When it comes to film and film criticism, there’s usually an overall consensus on whether a movie is worth your time. Yes, themes are unpacked, performances are critiqued, and problematic elements are confronted, but in the end, a film is either branded “good” or “bad.”
But what do we do with those movies that are so awful, that miss their mark so poorly, that they end up providing more enjoyment than disgust? The films that are so bad that they are actually good?
Maybe the acting is so awful you can’t look away. Maybe the plot is held together by so many nonsensical strings that it turns into a two-hour comedy. Whatever the reason, good-bad movies make up a wonderful corner of the film industry, and they should be celebrated.
So, in the same spirit, here are the 55 best bad movies we could find, their terribleness now out in the open for all to enjoy.
Director: David Ayer
Starring: Will Smith, Joel Edgerton, Lucy Fry, Noomi Rapace, Edgar Ramirez
David Ayer has some sparkling notches on his belt. He wrote the screenplay for Training Day. He directed the incredibly slept on End of Watch. But in recent years, the Illinois native has been stacking up Ls.
After his direction of Suicide Squad was widely panned, Ayer attempted to rebound with Bright, a Netflix original touting Will Smith as its lead, playing a Los Angeles police officer living in a world with orcs, elves, fairies, and a pretty dope magic wand.
From one of the film’s earliest moments, which features Smith actually uttering the line “fairy lives don’t matter today,” Bright remains so cringe-worthy and nonsensical throughout that you can’t help but want to finish the whole thing (I guess that’s why we’re getting a Bright 2).
Some explanation of why humans and orcs despise each other would have been helpful. Alas, Ayer has no time for plot points. He’s far too busy forcing feeding you a laughably bad commentary on race.
You won’t have any idea what’s going on, but there are orcs wearing FUBU jerseys. And isn’t that enough?
Freddy Got Fingered (2001)
Director: Tom Green
Starring: Tom Green, Rip Torn, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Anthony Michael Hall, Harland Williams
When it comes to Freddy Got Fingered, Tom Green’s first foray into what we’ll loosely define as directing, the words “good” or “bad” aren’t robust enough to describe the film’s many virtues. In fact, there are no words at all, since you most likely viewed this movie with your jaw on the floor and your eyes as wide as they’ll go.
Green wrote, directed and starred in the 2001 film, which features his character, Gord, engaging in activities such as: stimulating a horse, playing a piano attached to sausages with strings, inhabiting the carcass of a deer then being hit by a truck, accusing his father of fingering his brother, and so, so much more. There is a plot, thought it doesn’t really matter. Each scene is more surreal than the next, and though it was released 17 years ago, each one will continue to stick with you like a nightmare you can’t shake.
Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
Director: John Carpenter
Starring: Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun
Jack Burton, Kurt Russell’s lead character in Big Trouble in Little China, is charming, but a complete and utter buffoon. Burton's performance has made the 1986 film something of a cult classic, mixing poor special effects, hilarious (whether intended or not) one-liners, and nonsensical action scenes into a sort of bad-good movie cauldron.
There are YouTube videos almost five minutes in length dedicated to every single question Burton asks throughout the film. In the middle of a fight between Burton’s sidekick, Wang, and a villain, the villain inexplicably stops to karate chop a statue of a golden lion in half. One of Burton’s catchphrases is literally just, “Oh, what the hell.”
There are lightning battles, comically oversized hats, and Burton walking around with lipstick on. We don’t really know what else you could ever want in an action flick.
The Happening (2008)
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel, John Leguizamo, Betty Buckley
Widely regarded as M. Night Shyamalan’s worst film, The Happening, which is about plants inexplicably causing humans to kill themselves, is so great because it’s legitimately trying to be a good movie.
Mark Wahlberg’s face remains in a constant state of confusion, as if he’s trying to figure out what he’s doing in this movie. Zooey Deschanel spends 90 percent of her screen time gazing off into the distance. A man lies down and lets a piece of farm equipment run over him, and it might be the funniest scene in the movie. That’s not great for something billing itself as a horror flick.
There’s a scene where Wahlberg gives a young girl a mood ring, and tells her that it turned yellow because she’s about to laugh, which she does. Then a woman shows Wahlberg a video on her phone of a man being mauled by a lion. So what’s really happening here? Greatness. That’s what’s happening.
Black And White (1999)
Director: James Toback
Starring: Robert Downey, Jr., Oliver “Power” Grant, Raekwon, Claudia Schiffer, Brooke Shields, Jared Leto, Elijah Wood, Ben Stiller, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Kidada Jones, Bijou Phillips, Joe Pantoliano, Allan Houston, Scott Caan, Mike Tyson, Gaby Hoffmann
Writer-director James Toback’s ambitions far exceeded his capabilities when it came time to make Black And White, a limp social satire that’s most notable for its mixed bag of a cast, including Wu-Tang members (Raekwon, Method Man), a New York Knicks star (Allan Houston), a supermodel (Claudia Schiffer), Ben Stiller, and Iron Mike Tyson.
We’re guessing that Toback didn’t intend for this look at how the hip-hop culture affects non-hood white teenagers to work best as a cavalcade of famous faces, but, alas, that’s what we’ve got here. Plagued by a scatterbrained structure, Black And White is an instance of quality parts not equaling a successful whole.
Who's The Man? (1993)
Director: Ted Demme and Suzanne de Passe
Starring: Ed Lover, Doctor Dre, Denis Leary, Richard Bright, Salt, Badja Djola, Colin Quinn, Guru, Ice-T, Jim Moody, Karen Duffy, Eamonn Walker, Vinny Pastore
Back in the day, MTV’s Yo! MTV Raps was a formative weekly viewing ritual, blessing hip-hop heads in the making with the latest and greatest. The show’s endearing stars were hosts Ed Lover and Dr. Dre, so Who’s The Man?, the duo’s oft-forgotten, lone foray into Hollywood, was instantly on our to-watch radar in 1993, especially since the fellas brought along several prominent rappers for cameos: Ice-T, Guru, House Of Pain, B-Real, Busta Rhymes, CL Smooth, Bushwick Bill, KRS-One, Heavy D, Flavor Flav.
Sadly, neither Lover nor Dre possessed any of the nuances required to come across as genuine actors. Their characters—two lunk-headed barbers turned cops—exaggerate every word, facial expression, and emotion. Then again, the Yo! bros weren’t really actors in the first place, something they had in common with the aforementioned recording artists included. Taken as an excuse to watch some of your favorite old-school rap personalities goof off, though, Who’s The Man? is as pleasurable as a DJ Red Alert megamix.
Stone Cold (1991)
Director: Craig R. Baxley
Starring: Brian Bosworth, Lance Henriksen, William Forsythe, Sam McMurray, Arabella Holzbog, Richard Grant
Of all the physically imposing NFL stars of the 1980s, Hollywood, for no discernable reason, opted to give Seattle Seahawks linebacker Brian Bosworth a shot at becoming the next Sylvester Stallone. And as much as we would’ve loved to see Lawrence Taylor give Tommy “Tiny” Lister some casting call competition, the Boz wasn’t half-bad; his first movie, however, was at least three-quarters bad.
Stone Cold is the kind of star-making vehicle that lives or croaks by its headliner; thankfully, Bosworth doesn’t disappoint. Chewing up scenery, the unexpectedly charismatic behemoth, along with his sick blonde mullet, punches and fires his way through clichés, leading to a conclusive, legitimately epic one-versus-many street fight.
Director: Bille Woodruff
Starring: Jessica Alba, Mekhi Phifer, Lil Romeo, David Moscow, Zachary Williams
If cheese could dance, it would definitely move like the characters in Honey, a laughably formulaic “underdog story” that’s certifiably premium mozzarella. Jessica Alba's Honey Daniels is a street-smart chick whose sick moves catapult her into a career as an elite hip-hop music video choreographer, surrounded by sleazy producers, a humble everyman love interest (Mekhi Phifer), and a hustler-in-training (Lil Romeo).
Honey’s narrative progression toward “happily ever after” involves no surprises, yet Bille Woodruff’s hokey schmaltz-fest has an undeniable charm to it. What can we say, we’re suckers for a good rags-to-riches yarn. Or, rather, bummy sweats to designer jeans.
Ernest Goes To Jail (1990)
Director: John R. Cherry III
Starring: Jim Varney, Barbara Tyson, Charles Napier, Gailard Sartain, Bill Byrge
Don’t act like you weren’t an Ernest P. Worrell fan at some point in your life. Picking one’s favorite Ernest movie is no less difficult than choosing between a preferred ex: They’re all harbingers of painful memories, yet a glimmer of happiness remains from each.
Ernest Goes To Jail, Varney’s third feature film go-round with Mr. Know What I Mean?, is arguably the best of the lot, which is to say that it’s the most delightfully lame. It's Varney's biggest stage as an actor, with the task of playing both the titular hero and a slimy, delinquent version of the character. Not that he gives an outstanding performance, though—as the dangerous Felix Nash, Varney is, believe it or not, too understated. When you’ve grown to love a comedian’s nasally delivery of “Ewww,” it’s hard to accept him any other way but harebrained.