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Top Ten cult films: so bad they're scary

Our resident film critic, Michael Musto, recently wrote about five movies so terrible they’re actually kind of great. The number one film on that list, THE ROOM, also tops another best-of-the-bad rundown, the top ten “Awesomely Bad Films With Cult Followings,” or as I like to call it, ten films that are so bad it’s scary. In fact, many of them fall in the scary movie category, so if a high-budget horror flick isn’t your style, if you like it cheap and dirty, and above all – bad – then these movies are must see, especially as we countdown to the scariest day of the year. You’ve been warned.


This film was written, produced and directed by Tommy Wiseau, who also happens to be the lead actor. It’s also one of the best bad movies out there. Wiseau plays Johnny (and also looks like he’s made of wax), whose future wife is cheating on him with his best friend. THE ROOM¬†could be a moving story about betrayal and love if it weren’t for the terrible writing, acting, character development and pretty much everything else. Wiseau’s strange use of English and thick accent, along with his dubbed lines and bizarre timing, make him the worst actor in his own film and make¬†THE ROOM more comedy than drama. Though the movie played briefly in Los Angeles, it can be seen at midnight viewings across the U.S. and other countries where fans throw spoons at the screen and toss footballs to each other as references to strange occurrences in the film.


It’s easy for fantasy movies to go wrong, but a fantasy movie that goes so wrong that it’s right again is a rare gem.¬†THE BEASTMASTER¬†is that kind of film. Even the beastmaster Dar’s birth is ridiculous; Before he was born, he was transferred from his mother’s womb to a cow’s by a witch. Maybe it’s this strange origin that gives him the ability to talk to animals and see through their eyes. The whole plot revolves around Dar trying to defeat the people who destroyed his village. He does this all with the help of animals, most notably, his two ferret pals.


Made in 1959, this movie about things to come was directed by Ed Wood, Jr., who’s famous for other bad exploitation films like¬†GLEN OR GLENDA¬†and¬†THE VIOLENT YEARS. In fact, he was given the Golden Turkey Award for worst director ever. Quite an honor!¬†PLAN 9¬†is the story of aliens who release zombies on Earth to create panic and keep Earthlings from creating a doomsday weapon. If the low budget didn’t make the film bad enough, with boom mikes and strings on UFOs clearly visible, Wood clinched the poor quality of the film by letting deceased actor Bela Lugosi “star” in the film by inserting unused footage of him, and then swapping in Wood’s wife’s chiropractor to play the same character throughout the film.


SHOWGIRLS, released in 1995, features¬†Saved by the Bell‘s Elizabeth Berkley playing a hysterical Vegas stripper-turned-showgirl (if there’s any difference). Between Berkley’s overacting, her character’s dream of headlining in a topless dance show no matter the cost, and the bizarre dialogue, the movie is a seedy, awkward attempt at eroticism. The film begins to spiral out of control when Berkley pushes another showgirl down the stairs, followed by revenge attacks on other enemies. The film was rated NC-17 because of nudity and gratuitous sex, and though it saw a wide release in theaters it received bad reviews. Home movie sales, however, were surprisingly high.


Based on a book that was undoubtedly better than the movie,¬†MOMMIE DEAREST¬†stars Faye Dunaway as actress Joan Crawford. Crawford came to be known through her daughter’s autobiography as the worst mother possible, worse than any Tiger Mother or girl on¬†Teen Mom. And the movie came to be known as one of the best worst films of all time. Though the story itself is supposed to be true and horrible, the movie straddles the line between campy horror film and soap opera, and Dunaway is a maniac like you’ve never seen a maniac before. She flips out over unclean bathrooms, overacts her way through fights with her boyfriend and wields an axe like a serial killer. Catch a showing of this classic, but be sure to leave your wire hangers at home.


If you have a hard time going to bed after seeing a horror movie, watching DEATH BED isn’t a good idea, but only because you’ll be laughing so hard you can’t get to sleep. The Death Bed in questions was possessed by a demon and now lures people in with its telekinetic powers and then devours them with some sort of acidic stomach foam under its sheets. There’s also a man trapped in a painting, but his relevance is questionable at best. DEATH BED¬†was made in 1977 but wasn’t released until 2003, and earned cult status almost immediately. The director says he forgot about making it, but that sounds highly unlikely. Who could forget about a bed that eats?


This is the movie that teaches you that smoking marijuana will get you addicted, make you crazy and ultimately lead to your death. Granted, it was made in 1936 when the effects of the drug weren’t as well known, but that hasn’t kept¬†REEFER MADNESS from becoming a classic, particularly amongst the smoking set. Originally meant to serve as a warning titled¬†Tell Your Children, the movie shows good kids turned into marijuana’s slaves, which leads to debauchery, murder and insanity. From the uncontrollable bouts of laughter to the hallucinations suffered by the cannabis victims, the movie is over the top and ridiculous. Because of its popularity, the film was re-released in color in 2004, with even more campy visuals, and has been made into an off-Broadway musical satire.


When people think of cult classics, THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW is likely the first thing that pops into their heads. When the film was originally released, the audiences were were so small it was pulled from theaters and canceled in other markets. But when it was tested in the midnight movie market, it gained an instant cult following. It even earned a tribute on Glee, a move which would never be allowed in a real high school. The movie itself is a strange parody of other bad horror films combined with a campy musical/circus freak show.


In this ridiculous revisit to BONNIE AND CLYDE, the audience is treated to a terrible William Shatner character, lots of unnecessary nudity and one small plot basically on repeat. You can pretty much get the gist of the movie by looking at the video cover featuring three main female characters topless with guns. Angie Dickinson, who plays Mama, takes her daughters on a crime spree where they share men and kill people. It starts with innocent moonshine and progresses throughout a Shatner love scene and a kidnapping. If you want to see more of Shatner than anyone should ever see, plus uncomfortable love triangles, this movie is right up your alley. The quality of the movie is bearable, and the bad acting and ridiculous plot are entertaining, which have earned¬†BIG BAD MAMA a place in the hearts of those who love so-bad-they’re-good films. It’s now sold as a double feature with¬†BIG BAD MAMA II in Roger Corman’s Cult Classics line of DVDs.


Out of all the strange aliens directors have come up with over the years, this has to be the strangest. Aliens that look and act like clowns come to Earth to eat humans and enjoy the overall merriment of death. They fly down in a circus tent and run about the town covering corpses in cotton candy, releasing popcorn monsters and making fatal balloon animals. But don’t worry: the Klowns can be killed if you shoot them in the nose – obviously. The oddities in the film get even more bizarre when the heroes of the story make their way deep into the alien spaceship in order to defeat the man-eating Bozos. You’ll probably never look at a circus the same way again.