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The 25 Best So-Bad-Its-Good Films of All Time

22 July 2014 | Features, Film Lists | by Shawn Hudson

The Room movie

“So bad, it’s good” cinema is on the rise, as evidenced by new websites (RiffTrax), books (Showgirls, Teenwolves, and Astro Zombies), and podcasts (How Did This Get Made?) that have been created during the past decade to meet demand from a growing fan base. It may seem like an inaccessible medium, or even a fruitless endeavor to watch them, but bad films often make for great viewing experiences. The following 25 are some of the best to start with. They all share the four, following qualities.

a. The essential bad film is genuine

“B movies” filled with rubber-suited baddies don’t usually qualify. Sharknado (2013), so self-aware, is constantly winking at the audience as if to say, “Hey, look at how silly I am.” Compare Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010) and the cash-in sequel, Birdemic 2: The Resurrection (2013). The first film, as Variety magazine put it, “was one of those rare instances of filmic ineptitude so distinctive it could pass as inspired folk art,” and the second one never quite captured that same naive magic.

b. Bad movies shatter expectations

In Superman IV: A Quest for Peace (1987), the stupidity is an ever-growing tidal wave. Superman speaks in the vacuum of space. He pieces together the Great Wall of China with his laser eyes. He even pushes the Moon out of orbit to get the upper-hand in a fight. As the film progresses, a horrified resignation washes over the audience – “Yes, he just did that. And in two minutes, something even more ridiculous will happen.” Essential bad movies are some of the most edge-of-the-seat experiences a movie-lover can have.

c. They are raw and intact

Popular movies are like hot dogs. Whatever they once were has been mangled, sliced, and reconstituted into an easily identifiable form that, above all else, sells tickets. They are formulaic, sometimes literally so, as Slate reported in their story on “Save the Cat!,” a 2005 screenwriting book that seemingly is responsible for creating, down to the minute, almost every blockbuster of the past decade. Meanwhile, an essential bad film is rarely accused of sticking to formula or convention.

d. A bad movie is an event

It is too good to keep to oneself. It must be shared! Fans of The Room (2003), Troll 2 (1990), and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) bring props, memorize lines, wear costumes, and yell at the screen. The more people watching an essential bad movie, the better. They are a license to let loose. No shushing. No throat-clearing. No passively falling asleep. A essential bad movie engages everyone who sees it.

Here are the 25 best so-bad-it’s-good films in the history of cinema.

 

25. Hercules in New York (1969)

Hercules in New York (1969)

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first acting roles were limited by a.) his acting and b.) his inability to speak English well. That didn’t stop Director Arthur A. Seidelman from casting the bodybuilding superstar in this fish-out-water adventure about the Greek god Hercules, who travels to New York out of boredom.

Not content to have his film anchored by an Austrian newcomer, Seidelman credited Schwarzenegger as Arnold “Strong” and also dubbed all of his lines, creating an Arnold that has (literally) never been heard before or since. There are currently two versions of the film circulating – an original that is English aristocrat Arnold, and a second, that was released later with the actor’s muddle dialogue intact.

Favorite Scene: Hercules, traveling through Central Park with his love, spots a man in a bear costume. The most ridiculous bear brawl outside of a Nic Cage film ensues, lasting a full minute with over 50 punches thrown, most of those by the flailing man-bear.

 

24. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Francis Ford Coppola’s old-school portrayal of the classic horror novel, “Dracula,” is the most manic adaptation to date, joyously transitioning between bloody, Gothic horror to over-the-top posturing. “Zany” is infrequently used to describe horror, but this film fits the bill. Throughout, the viewer can sense that right off-screen, Coppola was just screaming, “Bigger! Bigger! No, wait, now meek and tiny! Small!”

Anthony Hopkins portrays Abraham Van Helsing as a mystical, split-personality hobo; Tom Waits gives gleefully unhinged monologues as Renfield (“The flies! The life!”), and Keanu Reeves, conversely, anchors the whole thing by giving his most wooden performance as the lead love interest, Jonathan Harker. He even earned himself a nod from Time magazine for having one of the worst 10 accents in all of film history. For the record, it was British.

Favorite Scene: Van Helsing realizes that he is chasing after Dracula and starts cackling, which transitions to him cackling and bouncing in a different place. After he raunchily dances with Quincy the cowboy, all while screaming about how “precious Lucy” has become “the bitch of the devil,” he shifts into a deadly serious tone, demanding that the men steel themselves. Then? More cackling. Is he a lunatic? Is he a savior? In Dracula, he is par for the course.

 

23. Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (1977)

Death Bed The Bed That Eats (1977)

This film school project, which took Director George Barry five years to complete, posits that a bed, originally crafted for a sex ritual, gets a demon’s blood on it, becomes sentient, and then learns telepathy. Oh, and it snores, which as The AV Club points out, “leaves one to ponder the metaphysical paradox of a bed sleeping on itself.” When a group of plucky 20-somethings find Death Bed in an abandoned mansion, well … eating ensues.

Death Bed had no official release until 2004, but a rough cut had been circulating for decades. Shortly after the official DVD release, Comedian Patton Oswalt highlighted the film in his “Werewolves and Lollipops” CD, suggesting that the mere existence of the film was incomprehensible and had prompted him to pen a script named, “Rape Stove: The Stove That Rapes People.”

Favorite Scene: Death Bed dissolves an apple (somehow leaving a core and bite marks behind), a bucket of chicken, and drinks some wine all before eating the couple that is having sex on top of it.

 

22. 9 Deaths of the Ninja (1985)

9 deaths of the ninja (1985)

An American strike-force featuring an explosives expert (Brett Huff), a beautiful agent (Emilia Crow) and a futuristic ninja (Sho Kosugi) are sent to the Philippines to rescue a busload of school children that have been captured by Alby the Cruel, a wheelchair-bound, German drug kingpin with a militant lesbian bodyguard. Blackie Dammett, who played Alby, is also the father of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ singer, Anthony Keidis. According to Keidis’ biography, Dammett was making more money selling drugs than he was acting during this production. It helps to explain his performance.

Nine Deaths also features lots of peculiar set pieces – a little people brawl, a scuba fight that ends with Spike Shinobi (Kosugi) pulling the bikini-top off of his female assailant, and a meandering, inexplicable helicopter ride/assassination. Yet, the surest sign that 9 Deaths is a hysterically bad movie is external. Its production company, Cannon Films, is the same place responsible for The Apple (1980), Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo (1984), and Masters of the Universe (1987) – some of the worst movies ever made.

Favorite Scene: Shinobi is attacked by four little people in tuxedos while visiting a fancy resort, one of whom has no teeth and makes really weird faces. The ninja triumphs by spinning them in circles, making them dizzy, holding them out of arms reach while they attempt to punch him in the groin, and by picking them up and shaking them violently before dropping them on the ground.

 

21. Highlander II: The Quickening (1991)

highlander-billboard

Christopher Lambert returns as Scottish highlander/immortal Connor MacLeod, but this time in a dystopian future where pollution has become so bad that humanity put up a shield to protect itself from solar radiation. Sean Connery’s Juan Sanchez Villa-Lobos Ramirez also returns, despite having died in the first film, and together – the immortals fight General Katana (Michael Ironside) and a host of evil, corporate suits, hellbent on profiting from the Earth’s sorry atmosphere.

The production was a controversial affair that went far over budget with a script that, according to Ironside, was universally reviled by cast and crew. Director Russell Mulcahy was even locked out of his own editing booth and famously walked out of the premiere. Despite (or perhaps because of) these missteps, the film has become a celebrated disaster. In particular, the lack of accents in the film is worth highlighting, with Connery playing a Spaniard and Lambert (whose first language is French) playing a Scot. Of course, neither of those character even attempts their supposed accent. Ramirez’s Spanish-ness is further muddled in his final scene, where a bag pipe dirge plays over his exit.

Favorite Scene: In a random episode that never figures into the overall story, Gen. Katana commandeers a subway train, accelerates it to over 700 mph, and then crashes it into a stone wall. Passengers fly across the screen in terror, but no one dies. Even the stone wall remains largely unscathed.

 

20. Santa with Muscles (1996)

Santa with Muscles (1996)

Health guru Blake Thorn (Hulk Hogan), dresses as Santa Claus to hide from the police and accidentally falls down a garbage chute in a local mall. The fall gives him amnesia, and he is duped into believing that he is the REAL Santa Claus by a conniving store worker who is also dressed as an elf. Thorn later tries to save an orphanage after learning that Scientist Ebner Frost (Ed Begley, Jr.) is plotting to buy the property and use it for mining of a harmful chemical.

If the plot sounds convoluted, fear not – it is mere window-dressing for the meat of the film – continuity errors, logical fallacies, great lines, and Hogan’s poor acting. This was also Mila Kunis’ cinematic debut.

Favorite Scene: Thorn, as Santa Claus, gets into a fistfight with two goons who are trying to steal his bag of presents. One pedestrian yells, “Watch out! He’s got a candy cane.” Non-lethal weapons are a theme throughout the movie that could easily be turned into a game by anyone watching.

 

19. Navy Seals (1990)

Navy Seals (1990)

A team of US Navy Seals search for two downed chopper pilots who were captured by terrorists in the Middle East, and in process, they find a large weapons cache of Stinger missiles. Unable to destroy the cache initially, the seal team spends the rest of the film training, goofing off, and finally taking down the terrorists. Despite hitting similar beats as Top Gun (1986) and Young Guns (1988) before it, Navy Seals is a master-class on tone-deafness, one that operates more successfully as a spoof of 80s action than actually achieving it.

Favorite Scene: The hardened Navy Seals let loose on a public (seemingly abandoned) golf course, chasing each other with golf carts, jousting, falling over, goosing one another and pretending to play pool. Some are shirtless. Some take the same shot over and over again. And most remarkably, it is all choreographed to look like the mayhem is actually a dance set to Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back in Town.” Strangely, this is mere minutes before one of the central characters dies.

 

18. Street Fighter (1994)

Street Fighter (1994)

Col. Guile (Van Damme), along with a host of other characters from the video game, try to bring down the empire of Bison (Raul Julia), who is demanding a ransom but also plotting to build his own resort, complete with its own money (Bison Dollars). It is a truly ridiculous story that is only made more insane by the performances (see Van Damme’s “rousing” speech to his troops) and the haphazard fight scenes, which were mostly made up on the spot by the actors themselves, according to the first-time director.

Street Fighter is one of those bad movies made essential as much by what happens on-screen as off-screen, however. Between Jean Claude Van Damme’s cocaine addiction, extramarital affair with co-star Kylie Minogue, Raul Julia’s last battle with stomach cancer, and a production that was perpetually changing, it is a marvel that the film is even remotely coherent in the first place. Interested readers can study up with this fantastic article: “Street Fighter: The Movie – What Went Wrong.” 

Favorite Scene: Bison, in an attempt to blow up Col. Guile’s approaching speedboat, pulls out an arcade joystick and starts playing a “game” where he detonates mines in the river. Eventually, Bison (played maniacally by Julia) gives up on poise and simply starts smashing the controller with his fists, blowing up all of the mines. It is a funny reference to amateur fighting game players, who are denounced as “button mashers,” but it is an even more exciting scene to watch because Julia sincerely gives the performance his all.

 

 

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  • vangpo

    Roadhouse was NOT a bad film.

    • Shawn Hudson

      You’re right, Vangpo, It was a so-bad-it’s-good film!

      • vangpo

        It was neither. It was a decent rainy afternoon Swayze flick and quite representative of the type of action movies being made at the time.

  • Jonathan Fesmire

    There is nothing good about Highlander II. It is the definition of irredeemable.

  • Mac Johnson

    Lots of solid gold on this list, but how did Birdemic not make the cut?

    • Shawn Hudson

      I enjoy parts of Birdemic, and I especially enjoy the RiffTrax of it. Without Rifftrax, though, it was hard for me to sit through. I wanted the movies on the list to be fun for non-masochists, too.

      • Jolly Jack Splendid

        I love Birdemic. It’s has an innocent charm about it. And Whitney Moore? I kinda love her. She is a dream girl, fo sho! Shark Attack 3 should be on this list as well as Miami Connection.

  • Alistair Pulido

    I thought you were saving “Killer Clowns from Outter Space” for number 1 of this list.

    • Shawn Hudson

      It was definitely in the running, Alistair, and maybe it should’ve been up there. One thing I came to realize while writing this out was that there are LOTS of hilariously bad movies.

    • RockyJohan

      ITS MEANT TO BE BAD! THAT IS THE FUCKING JOKE!

    • chrosTV

      You.aware that the movie’s supposed to.be a comedy? The puppetery used for the movie was actually pretty good

  • Ana

    Rocky Horror shouldn’t be in this list – I’m shocked it’s here. In fact, it doesn’t meet IMHO your first criterion if being genuine – to my mind it’s full of knowing irony. (And I don’t love it because it’s bad – i love it ‘cos it’s outrageous!)

    • Shawn Hudson

      Ana, you have a good case. I will admit that it was the one movie I was questioning whether or not to add. In the end, I believe it helped to shape the culture behind cult and so-bad-it’s-good cinema, so I put it on the list. Long before Troll 2 was forming lines, Rocky Horror bred a whole generation of people who could love and participate with a movie despite its low-budget and poor “special” effects.

      • Andreas Moss

        It might have shaped that type of culture yes. You have a point there, but its still not a bad movie. Its weird and campy and very self-aware of what it is. 🙂

      • Richard Campbell

        Rocky Horror was written by Richard O’Brien not Jim Sharman.

      • Daria Leanne

        But it was a satire of/ode to low-budget films. It’s self-consciously campy – you think naming a planet “Transexual” wasn’t meant as a joke?

        There is nothing bad about Rocky Horror at all – it’s excellent at everything it tries to be and do. Note that it was a successful stage play first.

    • Angela Marie

      There’s a bunch that don’t really fit the list.

    • Ramone

      Yeah, it’s as if the author didn’t understand that it’s all tongue planted firmly in cheek. Also, Bram Stokers Dracula is definitely goofy, but I don’t know that I’d call it bad. It has better production values than just about any other Dracula story since (including the latest turd dumped at the box office). YES, we KNOW, Keanu was miscast. So was Winona. But the movie was truly horrifying in many other ways that weren’t hilarious. And Gary Oldman as Dracula–GARY FUCKING OLDMAN!

      The list seems more like some easy targets filled out with a few “wha?” picks.

    • Stephus

      Agree

  • Sombit Mondal

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czt_Eroo_bs

    There should be different versions of this list.

    • Shawn Hudson

      There are – they’re all over the Interwebs. Thanks for reading this one, though.

  • loempiavreter

    Samurai Cop, Turkish Rambo, Miami Connection… that one movie with the caveman transformed into moder man/kickboxer and send to the future to fight a cybernetic overlord… There are so many better choices then some of the hollywood flicks in here… Johnny Mnemonic, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Highlander II, Wicker Man… etc. These could all be left out. They are just bad movies with a occasional funny scene.

    And Zardoz is a great movie! Camerawork and mise-and-scene (I love the shots with mirrors and crystals), the world they created is fantastic, and there’s thoughtful message on ‘barbaric troops’ fighting far away while their commanders hide themselves safely, far from the battlefield to shout their orders.

    • loempiavreter

      Caveman kickboxer from the future flick is called Savage (1996) starring Olivier Gruner 🙂

    • Shawn Hudson

      As with any list, feel free to add movies or subtract. I would be ashamed to write a list that didn’t reflect my own tastes, however, and for my money – Highlander II, Wicker Man, and Johnny Mnemonic are only fun to watch because they are huge clusterf*cks, off and on-screen. And because they’re Hollywood, they have huge budgets which seemingly get used to make the movie even more hilarious, ie Battlefield Earth.

  • Ted Wolf

    I agree, Miami Connection definitely belongs on this list and RHPS does not. I also feel that Dracula does not belong here either as I thought it was self deprecating and I think Coppola is smart enough to have envisioned that.

    • Shawn Hudson

      Miami Connection is a movie that we’ll be watching/talking about soon on The Bomb Squad (my podcast) … didn’t want to comment on a movie that I hadn’t seen, though.

      • Ted Wolf

        A friend of mine actually directed a really bad movie called Master Demon which would make for a wonderful double feature with Miami Connection.

  • Milton Cruz

    I haven’t seen this one yet, but just the trailer is pure poesy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aFgQ34b96_U

  • Angela Marie

    I loved Hercules in New York as a kid.. They even dubbed Arnold’s voice, because his English was way worse back then, if you can imagine that. lol

  • Angela Marie

    How is Friday the 13th part 5 not on this list?! lol
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HONa-BdZMA4

    • Caio Bogoni

      That is not a movie so bad it’s good, that’s a movie so bad you want to die.

  • ladyofargonne

    Zardoz: Sean Connery bare chested, loin clothed with long hair riding a horse. There’s and audience for that you know. The Favorite: now there’s a bad movie. The lead actress is so bad it makes me wish I pursued acting. I could have done so much better.

    • I have a Zardoz poster hanging on my living room wall. There are LOTS of audiences for that. Sean Connery, in said loin-cloth, slowly smashing his jowls against an invisible forcefield … that’s why I pay for admission.

  • Jolly Jack Splendid

    Am I the only person that actually enjoyed The hillz?

    • You’re not the only person. I was gifted a copy at the school paper I was working at. I couldn’t believe my eyes, ears, or anything really. The scene where the kid’s in front of the mirror, posing with his gun just felt like it went on forever …

  • maximillianrex carpediem

    Bram Stoker’s Dracula? Seriously? Despite Reeves’ bad accent, I definitely prefer this one to the 1930’s version. Try the Frankenstein remake for a bad remake.

    • Charlie

      TBF “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein” was at least a little more faithful to the book.

  • Rax

    I hope that the only reason Samurai Cop isn’t on here is because you haven’t seen it. It is the only movie I can think of that may even edge out The Room. A personal favorite that I would recommend in this category is also Beyond The Law. Charlie Sheen plays an undercover cop infiltrating a motorcycle club that has strange spirit quest flashbacks and incredible dialogue sequences with a fat gun toting douche bag named Oatmeal.

    • Both sound like winners. Samurai Cop’s been on the list for a long time – that list is growing by the day.

  • Dane Corle

    Troll 2 and The Room are on the list, which is great, but HOW can you leave out the third film in the legendary Bad Movie Triumvirate!? Seriously, why is Birdemic not on this list? I mean, granted, it BARELY qualifies as a movie, but c’mon guys!

  • ladyofargonne

    I liked the two Keanu Reeves movies listed here. And Sean Connery, long hair, loin cloth, riding a horse? To each his own.

  • José Pablo Posada

    Where’s zoolander? I mean come on!!

  • AnaBastow

    Disagree with Dracula and Street Fighter is worth it just because of Julia’s line “Bison: For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. But for me, it was Tuesday.”

  • Rick Sullivan

    Aside from the fact that “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” should not be on this ridiculous list – the film was not written by director Jim Sharman, it was written by Richard O’Brien, who also wrote all of the music and played the character Riff Raff. A simple perusal of IMDb could’ve prevented that mistake on the most well-known – and wrongly-placed – entry on this list. I was a Rocky Horror Cast Director for 5 years, I know these things.

  • Paul O’Connor

    Where’s “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” ? 😉

  • anon

    Mommie Dearest?

    • Joe Trudnak

      Absolutely!!

  • CatfishJohn47

    Excellent list! Might I submit the movie ‘Anaconda’ for consideration?

  • Doña Mandarina

    Street Fighter is just plain bad, nothing to save from that piece of garbage.

  • alejandro gomez

    frankly, Francis Ford Coppola Dracula shouldn´t be here, its a great masterpiece on cinema very artistic

  • Kio Koi

    As I see thats a list about 25 random movies that the author don’t like. That’s all.

    • That’s not true at all. I love these movies.

  • David Morrison

    You are a great man and you have done a majestic service to humanity by abseiling into the volcano and returning with this occult wisdom. I have seen only 9 of these cinematic traffic accidents. In my defense, I have seen Battlefield Earth at least a dozen times and can pretty much recite Glen or Glenda, but still, you have shown me my failings. I bow down. I shall not shirk from that which Must. Be. Done.

  • Meaghan

    I feel like Plan 10 From Outer Space belongs on this list

  • gustavomda

    The Rocky Horror Picture Show being on this list is ridiculous. And Dracula is pretty decent, actually.

  • cristina willigs

    dracula serious,? has nothing to do with the original story but is a good movie

  • Brian Lussier

    For the record, apart from Keanu Reeves’ horrible performance (but I’ve come to expect that out of him), Francis Ford Coppola’s Bran Stoker’s Dracula is FAR from a bad film; it is a VERY good film!

    • Joe Trudnak

      Thank you! Very well said.

  • Daria Leanne

    You should see “After Last Season.”

  • Benas Bačanskas

    Plan 9 from Outer Space should be higher than The Room, in my opinion.

  • Andrés Alafita

    You missed the one movie that best fit in this list: Turkish Star Wars. Without that, this list is invalid.

  • Akio Fujimitsu

    There are too many films on the list that are arguably good, such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Road House (especially Road House). There is also too many films on the list that are arguably just bad/boring and not so bad it’s good like, Highlander II and Johnny Mnemonic. I understands putting those in as weather or not a movie is so bad it’s good often comes down to personal taste. But this list misses more well known flicks like Birdemic, Robot Monster and Show Girls. I also think this list should of highlighted more obscure movies like, Samurai Cop and Miami Connection. We need another 25 so bad it’s good movie list, this list is so bad it’s good to argue about!

    • chrosTV

      Neil Breen movies are definitely missing!

  • John Davidsson

    The Twilight movies and Rikki Oh should be on here =)

  • q12w33w43

    Samurai Cop, Birdemic and Miami Connection should be in the top 5 of this list!

  • sCARfiNGer

    Oh hi Mark.

  • Joe Trudnak

    Wait a minute!!! I buy most of the selections on this list as so bad it’s good, but “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” falls firmly in the so good it’s nearly great arena. Sticks out like a very sore thumb.

  • Rich G

    Over the top is one of my fav naff 80’s Stalone films. That is a properly good shit film. Nick Cages line in the Wicker Man is a sight to behold! Tooo bad to be good. Especially since the origional was so good. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1GadTfGFvU

    I think Dracula is far to good for this list. Something like Crank would be more appropriate.
    Anything with Arnie, Stalone or Van Damme is a guaranteed good shit film. For example Time Cop, Commando etc.

  • Stephus

    Jennifer’s Body fits here

  • Rocky Horror and Road House maybe should not be on this list. How about Maximum Overdrive, Howard the Duck, and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes?

  • Vladimir Krakov

    Totally wrong about “Zardoz” – it is one of the best movies ever made – just takes some patience to digest the first half an hour.

  • Julian

    As other commentators have stated, to put Rocky Horror on this list is ridiculous. Also, The Wicker Man (2006) is just a mediocre movie. I question whether it “shattered expectations”, or whether it can be considered “raw and intact”. I actually wonder if this writer even saw the movie. When Nicolas Cage wipes off the blackboard, he doesn’t write his own name, he writes the name of the girl that he’s looking for, which makes sense.

  • Tom Walsh

    Dude, Where’s My Car
    my favorite so bad it’s good

  • Matthew Sutton

    I’d put Manos in the so-bad-it’s-unwatcheable category.

  • Stephus

    Jennifer’s Body deserves a place in a list like this one lol

  • Terek Brajan

    To put Dracula, Rocky Horror and even Zardoz on this list is shameful

  • chrosTV

    There’s no Neil Breen movie on this list? How could there be no Neil Breen movie on the list? I don’t unterstand it: How could there be no Neil Breen movie on the list?