While I may post a lot about critically acclaimed films on this blog, I can’t hide the fact that I enjoy shitty movies. Like most normal humans, I secretly laugh at fart jokes and get pumped for overly-choreographed fight scenes. Whether it’s bad acting or just a bad script, these films have always fascinated me, even though they hold the lowest of the low scores on Rotten Tomatoes (cult movies like Rocky Horror are not included). So here are my Top 10 Guilty Pleasures in Film. Feel free to add your own in the comments so I don’t feel too embarrassed.
10. Constantine (2005), dir. Francis Lawrence
I hesitated putting this film on the list because I genuinely think it’s great. The other films you’ll see on here are more obviously bad, but Constantine has a lot going for it. Keanu Reeves plays John Constantine, an exorcist born with the power to see angels and demons on Earth. In this world, angels and demon are forbidden to manifest themselves on Earth, but can possess and influence humans. Constantine finds out that Lucifer’s son, Mammon, is planning to break through to Earth and claim it as his own kingdom, so he must kill Mammon and restore the balance.
Constantine has a great premise and the visuals are fantastic. Keanu Reeves gets a lot of shit as an actor, but I thought he made a perfect Constantine. And Tilda Swinton as Gabriel? Now that was awesome. (Also, special shout-out to mega-babe Gavin Rossdale as sassy half-breed demon Balthazar.)
But not everything about this film is great. Casting Shia LaBeouf as the spunky sidekick was a poor choice because he’s just too annoying. And Rachel Weisz was a fairly dull female lead. At times, the special effects got a bit too distracting, and I think the film would have been slightly better if a little was left to the imagination. But despite the hate from the critics, I’ve got a soft spot for Constantine.
9. Airheads (1994), dir. Michael Lehrmann
This one almost got disqualified because I already have another Adam Sandler film on the list. But technically Adam isn’t the star of this movie, so I let it in. Airheads is the story of three loser musicians (Brendan Fraser, Steve Buscemi, and Adam Sandler) who hold a radio station hostage in an attempt to their song played on the air. Terrible premise, terrible acting, and terrible original music make for one awesomely bad guilty pleasure.
Casting Brendan Fraser, Steve Buscemi, and Adam Sandler as three best friends was a bizarre choice. Give them all long hair and some grunge-chic fashion sense and you’ve got the most out of place cast ever. This film came out at the height of the alternative rock takeover in the ’90s, so it’s really just a product of the times. And that’s probably why I love it.
The dialogue also sells it for me. Some of my favorite lines come from Steve Buscemi, who plays a totally immature douchebag (which is a drastic shift from the weird, misunderstood characters he normally plays). And when someone asks you who would win in a wrestling match between Lemmy and God, remember that it’s a trick question (Lemmy is God).
8. Bring it On (2000), dir. Peyton Reed
The fact that I enjoy a teen comedy about cheerleading shocks even my closest friends. Bring it On is your standard teen rom-com about a head cheerleader who needs to build the perfect squad and the best routine to win a national cheerleading competition. Everything plays out as expected, but there are some aspects that stray a bit from the norm, which is what I really enjoy.
First of all, the squad we’ve been following for the entire film doesn’t win nationals at the end. Most teen comedies have the main characters getting exactly what they want in the end, and although Kirsten Dunst gets her dream guy, her squad has to settle with second place. Second of all, Eliza Dushku as badass outsider Missy is a welcome addition to the cheerleader stereotype cast. And the routines throughout the film are admittedly cool to watch.
Bring it On isn’t a genre-bending film by any means, but it’s still a fun film. As someone who’s never been a cheerleader (or an athlete of any kind), I kind of wanted to join the squad by the halfway mark.
7. Rock Star (2001), dir. Stephen Herek
I really love terrible music movies, especially when they star Marky Mark Wahlberg in tight leather pants. Rock Star is loosely based on the real-life story of Tim Owens, a singer in a Judas Priest tribute band who landed a gig as the singer of the real Judas Priest after Rob Halford split. Mark plays the Tim Owens counterpart, but the band he joins is called Steel Dragon.
The plot is pretty basic–Marky Mark gets a call from Steel Dragon, joins the band, does the typical “sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll” thing, realizes his bandmates aren’t the people he thought they were, and quits years later. There aren’t many surprises in this movie, but it’s just a fun ride, especially if you like ’80s hair metal. There’s also eye-candy in the form of Mark Wahlberg (in leather pants, as I mentioned before) and Jennifer Aniston.
The music is great, too. Unlike the purposely bad originals in Airheads, the songs in Rock Star are actually pretty awesome. The highlight is “We All Die Young,” which was originally by the band Steelheart. Holy power ballad, Batman!
6. Little Nicky (2000), dir. Steven Brill
Okay, there’s really no excuse for this film. I honestly can’t tell you why I like it because there really aren’t any redeeming qualities to it. The jokes are juvenile, the plot is ridiculous, and Adam Sandler’s character is beyond annoying. Michael J. Nelson (from Mystery Science Theater 3000 fame) called it the worst comedy ever made. It was nominated for five Razzies, including Worst Picture, but lost only because Battlefield Earth was also nominated the same year. I could go on, but I think you get the point.
I can’t defend Little Nicky, but for some odd reason, I actually enjoy it. I was torn between this and Billy Madison, but this one was way more embarrassing. Little Nicky was the beginning of the end of Adam Sandler’s comedy career. His more recent films are probably worse than this one, but I don’t actually like any of those.
Maybe it’s the dick jokes. Maybe it’s the endless amount of cameos, including Ozzy Osbourne and Henry Winkler (covered in bees!). Or maybe a small part of me still believes Adam Sandler is funny.
5. Thir13en Ghosts (2001), dir. Steve Beck
Back in the late ’90s/early 2000s, studios decided to remake all of William Castle’s classic horror films. The original 13 Ghosts was released in 1960 and it probably wasn’t nearly as bloody as this remake. The story is essentially the same as the original–ghost hunter Cyrus Kriticos captures twelve ghosts and seals them in his creepy glass house in the middle of nowhere, fakes his own death, leaves the house to his nephew, and by someone’s carelessness, all the ghosts are released and start wreaking havoc.
The reason why this film was a critical failure was probably because it wasn’t even scary. It was billed as a horror film, but minus a couple quick jumps, there really wasn’t anything frightening about it. It’s a bit predictable, and even when it tries to be original, the characters over-explain everything. You don’t need to tell me every single detail about Cyrus’ plan! Show me. The number one rule of storytelling is show, don’t tell. Give me visual clues! Let me figure it out for myself! The director didn’t need to dumb it down for the audience.
Despite all its faults, Thir13en Ghosts does have some interesting ghosts. According to the agonizingly long explanation in the film, each ghost represents a sign of the fictional “Black Zodiac.” Their origins aren’t revealed in the film, but you can find them in the DVD extras. Their backstories are fascinating, but I’m kind of glad they left those out. It would have made the film far too long.
4. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), dir. Ron Howard
I love Jim Carrey and I love Dr. Seuss, so of course I love this clumsy adaptation of one of Seuss’ best stories. It’s pretty crude for a film marketed towards children (the Grinch landing face first in Martha May’s cleavage was a bit too adult for the kiddies), but that’s what made it enjoyable for people of all ages. Yes, the classic cartoon is technically better (and much closer to the book), but this adaptation is bizarrely enjoyable.
I’ve come to realize that people either love or hate this one–there really isn’t any middle ground. If you hate it, it’s probably because of Jim Carrey’s over-the-top performance as the Grinch. If you love it, it’s probably because of, well, Jim Carrey. The man is the major element in this adaptation, and whether you enjoy it or not depends on how much you like watching Jim hamming it up for the camera. Personally, I think he did a great job. And I still laugh at most of the jokes (even the juvenile ones).
I still watch it around Christmastime and it honestly puts me in the holiday spirit (which is difficult). But if you want more reasons to hate this movie, check out Nostalgia Critic’s perfect review.
3. House on Haunted Hill (1999), dir. William Malone
This is another terrible remake of a William Castle film, but it’s slightly better than Thir13en Ghosts. House on Haunted Hill kept some of the campiness of the original while injecting some modern scares to amp up the plot. The story is simple–amusement park mogul Steven Price sets up a party in an abandoned insane asylum where each guest is challenged to stay the whole night, with a prize of $1 million at stake. Of course, staying the night isn’t as easy as it looks since the asylum is actually haunted by murderous ghosts. Didn’t see that one coming, did you?
As with most modern horror films, the acting is terrible and the characters are mostly unlikable. Though to this film’s credit, it does have some genuinely witty dialogue, especially between Steven Price (Geoffrey Rush) and his wife, Evelyn (Famke Janssen). But they really can’t make up for the other actors. Also, what is Chris Kattan doing in this movie?
But the reason why I keep coming back to this film is because it has some genuinely frightening moments. The scene in the sensory deprivation tank is beyond creepy, and there are plenty of smaller scares in there as well.
But the ending is probably the worst ending to any horror film. Taye Diggs screaming, “I was adopted!” and Chris Kattan’s ghost opening a window to fight off the evil spirits were just unneeded.
2. The Cell (2000), dir. Tarsem Singh
The Cell is so frustrating to watch because it could have been an incredible film. Part of why I keep watching it is because I’d like to believe that a better film will just appear to me after 1284924320 viewings. Sadly, that’s not the case. But I still enjoy it as it is, despite some glaring mistakes.
The cast is terrible. Just flat out horrendous. Why would you cast Jennifer Lopez and Vince Vaughn in a psychological thriller together? They’re strictly romantic comedy fodder! J. Lo was decent in her role, but this is probably Vince’s worst role ever. He was too stiff and emotionless, even for a hardened detective character.
But the premise had so much potential that I have to give the film bonus points (and they almost eclipse the mark-down for J. Lo and Vince Vaughn). Jennifer’s character, Catherine, is a child psychologist who specializes in an experimental therapy technique, which allows her to enter the minds of her comatose patients. Once a prolific serial killer falls into a coma, the cops take him to Catherine and ask her to enter his mind and find out where to find his last potential victim before it’s too late. Of course, the serial killer’s mind is a dark and dangerous place, and it’s perfectly portrayed as a disturbing wonderland of unimaginable horrors. Director Tarsem Singh was inspired by the Nine Inch Nails video “Closer” and artwork by Damien Hirst.
I just wish this film had a better cast and a better ending. I don’t wish for remakes very often, but I could live with a remake of The Cell.
1. Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002), dir. Jay Roach
Those who know me know how much I love this film. I know every word, every dance move, and every pop culture reference. And even though this is supposed to be a “guilty” pleasure list, I don’t really feel that guilty about loving Goldmember.
The first two films in the Austin Powers trilogy are arguably better in terms of comedy and execution, but I really latched on to Goldmember when it came out. It’s a bit more ridiculous than International Man of Mystery and The Spy Who Shagged Me, and to me, that’s definitely a plus. Dr. Evil and Mini Me singing a parody of Jay-Z’s “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)”? Check. Britney Spears being outed as a fembot and eventually destroyed by Austin’s sexual prowess? Check. Goldmember being unable to pronounce the word “father,” thus resulting in one of my favorite jokes in the film? Check and mate.
It’s silly, raunchy humor and nothing more. This isn’t a comedic masterpiece by any means, but much like The Grinch, Goldmember still makes me laugh every time I watch it.