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Top 10 Films So Bad They Are Hilarious
Films are an art form. Even the earliest forms, starting with nickelodeons in the 18th century, were meant to elicit some kind of emotional response from their audience. This emotional response has to be specific, though. If a filmmaker made what they thought was a stirring emotional drama, but it ends up hitting none of its intended beats, then it is considered a failure. I think the word “failure” is completely subjective. Avatar is the highest grossing movie of all-time, meaning it was obviously successful, but I thought it was pretty lame.
The highest praise that I can give any movie is that I was thoroughly entertained by it. I can love a movie like The Godfather, but only watch it maybe a couple of times in my life, but I’ve seen Big Trouble in Little China probably a hundred times, and it is only because I find it infinitely easier and more fun to watch. Even though a movie doesn’t do well at the box-office, or with critics, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have some kind of huge intrinsic value. Going as far as we can to that side of the spectrum, we reach a wonderful kind of movie genre, the so-bad-it’s-good variety. I’ll go one step further and say that these are movies that are so bad that they are just hilarious. Hilariously bad, but endlessly enjoyable. These are movies I can watch over and over again, preferably in a group of like-minded friends.
So here is the Top 10 So-Bad-They-Are-Hilarious Movies. List courtesy of Cultural Atrocities.
One of the things you’ll notice about this list is that most of these are either horror movies or action movies. It makes complete sense, since these are the genres with the most action and have the most opportunity for awful special effects. The ’70s, ’80s and ’90s are a goldmine for unintentional comedy. The ’80s, in particular, were just a perfect storm of cheap, practical effects, cheesy acting and cultural madness. The best part, though, is how innocent most of it feels, like they are making these terrible movies but there is an underlying love for the crap that they are making.
Which brings me to Mosquito. The first thing that I will point out is that every single thing in this movie lends itself to the ’80s. Everything. Then when it is over you find out that, whoops, it was actually made in 1995. There are a few movies on this list that just have ’80s written all over them, but are actually firmly planted in the middle of the ’90s. This makes for a weird movie-going experience. You’re watching it and reveling in the bad blue screen Mosquito effects, but appreciating the effort involved for the time it was made, and then afterwards you realize it was made in 1995, and you could make better horror movie effects at a mall kiosk.
The plot is pretty straightforward. An alien spaceship crashes into the middle of the woods next to a popular camping area. A bunch of mosquitoes snack on the dead alien’s arm and its blood is like super steroids. The little critters grow to the size of a golden retriever and proceed to attack the campgrounds, and any other people that they come across. The rag-tag group of survivors includes a post-Stooges, but pre-Stooges reunion, Ron Asheton and Gunnar Hanson (Leatherface from the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre).
Golden Moments: Any mosquito attack scene is great. When Gunnar Hanson picks up that chainsaw it gives you B-movie fandom chills. The bad acting by the main couple is hilariously awful. Junior’s eyeball explosions.
In the ’70s, every studio executive was looking for the next Star Wars. And why wouldn’t they be? It was a glorified independent movie made on the cheap that became one of the most successful franchises of all-time. Enter the Italians. Writer/Director Luigi Cozzi had this script in development years before Luke and Han raided the Death Star, but it was only after the success of Star Wars that he was able to get financing for this film. The only caveat? It had to be almost exactly like Star Wars, and Cozzi’s script had to undergo a couple of changes.
The actual plot is a mess. It’s more of an enjoy-the-ride type of experience. The visuals though, more than make up for the absence of plot. This may be one of the coolest-looking low budget films ever. Everything pops onscreen, from the bright colors to the ridiculous outfits to the stop-motion effects (a la Harryhausen) that we’ll probably never see again in any current film releases. The score also gets major props. Sure it’s a Star Wars rip-off, but there have been far worse Star Wars rip-offs that were made, for far more money.
Last but not least, we have to talk about the cast. Caroline Munro takes the lead as Stellastar, and while her acting chops leave a little to be desired, she makes up for it by being really hot and wearing a bikini for most of the movie. Next we have Marjoe Gortner as Akton, maybe one of the most interesting guys ever. He got into the national spotlight as a child preacher, and then went on to work in both the recording and film industry. Rounding out the I-Recognize-That-Guy files are David Hasselhoff as a Han Solo clone and Christopher Plummer as the humbly-titled Emperor of the First Circle of the Universe.
Golden Moments: The Foghorn Leghorn-inspired robot is a real treat. Akton gaining superpowers as the film goes on without any explanation. Any and all of the special effects.
Ah, Ticks. I saw this movie when I was 11 and I still understood how glorious it was. When the internet took off, it gave me and other little pop-culture junkies the opportunity to hunt down those random movies that we watched on HBO at 2am when we were younger. Also known by its alternate title “Infested”, Ticks was directed by Tony Randel. No, not Tony Randall, esteemed actor, but the guy who directed Hellraiser 2 (which also totally rules).
Ticks is about a group of violent/anti-social/troubled teens being brought on a camp retreat by their psychiatrists/counselors. Included in this group is a post-child actor Seth Green, a thugged-out Alfonso “Carlton” Ribeiro, Mickey “The Monkey” Dolenz’s daughter Ami (star of all sorts of shitty movies), and some other social archetypes. Their counselors are esteemed actors Peter Scolari from Bosom Buddies and Rosalind Allen, who you might remember as the girl that George Costanza pretended to be a marine biologist for so he could bang. Joining this ensemble are a rich, sneezy guy and his redneck buddy, and Clint Howard as a gross guy (typecast much?).
Like Mosquito, the wood ticks eat some steroids and grow to the size of small crabs that are ridiculously fast. It’s a slow burn at first with the Ticks somehow choosing not to attack all at once, but by the end there are thousands of them raining down through the cabin’s ceiling onto our survivors. If you don’t get itchy and check your skin every once in a while then I’m not sure if we’re watching the same movie.
Golden Moments: Every scene with Carlton, including the climax where he turns into a tick the size of a crocodile. Seth Green’s lit broom throw. Clint Howard’s face exploding.
Slashers comes dangerously close to being a straight-up terrible movie. I mean, really, all signs point to this thing being a complete disaster. Acting on par with the worst I’ve ever seen, terrible effects, even worse sets. This thing literally looks like it was made in a paintball arena. While I’ve said that all of these things can make a transcendent bad movie into a very entertaining movie, we also have to look at things as they are. A terrible movie is not always entertaining, sometimes it can just be really bad and not enjoyable to watch. Like I said, Slashers comes woefully close to reaching that level, but it doesn’t.
Written and directed by Maurice Devereaux, and I’m going to make every effort to find the other three movies that this guy has made, Slashers is more of a spoof than anything else. Slashers is a Japanese reality show where six contestants must survive inside a building full of psychopaths, but if they do, they win a million dollars. Made in 2001, and riding on the coattails of Survivor and countless other reality shows that were made (and are still being made), this is an opportunity to look at the depths that people will go to become famous. Would you kill for it? Would you let yourself be hunted? What does it say about society when people not only will be on this show, but actively watch and cheer the slashers on?
This is an interesting film because I really like some of the stuff that they are trying to accomplish. One of my favorite gags is how even the slashers will stop trying to kill someone if a commercial break is approaching. They throw in numerous little jabs about reality shows and how ridiculous they really are, and a lot of them are actually pretty funny. Fortunately (or unfortunately for the makers of the film), this doesn’t counteract how shoddy the production values are. This is the definition of shoe-string budget, and there are numerous laugh-out-loud moments that are definitely not intentional, even though this was meant more as a black comedy.
Golden Moments: The Slashers theme song. Megan’s speech about how people can watch people get murdered, which is supposed to be serious but comes off as cringe-worthy and hilarious. Most of the scenes with the slashers are great, especially Preacher Man, who goes on a pulpit rant about how people don’t respect God anymore. Some real delightful over-the-top gore.
Mixing film and music is a risky proposition. For every musical I really like, Little Shop of Horrors for example, there are about a hundred I would never watch in a million years. The music can distract from the rest of the film and instead of it being beneficial it becomes more of a hindrance. A lot of my hatred of musicals has to do with the types of movies that they are in the first place. I get this pit of anger in my stomach when I watch a movie like The Music Man, because it is all whimsical cherry lollipops and bluebirds. Musicals are afraid to punch you in the side of the head with their tunes. They are much more inclined to make you want to dance a little jig with the rest of your boring town down Main Street.
Now I’m not going to say I like hair metal music, far from it, but there is something far more fascinating about that little period of existence when that was considered the coolest thing in the world. Call it my love for electric guitars, or watching grown men trying to get their hair as big as they can possibly get it, but it just makes me smile. Which brings us to Jon Mikl Thor’s magnum opus, Rock ‘n’ Roll Nightmare. Set in a rural farmhouse in Canada, which is also “the gates of hell” (the movies alternate title actually), Jon Mikl and his bandmates decide it would be the perfect place to record their new album for some reason. As soon as they get there, demons (in the guise of hand puppets) start to possess his bandmates and their girlfriends. As the movie progresses, Jon Mikl is the only one left standing to fight this evil.
Golden Moments: THE GREATEST PLOT TWIST ENDING OF ALL TIME. Jon Mikl Thor in all his David Coverdale-on-steroids glory. Hilariously awful live performances by the real band. Hand puppets spitting into people’s drinks.
B-movie aficionados got a real treat in 2008, with James Nguyen’s environmental love-letter to Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. I think what sets a great B-movie apart from a crappy B-movie is how much the people involved cared about what they were making. You can pretty much always tell when a director, writer or actor are just phoning it in. This leads to laziness, which can be hilarious in the right context, but usually just produces a bad film. Labors of love are just that, though, and you can tell when people care about what they are putting up onscreen. There is some kind of nonsensical joy that comes along with someone’s dream coming to reality, no matter how insane. No one loved this project more than James Nguyen, and this was never more evident than when he bombarded the Sundance Film Festival with his Birdemic van, adorned lovingly with attacking fake birds.
I’ll be blunt – Birdemic is a disaster. Nguyen has no business being in the film industry, but his faithfulness to this project can’t help but make you simultaneously feel bad for the man, while wanting him to succeed. There’s something so innocent and likable about what Nguyen is trying to do, that his subsequent cult success makes complete sense. The environmental slant that is the backbone of the movie is also a poor, yet hilarious, attempt at trying to make a political statement with this monstrosity of a movie.
The plot is about a software salesman named Rod (yes, Rod) and his subsequent meeting with aspiring model Nathalie. They start to date but notice troubling things happening around them, mostly to do with dead birds. Soon the entire town is being attacked by crazed birds and they have to do everything they can to survive.
Golden Moments: The bird CGI has to be seen to be believed. It’s like Nguyen took a gif of an animated bird from some internet forum and used it repeatedly for the duration of the film. “Hanging Out With My Family,” which is a song I have found myself singing on more than a few occasions. Seriously bad acting all around.
So I don’t really even know how to go about discussing Pocket Ninjas. Currently ranked #9 on the IMDB Bottom 100, it should be said without question that this is a bad movie. But it’s also the most confusing movie I think I have ever seen. Pocket Ninjas is the Lost Highway of children’s movies. I’ll try my best to explain the plot.
Our three protagonists, Rocky, Colt and Tum T… err… I mean Damien, Tanya and Steve are hanging out in their treehouse, talking about stuff most kids their age do: corporations fucking up the environment. While Tanya, the resident liberal, and Steve, the “fat” republican discuss this important issue, Damien urges them to stop because his feelings are hurt. He tells them about this magazine he found about a ninja called “The White Dragon.” Cut to The White Dragon beating up a bunch of thugs. Is The White Dragon real? Are we in a comic book? Welcome to the biggest problem with Pocket Ninjas. There’s seemingly four levels of reality that this movie is working on, and I’m not sure if two of those realities even exist! The kids learn karate from their sensei, who may or may not be The White Dragon. Also involved is Robert Zdar as Cobra Khan, but yet again I can’t tell you for sure if he exists, and his “son”(?), a 12 year old kid who somehow runs an underground crime syndicate.
Got it? The fun in watching Pocket Ninjas is trying to decipher exactly what is onscreen at any given moment. Clunky exposition scenes give way to excruciatingly long montages. Oh, and did I mention that the kids become little versions of The White Dragon, complete with roller blades? Have you ever tried to do a jumping karate kick with roller blades on? It can’t be easy, and the choreography here is proof of that.
Golden Moments: The fight between Cobra Khan and The White Dragon (from the comic book or real life?) is an amazingly surreal scene. Fighting while bouncing on balloons has never looked so genuine. The dialogue is over-written to sound cool for the time, and leads to some very awkward transitions. Damien’s mom getting all wet over White Dragon guy but then getting ten times wetter over a coupon book.
Action movies will forever be a treasure trove of unintentional comedy. There’s something so incredibly funny about guys trying to act overly tough. Undefeatable goes above and beyond. It takes itself so seriously and tries so hard to be a genuine action-thriller, but it fails in every respect. The main bad guy, named Stingray, remains hilarious even after revealed to be a murdering rapist. You have to have comedy ingrained in your bones to be able to pull that off. Joining Stingray in this chuckle-fest is Cynthia Rothrock, a marginally successful female kung fu star, and John Miller, some other kung fu guy. Lots of kung fu people hanging around here.
The plot centers around Rothrock as Kristy, a woman who competes in underground fights to pay for her sister’s college education (ha!). Another underground fighter named Stingray, in all his slobbery glory, is left by his wife early in the film. Because he’s a total nut-job, he begins to kidnap women who resemble his wife and rape and murder them, then steal their eyeballs and put them in a fish tank. One of these women just happens to be Kristy’s sister. Kristy enlists the help of police officer Nick DiMarco to track down Stingray and make him pay. They find Kristy’s sister and get her to the hospital, where she is kidnapped by Stingray again, naturally. Kristy and Nick have a ridiculously over-the-top fight with Stingray that has achieved youtube fame.
Golden Moments: The final fight scene which really must be seen to be believed. Any scene with Stingray, especially when he starts fighting random people for no reason (who are also inexplicably really good at karate). Kristy paying for three of her friends to go to college somehow.
Dear readers, I want to promise you that I will save any kind of egocentric blabbering for when they are only very, very appropriate. Now that that is out of the way I just need to say that I have loved Troll 2 since I was a kid. Just like Ticks, this was one of those movies that I saw a couple of times when I was a kid and just stuck in my memory for some reason. I rediscovered it when I got to college in 2001, and turned almost all of my b-movie watching buddies onto it. I’m only stating this because since Troll 2 has attained such a huge following in the past couple of years, I don’t want to come off as some kind of panderer to the masses. Troll 2 would have been on this list even if it never somehow wormed it’s way back into the world’s collective conscience.
If you’re reading this blog and haven’t seen Troll 2, then just stop right now. It will be required viewing for term papers later. Seriously though, it doesn’t get a whole lot better than this. Every single scene has something to behold. It’s the true definition of what a b-movie should be: low budget, unknown actors, bad effects, a plot that exceeds their means. It’s all here in its cinematic glory. Sadly, I haven’t yet seen Best Worst Movie, the documentary about the making of Troll 2 and where everyone involved has ended up over the years. I just wish this kind of treatment could go out to so many other amazing films that transcend their original purpose and become something far greater.
Golden Moments: Is it unfair to just say “everything”? No? Eh, I’m just gonna eat this double-decker bologna sandwich.
When talking about my very favorite movies, it’s hard to do them justice. I end up just talking about my favorite moments and it turns into a list rather than an explanation of why it is great. With a movie like Samurai Cop, I just can’t do it justice with words. I bought this DVD for two dollars at a used movies place and I think it is probably the most I have ever gotten out of 200 pennies. Now that I just wrote that, I’m imagining 200 tootsie rolls and I’m tempted to change my mind, but I digress…
Written and directed by Amir Shervan (you’ll find that most movies directed and/or written by and/or starring the same person are invariably the best b-movies), Iranian movie theater magnate and America fan. He produced a string of movies in the late ’80s, starting with Hollywood Cop and ending with Killing American Style. Sandwiched right in the middle was Samurai Cop. To put it bluntly, Shervan was a 60 year-old Iranian millionaire who decided that he could make great American action movies. It’s a pretty strange deal.
The titular Samurai Cop is named Joe Marshall (played by Matt Hannon), and everyone calls him Samurai Cop because he trained in Japan or something. You wouldn’t really know it once you get to know Joe, since he is not honorable at all and spends most of his time being racist or flirting (with a capital F) with every woman he sees. His partner Frank is the quintessential ’80s’ black partner, and he is pretty much used just for his reaction shots or his huge dick being referenced. Robert Zdar returns again as Yamashita, the head assassin for the Yakuza. Also huge bonus points for an appearance by Big Trouble in Little China alumni Gerald Okamura as a character named, what else, “Okamura.”
The plot is a little too complicated to really talk about, but it involves Joe walking around the city, getting shot at sometimes, and then relaxing around his house in a speedo. The level of ineptitude involved in this movie blows my mind. The dialogue is precisely what a middle-aged Iranian man would think an American cop would sound like. I really could keep going for a long time, but I’ll just say that this movie has everything that a b-movie needs to be hilarious x 10.
Golden Moments: Samurai Cop’s ever-changing hairstyles. His speech at the dinner club. Sped-up fight scenes. Poorly edited chase scenes. The lion head wall ornament. Ah hell, I’m just gonna do it again and just say everything. Everything in this movie is hilarious.