Guilty pleasure. Camp. Cult classic. Call them what you will, watching so-called so-bad-they’re-good movies is all about joy. There’s something exuberant about watching a film that fails – fails to be funny, fails to be serious, fails to do what it sets out to do in ways that transcend taste. A bad film can be just that – bad, and boring. But these films are never boring. Communities and cultures have formed over celebrating cinematic catastrophes, and why not? Shared laughter has transformed these kinds of movies into something special. Here are four of our favorites!
The Room (2003)
The Room is the quintessential bad movie of the 21st century. The Holy Grail of trash cinema. Often cited as the worst movie ever made, The Room has spawned countless memes, song parodies, a memoir, a bio-dramedy chronicling the production of the movie, and a live screening experience on par with The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Starring the enigmatic Tommy Wiseau – who wrote, produced, and directed the film himself – The Room is, at its core, a generic love triangle melodrama. It’s just that, from the acting to the sub-plots that go nowhere to the framed pictures of spoons to the gratuitous bedroom scenes, every choice made in the making of this movie seems to have been the wrong one.
Forget everything you know about the Catwoman character. Because this movie absolutely did. This is not the Selina Kyle origin story fans were anticipating. Featuring camptastic performances by Halle Berry as Patience Phillips/Catwoman and Sharon Stone, Catwoman doesn’t seem to have any connection to Batman at all. It’s as though the filmmakers had no previous knowledge of the Catwoman character, and instead made a movie about a literal cat-woman. Watch Halle Berry freak out on catnip, eat tuna right out of the can, hiss at dogs, and ... play basketball? As you can imagine, the film received harsh reviews, but Halle Berry was a good sport about it. She attended the Razzies to accept her award for Worst Actress (with her Best Actress Oscar in hand) and delivered a truly memorable, hysterical acceptance speech.
Battlefield Earth (2000)
How many movies can you point to its screen transitions as one of its highlights? Star Wars, this is not. Battlefield Earth is an adaptation of a 1982 sci-fi novel of the same name by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. John Travolta and Forest Whitaker play 9-foot-tall aliens who spend about a quarter of their screen time laughing as though they were auditioning for a role in some really, really, really bad ’80s cartoon. Need we say more?
Practical Magic (1998)
Out of all the films on this list, Practical Magic is perhaps the one most enjoyed without a hint of irony. That’s when you know you’ve got a cult classic on your hands. Receiving poor reviews from critics (with a low 22% on Rotten Tomatoes), part of what makes the film such a ride is its total lack of tonal cohesion. That is, the genre can change from scene to scene, cut to cut. It’s part fantasy, part romance, part comedy, part horror. If that sounds like it wouldn’t work, that’s because it doesn’t.
One scene, a father is run over by a truck. Minutes later, his children are adoringly watching their mother pursue her new love interest from a tree. Stars Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman have legitimate onscreen chemistry, and the film does have some fantastical sets and lighting effects – so it’s not as though it’s all bad. It’s just not all good. Which makes it all the better.