Just the Jokes: Our Guide to Streaming with RiffTrax

RiffTrax
Photo: RiffTrax

Since its inception in 2006, RiffTrax has been about picking up the ball dropped from Mystery Science Theater 3000’s cancellation and running with it, because even if TV executives found it unnecessary, the fanbase was still there. People wanted their riff content. RiffTrax started off with the simple idea that you could legally go full MST3K on a mainstream motion picture as long as you simply released the mp3 with directions of how to sync it up.

In other words, want to see Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines get made fun of? Just pay a couple bucks for the mp3, get a copy of the movie, and know when to press play. It’s a couple extra steps, but it’s legal!

That was RiffTrax’s business model for the first year or so, but gradually, they realized that they could release public domain shorts and movies online with the commentary added on. It might cost a few bucks more for the full-length films, but it was an easier way to watch them. Over the years, RiffTrax has increased their focus on video-on-demand releasesas well as RiffTrax Live events. The “Just the Jokes” mp3s have mostly fallen to the wayside to the point that there were only five released in 2018 and two in 2019.

Luckily, the RiffTrax app has made these easier to watch. Get the app on your phone, log in, and press play when watching whatever movie or TV show episode it’s linked to. The app will recognize the audio from the movie and soon you’ll hear Mike, Bill, and Kevin’s jokes kick in.

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Now that we’re knee-deep in streaming services, I figured I’d give a quick guide to places where you can watch these more high-profile RiffTrax targets. I’m going to stick with the Mike Nelson stuff rather than extend into RiffTrax Presents.

Yoda in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones

Disney+

STAR WARS

Throughout the years, RiffTrax has covered every live-action Star Wars movie. Fittingly, they started with the prequel trilogy and burned through that in RiffTrax’s initial two years. Phantom Menace was riffed by Mike and Kevin while Attack of the Clones was Mike, Kevin, and special guest Chad Vader (Aaron Yonda playing the role of his web series parody character). By the time they did Revenge of the Sith, they had the full Mike/Kevin/Bill team in action.

The guys did also cover the infamous Star Wars Holiday Special, which is absolutely worth your time, but that’s sadly something missing from Disney+. Luckily, they released it as a VOD at some point because the genie’s out of the bottle and it’s not like anyone’s making money off that ridiculous TV special.

Over time, New HopeEmpire Strikes Back (again with Chad Vader), and Return of the Jedi were covered. While the “Just the Jokes” releases have slowed down in recent years, RiffTrax has kept on top of new Star Wars movies, usually including them as stretch goals in their Kickstarter campaigns. They’ve taken on Force Awakens, Rogue One, and Last Jedi.

They did Solo as well, but as of this writing, it’s currently off-limits for Disney+. Give it time.

MARVEL

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In the early days of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, RiffTrax took on four of the original six movies. Then they just kind of stopped. I guess they weren’t catching on as riff targets like the Twilight movies did (which, sadly, aren’t streaming anywhere for free). Regardless, you can watch them take on Iron ManThorCaptain America: The First Avenger, and Avengers. Great way to spend time if you want to see guys razz on Hawkeye being Hawkeye.

Speaking of Marvel, as part of the Fox acquisition, they also have Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Just this one, though. Not the first one.

MISCELLANEOUS DISNEY

Past the Star Wars and Marvel, Disney+ gives us Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black PearlHigh School Musical, and Avatar. Hopefully we’ll be getting their take on Mr. Boogedy sooner than later.

The Matrix

THE MATRIX

Ah, the late-90s/early-00s era of action movies where everyone wore tight, black leather or tight, black latex. People did martial arts, but in that awkward way with wires bouncing them around the set. It was the in thing back then, but it’s one of the movie fads that hasn’t quite aged well. Sounds right to add RiffTrax to the Matrix trilogy (MatrixMatrix: Reloaded, and Matrix: Revolutions). Off-the-wall special effects and oddball philosophy just go so well with cracking jokes at everything going on.

Aeon Flux wasn’t part of the Matrix series, but it did have that B-side vibe to it.

DISNEY SCRAPS

As I mentioned earlier, there are a handful of Disney-owned movies that are contractually part of Netflix for the time being. RiffTrax hasn’t touched any Marvel stuff in years, so nothing’s changed on that front. Netflix does have Solo: A Star Wars Story currently, so that’s where you’ll need to go for that.

Netflix also has Spider-Man 3, which isn’t exactly a Disney-owned movie, but it’s a Disney-owned character with a complicated rights situation and…whatever. They have Spider-Man 3 as riffed by Mike and James Lileks.

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TV STUFF

At some point, RiffTrax realized that riffing episodes of popular TV shows makes for the best stretch goals on their annual Kickstarters. There, you get a nice, one-hour entry and it’s the right opportunity to start getting into a show that everybody keeps talking about. Or maybe just revisiting an episode of something you hate. I don’t know.

Either way, RiffTrax has covered Walking Dead Episode 1Daredevil Episode 1Stranger Things Episode 1, and the first two episodes of Grey’s Anatomy. Keep in mind that while Hulu shows new episodes of Grey’s Anatomy, you’ll need Netflix to get those early ones.

AND THE REST

Rather than do the entire Indiana Jones franchise, RiffTrax has merely bookended it with Raiders of the Lost Ark and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Obviously the latter more deserving than the former. Otherwise, Netflix also carries Nicholas Cage vehicle Next and the rather forgettable Clash of the Titans.

Terminator: Salvation

HULU

Hulu has a random assortment of RiffTrax fodder on the menu with nothing specific enough for me to break it up into chunks. The closest is how they released two of the Terminator movies – namely Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Terminator: Salvation. They kind of calmed down on these by the time Genisys arrived.

They also feature the Chris Evans version of Fantastic Four that’s neither the worst Fantastic Four movie or the best one, but is still really rough to sit through. Speaking of really rough, there’s M. Night Shyamalan’s Last Airbender, which damn right deserves a thrashing. Lost footage monster movie Cloverfield is also in there, as is the first episode of Lost.

Rifftrax Streaming Guide: Amazon Prime

AMAZON PRIME

When Disney+ launched, Amazon Prime made a point to announce on social media that they had the trilogy of ThorCaptain America, and Avengers. I don’t really know how that works out as a trilogy. I guess the three movies loosely tie the Tesseract stuff together, so there’s that, but hyping that you have those three movies on tap is more of a desperation act. Either way, they’re available if you want some laughs but don’t feel like getting a Disney+ subscription.

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They also have Highlander, so there’s that.

Game of Thrones

HBO Go has the original Predator, so have at it. Everything else is from their show library. There’s the first episode of Westworld and not only the first episode of Game of Thrones, but the infamous “Red Wedding” episode from Season 3.

Once HBO Max kicks in, the live-action Batman movies will be available to stream, such as Batman & Robin (with riffs written by the fans), Dark Knight, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. That last one is a big team effort, featuring pretty much everyone from the site because there’s only so much MARTHA that the main three guys can take.

Street Fighter: The Movie

STARZ

Starz has always been the C-list version of HBO and the two movies available are as C-list as you can get. First, there’s M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening, which you know is a bad movie when John Leguizamo is the best performance in it and he’s dead after like 20 minutes. Then there’s Street Fighter, the legendary attempt at a video game movie that’s more GI Joe than one-on-one fighting tournament. But hey, Mike and the guys have plenty of experience dunking on bizarre Raul Julia movies.

(mom, my nuts)

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

PHILO

STAR TREK

Philo’s got all the Star Trek movies and while RiffTrax hasn’t done all of them, they have been known to go back to that well every now and then. Your options for mockery include Star Trek II: Wrath of KhanStar Trek V: The Final FrontierStar Trek VI: The Undiscovered CountryStar Trek: Generations, and the 2009 Star Trek reboot.

OTHER STUFF

Philo offers Predator as well. It’s in the miscellaneous pile alongside Bourne Identity and Walking Dead Episode 1.

Roland Emmerich Godzilla

SHOWTIME

howtime is what happens when you mix a premium channel with a shrug and their content reflects that here. There’s the original Point BreakStarship Troopers, and Godzilla ’98. The latter two are notable for being installments of RiffTrax Live that are unavailable to stream due to rights issues, so they just re-recorded the lines for the “Just the Jokes” versions.

Birdemic: Shock and Terror

SHUDDER

Shudder is horror movie central and while that’s great in itself, it doesn’t exactly amount to much with RiffTrax. Sure, they do all sorts of horror movies, but the amount of horror flicks with rights issues too expensive for them to release as a VOD is miniscule. That’s why the highest profile choice on Shudder is the original Halloween.

Shudder also has Birdemic: Shock and Terror, but that’s rather unnecessary. While they do sell the “Just the Jokes” version, you can also just download and watch the RiffTrax Live event for Birdemic. It’s a better quality package, but maybe you want to save a couple bucks.

Ready Player One

MAX GO

Cinemax’s streaming service features one of the more recent “Just the Jokes” installments in Ready Player One. And while Netflix has the Daredevil series, you might be better off with the Daredevil movie, which is actually very bad. Outside of that, MAX GO has Casino Royale and the utterly silly Reign of Fire.

Sylvester Stallone in Over the Top

VUDU

Want to watch Starship Troopers, but you don’t feel like getting Showtime? Get Vudu, I guess. Then you can sit back and watch fellow RiffTrax Live movie Anaconda. Then after THAT, you can see more bulging pythons as Sylvester Stallone arm-wrestles his way through Over the Top.

Man, the transition on that joke would have been way better if the Stallone movie was Cobra.

300

TBS

TBS has an app or streaming service or whatever and with it comes 300. Sure.

The Wizard of Oz

TNT

There’s no movie that spells Turner Network Television like Wizard of Oz. I mean, when Turner had World Championship Wrestling on TV, they even had one of their wrestlers take up an Oz gimmick just to tie in with this classic. And now I’m sitting here shocked, realizing the lack of Kevin Nash movies in RiffTrax’s database.

Memento

TUBI

Tubi has Memento and also public domain movies House on Haunted Hill and Night of the Living Dead. Honestly, if you want to see those two movies, you’re better off watching the RiffTrax Live episodes. Now that I think of it, Tubi has ad breaks, so that might make syncing a pain. Ah, well.

By the way, Tubi also has Memento. Now, where was I…?

The Karate Kid Part III

AMC

If I had AMC and someone named Johnny suggested I watch Karate Kid: Part III, my reaction would easily be, “HEY! JOHNNY! I LIKE THAT! I LIKE THAT, MY FRIEND! I’M GOING TO USE THAT!”

Krull

CRACKLE

Crackle has another RiffTrax Live alum in Krull. While the movie is a bit on the long side, it’s still one of the best riffs they’ve ever done and it’s a shame they can’t just release the live show as its own thing.