Let us now praise terrible movies. And not just run-of-the-mill terrible movies. Today we’re going to look at movies that are so bad that they are worth a rental, if only for your amusement. I’ve mentioned this idea before but it bears repeating: these are the kinds of movies that you should rent for a party. Have some friends over, order pizzas, and have plenty of beverages available. Please be aware I am not saying these movies are better if you happen to be high because that would be illegal in most states and, clearly, I am not suggesting that you do something like that because, again, that would be illegal in most states.
Anyway, what I’m suggesting for you today are some movie rentals that are spectacularly and laughably bad. I usually recommend my favorites in a category, but finding the “best worst” is actually a bit of a feat. There’s no shortage of bad movies. These movies, however, have a certain amusingly lovable quality. In fact, the more earnest the efforts and intentions of the filmmakers and the more terrible the result, the better!
Here’s my list of movies that tried really hard to be good and failed miserably. Open the pizza boxes and fill up your glasses (but not your bowls, because, as I said earlier, that would be illegal in most states).
This movie was a bit ahead of its time as a gay romantic melodrama. Unfortunately, the acting, lighting, screenwriting, and directing are all hideous. Two gay men decide to marry in Hawai’i for their dream wedding, where a judge has just ruled it legal. But then his ruling is overturned. And then Ben has to tell Arthur that, oh, by the way, he’s married to a woman and has to get a divorce first... And then… oh, who cares? It’s all so amusingly stupid and the acting consists of everyone yelling at each other most of the time. A must for your next party!
One of several movies accorded the title “Worst Movie Ever Made,” The Room is the movie that The Disaster Artist (2017) chronicled—the True Hollywood Story if you will. Tommy Wiseau pulled an Orson Welles here, writing, directing, starring, and producing. When Welles did it, however, it resulted in Citizen Kane (1941). If Citizen Kane is the Mt. Everest of film, The Room is the Mariana Trench of film. The story makes virtually no sense, but it is redeemed by terrible acting, particularly by your star, Tommy Wiseau. If you’ve never seen this movie, you owe it to yourself to see it once. That should do. It doesn’t hold up on second viewing. In fact, it stops holding up not long after the opening credits.
Many people claim that the 2018 John Travolta biopic Gotti is one of the worst movies ever made. But I would respectfully disagree. Gotti isn’t even the worst John Travolta movie ever made. For many years, Staying Alive, Travolta’s unrequested 1983 sequel to Saturday Night Fever (1977), held that honor. (Although, to be fair, a true connoisseur of bad Travolta movies would have to give 1978’s Moment by Moment a high—or low—ranking.) But this turd is the champ. Based on L. Ron Hubbard’s claptrap science fiction novel that is the mythological basis of his claptrap “religion” of Scientology, this movie is painfully bad and laugh-out-loud funny…but for all the wrong reasons. Enjoy!
Remember how I said that one of the keys to a movie being so bad that it is good was earnestness? Plan 9 has that in spades! Written and directed by crap meister Ed Wood, Jr. (who was the subject of Tim Burton’s wonderful and touching 1994 biopic Ed Wood). Plan 9 is a plan by aliens to revive the dead and create havoc on Earth to distract the living humans from our hellbent mission to destroy the world with nuclear weapons. Or something like that. The point is, Ed Wood means well here. The movie features Bela Lugosi, although he wasn’t in the movie when it was shot. Lugosi was supposed to be in another awful Ed Wood movie, but he died before finishing all of his scenes, so Wood just used Lugosi’s scenes from that movie in this movie. Which, of course, doesn’t make any sense. All the more reason for you to watch this movie.
Oh, man, is this movie ever unintentionally hilarious! Director Rob Cohen brings all the subtlety and muted elegance that marked his other films, The Fast and the Furious (2001) and xXx (2002) to this “erotic thriller” in which Jennifer Lopez plays an English teacher (hahahaha!!!) who has a fling with the hot 19-year-old neighborhood boy. This movie has so many stupidities that it’s hard to keep up at some point, but my favorite moment is when the boy next door (Ryan Guzman, who is, indeed, super hot) brings Lopez a “first edition copy” of The Iliad by Homer. No, the edition is not on ancient scrolls as you’d suspect, but in regular book form. Apparently, Homer beat Gutenberg to the punch on moveable type and bookbinding by a couple of millennia. But that’s not the point. The point is this movie is laugh-out-loud funny when it means to be sexy and suspenseful. Don’t miss it!
I would be also remiss if I didn’t mention a set that DVD.com has in its library of two awful 1950s B-movies from Sam Katzman, a master of bad monster movies. Here’s your chance to see The Giant Claw (1957) and Creature with the Atom Brain (1955). The special effects in these two movies make any elementary school theatrical production look sophisticated. Be sure to give these two movies a try. You won’t be disappointed. Well, maybe you will be, but you will have been forewarned. Have fun!
David Raether is a veteran TV writer and essayist. He worked for 12 years as a television sitcom writer/producer, including a 111-episode run on the ground-breaking ABC comedy “Roseanne.” His essays have been published by Salon.com, The Times of London, and Longforms.org, and have been lauded by The Atlantic Magazine and the BBC World Service. His memoir, Homeless: A Picaresque Memoir from Our Times, is awaiting publication.