The great filmmaker Fritz Lang once said, “You can learn more from watching a bad film than a good one.” The films on this list are not just bad, but are so daft and so appallingly made they escape the clutches of obscurity and instead enter the realms of notoriety; they are not just inept, but also somehow sublime. You won’t believe how awful they are, but you won’t be able to take your eyes off them either.
10. Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)
Considered by many as the ‘Citizen Kane of Bad Movies’, this sci-fi horror set the standard for how not to make a movie. You have to hand it to writer and director Ed Wood’s ambition for trying to stage an epic alien invasion though. But, rather than being handed a multimillion budget and all that comes with it, he used an amateur cast and scenery that included a cemetery made of cardboard, among a whole host of other eye-catching inadequacies. Despite the lack of talent, resources and the resulting Turkey that is Plan 9 from Outer Space, today the it is celebrated for its hopelessness and is seen as the epitome of so-bad-it’s-good cinema. Its production is brilliantly recreated in the Tim Burton movie Ed Wood.
9. Flash Gordon (1980)
Everything about the eighties was big and outlandish; the power ballads, the phones, even the hair. Flash Gordon might be the decade’s most excessive legacy though. Based on the comic book series of the same name, The Dark Knight it ain’t. Instead, we got something so much more. So camp it makes The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert look like Die Hard, Flash Gordon also offers up one-liners so cheesy you could put them in a sandwich and action scenes more dated than a Dexys Midnight Runners album. With a soundtrack from Queen that only compounds the lunacy, all that’s left is to sit back and enjoy this feast of 1980s cinematic bravado.
8. Batman & Robin (1997)
Ranked by Empire Magazine as the worst movie ever, Joel Schumacher’s Batman & Robin even manages to outdo Flash Gordon in campiness. Not that a camp tone is always a bad thing, but when you consider Batman is a creature of the night who preys on fear and beats criminals to a pulp it was spectacularly misguided here. The follow-up to Batman Forever, Warner Bros., hoping for an even bigger box office success, instructed Schumacher to make the film as light and commercial as possible. With its running time costing over $1million a minute, the production design looks like a neon-lit theme park combined with a bad acid trip. Worst of all though, and that’s including the bat nipples, is the script. Containing more puns than a Bruce Forsyth telethon, the dialogue makes the 1960s Batman TV series look more brooding. However, watching a film miss the mark so sensationally makes Batman & Robin surprisingly entertaining – so long as you’re prepared for the onslaught of outlandishness. And be grateful for it; its critical mauling meant the franchise was rebooted and we were given Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy.
7. Manos: The Hand of Fate (1966)
Produced by a fertiliser salesman for a bet (an encouraging start), Manos: The Hand of Fate may well be the perfect storm of Good Bad Movies. The acting is more wooden than a tree, the plot as consistent as rain in a desert and the directing and camerawork so poor Mr. Magoo would’ve done a better job. Even the sound sounds like your granny gargling salt water. The movie poster said it was ‘shocking’ and it certainly is, just not the way intended. Manos: The Hand of Fate is filmmaking at its very worst, which is why you have to watch it.
6. Road House (1989)
In between Dirty Dancing and Ghost, the late Patrick Swayze thought it was a good idea to make a movie about a bouncer at a bar who, aside from being unable to stop kicking customers in the head, is a pacifist philosopher. Not only is the romance between Swayze and Kelly Lynch flatter than a 2D pancake, Road House unintentionally sent the message that anything could be solved by kicking (as hilariously spoofed in Family Guy). Awesomely bad, make sure you’ve got your ironic hat on when watching this roundhouse kicking, throat grabbing action fest.
5. Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2008)
Drawing heavily on Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, Birdemic: Shock and Terror’s association with that classic ends there. It’s about as far away from being Hitchcockian as Margaret Thatcher is from being popular in the mining community. In this romantic horror, birds have the ability to spit acid and have a vendetta against humans. Inexplicably, they also explode on impact. The cherry on top of this steaming heap of incompetence are the horrendous special effects, which are so bad they make the animation on early seasons of South Park look cutting edge. But, like many of the films on this list, it has a cult following and goes to show movie goers will occasionally embrace partially self-aware stupidity. Picked up for distribution, the movie even spawned a sequel Birdemic 2: The Resurrection. Clearly, birds of a feather really do flock together… I’ll let my Editor decide about keeping that in.
4. Troll 2 (1990)
A sequel to the B movie classic Troll, writer and director Claudio Fragasso forgot one key thing… the trolls! Instead, the plot centres on vegetarian goblins trying to turn a family into plants so they can eat them. Fragasso must’ve been on some other green plant when concocting that idea. Alleged language barriers between the Italian crew and American cast resulted in a tidal wave of unintentional hilariousness, including dialogue so badly written it makes Fifty Shades of Grey look like Casablanca. The wounds Troll 2 received from its critical panning healed though and it developed a devoted fanbase. With Halloween on the horizon, sit back and enjoy this wonderfully idiotic mess.
3. Battlefield Earth (2000)
John Travolta was enjoying a career renaissance after his Oscar-nominated performance in Pulp Fiction. But, seemingly overnight, he became a laughing stock yet again after the release of Battlefield Earth. Set in the year 3000, the human race has been enslaved by the Psychlos – 10 feet tall, dreadlocked aliens with nose plugs and dominatrix boots. Travolta’s acting is so hammy you could glaze it, but he’s far from being the only problem. You have the usual suspects of a terrible script and poor design, but perhaps most glaring is director Roger Christian shooting nearly every scene at angle. Instead of being a clever piece of cinematography, you feel like you’re on a sinking ship. Criticism of Battlefield Earth was universal, but perhaps The Washington Post said it best: “A million monkeys with a million crayons would be hard-pressed in a million years to create anything as cretinous as Battlefield Earth.” That’s the thing though; you have to marvel at, and strangely enjoy, a film that manages to be so dreadful.
2. Over the Top (1987)
Honestly, Sylvester Stallone could have had his very own list. His back catalogue of stinkers makes you question his judgement, sanity and choice of agent – sometimes all three. Over the Top is a prime example. Its title sets the tone, but wait until you hear the premise; Stallone, playing a truck driver, tries to win back his son by competing in an arm-wrestling championship. A self-aware, comedic approach could’ve perhaps resulted in something credible. Instead, the ridiculous plot is only outdone by the actors taking the arm-wrestling far, far too seriously. Packed with more straining than a low fibre diet and with arm-wrestling matches so outlandish they make the Super Bowl look subtle, Over the Top may be infamous but it’s also unintentionally hilarious.
1. The Room (2003)
No Good Bad Movie list would be complete without this mind-bogglingly terrible, yet brilliant offering. Produced, written, directed and starring Tommy Wiseau, The Room was intended to be a no holds barred kitchen sink drama. It proved to be anything but. Littered with continuity errors more noticeable than a florescent skyscraper and with plot holes wider than the Grand Canyon, just a few of its many flaws, Wiseau even tried to cover his tracks by claiming The Room was meant to be a tongue in cheek homage to dramatic filmmaking. He may not have fooled anyone there, but The Room has an international following and Wiseau regularly arranges screenings of his movie all over the world to packed audiences.
What movies do you think are so bad they’re good? Let us know below.