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Title: RiffTrax  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: List of films considered the worst, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Michael J. Nelson, Legend Films, Batman and Robin (serial)
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Web address .com.rifftraxwww
Slogan We don't make movies... we make them funny!
Type of site
Film, comedy
Available in English
Launched 2006
Revenue Unknown
Current status Active

RiffTrax are comedy audio commentaries of movies, television programs and short films featuring Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) comedians Michael J. Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett heckling (or riffing) films in the style of MST3K, a TV show in which Nelson was the head writer, and later the host. RiffTrax products are sold online and delivered by streaming video and download.


  • History 1
    • Live shows 1.1
    • Television special 1.2
  • The Rifftones 2
  • Use 3
    • RiffTrax Player 3.1
    • RiffTrax On Demand 3.2
  • Featured catalog 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The site was launched by Nelson and Legend Films, now renamed Legend3D, in 2006 and is based in San Diego. In 2012, RiffTrax was purchased from Legend3D by Mike, Kevin and Bill and the RiffTrax CEO David G. Martin. As of December 2014, RiffTrax had 13 employees.[1]

The movies chosen for Mystery Science Theater 3000 were predominantly low-budget B-movies because the show itself was low-budget and producers could only afford films with expired copyright or that had otherwise cheap licenses.[2] The idea of RiffTrax came about after Mystery Science Theater 3000 was canceled and Nelson had researched and consulted a lawyer about the possibility of directly releasing DVDs of films with the commentaries included. But Nelson realized this initial idea was not feasible since he would be "sued out of existence."[3] Instead, the best way to distribute the commentaries would be to sell them independently of the films, to avoid having to obtain the rights to distribute the movies themselves.[4] There would be no legal or monetary restrictions to prevent Nelson from producing them,[5] though viewers would have to provide the movies themselves.

The main crew of Rifftrax (from left): Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy

The early RiffTrax were almost all solo efforts on Mike's part, but it soon became apparent that there was a strong demand for them, and Nelson was quickly able to recruit more riffers for the project. Most official RiffTrax (not counting fan-made iRiffs and the spin-off RiffTrax Presents series) have a stable cast of Mike and former Mystery Science Theater 3000 co-stars Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett, a line-up that happens to be identical to that of The Film Crew and the last three seasons of MST3K. That said, the guest slots vary often; other MST3K alumni have been featured, such as Mary Jo Pehl and Bridget Nelson, in addition to Internet personalities Richard Kyanka (of Something Awful fame), Josh Fruhlinger (writer of The Comics Curmudgeon) and Chad Vader, as well as actors Neil Patrick Harris, Fred Willard, and Joel McHale, and parodist "Weird Al" Yankovic. Nelson has said that he would like to bring in other guests.[6] The enthusiasm of guest riffers for the project led to the establishment of RiffTrax Presents, a series of tracks exclusively hosted by guest riffers and sanctioned by Nelson.[7] The success of the guest format is such that "Three Riffer Editions" of some films previously solo riffed by Mike have been produced for the VOD service, which feature new riffs by Mike in conjunction with Murphy and Corbett, and Mike has ceased producing solo riffs since 2007 (although Matthew J. Elliott has produced some solo tracks for RiffTrax Presents).

Along with the feature length tracks, Corbett, Murphy and Nelson have created riffs for a number of Coronet Films and ACI Films, amongst others. Because these shorts are in the public domain, they can be downloaded with the commentary already recorded onto them. Shorts are usually released at least once, and often twice, a week

In 2008, RiffTrax launched iRiffs, which allows fans to upload commentaries to be sold on the website. iRiffs users are paid 50% of the net revenue generated by their products. iRiffs differentiates from normal RiffTrax in that both serious and humorous commentaries can be uploaded.[8] In February 2009, a contest was held by RiffTrax, in which a winning iRiffs user would be given $1,000 and a chance to develop a RiffTrax Presents title, receiving instruction and critique from Nelson, Murphy and Corbett.[9] The winners of the contest were Doug and Rob Walker and Brian Heinz of That Guy with the Glasses, who contributed an iRiff of The Lion King.[10] The RiffTrax commentary they produced was for Batman Forever.[11]

Live shows

Corbett, Nelson, and Murphy during the live Rifftrax of Birdemic

As part of SF Sketchfest in San Francisco, California, Nelson, Murphy, and Corbett have appeared several times performing live riffs alongside a screening of a film. As of 2008, they have appeared three times, having riffed Daredevil and Over the Top in 2007 and Plan 9 from Outer Space in 2008, the last being shown in the historic Castro Theater.[12][13] The RiffTrax crew have done live internet broadcasts on, riffing public domain films and taking viewer questions.

RiffTrax has teamed with NCM Fathom Events to host special one-night live RiffTrax events. Nelson, Corbett, and Murphy, along with special guests, perform their riffing to a live audience in one theater, which is simultaneously broadcast live to select theaters around the country, except in the Pacific Time zone, where a replay of the broadcast is shown. The first show was performed live at the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville, Tennessee on August 20, 2009, where Mike, Kevin, and Bill riffed Plan 9 from Outer Space, along with the short film Flying Stewardess and guest appearances by Veronica Belmont, Jonathan Coulton, and Rich Kyanka of Something Awful.[14] An encore showing was shown on October 8 of that year. The second RiffTrax Live! show in theaters took place on December 16, 2009, where they riffed several Christmas short films, one featuring special guest Weird Al Yankovic. An encore showing was shown in theaters the next day. The third RiffTrax Live! show took place on August 19, 2010, with the trio riffing the cult classic Reefer Madness (its encore showing took place on August 24).[15] A fourth live show riffing House on Haunted Hill, also filmed at the Belcourt,[16] occurred on October 28, 2010, with special guest Paul F. Tompkins. A fifth took place on August 17, 2011, featuring the film Jack the Giant Killer.[17] A sixth took place on August 16, 2012, featuring the film, Manos, The Hands of Fate.[18] A seventh live event took place on October 25, 2012, featuring Birdemic: Shock and Terror.[19] The live event featuring Starship Troopers took place on August 15, 2013.[20] The ninth live event featuring Night of the Living Dead was performed on October 24, 2013 .[21]

On February 25, 2013, RiffTrax announced a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to secure the rights to riff Twilight, the first film of The Twilight Saga, for their live show in August 2013.[22] Though the Kickstarter was successful, the RiffTrax could not work a deal to secure the rights to Twilight and that they had instead used the funding to secure Starship Troopers.[23]

On May 12, 2014, RiffTrax announced another Kickstarter campaign to raise money to secure the rights to the 1998 version of Godzilla.[24] The Kickstarter raised the goal of $100,000 within a day. On May 29, they announced a stretch goal of $250,000 to secure the rights to Anaconda for their Halloween show;[25] the goal was reached on June 10, the day before the Kickstarter's end.[26]

For 2015, RiffTrax repeated the Kickstarter approach, successfully funding its four-movie event for the year, dubbed "The Crappening". The successful Kickstarter will allow them to riff on The Room, Sharknado 2: The Second One, Miami Connection, and Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny at different live events throughout the year.[27] The Rifftrax riff of The Room will also be performed live during the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival's series of midnight special events.[28]

Date Main Feature Short subject(s) Guest stars
August 20, 2009 Plan 9 from Outer Space Flying Stewardess Veronica Belmont, Jonathan Coulton, and Rich Kyanka
December 16, 2009 None Assorted Christmas shorts Weird Al Yankovic
August 19, 2010 Reefer Madness More Dangerous Than Dynamite, Frozen Frolics, and At Your Fingertips: Grasses
October 28, 2010 House on Haunted Hill Paper and I and Magical Disappearing Money Paul F. Tompkins
August 17, 2011 Jack the Giant Killer What Is Nothing?
August 16, 2012 Manos: The Hands of Fate At Your Fingertips: Cylinders and Welcome Back, Norman
October 25, 2012 Birdemic: Shock and Terror Norman Checks In
August 15, 2013 Starship Troopers
October 24, 2013 Night of the Living Dead Norman Gives a Speech
December 5, 2013 Santa Claus Conquers the Martians Santa and the Fairy Snow Queen
July 10, 2014 Sharknado A Case of Spring Fever
August 14, 2014 Godzilla
October 30, 2014 Anaconda Halloween Party
December 4, 2014 Santa Claus At Your Fingertips: Sugar and Spice
May 6, 2015 The Room At Your Fingertips: Floats
July 9, 2015 Sharknado 2: The Second One Why Do I Need Parents?
October 1, 2015 Miami Connection Measurement Man
December 3, 2015 Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny

Television special

In conjunction with the National Geographic Channel, Nelson, Corbett, and Murphy was part of a 3-part television special, "Total Riff Off" that aired on the channel on April 1, 2014 and became available to buy as video-on-demand later on the RiffTrax site. Each part was one hour long featuring the three riffing on older National Geographic footage.[29] According to Nelson, the idea of the special came from a National Geographic producer who was also a fan of RiffTrax. RiffTrax and National Geographic worked together to find the best footage to work with for the special.[30]

The Rifftones

In August 2008, Nelson, Corbett and Murphy formed a musical trio named The Rifftones, initially to compete in Quick Stop Entertainment's second Masters of Song Fu competition. They won the competition, beating fellow musicians Jonathan Coulton, Paul and Storm and, in the final round, Jason Morris. After the competition, they decided to continue creating songs as The Rifftones, making songs based on the movies they've riffed and releasing a CD collecting them, which is available on the RiffTrax site.


RiffTrax commentaries are synchronized at the start of the movie using a cue.[31] To reassure consumers that the MP3 file is synchronized with the film, fictional character and riffer "DisembAudio" speaks occasional lines in exact synchronization with the movie.[32][33] "RiffTrax Presents" commentaries feature a female synchronization voice, Debbie.[34] Though RiffTrax are suggested to be played on an MP3 player or with computer software, they are sold as unrestricted MP3s, allowing users to choose the viewing method that suits them the best. A RiffTrax Player is also offered as a free download for Windows computers.[35]

The movies chosen for RiffTrax are based on two criteria: whether the movie lends itself towards a funny riffing, and whether the film is widely available on DVD.[31][33] These criteria have resulted in a wide variety of genre and era of movies chosen to be riffed. The first audio commentary made available through the web site in July 2006 was for the 1989 film Road House, long cited by Nelson as the cheesiest movie ever made.[36]

RiffTrax Player

The RiffTrax Player (RiffPlayer) is a program which automatically synchronizes the commentary playback to the DVD playback. The RiffTrax Player makes use of a commentary MP3 as well as a text file (.sync) containing the synchronization information of the DVD and the commentary. As of February 2015, the RiffTrax Player currently supports Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X Snow Leopard and up.

RiffTrax On Demand

RiffTrax On Demand features downloadable DRM-Free video files of films with RiffTrax commentaries embedded. RiffTrax On Demand has released many short, public domain, and educational films similar to the ones that MST3K would sometimes mock before a full-length movie began.[37]

Featured catalog


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  11. ^ Walker, Doug (2 August 2009). RiffTrax: Batman Forever announcement.
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  17. ^ with the short What Is Nothing and two short videos created by
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  31. ^ a b
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  33. ^ a b
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  37. ^

External links

  • RiffTrax Official website
  • @RiffTrax Official Twitter Account on Twitter
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