The user-friendly way to impart information and training and a prime target for parody, the instructional film is a short presentation that has generally been created by a government department or a business to impart training or information on a specific area... cheese making, avoiding nuclear attack, understanding the Dewey decimal system, care and maintenance of the IBM System/360 mainframe... the list is endless.
Because of the need to educate the young and/or presumably ignorant, the intellectual level is often pitched very low indeed, leading to many of these films having a deeply condescending tone. They are also often vehicles for propaganda or contain the unconscious attitudes and biases of their producers.
They are rarely kept updated to current fashions; literal, intellectual, or cultural. Parodies usually have films in the style of filmreels from sometime between the 1930s and 1950s.
A particular target for parody is the specific sub-type, the fast-food training video.
- The Duck and Cover US government films for dealing with nuclear attack.
- Similar, and produced about the same time, the completely crazy The House in the Middle about how all you need to survive nuclear holocaust is a fresh coat of paint on your house.
- We see the new employee orientation video in Waiting..., with complete with Description Cuts between how the video says the employees should behave and how we see them actually behaving.
- Several Disney short films (Freewayphobia #1, Goofy's Freeway Trouble and Motor Mania) have been shown in driving schools across the U.S. for decades.
- This was the basic premise of Private Snafu, in a "Don't do what Snafu does" way.
- Will Eisner's, PS Magazine army instructional comics. (Yes, Will Eisner of The Spirit fame.)
- Driving school videos.
- Cliff Clavin (John Ratzenberger) and the rest of the cast of Cheers have appeared in a training video for new U.S. Postal Service employees.
- The authors of Yes, Minister had previously collaborated on management training videos with John Cleese.
- The Brewing Network's Homebrew U DVD series. Currently only one volume (American Pale Ale), there was an offhand mention in one episode of The Session about shooting for a DVD about pilsner.
- Hired! and several other short films featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000.
- Wrong Way Butch is a 1950 short film which uses humor to demonstrate unsafe practices on a factory floor. (Don't wear a tie around spinning mechanical equipment.)
- Our Miss Brooks: In "Audio-Visual Experiment", Miss Brooks rents a filmed version of the poem "Lady of the Lake" to show her class after she's left early for the day. Unfortunately, a disgruntled employee of the educational film company had mixed up films and canisters in revenge. The boys in the class stay late to repeatedly watch "Sirens of the Screen, Past and Present". Later on, Mrs. Davis' lady's aid meeting rents "Shearing Sheep in Big Billibong, Australia" only to have a film with scenes backstage in a women's dressing room. The company tries to rectify the mistake by giving Miss Brooks a film about the workings of the board of education, but end up giving her one all about Las Vegas and gambling.
- The DHARMA Initiative orientation films from Lost.
- Team Fortress 2: The original release maps (as well as a few more recent maps) are introduced with a black-and-white instructional film explaining the map's objective and, sometimes, unique elements of its topology.
- Tank Girl. When the title character infiltrates Liquid Silver, there's a video that trains new employees in how to dress themselves correctly. Of course, she pays no attention at all to it.
- In The Vor Game, following the aftermath of the chemical cleanup incident that ends his tour of duty at Camp Permafrost, Miles Vorkosigan finds himself in quasi-exile assigned to ImpSec Headquarters. As a combination of spiritual exercise and stir-crazyness, he decides to view every training video in the military library in strictly alphabetical order during his off-duty hours. He is bemused at the 30-minute program under "H: Hygiene" which covers how to take a shower — presumably targeted at rural back-country draftees without previous exposure to indoor plumbing. After a month he manages to reach "L: Laser-rifle Model D-67; power-pack circuitry, maintenance, and repair" when the plot advances to the next stage of his adventure.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Hurricane Fluttershy" has an amusingly dated-looking one that explains how the pegasi use "tornado power" to get water to the weather factory in Cloudsdale for the rainy season.
- The Office featured a version during their sexual harassment training, but because of the nature of the show, it comes across as almost a parody of the trope. Props to the producers who made it look authentically like a video from the Eighties.
- Men in Black: Alien Attack at Universal Studios Florida has "Doofus and Do-Right", an animated short that explains what to do and what not to do when in MIB training.
- In the Charby the Vampirate side comic Here There Be Monsters Blaine tries to force his hunters to watch a cheesy safety video he made after Victor gets injured on the job, the only hunter paying any attention whatsoever to the film is Mort.
- Steven Universe: In "Joking Victim", Steven offers to help out at the Big Donut when Lars takes a day off, and Sadie shows him an old employee orientation video starring Mr. Smiley, owner of the local arcade and amusement pier, who apparently used to be in show-business. While Sadie looks increasingly bored with the video and its seemingly-endless musical jingles on safety and customer service, Steven is enthralled.
- The Spongebob Squarepants Krusty Krab training video
- The perky Japanese girl who explains the rules in Battle Royale.
- Parodied a few times in That '70s Show.
- Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law had an episode which was one long orientation video for Sebben and Sebben.
- In Malcolm in the Middle, the orientation video Malcolm had to watch at Lucky Aide just SCREAMED 80s. It also revealed that Craig used to be a District Manager.
- Buffy was forced to watch one when she took a job at a fast food joint.
- Hyperdrive. Before making First Contact the crew have to watch a squick-inducing video warning them of the dangers of having sex with aliens.
- Training with Hinako is an animated fitness video which a girl named Hinako supposed to give the viewers exercise instructions, though its more of an excuse to show a sweaty girl exercising with a "bouncy package".
- When Angel took over Wolfram & Hart they made a new training video for employees, basically saying "Don't be evil and we won't kill you."
- Despicable Me has one as a DVD bonus feature.
- Paranoia adventure Vapors Don't Shoot Back. While the Troubleshooters are being transported in the flybot, they're shown an Old Reckoning U.S. Army parachute training film which will hopefully teach them enough to use the parachutes they've been given.
- Walt Disney's Goofy starred in a long-running series of instructional video parodies on such subjects as:
- How to Play Football (1944).
- How to Sleep (1953).
- How To Hook Up Your Home Theater (2007).
- Being John Malkovich has a very funny employee orientation film.
- Before taking Driver's Education classes, Kim Possible and classmates watch an instructional video on safe driving that's both remarkably out of date (mentioning sock-hops and soda bars) and incredibly gory and graphic (judging by their reactions) in depicting the consequences of a crash.
- Re-education sessions in the "A Sitch in Time" Bad Future begin with a short instructional/propaganda film clip of The Supreme One (future Shego) describing how she took over the world.
- "Gunny Instructional Video" from The Damn Few.
- Trailers and intros for the Fallout games, which cheerily promote Vault-Tec bunkers and the Atom Age life, before revealing the post-apocalyptic world it became.
- Metal Arms: Glitch in the System features a Fifties-style film where the narrator cheerfully details the history of their planet and the Droids rebellion against a tyrannical regime of slavery and genocide.
- The "Wiggy" segments from Canned Carrott.
- In an episode of Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, where Sarah infiltrates a nuclear power station as a grunt worker, she is made to watch a comically old-fashioned orientation film. With sexy nuclear fuel rods.
- The notorious German short film Forklift Driver Klaus is a gore-filled parody of a workplace instructional video.
- Used as a Running Gag in Spider-Man: Homecoming with Captain America's videos on physical fitness, learning a lesson from getting detention, etc. The oddity of having the lessons presented by someone who is currently a wanted criminal is noted in-universe.
- Robert Benchley's How to... series of short films in the 1930s, which consisted of him giving comically useless instruction on topics like How to Sleep, How to Train a Dog, and others.
- Monty Python's Flying Circus' classic sketch "How Not To Be Seen" is about how not to be seen... or rather, the slaughter that ensues (including the use of explosives) if the filmmakers see you or you haven't hid well enough from them.
- StacheBros has "Donkey Kong Presents: How to be Dumb", in which Donkey Kong teaches the audience how to be stupid like him.
- A Running Gag on The Simpsons is Springfield Elementary's use of instructional films that are no longer fit for purpose, if they ever were. Problems range from casual depiction of attempted suicide, videos about space travel that were poorly researched even for the 50's and transparent meat lobby propaganda that shows a bit too much detail on how slaughterhouses work.
- Lampshaded in Rocketship Voyager where Voyager's tri-vid library includes: ...public service vids that nobody watched unless ordered to and an 'educational' feelie (The shocking sybaritic rites of the Amazons of Venus!) that everyone watched and pretended not to.
- The first story of Cubnet recounts an employee orientation video for creative staff at the titular network, which is clearly from The '80s at the latest given the fact that it mentions "this new era of cable television" and the network being the first of its kindnote , and it outright encourages the incoming creative staff to make lowest-common-denominator programming to appeal to children and not adults:
Video narrator: Many acclaimed Saturday morning cartoons were cancelled prematurely because they were drawing the wrong audience, which the toy and junk food companies that sponsored those shows were not happy about.
Brenda Bear: (thinking to herself) You don't say.
Video narrator: Make sure our programs are marketable, especially to toy companies, and make sure both kids and parents approve of the content in them. That is the key to success here at Cubnet. Good luck!