging as they agree on exchanging goods for services and decide to set aside a period of time every year to take out their anger on each other.
5 A Nightmare on Elm Street
The season 1 episode “Lawnmower Dog” might primarily be a parody of Inception – well, it’s primarily a parody of Lawnmower Man, because of the title and the A-plot, but the B-plot is primarily a parody of Inception – but it’s the Nightmare on Elm Street parody that it devolves into that’s truly funny.
Wes Craven’s supernatural slasher was, after all, the first Hollywood movie to delve into the dream world. Rick and Morty encounter a character named “Scary Terry,” who looks exactly like Freddy Krueger except for the balls on his chin and the fact he has a family to provide for.
4 John Wick
The instantly classic season 3 episode “Pickle Rick” didn’t overtly spoof the John Wick franchise, but it did give us the kind of ultra-violent action thriller that the John Wick movies epitomize, replacing Keanu Reeves with a talking pickle.
The episode sees a lone, quick-thinking gunman going after a crime syndicate with an office space – showing the sort of crazy world-building in the John Wick universe – and taking on an assassin with a cool nickname, “Jaguar,” played by Danny Trejo, and still come out on top. What makes “Pickle Rick” work is that it takes an insane, ludicrous, out-of-the-left-field idea and turns it into a John Wick spoof.
3 Jurassic Park
Season 1’s “Anatomy Park” hilariously parodies Jurassic Park, Steven Spielberg’s own story of a scientifically groundbreaking theme park where the creators played God and now, their attractions are turning on them. John Oliver’s clueless Dr. Xenon Bloom is a hysterical spoof of Richard Attenborough’s John Hammond character from the movie.
In Jurassic Park, we don’t see the creative team behind the park arguing about which attractions they came up with and whether or not they got “a lot of push-back” on those ideas, but we know those kinds of petty arguments did happen, so that’s why it’s hilarious when Rick defends his Pirates of the Pancreas ride.
2 Mad Max: Fury Road
In the season 3 episode “Rickmancing the Stone,” Rick, Morty, and Summer travel to a dimension where there’s a post-apocalyptic society with the same ethos, fashion choices, and visual style as Mad Max: Fury Road.
Fury Road was completely unprecedented as a hit sci-fi actioner, a reboot of the relatively obscure Mad Max franchise, and a Best Picture nominee praised as one of the greatest action films ever made. Rick and Morty gave us a pitch-perfect parody of the movie and its distinctive aesthetic in their next season following its release. The episode showed us mundane day-to-day life in the Fury Road world.
1 Back to the Future
This is not as much a specific movie parody within an episode as it is a general parody that forms the basis of the entire show. It’s a well-known fact that Rick and Morty originated as an animated short by Justin Roiland that spoofed Back to the Future with really messed-up, violent versions of the characters saying sexually graphic things.
The characters of Rick and Morty developed as a parody of Doc Brown and Marty McFly’s dynamic: instead of time travel, their thing is interdimensional travel; instead of being the kid’s weird old-man friend, the mad scientist is his grandfather. This is Rick and Morty’s best movie parody, because it’s the movie that the whole show is a parody of.