A guilty pleasure movie is a term/excuse we use for liking a film, that deep down we know is “bad” or unpopular. Just because a film isn’t trying to bore or depress you to death in an attempt to win Oscars, doesn’t mean that it is necessarily a bad film. After all, we watch films for escapism, for entertainment and sometimes just to turn on, tune in and cop out (Cop Out isn’t on the list, don’t worry; I haven’t totally lost the run of myself). Some missed the cut due to arguments over being guilty pleasures or just genuinely good films (Rocky 4, Ghostbusters, Robocop)
This is not a list of “so bad it’s good” like Tank Girl or Street Fighter, these are films that, for better or worse, I think are genuinely good films that I have never found less than entertaining. Agree or disagree, let us know your Guilty Pleasure movies. Enjoy!
15 Galaxy Quest
A cast that includes Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman and Sam Rockwell sounds like it would be more suited to dramatic awards fare as opposed to a Star Trek-inspired comedy. What could have easily taken pot-shots at Trekkies, instead acts as more of a celebration of the genre and its devotees. The film works not only as a parody of the old Star Trek show; it is a wonderful Sci-Fi film on its own merits.
The plot, which sees the cast of a Star Trek-like show mistaken by aliens to be the actual characters they play, has been done before with The Three Amigos. Here however, the cast explore the genre’s comic potential far more. Tim Allen does his best Shatner impression but he is upstaged by a wonderfully game cast that includes a stupidly hot Weaver, Rickman as a “proper” actor unable to distance himself from his more popular role due to his professionalism: “the show must go on”. The film however, is completely stolen by Tony Shalhoub’s nonplussed doctor who immediately takes to all aspects of alien life without fuss and Sam Rockwell who plays the red shirt character, who does not even have a name and is simply referred to as “Guy” and has the film’s best lines – “Look around, can you form some sort of rudimentary lathe?”
It is not short on heart either, with one characters’ demise being particularly heart-wrenching. Even if you are not a Star Trek fan there is more than enough here to keep you entertained and by Grabthar’s hammer, you can’t ask more than that.
14 Masters of the Universe
When discussing the merits of Masters of the Universe as a guilty pleasure movie with a friend of mine, his argument was “you call it He-Man, it’s trash, but you make the exact same film 20 years later and call it Thor and everyone thinks it’s high art.”
Blonde muscle man? Check. Sent to earth from another dimension? Check. Mystical weapon? Check. Warrior sidekicks? Check. Hero falls for a human woman? Check… ok maybe he has a point.
The film itself is pure B-movie brilliance, with Frank Langella in particular having the time of his life as he mixes in lines from Shakespeare along with gems like “I am a part of the cosmos!” The supporting cast of rubber-suited creatures, vicious Chewbacca lookalikes and eye patch adorned swordsmen hold up surprisingly well, considering the budget was slashed before and during shooting had started, leaving the director begging for more money as he literally had not shot an ending.
The film also has one of the first and best post credit scenes as Skeletor emerges from the depths to warn us “I’ll be back” to terrify a number of cinema-goers who had been making their way towards the exit. With a reboot currently in production, the ruler of Snake Mountain looks to be finally making good on his promise.
13 Big Trouble in Little China
You know what ol’ Jack Burton always says at a time like this? The camera pans across a dusty western town, before stopping to focus on a tall cowboy, he lifts his hat and continues “Jack Burton. *Me*” the words spoken through the familiar husk……of Clint Eastwood. Hard to imagine now when you watch the most unmistakably 80s of movies, that this was how the original plan for the film was supposed to (Lo) pan out.
Frightened by the rival production of the similarly themed Eddie Murphy-then at his box office peak, The Golden Child. The film-makers had tried to get an A-list star of their own, Clint Eastwood and Jack Nicholson were considered but both passed. The decision was then made to instead cast an up and comer as opposed to an established star and so Kurt Russell was cast as the truck driving anti-hero, who is destined to make the pillars of Heaven shake.
The plot is B Movie heaven, featuring a fast quipping hero, sorcerers and some crazy martial arts. The two things that set this apart from a million straight to video movies is Kurt Russell and Director John Carpenter. Russell has never been better as the charismatic but frequently ineffective tough-guy, rattling off equally brilliant and bizarre dialogue “Have ya paid your dues, Jack?” “Yessir, the check is in the mail.”
Carpenter, whose films have mostly been played totally straight, here is as imaginative and fun as anything he had done before and almost certainly since. It is impossible for me to talk about Kurt Russell without mentioning the story that Walt Disney’s final act before he died was to write “Kurt Russell” –who had been a Disney child star at the time. With Russell himself commenting that “It’s true. I don’t know what to make of that. I was taken into his office one time after he died and I was shown that.”
12 Hocus Pocus
Yeah I know what you are thinking, I don’t care. I absolutely adore this film. Every year without fail since its release in 1993, I have watched this film over Halloween and I have never failed to enjoy it. It even has Sarah Jessica Parker in it and I still love it. She also somehow manages to look vaguely attractive, such is the power of this film. And just to add to its seemingly bewitching sense of fun, this is the most played film in Irish television history!!! Yes, a film with Bette Midler as a buck-toothed Witch is the record holder. Not The Godfather, not Die Hard, not Jaws. Instead, a film that features a plot to have all the adults in the town dance until they die holds that distinction.
Absolutely slated upon its release, the film has found a new lease of life as a Halloween mainstay on TV. The plot revolves around three sisters who were executed for practicing witchcraft, they are accidentally returned to life and have one night to try and make their revival permanent. The lead trio show excellent physical comedy skills and there are enough moments of whimsy, such as the witches confusing a Halloweener dressed as the Devil for the real thing, to keep you entertained. It is an under-rated gem of a movie that has lost none of its lustre in the intermittent 21 years (21? Dear god!) and besides, anything with a talking cat is almost guaranteed to get a pass from me.
11 Young Guns 2
Playing it fast and loose with the Billy the Kid legend, Young Guns 2 forgoes the normally straight-faced western genre for a brat pack in cowboy hats feel. The stellar ensemble cast (Christian Slater, Kiefer Sutherland, Viggo Mortensen and William Peterson) are all on fine form. Starting with an aged-up Emilio Estevez (Emillliiiiioooo!!) telling his story to sceptical lawyer played by The West Wing’s Bradley Whitford, before flashing back to The Kid’s heyday. Estevez’s take on the legendary outlaw is a nice mix of childishness offset with moments of cold violence while Petersen beautifully shifts from friend to treacherous foe, as the lawman who would eventually take down the man also known as William H. Bonney -or did he?
The film is pure unfiltered fun, with some sharp moments of humour such as when Chavez is questioned as to what he was screaming to get his horse to perform a daring escape and responds with, “It’s an ancient Navajo word. It means stop.” The film also features, for my money, one of the best screen deaths in history as the gang is cornered following an ambush only for a wounded Kiefer Sutherland to stand and proclaim “Let’s finish the game.” And it would be amiss of me to go without mentioning the awesome Bon Jovi soundtrack, the feather haired rocker should be woefully out of place in the western genre. But like pretty much everything else in this film, it somehow works.
10 The Rocketeer
Created in 1982 by comic writer and artist Dave Stevens, The Rocketeer is the secret identity of Cliff Secord, a stunt pilot who discovers a mysterious jetpack that allows him to fly. The film version was released in 1991 to mostly favourable reviews which unfortunately didn’t translate to big money at the box office – the film did turn a profit however.
The plot focuses on Secord as he finds a jet pack that has been stolen from legendary aerospace engineer/lunatic Howard Hughes. He then sets about battling gangsters and Nazi spies set against the beautiful art deco stylings of 1930s Hollywood.
Directed by Joe Johnson, who would go on to direct Captain America: The First Avenger, the film was envisioned as a rival franchise to Indiana Jones with this being the first part of a trilogy, however its poor box office returns soon put paid to that idea. With a wide variety of stars such as Kevin Costner, Matthew Modine, Dennis Quaid, Kurt Russell, Bill Paxton, Emilio Estevez and Johnny Depp being offered or linked with the part at one stage or another. The choice was made to go with an unknown, with “next big thing” Billy Campbell being selected due to studying Dave Stevens artwork and showing up to the audition looking almost identical to the character in the graphic novel.
Campbell, whose carrier never really took off, no pun intended, and has popped up in everything from The OC to Melrose Place also had another obstacle to overcome, his crippling fear of flying. As a result, almost all of his flying scenes used a stunt double with the film employing a scale model for the rocket pack scenes.
Despite all that, the film is pure pulp brilliance. With Timothy Dalton in particular having a blast as the movie’s Errol Flynn-like bad guy, even allowing for a particularly creepy scene where he drugs Jennifer Connelly and dresses her in an – admittedly stunning – ball gown, before trying to seduce her. Despite its budget constraints and admittedly many flaws, the film retains a wonderful sense of charm and lightness that is all too rare in today’s era of none more dark superhero films.
A remake was in pre-production in 2012, bizarrely with Saw director James Wan at the helm and Jake Gyllenhaal rumoured to be strapping on the pack, but it never went into development. So for now, if it is your first or your fiftieth time, The Rocketeer is well worth a watch.
9 Under Siege
To be honest it could pretty much be any Seagal film.
This gets the nod purely for being the first Seagal film I was able to see in the cinema. I had watched every one of the ponytailed action man’s movies on a near continuous loop for most of my pre-teens. As a result, myself and my friends spent many an afternoon in the school principal’s office trying to explain that roundhouse kicking each other in the face was a perfectly normal form of playground activity.
The film itself is essentially Die Hard on a boat, a guy caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Busey take turns trying to outdo each other in the OTT stakes. Busey, dancing around dressed as a woman before commenting that “do I look like a I need a psychological evaluation?” gives him the edge on that one.
It has great action scenes, a wonderful sense of humour and men of a certain age will remember it for one reason. Seagal enters an empty ballroom and kicks a giant cake out of the way, the cake then lights up and… you know the rest.
8 Nicolas Cage
It is impossible to choose just one of this man’s movies as a guilty pleasure.
Gone in Sixty Seconds, Ghost Rider, National Treasure, channeling Adam West in Kick Ass, this entire list could be made up of Nicolas Cage movies. Having jumped between serious indie darlings like Raising Arizona and comedy like the underrated Trapped in Paradise, Cage looked to have finally hit his defined career path when he won, what was predicted to be the first of many, Oscars for his role in Leaving Las Vegas.
However, the only thing predictable about Cage is his unpredictability. He instead followed his award-winning role by reinventing himself as an action hero. He would first dip his toes in the action pool as he chased Sean Connery around San Francisco and Alcatraz in The Rock, before buffing up his body and wig collection with Con Air. As convicted felon Cameron Poe, Cage would take on some of the most brilliantly named villains in action movie history, from Cyrus ‘The Virus’ Grissom to Steve Buscemi’s Hannibal Lector rip-off The Marietta Mangler.
Face/Off would come the following year, with a concept so high it’s a wonder cinemas didn’t distribute oxygen. Cage as a terrorist, dressed as a priest dancing through the halls stopping only to fondle a choir girl and pulling a face that spawned a million gifs, is pure unbridled entertainment. The pinnacle of Cage-related madness has to be the horrendous/hilarious remake of The Wicker Man. A movie in which he, among other things, dresses as a giant teddy bear, commodores a bike, punches and kicks an endless line of women before finally succumbing to both fire and “the bees, the bees!”
Unfortunately, due to a whopper tax bill, Cage is mostly relegated to straight to DVD dross. Not bad enough to be good and not good enough to be good, but with a third National Treasure movie in the works, there is hope that Cage can return to, as a recent episode of Community put it, “The good kind of bad” and not “The bad kind of good.”
7 The Dream Team
No not that one, but to be fair if this list was to include TV then there would be a special place reserved for Karl Fletcher and his Harchester United teammates.
The Dream Team of 1989 boasted comedy greats like Michael Keaton, Christopher Lloyd and Peter Boyle as patients from a mental hospital who are taken on a day trip to Yankee Stadium. However, they soon find themselves without a chaperone when their doctor is attacked and hospitalised. Keaton channels Jack Nicholson from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, but dials the lunacy up to 11 as a pathological liar prone to bursts of violence.
Lloyd shines as an OCD sufferer who has convinced himself he is the group’s doctor, Boyle plays a former advertising executive who has ditched money (and clothes) for the Lord. Completing the unlikely quartet is Albert, who is only able to communicate using lines from baseball commentary.
The film is peppered with brilliant moments like the group trying to get Boyle clothes at an army surplus store or watching Keaton’s delusions get more and more ridiculous: “I finished second at Daytona.” There are also moments of genuine heart as Lloyd tries to reconnect with his family and Keaton attempts to reconcile with his ex-girlfriend-played by Lorraine Bracco.
But to be fair, any film that features Batman and Doc Brown crossing the street wearing a cardboard box as shelter from the rain is always going to be a winner.
6 Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon
There are two types of reactions when people see the title above. Those who have seen it and can’t believe that it is not more popular and those who have never heard sight nor sound of this hidden gem. The movie is a mocumentary, where a bunch of grad school students are given permission by the titular character as he goes about his job. His job just happens to be a serial killer who wants to be remembered in the same vein as his heroes Micheal Myers and Freddy Kruger – in the movie reality here the Elm St and Haddonfield killings were real events. He takes the crew through his punishing cardio regime because, as he puts it, “I have to make it look like I am walking, meanwhile everyone else is running their asses off” and his process of selection his survivor girl. The film is littered with clever references that will delight any horror fans, right down to the casting of Robert Englund as a man in pursuit of the killer. The film is scary, whip smart and hilariously funny and deserves to be discovered by a much wider audience.
5 The Mist
Having adapted some of Stephen King’s more dramatic books for the screen – The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile – Frank Darabont takes on what the Maine man is best known for and takes the plunge into horror and delivers one of the best adaptations of King’s work. Despite being made on a meager $15 million budget, the movie is a master class in both supernatural and psychological horror. With the mass hysteria created by the terrifying Marcia Gay Harden every bit as frightening as the unseen forces lurking within the mist. The film also delivers one of the most gut punching endings in cinema history which is despite being often reported as the book’s ending, was actually Darabont’s idea [The book ends completely open-endedly as our heroes travel on into the mist with no idea what lies ahead – Ed’s note]. Having been offered double his budget to change his ending, Darabont stood firm and the audience is rewarded with something that will stay with them far longer than they may wish it to. It is rare to find a mainstream horror movie of real conviction and for that alone the movie should get your attention.
4 Trick R Treat
Directed by long time Bryan Singer collaborator Michael Dougherty, Trick R Treat is an anthology film that centers on four Halloween-related horror stories. Singer who, along with producing the film, also assisted by convincing his X-Men 2 stars Brian Cox and Anna Paquin to appear as they were shooting simultaneously. The film embraces the Halloween setting that few do and the love of the season pours from the screen. It feels like a greatest hits of horror with familiar stories slyly taken in different directions. It excites and entertains in equal measure rather than rely on shock and gore tactics that so many horror movies fall back on. Which is not to say it skips on scares and also has one of the best werewolf transformation scenes you are likely to see. Any fans of Tales From the Crypt or Creepshow will be immediately enamored with seeing a horror anthology done right.
Remade (poorly) as Quarantine, the Spanish original is a masterpiece of suspense. Taking what even in 2007 was a tired formula of found footage and somehow manages to make it appear fresh and frightening again. The plot follows a TV reporter and her camera man following a local fire crew around for a documentary. After being attacked shortly after entering an apartment building, the military seal off the building with everyone inside. Each apartment they enter with its own unique décor and threat adds a nice haunted house feel to preceding’s that builds brilliantly to a terrifying final 15 minutes that left my fingers bleeding having chewed through my fingernails as the tension racked up.
2 Tucker and Dale Vs Evil
A witty twist on the horror-slasher genre has sweet, innocent mountain men rescue a college girl from drowning. But though a farce of misunderstanding, the rest of the girl’s group assume the titular characters are murderous hillbillies and have their friend trapped in a Deliverance meets Texas Chainsaw Massacre scenario and launch a rescue mission.
Watching Dale (Tyler Labine) and Tucker (Alan Tudyk) desperately trying to make sense of the all-out assault they find themselves in the middle of is a nice reversal of the usual horror staple. All the while the duo avoid any harm with almost Mr Magoo-like timing, stepping out of danger’s path at just the right time as the wave of attacks come. Much like Bubba Ho-Tep, the film sticks to the traditional horror conventions as opposed to burying them beneath a mountain of irony. The escalating lunacy is brilliantly done and the film is peppered with quotable one liners. It’s a nice alternative horror for people who don’t like their horror movies to be scary. Ya know wimps.
1 Best of the Best
By far the worst reviewed movie on this list, noted critic Roger Ebert remarked "Best of the Best is the worst.” The story is simple enough A team from the United States is going to compete against Korea in a Tae Kwon Do tournament. There of course is a haunted past, one of the competitors brother Tommy (Phillip Rhee) was killed in a previous tournament by the eye patched Dae Han who is ironically played by Rhee’s real life brother Simon.
It’s as clichéd as it comes they don’t get along, they have more in common than they think and band together. But what rises this above every other straight to video martial arts movie is its great fight scenes and gloriously over the top characters. Chris Penn is having the time of his life as the hick of the team, Travis Brickley. I would argue this and not Reservoir Dogs should be on his highlight video, Eric Roberts bursting into tears every 30 seconds while his mouth seems to be fighting with his face as he talks is B movie brilliance. To top it off Darth Vader himself James Earl Jones is the team coach throwing out some inspiring gems like “A team is not a team if you don’t give a damn about one another.” Not to mention an ending that is so sweet it will give you type 2 diabetes. Best of the Best is a must watch for any cheesy action movie fan.
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