Feb 19, 2010

Top Ten: 'Best of the Worst' Films

Feb 19, 2010
One thing Luke and I really enjoy is watching a really great bad film.

We love them to the point of becoming almost connoisseurs of the genre. It's a very enjoyable and healthy mix of Hilarity and Film Theory.

The following are our favourites; movies that walk a delicate line between 'Bad' and 'Soul Crushingly Bad' to - miraculously - become good again. These movies aren't to be enjoyed alone, so grab some friends and strap in:

The Silent Knight's
Top Ten 'Best of the Worst' Films

This list is dedicated to Golden Turkey Award winner Edward Davis Wood - who without his pioneering we might never have cultivated such a love.

Attempted Genre:

Synopsis: Surprisingly, this is the only animation on our list. In the early 90's Golden Films decided to take Disney head on. The best way to do that, apparently, was to under-fund 14 full feature films over three years. Three years.

Sinbad's launch was sandwiched between Aladdin's release and The Lion King's (arguably two of Disney's greatest) which may have put a damper on its prospects. Never-the-less it battled bravely on through a lack of budget, talent and storyline with admirable persistence.

Clever and original money saving techniques were pioneered and are proudly on display. For example, every time something was animated instead of just playing it once like a sucker, they looped each animation seven or eight times.

Another clever trick they employed to save time and money was simply not fix any problems.
Have characters that look aggressive instead of happy?
Have something drawn that is entirely the opposite of what you need?
Have some of the most insane, hypocritical dialogue ever written?
Not a problem: Leave it in there!

Critical Reception:
These movies are an untapped goldmine.
Watch For:
  • The opening 90 seconds totals 15 original frames - Most animations will have over 2000.
  • The lack of credits after the movie - it's telling when no one wants to put their name to it.

Attempted Genre:

Synopsis: This movie is the height of campy, over theatrical action. It's terrible, but it seems to realise how bad it is and embrace it. Because of that, it becomes... almost charming in it's own way.

Although one could say that any movie that contains colourful costumes, bulging muscles, tear-jerking speeches, American flag tattoos, eye patches,
top quality ham-acting, deranged dialogue, World Wrestling inspired action and Jean-Claude Van Damme - was always destined for greatness.

Critical Reception:
IMDB: 3.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 13%
"A dreary, overstuffed hodgepodge of poorly edited martial arts sequences and often unintelligible dialogue."
Stephen Holden

Box Office Mojo: C
Time: #9 Worst Video Game Movie
Watch For:
  • Bison's plan ("Every Bison dollar will be worth five British pounds. That is the exchange rate that the bank of England will implement after I kidnap their queen!").

Attempted Genre: Sci-Fi/Adventure

This movie is sheer nonsense.

In it John Travolta plays the falsetto villain, Terl, who's about as threatening as a butter knife. Trained in conquering galaxies, and a self proclaimed strategic genius, one of Terl's plans involve releasing some human slaves into a barren, desolate ruin - to see what they eat (there is no food there) - so he can bribe them (they are completely under his control anyway).

This plan is ineffective, inept, unnecessary, mundane, misguided... and in a way, charitable. He is an anti-villain.

But he's not the only one with terrible plans. Barry Pepper's character plots to defeat the aliens by training cavemen to fly complex fighter jets in a matter of days. Fighter jets that 1000 years ago (when they were newer, tuned up by professional mechanics and flown by proper pilots) had already failed to defeat them.

To add to this, every scene is shot on crazy angles. It's as if the camera man had one leg shorter than the other... and was wearing his custom-made height adjustment shoes on the wrong feet. Personally I didn't notice, simply because I thought the whole first act was shot on the side of a mountain.

Handy fact: If you angle your television, the movie is 30% less terrible.

Critical Reception:
IMDB: 2.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 2%
"Ugly, campy and poorly acted, Battlefield Earth is a stunningly misguided, aggressively bad Sci-Fi folly."

Box Office Mojo: D-
Razzie Awards: The film won Razzie Awards for Worst Movie of the Year, Worst Actor (Travolta), Worst Supporting Actor (Pepper), Worst Supporting Actress (Preston), Worst Director (Christian), Worst Screenplay (Mandell and Shapiro) and Worst Screen Couple (Travolta and 'anyone sharing the screen with him').

It was also nominated for Worst Supporting Actor (Whitaker) and Worst Picture of the Decade (result pending).

This tied Showgirls for highest number given to a single film. Battlefield Earth was later awarded an eighth Razzie for
Worst Drama of Our First 25 Years.
D-FW FCA: Received 'Worst Picture' award, 2001
FilmCritic.com: #8 Least Effective Movie Villains
Watch For:
  • A rebel attacking the aliens by inexplicably throwing a wheel.
  • Pepper running through six consecutive panes of glass.

Attempted Genre: Fantasy/Adventure

Luke and I have a rule for fantasy movies that hasn't failed us yet: Either they're really good (LotR/Colour of Magic) or they're really bad (Knights of Bloodsteel/In the Name of the King). Dungeons and Dragons definitely falls into the latter category.

The characters are badly done archetypes, and the plot is desultory - to the point where I cannot actually remember what it was. Something about crystal balls... and dragons? There were dragons in it. I guess any movie based on such a well-travelled concept such as D&D (which is basically just a collection of other people's work anyway) is expected to be a little... cliché. But it goes beyond that, because it doesn't even copy the good parts of anything. It feels like someone made a movie from the unwanted scraps off Terry Pratchett's cutting room floor.

This movie is so dreadful that it even makes Jeremy Irons look bad. There's this hilarious 'Extras' scene on the DVD which distinctly shows him off camera, with an expression that yells "If my manager hasn't found a LOOPHOLE to get me out of this ATROCITY... heads will roll!"

Why would they include this on the DVD you ask? Apparently in the crowd, four rows back, in a face concealing outfit, Gary Gygax was making his one and only cameo. That's right - they cut his only scene in the whole movie. But that's not the funniest case of bad planning this DVD has to offer.

To get into the Extras menu, you have to answer four or five questions about the movie. Even we, who had just watched it, had to try several times to get into it. Okay, that's not the worst design in the world - but it gets better. You see, the language options are in the Extras menu.

Yes - it's just as bad as you think it is; Foreigners have to answer obscure questions, to a movie they've never seen, in a language they don't speak, just to watch the damn thing! I'm not going to even mention the spelling mistakes on the back cover, or the racist controversies surrounding one of the worst cases of 'token black person' I've ever seen. It's just an all round great bad movie.

Critical Reception:
IMDB: 3.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 10%
"TV-trained performers yelling at each other, second-rate computer-generated graphics failing to conjure up an enchanted world, and Marlon Wayans doing what can only be called a heartfelt tribute to Butterfly McQueen..."
James Sanford

Box Office Mojo: D+
Watch For:
  • The 'that's-more-confusing-than-the-rest-of-the-movie-put-together' final scene.

Attempted Genre: Horror/Suspense

Have you ever watched Jaws and thought "If only it didn't have any of those pesky redeeming qualities?"

Yes? Well then, are you in for a treat!

Critical Reception:
IMDB: 2.4/10
BD Horror News: #6 Cheesiest Horror Movie One-Liners
Watch For:

Attempted Genre: Children's Movie/Adult Horror (an obvious pairing)

Synopsis: Roughly speaking, Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders was supposed to be a film about Merlin and his wife trying to bring a little joy and magic into people's lives.

What it ended up being about is a grossly incompetent wizard who completely ruins innocent people's lives, and never fixes them.

Let's see if I can describe just how much of a mess this movie is.

It centers around two short films - neither of which have anything to do with the other - and neither are any good. There's no real way to fix that, but the film is sure as heck going to try. It attempts to link the two films together with a framing device about a 'friendly old wizard' and his wife. I'm sure in retrospect they regret choosing to dress up the producer's grandparents at the last moment.

The second film feels particularly disjointed, considering it was a pre-existing short film that was shot over ten years earlier. The difference in visual quality alone is very obvious. More obvious than that, however, is the way they've tried to edit Merlin into it - and how spectacularly they failed at changing the ending from a horror one, to a happy one. For a start, you can still faintly hear the audio of the poor family screaming in pain and terror. Hilarious stuff.

The makers must have (rightly) thought that it still wasn't working, so instead of scrapping the project - they added a SECOND framing device about Ernest Borgnine acting as poorly as possible. That's right, a framing device for a framing device. Listen to how clumsy this IMDB summary sounds:
"Two creepy 'horror' films joined together by Merlin's Shop which is, in turn, introduced by a Grandpa telling the story."
Merlin's Shop is a great example of transplant rejection, and why sometimes it's better to give up.

Critical Reception:
IMDB: 1.6/10
MST3K: Featured in Season 10 of Mystery Science Theatre 3000
Watch For:
  • The journalist pulling a book case onto himself for no reason.
  • The sudden change in eras.
  • Merlin being world-threateningly incompetent.
  • The budget being 'whatever coins we had in our pockets at the time'.

Attempted Genre: Space Opera

Synopsis: The story goes that the Italian film maker, Luigi Cozzi, saw Star Wars and decided "Hey... I could do that." And thus was born Scontri Stellari Oltre la Terza Dimensione (Stellar Clashes Beyond the Third Dimension).

The plot runs something like this: A wise old man asks a talented pilot to destroy a
planet sized weapon, and stop an evil Emperor. Sound familiar, right? In many respects it flat out plagiarises Star Wars.
But here's the twist; Nothing makes sense.

It raises so many questions. For example: After a long, gruelling journey the main characters finally find the hidden weapon planet. Suddenly, the same man who sent them turns up and rescues them - By bringing his entire fleet with him - And somehow freezing time...
Then why, WHY did he go to great lengths to recruit strangers if he could get there easier, faster and with reinforcements of his own?!

And how is the shamefully dressed woman with the vacant personality supposed to be a modern, feminist main character, when she spends the movie hiding behind the male characters and being rescued by them?

And how did the character pictured above suddenly develop
over-powered, contradictory, inconsistent and unaccountable god-like abilities? Which are never explained? And why didn't he use them on several occasions, even when they would have saved his life?

And why didn't they just freeze time again during the final battle? Did they not want to win instantly and without casualties?

And how is David Hasselhoff in this movie?

And when...?


Do yourself a favour and find a copy online somewhere.

Critical Reception:
IMDB: 3.2/10
Watch For:
  • A 25 second sequence of people slowly strolling towards a console.
  • David Hasselhoff. Fighting stop-motion robots. With a lightsaber. In space. I'm not even joking.

Attempted Genre: Horror/Thriller

Synopsis: Nicholas Cage mopes about being angry and confused, until he is called to a mysterious island filled with women. It is there that he decides to mope about being angry, confused and inexplicably violent for the remainder of the movie.

It tries to be scary, it really does; offering attempts such as a loudly ringing phone, laughably creepy Elderly Twins, and a swarm of bees to which he's allergic.

Allergic to bees? Really? Joe said it well: "I don’t care if you are allergic to bees. If you are allergic to bees, don’t go near BEES. Problem solved."

After a slow start, the insanity builds until the screen is filled with one hilariously bewildering moment after the other.

Critical Reception:
IMDB: 3.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes: 15%
"Puzzlingly misguided, Neil LaBute's update The Wicker Man struggles against unintentional comedy and fails."
Box Office Mojo: D+
Razzie Awards: Nominated for Worst Picture, Worst Actor (Cage), Worst Screenplay, Worst Remake, and Worst On-Screen Couple (Cage and his Bear Suit).
Cult Status: Achieved
Watch For:
  • The final insane twenty minutes.
  • Nicholas Cage punching a defenseless woman... while wearing a bear suit.
  • "How'd it get burned?"

Attempted Genre: Action/Horror

Synopsis: This bizarre low-budget assemblage is cheesy horror at it's best. Featuring vegetarian goblins, guys drowning in popcorn, oddly calm people being turned into trees and kids urinating on magic banquets at the request of dead grandfathers - all through the filter of some of the worst acting you'll ever see.

And not featuring any trolls. Not one. Seriously, the word 'troll' isn't mentioned once.

It's over run with silliness. Such as when goblins, in human form, were completely unable to enter a house (apparently breaking a window or entering one of the many unlocked doors was beyond their capabilities). Once they do finally get in, they eagerly demonstrate their ability to TELEPORT.
Teleport instantly. And to anywhere.

Like from outside the house to inside it, for example?

Definitely worth hiring.

Critical Reception:

IMDB: 2.0/10
Ex-Title holder for the Worst Film of All Time
Rotten Tomatoes: 00%
It's rare to find a film with such an ignominious reputation actually living up to the hype.
Nick Schager
Has its own documentary.
Cult Status: Achieved.
This video shows exactly what is so great about bad films.
Watch For:
  • The 'Popcorn Scene' and its 'Non-Resolution'.
  • The grandfather teaching his grandson how to use a Molotov Cocktail... on his family.
  • The main villain being defeated by a kid eating a normal hamburger - context doesn't help.
  • This famous scene.
  • The brilliant, poetic ending.

Attempted Genre: Drama/Tragedy (...black comedy?)

Synopsis: This is it, folks. The holy grail of bad movies. Written, directed, produced, starring and entirely funded by Tommy Wiseau, The Room is a relentless assault of the worst acting, the worst writing and the worst everything ever - super concentrated and completely straight-faced. Tommy Wiseau really thought he was creating a tragic masterpiece but instead he gave us what is quite possibly the greatest unintentional comedy performance ever put to film.

The best part about The Room, however, is how transparent it is. The whole film is clearly a giant 'up yours' to an ex-girlfriend (N.S.F.W.) in which Tommy is portrayed as the perfect, selfless boyfriend and her as evil incarnate against all logic and reason. This transparency extends to every aspect of the film.

There's a recurring framed picture of a spoon that's clearly the picture that came with the frame. Or whenever Tommy writes himself into a corner the male characters just toss around a football... which is just another corner so then he injures one of them and the scene ends. It's comedy gold at every turn and it's earned its cult status.

Get some mates together. Watch it. Love it.

Critical Reception:
Cult Status: Achieved. Double achieved. Triple achieved.
Watch For:
  • The mother-in-law's bad news.
  • The infamous spoon painting.
  • The flower shop scene (a.k.a the most pointless scene in history).


And that's our list. However if you're anything like us, it's only going to take you about a month to work through these - so we've added the other movies that didn't quite make it onto the list, but are worth watching anyway.

Great Bad Films:
Films we're yet to see:
And anything on these lists: MST3K episode list, IMDB lowest rated, Wikipedia's 'Movies considered the worst' list, Bad Movies.Org, RT 25 Movies So Bad They're Unmissable... more to come.

We also recommend any film by Uwe Boll, and any animated Disney sequel (except Rescuers Down Under, and Mulan 2 - which were something approaching good).

Please share your favourites, and any we've forgotten.


  1. Man, it's sad just how many of those live action movies are pathetic in comparison to their animated counterparts. ok, so its only 2 (the street fighter movies and aeon flux) but still.

    Also, I havn't seen it, but I think you guys would probably enjoy the movie "surf nazis must die" just because of the title, and the fact that it has surfing neo nazis totting machine pistols on the front cover.

  2. That is the best title for anything, ever.

    It encapsulates everything about life and death, love and hate, surfing and fascism.

  3. Ive only seen street fighter out of that list.
    My jaw dropped at that pick up line, that was akward just too watch.
    bad films- most stephen king films, funland, chuck and larry (as if ladies would be into adam sandler that much), the invisible circus (bad dancing, boring), memoirs of a geisha ( using chinese actors to play japanese characters, while speaking bad english and using western "Humour") theres more, ill come back if i remember

  4. Those sound terrible! Especially the last one, even if I am probably too 'foreign' to notice.

    Are they funny, or just painful?

  5. the last one ends up like a bad asian soap opera. it wasn't funny just dissapointing that this japanse story was butchered. It annoyed me that they tried so hard to make it appeal to a western audience by making this film in english and using ziyi zhang and melissa yeo (who are chinese) because they are popular with western audiences. It's insulting to us because the film makers assumed we don't know the difference between japanese and chinese people.

  6. I saw house of the dead 1 and 2 on the weekend, I couldn't believe they had made 2 movies based on the arcade shooter game that was notorious for having the worst voice acting in video game history. The movies where basically held together by tits. And it had an action sequence that even I thought was too long.

  7. I remember watching alot of bad 80's and 90's horror when I was a kid, there was plenty of boobs, zombies and living dolls.

  8. watched half of plan 9 from outer space last night!
    There was some seriously bad acting, writing and props. They use the same 4 sets constantly and during the night scenes the used day shots as well! He appropriated some army footage and tried to tie it in with his own army cut away - which was one guy with a pair of binoculars standing in front of a vinyl screen that's meant to be the sky. hahah

  9. surprised you guys didn't point out how many sloooow side-wiping cuts that battlefield earth used...

  10. I'd forgotten about them, but now that you mention it I do remember those snail paced, George-Lucian crawls. Too much badness to take in all at once.

    I just bought the DVD, so I look forward to being bugged by them soon.


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