Now before you get all upset that your favorite movie is on this list, we get it– movie taste is subjective and just because one person thinks a movie is bad doesn’t mean that it is intrinsically so. Furthermore, this article aims to look at the redeeming qualities of films that most deem as trash, so all in all it’s lighthearted and positive. Trust us, it would be easy to give a detailed thesis about all the reasons some of these movies are truly terrible, but that’s not what the article’s about so let’s ignore that please.
You might even find some particularly controversial films on this list. Films that, dare we say, have overwhelming support from established critics and made a lot of money! But that’s the fun part isn’t it? Maybe you’ll think of an element of a movie you’ve always hated that you actually find has merit. The films on this list run the gamut from Oscar winners to delightfully campy cult classics, so there’s a little something for everyone. Here are 15 garbage movies that did something right.
Oh, Ridley Scott. Despite directing one of the most claustrophobic, genre-blending, suspenseful films of all time with Alien, Prometheus simply bit off a lot more than it could chew, and it really suffered for it. Seriously, what was going on in the mythos of this movie? It wasn’t enigmatic in a cool way, because this film was overwhelmingly science fiction, and fans want to understand the details and really immerse themselves in the universe. Oh, well. Scott said in a recent interview that when directing The Martian he didn’t even have to think about it. Maybe he should have thought about this one a little more.
Still, a movie with this many disparate elements is bound to have some good in it. For our money, it’s Fassbender‘s solid performance as the android, with his steely aura giving off the perfect vibe (Ian Holm, you were real good too). Another awesome thing is that fantastic scene where for some reason one of the members of the crew who got infected turns into an extremely tough hulk-like figure. To beat him, they do things like throwing a hook into him, lighting him on fire, and repeatedly running over him with their sci-fi land vehicle. That’s just too good.
Okay, okay. The first one is the best…of a garbage franchise. Another movie where the tiniest bit of narrative is set up and then gotten out of the way so we can get to the good part. CGI robots and a bunch of stuff blowing up!
But this movie got something right in its pair of leads. Shia definitely has some undeniable charisma in his roles, and he almost makes you feel like he took the role because he loves acting more than the huge paycheque. But the strength of the movie is that it introduced the world to Megan Fox, who was to become a huge sex symbol. Her acting’s cringe-worthy, but you hardly noticed. And look, don’t get upset that we’re identifying eye-candy as the best element. Just look at Leo in Titanic.
13. Spider-Man 3
What is there to say that hasn’t been said to death? Tobey Maguire was a weak and awkward choice for the franchise from the beginning. Despite that, the movies have their own unique tone and are laden with nostalgia for a lot of people. Then there’s Spider-Man 3. They just really threw everything into this movie, and of course one of those things, the tonally jarring emo sections were what most people took away from it.
But come on, it’s fun to laugh at. We haven’t really gotten into camp yet (it’s coming), but there’s just something so delightful about wondering how so many people ‘okayed’ something and thinking about the fact that presumably, somewhere in the process, someone thought it was a great idea.
“But, but it made more money than any other movie ever,” you say in shock. This is true, but when has that ever really made a difference in terms of quality? And for this film, it’s particularly true. Let us ask you some questions. How many people still talk about this movie? How many people say it’s their favorite movie? Exactly. And the reason is simple: there’s nothing to latch onto in this movie, nothing to connect to. This movie prized visual technical achievement over everything, and it’s abundantly clear that director James Cameron didn’t care about the quality of the script or giving us a story that would make us feel anything. Which is a shame, because if these elements had even been adequate, it would be a much more bearable film. Unobtainium? Really?
But we do have to face facts– it accomplished visual effects mastery extremely well and, for many people, the experience of seeing it in the theater (maybe even IMAX) was a great one, kind of like looking at a very pretty moving painting, albeit a soulless one. And because it gets that really right, perhaps it’s worth watching. Just don’t expect it to stick with you.
11. Birdemic: Shock And Terror
If you haven’t seen this, watch it now. It’s bad. Like really, really bad. Made on a shoestring budget (like insanely low, less than $10,000), it’s basically a reimagining of Hitchcock’s The Birds. The movie was widely panned for pretty much everything, particularly its special effects. And once you see the “birds” in the movie you’ll see why.
But as with so many things, the special effects are simultaneously the worst thing and the BEST thing. Contrary to what you may think, it’s very possible for a quality to be both good and bad. If you open your mind a little, you’ll understand. And having the animal antagonists of the movie look like garbage largely contributes to the film’s simply undefinable tone. It’s hard to put into words. You just have to watch it.
10. Troll 2
Where to begin? The writer-director is Italian and speaks limited English. One of the townspeople cast in this sad excuse of a movie was played by someone from a mental institution on a day-trip; the man actually admitted to being baked out of his mind during all of his scenes. It was retitled Troll 2 to trick people into thinking it was a sequel when the antagonists are in reality vegetarian goblins. Sneaky, sneaky move.
Nevertheless, one must be thankful for such sneakiness. As you can tell, there’s a lot to love here (in a hilarious kind of way). Someone presumably suffocates or drowns in popcorn. Look at the masks in the picture. Do yourself a favor and watch this masterpiece.
9. Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls
Ace Ventura is a divisive character. Jim Carrey is a divisive performer. He’s undoubtedly super talented, but his comedic performances are a rather specific brand of humor. Even for people who are fans of Ace and his adventures, the first one seems to be their definitive entry and usually gets mentioned the most.
Are there problems with When Nature Calls? Sure. There’s some outdated, pretty offensive stuff in there. Does it paint caricatures of indigenous African people? Yeah. Beyond that, does it even seem like a plot that needed to be brought to the screen? Probably not. But there’s one scene they got exactly right, which is when Ace is spying on the antagonist from the inside of a very hot mechanical rhinoceros. And when he begins to overheat/suffocate and must tear his way out– we dare you not to laugh. So look up the clip on YouTube. It’s a hysterical bit of comedy.
8. Grease 2
This movie is much less talked about than its predecessor, and it’s hard to figure out why. It took all of the original’s elements and pushed them to their natural and best conclusion. Starring Michelle Pfeiffer, whose last name is an incredible hassle to spell, the plot is basically the same as in Grease.
The difference is that it’s winking at you the whole time. The songs don’t have any function beyond campy enjoyment, and that’s remarkably freeing. You get songs about reproducing, a number in a bowling alley, an endearingly dated but “passionate” song from Pfeiffer about wanting a “cool rider,” and even one where a teenage boy tries to convince a girl to have sex with him because of patriotism. That pretty much says it all.
7. Plan 9 From Outer Space
Ah, the pinnacle of camp filmmaking. The classic. The definitive example. It’s quite simply terrible. You’ve probably heard of the ‘UFOs on strings’ even if you haven’t seen it. That sounds unbelievably outrageous today, but the film was released in 1959 (making it the oldest on this list), and God bless Ed Wood, he was actually passionate about the ideas that went into this movie.
The most basic problem is, again, just the amount of ideas thrown in. It’s about aliens, but it’s also about zombies because that’s how the aliens plan to take over. The lovely woman pictured above is Vampira, a character created by actress Maila Nurmi before the film adds vampires in there as well. So what does this movie get right? Well, it takes all of the aforementioned things very seriously, and you’re bound to find something just so endearingly bad but right about that.
6. Edge Of Darkness
Mel Gibson had to be on this list! Talk about someone who takes himself seriously. But let’s mix things up and not talk about Braveheart or The Patriot. This film did pretty well at the box office, but it’s certainly not the Mel Gibson movie you immediately think of, especially if you’re a casual fan. But maybe it should be. This is his dream role.
It was his first leading role after the whole 2006 anti-semitism scandal. In it, he plays a Boston detective who’s daughter gets killed right at the start. So it’s a pretty straightforward revenge flick, and he gets to be the toughest guy ever, taking names and just really being a big man.
5. The Happening
Everyone hates it. And for good reason. Nothing really “happens” at all and a genuinely terrifying premise is wasted. But why? Why waste that idea on something so bad?
But it’s also extremely interesting. Why are actors like Zooey Deschanel and Mark Wahlberg so wooden? Why are their inflections so unrealistic? You’ve seen them in other things, and love them or hate them, you must have noticed that they’re capable actors, at least in their ability to say lines roughly the way people would say them.
Do a little digging and you’ll find that Shyamalan directed them this way on purpose, and if you didn’t already find him a maddeningly annoying guy, you certainly do now. So what’s right about it? It evokes anger, it evokes frustration, it evokes confusion, it evokes something. More than can be said about a lot of other movies.
4. Forrest Gump
You’re thinking it’s an American classic and we’re crazy for putting it on this list. It won so many awards and awards for any piece of art means it must be the best.
Now look, Tom Hanks is a boss. Actors who can carry a whole movie by themselves are few and far between. He’s committed and he’s talented and he’s probably a very nice man, or at least no dirt on him has surfaced. But that doesn’t mean everything he touches is gold. The truth is that Forrest Gump is conventional, heavy-handed, and it helped inspire the best joke in Tropic Thunder by a long shot.
We digress. Hanks’ performance seems to mystify and absorb a lot of people, and for that it must be commended. And while the “look how good this guy is he’s blindly pure and patriotic and America’s amazing but we’re not actually saying anything interesting about it” narrative is absolutely hateful, but if it makes you feel a lot of feelings, well that’s fulfilling something of the highest importance.
This movie did real well financially, but no one thought it was a good movie. The public hated it as much as the critics. At the very least, pretty much everyone will admit that it was just bad. Now this isn’t to say that people didn’t get enjoyment out of it.
First of all, just look at the snake. Look at it. No need to go further with this point. Take the combination of that, with people like J. Lo and Ice Cube being J. Lo and Ice Cube (just getting chased by a very un-intimidating looking snake) and even veteran actors like Jon Voight, turning in exquisitely overacted performances, and you can’t say this movie didn’t do something right.
2. Independence Day
Independence Day is the blandest of the bland, and that makes it worse than a lot of movies on this list. It’s “sci-fi” but there’s certainly no affection to be had for the world of the film, as it’s vague and boring. The plot could be summed up so quickly it seems like there’s no reason to see it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as high concept Hollywood filmmaking is naturally embraced because it’s the only safe bet. The biggest problem is that it doesn’t have any heart. And if you fail at that, you might as well just skip the big end-of-the-world battle at the end, because there are no stakes.
So the thing it got right? These two gentlemen. Thankfully, Will Smith‘s naturally overflowing charisma and Jeff Goldblum‘s uncanny ability to be delightfully weird bring moments of charm to the film. Unfortunately, this just highlights the emptiness of scenes with their absence.
1. Star Wars: Episode II – Attack Of The Clones
This one deserves a special place in hell. This goes out to the generation of fans who’s first clear memory of the prequels in theaters is Episode II. They might have seen Phantom Menace but would have been too young to appreciate it. And how dare you give us this experience George, how dare you?
We won’t go into length because it’s all been expressed before: the lack of action, the intensely banal narrative, and of course our introduction to Hayden Christensen‘s Anakin. The thing it did right was give us a camaraderie of hate, if you will. If nothing else, we can be thankful that this movie gave us some of the most ridiculous, cheesy, unbelievable scenes we’ve seen even to this day. Christensen’s failure of a performance after he killed the Tuskans is delicious. But the romance takes the cake. We need say no more than this iconic line, which if not already ruined by the writing, is murdered by delivery: “I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere. Not like here. Here everything’s soft… and smooth.”