Open Forum Friday: Can a Movie Really Be So Bad It’s Good?

Fascination with failure is nothing new in our culture. There is something reassuring about seeing other people make mistakes, particularly celebrities and people in positions of power. We like to see expensive blockbusters flop and we like to know that actors like Tom Cruise are human too. But that doesn’t quite explain how bad movies can develop cult followings. Movies like Plan 9 from Outer Space, Troll 2 and The Room are generally seen as cinematic travesties, and yet they all have legions of fans who have watched them hundreds of times. You could say that these people like to feel smug and superior to these films, but something tells me that kind of enjoyment only goes so far.

Zack Carlson, a programmer for the Alamo Drafthouse, recently wrote an editorial for Wired about movies that are so bad they’re good. He puts forth the idea that there is no such thing; if a movie delivers a certain level of entertainment, then we have to acknowledge it as being genuinely good. The movie he uses as an example is Miami Connection, an obscure but recently restored ’80s action movie, and while I can see his argument working for that movie, I’m not quite sure it holds up for something like The Room. For me, that movie is just interesting because it’s so weird, but I still don’t know that I would call it genuinely good. But hey, maybe I’m just a snob. What do you think? Is there a difference between movies that are so bad they’re good and movies that are just good? Should we really feel guilty about liking movies that other people claim to be bad? What are your favourite “bad” movies? Give us your thoughts here on Open Forum Friday.

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  • Kasper

    Most of the “so bad they’re good” movies basically just mean they don’t work as intended but are great unintended comedies.

  • Steve

    In addition, I think you have to separate the idea of quality from enjoy-ability. I would classify The Room as “so bad it’s enjoyable.” From every aspect, The Room is a terrible, terrible film. Because of that, it’s a lot of fun.

  • kyri

    For me personally this happened with only one film: HOWARD THE DUCK – I love that film, probably is a nostalgia thing, but I love it, I saw it as a kid, and blew my socks off, then I bought it on VHS then on DVD, in fact it was the first thing I ever bought. I was 5-ish back then. .. unfortunately my dad recorded football over it, but I still got the Cover!

    If only they released it on baby Blu..

  • Henrik

    90% of the movies Jay recommends on the podcast are so bad they’re good, he just thinks that means they’re good.

  • mitch

    no

  • Jack Burton

    If you enjoy it, it’s good. Who cares about production value, and good writing if you’re not entertained? That’s the bottom line. I’d rather watch Space Jam than Amadeus because one of them I find to be boring as sheeit. I’m not rating them on technicalities. When you rate a movie, do you bump up the stars for effort?

  • scott

    If it’s good, it’s good. I genuinely like Howard the Duck. I don’t know. Seems like there might be so bad they’re good movies, but I can’t remember what they are. Somebody name one. I guess some straight to video things are cool. When I worked on this horror movie called Splinter I’d sit in the sheriff’s car and watch B-movies like Turbulence that really sucked but were kinda cool in that goofy ass way. I guess they so bad they were good. Some things are so bad they’re bad like Green Arrow on that new show being a straight up cold-blooded murderer.

    scott
    http://www.reconditepictures.com

  • http://symparanekronemoi.blogspot.com Flo Lieb

    I wouldn’t say a movie can be so bad it’s good, but it can be so bad it’s still enjoyable. Like the OTT-second half of “Piranha 3DD” or the classic “The Room”. They are definitely not good movies by any standard but they’re sure as hell enjoyable at lenghts.

  • patrik

    Hells to the yeah! A bad movie can still be funny and thus entertaining.

  • http://www.MosserCasting.com/PlanBFromOuterSpace PlanBFromOuterSpace

    I’d also like to support the “so bad it’s entertaining/enjoyable” label, because there are some movies I will never stop defending when it comes to entertainment value, but I would never claim to be “good”.

  • http://www.gravatar.com/avatar/226d821c77d3c502426774727ef2826e.png Juan Costrada

    The best star system is based around how entertaining you find a film, rather than its perceived “greatness”.

  • fatbologna

    Arguing semantics on the internet is like trying to fuck a ghost.

  • Bryan

    My favorite “so bad it’s good” flick is Die Hard 5. Haven’t seen it yet, of course, but I’ve got a good/bad feeling I’m gonna love it…

  • Jack Burton

    We gotta get the pot stirring more on open forum Fridays.

    I PUT FORTH…

    All art is subjective.
    All film is art.
    Therefore, all films are subjective.
    Therefore, there’s no such thing as a bad movie.

  • Owozifa

    I think the only bad movie is a boring movie. It’s really hard to even laugh at a boring movie.

    A really fun “bad” movie for me is Deathstalker II. I laughed so hard I cried during that one.

  • Vikke_AJ

    I only know one thing… Miami Connection is awesome!

  • http://lior20.wordpress.com/ Lior

    A movie can still be technically and cinematically incompetent (you can define this as “bad”), yet still have merit.
    Plan 9 is the most famous bad movie ever made because despite its many shortcomings there’s something genuine about it, something that comes from a real passion to create.

    Just speaking for myself, there aren’t many movies I consider “so bad they’re good”. I might get a kick seeing Troll 2 with a howling audience, but when you watch this stuff alone at home it loses its appeal. So a really good movie needs to work without the context of a post-modern, laughing audience.
    Also, when people mention that a movie is so bad it’s good, they usually mean that it’s so bad it’s funny. So I guess that means bad movies can be considered good comedies. That’s a lot or reinforcement for the comedy genre.

  • http://www.MosserCasting.com/PlanBFromOuterSpace PlanBFromOuterSpace

    @Lior

    I believe the opposite is true too, like you can have a “good” movie that is technically sound and has all the right components, but just DOESN’T come together into anything that’s all that entertaining, which is almost worse, because these movies tend to not be bad so much as just boring. When dealing with “bad” movies that don’t hit the mark, they’re still funny for being misfires, whereas the “good” ones that fail are just kind of puzzling, because there’s often no real reason why it shouldn’t have been better.

  • http://lior20.wordpress.com/ Lior

    @PlanB

    I totally agree in principle.

    But it all comes to semantics. Most Hollywood movies these days with all their sleek technicality end up as being average. Neither bad nor good.

    The fringes of the industry has always been filled with filmmakers who don’t really know how to make films, but really really want to. So I agree, again, a genuine misfire is more memorable than another lazy, boring blockbuster.

    But it’s really such a broad subject. There are truly very few so-bad-they’re-good movies that are special enough to be considered important in any shape of form. I’m not a bad movie connoisseur so my threshold is pretty high.

  • UKMark

    Starcrash aka The adventures of Stella Star is my favorite awesomely bad but great vote. Oscar winning cast and a score by the master of Bond music the late great John Barry and the beautiful Caroline Munro. Can’t be here Friday so leaving this post guys.

  • Evan3457

    Steven Seagal’s “Out for Justice”. I’ll say no more.

  • CGehring
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