The best bad films that ever were

I recently was wandering through the local Borders and found that they’ve finally released the 1980’s Flash Gordon in a nice DVD box set.  I’ve loved this film since my college days, when I would get together with a number of friends on a semi-weekly basis to watch the film and enjoy it.  My girlfriend, however, was rather appalled by the film.

This got me thinking about other films that are ridiculously flawed yet astonishingly enjoyable nevertheless.  The only other example that comes to mind is The Fifth Element, which I saw in the theater while in grad school.  I still vividly recall trying to explain to my friend Jim how horrible the film was, only to have him respond, “But I enjoyed it!”  My response: “So did I, but it’s a horrible film!”

It seems there’s a class of films which are utterly and completely flawed — poor acting, inconsistent and incomprehensible storyline, cardboard characters — but which are still incredibly fun and enjoyable to watch.  This baffles me.

Before anyone comments, I’m not simply referring to films which have camp value — as a regular MST3K viewer, I know there exist films which are fun to watch because they’re bad.  What I’m talking about here are films that are fun to watch in spite of being bad.  I genuinely like watching Flash Gordon, and actually care what happens to the characters in the story.
I’m somehow able to get past all the ridiculousness in the film and enjoy it for what it was (apparently) intended to be.

Does this make any sense?  I’m still trying to understand this myself.  Anyone have any other examples of such ‘good in spite of being bad’ films?

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17 Responses to The best bad films that ever were

  1. The Girlfriend says:

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was “appalled”! 🙂 It was terrible acting honey, really. You know I have a hard time committing the time to watching a good movie. So it is really hard for me to spend the time with a “bad” one, even if it is fun.

  2. Personal Demon says:

    I think the vaste majority of action films fall into this category. The brilliance of Hot Fuzz, for example, was that it parodied the formulaic flaws in action films while expressing affection for the genre.

  3. The Girlfriend says:

    Personal Demon – I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Hot Fuzz! But I would never put it in the same category as Flash Gordon. The acting is well done and the story has continuity. I have a secret crush, well, maybe not so secret, on Simon Pegg’s character Nick Angel. He can pat me down anytime. But I digress and I’m sure DB doesn’t want to read my gushings for another man on his blog!

  4. skullsinthestars says:

    PD wrote: “I think the vaste majority of action films fall into this category.”

    I think it’s a little more than that. Most action films are guilty pleasures, but not necessarily beloved by people. If you read the IMDB comments on Flash Gordon, though, you find there’s a large contingent of people who really, really love it (like me).

    My best guess is that films like Flash Gordon and The Fifth Element, regardless of their other qualities, provide an utterly unique vision of a fantasy world. That is, love it or hate it, you can’t really argue that there’s anything else out there like it. Some people can’t get past the major faults of the film and embrace that vision, while some fools (like me) can.

    TG wrote: “I have a secret crush, well, maybe not so secret, on Simon Pegg’s character Nick Angel. ”

    I’m going to have to keep a close eye on you in Europe, and make sure you’re not sneaking away to the UK for a day-trip… 🙂

  5. Critter says:

    I watch a lot of lovely crappy films. Here’s an abbreviated list:
    1. The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971)
    2. Dr. Phibes Rises Again (1972)
    3. In fact all Vincent Price films are deliciously bad.
    4. Naked Space
    5. The Last Unicorn (1982)
    6. The Lord of the Rings (Bakshi’s version)
    7. The Beastmaster (1982)
    8. Dracula (1978)
    9. Hawk the Slayer (1980)
    10. Caligula (1979)
    11. Fantastic Planet (1973)
    12. Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)
    13. Krull (1983)
    14. Logan’s Run (1976)
    15. And Then There Were None (1945)
    16. Clash of the Titans (1981)
    17. AeonFlux (2005)
    18. Rosemary’s Baby (1968)
    19. Curse of the Demon (1957)
    20. Excalibur (1981)

    Of course there are many, many others. By looking at this list I have concluded two things: More than average, the movies of the 80’s fit gg’s category. And most mysteries, sci-fi, and fantasy films also fit this category. My conclusion: sci-fi/fantasy and mystery/horror films from the 80’s were all crap. But we loved them anyway. 🙂

  6. skullsinthestars says:

    Critter: Good list! I totally agree with Beastmaster, Battle Beyond the Stars, and Clash of the Titans. In fact, all Ray Harryhausen adventure flicks probably fall into this category (Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts). They’ve got hideous acting, shoddy characters, absurd storylines, but are just so damned unique you can’t help but love ’em.

    You’ve reminded me that I’ve got the DVD of Excalibur sitting on my shelf and haven’t yet watched it. I haven’t seen that film since I was a kid (which is amusing, considering its R-rating).

    I disagree on Curse of the Demon, since I consider that to be an overall pretty well done horror film; maybe that’s just me denying the obvious, though.

    Interesting point about the 80’s. Come to think of it, the same argument could be made about 80’s music videos as well. They were often poorly made and incredibly cheesy, but they were interesting, dammit! Maybe the 80’s overall was an era in which people were willing to try unusual things, just for the hell of it.

  7. Personal Demon says:

    TG wrote: “I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Hot Fuzz! But I would never put it in the same category as Flash Gordon.”

    I didn’t mean to imply that Hot Fuzz falls into the category of “bad movies that are good”, but rather that it’s creators love action films in a similar way to how SkySkull loves Flash Gordon. What Hot Fuzz demonstrates is that it is possible to love a film and still recognize its flaws.

    TG also wrote: “I have a secret crush, well, maybe not so secret, on Simon Pegg’s character Nick Angel. He can pat me down anytime.”

    To which I can only reply: [shudder]

    He’s a very funny guy (brilliant even), but I would, in fact, kick him out of bed.

  8. The Girlfriend says:

    Personal Demon – I’m glad to hear we don’t have the same taste in men. Now I don’t have to worry about you being a rival. 😉

  9. skullsinthestars says:

    The Girlfriend, Personal Demon: Aaagh! Stop talking about Simon Pegg! I’m getting insecure, you should be talking about how cute I am on this blog!

    (Though I have to say, I find Pegg a striking figure, just not one that I’d switch lanes for…)

  10. The Girlfriend says:

    I promise I will make a point of it to discuss your cuteness in my future posts regardless of the subject.

  11. Personal Demon says:

    TG says: “I promise I will make a point of it to discuss your cuteness in my future posts regardless of the subject.”

    I too will make a point of discussing SkySkull’s cuteness. Look at that gaping maw and those blank, soulless, eyes. I just want to eat him up.

    Oh, and I agree with SkySkull that Critter is totally wrong about Curse of the Demon. That’s one of my favorite films of all times. The final appearance of the demon looks a bit silly, but that was a studio decision, not the director’s.

    On the subject of “passing runes”: Rocky Horror. Most people love it for camp value (i.e. it’s so bad it’s good), but I love the film despite the flaws. Opinions?

  12. skullsinthestars says:

    PD wrote: “Rocky Horror. Most people love it for camp value (i.e. it’s so bad it’s good), but I love the film despite the flaws. Opinions?”

    I’m totally in agreement with you on that! The first time I actually saw Rocky Horror I was struck by the fact that it’s actually much darker and intense than I was expecting. Again, this supports my crude theory that films of this type work because they’re so unique.

    Of course, the admission that I like Rocky Horror won’t help convince my girlfriend that I’m heterosexual…

  13. Pingback: Films too good to describe « Skulls in the Stars

  14. The Girlfriend says:

    Ahem, my dear SkySkull, just so you know, the boys that we hung out with in high school were the ones that took us to Rocky Horror with them. And they were heterosexual too, just too afraid to try anything with us! Oh, and you are so cute.

  15. Personal Demon says:

    SkySkull wrote: “Of course, the admission that I like Rocky Horror won’t help convince my girlfriend that I’m heterosexual…”

    Back in my youth, when I wanted to convince a girl that I was heterosexual, I would have sex with her.(*) You could give it a shot.

    (*) Critter is gonna be so appalled when he reads that. All I can say is that I was young and confused.

  16. Personal Demon says:

    Here’s to beating dead horses…

    Critter and I are watching Flash Gordon, which is my first time seeing the film since its theatrical release. I only remember four things about the movie:
    (1) glowing red meteors
    (2) Flash running around with a football-thing
    (3) a nasty spikey creature in a tree stump
    (4) a question mark at the end of the movie

    Critter described the film as “charming”, and I must agree with him. The film is a pretty faithful recreation of the original serials, flaws and all. It’s built to be excessive. The problem there is that you have to love the original material, if not, then you probably won’t enjoy a recreation of it.

    By contrast Lucas and Spielberg set out with a similar objective of recreating an adventure serial with Raiders of the Lost Ark, but that movie has been a far more enduring success because it is a good film in its own right. People love Raiders for itself, and not because its a reference to prior art.

  17. Pingback: Films too good to describe | Skulls in the Stars

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