We all have a movie that is cheesy, corny, or downright bad that we secretly enjoy watching, no matter what the critics say.
The guilty pleasure flicks on this list range from overlooked gems to brainless, fun action. How many of these “bad” movies do you actually love?
The Fast and Furious franchise
Big cars, big races, big explosions, big action, big crime, and big family. That’s what the Fast and the Furious franchise has offered audiences every two to three years, beginning with the first movie’s release in 2001. That’s nearly 20 years of high-speed, low-logic action, with a tenth film currently in pre-production.
That’s not a complaint, though. No one watching any Fast and the Furious film is trying to witness high art. It’s a big, dumb, explodey time inside an air-conditioned room to take a break from the summer heat, and we love every single one of them. Even that weird third one.
If you want to see what happens when an action movie goes surfing with a bromance, then you need to see Point Break. Keanu Reeves plays an “F! B! I! Agent!” who goes undercover to infiltrate and take down a group of bank robbing surfers, led by the charismatic Bodhi, played by the late Patrick Swayze.
This movie provides bank heists, skydiving, gun play, surfing, a yelling Gary Busey, and a conflicted bond forming between a cop and his armchair philosopher surfer buddy. It’s all traditionally masculine feelings condensed into a cheesy 122-minute opus. A movie with a former Ohio State quarterback named Johnny Utah living and working in California is worthwhile for the geography lesson alone.
Deep Blue Sea
Deep Blue Sea has everything you’d ask for in a “Jaws plus Frankenstein meets Alien” film. With a cast ranging from epic (Stellan Skarsgard!) to puzzling (LL Cool J?), the movie takes place in an island research facility wherein sharks are genetically altered to increase their brain size to help find a cure for Alzheimer disease. That was a real sentence that a grown-up wrote.
The movie knows what it is and runs with it, featuring a schlocky plot, cookie-cutter characters, and plenty of absurdly violent shark kills. For the full experience, watch the Samuel L. Jackson death-mid-sentence scene on repeat while listening to LL Cool J’s “Deepest Bluest,” a rap song he created for the film wherein he sings about being a literal shark.
“Girl Power!” was the war cry of several pre-teens during the late 90s, spearheaded by the music of The Spice Girls. Their popularity peaked when the pop singers released Spice World, but critics preferred their world a little blander. The 1997 musical comedy was Razzie-nominated for Worst Picture, Worst Screenplay, and Worst Original Song among several others.
However, while the film is admittedly cheesy, corny, and other food-related adjectives, it’s actually beloved by grown-up fans that can laugh at its campiness and reflect fondly upon their younger days spicing up their lives. While it’s critically awful, the film was listed among Golden Raspberry founder John Wilson’s “100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made.”
The movie responsible for Adam Sandler’s film career, Billy Madison, is a movie most people laughed at, but are hesitant to admit to enjoying. The story follows the spoiled, perpetually yelling rich kid Billy, a 20-something repeating every grade in school after he finds out that his father bribed all of his teachers in order to become successor in his family’s Fortune 500 hotel company.
Billy Madison is by no means a smart comedy and it was rightfully maligned by critics, but it comedically bludgeons you with comic violence, gross-out gags, and low-brow dialogue that immediately sprung Sandler to success. If liking this movie in spite of its critics is cool, then consider us Miles Davis.
This multiple Razzie-nominated film stars Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, Jon Voight, Owen Wilson, and occasionally Eric Stoltz (he’s in like three scenes). Anaconda focuses on a documentary film crew as they are captured by a poacher who is trying to hunt down a legendary anaconda snake.
Fans of the film know that it is terrible, but can’t help but smile at the odd choices the actors made, the horrid script, and the hokey CG animation of the titular anaconda. Movies like this one give budding screenwriters and directors hope that someone will have faith in their pet project, no matter how bad it may be.
If want a little bit of Adam Sandler in your Forrest Gump, you’ll understand the appeal of Joe Dirt. The 2001 comedy features the mulleted Joe Dirt (David Spade) discussing his lifelong search for his family after they had abandoned him at the Grand Canyon when he was 8 years old. It’s even produced by Adam Sandler.
While the film does leave a Sandler-y taste in the mouth, many people still enjoy that comedic style, with an early 2000s kick thrown in. Plus, the movie stands as definitive proof that David Spade can be funny without his former onscreen partner Chris Farley.
Road House has prototypical 1980s machismo mixed with enough romantic elements to balance out the violence. Patrick Swayze plays the enigmatic Dalton, a bouncer tasked to purge the rowdy elements at the Double Deuce bar while taking upon himself to take out a corrupt businessman and his street toughs. Picture the Double Dragon video game with slightly less Asian mysticism and more honky-tonk bar brawls.
While the movie has aged unlike the forever-52 Sam Elliott, many folks think it’s a good weekend afternoon watch thanks to its philosophic bouncer monologues, absurd throat ripping, and shirtless Swayze tai chi. It’s 2:30 PM and it’s on TNT, so you might as well relax and watch Swayze and Elliott karate kick a bunch of drunk hillbillies.
For the uninitiated, Clueless is a romantic comedy starring then it-girl Alicia Silverstone as Cher, a shallow and wealthy Beverly Hills teen that plays matchmaker to two of her high school teachers. She also helps the new girl, Tai (Brittany Murphy), get a makeover to climb the social ladder. It’s Jane Austen’s Emma soaked in a Buzzfeed 90s nostalgia quiz.
While on the surface level Clueless has the hard candy shell of a teen romantic comedy, underneath it still has the tasty wit of the Austen work. Plus, it’s a really well-written teen romantic comedy. While it’s admittedly dated throughout, it isn’t dated in a bad way, so you owe it to yourself to revisit this Gen X favorite.
Inspired by 1969’s It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Jerry Zucker’s Rat Race has a weird cast of characters racing from Las Vegas to a New Mexican train station to obtain a duffel bag containing $2 million. The film was universally panned by critics and audiences, but there are some who come to it again and again.
And why wouldn’t they? What other movie has a Monty Python member (John Cleese), Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson), one of the creators of Robot Chicken (Seth Green), three Oscar winning actors, and Smash Mouth? Exactly. The fact this movie happened is the very reason people cling to it.
Monster movies and movies with giant robots are guilty pleasures on their own, but Pacific Rim provides a two-punch combo both figuratively and literally. In Pacific Rim, Charlie Hunnam and Rinko Kikuchi play pilots of a giant robot that is part of a multinational effort to kill off giant monsters that emerge from a hole deep in the Pacific Ocean.
Pac-Rim, as fans like to call it (they don’t), has everything a corny kaiju monster movie fan wants but with modern CG, modern melodrama, and modern Charlie Day. Plus you’re treated to a rallying TED talk by Idris Elba that rivals Bill Pullman’s iconic speech from Independence Day. It’s ironic that brain power is used to move the giant battle robots, because this film is best viewed with your brain shut off.
So I Married An Axe Murderer
Following Wayne’s World, Mike Myers decided to star in a dark comedy romance wherein his character, a paranoid poet, falls in love with a butcher (Nancy Travis) who may or may not be a serial killer. Critics panned the film and it was hatcheted at the box office.
But after Myers’ success with franchises such as Austin Powers and Shrek, the film gained a second life with a cult following. Heck, Myers even uses his Scottish Shrek voice for the father character in the movie. Fans treat the film like family: full of flaws, but they love it anyway.
The Cold War was in full swing in 1984 and Red Dawn was a blunt, double-barreled instrument against communism. Set in an alternate timeline, the U.S.S.R. and its allies in Cuba and Nicaragua literally parachute down to take over the United States. The only hope to fight off the commie invasion and lead the resistance in the name of truth, justice, and capitalism is group of high schoolers turned guerrilla freedom fighters.
The film is pure Reagan-era action nostalgia that either delivers a mindless adrenaline rush or a good chuckle at how incredibly pro-American it is. With a large cast featuring Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, Lea Thompson, Jennifer Grey, and C. Thomas Howell, this film is definitely playing in the background of any 80s-themed parties.
Masters of the Universe
Based on the popular toyline and cartoon, Masters of the Universe is a pop-culture Pollock painting with a messy story, messy effects, and messy performances. The mythical He-Man action figure is played by real life He-Man action figure Dolph Lundgren, and we watch as he tries to stop the evil Skeletor (Frank Langella) and his forces from obtaining a powerful weapon that was misplaced on Earth and picked up by a couple of teens. There’s more but you can only stuff so much in a single sentence synopsis.
While the movie is by all metrics a failure, it has a devoted fan base in the form of nostalgic fanboys of the He-Man franchise and folks that enjoy odd sci-fi films that can’t quite decide what they want to be. Additional bonuses include seeing Courteney Cox in one of her first film roles, and screen legend Langella providing massive gravitas in his performance as a skull wizard.
In spite of its “If you like The Matrix, you’ll love this” advertising and box art, Equilibrium has plenty of differences from the Wachowski franchise. Set in a dystopian future wherein emotions and artistic expression are suppressed via drugs and force, an enforcement officer (Christian Bale) begins feeling emotions and eventually aids the resistance to take down the emotion-stunting government using handgun-fu martial arts.
It’s a movie that puts a high-brow coat of paint over a simple “feelings are good, feelings are freedom” philosophy, played out across a number of dynamic and unrealistic gun-fu fights. Based on that, fans can overlook the film’s mixed metaphors and blended U.S.S.R./Nazi imagery.
Tango & Cash
Sure, there are dozens of buddy cop movies, but there is only one that dares to say “Sylvester Stallone plays the intelligent, fastidious one.” Tango & Cash follows cop partners Tango (Stallone) and Cash (Kurt Russell) as they escape from prison and try to clear their names after being framed for murder by a local crime lord.
The movie has so much of the tropes and trimmings of buddy cop films that it feels like a parody, which many viewers don’t seem to mind. While it has its flaws, many action movie fans enjoy the over-the-top violence and goofy one-liners in spite of its cookie-cutter plot.
The Wicker Man
The film that launched a thousand gifs, The Wicker Man (starring the meme generator himself, Nicolas Cage) is considered great in all the unintended ways. This 2006 remake sees Cage play a policeman searching for his missing daughter, which leads him to an island community of neo-pagans that appear to be hiding their true intentions.
The film flopped in the box office due to its poor writing and absurd performances, but on the other hand it has Nic Cage running around in a bear costume and shrieking like a maniac. Stuff like that and Cage’s explosive delivery cements the movie in the “so bad it’s good” realm.
Produced, directed, written, and starring the auteur/daytime-vampire Tommy Wiseau, The Room is full of hamfisted performances, cinematography gaffes, awkward dialogue, and so many other issues that could eat up the whole article. As a romantic drama, The Room is a failure in all aspects. As a comedy, it is cinematic gold.
The Room’s reputation as one of the worst movies ever made gave it a dedicated audience that came back repeatedly for over a decade, whether it was people riffing on it from their couches or during a packed midnight screening. Its reputation and bizarre popularity sparked a biographical film about the making of The Room, the James Franco-directed The Disaster Artist.
There are two sorts of people – the people who verbally say, “I really like Love Actually,” and the people who insist they don’t like it yet still have firmly within their Christmas movie rotation alongside Elf and Die Hard.
Love Actually is like most Christmas feasts: way too sweet, overstuffed, and replete with generous servings of ham. That might be the film’s greatest strength – if you don’t like one plot line or set of characters, there are nine other stories to choose from. Plus, what other movie has Billy Bob Thornton playing the U.S. President?
Movies based off video game franchise typically miss the mark, but for many people Mortal Kombat hit the mark and ripped out its spine. Bizarrely, the PG-13 film stays pretty true to the R-rated storyline of the video games (which was inspired by Enter the Dragon).
While the film is as over-the-top as the game, folks enjoy the fight choreography, the wonky CG, Christopher Lambert’s whispery delivery, and the close connection to the video games characters. It’s a fun and simple action flick for fighting game fans.
The live-action film interpretation of the classic anime had been in production hell since 1992, but finally emerged in 2008. Sadly, the story of a high-speed racer named… um, Speed Racer, driving his souped-up Mach 5 car in a cross-country race couldn’t compete with the first Iron Man, and got creamed at the box office.
While the story is universally panned, the film’s fans look past it to enjoy the stunning visuals and break-neck racing action. The people who love it know that it’s a live-action cartoon, so they’re fine with enjoying the wild and intentionally unrealistic CGI, and Speed’s pet monkey Chim-Chim.
When Dirty Dancing came out in 1987, movie goers had the time of their life and never felt this way before (sorry, not sorry). But as time went by, the movie grew into something groan-worthy and dated, if for no other reason than the fact that it’s about a grown man and a teenage girl nicknamed “Baby” falling in love. Eek.
That said, this film has been a go-to for several people who want to indulge in a film with well-choreographed dance numbers and a soap opera storyline that features love, teenage angst, and an abortion subplot. Okay, maybe not that last part, but this film doesn’t deserve to be put in a corner.
Len Wiseman’s Underworld dares to mix Universal monster movie tropes with Matrix-like action, which created a cult franchise focused on the ongoing war between vampires and lycans (werewolves). Kate Beckinsale plays a vampire who hunts down lycans, but hesitates to kill a human she’s attracted to (played by Scott Speedman, so who can blame her?) after he’s bitten by a lycan.
The movie is dark, stylish, and derivative as hell, but there is a reason it managed to spawn a franchise with five films. Some folks just want to shut off their brains to enjoy some action-horror. Just don’t confuse lycans with werewolves in front of Underworld fans, as they are apparently totally not the same thing.
Big Trouble in Little China
Big Trouble in Little China can be described as “Big Action, Little Problematic.” The movie mixed martial arts and Asian mystic stereotypes with a synth-heavy soundtrack composed by director John Carpenter. While it was a flop in the theaters, it’s gained firm cult status thanks to its entertaining over-the-top action and bizarre usage of practical effects.
Fans enjoy the film while still acknowledging and recognizing the culturally insensitive elements, such as Kim Cattrall being dressed as an Asian bride. Plus, it’s hard to dislike the rugged Jack Burton (Kurt Russell), even if the majority of his lines are “What is this?” “Someone tell me what’s going on,” “Who is this?” and other dialogue that sounds like some confused guy who wandered into the movie.
On the surface level, some folks see Starship Troopers as a gory alien-killing sci-fi war movie, and others see it for the war propaganda satire it truly is. Based on a Robert Heinlein book, Starship Troopers follows young Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien) as he joins the military and does battle with insectoid aliens in a never-ending interstellar war in the 23rd century.
Would you like to know more? In an interview with the Guardian, director Paul Verhoeven discussed how he intended on satirizing pro-American fascism right down to casting Van Dien because he looked like the “blond, white, and arrogant” imagery he saw in Leni Reifenstahl’s films. The bludgeoning symbolism hits just as hard as any attack against a giant bug.
Never Been Kissed
Some people just like their romantic comedies super sappy. Never Been Kissed follows 25-year-old copy editor Josie (Drew Barrymore) as she goes undercover as a high school student because her editor-in-chief wants a story about lives of the local children. Josie develops a crush on her English teacher as she revisits and revises her high school experience.
Which is creepier: the fully grown woman immersing herself into high school, or the fully grown teacher falling for his student whom he thinks is a teenager? In spite of this, the movie has a groundswell of fans that either fantasize about getting a do-over in high school like the main character or are in awe at the inappropriateness of the movie’s premise.
Based on the Marvel comic book character, Venom follows the story of Eddie Brock, a disgraced investigative journalist that plays host to an alien symbiotic life form. Despite Venom being originally created as a villain for the super hero Spider-Man, the movie somehow gets by without ever mentioning Spider-Man at all. The movie was received with mixed reviews from both critics and comic book movie fans.
If viewed as a typical comic book movie and in relation to the character’s comic book lore, the critiques are understandable. However, when viewed under a romantic comedy lens, Venom is enjoyed by many as “A Boy and His Blob” tale with a tongue-in-cheek story, crazy action, and a wacky performance by Tom Hardy.
If your definition of guilty pleasure is “absurd yet awesome,” then Face/Off is the film for you. Directed by John Woo, Face/Off follows the story of an FBI Special Agent (John Travolta) having his face and voice switched with a comatose freelance terrorist (Nicolas Cage) as a part of a deep undercover mission. Stuff goes awry when the terrorist awakens wearing the agent’s face (John Travolta as Nicolas Cage portraying John Travolta) and kills everyone involved with the agent’s facial transplant.
Over-the-top acting, over-the-top action, over-the-top everything.
The film is so relentlessly active that viewers don’t have time to sit and ponder the ridiculousness of the plot. Face/Off is the perfect brain-off movie and a quality excuse for friends to gather around together to eat snacks.
Death Race 2000
This 1975 Roger Corman-produced classic is the epitome of so bad, so weird, so good films. David Carradine plays Frankenstein, a death racer and champion of the Transcontinental Road Race that encourages violence towards competitors and pedestrians alike to pacify the civil unrest of the populace. Basically, it’s pro wrestling, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Idiocracy merged together in a film with a $12 budget.
This movie tickles all the guilty pleasure centers with ridiculous violence, cornball effects, Carradine’s Darth Vaderish S&M costume, and obscure acting performances. All of that plus Sylvester Stallone in one of his first film roles as “Machine Gun” Joe Viterbo, Frankenstein’s rival racer.
The plot is right there in the title. Sharknado is about a cyclone that forms off the coast of Mexico and carries water infested with sharks onto the mainland and into Los Angeles. Yes, it technically should have been called Sharkphoon, since tornadoes form on land and typhoons form on the ocean, but the movie’s insane logic goes beyond proper meteorological terms.
Crazy CGI effects, an insane script, and earnest yet off the mark performances by Ian Ziering and Tara Reid makes for a fun night in. The first Sharknado’s success sprung five sequels and became a brief cultural phenomenon, so who are we to say it’s bad?
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