Weird means ‘very strange’ or ‘bizarre’ in dictionaries. Its synonyms include words like outlandish, quirky, eccentric, idiosyncratic, surreal, peculiar, odd, zany, madcap, freakish and crazy among other things. So it’s a given that ‘weird’ will mean different things to different people.
For the sake of this list, let’s go towards the more outlandish and bizarre end of ‘weird’ and focus on the less well known films and directors, which means there’s no space for Alejandro Jodorowsky, David Lynch, David Cronenberg, Luis Bunuel, Terry Gilliam, Takashi Miike, Peter Greenaway, Guy Maddin, John Waters or even golden era Hollywood comedies like Hellzapoppin’ or anything with the Marx Brothers. These guys are famous enough as it is and you can always read about their films somewhere.
What this list hopefully tries to do is to bring to your attention the less heralded films that fall under the ‘weird’ banner, or even some relatively well known ones you didn’t realize was actually quite weird and insane.
20. Killer Klowns From Outer Space (Stephen Chiodo, 1988)
Far more brilliant in concept than it actually is as a properly executed movie, it’s a testament to how strong and well thought out that concept is that Killer Klowns From Outer Space remains more than a passing interest in 80s film history. Phobia of clowns has long been a staple for horror films, but not quite in the manner that the Chiodo brothers have imagined it.
Instead of the supernatural beings or plain psychos that they usually are in films, the clowns here are actually aliens from outer space. Their spaceship looks like a circus tent and they’re here to kill humans presumably for food, since their victims are all turned into or wrapped up in what looks like cotton candy!
The whole film is an imaginative inversion of innocent and banal things that actually turn deadly. From flesh eating popcorns to the aforementioned cotton candy to even deadly hand shadow puppet plays, the film is chock full of smartly conceptualized little things like these that it’s obvious that the Chiodo brothers have put a lot of time and care into thinking about all of it.
If only they put in as much time and thought into the filmmaking aspect of it, then the world would have been left with not only a cool weird movie, but also a good cool weird movie.
19. Belly Of The Beast (Ching Siu Tung, 2003)
Hong Kong films have always been a bit weird and over-the-top at times, and even when that wave of Hong Kong directors like John Woo, Tsui Hark and Ringo Lam started making American films, they’ve always managed to bring that weirdness onto the table as well.
Just look at Mission Impossible 2, or any number of the movies that Jean Claude Van Damme made with this bunch like Hard Target and Knock Off as proof of the everlasting power of the over-the-top Hong Kong action movie. But Ching Siu Tung, famed for his work on A Chinese Ghost Story, arguably took things to an even loonier level with his Steven Seagal flick Belly Of The Beast.
Not only is Seagal such a badass here that he can out-slide and out-fly Chow Yun Fat of the Hard Boiled and The Killer era, all guns blazing, he can also split an arrow aimed at him into two using a gun and a sword. This is not the young Seagal we’re talking about, but the older, stockier, obsessed-with-Asian-mysticism Seagal. And that’s only the normal part of the movie.
Take into account that the bad guy’s leading right hand man, for some reason, is a transvestite, and that the movie’s closing fight scene was not only between Seagal and the villain, but was also intercut with a battle between an evil witch doctor (who’s using black magic against Seagal) against a group of monks chanting to protect Seagal, and you’ve got yourself one heck of a weird action movie just waiting to be enjoyed.
18. Norwegian Ninja (Thomas Cappelen Malling, 2011)
For a while in the early 2010s, it seemed like crazy and quirky Scandinavian genre flicks will rule the Earth, thanks to the success of Dead Snow, Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, Troll Hunter and Iron Sky, to mention the more prominent members of this elite club. Slightly less well known is the superbly ridiculous Norwegian Ninja, which plays like a loving homage to 1980s Ninja movies directed by Wes Anderson.
Apparently based on a real life incident in 1984 where Norwegian diplomat Arne Treholt was arrested for being a spy for the Soviet Union, the film playfully reimagines the rest. In this universe, Treholt was not a spy, but actually a Ninja, entrusted by King Olav himself to head and train a secret national organization called the Ninja Force.
Battling against a similarly secret NATO organization called Stay Behind, it’s actually the Ninja Force who saved Norway during the Cold War, as Thomas Cappelen Malling weaves a hugely entertaining tale of spiritually enlightened Ninjas, spy thrills and generous helpings of deadpan comedy.
17. Lifeforce (Tobe Hooper, 1985)
What happens when you combine the talents of Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Poltergeist) and writer Dan O’Bannon (Return Of The Living Dead, Alien, Total Recall) with a huge (for 1985) US$25 million budget to make a film for notorious 1980s schlocksters Cannon Films? You get Lifeforce, a film about space vampires that feed off people’s life force instead of blood.
An odd movie even if it was actually made on a low budget, Lifeforce becomes even more fascinating when considering the fact that it was intended as a big budget sci-fi blockbuster. Opening with a joint British-US space expedition discovering an abandoned spaceship on Halley’s Comet, which was filled with desiccated bodies of bat-like creatures, they found three transparent containers holding what looks like nude bodies of two men and one woman, which they brought back to Earth.
That ship crashed, leaving everyone dead but with the containers and its contents intact. Chaos begins as it’s discovered that the containers’ contents are actually space vampires, and increasingly bizarre events unfold which will delight viewers, such as the sight of a young Patrick ‘Captain Jean-Luc Picard’ Stewart speaking in a woman’s voice and kissing the hero, Carlsen (played by Steve Railsback), or gorgeous French actress Mathilda May (playing the female vampire) walking around completely nude for most of the movie, or blood draining from two bodies that then turn into the female vampire, which then quickly turned into a puddle. Yes it’s preposterous, but it’s also wildly entertaining.
16. Contact High (Michael Glawogger, 2009)
The late, great, Michael Glawogger is more known to cinephiles as the director of documentaries like Megacities, Workingman’s Death and Whores’ Glory. Less well known is the fact that he also makes slapstick comedies like the sex comedy Slugs and Contact High, a psychedelic stoner head trip that would give Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas a serious run for its money.
The MacGuffin here is a bag that a gangster boss wants to be retrieved from a hotel in Poland, for which a series of job delegations happen that finally lands the job on the lap of two best friends, Hans Wurst and Max Durst. Hans and Max are of course two bumbling idiots, with Hans fancying himself a sausage connoisseur and Max a proper stoner.
As is the case with any stoner road comedies, a series of mishaps and crazy car chases happen as the bag gets switched around and all sorts of characters come into the picture. What makes this such a delight is watching Glawogger’s visual treatment of what a head trip might feel and look like, from waking up in a hotel room where everything seems to be half the size to a crazy night out in which the clubbers all seem to be having dog heads with human bodies.
15. Hell Comes To Frogtown (R.J. Kizer & Donald G. Jackson, 1988)
To read the plot of Hell Comes To Frogtown is to think that it sounds like a porn film. Maybe not the current porn films of all ‘action’ and no story, but more like the arty porn films of the 1970s like Deep Throat, The Devil In Miss Jones or the works of Radley Metzger, where there’s a bit more story in between all the ‘action’.
WWF legend Rowdy Roddy Piper plays Sam Hell, one of the very few fertile men left on Earth in a post-apocalyptic world sort of like the 1970s Planet Of The Apes movies, but with frogs instead of apes as the enemy. Sam’s mission is to go behind enemy lines, alongside two women, his commanding officer Spangle and hot as hell gun-happy driver Cec Verrell, to perpetuate the human race by impregnating as many fertile women as possible.
Yes, you read that right. He’s a soldier whose job is to have sex with as many women as possible! But here’s the strange thing, it’s not porn, at all. In fact, Roddy Piper is kind of a sweet guy in it, insisting that he can’t just go out and do it with any random girl. Poor guy.