MST3K Movie Challenge Rating

This is a weekend discussion topic i submitted at Satellite News Back in the Day and thought I’d bring up here.

In his interview on the Riding with Death DVD, Steven de Souza touches on the issue of, when writing a story, getting the capabilities of those opposing the protagonists just right.

Or in D&D parlance, the Challenge Rating (CR). Too low, and the story becomes a stakes-free cakewalk. Too high, and the protagonist comes across as incompetent, with the resolution often appearing as a deus ex machina.

Many MST3K films struggle to get their CRs in that Goldilocks zone. So which films do you think the CR was either too low or too high?

For too low, I’d go with Danger Death Ray. The goons practically walked right into Bart Fargo’s fists. For too high, I’d go with Devil Doll. English was just so hapless and he needed Vorelli and Hugo’s falling out to resolve the situation for him.


Prince of Space. Their weapons were useless against him.


Manos has both. The GM suckered the party in with a low CR Torgo encounter, and then followed that up with the Master executing a TPK.


Vadhino got lucky having to defenestrate only a few Americans before he found Tony. If it took him longer, the police probably would have gotten to him, and it’s hard to push people out windows when your own has bars in it.


Hmm. This is a cool challenge. Essentially, “If the movie was a game, and I was the protagonist, would it be fun?” For “no,” I suggest The She-Creature and The Undead; both are convoluted and require highly improbable events to occur at just the right time.

For “yes,” how about Robot Holocaust and First Spaceship on Venus? They already feel halfway like a game, full of exotic (if not silly) adventures and encounters.


True that. As I remarked elsewhere, Robot Holocaust feels like it got padded out with results from a D&D random encounter chart.

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