The 15 best jokes in Mel Brooks movies

History of the World Part I
Mel Brooks in History of the World Part I (Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

The saying goes, "dying is easy, comedy is hard," but man has Mel Brooks made comedy look pretty easy over his career in TV, movies and stage. The writer/director/actor/producer has been making audiences laugh since he started writing on Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows all the way back in the 1950s before he eventually made his move to the big screen with his Oscar-winning The Producers in 1967.

What followed is pure comedic delight as Brooks wrote and directed Blazing Saddles, The Twelve Chairs, Young Frankenstein, Silent Movie, High Anxiety, History of the World Part I, Spaceballs, Robin Hood: Men in Tights and Dracula: Dead and Loving It. At 95, Brooks is still at it, as he is a writer on History of the World Part II, a continuation of his original movie.

We've spent countless hours laughing at Mel Brooks jokes, but we've made some hard choices to boil down to the ones that may very well be his best in his repertoire.

The Producers

"I'm hysterical and I'm wet!"

Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, Quentin Tarantino had Samuel L. Jackson, Mel Brooks had Gene Wilder; simply put, a match made in heaven. Jokes from the Brooks/Wilder combo are going to dominate this list, but a special tip of the hat must be paid to the duo's first time working together on The Producers. And perhaps no joke better exemplifies how they immediately clicked than when Wilder's Leo Bloom goes into complete hysterics set off by Max Bialystock (the brilliant Zero Mostel).

Springtime for Hitler

The whole conceit of The Producers is that Max and Leo forge a plan to produce a Broadway musical so bad that it immediately flops and they can run off with the excess money they raised for it. You'd think that with a musical named Springtime for Hitler they'd be safe, but as the outlandish and hysterical performance of the show unfolds it's clear they may have stumbled on a hit.

Watch The Producers on digital on-demand in the US; streaming on StudioCanal Presents in the UK.

Blazing Saddles

The Waco Kid remembers

The introduction of Gene Wilder's Waco Kid to Blazing Saddles is laugh after laugh, from his wobbly hand to the Cecil B. DeMille reference. But one that stands out is when he recounts to Sheriff Bart (Cleavon Little) what drove him to put down his guns and pick up a bottle. The surprise punch line gets us every time. 

The bean scene

Who doesn't love a good fart scene? On the surface it may seem like lowbrow humor, but in the hands of Mel Brooks it's almost like a chorus. And credit where credit is due, it is actually the first audible fart joke ever done in movies. Though some people still weren't ready for it, as some TV stations muted the fart sounds when re-aired on TV.


Mel Brooks doesn't show up on screen a whole lot in Blazing Saddles, but when he does he absolutely steals the show, particularly as Governor Lepetomane. The character is certainly no great statesman, but when it comes to protecting his "phoney-baloney job" he is sure to get riled up. 

A German spectacle of yourself

Madeline Kahn is absolutely hilarious in Blazing Saddles, so much so she earned a Best Supporting Actress nom at the Oscars. There's perhaps no better scene than when she plays opposite Cleavon Little, at first trying to seduce him only for the tables to be turned. Kahn gets the broad comedic bits in the scene, but Little nails his cool customer. 

Watch Blazing Saddles via digital on-demand in the US and the UK.

Young Frankenstein

"It's Eye-gor"

While Wilder gets plenty of moments to make us laugh in Young Frankenstein, he actually plays more of the straight man and it's Marty Feldman's Igor who gets the big laughs, or as he corrects everyone in his introduction, it's pronounced Eye-gor.

Frau Blucher

The scariest thing in Young Frankenstein is not the creature, but Cloris Leachman's Frau Blucher; at least that's the case if you're a horse. The running gag of horses whinnying in fright at every utterance of Frau Blucher has long been rumored to be because Blucher means glue (that's what Leachman said Mel Brooks told her at least), but it instead is a nod to the melodramatic type of movie Young Frankenstein was spoofing. 

Abby Normal

When Frederick's experiment to bring the creature back to life succeeds but with much different results than he had hoped for, he was a key question for Igor. His deflections, Wilder's growing anger and the call back to the sedative joke from just moments before make this a memorably laugh out loud scene.

Watch Young Frankenstein on HBO Max in the US; not available online in UK.

Silent Movie

Marcel Marceau speaks

After the two massive hits of Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles, Brooks decided to pay homage to the silent era with his own silent comedy. For the whole movie they stick to this format, save for one exception from the most unlikeliest of people, a world famous mine. 

Silent Movie is only available on DVD.

History of the World Part I

15 commandments

Did you know that there were supposed to be 15 commandments? It's just one of the fun little historical goodies that Mel Brooks peppers into History of the World Part I. It's such a simple but perfect sight gag that remains one of the most iconic vignettes in the historical spoof. 

Watch History of the World Part I on Hulu in the US; via digital on-demand in the UK.


Combing the desert

You have to love a good bit of word play. When told to comb the desert in search of Princess Vespa and Lone Star, Dark Helmet takes his orders seriously and quite literally. 

Watching Spaceballs

Mel Brooks has always loved to include some meta humor into his comedies, seeing his characters break the fourth wall or make direct call outs to the fact that they are filming a movie. But maybe the best of these bits is when the characters in Spaceballs decide to get some help by watching the movie they're currently in thanks to the technology of the future.

A complicated family relation

When you're spoofing Star Wars and you have a character modeled after Darth Vader, responsible for one of the greatest twists in movie history, you have to pay homage to it. The whole fight sequence between Helmet and Lone Star is great, but it gets off to a brilliant start with him explaining their complicated relationship. 

Watch Spaceballs on AMC Plus and digital on-demand in the US; on MGM Prime Video channel in the UK.

Robin Hood: Men in Tights

The hits keep on coming for Robin

Finally back from the crusades, Robin (Cary Elwes) returns to his family castle only to find that much has changed. Thankfully, his family's trusted servant Blinkin (Mark Blankfield) is there to fill him in on the details. Unfortunately, none of it is good news, yet we can't help but laugh at his bit of misfortune. 

Watch Robin Hood: Men in Tights on HBO Max in the US; available via digital on-demand in the UK.

Michael Balderston

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Only Murders in the Building, Yellowstone, The Boys, Game of Thrones and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd.