Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

Top 5 Movies So Bad, They're Good


Depending on where you live, this past weekend you might have been able to see The Disaster Artist, director-star James Franco’s take on the making of the infamous The Room, the movie that taught us all that no matter how upset you are, you can always cheer right up by saying hai to your friend Mark, and that nothing helps a cancer diagnosis like promptly forgetting it.

With an excuse like that, how could we possibly pass up the chance to celebrate our all-time favorite bad movies? Whether they involve John Travolta in dreadlocks or gorillas in diving helmets, we’re celebrating our favorite examples of movies so bad in every respect that they couldn’t be more precious, pleasurable entertainment.

In Worth Mentioning, we review Broken Flowers, thank to our patron Tristan Frayling, along with Lady Bird and The Star.

Rob

Battlefield Earth (2000)
0
The Last Dragon (1985)
0
Masters of the Universe (1987)
0
Anaconda (1997)
0
House of the Dead
0

Carrie

The Human Centipede (First Sequence) (2009)
0
Tusk (2014)
0
She’s All That (1999)
0
Poison Ivy (1992)
0
Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo (1999)
0

Tim

Robot Monster (1953)
0
Zombie Lake (1981)
4
The Apple
9
The Giant Claw (1957)
0
Deep Blue Sea (1999)
8
Categories:

49 Responses so far.

  1. Sean Barker says:

    1. The Room
    2. Samurai Cop
    3. The Happening
    4. Face/Off
    5. Plan 9 From Outer Space

  2. WBTN says:

    Pipe dream for next year: Alternate Ending goes to B-Fest!

    This list always needs a Dino De Laurentiis movie, but my choice picks – Flash Gordon, Barbarella – go back and forth between so-bad-it’s-good and actually good. I love them too unironically.

    Hard to rank and consolidate this list, soooooo I have eight.

    Night Train to Terror – a shitty, weird eighties anthology made up of edited versions of other films, with a wraparound segment of God and the Devil making bets with each other while teens dance around in the other cart.

    Troll 2 – when it comes down to more recent “classics” – Birdemic, The Room, and the like – this one delights me the most.

    If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do? – wonderful, overbaked religious propaganda about a communist takeover of America. Great accents all around.

    Xanadu – the requisite disastrous disco musical. Could’ve also gone with Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but this one puts me in a better mood.

    Anaconda – my requisite nineties creature feature. Just look at his face!

    Glen or Glenda – my requisite Ed Wood and fifties b-movie, mostly because it’s such a ‘good intentions pave the road to hell’ kind of movie, and it’s not as overplayed as Plan 9 from Outer Space. Bold use of Bela Lugosi, too

    Street Fighter – My one video game movie and Jean-Claude Van Damme vehicle, though I was mighty tempted to go with the Albert Pyun-directed Terminator knockoff, Cyborg, if only for the final fight.

    Over the Top – Sylvester Stallone arm-wrestles! To earn the custody of his son! Robert Loggia is the mean grampy!!

    • Not Fenimore says:

      Yeah, I’m with you on De Laurentiis – they’re not “good” movies, but they’re not enjoyable for being “bad”, either. I need to have a little more cruel mockery for it to count as SBIG for me.

  3. Not Fenimore says:

    5. The Core. “Hello, I’m DJ Qualls, I’ll be your less charismatic Keanu Reeves today.”
    4. Le Lac Des Morts Vivants. “Fight music provided by kicking a xylophone down a flight of stairs.”
    3. Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare. “‘Bub’? Is Jon-Mikl Thor Wolverine now?” “No, but wait for it…”
    2. Hard Ticket to Hawaii. “EXPLODING RADIOACTIVE TOILET SNAKE!”
    1. The Room. “Too good for this sinful Earth! Too good for this sinful Earth!”

    I tried hard to get #1 out, but in the end, you have to go with the objectively-correct answer. #3 and #4 I got from you, Tim, thanks so very much, and #2 I traded with a coworker for a recommendation for Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare. IT IS 100% WORTH IT TIM YOU NEED TO CHECK IT OUT.

    • Not Fenimore says:

      Oh, I forgot my side rule: I cannot pick any movie I have only ever seen in the presence of wisecracking robots. Space Mutiny is one of my favorite 2h of film experience, but I suspect it would not be anywhere near that experience without “We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese.”

      • Tim Brayton Tim Brayton says:

        This is a deeply important rule.

        And I took a nap during Hard Ticket to Hawaii one year at B-Fest. Might have been the year I was having a gallbladder attack, but still…

  4. Patrick S thatcher says:

    In no particular order:

    The Room, The Apple, Robot Monster, Battlefield Earth, Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas.

    This is a category that is FULL of great picks, so it was very hard to trim this list down.

    • Saving Christmas was an alternate for my list! I found it a smidge too boring, but nothing can beat how the entire third act just involves Kirk Cameron’s sister tilting her head incredulously without moving a muscle otherwise.

  5. Yeah, I usually just pick one (or in the case of biopics, one half), but I can’t resist here. Here’s a non-committal top 5 excluding The Room and Troll 2. Also no Rocky Horror, which is pretty much a masterpiece with a dash of poor execution.

    1 BEN & ARTHUR (2002) – the THE ROOM of gay movies. There is an endless litany of iconic moments, but two of my favorites are a cardboard church set with a painting of Jesus even worse than that Jesus Monkey restoration and a guy serving coffee in a “diner” that’s VERY clearly a Togo’s.
    2 WISH FOR CHRISTMAS (2016) – there’s no better source for bad-good recent movies than evangelical Christmas movies. A selfish girl wishes on a star that her parents wouldn’t make her go to church on Christmas Eve so she could go to a barn dance. Suddenly they become atheists, which means they say “happy holidays” and fire their terrible employee. Ergo, evil. Also she makes friends with a homeless man who may or may not be Jesus?
    3 MARCI X (2003) – Lisa Kudrow, as always, deserves better, but this time capsule of just how fraught race relations were even in the early millennium is egregiously, laughably ill-thought-out
    4 SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2 (1987) – mostly just stock footage from the first one, but that new footage is… sublime
    5 THE BOY NEXT DOOR (2015) – “I love your mother’s cookies.”

    • WBTN says:

      Ohhh Ben & Arthur is such a good choice. I felt bad about picking it because it plays out like an ambitious home movie (not even The Room has such bad cinematography), and it’s been years since I’ve seen it, but it’s so much fun

    • Aaron says:

      Glad others here thought of Ben & Arthur. That anything that inept managed to get commercial distribution is a sign of how dire the gay cinema landscape was in the early-aughts.

      I’d vote for the strip club audition scene as the film’s finest moment, but it is indeed very hard to single out any one scene.

  6. sting606 says:

    1 – Miami Connection (which I’m looking to do a Critic’s Choice Patreon soon for Tim’s review of it). One of my favorite movies and possibly the best time I ever had at the cinema.

    2 – Rock n’ Roll Nightmare

    3 – Samurai Cop

    4 – Blood Feast

    5 – Deep Blue Sea

  7. victor says:

    I’m ruling out any movies that are so bad they’re unwatchable (without an MST3K or Rifftrax commentary, anyway, though some of my list is improved by their Rifftrax commentaries), such as “Manos” and “Robot Monster”, and am focusing on movies I’d want to watch at least one more time before I die.

    5. “Blues Brothers 2000” (1998) – A movie that manages to be bad on its own merits, not merely by not living up to the expectations set by the orginal, it nevertheless contains some killer moments (Eryka Badu) and the parts that are bad are at least over the top (puffball virus? what was that about?) bad enough to make it worth watching.
    4. “Mom and Dad Save the World” (1991) – I’m not sure what sort of blackmail was involved to get the cast this movie got, but… yeah.
    3. “The Return of Captain Invincible” (1983) – They used to show the trailer for this before every midnight showing of RHPS I saw while growing up, and about 25 years ago I finally got around to watching the film. It was fun! According to Wikipedia, Terry Pratchett called the film “a series of bad moments pasted together with great songs and a budget of fourpence,” which is high praise indeed.
    2. “Super Mario Bros: The Movie” (1993) – This is just so far out there that even after reading several oral histories on the making of this film I still don’t know how it happened. The high point of my parenting career thus far has been showing this to my Mario-obsessed kids and watching them cry. From laughter, I mean. Not at all crying from watching Mojo Nixon, as their beloved character, Toad, who in this film is in no way at all a mushroom, devolved into some hideous dinosaur mutant.
    1. “Miami Connection” (1987) – The quote “I didn’t know you had a father! I thought we are all or-pans!!!” said while five grown men (all members of a Tae Kwon Do rock band) un-ironically dance around and hug each other in their underwear prior to embarking on an over-the-top killing spree pretty much endeared this movie to me forever.

  8. Christopher Brown says:

    Troll 2
    The Room
    Plan 9 From Outer Space
    Robot Monster
    Godzilla vs. Megalon

    Runners-Up: The Boy Next Door, House of the Dead, Ghosts of Mars, Cool Cat Saves the Kids, Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus. Nine Lives was on the list until just recently, but I’m not sure it’ll be as fun to watch after revelations about a certain individual have come to light.

    Funny story: I run a film screening club at my college, both the “official” branch and the “evil” branch. The Evil branch screened Nine Lives literally a day before the Spacey allegations broke, rendering our screening the last time that anyone would be able to have good old ironic fun with the movie without squirming inside.

    • WBTN says:

      I haven’t seen Nine Lives, but going back to Tim’s review after all that happened was fun. Especially this part:

      “Spacey makes awful movies all the time, and at least in this case he could do it sitting in a sound booth. It’s just a question of what producer has the incriminating photos on any given week.”

      I wish the byline still read “Also Sprach Tim” sometimes

  9. nitrateglow says:

    The Sheik (1921)
    Midnight Ride (1990)
    The Room (2003)
    The Phantom of the Opera (1998, aka the one where Erik is raised by telepathic rats)
    The Road to Yesterday (1925)

  10. Stevie says:

    I’m excluding The Room for this one (because it’s so obviously top.) In chronological order:

    1. Xanadu (1980)
    2. Rock n’ Roll Nightmare (1987)
    3. Troll 2 (1990)
    4. Titanic: The Legend Goes On (2001)
    5. The Core (2003)

  11. Arlo says:

    Ranked not according to any real metric, only by the amount of delight they’ve brought me in life.

    1. Santa Clause and the Ice Cream Bunny
    2. Titanic: The Legend Goes On
    3. The Room
    4. Ralph Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings
    5. Logan’s Run

    I am aware that Logan’s Run is a beloved science fiction classic, and there are many parts of the movie that work quite well. But those aren’t the reasons I love it. I love it for the fish and sea greens, plankton and protein from the sea!

    • victor says:

      “Santa Claus and the Ice Cream Bunny” is a true masterpiece of every genre of film and a beloved holiday classic around here. You can seriously keep your “Elf” because we’ve got the horrifying Ice Cream Bunny (is what I say to people who like “Elf”).

      • Arlo says:

        What is that? What is that I hear? Where’s it coming from? I hear a siren, but I don’t see any fire, I don’t see any smoke. Whenever there’s a siren, it means there’s a fire, but I don’t see any smoke. That siren… where is it coming from? Where’s that sound coming from?

        • victor says:

          Lol! Move over David Mamet, we’ve got the best creative minds of Pirate’s World improvising our dialogue. The Christmas Circus with Whizzo the Clown is a good nightmarish Rifftrax, too.

  12. 1. Pump Up the Volume. It tells the story of a teenager worshiped as an important messenger and rebel, but the filmmakers forgot to give him a message and they were afraid to ever show him rebelling against anything. I watched this several times as a teenager, simultaneously offended by how the filmmakers viewed teenagers, but also enthralled by how hilariously far off the mark they were.

    2. The Legend of Billie Jean. Offers us the valuable insight that “Fair is fair.”

    3. Plan 9 from Outer Space. Lives up to its reputation.

  13. Will says:

    In no particular order, these are some go-tos among our friend group:

    Dungeons and Dragons
    Street Fighter
    The Happening/The Last Airbender (preferably in a Shyamalan Double-Feature)
    Horror Express, although this falls into a sort of no mans land between “So Bad It’s Good” and “Campy Charm” on the strength of its redoubtable cast of veteran character actors
    Predator 2
    The Star Wars Holiday Special (oh yeah)

  14. Yourself says:

    There’s incompetence, but then there’s competence applied to extremely stupid ends, which to me is often more entertaining (good-for-the-wrong-reason?). Not really ranking these, just five that spring to mind:

    1.) DEATH WISH 3 (see, I’m not sure this is bad so much as it’s the greatest movie of all time. They killed the Giggler, man!)
    2.) CASINO ROYALE ’67
    3.) STREETS OF FIRE (feels like aliens trying to mimic camp believing that it is a natural form of human expression)
    4.) DEATH BED: THE BED THAT EATS
    5.) CHILDREN OF THE CORN III: URBAN HARVEST

    Honorable mention for so-bad-it’s-not-okay is Zombie Creeping Flesh or Virus or whatever, which was demoralizingly awful until it became physically sickening when it brought in stock footage from actual funeral rites. When we screened this at movie night everyone was just kind of stunned into silence.

  15. Benjamin says:

    I haven’t seen nearly enough bad movies to have a good list. That said…

    5. Atlas Shrugged Parts I-III – All three are only intermittently fun-bad, but their collective production history makes them worth mentioning–the first one was made to hold onto the rights, and the subsequent entries had their budgets halved, necessitating completely new casts and, in the third part, the jettisoning of entire characters and subplots. Part II probably contains the most camp pleasures.

    4. The Book of Henry – A new classic. The most fucked up movie moment I’ve had in years is the tape-recorded voice of a cancer-dead precocious twelve-year-old teaching his mother how to shoot her pedophile neighbor in the head, explaining that fragmentation rounds aren’t traceable and that “The human skull is as thin as plywood.”

    3. Congo – I saw this because of Tim’s review! It climaxes with the heroes shooting diamond-powered lasers at killer gorillas inside an exploding volcano. ‘Nuff said.

    2. The Rocky Horror Picture Show – It’s at least partly knowing in its camp, what with the songs and Tim Curry, but the garishly cheap production design and nonsense plot make this enjoyable even without the audience shouting at the characters.

    1. The Room – Because of course.

    Also, I keep meaning to mention to Tim and Rob that I’m in grad school in the RTVF department at Northwestern for the next two years. If y’all make it to B-Fest, I will gladly buy your beers.

    • Robert Jarosinski Robert Jarosinski says:

      I’m not sure what makes me happier: 1. the fact that you’re a fellow NU student 2. the thoughtful invite to B-fest 3. that you have Book of Henry on your list which was one of Carrie’s most anticipated movies of the summer. No, I’m certain it is 3. 🙂

      I’m not sure about Tim’s plans, but I’d love to make it down. I’m 50/50 on whether or not I’ll be going to a wedding with Carrie, but hope to see you there!

      • Tim Brayton Tim Brayton says:

        I deeply treasure my current mental picture of Rob at a table between two in-the-process-of-getting-drunk PhD candidates in media studies.

  16. Luna says:

    Gotta throw in Zardoz — the male Barbarella?

  17. Alex Frith says:

    I mean, Tim is such the expert on this that I’m not sure it’s worth submitting a list! But I do like the weekly ritual of it.

    I’m not especially into watching so-called bad movies as I don’t have a crowd of friends to watch them with, and I gather that’s the only real way to do it. I also get confused about what level of badness makes a movie qualify – is it enough if just one thing is obviously bad, whether it’s the script, the acting, the lighting, the sound mixing, or does it have to be a least 2-3 of those things?

    And does it only count as ‘so good’ if the fun is specifically in the badness on display, or does it still count if 2-3 of those things were in fact legitimately good, thus making the film fun to watch despite various flaws?

    e.g. I just watched Blood Rage, a cheap 80s slasher movie, which is a badly made and often badly-acted film of an incredibly interesting story with some ace special effects and a killer score (well, if you like synth music). I would say it’s a great movie that happens to be ‘bad’ in film terms. You can laugh at a lot of the acting, the dialogue and some of the scene setting choices (seriously, who has sex on a swimming pool diving board??), but you can also genuinely find the movie tense and exciting and psychologically compelling (of all fictional slasher killers, it’s the most authentic version of true psychopathy I’ve seen). But I’d only recommend it to fans of horror films (and maybe slashers specifically).

    Anyway, going with my gut, which means only one example of a super low-budget movie with its heart in the right place but no ability to back that heart up:

    1. Nightmare on Elm St 2
    2. Zardoz
    3. Teenage Hooker become Killing Machine
    4. Death Wish 3
    5. Over the Top

    (I have not seen The Room, and can’t see myself sitting at home to watch it on my own of an evening)

    • victor says:

      What makes a “bad” movie is a very interesting ontological discussion. Can a “bad” movie exist in and of itself apart from a cultural consensus that it is, in fact, “bad”? For me, a “bad” movie is one that is nearly universally recognized as being bad (both by critics as a subgroup of and the culture at large) but one which I nevertheless enjoy a lot and would watch repeatedly because I get some amount of pleasure for watching it and — in particular — that pleasure is specifically derived from those aspects of its existence for which, culturally, it has been deemed a “bad” movie.

      “Miami Connection” is deemed a bad movie in large part because the actions and behavior of the characters (e.g. forming a Tae Kwon Do rock band or squee-ing with delight when one of them buys a new suit jacket) is not regarded, given our cultural experiences on the whole, as recognizably or believably human (either inside of or apart from the movies). But it’s precisely how un-ironically and sincerely that weird behavior is portrayed in the movie that makes me love it so much. What makes “Miami Connection” so bad is, in fact, what makes it so good.

  18. Alex Frith says:

    Dammit, I forgot to add Grease 2!
    I’ve only seen it once but it immediately bumped off Grease as the high school musical I’d want to watch again.

    It is both worse and better than Over the Top, for sure.

  19. The Big-Footed Ancient Greek says:

    5. Strike Commando (1987) – The funniest (and least tastless) of the films by hack filmmaker Bruno Mattei. Look up Reb Brown’s “Disneyland” monologue.

    4. Tammy and the T-Rex (1994) – A dead teenager has his brain implanted inside a robotic T-Rex. Has to be seen to be believed

    3. The Wicker Man (2006) – NICOLAS CAGE. BEES.

    2. Miami Connection (1987) – This movie has it all: The 80’s, Rock Music, Ninjas, Cocaine, Taekwondo!

    1. The Room (2003) – We all know how wonderful it is at this point, there’s nothing for me to add

    Like most everyone else, I disqualified anything that has featured on MST3K, but consider them honorable mentions

  20. Grant Hagey says:

    1. Exorcist II: The Heretic – This had to be my number one. I enjoy this movie solely because it’s awful. If there are good bits, they don’t fit and are therefore so good they’re bad. I think the director should make a Lovecraft movie. It wouldn’t be faithful or good (join the club), but it would come the closest to breaking our fragile human minds.

    2. On Deadly Ground – Seagal’s environmental movie. His earnestness clashes wonderfully with everyone else’s not giving a fuck. My favorite scene is when Seagal beats the shit out of a racist. He doesn’t quite beat the racism out of him, though, but it forces the guy to acknowledge that he has a problem and it’ll take time to combat it, perhaps literally.

    3. Ghost Rider – I really enjoy Cage’s . . . acting? I want to say acting. But the director gets in on the shit as well. Cage is looking out a dark window when lightning flashes, and in that moment we see a skull superimposed over his face. This is meant to be ominous, but we’re still getting used to Cage’s accent, and we just saw him eating jelly beans out of a wine glass. Actually, that’s Cage’s fault too. He was supposed to be an alcoholic, but Cage thought a guy who made a deal with the devil would want to stay away from vices, hence the jelly beans. It makes sense when you don’t think about it.

    4. Nightmare on Elm Street (original) – I’m not sure about this one. I know the sequels are meant to be humorous, but I think this one’s sincere in its scares. That works up until Freddy shows up in full, shambling down the street with a ten-foot wing span of fake arms. I think John Hughes may have been inspired by the climax for his own in Home Alone.

    5. Punisher: War Zone – Punisher spins around on a chandelier. It was even in the trailer because how could it not be? Favorite line: “Sometimes I’d like to get my hands on God.” Though I prefer Thomas Jane’s Punisher: “God’s going to sit this one out.”

  21. Cannon Kruk says:

    Something like Flash Gordon doesn’t count for me because, while certainly cornball, such results we’re precisely as the filmmakers intended; consider Army of Darkness an apt comparison. No, a truly bad movie must have noble intentions undermined by an execution in scene-by-scene choices — overall taste & sensibility — ranging from woefully misbegotten to just plain bizarre …producing a chemical reaction that is contrarily, unexplainably entertaining. I’m gonna say right-out that I think The Room is overrated. Amusingly bad at its worst yes, but ultimately a mere repetition of people standing around talking. So while it has its moments, it’s also just kinda boring.

    5. Robot Monster
    4. Highlander II: The Quickening
    3. Sheena
    2. Gods of Egypt
    1. Showgirls

    Runner-ups:
    Firewalker
    Super Mario Bros.
    Fortress
    Doom
    The Avengers (1998)
    Certain Fury
    Ninja III: The Domination
    Ballistic: Ecks vs. Server
    Hawk the Slayer
    Bad Boys II

  22. CRD says:

    Hmmm.

    1. Showgirls – “DIFFERENT PLACES!”

    2. Independence Day – This is one of the few movies where I will stop everything I’m doing and watch it if it’s on TV.

    3. Mommie Dearest – “No! Wire! Hangers!” will be burned into my brain for all time.

    4. Titanic: The Legend Goes On – Imagine the 1997 Titanic if it was an horribly animated film, that ripped off Disney in multiple ways, and had a rapping dog.

    5. Xanadu – so, so stupid. So, so funny.

    (Didn’t put The Room on there, because it feels like the free spot on a Bingo card.)

  23. Not Fenimore says:

    …That’s kind of interesting, you guys kind of collectively came around to a definition of “So Bad It’s Good” that I actually kind of like: a movie that is objectively bad but which, if you saw the opening titles of while channel-surfing, you would drop everything and watch to the end.

    Also, I’ve only seen two of fifteen (Deep Blue Sea and Zombie Lake), and am politely ruling out Carrie’s top two out of squeamishness, but I absolutely need to see the other eleven.

  24. Brian says:

    The Last Dragon is a masterpiece

  25. Grant Hagey says:

    I think comedies you laugh at despite yourself and bad erotica that still gets you hot under the collar would be guilty pleasures more than so bad they’re good. They achieve what they set out to do. But if you like a comedy that doesn’t make you laugh or laugh at erotica, then they’re so bad they’re good.

    • Carrie Jarosinski Carrie Jarosinski says:

      Oooh I like the idea of a guilty pleasure episode…and by your definition, Poison Ivy will have make my list again.

  26. WBTN says:

    I saw Lady Bird at the Austin Film Fest, and goddammit, the programmers used the same LBJ joke that Tim did

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