The 25 Best Bad Movies (And Where to Watch Them)
Greetings, my friends. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. You are interested in the unknown, the mysterious, the unexplainable. That is why you are here. That, and your insatiable hunger for bad movies. To that end, the staff of ScreenCrush deliberated and assembled the following list of the 25 best bad movies ever made, along with links to where each of them is currently available to rent or stream (or, in a few cases, to buy on home video). These very personal choices may differ from your own; you are invited to share your picks for the best worst films in history in the comments below. And remember my friends: Future events such as these will affect you ... in the future.
25. Reefer Madness (1938)
Whatever you do, don’t inhale. If this 1936 anti-cannabis propaganda picture is to be believed, a single hit from one of the funny cigarettes at the den of sin run by Mae and Jack will turn you into a gibbering fool, imbue you with superhuman piano-playing skills, and get your sister killed. Disproportionately serious consequences befall apple-cheeked all-American boys Bill and Jimmy after they tamper with the demon weed, portrayed here as a cross between acid and meth. In a twist of irony nothing short of delicious (or maybe that’s just the munchies talking), this hysterical cautionary tale has become favored background noise among the very stoners this film set out to save. Squarer viewers, however, can feel free to skip right to the modern movie-musical parody of the original film, featuring Kristen Bell in a BDSM-tinged production number. — Charles Bramesco
Reefer Madness is currently available on Amazon Prime.
24. The Happening (2008)
Gather ’round children, and let me tell you about a time: It was 2008, and M. Night Shyamalan was taking himself seriously — a little too seriously. Sandwiched between iconic Shyamalan releases Lady in the Water and The Last Airbender was The Happening, a thriller in which a mysterious toxin turns people into wildly creative suicidal psychopaths. Although presumed to be a terrorist attack, the Big Twist — SPOILER alert — is that it’s actually plants. Yes, like trees and flowers and leafy junk, which are murdering human beings for, well, obvious reasons. That’s silly enough, but then Shyamalan has the audacity to cast Mark Wahlberg as the high school science teacher who Figures It Out and Zooey “Adorkable” Deschanel as his wife — two concepts that would only make sense if they were part of a fake movie featured in some loopy rom-com starring Kate Hudson and one of the Dermot McDermotts. Still, for as capital-d Dumb as The Happening is, it remains Shyamalan’s only truly and consistently entertaining bad movie, and the only one among that run that warrants a re-watch. (Maybe.) — Britt Hayes
The Happening is currently available for rent.
23. Congo (1995)
Even the premise of Congo sounds awesomely ridiculous: A scientist heads into the jungle to find her husband, who went missing on a diamond-hunting expedition. She’s joined by a knowledgeable guide (this is fine), a treasure hunter played by Tim Curry (it’s fine), a primatologist (totally fine) and a gorilla named Amy that talks with a Siri-like voice box that reads her sign language (I can’t do this anymore). If you couldn’t tell by Laura Linney’s impression of Laura Dern’s Dr. Ellie Sattler, or the fact that Frank Marshall is the director, Congo was a wacky attempt to capitalize on the success of Jurassic Park, but the logic was fatally flawed. Like Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster masterpiece, Congo is based on a Michael Crichton novel, and like the big popular dinosaur movie, this one also has animatronic creatures, a blonde science lady, and greedy corporate jerks who will risk everyone’s lives — including their own — to get what they want. But this movie has something Jurassic Park does not: Amy the talking gorilla. Amy is a good gorilla. Amy is a friend. And sure, maybe those velociraptors figured out how to open a door, but I don’t see those dumb lizard monsters talking about it, do you?! — BH
Congo is currently available for rent.
22. Tulip Fever (2017)
Tulip Fever is a hot mess – and “hot” is by no means used here to describe the sexual tension in this romantic period piece, because there is none. And yet, the Weinstein Company sold this repeatedly-delayed hunk of garbage as “The year’s sexiest thriller!” Part of the reason the film is great trash is the utter lack of chemistry between Alicia Vikander and her pasty mustachioed lover Dane DeHaan – the casting of 31-but-looks-14-years-old DeHaan as a strapping sexy lover is hilarious in itself (at one point, Jude Law was tapped for the role, which is uh, more appropriate). Casting aside, Tulip Fever is completely B-A-N-A-N-A-S. The plot follows a young woman who fakes her own pregnancy (Successfully! For a full 9 months!), convinces her husband that her housemaid’s baby is actually her own, and then fakes her own death to run off with her lover. (Plot twist: She changes her mind and becomes a nun.) Did I mention Zach Galifianakis plays a Danish drunkard who accidentally eats a tulip bulb that’s worth a fortune? What a thrilling train wreck of a movie. — E. Oliver Whitney
Tulip Fever is currently available for rent.
21. Over the Top (1987)
Look, I’m not an child custody lawyer. But even with my limited legal knowledge, I feel confident in saying that fathers rarely win guardianship of their sons via arm wrestling tournament. And yet that is essentially what happens in Over the Top, in which a pure-hearted, large-muscled truck driver (Sylvester Stallone) battles for control of his son Michael (David Mendenhall) with his rich, cruel father-in-law Jason (Robert Loggia). Many years earlier, Jason drove Stallone’s Lincoln Hawk (his character’s real name, and also a new eco-friendly SUV coming in 2019) away from Michael’s mother. Now, Lincoln tries to bond with Michael over the course of a road trip, teaching him the ways of arm wrestling along the way. The whole thing is absolutely ludicrous, and delivered with an impressively straight face. Over the Top also includes the best worst Kenny Loggins movie theme song of the 1980s, in which the Caddyshack and Top Gun crooner implores listeners to “meet me half way, across the sky.” Unfortunately songwriters Giorgio Moroder and Tom Whitlock must not have watched Over the Top before penning its theme; the whole movie, Stallone keeps telling Michael the world won’t meet anyone half way. The whole situation is so absurd. It’s completely ... oh, what’s the phrase I’m looking for? Eh, it’ll come to me. — Matt Singer
Over the Top is currently available on Amazon Prime.
20. Sleepwalkers (1992)
Has any good author contributed to the creation of more bad movies than Stephen King? His record as an novelist is beyond excellent; his record as a filmmaker is beyond spotty. The absolute bottom of the King cinematic barrel (or the top, depending on how you look at it) is his screenplay for Mick Garris’ Sleepwalkers, the heartwarming story of a boy and his mother who he has sex with and also traps beautiful young women for so she can eat them, because she's a weird cat demon who is also inexplicably allergic to cats. Meanwhile, the human heroes are all dummies who are saved by a police cat named Clovis. Totally bonkers, utterly stupid, and occasionally funny as hell, you will not believe the man who gave us Carrie and It also gave us this. Also, not to nitpick, but no one sleepwalks in this movie. Perhaps the more accurate title Catmonster Incest Party was deemed less commercially viable. — MS
Sleepwalkers is currently available for rent.
19. Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)
Imagine a movie so bad it is considered the worst film ever featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, a television show entirely about bad movies. Such is the rich, enveloping putridness of Manos: The Hands of Fate. Not only did the director, Harold P. Warren (who also wrote, produced, and starred), not know how to make a movie, it’s possible he had never even seen a movie before. Not so much incompetent as inscrutable on every conceivable level, this tale of a family that winds up at the home of “The Master” (Tom Neyman) and his mumbling caretaker Torgo (John Reynolds) is beyond bizarre — both in terms of story and technique, which appears to have been cribbed from vintage tourism board videos and underground snuff films. Driving scenes go on forever, the audio is barely synced with the visuals, and Torgo stumbles around (having abnormally huge quad muscles will do that) insisting that “The Master wouldn’t approve!” But bad movie fans do; with its deranged aesthetics, laughable dialogue, and occasionally disturbing religious imagery, Manos: The Hands of Fate is a cult film in both sense of the phrase. — MS
18. Catwoman (2004)
Catwoman is pretty much a two-hour excuse to sexualize Halle Berry in a leather suit. This 2004 superhero movie offers no other valid justification for why it exists. It’s a poorly-constructed origin story that also attempts to comment on the beauty industry. (Ironically, it’s an ugly movie to look at, from the abysmal CGI cats to the silly sweeping dolly shots.) But Berry makes this embarrassment so enjoyable. Sure, it’s a shame to see her talents relegated to a vacuous role where she hisses at dogs and orders milk at a bar, but whether she’s acting her butt off in a weighty drama or a campy thriller (most recently, see: Kidnap), Berry commits. Never forget the glorious fight scene where Sharon Stone, rocking a bell-bottomed jumpsuit, smacks Berry’s Catwoman with a steel rod and fire extinguisher. It’s so stupid, but oh so good. — EOW
Catwoman is currently available on Netflix.
17. The Apple (1980)
Remember 1994? We were all wearing metallic body sacks and small triangle stickers on our foreheads? Disco ruled the world, and the nefarious Boogalow International Music group ruled the country with an iron fist? You’re telling me you seriously have no recollection of the daily “BIM Hour,” during which we commoners danced to pledge fealty to our fabulous overlords? If only the ridiculous future envisioned by this 1980 musical had come to pass, complete as it is with Biblical symbology (in one of the more memorable scenes, our heroes meet a vampire in hell) and Xanadu-caliber decadence. Drawing equally from A Star Is Born, the book of Revelations, and a particularly powerful coke bender, this is one film that actually earns the overplayed descriptor of “must be seen to be believed.” — CB
The Apple is currently available on Epix.
16. Troll 2 (1990)
A solid rule of thumb: If a movie is bad enough to have a documentary about its disastrous production and release, it’s a pretty good bet that it’s amongst the worst ever made. And so 19 years after Troll 2, a sequel that has nothing to do with its predecessor (and features zero trolls), we got Best Worst Movie, a cheerfully amusing making-of doc about the creation of this infamous stinker, directed by one of its stars, Michael Stephenson. Troll 2’s reputation is well-earned; the film is hilariously low-rent with delightfully strange touches (attributed in Best Worst Movie to the fact that the American cast had trouble communicating with a mostly Italian crew, led by director Claudio Fragasso). In one unforgettable sequence, Joshua (Stephenson) prevents his family from eating contaminated goblin food by urinating all over the dinner table. Troll 2 also includes arguably the greatest and funniest “Oh my God!” in movie history. It’s basically the only appropriate reaction to the film. — MS
Troll 2 is currently available on Tubi.
15. Road House (1989)
Patrick Swayze rose to prominence by adapting the philosophies and combat styles of Asia for Reagan’s oily-muscled America, and this deliriously fun chapter from his heyday casts him as a bouncer who behaves more like a ronin. But the stolid dignity of samurai cinema is nowhere to be found in this rip-roaring and exceptionally horny piece of ’80s zeitgeist. Swayze gets to drop pearls of Zen dumb-wisdom, telling a wise guy he focused his studies in college on “man’s search for faith, that sort of s—” in one moment and waxing rhapsodical on the epithet of “c—sucker” the next. Anyone tuning in solely to see some nudity, however, will not be disappointed in the slightest. The camera trembles before tanned, toned flesh in the same way John Ford shot Monument Valley, awed and respectful of Swayze’s proud buttocks and his gal-pal Doc’s heaving bosoms in equal measure. — CB
Road House is currently available on Tubi.
14. Deep Blue Sea (1999)
I’m honestly a little peeved Deep Blue Sea isn’t higher on this list. What’s not to love about a bunch of bloodthirsty, genetically-engineered sharks trying to slaughter a bunch of scientists? Samuel L. Jackson starts a classic SLJ speech, then gets devoured by a giant shark mid-monologue. Stellan Skarsgard is accidentally dropped into a pit of sharks from a helicopter, then takes a ride inside a shark’s mouth before getting smashed into a window. Also, L.L. Cool J has a parrot. (Do you remember his Deep Blue Sea theme song and music video?) And Saffron Burrows is forced to strip down to her underwear for a climactic shark battle for no apparent reason, because how absurd would it be to give a woman a heroic moment while keeping her clothes on?! Deep Blue Sea is dumb, dumb, dumb, and a complete blast. — EOW
Deep Blue Sea is currently available for rent.
13. Battlefield Earth (2000)
As we say in the business, “a lot going on here.” So: Devout Scientologist John Travolta decides he wants to make a movie out of founder L. Ron Hubbard’s sci-fi novel about an alien-human war in the dystopian year 3000, but for some reason, none of the major studios want to pony up a budget for his passion project. Travolta eventually gets funding from a thoroughly sketchy independent outfit (after the release, they go bankrupt and are outed for book-cooking), he supplements that sum with millions of his own dollars, and then goes on to make the most mortifying religious film in history. It’s bad in all the usual, banal ways — the script sounds like it was written by a predictive-text program, Travolta has dreadlocks — but the really noxious part rests just below the surface. Someone save Vincent Vega from himself. — CB
Battlefield Earth is currently available on Showtime.
12. Showgirls (1995)
I have no idea what Showgirls is doing on this list. Paul Verhoeven’s reimagining of Cinderella in the gaudy, glitzy landscape of Las Vegas is a trash masterpiece (don’t @ me) — but it’s intentionally trashy. Drenched in cheap excess and set in the national capital of crass American consumerism, Verhoeven’s 1995 film starred former Saved by the Bell goody two-shoes Elizabeth Berkley as Nomi Malone — a rebellious stripper with a checkered past and dreams of seeing her name in lights. Berkley operates on a wavelength so far beyond “exaggerated” that it can only be described as completely inhuman, but that’s intentional. She is a reflection of her surroundings, of a culture that has molded her into a crazy caricature of a human woman; one who has bought into the capitalist misogyny of show business, which places value not on the sum of her parts, but on the parts themselves. I will, however, concede that that sex scene in the pool with Kyle MacLachlan is amazingly awful and worthy of inclusion on any “best bad” list — but only that scene, nothing more. — BH
Showgirls is currently available on Blu-ray.
11. Obsessed (2009)
Lord, forgive me for my sins: Beyoncé is not a good actress — and that’s coming from someone who’s watched Carmen: A Hip Hopera at least 15 times. But Obsessed isn’t about good acting. Hell, it’s not even about sensical storytelling. In this risible drama, Idris Elba literally gets date raped without ever realizing it, and the most suspenseful moment is Elba trying to delete multiple windows popping up on his PC (and the only criminal thing about said photos is Ali Larter’s fedora). We enjoy the bad writing and absurd plotting, but we love the finale in which Queen Bey destroys Brooke from Legally Blonde. The epic 10-minute fight scene, involving head-butts, floor-dragging, a massive chandelier, and stiletto boots, should be inducted into the National Film Registry. This triumph must be protected at all costs. — EOW
Obsessed is currently available on Starz.
10. Batman & Robin (1997)
Who makes a movie so completely atrocious that they have to issue a public apology? Joel Schumacher, that’s who. Not simply one of the worst superhero movies ever, Schumacher’s Batman sequel is straight-up one of the worst Hollywood pictures ever allowed to enter production. Every stitch of this 1997 film is baffling, from the suit-up sequence — you don’t just get butts and bat-nips, but butts and bat-nips in extreme close-up with weird metal sound effects! — to each of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s cringe-y ice puns and the totally cuckoo story. But it’s also one of the most delightfully terrible film spectacles. How does a blockbuster of this sort even exist? How could you not enjoy an opening fight sequence that turns into a neon skate party inside the Natural History Museum, and ends with Batman sky-surfing on a boogie board? What’s not to admire about Uma Thurman’s pure commitment to Poison Ivy? Few cinematic disasters are this entertaining. — EOW
Batman & Robin is currently available on Netflix.
9. I Know Who Killed Me (2007)
“People get cut. That’s life.” Those are the iconic words said by Lindsay Lohan when her character’s boyfriend asks why her arm and leg have been amputated by a serial killer. It’s the type of reaction that no real human being would have, but that makes sense; I Know Who Killed Me isn’t a real movie. It can’t be. It’s the result of an inept director who watched a lot of M. Night Shyamalan and David Lynch, then attempted to make a gory murder mystery out of The Parent Trap. Its plot is ludicrous and nonsensical: A piano teacher kidnaps and tortures girls who ... quit their music lessons? And he also owns a weird collection of custom-made blue torture devices. (Did you know the color blue was a “symbol” in this movie?) And the “twist” is given away by Lindsay Lohan’s casting (duh she plays twins separated at birth). This thriller should be required viewing in film school to teach people how not to make a movie. — EOW
I Know Who Killed Me is currently available for rent.
8. The Book of Henry (2017)
The worst movie of 2017 was an instant addition to the “So Bad It’s Great” Hall of Fame. Colin Trevorrow’s drama-thriller-comedy-coming-
The Book of Henry is currently available for rent.
Deep in Eastern Europe, hidden behind the snowy peaks of the Kerblechy Mountains, lies the ancient land known as Parmistan. (Don’t try looking for it on Wikipedia, just trust me.) It is a beautiful country, full of wonder, mystery, and gymnastics equipment randomly built into everyday objects. Walls have parallel bars and, yes, a town well has two pommel horse handles. I mean how else was Jonathan Cabot (Olympic gymnast turned semi-professional actor Kurt Thomas) supposed to use his incredible athletic abilities? Technically, Gymkata does offer a reason for this curious construction choice. The pommel well is situated inside the “Village of the Crazies,” a municipality in which everyone is, well, crazy. So of course they put a pommel horse in a well; these people are crazy! (Why a country would build designate an entire town for insane people is a question left resolved.) Directed by Robert Course (who, in happier times, also made Enter the Dragon), Gymkata is the Holy Grail of bad action movies: Occasionally thrilling, frequently unfathomable, and perpetually hilarious. It’s also a hell of a tourism video for Parmistan. — MS
Gymkata is currently available for rent.
6. Glen or Glenda (1953)
Ed Wood was not a particularly strong writer. The opening narration of Glen or Glenda, delivered by a crumbling Bela Lugosi in a role credited only as “The Scientist” (which, you’re welcome, Coldplay), cycles through weird contradictions and redundancies about “the endless reaches of time” and “signs to the ages.” But Wood had a good and true heart, evident in the empathy he extends to the cross-dressing title character. This 1953 Z-flick may have used some harshly outdated language to describe the concept, but it really is a humane look into the struggles faced by one trans woman. (Christine Jorgensen provided the inspiration for the script.) In the decades before trans art could safely breathe out in the open, this campy gem was the greatest silver screen tribute to her life and legacy. — CB
Glen or Glenda is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
5. Mommie Dearest (1981)
The notorious 1981 biopic about Joan Crawford’s alleged abuse of her adopted children is every bit as sensational as Christina Crawford’s memoir — and then some. Faye Dunaway doesn’t just chew the scenery as the late screen icon; she scarfs it down like a competitive eater fresh off a month-long fast. Mommie Dearest is the stuff of cinema legend thanks to Dunaway’s larger-than-life portrayal of Crawford, which transformed the already-astonishing anecdotes from the film’s source material into scenes of instantly iconic insanity. The mere mention of Mommie Dearest immediately conjures the crazed image of Dunaway-as-Crawford, her face caked in a mud mask as she berates her daughter for having the nerve to fill her closet with wire hangers. That performance may not have been much of a stretch: Dunaway’s commitment to the role and her “Method” approach is said to have made her incredibly difficult to work with; according to at least one co-star, an overzealous Dunaway had inhabited the role of Crawford so well that she began acting like the late actress off-screen, too — and if you’ve seen Mommie Dearest, you know that’s not a compliment. — BH
Mommie Dearest is currently streaming on Starz.
4. Winter’s Tale (2014)
It’s a pleasant surprise to see this beautifully bonkers and wholeheartedly terrible movie (sp?) rank so highly on our list. You may not think a fantasy romance that boasts the likes of Colin Farrell, Russell Crowe, and Jennifer Connelly could be that bad, but I have two words for you: Akiva Goldsman. And if those don’t do the trick, I urge you — at your own peril — to Google “Will Smith cameo Winter’s Tale.” It’s a horrendous and horribly nonsensical film set largely in 2014, in which a woman who was alive in 1916 is somehow only, like, 60 years old, and Crowe plays a demon disguised as a gangster named Pearly Soames, whose supernatural powers only work within the five boroughs of New York City. Winter’s Tale is a very special kind of bad — the kind you marvel at wide-eyed and slack-jawed as you cackle among friends, completely baffled as to how any studio would spend $75 million on this, and yet delighted that they did so that we may witness the beauty of Colin Farrell riding atop a flying magic horse. — BH
Winter’s Tale is currently streaming on Cinemax.
3. Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)
Before the grave-robbing aliens settled on their ninth plan, the Baptist Church Of Beverly Hills executed one of their own: Hire low-budget filmmaker Edward D. Wood Jr. to make a science-fiction picture, then use the profits from what was sure to be a monster hit to produce the film they really wanted to make about evangelical minister Billy Sunday. Oops. The Baptist Church never got their biopic, but bad movie lovers around the world got something far more sacred: Plan 9 From Outer Space, one of the most beloved pieces of garbage cinema for more than 50 years. Its flaws are as legion as they are lovable: Grotesque continuity errors, cardboard sets (I once described the film’s aesthetic as “avant-garbage”) and a star (Bela Lugosi) whose role was mostly played by chiropractor holding a cape in front of his face to disguise his identity. (Lugosi had died before production began.) Wood’s Plan 9 is no one’s idea of a “good” movie, but watch that scene where the aliens finally reveal the motivation for their grave robbery. (They want to wrest nuclear weapons away from humanity because we of Earth “are idiots” who aren’t worthy of their awesome power.) Wood may not have had a clue, but he kind of had a point. — MS
Plan 9 From Outer Space is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
2. The Wicker Man (2006)
True story: I saw Neil LaBute’s The Wicker Man in a mostly empty theater in September of 2006. There were dozens of available seats, and yet right before the film began, a man entered and sat down right next to me — no buffer seat — and then wore his sunglasses through the entire film. The guy on the other side of me ate a hot dog and then slept through the last hour of the movie. Why am I telling you this? Because this was the target audience for LaBute’s remake of the cult classic horror films: Insane people. Who else would spend $12 to watch Nicolas Cage stomp around an island populated entirely by man-hating goddess worshippers before word got out that this thing was the cinematic equivalent of the Titanic? (Not Titanic, mind you; I’m talking about the actual ship that sunk.) Cage’s Edward Malus is a detective ostensibly there to investigate a missing child, but mostly he seems to be working out some unspoken issues, ranting and raving at women in scene after scene. In one sequence he steals a lady’s bicycle at gunpoint; in another, he karate kicks Leelee Sobieski in the face. In the most famous sequence, he screams “How’d it get burned?” over and over at his ex-fiancée. A fair question, but a more pressing one would be “How’d this happen?” I don’t know, but I am glad it did. So was the dude in the sunglasses; he laughed from opening to closing credits. — MS
The Wicker Man is currently available for rent.
1. The Room (2003)
All together now: I NEVER HIT HER. IT’S NOT TRUE. IT’S BULLS—. I DID NOT HIT HER. I DID NOT. OH, HAI MARK. The garbled lines of dialogue in Tommy Wiseau’s utterly incoherent attempt to ape Tennessee Williams serve as shibboleths for the viewers who understand that the best bad movies inspire love, not mockery or derision. With The Disaster Artist making the rounds on the awards circuit, many detractors have balked at a project that seemingly exists only to yuk it up at the expense of an eccentric immigrant hellbent on making the movie inside his head. But anyone who’s attended a midnight screening of this Google-translated melodrama knows that Tommy is a mad genius generous enough to welcome us into his insular world. We couldn’t make another The Room if we tried. — CB
The Room is currently available on Blu-ray.
Gallery - Overlooked Movies and Performances of 2017: