To say Leslie Nielsen was typecast for the last 20 years of his 50 year career would be an insult to the Stifflers of the world. He had fewer looks than Derrick Zoolander, but thankfully it was a great look. These are surely the 10 best Leslie Nielsen movies.
In the interest of full disclosure: I’m well under 50 so I haven’t seen the majority of Nielsen’s non-comedy, pre-Airplane! work. But like the man himself said back in ’88, “It’s been dawning on me slowly that for the past 35 years I have been cast against type, and I’m finally getting to do what I really wanted to do.”
It’s hard to believe Leslie Nielsen had a mean bone in his body, but I suppose sharing a screen with Rob Schneider is enough to turn anyone bad. Nielsen doesn’t get a ton of screen time as a metal-headed dictator, but that’s understandable with TMNT II‘s Keno playing a starring role. He still manages to crack a few good jokes in this absurd knock-off of Three Ninjas.
Dracula: Dead and Loving It
Between the time when vampires were scary and when they were sexy and/or sparkling, Leslie Nielsen tried to make them funny in Mel Brooks’ last movie, Dracula: Dead and Loving It. It’s nowhere near the caliber of Spaceballs, but watching Nielsen still get laughs while trying to act serious is well worth an hour and half of your life.
Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult
The tagline, “Mostly All New Jokes,” perfectly sums up why this third installment of a character driven franchise still works. Unlike the Austin Powers series, Lieutenant Frank Drebin’s jokes aren’t just recycled catch phrases. Plus, who can forget his reaction to Tranna Nicole Smith’s unfortunate silhouette? “Looks like Phil Donahue throwing up in a tuba.”
Leslie Nielsen’s entire career was centered around one-liners, and Wrongfully Accused is chock-full of them. This spoof of The Fugitive isn’t the best movie in his repertoire, but sometimes the bad ones are just as good. “Your lies are like bananas. They come in big yellow bunches.”
Scary Movie 3
When Naked Gun director David Zucker took over the Scary Movie franchise, he knew there was one way to recover from the Wayans’ abysmal second installment. Leslie Nielsen. Nielsen plays was one of two great fictional presidents in the movie, the other being Harrison Ford. If hanging with Ja Rule and headbutting girls wasn’t enough, he also has several throwbacks to Airplane’s “We’re all counting on you.”
Unless you’re a sci-fi fan or a 50-year-old who accidentally ended up on Guyism, you’ve probably never seen Forbidden Planet. If you want to see Leslie Nielsen before he went pure comedy though, it’s a must watch. You almost won’t believe it’s the same guy you saw 52 years later in Superhero Movie. That’s right. Nielsen’s career was over 50 years!
Spy Hard is one of the earliest parodies in which I could actually recognize most of the scenes and movies being referenced. There isn’t much substance to the humor, but this 007 spoof has enough dick jokes and cameos from the likes of Mr. Miyagi and Hulk Hogan that it’s still a must watch on a lazy Sunday.
Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear
“Frank Drebin is back. Just accept it.” The tag line once again tells you everything you need to know about the movie. Not even OJ could kill this franchise. Leslie Nielsen acted in more than 100 movies, yet one of his best was a sequel staring Robert Goulet. “The truth hurts, doesn’t it? Oh sure, maybe not as much as jumping on a bicycle with a seat missing, but it hurts.” (This quote would later come to life in Wrongfully Accused.
The Naked Gun – From the Files of Police Squad!
Few people realize that Leslie Nielsen actually created the character Frank Drebin. His run began on Police Squad!, a TV spoof of crime dramas that was developed by ZAZ (Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker). It’s safe to say that Nielsen serves as the inspiration for every jackass umpire who gets a little overly animated when calling balls and strikes at a baseball game.
Even though he plays second fiddle to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Airplane! is surely Leslie Nielsen’s best movie. It might also be the most quoted movie of all time. The lines are so commonplace that even people who haven’t seen a grown man naked have uttered some of the more popular phrases. The only downside is that the movie goes by faster than reading “Famous Jewish Sports Legends.”
“We have clearance, Clarence. Roger, Roger. What’s our vector, Victor?”