The Best Movies So Bad They’re Good
What makes a movie so bad it’s good? (To see: Showgirls, Bedroom and more below.) It’s a simple question with no easy answer, largely because every “good-bad” works in its own way.
But there are common themes: “so bad they’re good” movies are usually made by amateurs (often of independent means) who possess zeal but lack sophistication. Their productions are usually outside or on the fringes of the traditional Hollywood system, without access to the full suite of film professionals who make the average movie work: from skilled actors and writers to stuntmen and set designers.
The end result is something familiar, yet completely iconoclastic – the work of an author who has no idea what he’s doing. Although it usually ends in disaster, sometimes, and quite by accident (another important characteristic of good and bad movies: serendipity), something else is produced: a movie so bad it doesn’t It’s not just watchable, it’s enjoyable.
Finding your own “so bad it’s good” movie is one of the joys of being a movie fan, but if you’re looking to jump-start your schlock journey, here are seven films that are widely considered the best of the worst. :
Miami Connection (1987)
Miami Connectionthe 1987 film about a group of college-aged orphans who all live together, sing in a band and use martial arts to battle ninjas on motorcycles, has a Bible-worthy resurrection story, but it’s a story that could only have happened in the digital age.
Although it may shock you to hear it, Miami Connection was a royal flop upon its initial release, and then faded into B-movie obscurity. Everything changed via a cosmically serendipitous event: Zack Carlson, an employee of Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, stumbled across a copy of the movie on ebay. Being the adventurous type, he bought it unseen for $50, with no idea what he was getting.
What he got was an all-time classic. Miami Connectionit turned out to have it all: ninjas, taekwondo, original 80s pop songs (which are legit bangers) and, um…did we say ninjas and taekwondo?
Carlson immediately knew he had lost treasure on his hands, and after 25 years and some legal wrangling, he and Drafthouse Films were finally able to give the film its due, releasing it in 2012 to instant cult film acclaim.
Samurai Cop (1991)
There was a time, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when cheap direct-to-video action films were as ubiquitous as falling snow. Those days are sadly over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go back and relive those golden days of car chases, shootings, and antiquated social norms. And if you want to do that, why not start with the best?
Well, once you’re done watching those movies, come back and watch Samurai Copthe 1991 low-budget action film starring Matt Hannon as the titular Samurai Cop, a luxuriously-haired police officer who must use his knowledge of ancient samurai combat to take down a vicious organized crime syndicate from Japan.
Samurai Coplike many films on this list, is the work of foreigners – in this case, an Iranian-born director Amir Shervan – those who are fascinated by the Hollywood formula (and eager to profit from it financially) without really understanding what makes it work. People who say to themselves: “We have all seen lethal weapon, law? How hard can it be to imitate this?”
Ultimately, very difficult (if you’re Amir Shervan, at least). Samurai Cop isn’t the American buddy-cop movie it so desperately wants to be, but in the end it might be something even better: one of the most unintentionally hilarious movies of all time.
The Room (2003)
If there is an unadulterated classic of the “so bad, it’s good” genre of movies, then Bedroom is it. The work of the eccentric filmmaker Tommy Wiseauwho directed, wrote and starred (a triple threat!), Bedroom is the story of Johnny (Tommy Wiseau), a man universally recognized as kind and generous by everyone in his life except his vindictive fiancée Lisa (Juliet Danielle) who aspires to destroy it – for reasons that are never fully explained.
Although it failed on its initial release, Bedroom slowly grew into cult status in Los Angeles (thanks in large part to Wiseau’s deep pockets – he spent hundreds of thousands on promotion) until he became a worldwide midnight movie phenomenon.
Wiseau, perhaps a little chagrined by all the sardonic attention, would later claim that the film was always intended as a “dark comedy”. Whether or not this is true is up for debate, but one thing is true: if Bedroom was intended as a comedy, it’s one of the funniest movies ever made. And if it wasn’t, it’s always one of the funniest movies ever made.
Fateful Discoveries (2013)
Of all the movies on this list, Fateful discoveriesthe work of the famous schlock-author Neil Breen, might be the most controversial. Some will roll down the aisles at its David Lynch-meets-school-school levels of incomprehensibility, while others will be so genuinely frustrated by its jarring narrative structure that they’ll risk bodily harm in their desperate leaps for the “stop.” remote control button.
So a word of warning: before you look Fateful discoveries (or any of the other five Breen “movies”) first ask your doctor if Neil Breen is right for you. Barring that, maybe head over to YouTube and watch a few scenes (there are plenty of compilations). If you laugh, chances are you enjoy the special pleasure of watching this movie. Otherwise, feel free to run the other way.
That said, the term “film” should be used here with caution, because Fateful discoveries is more a collection of rambling scenes than an actual movie. That’s usually a bad thing, of course, but when those rambling scenes are this weird and hilarious, you’ll quickly wonder if this is a “so bad it’s good” movie or something else – like an absurd avant-garde work of art. Such is the power of Breen.
Troll 2 (1990)
It’s a classic tale: a young family vacations in a quaint farming community with a quaint name, by no means spelled backwards by the goblins: “Nilbog.” Things are going wonderfully, until said family discovers a dark secret: Nilbog is inhabited by vicious vegetarian goblins, who want to eat them – after turning them into plants, of course (say what you will about these goblins, but they are very mindful of their dietary restrictions).
And that, my friends, is the real plot of Troll 2. If that alone doesn’t inspire you to watch this masterpiece, perhaps the following points will: 1: Troll 2despite its name, is do not a sequel to Troll (its title was a misleading attempt to capitalize on the film’s modest success). 2: Troll 2 was filmed by an Italian crew in Utah, who could barely communicate with their English-speaking cast, and 3: Troll 2 spawned one of the best behind-the-scenes documentaries of bad movies ever made, best worst moviedirected by Troll 2is the star, Michael Stephenson.
Troll 2 and best worst movie whip up one of the tastiest double decker bologna sandwiches ever, so what are you waiting for? A troll?
I hope not, because there are no trolls in Troll 2. Did we mention that? We probably should have mentioned that.
what can you say about Showgirls? Sure, the film earned its initial reputation on the (well-toned) back of its ample and gratuitous nudity, but that’s probably the least interesting thing about it. Put all those boobs and butts aside, and you still have a legitimately hilarious, and maybe even a little crazy movie.
Like most movies on this list, Showgirls seems like it was made by people who don’t even have the most basic understanding of how movies work. The character arcs never arc, the plot points are so illogical they border on insanity, and Elizabeth BerkleyThe performance of Nomi Malone – a hitchhiking loner who aspires to be a showgirl in Las Vegas, because…reasons – is so maniacal, amateurish and reckless that it forms a kind of bad acting mobius band , looping on itself until it becomes a work of unbalanced genius.
The same can be said for Showgirls in its entirety. It’s bad – really bad – but it also transcends its own badness, becoming a work of comedic brilliance. Watch it once, and you’ll quote it for the rest of your life.
Outer Space Plan 9 (1957)
Ed Wood isn’t the worst director ever (remember folks, you live in a world where Tom Six exists) but it is nevertheless almost universally considered as such, thanks in large part to the 1957 Plan 9 from outer spacewhich even casual movie buffs will immediately recognize as “the worst movie ever made”.
Just like Ed Wood himself, Plan 9 from outer spaceThe bad reputation of is a bit exaggerated. Not that it is good, of cours. His sets are cheap (cardboard tombstones, anyone?) his acting is awful (horror legend Bela Lugosiin his last film appearance, confusedly gropes through a handful of scenes shot for a different film) and his writing is the stuff of a baffling caption (“Future events like these will affect you in the future”).
But it’s also – in true schlock form – tons of fun to watch, especially with a group of grateful friends. This is why it is still celebrated today, when many other genre films of the time have long since fallen into oblivion. Not so bad for the worst movie of all time.
The mad genius behind “Showgirls” delivered another campy social commentary with “Benedetta.”
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