A great bad movie makes you ask, “What did I just see? And when can I see it again?” as opposed to a run-of-the-mill stinker, the kind you wish you’d never watched and will immediately forget that you did. The great bad movies inspire think-pieces, podcasts, watching parties and feverish cult adoration. The regular ones merely wallow in mediocrity. Here’s my alphabetical list of the greatest bad movies the 2010s had to offer:
“Collateral Beauty” (2016) Will Smith is sad, and his best friends gaslight him by hiring actors to pretend to be Love, Time and Death, but we’re supposed to find their efforts -- noble? Charming? None of this makes a lick of sense, but it’s all delivered with hilarious gravitas by the likes of Kate Winslet and Helen Mirren. Make sure to stick around for the shameless third-act twist, and a labored explanation of the title.
“Gotti” (2018) From the narration to the needle-drops, this fawning portrait of a real-life mafioso tries desperately to be as Scorsese as possible, never mind that director Kevin Connolly (yes, the “Entourage” guy) has neither the skill nor the point of view to make any of this work. Between the anachronisms and the rationalizations for bad behavior, however, there’s plenty here to chew on in repeat viewings.
“The Identical” (2014) What if a twin brother of an Elvis-esque pop singer had lived (in a universe in which Elvis himself still exists) and became the subject of a faith-based movie that’s particularly focused on the idea of converting Jewish people to Christianity? And what if the lead character were played by an Elvis impersonator who can’t really act and who is forced to sing rock-and-roll songs that would get booed offstage at Knott’s Berry Farm? This nutty movie answers those burning questions.
Samuel Goldwyn Films
“Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas” (2014) Perhaps no single work of art in the 2010s brought Christians and atheists closer together than this holiday saga, which both groups could agree is one of the most misbegotten and perplexing movies ever made. It is dedicated to its star’s singularly bizarre ideas about the holiday, all of which were presented as, you’ll pardon the expression, gospel truths.
“Life Itself” (2018) Writer-director Dan Fogelman tried to blame white male critics and their lack of emotion for this film’s blisteringly bad reviews, until reviewers who were women and/or people of color mentioned that, no, they hated it too. This multi-generational, lattice-of-coincidence love story demands to be seen (to be disbelieved).
“The Oogieloves and the Big Balloon Adventure” (2012) Yes, we grade kids movies on a curve, but this one is so outlandishly wrong-headed and baffling that attention must be paid. Its messages for children are patently dangerous -- Jump from high places while holding a balloon! Get into a stranger’s vehicle! Drink milkshakes really fast! -- which almost distracts from the unsettling lead characters and the generally surreal levels of weirdness. Decide for yourself which is odder: Christopher Lloyd and Jaime Pressly cast as a Mexican couple (Lero and Lola Sombrero) or a vacuum cleaner that professes its love for a lady window that has a Southern accent.
“Sex and the City 2” (2010) A landmark TV series led to a perfectly entertaining big-screen version, which somehow got us to this tone-deaf sequel, which seems to misunderstand completely why we ever liked or cared about these characters. You’ll stare at this version of Carrie and company and wonder when it was, exactly, that they were all abducted by aliens and replaced by uncanny-valley versions of themselves.
“Stonewall” (2015) If there’s a running thread through many great bad movies, it’s that the people involved really, really wanted to create something important and meaningful. Any hack can phone it in, but it takes a special kind of filmmaker to aim for the stars and crash instead. Which brings us to Roland Emmerich’s well-intentioned attempt to document a turning point in the American LGBTQ civil rights movement, which wound up being an object of mockery for queer and straight audiences alike.
Burke International Pictures
“Surfer: Teen Confronts Fear” (2018) The success of Tommy Wiseau and “The Room” opened the door for any number of imitators, none of which were half as sincere or half as unhinged as this combo of biblical allegory, home-movie surfing footage, military espionage and mouths full of black goop. This one’s still popping up in theaters, and I can safely say you’ve never seen anything quite like it.
“Tyler Perry’s Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor” (2013) The man behind Madea is a more capable filmmaker than he’s often given credit for, but this absurd, slut-shaming melodrama brought out his worst habits as a writer, director and scold. But even if Kim Kardashian weren’t in the cast (and boy, is she), this would still rank among the very best of his very worst.