James Franco and company have been receiving a lot of praise lately, as they’ve made a movie called The Disaster Artist that chronicles the strange, otherworldly, and troubled production of Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. Franco directed the movie and starred as Wiseau, who also directed The Room. It’s an odd kind of mirror of the initial film, which is the defining movie in the ‘so bad it’s good’ lexicon of cinema. The Disaster Artist’s producer Seth Rogen made a reference to The Room’s status as the worst movie ever made in a tweet about his own movie: “We made a movie about the worst movie and it might be our best movie.” But The Room is just the beginning. Its combination of bad acting, bad dialogue, bad direction, bad writing, bad set design, bad visual effects – hell, even bad sound mixing – makes it very terrible, and yet still a wonderfully enjoyable watch. Bad drama can sometimes be so bad that it becomes unintentionally hilarious. In fact, sometimes bad comedy can also be so painfully awful that it becomes hilarious – just not in the way that the filmmakers intended. So, here are the 15 worst movies that are so bad that they’ve become amazing.
In the beginning of Cellular, Kim Basinger is kidnapped by Jason Statham and his cronies and locked in a dark room, where she manages to put together the wires of a broken phone (despite no prior experience of doing anything like this) and actually manages to get through to the cell phone of a one Chris Evans (before he was Captain America – before he was the Human Torch, even), who despite having never met this woman and having no knowledge of the situation whatsoever, decides to drop everything and risk his life, stopping at nothing in order to save this random woman on the other end of the phone. It’s so, so, so, so ridiculously dumb. The movie was marketed as a dark, gritty, Taken-style thriller, but it’s actually a flashy, colorful, dumb, dopey action pic. It’s actually really funny. Whether this was intentional or not is up for debate, but either way, Cellular is an enjoyable movie, simply because of how unabashedly terrible it is.
14. The Box
A mysterious man gives Cameron Diaz a box and tells her that if she presses the button inside it, she’ll get $1 million. The catch is that if she does press it, someone dies. Right from the get-go, this is a weak, thin, stupid, nonsensical, pointless premise – and it only gets dumber from there. But that’s what’s so great. It is such a stupid setup for a supposedly serious thriller that plays more like an absurdist comedy, played straight. Famed critic Roger Ebert wrote of the movie, “If you make a preposterous movie that isn’t boring, I count that as some kind of a triumph.” What he’s saying is that it’s somewhat intriguing to see just how outlandish and terrible this movie can become. That’s worth something, right?
13. On Deadly Ground
In On Deadly Ground, Steven Seagal directs himself in the role of a character named Forrest (ironic, right?) who blasts his way through the Alaskan landscape and fights a bear. He’s supposed to be an environmentalist who takes on a ruthless oil corporation all by himself. It’s pretty dumb – if it’s supposed to have an environmentalist message, why are there so many explosive oil spills throughout the film? But it’s contradictions like this and silliness like the bear fight that keep On Deadly Ground hysterically funny and entertaining in a different way than Seagal intended. Seagal experts have said that this is one of the definitive Seagal movies, writing in the book Seagalogy: A Study of the Ass-Kicking Films of Steven Seagal that it is “the corniest, most unintentionally hilarious movie of his career.”
In Anaconda, a snake hunter kidnaps a documentary crew and then they all get hunted by a huge, bloodthirsty snake deep in the heart of the Amazon River. It is an interesting premise, and it could’ve turned out well. But appallingly unconvincing special effects on the snake, a hammy storyline, and ridiculous and over-the-top performances by Jon Voight, Jennifer Lopez, and Ice Cube make this laughably bad – but so laughably bad that you enjoy the laughter and end up having a good time. Anaconda, which received six Golden Raspberry Award nominations for sucking back in 1997, has since been included in Razzie founder John Wilson’s book The Official Razzie Movie Guide as a part of his list of The 100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.
11. You Got Served
This is the cheesy dance movie that started a trend in dance movies where gangs in urban neighborhoods settle their differences with a dance-off. It’s like a ‘hood’ version of High School Musical. It’s really corny and crappy. But the cheesiness of the movie works in its favor as a cringe comedy. You can laugh at all the conventions and tropes and clichés that are proudly on display. This movie has been parodied over and over in the years since – like in the South Park episode “You Got F’d in the A” and the Robot Chicken sketch “Young Black People on a Rhythm Team” and the Wayans brothers movie Dance Flick and that dance-off scene in Meet the Spartans – because there’s so much to laugh at. The movie is a parody of itself, which makes it terrible in a really great way.
10. Fifty Shades of Grey
There’s a third Fifty Shades movie coming out soon, and that’ll probably be just as bad as the first and second one. But the first one was the only one that was a novelty when it was released. It was supposed to be a sexy, sumptuous, edgy, hardcore romantic drama. Instead, what we got was a painfully unsexy, terribly awkward sex farce about a woman who is coerced into signing a contract that condones sexual assault, followed by naked Jamie Dornan and naked Dakota Johnson having lots of censored, watered-down sex. Fifty Shades of Grey is basically poorly made, well-marketed porn with all the dirty parts cut out by the MPAA. But if you go into it expecting it to suck (because it does), then you can enjoy yourself by laughing at it.
In Face/Off, Nicolas Cage plays a terrorist named Castor Troy who has murdered FBI agent John Travolta’s son. Suffice to say, the wacky and outlandish Castor Troy is hardly as menacing or intimidating as Osama bin Laden. In Travolta’s pursuit of Cage, through various circumstances, the two end up going through a surgical procedure to switch faces. So, all of a sudden, the good guy looks like the bad guy and the bad guy looks like the good guy. You can guess the kind of ridiculous absurdity that follows in this particular film. It’s supposed to be a serious thriller, but it works better as a dumb action comedy – it’s unintentionally funny in the same silly way that Leonard Part 6 was supposed to be funny (and wasn’t).
2012 is so shamelessly ridiculous that it comes off as more of a spoof of disaster movies than a serious disaster movies. It seems like an end-of-the-world comedy made by Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker (the team behind Airplane!) for $200 million. The scenes like John Cusack outrunning an earthquake or the Dalai Lama driving a pickup truck or the Arnold Schwarzenegger impressionist or the heroic dog or the crack in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel that goes right between Adam and God’s fingers in Michelangelo’s painting are sometimes funnier than the best gags in Hot Shots! or Blazing Saddles. Rolling Stone magazine accused 2012 of “sheer, cynical, mind-numbing, time-wasting, money-draining, soul-sucking stupidity,” but hey, if you watch it in the right way, that’s enjoyable. Roger Ebert wrote that the movie “delivers what it promises, and since no sentient being will buy a ticket expecting anything else, it will be, for its audiences, one of the most satisfactory films of the year.” If you switch off your brain, 2012 is a great movie. If you switch it on, in the cold light of day, you can see it for the piece of crap that it actually is.
7. Road House
This movie starring Patrick Swayze as a badass bouncer who protects women from sexual assault and puts an end to bar fights with roundhouse kicks inspired Peter Griffin to go around kicking people and Mac from It’s Always Sunny to cultivate a dangerous environment in his position as the bouncer at Paddy’s Pub. Road House is the kind of movie that you can see as an awesome ass-kick-a-thon if you ignore all of the flaws. It’s so cheesy and ‘80s that, in retrospect, it’s really cool. Roger Ebert appreciated the movie as being ‘so bad it’s good,’ writing, “Road House exists right on the edge between the ‘good-bad movie’ and the merely bad. I hesitate to recommend it, because so much depends on the ironic vision of the viewer. This is not a good movie. But viewed in the right frame of mind, it is not a boring one, either.” Another reviewer wrote, “Road House is a terrible movie, and by ‘terrible,’ I mean ‘awesome.’”
6. Deep Blue Sea
Deep Blue Sea is yet another thriller that came after the massive success of Jaws to continue to stigmatize sharks. In this one, though, they really take the cake with the premise. It’s about a bunch of scientists who want to cure Alzheimer’s by genetically modifying sharks to be really clever, only to subsequently have the sharks turn on them at a facility deep under the sea when they become smart enough to realize they’re prisoners. Yikes. To see just how far they go with the ridiculousness, consider this scene: LL Cool J, in the role of the chef, climbs into the oven to escape a pursuing shark, and then the shark turns the oven on to cook him. It’s a really dumb movie – but that’s what makes it so damn entertaining.
5. Mac and Me
Mac and Me is so appallingly similar to E.T. that it shouldn’t even really count as its own movie. It’s about a boy who befriends a Mysterious Alien Creature (MAC) that lands on Earth. The only discernible differences between Mac and Me and E.T. are that the kid in Mac and Me is in a wheelchair and the movie is rammed with shameless product placement. The title may be an allusion to the working title of E.T., which was E.T. and Me, but it’s mainly the cornerstone of the ad campaign for McDonald’s that is this movie. The whole thing was made in conjunction with the fast food giant, in order to have Happy Meal toys made (one of the first such movie tie-ins, so it’s a trailblazer in that sense). Mac and Me has become a cult classic. To be fair, there are some outrageous scenes that you can’t help but love, thanks to their sheer gall – like the one where the alien dons a teddy bear costume and has an impromptu dance-off with a football team and Ronald McDonald at a McDonald’s restaurant. Sadly, the movie was so poorly received that the planned sequel had to be cancelled. After the movie ends with a freeze frame, the words “We’ll be back!” appear on-screen. They never were back.
4. Plan 9 from Outer Space
This is the Citizen Kane of infamously bad movie director Ed Wood, and it’s come to be described as “the epitome of so-bad-it’s-good cinema.” People watch it for the sheer fun of mocking how terrible it is. In the Seinfeld episode “The Chinese Restaurant,” the whole reason Jerry, George, and Elaine are anxious to get out of the restaurant is that they’re worried they’ll miss a showing of the movie. As Jerry explains, “This isn’t Plans 1 through 8 from Outer Space – this is Plan 9! This is the one that worked! The worst movie ever made!” Aliens want to stop Earthlings from creating a doomsday weapon by raising the dead and causing anarchy. Rotten Tomatoes describes the movie as “an unintentionally hilarious sci-fi ‘thriller’ from anti-genius Ed Wood that is justly celebrated for its staggering ineptitude.”
3. Troll 2
Troll 2 was actually produced as an original movie under the title Goblins. The studio changed the name to Troll 2 in order to piggy-back on the success of the first Troll movie, although the two share no connection whatsoever. No characters, no storylines – hell, there aren’t even any trolls in Troll 2. Surely that would be a prerequisite of being a Troll movie, right? After starring in Troll 2 as a child and subsequently becoming embarrassed of how terrible it is, Michael Stephenson would later, as an adult, make the documentary Best Worst Movie about the movie’s legacy. The Something Awful critic called Troll 2 “the absolute worst movie I have ever reviewed,” but over the years, it has achieved the status of a cult classic.
2. The Wicker Man
The original version of The Wicker Man, a horror movie directed by Robin Hardy and starring Edward Woodward and Christopher Lee, is a terrifying, unnerving piece shrouded in mystery and intrigue that keeps you hooked from the beginning to the very end. The American remake, starring Nicolas Cage, is not. The sense of dread is gone, and all the torture elements – the freakiest and most frightening parts of the original – are comedy gold. One in particular that has caught the internet’s attention is the wicker helmet placed on Cage’s head that the villagers fill with bees to sting his face as he cries out, “NOT THE BEES!!!” The 2006 version of The Wicker Man does not work as a horror film, but it does work as a silly comedy.
1. The Room
“You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!!” Tommy Wiseau’s The Room has a long-held reputation for being the worst movie ever made, and there’s a good reason for that. It’s a failure in both artistic and technical senses. In a technical sense, the audio doesn’t match up with the footage, the editing is incoherent, the green screen effects are less convincing than Superman: The Movie, and the lighting looks totally phony. In an artistic sense, the script is dumb, the dialogue is completely unrealistic, the acting is abysmally wooden (with Wiseau in particular stealing scenes with his unusual delivery of every line), and the directorial choices with production design and story structure are incongruous. Wiseau has tried to retroactively claim that The Room was intended to be a black comedy, but it’s pretty obvious that it is, in fact, an unintentionally hilarious and poorly made drama film. The making of The Room formed the basis for the nonfiction book The Disaster Artist, written by one of Wiseau’s co-stars. James Franco recently adapted the book for the big screen, and that movie was actually good.