In his recent book Monsters In The Movies, John Landis talks about how movies are one of the few art forms in which even the bad examples can be enjoyed. The director of ‘American Werewolf In London’ and ‘The Blues Brothers’ further argued this notion with a recent interview with Tor.com.
“Movies have this unique power over books, music, or paintings. We’ll watch a bad movie. If we see a bad painting, we’ll not linger on it for hours at a time, we’ll walk way. But we don’t do that with movies. We’ll sit through them”
Landis is absolutely right, and it’s now increasingly common for awful movies to cultivate their own cult fanbases, as well as recognition for being some of the worst of all time.
In celebration of good-bad movies everywhere, here’s my personal pick of 10 of the most enjoyable bad movies ever made. It’s not a definitive list (There are far too many bad movies) but these are the 10 which I personally consider to be truly rewatchable masterpieces of inept twisted genius.
Troll 2 (1990)
Indisputably the holy grail of bad movies, ‘Troll 2′ has become a cult phenomenon and even spawned a brilliant documentary titled Best Worst Movie. What’s great about Troll 2 is that it so effortlessly ticks all the required boxes for a masterpiece of bad cinema. The performances are universally awful (with particular praise for George Hardy as the father of the Waits family) and almost everything about the film is so wonderfully bizarre that it’s like a drug induced hallucination put to screen.
There’s so many odd moments, but my personal favourite might be the infamous popcorn sequence, with a young man being seduced by a witch touting a stick of corn. No one could tell you why in god’s name this scene exists, nor many of the other classic moments of Troll 2, but it’s what makes it such an enjoyably awful classic that’ll continue to amaze and surprise for years to come.
Funniest Quote: “Nilbog……. That’s Goblin spelt backwards !”
‘Undefeatable’ became a well known bad movie after one of its scenes – a climatic fight to the death – became a YouTube hit and a popular internet meme. It’s an amazing sequence, with two guys duking it out and randomly ripping their shirts of like they’ve suddenly realized they’re in a Twilight movie. It’s also exactly like a real life version of a early ‘90s video game brawler like Streets Of Rage. But while the final fight scene has become an internet hit, the entire film is amazing from start to finish.
Don Niam portrays one of cinema’s most criminally underrated villains with Stingray – a crazed serial killer martial artist, who has a psychotic breakdown following a break-up with his wife. He begins to hunt down and kidnap any women who resemble his beloved Anna, as well as gouging out their eyes and keeping them in a fish-tank for no apparent reason. It sounds grotesque, but the way in which Stingray skulks around chanting “Annaaaa” while sporting an impressive mullet makes the whole affair campy rather than disturbing.
Funniest Quote: “Why would Stingray keep eyeballs in his fish tank ?”
The Wicker Man (2006)
Nicolas Cage’s career is one which defies logic.
He is one of the few actors in Hollywood who can survive making some truly awful films, only to redeem himself shortly after with a modern classic. Cage is able to bounce back from a stinker, only to then relapse – or visa versa – all in the same year.
For every ‘Drive Angry 3-D’ there’s a ‘Bad Lieutenant’, for every ‘Season Of The Witch’ there’s a ‘Kick-Ass’. Of all his prize winning turkeys, there’s one that remains a cult favorite among fans of enjoyably bad movies – Neil LaBout’s ill-advised remake of iconic ‘70s Brit horror ‘The Wicker Man’.
While the project was doomed from the get-go as an overly glossy remake of a gritty horror classic (take note Hollywood) few were expecting it to be so unintentionally hilarious and bizarrely misogynistic. Cage spends most of his time wandering around and pummeling women – sometimes in a bear costume – and the few attempts to make the film genuinely scary are so remarkably overdone that they cant be taken seriously. A fine example is the scene with Cage being hilariously tortured by having his head shoved into a wicker helmet full of Bees….. “OH, NO! NOT THE BEES! NOT THE BEES! AAAAAHHHHH!”
Funniest Quote: “How’d it get burned? How’d it get burned? HOW’D IT GET BURNED, HOW’D IT GET BURNED?”
‘Birdemic’ quickly became an underground cult success in a similar way to The Room, having also been the work of an ambitious and well intentioned director, who didn’t receive the response he originally wanted for his low-budget labor of love. Unfortunately for director James Nguyen, the atrocious CGI bird effects and the stilted acting, kept the film from reaching the same level of Avian success as Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’.
In many ways Birdemic seems so inept that it’s hard to believe that wasn’t Nguyen’s intention to make a lovable bad movie from the very start – but not only do interviews with Nguyen reveal his modest ambitions in making the movie, but also his shock surprise at its cult following.
There’s only one thing more terrifying than Birdemic and that’s the fact that ‘Birdemic 2: The Resurrection’ is currently in production….. In 3-D.
Funniest Quote: “It’s the human species that needs to quit playing cowboy with nature. We must act more like astronauts, spacemen taking care of Spaceship Earth.”
Shark Attack 3: Megaladon (2003)
‘Shark Attack’ and its first sequel are pretty much rudimentary straight-to-video crapfests which aren’t really worth your time. ‘Shark Attack 3′ on the other hand is a classic Jaws rip-off which stars cheesy ‘Rent-A-Tom Cruise’ John Barrowman, trying to put a stop to the killing spree of a prehistoric 52ft long mega shark, while also interacting with confused Bulgarian extras. Fans of Mad Men will also recognize Betty’s dad (Ryan Cutrona) as the preposterously named Chuck ‘Bull-Fucking-Shit‘ Rampart
The highlight of the film is a single piece of manipulated footage (a great white shark surfacing the water) which has been enlarged and used repeatedly throughout the entire movie. Rather than having the shark chomp down on its victims, he simply turns up and swallows things whole – be it a speedboat, a dingy full of capsized party goers or even a man on a Jet Ski.
Its also become well known for a single adlibbed line (see below) from Barrowman which is perhaps the most surprisingly frank and random dialogue exchange ever heard in a film.
Funniest Quote: “How about I take you home and eat your pussy”
(To quote John Cleese’s headmaster in ‘The Meaning Of Life’, “What’s wrong with a kiss boy ? Why not start her off with a nice kiss? You don’t have to go leaping straight for the clitoris like a bull at a gate !”)
Belly Of The Beast (2003)
Steven Seagal has made a hell of a lot of bad straight-to-video movies – 38 to be precise. While many of them have their moments (I particularly enjoy his vampire horror movie ‘Against The Dark’) the most unintentionally funny of the bunch is ‘Belly Of The Beast’, and you know you’re off to a good start when the title sounds like a reference to Seagal’s portly figure.
He stars as retired CIA agent Jake Hopper, who finds himself having to travel to Thailand, in order to rescue his kidnapped daughter from vicious Islamic fundamentalists, voodoo priests and transsexuals.
Belly of the Beast is full of ridiculous action and awful quips that even Arnie would wince at. Best of all is a moment early on when Seagal stealthily infiltrates a well guarded mansion to steal some items from a locked safe. To sneak past a window without being seen, he takes a run up and silently glides along the floor. It looks incredibly fake and literally seems like Seagal is being pulled along on a skateboard with piano wire.
Funniest Quote: “I preferred you better when you was a bitch”
Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)
The granddaddy of the enjoyably bad movie, Ed Wood’s magnum opus is a wonderfully charming mess that’s actually kind of inspiring in its ineptitude.
Ed Wood simply wanted to cultivate his desire for making films – he didn’t care if they stunk or if they failed to impress, he was an enthusiast of cinema and simply wanted to join his idols like Orson Wells. It’s only fitting that Wood achieved some sort of notoriety, even if that’s becoming known as the worst director of all time.
‘Plan 9 From Outer Space’ is Wood’s “finest” achievement, mixing a completely barmy plot (aliens resurrecting dead humans in order to prevent the construction of a new weapon) with terrible effects including cardboard graveyard headstones and pie tin flying saucers and some truly atrocious acting and dialogue (“Inspector Clay is dead — murdered — and somebody’s responsible!”), it‘s almost impossible to not enjoy Plan 9 From Outer Space. The film is also notable for featuring the final appearance of Bela Lugosi, who died during production and was replaced by Ed Wood’s Chiropractor – who looks, sounds and acts nothing like Lugosi.
Watch this immediately after Tim Burton’s superb and engaging biopic Ed Wood, and you’ve got a hell of a double bill.
Funniest Quote: “Perhaps, on your way home, someone will pass you in the dark, and you will never know it… for they will be from outer space.”
Death Wish 3 (1985)
I love ‘Death Wish 3′ – it’s such an insanely violent and over the top sequel that it seems that both Winner and the long suffering Charles Bronson had realised that they might as well just have a laugh after offending almost everyone with the second film. It’s also hard to have much of a plot when you’ve got a lead character whose already had his wife and daughter raped and killed by criminals – so here Bronson’s Paul Kersey is seen gleefully slaughtering an entire city of goons.
It’s also a great example of the style of film that came from ‘80s exploitation studio Cannon – who also gave us such good-bad classics as ‘The Delta Force’, ‘Missing In Action’ and the barmy ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2′. Their penchant for releasing gratuitous films made on a shoestring low-budget meant that the streets of Lambeth in East London doubled for New York, in many of Death Wish 3’s crazy action scenes.
Funniest Quote: “I’m going out for some ice cream… this is America, isn’t it?”
La Casa 4 aka Witchcraft (1988)
For some bizarre reason, I discovered ‘Witchcraft’ as part of a four film collection from Poundland which also included ‘The Shawshank Redemption’.
That’s right – an obscure low-budget Italian shlocker starring David Hasslehoff is on the same disk as Frank Darabont’s uplifting masterpiece. Still, while the reasoning for their sharing of the same DVD is completely illogical, they can both be considered classics – one a genuine classic, the other a classic bad movie.
Coming from the same studio as ‘Troll 2′, Witchcraft is a similarly hokey Italian horror with David Hasslehoff and Linda Blair battling demons on a secluded island. Witchcraft also follows in the great Italian tradition of making unofficial sequels to box-office hits, with Witchcraft originally released as an ‘Evil Dead’ sequel, with Sam Raimi’s film released in Italy as ‘La Casa’ (The House).
Sleazy and unpleasant (and I’m not just referring to Hasslehoff) Witchcraft is a true Euro-horror gem with plenty of unintentionally hilarious moments alongside the plentiful gore.
Funniest Quote: “They’ve got a lot of legends about this island. Witches and rainbows and shit.”
The Room (2003)
Tommy Wiseou’s incredibly bizarre drama appeared out of the blue in 2003, having been entirely funded and produced by Wiseou himself – who also starred in the lead role. After highly publicizing the film and even famously advertising it on a Hollywood billboard, The Room was released to unanimously bad reviews and achieved an instant cult status which continues to grow and grow.
The Room is so mad that it’s easy to forget that there’s a plot of sorts – an incredibly overwrought drama about a man whose fiancé has an affair with his best friend. It’s the weirder little details that are memorable though – such as the tuxedo football scenes, Wiseou’s oddball chicken impression (allegedly the inspiration for the Arrested Development chicken dance) and the bizarre and otherworldly dialogue (“So Mark, how is your sex life ?”).
Speaking of otherworldly, Tommy Wiseou makes for the strangest leading man in cinema history. With long scraggly hair and the face of a grizzled Nordic warrior, Wiseou delivers his dialogue with a strange stilted delivery and emphasis on making his lines as overly dramatic as possible. It’s also clearly something of a vanity project, with Wiseou giving his character a number of cheesy softcore sex scenes as well as sticking his gurning face in close-up on the poster.
Funniest Quote: “You’re tearing me apart Lisaaaa !”
What are your favourite good-bad movies ?