When DVDs (and before them, Laserdiscs) were new, I really used to enjoy listening to the commentary tracks. Granted, some were better than others, but I couldn’t seem to get enough of the “behind the scenes” talk, and to hear the cast and crew telling funny stories about each other.
Those don’t interest me as much as they used to, and in fact these days I’m more likely to rent a DVD than buy it, but there is a kind of commentary track that I still enjoy: the kind made by people who weren’t at all involved in making the movie.
The gold standard for these is Rifftrax, from three of the people who made Mystery Science Theater 3000. When it comes to making fun of movies, few people have had anywhere near as much practice. It’s a pretty ingenious system that manages to avoid conflicts with copyright law. Here’s how it works:
- Find a commentary track for a movie that you have a copy of (or want to rent, or buy)
- Pay $3 or $4
- Download the .mp3 file (free of DRM, of course)
- Play the movie and the .mp3 file simultaneously (the commentary will come with instructions for syncing and a guide to help you get back on track if they drift apart)
Here’s an example from the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie:
This is a great way to spend a few dollars and make new again some of the movies you probably already have on your shelf. Some of my favorites from Rifftrax go with movies that honestly, nobody should own (Troll 2 comes immediately to mind), but among those you’re likely to have lying around, these are good, too:
- Road House
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (with guest commentator Neil Patrick Harris)
- The Grudge
Do you know of any other good “alternate commentary” sources? Tell us in the comments!
Updated June 23, 2016 and originally published May 22, 2009.