Thirty-five years ago, David Zucker unveiled his comedy classic The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad! to audiences. The rest was history.
In 1988, the film’s irreverent and satirical comedic approach wasn’t new. Zucker’s own The Kentucky Fried Movie, Airplane!, and Top Secret! were the first out of the gate. Still, The Naked Gun pushed the envelope even further and, in many ways, perfected the formula, resulting in a popular franchise and a slew of not-quite-as-good imitators. Leslie Nielsen cemented his status as a comedy legend and went on to star in an absurd amount of similarly themed features with varying degrees of success.
One could argue that, outside of maybe Jim Abrahams’ Hot Shots!, The Naked Gun remains the high point for the parody genre. The film is smart and dumb in equal measure. Silly and outrageous but also buoyed by sharp writing, The Naked Gun is the type of film audiences take for granted. These are hard pictures to make — just ask Disaster Movie.
To commemorate its anniversary, we thought it’d be fun to list our favorite moments from The Naked Gun in no particular order. Enjoy!
First up is this terrific bit in which Frank (Nielsen) shakes a man on the street for info. The pair take turns bribing the other and end up borrowing money from each other to sweeten the deal. The exchange starts at the 45-second mark but watch the whole clip. Zucker crams a ridiculous amount of hilarious sight gags and clever wordplay into those 45 seconds, the most memorable being a floating chalk outline. Gets me every time.
“Everywhere I look.”
The funniest sight gag arrives early in the film following Frank’s arrival at the airport. His girl just left him, you see — for an Olympic gymnast nonetheless — and now our hero must try to forget her. That’s not easy when everything he sees reminds him of her. Cue a shot of two dome structures that, ah, well . . . see for yourself in the clip below. Seriously, the timing of this gag is impeccable.
“He’s got a picture of your wife!”
While on assignment to protect Queen Elizabeth, Frank and Captain Ed Hocken (George Kennedy) frisk a few helpless guests. Naturally, Frank accidentally reaches into Ed’s coat and produces a gun and a wallet, which results in this great bit:
A running gag throughout the film has Frank recklessly driving his vehicle all over town. Every parking job results in disaster. At one point, he slams into some garbage cans, causing the airbags to inflate. Frank exits the vehicle, but the airbags accidentally shift the gear into neutral, causing the car to roll down the street. As people dive out of the way, Frank, assuming it’s an out-of-control driver, pulls out his gun and opens fire. This movie is brilliant.
Midway through the film, Frank chases a bad guy through the city. Well, he hops in the back of a car driven by a student driver, and they chase the bad guy around the city, resulting in an outrageously over-the-top sequence ripped straight out of Wile E. Coyote. Oh, and this terrific pillow bit precedes the big scene:
“Where the hell was I?”
Spoofing the old straight-faced detective shows of yesteryear, The Naked Gun gives Frank plenty of reflective time, replete with monotone voice-over. The best instance of this occurs when he strolls around town to collect his thoughts and ends up in the middle of nowhere.
“Use your open eye, Frank.”
The Naked Gun pokes fun at almost everything, including James Bond. In this memorable scene, Frank and Ed visit a Q-like colleague who introduces them to nifty gadgets, including the Swiss Army Shoe. Sight gags abound, including an incredibly tall man, Frank breaking the fourth wall and walking around a prop door (a bit used often in the Police Squad! TV series), and the best bit–Frank using the wrong eye to look in a microscope.
Zucker loves some bathroom humor. Here, we see Frank head to the toilet for some much-needed relief. Unfortunately, he forgets to remove his microphone, meaning everyone can hear everything he’s doing.
Those are only a handful of moments from this classic flick. We haven’t even mentioned Priscilla Presley — “I was young, I needed the work!” — the “Nice beaver” bit, Ricardo Montalbán’s silly villain, O.J., the climactic baseball finale, safe sex, or “Bingo!” The Naked Gun has it all!