Films that are so bad they're good
As the end of this year's award season closes in, spare a thought for those movies that have been less than well received.
No, not the films that missed out on nominations by a hair's-breadth - we mean the ones that spectacularly crashed and burnt, drawing the ire of critics and audiences alike.
From the banal Jennifer Aniston romance The Bounty Hunter, the appalling travelogue Sex and the City 2, the tedious fantasy The Last Airbender, gushing melodrama the Twilight Saga: Eclipse to the remarkably unfunny spoof Vampires Suck, 2010 coughed up plenty of turkeys.
Each of the aforementioned crimes against cinema have had the "honour" of being nominated for Worst Picture at this year's Golden Raspberry Awards - which will be handed out in Los Angeles on February 26, the night before the Academy Awards.
Film history is littered with high-profile failures, and it's worth remembering that a terrible movie can affect us every bit a much as a great one. Here are 10 that are so bad, they're unmissable.
The Conqueror (1956)
At the height of his career, John Wayne read the script for Howard Hughes's Far-Eastern epic, about the life of the Mongol warrior Genghis Khan, and demanded he be given the part - regardless of his race. Alongside Wayne, the redheaded actress Susan Hayward was cast as a princess of an Asian tribe. Unsurprisingly, audiences didn't buy it and the $6m (Dh22m) film flopped. Hughes reportedly thought the movie was so bad, he bought up every copy he could, at a cost of $12m. Some believe the filming location, in Utah downwind of a US government nuclear-testing site, may have contributed to Wayne, two co-stars and the film's director contracting cancer.
Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959)
Originally titled Grave Robbers from Outer Space, the director Ed Wood's best-known abomination has become a cult classic - partly thanks to Tim Burton's biographical film about Wood. Featuring the last film appearance of the Dracula actor Béla Lugosi, the largely unintelligible plot sees aliens turning dead Earthlings into zombies and vampires to stop humankind from creating a sort of sun-driven bomb. With daytime shots intercut indiscriminately with others filmed at night and poor attempts made to conceal the wires attached to flying saucers, it helped make Wood notorious for his almost total technical ineptitude.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
Sometimes a film's title says it all. Directed by the TV regular Nicholas Webster, this movie tells the story of the Martian people, whose children watch Santa Claus on television every Christmas, but are disappointed when he never brings them presents. So, their parents come up with a simple plan - kidnap Santa. The B-movie is now so well-loved by its fans that it spawned a long-running theatrical production. There have even been rumours of a remake, with the actor Jim Carrey as one of the Martians.
Heaven's Gate (1980)
The film that contributed to the death of the career of The Deer Hunter director Michael Cimino, the financial collapse of United Artists and the tightening of Hollywood studios' control over filmmakers, Heaven's Gate has become synonymous with critical and financial failure. The Western had a glittering cast that included Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken, Isabelle Huppert and Jeff Bridges yet, at nearly four hours long, the film was described by the Chicago Sun-Times writer Roger Ebert as "the most scandalous cinematic waste I have ever seen". It recouped less than $4m of its $44m budget.
Mac and Me (1988)
The story of a suburban American boy who befriends an alien (more than a little reminiscent of Spielberg's ET: The Extra Terrestrial), Mac and Me is one of the most blatant blockbuster knock-offs in cinema history. But the film is best remembered for its creators' incredible willingness to embrace product placement. For example, all that the alien requires to survive is Coke and Skittles. What's more, the film features a five minute impromptu dance number in a McDonald's restaurant, with Ronald McDonald taking part. Even the alien's name " Mac" is derived from the Big Mac burger.
Troll 2 (1990)
One of the most inept and unscary horror movies ever made, Troll 2 is famous for not actually featuring any trolls, nor having anything to do with its "predecessor", Troll. The film sees a group of young people beset by goblins (actually dwarfs wearing burlap sacks and rubber face masks) and received its title simply to cash in on the success of Troll. The dialogue by the Italian filmmaker Claudio Fragasso made little sense, yet the director insisted the American stars speak the lines as written. In 2009, Troll 2 became the subject of the documentary Best Worst Movie, a critical favourite made by Michael Stephenson, one of the film's child stars.
Highlander II: The Quickening (1991)
Following the 1986 action movie Highlander was always going to be a tough job - it ends with its hero as the last of his kind in the world, with nobody left to fight. The sequel moved the story from present day to 2024 and tore up the original film's logic. Epic sword-fights atop Scottish castles were replaced by aliens and flying skateboard duels. Sean Connery's character, who died in the first film, mysteriously returns, only to be killed off again minutes later. The review website IGN wrote: "How bad is this movie? Well, imagine if Ed Wood were alive today, and someone gave him a multi-million-dollar budget."
Batman and Robin (1997)
Eight years after Tim Burton's beloved take on one of the comic world's most-celebrated characters became a box office smash, the director Joel Schumacher almost destroyed the franchise. With a mood closer to the campy 1970s TV show than Burton's gothic fantasy, the film received widespread ridicule, not least for the heroes' outfits. John Glover, one of the cast members, claimed that before each take, Schumacher yelled through a megaphone: "Remember, everyone, this is a cartoon." Its star, George Clooney, was reported to have offered to refund the money to anyone who went to see the film.
Battlefield Earth (2000)
Produced by and starring John Travolta and based on the first half of the Scientology creator L Ron Hubbard's novel of the same name, Battlefield Earth is set in the year 3000 and chronicles humanity's attempt to fight back after being enslaved by an alien race. As well as the ridiculous costumes and make-up (dreadlocked Travolta anyone?), the film was slammed for its corny dialogue, incongruous plot and bizarre dependence on lopsided camera angles.
The Room (2003)
Produced, directed, written by and starring Tommy Wiseau, this independent film about a painful love triangle has become known as the Citizen Kane of bad movies. Although Wiseau says the film is supposed to be a black comedy, others involved in its production claim his real intention was to create a serious drama. After gaining attention for its shambolic performances, bizarre dialogue and now infamous use of green screen in some outdoor shots, The Room has become a fan favourite. It now regularly packs out late-night screenings, where devotees shout out its hilarious (intentional or otherwise) lines.
Updated: February 23, 2011 04:00 AM