There is an old adage that there is no such thing as bad publicity and for anyone paying attention to the shelf life of these movies, those words have never seemed so wise. Movies that are entertaining because they are awfully made have long had a small but devoted fan base. A select few of these cinematic abominations which make up our list have gone on to success historically been reserved for well-made flicks. Whether that comes in the form of actual tickets sold or in other, more nebulous ways is not the deciding factor; what matters is they’ve turned garbage into gold.
We’re talking about films that only need a mention to elicit groans or laughter at the thought of them. They’ve become necessary viewing for any true film buff and as such have managed to create their own little cottage industries.
Whatever manner of success or notoriety the films that follow have managed to find, what is certain is it can only be chalked up to the utter failure of those involved in their production. There is not a well-made movie in the bunch yet they’re all doing better in notable ways, than some of the obscure, well-made films we love.
10. Batman & Robin
Many people may have forgotten how successful Batman & Robin was upon its release. A monster when it was released on video and an early box office smash, the studio had to be pleased. For those of us who remember going to video stores at the time (or at all), it’s hard to forget the wall of movie sleeves featuring the dynamic duo and their enemies. On the other hand, we can’t even contemplate arguing that the movie was any good. In fact, during the years since its release, many, many of the people involved have decried its quality and even apologized to fans.
The early financial figures aside since it undoubtedly had more to do with the franchise’s previous better entries, it has taken on a new life of its own on the internet since. First off, many people who have never seen it and likely never will know it well, based on the myriad of edits posted all over Youtube. Arnold’s many ice puns alone have been edited together and been viewed by millions of people.
The second thing it accomplished was remaking the way studios saw comic book films. Studios no longer saw making a soulless cash grab, feature-length toy commercial as a viable choice. We’d argue that the bulk of the current slate of quality comic book movies that are on the horizon and the many we’ve already seen owe their existence in large part to Batman & Robin. Repackaged again and again on VHS, DVD, Blu-Ray and now digitally, the lessons learned and the bevy of laughs it elicited will live long in infamy.
9. Over the Top
Over the Top’s teen star, David Mendenhall has the bragging rights of having won two awards for his performance in this eighties classic. Unfortunately, they were Golden Raspberries (Razzies) for Worst Supporting Actor and Worst New Star. Very well deserved, it took a special achievement in crummy acting to be singled out as a child for being that dreadful.
Over The Top is the story of a long haul trucker, played by Sylvester Stallone, who has been training to compete in the world series of arm wrestling (apparently that’s a thing). Things go awry for Lincoln Hawk, however, when he finds out his ex-wife is dying and wants him to get to know the son he’s never met. One of the Italian Stallion’s worst movies, there is something that is just so delicious about this ludicrous effort.
A traditional example of the movie that is so bad it’s good, Over the Top has been a staple of home video releases for years as it continues to capitalize on its bad reputation. If nothing else this film will always be a success in our hearts if for no other reason than it gave us the immortal classic tune Meet Me Half Way by Kenny Loggins!
8. No Holds Barred
No Holds Barred has the dubious honor of being Hulk Hogan’s first starring role and the first film distributed by the WWE. Without this first foray, we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see films like Mr. Nanny, Suburban Commando or Santa with Muscles which one could argue makes it a seminal entry in bad movie history.
Openly mocked on WWE television by the very company that produced it for years, one announcer quipped when discussing the film, “No Holds Barred? More like no profit allowed”. Vince McMahon even remarked on Monday Night Raw, “Hogan promised me that if the movie lost money he was gonna return his salary. I guess the check is still in the mail”. Needless to say, for many years, they did not consider the production to have been a good investment.
Like many other movies on this list, No Holds Barred generated a following on the internet which gave it new life with WWE deciding to capitalize and put it out on DVD. Trying to laugh along with the audience, they released a video of their current stars mocking the film upon the DVD’s release. It turned out to be a lucrative move for the company as for the first time in the film’s history they managed to make a profit off of it based on strong sales.
7. Death Race 2000
Is this list going to be all Sly movies? The concept of Death Race 2000 is an altogether original one. Based in a dystopian future where defiance is stamped out by ruling politicians through a cross-country, bloody race every year, people receive points and win by killing innocent bystanders with their car.
Arguably the best concept of any of the films on this list, the production values are atrocious, even for the low standards of the mid-seventies. Understandable given its paltry budget of three hundred thousand dollars, the drama that was meant to result was diminished by the underwhelming visuals. The f
ilmmakers were attempting to make a satire of the escalating violence of the world they saw around them; instead, they crafted a campy classic.
The intended dark tone may have been undone by the effects but the result is undeniably awesome. Death Race 2000 never made much of a dent at the box office but its legacy is cemented in stone. Adapted into a comic book and eventually used as the inspiration for a remake that earned its own sequel, who amongst us hadn’t joked about earning points through car accidents?
What do you get when you combine actors who have become walking punch lines, a ludicrous concept and a film studio known for producing absolute shlock? A viral hit, a repeat airing, and a burgeoning film franchise apparently.
We have to assume that nobody on this film’s set could have possibly thought they were making a film with any legs but you could never tell that when you watch it. Seemingly taking itself far more serious than anyone else was, it’s hard to fathom what tone they were actually going for. The same movie that features a man chainsawing his way out of a shark’s stomach felt the need to include heavy family melodrama for some reason.
Sharknado premiered on the SyFy channel on July 11th, 2013 to unimpressive ratings but its advertising and insane concept got people talking. The ridiculous idea of a tornado that is filled to the brim with man-eating sharks created social network chatter which led the network to air it a second time where it took off. Garnering over five million viewers and sequels that have devolved into cameo machines, it’s obvious that everything going wrong worked out so right. Whoever edited those commercials together and managed to get people like Will Wheaton and Olivia Wilde talking deserves the lion’s share of the credit.
5. Troll 2
Wait a minute, you’re telling us there aren’t any trolls in this movie!?!? One of many films made by low budget horror filmmaker Claudio Fragasso, Troll 2 laid dormant for decades before it was brought back from the bowels of film history. Most notable for a single twenty-second YouTube clip that went viral for its epically horrendous acting, purveyors of film schlock couldn’t possibly resist seeking the entire film out.
The resurgence led documentary filmmaker Michael Stephenson to produce a documentary about the film, titled Best Worst Movie which captured the odd charisma of the film’s star. A marvelous film in its own right this documentary pulled off two important feats, it gave its audience a window into the passion of indie stars and served as a full-length commercial for Troll 2.
Based on its viral status and a sizable cult following Troll 2 was given a Blu-Ray release celebrating its 20th anniversary and more impressively chosen to stream on Netflix.
4. The Toxic Avenger
The Toxic Avenger has managed to make a huge impact on pop culture history; a very intentionally campy film with a story that rips off nearly every comic book trope in history it took advantage of a formula for success. Taking a weakling and giving him immense powers that also turn him into a grotesque creature, the audience feels both bad for him and jealous of him.
Upon its release on video, the infantile comedy, and horrible effects gained a fiercely loyal following, which resulted in director Lloyd Kaufman making two sequels that were also popular. What came next for the little Toxic Avenger that could surprised almost everyone. The cult film that featured lots of violence and a small amount of nudity was adapted into a children’s cartoon. Toxic Crusaders (the show in question) was then given a toy line and video game on the original Nintendo Entertainment System.
Even adapted into a musical that played in New York, Toronto and Calgary, what little question as to Toxie’s staying power had to be put to bed when word of a potential remake began to make waves. According to The Hollywood Reporter, box office behemoth, Arnold Schwarzenegger was at one time in talks to star in a Toxic Avenger movie for heaven’s sake!
3. Birdemic: Shock and Terror
Another movie made on a shoestring budget which is very obvious in every frame, this ode to horror classics fails in every way imaginable. The acting is atrocious. The audio is inconsistent and sounds like it was recorded in a tin can. The editing and angles give the impression that scenes, where characters stand across from one another, could be shot miles and months apart. The screenplay is at best nonsensical and at times just plain irritating.
Birds in this film dive bomb people, buildings and anything else that gets in their way. When we say dive bomb, we mean they literally fly and explode when they make contact with anything. The special effects truly have to be seen to be believed. Nothing about this move is good in any way.
Word of how incredibly bad Birdemic is spread online, which led to droves of people having to see it for themselves making the movie far more lucrative than many far better efforts. In fact, the money that came pouring in was enough for the filmmakers to have the ability to make a sequel which unfortunately lacked the awful charm that made the original a success.
2. Plan 9 from Outer Space
Citizen Kane has become popularly known as arguably the best film of all time. Inversely Plan 9 from Outer Space is often cited as perhaps the worst film ever made. Both films have the distinction of being mostly willed into existence by one man and in Plan 9’s case, Ed Wood’s attention was clearly focused on completing shots instead of making them look good.
Crafting a story that required skill he didn’t have and resources he didn’t possess, Ed’s effort resulted in a film with zero pretenses and a feeling of joy of film, soaking every frame. Whether you are laughing at it or basking in its glory, this disjointed tale that incorporated aliens, zombies, Bela Lugosi and Vampira is not to be missed.
A rite of passage for film lovers young and old, is there any more valuable of an example of its place in history than an entire episode of Seinfeld being based around an effort to see it? Scenes where actors hit walls with their shoulder causing the whole set to shake or flying saucers on strings that we’re supposed to take seriously, this movie embraces poor quality wholeheartedly. There is no film more lovably awful and blissfully unaware of it.
1. The Room
Directed and written by star Tommy Wiseau, The Room has taken on an almost mythic quality. Inarguably poorly made, this is one film that doesn’t owe its place on this list to a lack of money. Made on a budget of six million dollars, none of which seems to be visible on screen, odd decisions dubbing over nearly every line for absolutely no reason abound. Plot lines are developed (stated without build up) only to never resurface, emotions rise and fall with zero explanation. There are sex scenes where the filmmaker shoots his own butt so lovingly that it seems clear more care was put into that one part of the film (and his body) than any other element. The list of the ridiculous could go on and on.
There is no way to know just how much money The Room has earned but the fact that it continues to be screened, more than 10 years after its initial release stands as a testament to its unique profitability. Merchandise like T-Shirts adorned with the face of its star or memorable lines are easily available and if the film and apparel aren’t enough you can always buy a book about its creation. Picking up where The Rocky Horror Picture Show left off, screenings have become more like parties, audience members yell at the screen during specific scenes and throw spoons during others.
Perhaps the ultimate example of the staying power of the film though is the fact that James Franco is set to star in a movie based around director Tommy Wiseau. Famous strictly for starring in and making The Room, the cult of personality that surrounds him and the movie he made shows no sign of disappearing anytime soon. No film has done so much with so little.