It’s nice to see a movie that’s layered with plot and character development, or a movie that examines a relevant social issue, or a movie that’s based on an important true story such as Martin Luther King’s march on Selma. But it’s also nice to sometimes take a break from those and just switch your brain off for some mindless entertainment. What is mindless entertainment, you ask? Have you seen the trailer for the new movie Rampage starring Dwayne Johnson and some gigantic animals that like to smash through buildings? Well, that. It’s that. If you’re looking for something like this to help you wind down, check out these 10 movies that are just purely dumb fun!
10. Independence Day
The recent and belated sequel to Independence Day was released a couple of years ago, and sadly, it didn’t attract as much of an audience as its predecessor. Do you know why? Because it decided against being quite as dumb. The first Independence Day movie has Will Smith punching an alien in the face and saying, “Welcome to Earth!” It has that iconic and unintentionally hilarious shot of the dog jumping away from the explosion in slow motion. It has that guy with the really annoying voice. There’s a lot to love in this movie. Not in a particularly good way, like there’s a lot to love in Star Wars as a genuinely well crafted and engaging epic space opera, but more like you can love how ludicrous and cheesy and stupid it all is. Smith is paired up with scientist Jeff Goldblum to save Earth from certain doom, and they seem to be having the time of their lives. They banter like they don’t care that aliens are in the middle of invading their planet and killing everyone they love. They just don’t care! So, why was it such a big success? If it’s so dumb, why did audiences fall in love with it and make it one of the highest grossing movies of all time? Well, simply because it’s so much fun. It’s dumb, but it’s fun. In fact, the whole tone of the film can be summed up in that “Welcome to Earth!” moment.
9. Con Air
This list would be entirely without credibility if it didn’t feature a couple of high concept Nicolas Cage movies. Like most ludicrous action movies, Con Air was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and it tells the story of a guy who got charged with manslaughter after killing a guy to protect his pregnant wife (of course), who is put on a plane with some other convicts – all of them sickening, depraved, ruthless, vicious criminals – who then take it over, leaving Cage to fend for himself and defuse the situation. But that’s all just an excuse to get you to root for Cage’s character and sit intently on the edge of your seat. What follows is action, suspense, on the nose drama, witty one liners, over the top set pieces – this movie is so desperate to entertain you that it even has the endlessly hilarious standup comic Dave Chappelle in it, improvising all of his dialogue. Everything you need to know about the movie – the premise, the tone etc. – is summed up in this Cage quote from towards the end of it: “They somehow managed to get every freak and creep in the universe on this one plane, and then somehow managed to let them take it over, and then they somehow managed to stick us right smack in the middle. Put the bunny back in the box.”
Based on the premise of an FBI agent switching faces with the terrorist who killed his son in his search for him, you can already tell that whoever came up with the idea for Face/Off did not expect it to be taken too seriously. Without the face-switching element, this movie would just be a straightforward cat and mouse thriller and it would be a lot more realistic. But the face-switching is what makes it so great! It stars John Travolta and Nicolas Cage – two actors who are known for their unconventional delivery style, which makes them entertaining to watch in lieu of genuine acting talent – and we not only get to see two of their wackiest performances, but we actually get to see them play each other! We get to see Travolta play Cage and Cage play Travolta – it’s glorious madness! What makes Face/Off so enjoyable is that, while its premise is so joyfully ridiculous and the acting of John Travolta and Nicolas Cage is so shamelessly hammy, its director John Woo is one of the finest action filmmakers in the world. So, this otherwise ridiculous film is shot, framed, edited, and constructed brilliantly. It’s a technically proficient movie and it’s a beautiful movie – and it’s so, so unabashedly ridiculous.
7. Pacific Rim
What makes Pacific Rim so dumb and so fun is that that’s all Guillermo del Toro set out to do with it. He just wanted to make a movie where people in giant robot suits beat up equally giant monsters. There’s a rip in the ocean floor that leads to another dimension and a ton of creatures like the kaiju from Japanese cinema come crawling out of there to wreak havoc on the Earth’s surface. Humans fight back by building enormous robot suits and going out to punch the kaiju monsters with their big robot fists. This goes on in about ten different locations for about two hours and then the movie ends in more or less the same way as Independence Day. That’s it. There’s hardly any substance, apart from del Toro’s beautifully framed shots and deviously dark color grading. But let’s be honest, that’s all it wants to be. It wants to be a big, bombastic, ridiculous summer blockbuster movie. Del Toro was not setting out to make his Goodfellas or his Inception or his Full Metal Jacket. Pacific Rim was supposed to just be dumb fun, and the guy succeeded very well with that. It is dumb fun! No movie in which a military commander played by Idris Elba yells out, “We are cancelling the apocalypse!!” at the top of his lungs is meant to be taken seriously.
6. Shoot ‘Em Up
Shoot ‘Em Up is one of those beautiful movies that exists only to have ludicrous action for its entire running time and then end. It’s not trying to be anything else. That’s why it’s named after a video game genre where you spend the whole game shooting people and getting shot at. That’s what Clive Owen does for the entirety of the movie as he strives to protect a baby with a hit on its head from a ruthless gang of assassins. Shoot ‘Em Up is just 86 minutes of all out, ridiculous, over the top, noisy, no holds barred, relentless action with lots of guns and lots of blood and lots of near misses for the inexplicably lucky hero. Film critic legend Roger Ebert – who was known for positively reviewing movies that almost no other critics were giving positive reviews – called this movie “some kind of legend in the murky depths of extreme action.” One critic for the Boston Globe thought that the movie was so slyly clever in its tongue in cheek approached that he described it as “Coen Brothers for Dummies.” And that’s what every movie that the Coen brothers and their peers don’t make should be.
Whoever came up with the idea for Crank must have been on crank themselves at the time. The concept behind the film is essentially that of Speed (another movie whose title is also the name of a drug) – where terrorists have rigged a bus to explode if its speed drops below 50mph – except the bus has been replaced by a human body. Jason Statham owes some criminals some money, and if his heart rate drops below a certain level, he will die. The entire goal with action moviemaking is to keep the audience’s heart rate up the whole time, so the creators of Crank figured that if their lead character needed to keep his up, all the stuff he does to do it will keep the audience’s up, too. It was an interesting idea and it gave directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor the chance to play around with it. They have Statham getting into fights and taking a bunch of drugs just to keep his heart rate up – it’s awesome! There was also a sequel called Crank: High Voltage that takes the concept to even wilder places – at one point, they have Statham having sex on a horse track with a race going on!
4. The Mummy
It’s a shame that we don’t really get to see Brendan Fraser in movies anymore. Not because he’s a particularly good actor, but just because his idiosyncratic and very hammy delivery style is a joy to watch unto itself. His acting is so unusually bad that it then becomes enjoyable to watch, which in turn, sort of makes it good? The combination of his peculiar and corny acting method with the ludicrousness of the movies he chooses to star in make them really fun. They don’t match up to the likes of Casablanca or Gone with the Wind or The Godfather, but that doesn’t stop them from being entertaining. Fraser is what sells it. If any of the other actors considered, like Brad Pitt or Matt Damon, had taken the role, then there might have been an attempt to make a serious effort. But Fraser decided that his character Rick O’Connell “doesn’t take himself too seriously, otherwise the audience can’t go on that journey with him.” Luckily, the movie followed suit and we got some damn fine entertainment. The Mummy was a remake of one of the great horror classics of all time – it was a part of the classic Universal Monsters franchise that set the benchmark for today’s spooky movies. But this one is not going for that kind of praise. It didn’t want to be known as a modern classic or change the shape of cinema or anything. It just wanted to be fun and exciting and entertaining and a hell of a ride for the audience – and if you leave your brain at the door and just let yourself enjoy it, you’ll have a blast!
In the hands of anyone other than the ham fisted Roland Emmerich, this movie would’ve been a contemplative study about the fate of the human race and a poignant story about a family facing extreme disaster situations together. But no, Emmerich just hashed out some corny dialogue, thought up all of the craziest and most improbable scenarios that a global apocalypse would create, and then threw a bunch of money at his visual effects team and said, “Make shit happen!” It results in a really dumb movie that makes no sense and doesn’t make you feel anything real and certainly got no one back in 2009 scared about the Mayans’ predictions, because none it feels authentic at all – it’s just manufactured CGI product. But hey, it’s an awful lot of fun, so who cares? You won’t get any other movie in which Woody Harrelson lives in an RV in the woods and welcomes his own death. And you won’t get any other movie in which John Cusack outruns a volcanic eruption and jumps on a plane as it takes off. And you won’t get any other movie in which that same plane flies through an earthquake and comes out the other side without a scratch. Point is, no matter how absurd this movie is, it never stops being enjoyable – and as a movie, that’s really all that matters.
2. Bad Boys II
There’s a scene in Hot Fuzz where Nick Frost is grilling Simon Pegg about various movies and Pegg hasn’t seen any of them, but as soon as he admits to having never seen Bad Boys II, Frost stops in his tracks, jaw dropped, and says, “You ain’t seen Bad Boys II?!” He’s right to do so, and it’s not that there’s anything particularly special or essential about Bad Boys II. It’s not Schindler’s List or The Godfather. It’s just that it’s a wonderfully ridiculous movie. It has bombastic action sequences, a very thinly drawn plot, stupid comedy gags (some of which are actually quite morbid without acknowledging it), silly one liners that no one would actually say in real life (i.e. “This shit just got real”), and everything else that could possibly make this, in equal parts, totally mindless and endlessly entertaining. It is technically about two Miami cops who are investigating an ecstasy ring in their city, but it’s really about how many ludicrous situations the producers can get Will Smith and Martin Lawrence into, some of which include dead bodies and rape threats (but don’t let that put you off – it’s framed as a harmless joke). If you haven’t seen this movie, don’t worry about having seen the first one before jumping in – the plot development is not complex enough and characters don’t have enough dimensions for you to have to have followed the saga from the very beginning. You’ll just have a rollicking good time with the noisiest, brightest, silliest movie ever made.
Movies really don’t get much dumber than Rampage. It’s based on a video game in which a giant gorilla, a giant wolf, and a giant crocodile go berserk. So, guess what happens in the movie? Exactly that, except with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson following them around with helicopters and big guns. The film’s $120 million production budget was funneled right into paying for chaotic CGI sequences with maximum carnage and zero logic, with some set aside for the salaries of “Hey, It’s that guy!” actors, like Jeffrey Dean Morgan (aka The Walking Dead’s Negan). But isn’t that all you want at the movies? A lot of fun, a lot of action, a lot of heart, and a lot of recognizable faces? Rampage vaguely tries to have an environmentalist message about the treatment of animals in a half-assed attempt to make it worthwhile and meaningful and give it a tiny bit of artistic merit, but come on, this is just Transformers with giant animals instead of giant robots. In fact, it’s dumber than Transformers. At least Transformers has the decency to build up a fictional world and rationalize all the carnage that’s going on with explanations about a planet being destroyed and an all out war between two races. Rampage doesn’t even do us that courtesy. It’s just lots of CGI and cities getting destroyed and The Rock kicking ass. Rampage is the ultimate dumb fun movie and that’s what makes it so great.