25 Movies So Bad They're Unmissable
Horrible! Utterly horrible! And yet, fascinating...
What makes a film so appalling that it transitions from ordinary ineptitude into the sublime; beyond cult status (and all reason) and into that surreal place where you really can't believe what you're watching? RT's regular contributor Michael Adams has a pretty good idea: as part of his new book Showgirls, Teen Wolves and Astro Zombies, he spent an entire year seeking out the greatest atrocities cinema has ever unleashed, watching more than 400 bad movies in a quest to to find the worst film ever made. Along the way, he spoke with such bad movie aficionados as John Landis, Joe Dante, Eli Roth, John Waters and the Mystery Science crew, while himself appearing in George Romero's Survival of the Dead. Here then are 25 of his picks for those films that, awful as they may be, you simply cannot turn away from...
Following their smash-hit Basic Instinct, director Paul Verhoeven and writer Joe Eszterhas tried to shock cinemagoers with this sensational look at the sleazy world of Las Vegas strips clubs and showgirl casino spectaculars. Audiences and critics were shocked all right. They were shocked at Eszterhas' ludicrously "hard-hitting" dialogue about who has nice breasts, who is a whore, who finds it hard to adjust to no longer being ejaculated on. They were shocked at Verhoeven thinking we'd be turned on by Elizabeth Berkley and Kyle MacLachlan making love in a neon-lit pool like they'd been set on the spin cycle. Most of all they were shocked that this supposedly erotic drama generated nothing but guffaws.
Battlefield Earth (2000)
After his post-Pulp Fiction comeback, John Travolta made himself a laughing stock in this partial adaptation of his guru L. Ron Hubbard's sci-fi novel. Set in the year 3000, a millennium after the Psychlo master race invades Earth and enslaves humanity, this has Travolta as a 10-foot-tall alien who gets around in dreadlocks, nose plugs and KISS boots. Even more over-the-top is his performance, which is all mwu-ha-ha-ing and an almost Shakespearean declamation of eeeeeeevil! Barry Pepper's terrible, too, bringing Christian Bale levels of intensity to his cave warrior. What also makes this badly watchable is that director Roger Christian shoots every scene on a weird askew angle.
Glen Or Glenda (1953)
Ed Wood Jr.'s feature debut is a favorite of David Lynch, who actually sampled some of its sound effects in his 1977 debut Eraserhead. You can see the similarities; the two movies inhabit a shared surreal space. With Wood indulging his transvestite leanings in the lead role(s) and battling his literal devils, Bela Lugosi as a God-like puppetmaster, and acres of stock footage with dissonant Rumsfeld-esque narration, this cross-dressing, sex-changing melo-docu-drama is brain-scramblingly weird.
Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)
Crowned as the "worst movie ever made" back in the 1980 book The Golden Turkey Awards, this is the movies' most famous Z-grade clunker. Despite a discernible lack of talent and resources, auteur Ed Wood Jr. staged an alien invasion epic. It's impossible not to be amazed and somehow charmed that he tried to fulfill this ambition with an amateur cast, unrelated footage of his now-dead friend Bela Lugosi, an unconvincing stand-in for the former Dracula star, model-kit flying saucers, a cardboard cemetery, and an airplane cockpit comprised of a couple chairs and a shower curtain... among other celebrated inadequacies.
Robot Monster (1953)
While Ed Wood's aliens looked suspiciously like fey middle-aged men in silver jumpsuits, Phil Tucker's ET invaders were even less likely, unless, that is, NASA's suppressing knowledge that our cosmic neighbors are gorilla-robots who wear diving helmets and wield genocidal bubble machines. Originally released in 3-D, Robot Monster actually made a small fortune relative to its paltry budget. Viewed today, it's hilarious, but, like Plan 9, compelling for its bizarre plotting and dialogue so dreadful it actually becomes like poetry.