In practice, "bad" is a broad term applied to movies defined by an abundance of cheese, silliness or excess just as often as incompetence. So-called guilty pleasures like Road House or Grease may boast a coherent narrative and be devoid of in-shot boom mikes, but they share many delights with the genuinely inept. We enjoy the outrageous emoting, corny writing, preposterous circumstances and flimsy plots ironically, our awareness of the movie's unintentional shortcomings becoming part of its appeal. Just one step beyond such mainstream favourites lay movies so bad they're good. Their appeal is similar, the addition of profound ineptitude just adding disbelief and schadenfreude to the mix. But most truly bad movies are a miserable experience: frustrating, depressing and, worst of all, boring.
Roger Ebert once said, "it's hard to explain the fun to be found in the right kind of bad movie", and that's the key; you have to find the right kind of bad movie: the good bad kind. Here are ten.
Delta Force 2 (1990)
With a reasonable budget and proper filmmakers in charge, Delta Force 2 is entry level good bad. It's pure 1980s jingoistic morality porn that sees Chuck Norris declare war on drugs. National sovereignty, military protocol and audience intelligence are shown little respect. It amuses with its questionable politics and blind stupidity rather than incompetent filmmaking.
Speaking of incompetent filmmaking, Things is a zero-budget Canadian horror movie about three men trapped in a shack with little monsters. If Delta Force 2 is a gateway good bad movie for recreational users, then Things is Class A, and it must be treated with caution.
Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla (1974)
Toho, the legendary studio behind Godzilla, threw everything it could at this penultimate entry in its original 'Shōwa' series of kaijū movies. Attempting to recapture a youth audience distracted by James Bond and space exploration, they made the villains alien invaders who hang out in an underground base drinking Cognac. The plot is insane and the monster costumes as much as ever.
The Alien Factor (1978)
Cinema has changed enormously since the heyday of infamous hacks like Ed Wood. I don't tend to write about 50s good bad movies because even the best can make audiences chuckle, people just don't have the context to judge them fairly. But some of their appeal was successfully transferred from the drive-in era to the VHS boom by writer/director Don Dohler. His debut movie ticks all the boxes with a daft beast, terrible special effects, ludicrous acting and buckets of charm.
For Y'ur Height Only (1981)
Starring 83cm tall Filipino martial artist Weng Weng, this tumultuous Bond spoof is blessed with one of the most ridiculous dubs ever to sillify a foreign language movie. Weng is the main draw, though. His bewitching charisma is unique, and the movie's fearsome disregard for the safety of stuntmen strangely compelling.
Creatures from the Abyss aka Plankton (1994)
Any top 10 of good bad movies needs a bit of Italian schlock. Creatures from the Abyss is not among the most high profile examples, but it is one of the funniest. It sees a group of teens discover an abandoned research vessel where they end up having to do battle with radioactive, mutant, flying, human-hybrid fish. Both sides lose.
After Last Season (2009)
When the trailer for After Last Season hit YouTube in 2009, it was believed to be a Spike Jonze practical joke. The movie that followed did little to dispel that assumption. As a species we have no reference point for a thing like this, so to deny its legitimacy seems like a sensible defence mechanism. The plot is incomprehensible, the script apparently keen to keep it at arm's length for safety reasons, but it's something to do with ghosts, murder and a 'research facility' (a warehouse decorated with printer paper) producing microchips that, when implanted in the brain, cause the recipient to experience mid 90s CGI. Some believe it's an avant garde masterpiece.
Raw Force aka Kung Fu Cannibals (1982)
Whether a bad movie pokes you in the ribs with cheese or beats you over the head with ineptitude, the worst thing it can be is boring. Raw Force features zombie ninjas, man-eating piranha, kung fu SWAT babes, Nazi jade smugglers and supernatural cannibal monks. You can ignore the plot that ties them all together (the filmmakers certainly did) and just revel in the relentless absurdity of it all.
The Room (2003)
If you don't know The Room, you're probably about to. The making of 'the Citizen Kane of bad movies' is the subject of an upcoming Hollywood comedy starring James Franco, Seth Rogen, Brian Cranston and a host of other A-listers eager to show they get the joke. And what a joke. Most good bad movies want to be Rambo, Star Wars or some other genre-defining exemplar. The Room wants to be A Streetcar Named Desire, and Tommy Wiseau, the man behind it, deserves credit for that. His bizarre lead performance has become the stuff of legend, his ambition and fortitude an example to filmmakers everywhere, and the fruit of his labour among the most enjoyable movies of the millennium so far.
Double Down (2005)
Contrary to popular opinion, Tommy Wiseau is more fantasist than narcissist. For the full Kanye you have to head to Nevada, natural habitat of elusive auteur Neil Breen. In Double Down, his first work as writer/director/producer/star, he plays Aaron Brand, the greatest hacker, assassin, biochemist, secret agent, computer scientist, magical doctor, criminal investigator and fighter pilot in the world (the Mary Sue stereotype lies buried in a Las Vegas backyard). We know all this because Breen/Brand tells us in voiceover. Incessantly. It's less a film than a stream of nonsensical imagery accompanied by a delusional sociopath listing all the things he thinks it would be cool to be good at.
Text Rob Hill
Topics:film, culture, the bad movie bible, delta force 2, things, godzilla vs mechagodzilla, the alien factor, for y'ur height only, creatures from the abyss aka plankton, after last season, raw force aka kung fu cannibals, the room, double down