You knew it was coming…
Sometimes bad movies incite pure rage, given the ever-ballooning prices of cinema tickets. Others, they just aggravate and disappoint. But then, sometimes, when conditions just happen to be right, a movie emerges that is so wrong, so absolutely inept, so awful that it begs to be seen.
What is it about bad movies that is so fascinating? Perhaps there’s not a single reason: some have production tales from Hell. Others catch stars on the way down from the top of the heap, while still more seem just plain wrong! Most bad films will hit a theatre or disc and fall away into oblivion (incidentally, see also: Oblivion), but certain titles never seem to escape the mind…or maybe the public just can’t escape them!
Which brings me to these 15 morsels. Call it a camp out: fifteen movies that fail so hard they become opprobrious comedies! Some you may have heard of, others might just beg for a viewing. Either way, consider yourself warned: these movies are horrid, and horridly fun!
DISCLAIMER: These movies are atrocious. Like, really, really bad! Think of them like LSD: they can offer a lot of fun, but some people will just die from taking them. In short, watch them at your own risk.
15. Attack of the Killer Tomatoes
Sometimes movies aspire to reach the depths of cinematic awfulness, but few succeed. One that did: Attach of the Killer Tomatoes, a ridiculous comedy about (you guessed it) tomatoes that try to eat the citizens of the USA. Burdened–or perhaps graced–by shoddy effects and hideous acting, produce never had so much fun! Killer Tomatoes enjoyed cult status almost immediately, spawning a series of equally-bad sequels and even an animated series! In recent days its status has diminished, which is a shame: it’s a lot of fun.
14. The Room
Star vanity projects like Glitter have a way of collapsing into awful camp even with a big name attached. The Room, the brainchild of writer/director/actor Tommy Wiseau, first began as a dreadful film playing in tiny theatres around Los Angeles before eventually developing a cult following which enjoyed its incoherent story, non-existent continuity and general misguided enthusiasm. Since then, the movie has hit DVD and Blu Ray, and even inspired a computer game that plays off the film’s inconsistencies. Wiseau has become a fixture at comic book conventions, and still maintains that the film is an underrated masterpiece.
What is it about the mid-1990s that made women think they had to be naked and play a stripper as a show of power? Demi Moore tried to get in on the action playing a single mom who strips for a living to support her child. Moore approached the role as a “serious” actress- taking stripper lessons and working on her body rather than how to embody her character. The result is hilariously bad, though it does feature a fine performance from Burt Reynolds in the Jon Voight-Anaconda vein. Moore also goes topless, in case that’s incentive to watch, either with friends, or on a lonely night.
Let’s start with the obvious. Showgirls remains a camp classic long after its box office failure. A film about the backstage bickering in a Las Vegas topless dancing show, the film offers a lot of nudity, violence and sleaze…especially the latter. What’s intended as drama comes off outrageously funny, and the sex scenes (there are plenty) will leave you wondering how anyone in the movie could walk. Starring Saved By the Bell‘s Elizabeth Berkley, you’ll never watch that show the same way again!
11. The Apple
Intended as a ripoff of the movie Tommy, The Apple tried to tell the story of Adam and Eve set in the futuristic year…1994. Booed at its premiere, the film has recently reemerged as a camp classic, featuring dreadful music, awful acting and a whole lot of WTF. The story goes that the studio passed out complimentary copies of the soundtrack on EP at the premiere…which then ended up embedded in the screen after the audience rioted. The director, Maneham Golan, also tried to jump out a window and commit suicide after the first screening.
God bless Jon Voight for knowing exactly what movie he was in! An adventure film in the vein of Jaws, Anaconda’s cast boasts Jennifer Lopez (pre-recording career) and Ice Cube who, along with Voight, try to evade a giant man-eating snake. If the premise made you smile, you’ll love the movie, which is worth watching if only for (spoiler alert) a scene where a giant snake pukes up Voight, who winks at the camera as it does.
Mae West tried to make a comeback as sex goddess…in her 80s…with this haphazard and horribly dated musical. Random stars like Alice Cooper and Keith Moon turn up, though not to be upstaged by a geriatric West and Timothy Dalton singing “Love Will Keep Us Together.” Hollywood lore holds that West could barely see, stand, and couldn’t remember her lines, so she had to wear a radio earpiece for prompting. Unfortunately, the earpiece operated on the same frequency as police scanners, and West would abruptly start talking about robberies during a take!
8. Plan Nine From Outer Space
Ed Wood, a great film, dramatizes the making of this horror movie, an extraordinarily bad one! Director Edward Wood compiled the film using outtake footage of Bela Lugosi, who died before the movie even started shooting! The rest consists of stock footage, reused multiple times, and shoddily filmed actors on cardboard sets. Props malfunction, sets wobble, effects don’t work properly, and the actors stumble, and it’s all right there on the screen! It’s hilarious, though not from trying. Fans of 1950s sci-fi dreck shouldn’t miss Plan 9, nor should cinephiles wishing to put Ed Wood into some context. Nobody can fully appreciate Johnny Depp‘s performance without seeing the real disaster that was Plan 9.
7. Exorcist II: The Heretic
Speaking of dud horror films, Exorcist II: The Heretic tried to continue the story of Regan MacNeil, the poor little girl possessed in The Exorcist. Featuring an all-star cast and produced on a large budget, the film is one of the most imaginative, hilariously bizarre movies ever made. It bears mention that nobody from the original creative team returned for this weirdo sequel, and it shows. Though Blair had grown into a sexy bombshell, even her curves can’t upstage a drunk Richard Burton, swarms of locusts attacking tribal villages, or a man riding on the back of a giant locust. Suffice it to say James Earl Jones appears in the film dressed as a giant locust who spits leopards. It’s that kind of movie.
6. The Wicker Man
Not the remarkable British classic starring Sir Christopher Lee, this dubious entry is actually a remake featuring Nicolas Cage. Directed by controversial writer Neil LaBute, it totally misses the point and charm of the original movie, substituting it with violence against women, preposterous plotting, and bad acting from Cage. His death from bee stings has already become classic bad movie fodder. A popular film to remix on YouTube care of Cage’s hammy performance, it abandons all the intrigue and mystery of the original for hilariously over-the-top violence and a near-incoherent story.
Liza Minnelli was a hot commodity in the 1970s, but by the late 1980s, her stock had fallen. She appeared alongside Burt Reynolds in this “thriller” about a cop and a hooker who fall in love. Cheap and loaded with steroidal 80s violence, the movie actually works better as a comedy. If I mention that Dionne Warwick plays a madam, does that help?
Rent-a-Cop falls into that special breed of “who thought this was a good idea?!” Minnelli, famous for her musical abilities, dresses like a nightclub diva but never sings, and Reynolds gets upstaged by his own toupee. She plays everything straight, while he just looks tired and embarrassed…maybe he knew what was coming?
4. Manos: The Hands of Fate
The legendary z-grade shlock film about a satanic cult in Texas, Manos The Hands of Fate is about as close to snuff film a movie can get while still leaving the cast alive. Made on a bet, and with a script outlined on a diner napkin, the community theatre scene of El Paso, Texas churned out this cinematic curio which died on release. It developed a cult following thanks to Mystery Science Theatre 3000, and has since found an audience as a laughably bad film. In 2011, the film actually got a BluRay release, so it would seem the producer welcomed its new-found notoriety as an object of ridicule.
Though hard to imagine now, Mariah Carey wasn’t always a punchline. She tried to make the crossover from pop star to actress with this bomb musical which had the dubious distinction of opening a week after the 9/11 attacks. That didn’t help the box office haul, nor did the critical pans of Carey’s performance, the dud soundtrack or ridiculous story which seemed to only pay service to Carey’s real life career (as well as that of Madonna). Carey suffered a notorious public breakdown following the release of the movie, which culminated in her performing a striptease on MTV’s TRL. Said real-life career took a nosedive, though much like Showgirls, Glitter lives on as a camp classic.
2. Flash Gordon
Flash Gordon had served as the partial inspiration for Star Wars. So then, after the success of that film, it was only a matter of time before Flash reappeared on the scene as a big budget movie. Unfortunately, it’s absolutely quaint when compared with Star Wars. At its worst, it’s a surreal joke, populated by great character actors, some great production design and shoddy effects, all lead by hunky actor Sam J. Jones, making his debut–and farewell–as the title character. Nevertheless, it’s ridiculously bad fun given the screaming soundtrack by Queen, and a dastardly performance by Max Von Sydow as villain Ming the Merciless. Von Sydow is good enough to warrant the question: what could he have done in The Force Awakens had the movie not utterly wasted him?
Speaking of trippy movies, try Zardoz on for size. Starring Sean Connery as a hit man in a diaper, the film chronicles a post-apocalyptic future where the poor work as farmers for the rich who have developed psychic powers. They terrorize the poor using a flying head (yes, really)…or something like that. Charlotte Rampling shows up as sort of psychic dominatrix who punishes criminals by making them permanently old, which would later foreshadow MTV’s The Real World. The movie is big on surreal images but light on everything else, though it does have a certain value as hilariously misbegotten cinema.