You’ve been that person walking out of the theater smiling while the rest of the crowd passing by seem to be throwing their tickets away in disgust. You liked the bad movie. You’re not alone. We’ve all been there at some point, and it’s not a bad thing. Everyone deserves to indulge. Even the most hardened of cinephiles have a few skeleton’s in their closet – acclaimed critics included.
Roger Ebert liked The Zookeeper, A.O. Scott found “an amazing kind of emotional integrity and intensity” in the Twilight franchise, and Richard Corliss wasn’t afraid to say he enjoyed Clash of the Titans. Everyone has standalone indulgences like Zookeeper or Titans. There are hundreds of bad movies filled with just enough nostalgia or fun to keep you coming back for more. The choices become less clear when you start looking for the great guilty pleasure franchises though. Making one bad but ultimately enjoyable film isn’t so difficult, but duplicating that same kind of “bad but good” balance over three, four, five, six, or even seven installments is downright remarkable. I seek to honor these decade (or more) long bad habits.
As the gentlemen of the Filmspotting Podcast often remind us; these types of lists need guidelines. Without some parameters to work within, finding a clear set of applicants and criteria to judge them by can be difficult. This list has four rules: no horror movies, there have to be at least three entries, the leads can’t get replaced, and the films have to be major studio productions. These rules are here for a few reasons. I didn’t want a list dominated with one genre (horror) that makes awesomely bad its bread and butter – that is for another list. Two films isn’t enough to be a real franchise.Pure money grab sequels don’t deserve any chance of recognition here, and I didn’t want to open the flood gates for the scores of low budget camp that might qualify. Here is the list.
Okay, so I’m starting off on a bad note – breaking one of my own rules. I’m letting co-directors Neveldine and Taylor sneak their Crank films into this top ten on my sincere hope that Chev Chelios will survive to die(ish) another day. Jason Statham isn’t so confident, but movies like Crank are about defying the odds so I think it’s appropriate to keep the dream alive. If it wasn’t for the question mark over the series’ future Crank would almost certainly be higher.
About the actual films now. Well, film sounds a bit misleading. “Orgy of ass-kicking caught on camera” might be a more apt definition. The things that make the Crank movies so bad – the absence of concepts like plot, acting, and good taste – don’t really enhance the cult status of these movies like others in this top ten manage to do with their shortcomings. At times the dialogue feels like the grating of nails on a chalkboard, and there are moments, like when Statham essentially rapes Amy Smart in the middle of Chinatown, that are deal-breakers for many.
For the rest of the world though Neveldine and Taylor deliver some of the most frenetic and pleasing action available today. They have an inventive visual style (apparently involving filming scenes with camcorders while roller blading) that makes every big fight scene feel like it’s about to jump off the screen. It’s not the kind of powerful stuff you bring up while sipping pinot noir at your friends dinner party, but when you need to check your brain at the door after a brutal exam or a hard day of work Crank is there for your mind numbing pleasure.