Saturday Night Live ran its first episode on October 11th, 1975, almost forty years ago. Over that course of time the show has opened the doors for many aspiring comedians and has given us so many of the big name funny guys out there (Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, Chevy Chase and Bill Murray to name a few). As it is a sketch comedy show, SNL has given viewers a number of memorable sketches and characters. While the writers/actors do make it their goal to put out great material every week, there are a portion of sketches seen that really stick with the audience. Out of this portion only a handful have made it to the big screen, and often with mixed to negative results.
SNL skits are typically several minutes long. They set up the joke and deliver the punch line. But when converting these into films the transition isn’t always so smooth, in fact the problem with a lot of SNL movies is that they fail to hit their jokes and just drag on for an hour or so. However, there are some cult classics, as well as a few that have been incredibly well received.
Theses are the 11 highest grossing films based on SNL sketches.
11 It’s Pat (1994) - Box Office Total: $60,000
The movie based on the androgynous SNL character played by Julia Sweeney was a critical and commercial train wreck. The film stands as one of the rare 0% rated features on Rotten Tomatoes, based on only 11 reviews. As for its box office performance, the film was shown in a measly 33 theaters across three cities. The sketches on SNL would play off the uncertainty of Pat’s gender, with characters trying to discreetly get an answer out of the comically oblivious Pat. However the movie seemed to change the character completely from what fans had grown accustomed to seeing on SNL, leading to an unappealing and boring film.
10 Stuart Saves His Family (1995) – Box Office Total: $900,000
Though it wasn’t as big of a failure as It’s Pat, Stuart Saves His Family was a flop nonetheless. With a budget of just over $6 million, the film failed to bring in a fraction of what it cost at the box office. The movie follows SNL character Stuart Smalley as he struggles with work as well as his dysfunctional family, all the while trying to keep up with his 12 step program. Al Franken first portrayed the character, an effeminate self-help show host, in 1991 and was inspired by Franken’s own interactions with people he met at Al-Anon meetings.
9 MacGruber (2010) - Box Office Total: $9.3 million
MacGruber is another example of an SNL sketch that didn’t have as much success on the big screen as it did on the small screen. An obvious parody of the MacGyver TV series, the MacGruber skits followed Will Forte’s character who in each episode, is entrusted with defusing a bomb but gets distracted by his own personal issues which leads to the bomb’s detonation. The movie portrays MacGruber as a former Navy SEAL who must come out of retirement to save the world from a nuclear warhead. The sketch ran on SNL for four seasons and the character was put to rest after the film's release.
8 The Ladies Man (2000) – Box Office Total: $13.7 million
The Ladies Man was another SNL skit from the 90s that didn’t generate that much success as a film. The character – Leon Phelps – was portrayed by Tim Meadows, who had left SNL in order to promote the film. Phelps was a talk show host whose program would consist of dubious romantic advice for his listeners. The movie opened at #4 at the North American Box Office but failed to keep that momentum and bombed both financially and critically.
7 Blues Brothers 2000 (1998) - Box Office Total: $24.3 million
The sequel to the cult classic The Blues Brothers came to theaters almost twenty years after its predecessor. The film takes place sometime after the end of the original with Dan Aykroyd being the only original cast member to reprise his role. John Belushi, Cab Calloway and John Candy had all died prior to the film's production leading to several new characters being added to the cast. The sequel failed to live up to the original in almost every way, bombing at the box office and receiving many mixed reviews from critics. It did manage to break the world record for largest car pile-up previously held by the first film, so it has that going for it.
6 Coneheads (1993) - Box Office Total: $41.7 million
The Coneheads was a sketch that appeared on SNL during the late 1970s following a family of aliens stranded on Earth. The running gag is that despite their unusual behaviour and strange appearance, the family is never found out by their neighbours or whomever else they interact with. Apart from the 1993 movie, the skit inspired an animated television series as well as a limited-run comic series produced by Marvel. The movie wasn’t well received by critics and made a third of its domestic box office earnings in its opening weekend.
5 Superstar (1999) – Box Office Total: $48.9 million
Superstar follows SNL character Mary Katherine Gallagher, as she struggles to find her place in a Roman Catholic private school. The movie stars Molly Shannon and Will Ferrell and was directed by former Kids in the Hall member Bruce McCulloch. Shannon’s performance in the film earned her nominations for best actress and the film was a success financially. However, much like most SNL movies before it, Superstar wasn’t well received by critics. It currently holds a rating of 32% on Rotten Tomatoes based on reviews from 74 critics.
4 A Night at the Roxbury (1998) – Box Office Total: $52.5 million
A Night of the Roxbury was adapted from The Roxbury Guys sketch starring Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan. The sketch followed two brothers played by Ferrell and Kattan who, accompanied by the club host, would hit on women while clubbing, but to their dismay, they failed every time. The film follows the brothers as they try to open their own club where the outside resembles the inside and the inside resembles the outside. Though the movie did well at the box office, it was yet another in a string of poorly received SNL adoptions and was ripped apart by film critics.
3 Wayne’s World 2 (1993) – Box Office Total: $94.3 million
The first Wayne’s World movie was a huge hit and is one of the few movies adapted from SNL skits to be met with both critical and financial success. Sadly, as is the story with many sequels, the second film failed to duplicate the success of its predecessor in the box office as well as with critics. The movie follows Wayne and Garth as they struggle to set up a huge concert dubbed “Waynestock” at the request of deceased Doors front man Jim Morrison who visits Wayne in a dream. Though it didn’t perform nearly as well as the first movie, Wayne’s World 2 did bring in a decent haul at the box office. While it didn’t get panned by critics like a lot of SNL films before it, it still failed to measure up to the acclaim received by the first movie.
2 The Blues Brothers (1980) – Box Office Total: $115.2 million
The Blues Brothers weren’t only a sketch group for SNL, but actually had a career of their own as a blues group. They were founded by Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi in 1978, but appeared first in an SNL episode in 1976. The group would also appear as musical guests on the show on several occasions. The film's story revolves around brothers Jake and Elwood as they struggle to raise money to save the orphanage they grew up in. In their journey to reunite their R&B band they must face obstacles such as policemen, Neo-Nazis and a rival country western band. The movie was well received both critically and financially and was the biggest film adapted from an SNL skit at the time.
1 Wayne’s World (1992) – Box Office Total: $183.1 million
Like everything else on this list, Wayne’s World started off as a sketch on SNL. The skit starred Mike Myers and Dana Carvey as a pair of metal heads hosting their own cable TV show. The movie, which was released in 1992, was a critical success and is notable for being Mike Myers’ debut film. Apart from its success at the box office and popularity among critics, Wayne’s World had a huge effect on pop culture, popularising a number of catchphrases used in the film. The movie only took 34 days to film, with a budget of around $20 million. It did better than anyone had hoped debuting at #1 in its opening weekend and has been a cult classic ever since.