The best bad movies we love to hate

Nick Cage in 'Vampire's Kiss'
Vampire's Kiss

Bad films come in a variety of different flavors, from irredeemably, unwatchably terrible to those that simply don’t hit right. The very best kind of bad film hits a perfect, nearly-invisible sweet spot right in the middle, slinking far below the expectations for a good film but somehow accomplishing something stellar in spite of — or perhaps because of — its journey into bad film territory.

An extremely niche genre of films is born of this dichotomy, somehow managing to reign supreme despite being, by most anyone’s opinion, truly terrible. But just because a film is bad doesn’t mean that it isn’t entertaining — in fact, bad films can be far more enjoyable than good films, in the right setting. These are the films that we’re celebrating today, flaws and all.

Dragonball: Evolution

We’ll be honest with you, Dragonball: Evolution is not a good movie by any stretch of the imagination. But its reputation precedes it so much as a famous stinker that when we threw it on one day out of morbid curiosity, we were surprised to find it was actually kind of fun to watch in a 1990s action movie sort of way. Despite being released in 2009, the film’s unabashed campiness harkens back to guilty pleasure movies from the decade prior, such as 1994’s Street Fighter and 1995’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie.

Don’t expect DBE to do any sort of justice to Akira Toriyama’s beloved source material, the Dragon Ball manga and anime and follow-up series Dragon Ball Z. But the woefully misguided live-action movie that imagines Goku as an American teenager, played by Justin Chatwin, and single-handedly halted Final Destination director James Wong from helming any other full-length theatrical films can be a lot of fun to watch with a rowdy group of friends. — Danny Peterson

Dragonball: Evolution can be streamed with a premium subscription to Hulu, or rented from Amazon Prime.

Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny

Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny is one of the strangest movies ever. This musical from 1972 sees good ol’ Saint Nick stuck on a Florida beach, as his sleigh is stuck in the sand. Thankfully, a group of children comes to his aid, bringing the Ice Cream Bunny with them.

The film is plodding and meandering, and all the dialogue feels like it was improvised on the spot. And, to make it even more confusing, the middle section of the film features Santa telling the kids a story. But this story segment is one of Barry Mahon’s notoriously terrible Childhood Productions short films, meaning the middle act is a terrible film inside an even worse one. The movie features ludicrously amateur visuals, creepy costumes, and terrible off-key songs. The film will stick with you long after you finish it. Because the Ice Cream Bunny will undoubtedly become your new sleep paralysis demon. — Jonathan Greenall

Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny is available to rent on YouTube and Apple TV.

Twilight

No bad-movie list would be complete without the most popular go-to vampire flick: Twilight, the movie responsible for dividing a generation into #TeamEdward or #TeamJacob. A staple in every teenage girl’s life and the 2000’s ultimate guilty pleasure. Admittedly, Twilight isn’t by any means the standard of quality cinema; in fact, many things are wrong with it, but something about it just keeps you coming back for more.

Perhaps it’s the pretty, sparkling vampires; perhaps the contrasting gloomy atmosphere suited for rainy days; or maybe it’s just its memeability. Whatever it is, turned this movie into a phenomenon, despised by critics but loved by viewers everywhere, and if you have fun with it, you might find yourself inexplicably enjoying it. After all, how could anyone not love that iconic baseball scene to the sound of thunder? — Rafaela Coimbra

If you’d like to judge it for yourself, you can stream Twilight on Peacock right now.

Black Mirror: Bandersnatch

Despite Will Poulter’s enrapturing turn as game developer Colin Ritman, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, Netflix’s original interactive experiment is a fantastic example of wasted creativity. Shoddy acting, a passable-at-best plot, a reset mechanic that completely neuters the key tension of the choose-your-own-adventure genre, and a fourth-wall-break attempt that had us cringing to the high heavens makes for a glaring blemish on the otherwise exemplary sci-fi anthology. — Charlotte Simmons

Interested viewers can track down Bandersnatch on Netflix.

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City is an adaptation of some of the Resident Evil games and serves as a reboot for the film franchise. The film sees Claire Redfield (Kaya Scodelario) and Leon S. Kennedy (Avan Jogia) team up to investigate the plague of zombies created by the Umbrella Corporation, while her brother Chris Redfield (Robbie Amell) and his partner in S.T.A.R.S. (Special Tactics And Rescue Service), Jill Valentine (Hannah John-Kamen) investigate the source of the plague, the Spencer Mansion.

This movie gets too much hate and fans of the Resident Evil gaming franchise should embrace it. It’s easily the most faithful adaptation of the games, even if it does force multiple games into one movie. It retains the goofiness of the games and it seems like everybody involved in the film set out to make the movie which became the finished product. Fans have been wanting a straight adaption of the game for years — and as goofy as it may seem — this is definitely it, even if you loathe it. — Tristyn Akbas

Fans of Resident Evil can enjoy Welcome to Raccoon City with a subscription to Starz.

Vampire’s Kiss

Of all the films I’ve enjoyed in my life, I’ve delighted in few as much as I did Vampire’s Kiss. A glorious feast of over-acting, excessive drama, and wild directorial decisions, the 1988 film shines just as bright now — perhaps even brighter — than when it was first released.

Starring Nicholas Cage alongside María Conchita Alonso and Jennifer Beals, the film is absolute art, pure and simple. It features one of Cage’s most unhinged performances, presenting him as a driven, selfish literary agent whose rapid descent into madness is outlandish at best, and utterly absurd at worst. Some of the best moments in memes were born of this film, poking fun at Cage’s deranged rants — was the entire alphabet really necessary? — and delighting in his utter commitment to his character’s increasing mania. Everything from his strange, unnatural vocal lilt to his physical presence is utterly, laughably iconic, and makes Vampire’s Kiss one of the most memorable films you’ll ever watch. — Nahila Bonfiglio

Vampire’s Kiss is surprisingly hard to track down on streaming, but is streamable in some locations with a subscription to Amazon Prime. For everyone else, we’ll just have to rent or purchase the timeless classic from sites like Vudu.

Divergent

Generally, young adult dystopian movie adaptations are a hit or miss. The Hunger Games? Hit. Maze Runner? Debatable. Divergent? Hard miss. Somehow, one can’t exactly pinpoint why it’s bad in the first place. Whether it may be the rough cuts between scenes; or even the main character who just seems to need a man to save her from any and every situation, whatever it is- it did not work in Divergent’s favor.

The cast is not at fault, and as a matter of fact, if there is one good thing that came out of this mesmerizingly questionable film is the fact that the entire audience gets to stare at Shailene Woodley and Theo James existing for two hours. In spite of its 41% on Rotten Tomatoes, Divergent went on to have two more sequels; Insurgent and Allegiant. Granted, the quality stayed more or less the same, so if there is one thing going for Divergent other than Theo James’ washboard abs, is its consistently okay quality. Some movies are so bad that we just can’t look away. — Francisca Santos

Filled with every young adult trope imaginable, from “the chosen one” to an oppressive government, Divergent has it all, so if you’re feeling dauntless, you can find Divergent on HBO Max.

The Wicker Man

Neil LaBute’s ill-conceived, Americanized remake of a deeply British folk horror tale isn’t completely irredeemable. This is the film, after all, that contains numerous absurdist scenes of Nicolas Cage bringing the pain to a cult of odd but seemingly harmless (spoilers: they’re not) neo-pagans, including one to which he delivers a roundhouse kick powerful enough to send them rag-dolling into a wall.

Truth be told, plastering over the Celtic paganism themes of the original with a subplot involving the Salem Witch Trials is an interesting spin, but the whole facade falls apart before Nic Cage’s Edward Malus even sets foot on Summerisle, thanks to a laughably nonsensical motivation for his character to go searching for a missing child.

Would you up sticks and move to an obscure island to search for a former fiancé’s — who awoke one day and decided to vanish like a fart in the wind without leaving behind so much as a cowardly break-up note, by the way — missing child? No, of course you wouldn’t. You have brain cells. Then again, the made-for-TV quality writing perfectly matches the filmmaking prowess of 2006’s The Wicker Man, so it’s at least consistently awful.

P.S. If you’ve ever wondered where the Not the Bees! meme came from; you’re welcome. — Joe Pring

There aren’t many options to stream The Wicker Man for free, but it’s well worth the $0.99 it currently costs to rent the film from Amazon Prime.

Liquid Sky

Where do you even begin with Liquid Sky? This 1982 movie sees a UFO infiltrating New York’s punk subculture in pursuit of the addictive endorphins released by the brain during orgasm. It’s a powerfully odd movie populated by high-cheekboned, heavily facepainted fashion models in ludicrous costumes acting as if they’re shot full of opiates. But, let’s face it, this was ’80s New York so most of them probably were.

This is more of a mood than a movie and everyone I’ve ever tried to introduce this to has asked me to turn it off after about ten minutes, but if you’re into movies with a dreamy valium-infused vibe full of looks Lady Gaga has subsequently pinched this could be your new fave. Liquid Sky has become a cult queer classic over the years, but it’s certainly not traditionally ‘good’. I’ve loved it ever since the moment I first came across it on a dusty VHS cassette in the late ’90s. — David James

Liquid Sky is available on Amazon Prime in certain areas.

Batman & Robin

Batman & Robin may be widely viewed as the worst Batman movie ever, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the worst on an entertainment level. No one’s going to argue that it’s up there with the best of the Bat, but after being fed nothing but brooding Bruces for the past two decades, B&R almost leaves one longing for a time when the Caped Crusader was allowed to be camp and kitschy.

Plus, George Clooney might make a terrible Dark Knight, but his leading performance is fascinating to watch. He hasn’t just mentally checked out, he’s fled so far away from the hotel as to be in a different state. Look into his eyes every time he begrudgingly says a line and you can practically see him internally questioning every career decision he’s ever made that led him to this point.

And can we stop harping on about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ice puns for a moment to appreciate Uma Thurman as Poison Ivy? Unlike most everyone else in the film, Thurman is clearly having a blast vamping it up something chronic. Now there’s someone who understood the assignment. Clooney should’ve been taking notes. — Christian Bone

Batman & Robin can be streamed with a subscription to HBO Max.

Gigli

I had never watched any JLo film seeing that she majorly starred in rom-coms, which is hardly my cup of tea. But all the Oscar hoopla around her not getting nominated for Hustlers convinced me to watch it and needless to say I was impressed. So, there I was, stuck in my ‘JLo rules’ phase, when I decided to watch all JLo films and god knows what possessed me to start the journey with Gigli.

Let’s just say, the film quickly humbled this brand-new JLo fan after I watched the mind-numbing storyline that shifted from Ben Affleck and Lopez kidnapping the psychologically challenged younger brother of a powerful federal prosecutor to them spending the entire film debating whether they should cut off his fingers or not. I later learned the duo was dating at the time Gigli was filmed but apparently, the off-screen chemistry missed the train and never made it to the screen.

Surprisingly, being a poorly made parody with the most awful lines written in the history of cinema is what makes it so bad that it’s good — after all, it has been almost two decades since its release and I haven’t found a film that rivals its staggering idiocy. — Apeksha Bagchi

In case you want to expose yourself to Gigli, you can stream it by renting or purchasing it on Google Play, iTunes, or Vudu.

Jaws: The Revenge

I’ve written about the sheer batshit insanity that is the fourth and (thank God) final Jaws movie. How such a perfect movie like Steven Spielberg’s Jaws from 1975 could inspire such deplorable sequels is a great example of beating a dead horse and dragging it a few extra feet. On the bright side, it gave us this absolute trainwreck of a film that is so bad, it defies logic. Ellen Brody has developed psychic, shark-sensing powers. The latest great white shark is apparently so smart that it can learn its victims’ home addresses, work schedules, and vacation plans. To top it off, the shark roars. Not one of these details gets an inkling of explanation, which makes it all the more comedic.

What we need is a mock documentary based on the making of Jaws: The Revenge. For that matter, I would take an actual documentary to see the perfect storm of bad ideas that came together to create this masterpiece of horrible cinema. — Matt Tuck

You won’t find Jaws: The Revenge on many free — or subscription-based — streaming sites, but the film can be rented from Amazon Prime, Vudu, or Apple TV.

Maximum Overdrive

Depending on perspective, Maximum Overdrive is either one of the worst or best movies of the 1980s. Stephen King stepped into the director’s chair to tell this less-than-scary tale of a mysterious comet (and maybe aliens, who knows?) that brings all machinery to life. Well, not all machinery, just the plot-convenient ones, mainly semis, lawnmowers, and an occasional electric knife. Emilio Estevez does a southern accent so generic and corny that Nicolas Cage’s performance in Con Air becomes Oscar gold by comparison. Sadly (or gloriously) Emilio does not hold the prize for the most ridiculous moments in the movie. That distinction belongs to Ellen McElduff.

As a horror movie, Maximum Overdrive is a heaping, steaming pile of shit that flies wouldn’t dare touch. However, this is a brilliant movie if you view it as a subversive horror-comedy. Stephen King may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s no denying his mastery of storytelling. He knew exactly what he was making here. Not only is he poking fun at every horror and action movie trope of the ‘70s and ‘80s, but he specifically takes jabs at the film adaptations of his own novels. Everything fans and critics worship about Quentin Tarantino — the excessive gore, quirky characters, ridiculous plots, and ga-ga acting — you will find in Maximum Overdrive. Release this movie today when escapism and satire reign over the box office, and King would be praised as a genius. — Matt Tuck

Like far too many films on this list, Maximum Overdrive isn’t available on any of the main streamers, but can be rented for a reasonable price from Amazon Prime, Vudu, YouTube, or Apple TV.

Men at Work

This movie is pure trash. Lovely, endearing garbage (if you would, pronounce it garbajjj, like people ridiculously change the pronunciation of Target to Tarjay).

More to the point, it’s about trash, and trash-men, who end up taking down some very trashy people. Pair up the brothers Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez—the latter who also directed this trashy movie—and let them loose to crack wise with banter, charm, and even some intelligence, and you’ve got a good one.

The duo are creepers themselves, literally, as they spy on a woman which leads them to discovering a murder, which leads to Sheen pretending to be a phrenologist and eventually winning over said woman who he was creeping on without actually ever creeping her out. Also, what other movie could ever center around garbagemen with a heart, the mystical art of phrenology, and be funny enough that kids and adults alike like it?

Trust me, back when pay-per-view was a thing, my sisters and I begged my dad to watch it more than a few times, and he obliged and often watched with us. Keith David is pure gold here. Pure, trashy gold. — Habeab Kurdi

There aren’t many places to stream Men at Work for free, but it can be rented for a low price from sites like Amazon and Vudu.

Tyler Perry’s Acrimony

When a thriller has you laughing out loud and rolling your eyes, that’s when you know it may have missed the mark. Acrimony offers a lot of important lessons yes, but the outlandish behavior of much of the cast members make this film quite humorous.

We never really feel what we should for the charismatic lead, played by the phenomenal Taraji P. Henson, and while situations like this do happen in real life, they’re certainly not this animated. Long story short, Acrimony is the movie you watch with your buddies for some bizarrely comedic fun. But it’s a love-to-hate-type watch, because it most certainly wasn’t intended that way. — Demi Phillips

Acrimony is currently available to rent from Amazon Prime or Vudu, and appears slated for an upcoming release on Netflix.

Fright Night

The question of what makes a movie bad and also good (so bad it’s good), to qualify, the film must have been enjoyed in its time, and appreciated later for different reasons. A film isn’t usually campy when it comes out, it earns that badge over time, as new audiences discover it and it attracts that “cult following.”

I like a film that crackles and pops like an old vinyl record, even when I was 12. In the case of 1985’s comedy-horror Fright Night, it checks all the boxes, with a fabulous score to boot. Despite being a grown up, Chris Sarandon’s fey vampire was so hot in this movie. And the mousy Peter Vincent — portrayed by Roddy McDowell — was a treasure. (Why would this fool Charlie Brewster even think that a TV vampire hunter was a real vampire hunter?) And Stephen Geoffreys steals the show as Evil Ed (“Oh! You’re so cool, Brewster!!“), the narc vampire used his pain of being bullied and desire to fit in as a tool of manipulation to lure him into joining his undead coven.

A vampire movie — any vampire movie — is saddled with certain expectations, but Fright Night “vamps” up (sorry) the original with its distinctive ’80s tone. The good guy wins in the end and gets the girl back, and paves the way for The Lost Boys and the like. — Misty Contreras

It’s almost Halloween month, so go to your YouTube machine and look up Fright Night. You’ll find it for rent on Prime Video, Apple TV, and Sling TV.

Congo

Michael Crichton is known for writing books that Hollywood loves to turn into movies. From The Andromeda Strain to Sphere, directors just cannot get enough of scripts based on his work. Sometimes, like with Jurassic Park, the resultant movie will go on to change the landscape of cinema for decades. Other times, like with Congo, the only thing that will be changed is the channel.

While Congo was released in cinemas two years after the massively successful Jurassic Park catapulted Crichton to a whole new level of fame, it did not land with the same splash. While Congo would go on to make back three times its budget, damning reviews would deny it the chance to spawn another billion-dollar franchise. Over the years, critics have enjoyed beating up the film, and it sits at just a 20% rating on both Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes. Truthfully, the cast did a solid job with the ridiculous concept of a bunch of ultra-violent primates running amok in remote parts of the Congo jungle. The highly talented Laura Linney would lead a cast that contained Tim Curry and a criminally underused Bruce Campbell, but it simply lacked the wow factor of its dinosaur-focused competition.

Congo is not a good film by any means, but it is the perfect example of an entertaining film that can be there for you when you are nursing a hangover. Congo is the perfect movie to fall asleep to. Not so good that it demands your attention, but not so bad that it violently pulls you away from slumber with its terribleness. The movie also answers the age-old question of what exactly a high-powered laser beam would do to ape flesh. How can you say no? — Aidan O’Brien

Stream Congo for free on YouTube or with a subscription to Paramount Plus.

Basket Case

Ah, Basket Case (1982), you contain multitudes: a horror-comedy plot about post-surgically separated (ex-?)conjoined twins, one of whom looks like an embarnacled pattypan squash and has a hell of a chip on his, erm, shoulder about it, so is confined to a locked wicker picnic basket to protect him and the rest of humanity from each other, the other of whom is a cute tousle-haired  normie who totes the brother-containing basket around, trying to keep his beloved sibling assuaged with a food-as-love approach, while befriending lovable sex worker neighbors and going on dates; a patently ridiculous story that nevertheless contains a vérité time capsule of New York City’s gritty, sex trade-immersed 42nd Street at its least-Disneyfied; a Gogol-inflected psychosexual portrait of a public vs private self and the parts of ourselves we hide, fearing they make us unlovable; a case study in micro-budget kitchen-sink filmmaking and, according to interviews, a source of mild embarrassment for its charmingly self-effacing director, Frank Henenlotter, who claims he never intended it to be seen outside midnite screenings in seedy Times Square nudie-film venues. Nevertheless, the lovably homemade opus was championed early by highly influential Texan schlock maven Joe Bob Briggs, and the rest is history.

But why do I love it? Reader, if you don’t have time to search it out and watch the whole thing, do yourself a li’l mood-lifting favor and look for “Basket Case stop motion animation.” Quick scene context: the more mobile of the twins is out on a date, and gets to make out with a girl, and the twin left behind is not. Having. It. In a moment of rock god-adjacent pique, he decides to trash his hotel room. The result looks like it was put together by Ray Harryhausen … at roughly seven years old. Watch either this scene or the whole thing, and you will be convinced that no matter how odd or seemingly impossible your artistic ambitions may be, hell, you may as well give it a whirl. — Sarah Fisch

Viewers can rent this stunning piece of cinematic art from Amazon Prime.

Jawbreaker

Hard candy, high drama social cliques, and accidental murder; when you mix it all together, you get one of the most jaw-dropping and tooth-aching films of the 1990s. Jawbreaker slammed onto the scene of teen dramas and took us all on a ride unlike anything we’ve ever experienced.When a birthday prank goes terribly wrong, one of Reagan High’s it-girls, Liz, winds up dead, having choked on a jawbreaker. Oh, the irony. Her three best frienemies are left to pick up the pieces, quite literally, of everything they’ve done wrong. Of course, things don’t go swimmingly when it comes time to clean up their mess, and an “outcast” of a student stumbles upon their attempt to fake the death scene.

Attempting to quiet Fern Mayo, Courtney, Marcie, and Julie turn Fern into Vylette — the newest queen of popularity. The downward spiral that kicks off is spurred by guilty consciences, the need to be in total control, and a power-hungry wanna-be who has never been happy playing second fiddle. Popularity isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and secrets don’t stay secret for long.

With a whopping 14% on the Tomatometer, it’s not a film that swept the nation with rave reviews and sold-out theaters. No, its impact on entertainment was understated and snarky; ruthless and tooth-aching. In fact, we can still hear one of the most iconic scenes from the film in our heads as clearly as if we were watching it for the first time: “I killed Liz. I killed the teen dream, DEAL WITH IT.” All in all, Jawbreaker might not be a blockbuster smash, but it’s still solidified itself a very specific spot in the pop culture realm; a nice, round, Jawbreaker-shaped hole in the hearts of high school cliques everywhere. — Ashley Marie

Jawbreaker is available to rent from sites like Amazon Prime and Vudu.

Leprechaun 4: In Space

The horror-comedy Leprechaun series starring Warwick Davis as the titular mythical Irish character is famous for two things; launching Jennifer Aniston’s film career as the costar of the 1993 original, and for its rapid descent into campy awfulness. While the first film features Davis’ leprechaun as a fairly straightforward Freddy Kreuger-type killer who is unstoppable both in his violence and his compulsion to crack terrible jokes, by the fifth entry in the series, Leprechaun: In the Hood, we saw Davis rapping (!) in character (!!) over the end credits. However, it was in Leprechaun 4: In Space that the series both managed to hit its nadir of quality and its peak as a classic example of some of the worst filmmaking of all time. Production company Trimark Pictures inexplicably took their killer, who hails from the Ireland of the late 1800s and whose sole motivation is protecting his gold, and put him through the paces of a plot that begins with a plan to marry an alien princess and ends up placing him in a blatant rip-off of the Alien franchise. This includes running the crew through the “there’s a creature aboard this ship killing the crew” scenario to the conclusion where a gigantic Leprechaun is ejected into space through an air hatch, exactly the same way Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley killed the Alien Queen at the end of James Cameron’s Aliens. — Liam McEneaney

Leprechaun 4: In Space is currently streaming on Starz, and is available to rent through all the usual services.