Listen: everyone likes a good movie. When a film stirs your emotions and makes you think, it’s a great experience. But nobody likes a bad movie–one that moves like molasses, features terrible dialogue and loathsome characters, and is filmed like the cinematographer went blind before every scene.
But then there are movies that are considered so bad, they’re good: The Room, Battlefield Earth, and Batman & Robin are just some salient examples of this strange non-genre. You know the type of movie–where the dialogue is outrageously over-the-top, the special effects are laughably bad, and the intended tone of the film seems to exist in a parallel universe to what’s being depicted on-screen.
The 1980s were a decade that produced already rather over-the-top films, so the movies that somehow went past bad to somehow become good once again from the 80s have to be really insane to be part of the “so bad, it’s good’ club. And here are 10 films from this totally awesome decade to watch when you’re in the mood for a movie so incompetently made with an absurd premise and insane characters that they’re so bad, it’s good.
1. Bulletproof (1988)
Gary Busey has had a long, strange career as an actor: nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Buddy Holly in The Buddy Holly Story, Busey was known for his intense performances. But after a motorcycle accident in 1988, in which the actor suffered permanent brain damage, his increasingly erratic behavior and often bizarre statements afterward has turned him into a walking punchline.
His last film before the accident, however, suggests that Busey was always a little…unhinged. Supercop and former secret agent Frank McBain (Busey)–nicknamed Bulletproof due to his ability to survive otherwise fatal gunshot wounds–is called in by the government to recover a top-secret tank from a group of terrorists on the Mexican border (?) all while having to rescue his ex-girlfriend from this sinister group. Filmed like a TV movie and hitting every single action movie cliche in the book, it seems more like a parody of an action movie than an actual one, and it’s a lot of fun to watch after a beer or five.
2. Raw Force (1982)
A group of vacationing martial arts students on a boat accidentally wind up on Warrior Island, where precious Jade is being mined by traders who are working in cahoots with cannibalistic monks (what?) who sacrifice some of their potential meals (who are all attractive women for some reason) sometimes to a graveyard full of Kung Fu warriors, which come back from the dead to protect the monks. Oh, and the waters around the island are filled with piranhas.
Sounds like it doesn’t make much sense, right? That’s because it doesn’t, and it’s a lot of fun to watch. With a lot of gratuitous nudity, bad special effects, zombie warriors, stock footage from other movies, and a lot of poorly choreographed Kung Fu fight sequences, Raw Force is the low-budget martial arts action-horror film you never knew you needed to see. Since the filmmakers decided much of the movie didn’t need to make any sense, neither do you: just sit back and enjoy this glorious mess for all it’s worth.
3. The Man Who Saves The World, AKA Turkish Star Wars (1982)
Murat and Ali crash-land their spaceships onto a desert planet after a battle. Hiking across the planet, they are attacked by skeletons on horseback, which they fight in hand-to-hand combat. The villain shows up and takes our heroes hostage. Turns out the bad guy’s from Earth and is a 1000-year-old wizard. He’s trying to take over Earth but finds that it’s being protected by “brain molecules,” of which only a human brain can defeat.
Our heroes escape and find a band of refugees, and Murat sparks up a romance with the only woman in the refugee camp. But then zombies attack. And then our heroes are in a bar brawl and are captured again by the wizard. And then other things happen, like the wizard trying to get Murat on his side, golden ninjas that protect an ancient, powerful sword, and a golden brain that can be used to defeat Earth.
Besides the completely insane and nonsensical story, this 1982 Turkish film also had the audacity to use unauthorized footage from Star Wars and attempted to pass it off as its own. The shield of “brain molecules” that protects earth is clearly the Death Star; the bar they go into is literally just the Mos Isley Cantina, and Murat makes his escape in the end in the Millennium Falcon. On top of that, the soundtrack is also just ripped off from a half-dozen better known films. Besides this, the original footage and storyline itself makes no sense and is muddled and confusing. It’s an astonishingly bad movie and one that demands to be seen.
4. Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)
One of the better-known films on this list, Killer Klowns From Outer Space is an outright cult classic. A clan of evil aliens who resemble circus clowns (for some reason) come to a small town on Earth to capture, kill, and then harvest the human inhabitants as food. And it’s just as silly as it sounds: the clowns use a popcorn gun as their main weapon, a balloon dog comes to life, and a giant clown appears as the end villain.
Of course, unlike many of the films on this list, this movie was made purposely campy by the filmmakers, even though their more grandiose intentions give way to some underwhelming special effects and sequences. Perhaps a good example of how determination to make a movie–no matter how silly the premise–can overcome numerous obstacles like an outright goofy premise and how budget constraints can lead to some very silly workarounds, Killer Klowns From Outer Space is a bad movie that actually hit its mark of being intentionally bad. Which, of course, makes it good.
5. Can’t Stop The Music (1980)
Hey, remember The Village People? That all-male disco group where its members dressed up like cops and Native Americans and cowboys and, uh, leather daddies? Their brief moment in the spotlight actually culminated in a full-length feature film that’s a pseudo-biography of the group’s creation. And, unsurprisingly, it’s terrible!
Songwriter Jack Morell (Steve Guttenberg) DJs at a local disco club while his retired(?) supermodel roommate tries to get him a record contract through her ex-boyfriend, who agrees to listen to a demo. For the demo, Jack recruits the Village People (who are all in-costume the entire film, by the way), and from this tumbles out a completely bananas film with more homoerotic content than the studio that backed the film could have expected (and holds the distinction of one of the few PG-13 films with full frontal male nudity on display).
It’s confusing as hell, the acting is sub-high school theater level, and the music is….well, it’s OK, if you like The Village People and disco. But released in 1980, just as the disco wave broke and was receiving tremendous backlash, it was dead on arrival and a colossal bomb at the box office. But its incredible campiness, knowing gay subtext, and sheer oddness has made Can’t Stop The Music a cult film and one that’s so terrible it’s fascinating to watch.