Tim Burton paid tribute to filmmaker Ed Wood with a biographical movie about his life, which was released more than 25 years ago. Since Wood was known for his low-budget, campy movies, we thought it only fitting that we honor him, and Burton’s biopic, with a list of films that are both terrible and terribly entertaining. Here are the 20 best bad movies of all time.
“Reefer Madness” is less a major motion picture than it is a 68-minute-long PSA about the supposed dangers of marijuana use. You know, like how smoking the devil’s weed will make you insane, aggressive, have hallucinations and then accidentally shoot someone before framing another person for the murder. (Yes, this is exactly what happens in “Reefer Madness.”) The 1936 propaganda film drips with absurdity but is told with straight-faced, stern sincerity — making it a hoot from the opening credits to the laughable final line. The film is now public domain, so look it up on YouTube. Of course, optimal viewing is with a couple, er, buds.
“Plan 9 from Outer Space” isn’t Ed Wood’s first film and it isn’t his worst film, but it’s easily his most enjoyable. And don’t get us wrong: Although the sci-fi flick isn’t Wood’s worst, it is still terrible. In addition to continuity issues, “Plan 9 from Outer Space” features poorly written dialogue and narration, actors obviously reading from scripts, awkward placement of stock footage, lazy costumes and visible sound equipment. It’s just as funny and entertaining as it sounds.
“A Christmas Story,” “Elf,” “It’s a Wonderful Life”...these are examples of good Christmas movies. If you’re looking for an extremely bad Xmas film, go with the 1964 sci-fi catastrophe “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians,” a story about martians kidnapping Kris Kringle. The good news is it’s not so bad that it’s unwatchable (like, say, 2007’s “Fred Claus”) as the sets, costumes and acting are all amusingly awful, and the campy classic runs for only an abbreviated 81 minutes. Remember this one around the holidays.
Do you remember the “How I Met Your Mother” episode where Ted (Josh Radnor) takes Stella (Sarah Chalke) on a two-minute date? If so, then you saw a bit of “Manos: The Hands of Fate,” a film the couple watches a condensed version of and agrees is the worst movie ever made. That may be true, but it hasn’t stopped “Manos” from gathering a cult following for its shoddy attempt at a horror film. More specifically, the movie was insurance and fertilizer salesman Harold P. Warren’s shoddy attempt at making a horror film almost entirely by himself — a task he only undertook to settle a bet with professional screenwriter Stirling Silliphant. Warren won the bet, as he actually made a complete film, but Silliphant got the last laugh: The following year he won a Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Award for “In the Heat of the Night.”
Drawing comparisons to earlier half-baked monster movies, “The Giant Spider Invasion” became popular after its 1975 release because it was so bad that it was actually enjoyable to watch. Some of the amusement came from the notoriety of the cast — which included big-name actors like Steve Brodie, Barbara Hale, Alan Hale and Leslie Parrish, all of whom were nearing the ends of their careers — who were forced to run from a giant spider made out of a Volkswagen. “The Giant Spider Invasion” was such a bomb that Mystery Science Theater 3000 not only spoofed it, but it also threw an entire festival in honor of director Bill Rebane.
The docudrama “Mommie Dearest” is the kind of film that’s so unintentionally funny that the studio changed the advertising campaign midway through to capitalize on the camp value. The script was wacky to begin with, but it’s Faye Dunaway’s drastically over-the-top portrayal of actress Joan Crawford (including the famous “wire hanger scene”) that launches “Mommie Dearest” into so-bad-it’s good territory. Allegedly, Dunaway was so into the role that the film’s cast and crew were hesitant to approach her between (or even during) takes.
Despite having a decent $9 million budget and a basis in a Stephen King short story, “Maximum Overdrive” caused critics to immediately and aggressively stomp on the brakes. And for good reason, as the dark and disturbing short story would barely be able to recognize itself in the campy 1986 film adaptation. In a case like this, one might blame the writer and/or director of the film, but for “Maximum Overdrive” that was Stephen King himself — in his first and last film as a director. Get past these facts, and you’ll actually find a decently entertaining but laughably over-the-top horror flick that packs some amusing kills and also features a soundtrack entirely composed by AC/DC.
The journey of “Howard the Duck” went from a ‘70s Marvel comic, to an animated film idea conceived by George Lucas, to the result: a live action (due to contractual obligations) $38 million money-suck that nearly tanked the careers of everyone involved. Star Lea Thompson, whose character nearly beds the anthropomorphic duck, said she only accepted her role in 1987’s “Some Kind of Wonderful” to quickly cleanse herself of the box office bomb “Howard the Duck.” In recent years, however, fans and the very people who made the movie have united in their adoration of the far-from-perfect film.
Fans of “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” (the toys and the TV show) finally got the movie they’d been craving for years with the 1987 release of “Masters of the Universe,” a film that was...not un-terrible? It was missing some key elements, like any mention of Prince Adam, and the film’s production was notoriously behind schedule and short on funds, so the result was both sloppy and rushed. Initially spurned by viewers and audiences alike (and not capable of meeting its $22 million budget) “Masters of the Universe” was later viewed as a campy cult classic.
“Ishtar” was so famously bad that the number of negative reviews led director Elaine May to quip, “If all the people who hate ‘Ishtar’ had seen it, I would be a rich woman today.” Produced by and starring Warren Beatty, who appeared alongside co-star Dustin Hoffman, “Ishtar” was publicly plagued with film and post-production issues, sinking the movie’s stock before it was even released. With a bloated budget of $51 million, “Ishtar” had a tough time recouping its expenses at the box office, as a modest $14.4 million payday wasn’t nearly enough. When the bad press settled down and people actually watched the film, many discovered the entertainment value of the comedic adventure epic.
“Mac and Me” is basically the result of a producer thinking that six years without a second “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” movie is too long, and that he could personally make another...if only McDonald’s would back him in exchange for screentime. Seriously, that’s essentially how the 1988 blatant E.T.-ripoff “Mac and Me” came to be, and it only made a paltry $6 million at the box office — not even half of its budget. Despite the painfully obvious product placement, two Razzie wins and a solid zero-percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, some people genuinely love “Mac and Me.” Paul Rudd is a famous fan, numerous critics cite it as a guilty (or not so guilty) pleasure, and an unnecessarily large group of fans have propelled it to cult status.
A friend once told me his favorite movie is “Road House” and the future of our relationship depended on if he enjoyed the film ironically or not. After all, it’s basically a story about how a bouncer (Patrick Swayze) is the coolest guy in the world — and that’s somehow the most believable aspect of the 1989 action film. It’s chock full of terrible one-liners, plot non-sequiturs and explosions when there wouldn’t really be explosions — and at one point Swayze kills a guy by pretty casually using his bare hands to rip out the dude’s throat. “Road House” received five Razzie nods and is required viewing when it comes to the best bad action movies.
Let’s get this out of the way: “Troll 2” is in no way a sequel to any movie called “Troll,” and no trolls actually appear in the film. A decent movie could overcome both of these facts, but “Troll 2” is far from decent. The script was written for an American cast by a screenwriter who was still learning English but happened to be the director’s wife. (For what it’s worth: English also wasn’t director Claudio Fragasso’s first language.) The music never matches the scenes. The actors — almost entirely amateurs, and bad ones at that — wore their own clothes or clothes they designed. The town in the film is named Nilbog. (The dyslexic townspeople should have seen the warning!) Still, if you haven’t seen this film, watch it immediately. Then watch the 2009 documentary about it: “Best Worst Movie,” which was directed by Michael Stephenson, the former child star of “Troll 2.”
“Super Mario Bros.” had some star power (Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo and Dennis Hopper) and the best special effects $48 million could buy, but it flopped hard thanks to a thin plot and mediocre writing. Critics were generally united in their disdain, but many fans of the video game enjoyed the cheesy but loving tribute, and others warmed with passing years and the arrival of ‘90s nostalgia. Oh, and did we mention Hopper plays Bowser?
Thirty-eight million dollars should be enough to buy a good movie, but “Showgirls” director Paul Verhoeven and screenwriter Joe Eszterhas just made one bad decision after another to the tune of a then-record seven Razzie wins. In total, “Showgirls” garnered a whopping 13 nominations — a record that still stands today. Despite bombing at the box office so bad that star Elizabeth Berkley’s agent dropped her as a client, “Showgirls” found favor on home video releases and became a cult classic among fans. Some critics even reevaluated “Showgirls” as some sort of a smart satire.
“Spice World,” the 1998 big-screen debut of the Spice Girls, managed only a weak 35 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. However, it made $151 million at the box office and another $100 million in home video sales. That is why “Spice World” is here.
The story of how “The Room” came to be was immortalized in the 2017 comedy “The Disaster Artist,” but film fans had already known of the Tommy Wiseau disasterpiece for some time. Released in 2003 and starring then-unknown actors Juliette Danielle, Greg Sestero and of course Wiseau himself, “The Room” features poorly written dialogue, poorly acted scenes and a plot that obviously didn’t make sense. There are three very long, very unnecessary sex scenes. And at one point early in the film, a character announces a cancer diagnosis, and the subject is never mentioned or addressed again. It is a terrible, terrible film that we personally own and watch regularity.
“The Wicker Man” is a funny film; the problem is that it wasn’t meant to be a comedy. Written and directed by Neil LaBute and based on the 1967 David Pinner horror novel “Ritual,” “The Wicker Man” has a somewhat well-known drinking game associated with it. I don’t remember all the details, but the list of rules begins with “drink any time Nicolas Cage does something ridiculous,” and the game ends with everyone blacking out. If you haven’t seen “The Wicker Man,” you won’t regret this one…and you’ll never look at bees the same way.
James Nguyen’s “Birdemic: Shock and Terror” runs a painfully long 93 minutes, and the titular birds take a full 47 minutes to make their first appearance. We wish we could tell you the wait is worth it, but after nearly an hour’s worth of the poor execution of an awful script (and a surprisingly large amount of silent shots of cars driving), viewers are rewarded with insultingly bad CGI eagles and explosions that basically look like cheap clip art. Nguyen traveled to Sundance to promote and screen the film, but festival organizers rejected him, so the director opted to show his romantic horror movie in local bars instead. Audiences ate up the shoddy cinema and inspired Nguyen to create a sequel, 2012’s “Birdemic 2: The Resurrection,” which is just as bad (but not nearly as entertaining) as the original.
You might notice that the 2013 disaster film “Sharknado” gets a respectable 78 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes yet still appears in this list. Don’t be fooled: Despite a cast that includes well-known actors Ian Ziering, Tara Reid and John Heard, “Sharknado” is an absurd concept made even more absurd on film. However, Syfy, director Anthony C. Ferrante and screenwriter Thunder Levin knew exactly what they were doing when making this intentional B-movie — which is actually more like a D-movie, at best — and everyone involved was unabashedly proud of it. “Sharknado” has since spawned five sequels and three spinoffs.