Movies So Bad They're Good

A recent topic on Cinecast (the excellent Chicago-based podcast by Adam Kempenaar and Sam Hallgren) was movies that are so bad they're good. Depending on how you define such a movie, this could be quite difficult, and the Cinecast folks took one of the more difficult interpretations. They wanted movies that were actually transcendantly bad and they knew that was a difficult task, so they requested each listener to send in a pick.

Once I started thinking about it, I realized that most of the movies that came to mind were movies I liked despite the fact that they were bad, not movies that I liked because they were bad (i.e. Phantasm). Again, there's lots of room for interpretation with this type of film, but I was looking for a movie that I thought was good first, then after a moment's thought realized how foolish it was. After some thought, I finally settled on my number 1 movie that's so bad its good: Rocky IV. I sent my pick to the Cinecast folks along with a brief description of why I thought it qualified, and they actually read it on the air (in this show, if you're interested)! Here was my brief description:
My suggestion for the "So Bad It's Good" top 5 would have to be Rocky IV. Easily the most ludicrous film in the entire series - filled with horrible cliches, cardboard cutout characters, 80s montages (in fact, I think the film is primarily composed of a series of montages set to 80s music that would also qualify as "so bad they're good"), bad monosyllabic acting, laughable geo-political undertones, and the list goes on and on. Yet it's also probably the most entertaining of all the Rocky movies. It distills all of the superficial but enjoyable cliches of the first three movies into a film that has to be described as so bad it's good.
Rocky IV genuinely isn't a bad movie. If you were to objectively evaluate every individual component of the film, it would be a horrible film, but together, it is truly more than the sum of it's parts. Naturally, there are many specific bad things that I like about the film, but I was attempting brevity. However, as I'm sure my regular readers (all 4 of you) know, brevity usually isn't an issue on my blog, so here are some of my favorite things about Rocky IV:
  • In the course of Jonathan Morris's excellent post on the Rocky series, he references the excellent start of the film thusly: "James Brown performs 'Living In America,' and Drago—perhaps angered by the performance—kills Apollo in the ring." Classic start.
  • A commenter from the Rocky post above calls out another excellent moment in the film, right after Apollo's funeral:
    My favorite moment is, after Apollo dies, and Rocky decides to go for a soul-searching drive (while that song "There's No Easy Way Out" is playing), he looks in the rear-view mirror and thinks he sees Drago. Clearly the best use of the "I mistakenly thought I saw my nemesis in the reflection of a mirror/window" moment in movie history. What's the runner-up, you ask? That honor goes to Bloodsport, when Van Damme thinks he sees Chong Li in the reflection of a Hong Kong subway window.
    I considered bloodsport for a top 5 spot (see below), but it ultimately lost out...
  • Brilliant training montages cross-cut to contrast Drago's futuristic, ultra-high-tech regimen with Rocky's more wholistic, old-school program. Drago's constantly hooked up to machines which measure his performance, while Rocky likes to run around in deep snow (which, I'll grant, isn't as easy as it looks), lifting ox-carts and the like. My favorite part, when Rocky is in such great shape that he is able to lose his Soviet handlers while running up a mountain, and when he gets to the top, he screams "DRAGO!!!" at the top of his lungs.
  • After the fight with Drago, Rocky addresses the Soviet Union: "I guess what I'm trying to say is, if I can change, and you can change, everybody can change." And thus the Cold War was won...
I could probably go on and on, but I wanted to list out my Top 5 So Bad They're Good Movies. Some notes on criteria first. As previously mentioned, these are movies so bad they're good, not movies I like despite the fact that they're bad. As Cinecast put it, they're transcendantly bad. Also worth noting is that I'm not including campy movies or movies that are intentionally bad (ruling out the likes of Evil Dead II, Army of Darkness, and Big Trouble in Little China)
  1. Rocky IV: For reasons I've already spoken too much about above.
  2. Commando: One of Schwarzenegger's best/worst films in which he plays a ex-military superman who is forced back into an action by an old colleague gone bad. The ending of the film, in which "Matrix" takes out an entire island of enemy troops is a gem.
  3. Red Dawn: A Soviet/Cuban invasion of America? You bet, and a band of high school students led by Patrick Swayze mount a guerilla campaign in resistance (using the name of their football team, the Wolverines, as their name). A classic.
  4. Cobra: Another Sly Stallone movie? Indeed. Similar to Commando, the ending sequence in which Stallone takes out an entire cult of axe-clanking maniacs while riding in the back of a pickup is brilliant...
  5. Point Break: Keanu Reeves plays FBI Special Agent Johnny Utah, need I say more? Ok, Gary Busey, Patrick Swayze (again!) playing someone named "Bodie," surfing, and much, much more... Worth watching just for Keanu's delivery of the line "I am an FBI agent."
Honorable Mention: Bloodsport, Breakin' 2 - Electric Boogaloo (mostly for the name), Tango & Cash (Stallone, again), The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (which may be disqualified for its camp factor), and Rambo: First Blood Part II (Stallone fights communists again; he's such a champ in this category).

Interestingly enough, the grand majority of my choices are 80s movies (and they dominated the Cinecast choices as well), which is probably appropriate as the 80s were truly so bad they're good. There's probably a large element of nostalgia at work with my choices here as well, as these were all movies I loved to watch when I was growing up in the 80s...

Feel free to leave your picks in the comments. It's an interesting subject, and perhaps because of the nostalgia aspect, it seems to be strangely personal.

Update: A friend just chimed in with Varsity Blues. We're both a little unsure if it qualifies, but if it does, I think it could easily displace one of my top 5. Excellent choice...