10 Must-See So Bad They’re Good Movies From The 1980s

6. Rhinestone (1984)

Rhinestone (1984)

When you think of country music, you might think Dolly Parton–which makes sense, as she has been one of country music’s biggest mainstream crossover successes. Someone you may not think of when you think of country music is Sylvester Stallone. But in 1984, the two teamed up to make a musical comedy about country music called Rhinestone, and it is completely nuts.

Jake Farris (Dolly Parton) is a country singer stuck in an urban cowboy nightclub in New York City. When she makes a bet with the club manager that she can turn anyone into a country star in just two weeks in order to be released from her contract (and if she loses she has to perform at the club for another FIVE YEARS and sleep with the club owner), the club owner gets to choose who it is she has to make a star.

So he picks a cabbie named Nick (Sylvester Stallone), who has no musical talent and also hates country. But Jake–determined to make him a star–brings him to Tennessee to enrich his cultural horizons and begins to make him a country musician.

This totally artificial and contrived storyline would be bad on its own, but watching as Sylvester “I Can Barely Speak Clearly” Stallone struggle as he tries to sing country music makes this film abysmal. Which, in turn, makes it an oddly fascinating film to watch. Besides it making no sense, Rhinestone is a film that tried to capitalize on the fleeting “urban cowboy” fad that swept across America in the early 80’s, so much of its context is lost on today’s audience. It’s a mess, but a really fun mess to watch.


7. Chopping Mall (1986)


Malls were a big thing in 1980’s America: large shopping centers with numerous retailers and food outlets housed in one big building was a novelty that suburban dwellers couldn’t get enough of in that decade. Horror movies–particularly slasher movies aimed at a teenage audience–were also very popular at the time. So ingenious B-movie director Jim Wynorski thought, why not both? And made Chopping Mall.

So the story goes: a mall installs a state-of-the-art security system that includes shutters across all exits and three heavily armed security robots that roam around the mall after it closes and are programmed to subdue and apprehend potential thieves using tasers and tranquilizer guns. Four couples, who are all employees of the mall, have a party in a furniture store after closing time where they drink and smoke and have sex and do all of the things that get teenagers killed in horror movies. The security robots go rogue and begin killing them off one-by-one. And it’s very stupid.

But films like this seem to exist to be on lists like this, and Chopping Mall is grade-A “so bad, it’s good” material: the acting is atrocious, the special effects are garbage, the very concept is totally bonkers, and the kind of context-less gratuitous nudity that only 80’s films would dare insert into their films. It’s the kind of horror movie that doesn’t scare you but will make you laugh–which misses the point of being a horror movie, but as a deliriously stupid B-movie, it succeeds on all fronts.


8. The Dungeonmaster (1985)

The Dungeonmaster (1985)

In the 1980s, personal computers were a new thing that caught Hollywood’s imagination even if they didn’t really understand how they worked. This is obvious in films like The Dungeonmaster, in which a computer programmer has somehow made a sentient PC that he can interact with, and his girlfriend is jealous of his relationship with the computer.

Then both he and his girlfriend are transported to another realm where a demon-like sorcerer has summoned him in his quest to find a worthy opponent. The sorcerer takes the programmer’s girlfriend hostage and pits the programmer’s technology against his magic. Fortunately, the programmer has a wrist band version of his computer (WHAT?) and uses that to shoot monsters and such with a laser beam.

Suffice to say, everything about this movie is incredibly stupid. The very low understanding of what computers can do or were capable of in the mid-80s makes The Dungeonmaster’s plot that centers around some kind of magical advanced computer hilarious to watch.

Inspired by 1982’s Tron but for some reason transporting the characters to a strange other world, where for vague reasons a programmer is picked for battle due to his computer savvy, is downright confusing and as a result very funny. For a glimpse at one of the more confusing films about computers ever made, The Dungeonmaster is a ridiculous example of how little Hollywood seemed to understand pretty much everything in the 1980s.


9. Memorial Valley Massacre (1989)

Holidays are convenient times of the year to center a horror story around: Halloween is popular, of course, but horror films have also been set at Christmas, Valentine’s Day, April Fool’s Day, and even New Year’s Eve and Easter. But by the late 80’s, the slasher genre had exhausted many potential holidays, so one film decided to set it on Memorial Day. You know, the American holiday reserved to honor and remember those who died in war?

Anyway, this is yet another camp slasher film, centered around Memorial Day and the campers who kick off the summer season with cookouts and drinking. The regular death fodder is present in the film in all their 2-dimensional glory: bikers, alcoholics, square families, and partying 20-somethings are all spending the long weekend on camping grounds and getting murdered at a pretty regular rate.

Bad horror films are often the first genre people think of when they want to watch a “so bad it’s good” film, and Memorial Valley Massacre certainly qualifies. Obscure, poorly made, with a MIDI soundtrack and some hilarious characters and dialogue, and of course set on a wildly inappropriate holiday for a horror film (that doesn’t even feature into the film’s premise!), Memorial Valley Massacre is for those who like terrible horror films for the right reasons.


10. Deadly Prey (1987)

Deadly Prey

A former Marine named Mike is kidnapped and forced to participate in a lethal training exercise for mercenaries. This training is led by his former mentor, who has his lethal troop kidnap people and then hunt them in the jungle as part of their training. But Mike is a killing machine and begins to decimate the mercenaries.

This mindlessly violent action film is not only a ripoff of the Rambo franchise but takes itself 100% seriously–which makes it all the more hilarious to watch. With lines like “I’ve killed more people than cancer!” and scenes where a man is beaten unconscious with his own dismembered arm, one would assume Deadly Prey is purposely making itself as over-the-top and ridiculous as possible.

But nope, this movie is legit and wants the audience to take it as seriously as it takes itself. This is impossible, of course, but fortunately this is also why the term “so bad, it’s good” exists. This delirious action film even has a sequel–made a mere 16 years after the original and features the same characters doing exactly the same thing, only everyone’s older. Deadly Prey is a must-see for action fans who enjoy ridiculous films that take themselves far too seriously than the end product would suggest.

Author Bio: Mike Gray is a writer and academic whose work has been featured on a number of websites and maintains a TV and movie blog at mikegraymikegray.wordpress.com.