Super Mario Bros.: 10 Things The 1993 Film Actually Did Well

AbraxasNovember 3, 2021

The 1993 Super Mario Bros. movie has come to be seen by many as a candidate for the worst movie ever made. And while it’s difficult to claim that it’s a classic, and not in a “so-bad-it’s-good” kind of way, there are certain things for which the movie should be praised, whether that be its practical effects, the soundtrack, or the fact that it forged new ground.

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Despite the movie having its detractors and the fact that it was a commercial failure, it has since gained cult status. Whether or not it’s good or bad, one thing that cannot be disputed is that there’s nothing quite like the Super Mario Bros. movie.

10 The Movie Is Unique & Memorable

The Super Mario Bros. movie is often touted as a stinker. A bizarre, even baffling movie that didn’t do justice to the video game franchise it was based on. But whether they liked it or not, people remember the movie, and that’s because there was a lot about it that was unique, including the setting, the story, and the characters, even if they may be as pleasing to some eyes as the fungus that covers the King Koopa-controlled Dinohattan. Not everything that’s unique is good, of course. There has to be something more to make it memorable, which the Super Mario Bros. movie clearly has, even if it’s hard to put a finger on what exactly that is.

9 The Hair & Costume Design Is Weird & Wonderful

super mario bros movie dennis hopper koopa in chair

Whether it’s King Koopa’s slimy cornrows, Spike’s now-fashionable shaved back and sides with floppy top, or human Toad’s shaved spiral, there’s a lot to like about the hair in the Super Mario Bros. movie. There’s also the outfits, particularly the Mario Bros.’ Thwomp Stompers, the futuristic boots the brothers acquire that propel them into the air, and the weird, wacky, fishnet tights and trenchcoat ensembles of the citizens of Dinohattan.

8 The Movie Is Ambitious

super mario bros movie dinohattan

Even if it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, it’s plain to see that a lot went into the making of the Super Mario Bros. movie, particularly the dank, fungus-infested set of Dinohattan, which is like a depraved, cyberpunk version of New Donk City. The setpieces and the practical and special effects all required a lot of thought, money (the budget for movie was $42-48 million), and effort. Goodness knows how much time was spent decorating the set in fungus alone.

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The writers, Parker Bennett, Terry Runté, and Ed Solomon, could have just gone down the road of following the lore as close as possible, but they chose to take Mario in an entirely new direction, something which divided fans of the series, but was nonetheless different and, as some would say, intriguing.

7 The Soundtrack Is Fantastic

super mario bros movie dance scene mario in yellow suit

Featuring classic, catchy songs like Divinlys’s cover of Roxy Music’s “Love Is the Drug,” George Clinton and The Goombas’ rendition of the Was (Not Was) hit “Walk the Dinosaur,” and Roxette’s “Almost Unreal” (the song that plays over the end credits), the soundtrack is one of the best aspects of the Super Mario Bros. movie. Apart from the odd sound effect, such as when the Thwomp Stompers activate, there is no video game music. Thanks to the anti-video-game sentiment of the time, this wasn’t a movie geared towards kids, despite kids making up the majority of the Mario fanbase.

6 The Movie Takes Mario Into A New, Darker World

super mario bros movie king koopa with gun

The Super Mario Bros. movie took place across parallel dimensions, but Mario fans were transported in a similar way when they got to see strange, real-life versions of video game characters they’d played as and interacted with. Toad is a human, anti-establishment musician who turns into a goomba. Yoshi is a scaly dinosaur like something out of Jurassic Park. Gone are the blue skies and green forests of the video games, replaced by a dark, dystopian city and a bleak desert.

5 There Are Plenty Of Nods To The Video Game Series

super mario bros movie bob omb sparks

While the movie can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of whether or not they’ve played the Super Mario Bros. video games, there are allusions to the series that fans of the games will appreciate. Some of the references are obvious, while others are harder to recognize, such as the Shy Guy guards and the shape of the hallways in Koopa’s Tower resembling that of Thwomps. There are even elements of platforming when Mario and Luigi are escaping the police station. While the plot veers drastically away from the lore of the video game series, the writers made sure to include plenty of allusions for Mario fans.

4 The Practical Effects Were Revolutionary For The Time

super mario bros movie yoshi and daisy

A lot of the practical effects used in the Super Mario Bros. movie hadn’t been made before. Even by today’s standards, the animatronics are convincing and realistic. Yoshi looks and moves like a small dinosaur, albeit a sedated one. The goombas’ expressions have personality. The small dinosaurs that dot the city move in intricate, lifelike ways. Some of the special effects don’t hold up quite as well, but they’re no worse than other movies using similar techniques at the time.

3 The Casting Was On Point

super mario bros movie iggy and spike in a cab

However silly the storyline may have seemed, the actors’ performances don’t let on that they didn’t entirely buy into what they were being asked to say and do. Dennis Hopper went on a 3-hour tirade aimed at the directors and producers after some of his lines were rewritten at the last minute without his permission.

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Bob Hoskins (who would get drunk with co-star John Leguizamo before each day of filming) as Mario, Fisher Stevens and Richard Edson as the hapless cousins of King Koopa, Iggy and Spike, and Dennis Hopper as King Koopa got a lot more out of the dialogue than other actors would have. Despite the movie seeming to have been a harrowing experience for all involved, the entire cast is committed and gives as good as they’ve got.

2 The Movie Broke New Ground For Video Game Movies

super mario bros movie daisy luigi playing nintendo

The Super Mario Bros. movie was the first film to be adapted from a video game, breaking new ground in the industry. Five more video game adaptations came out after its release in 1993 just in that decade alone, including Street Fighter and the first two Mortal Kombat movies. Before the Super Mario Bros. movie, no one knew how to take a video game and turn it into a movie, and there certainly wasn’t anyone who knew whether or not it would be financially viable. While the movie’s box office takings were just under its budget, it showed that it was possible to make a movie based on a video game.

1 The Movie Was (& Still Is) Fun

super mario bros movie mattress ride

It may not be the height of cinema, but Super Mario Bros. is a fun movie. It has parallel dimensions, ziplining, a car chase (a nod to Mario Kart?), mattress rides through large pipes, and dancing goombas. Fans of the bizarre and the ridiculous will enjoy this movie, as it has that in abundance – A policeman getting a shoulder massage from a woman’s high heel while on the job. The Mario brothers being showered in goop (popular in the 90s) in a police station for no apparent reason. Dennis Hopper bathing in grey mud. Sentient fungus…

Whether in a positive or negative way, after watching the Super Mario Bros. movie viewers are likely to ask themselves “What on Earth did I just watch?”

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