There exists a fine line between the realm of “B” movie magic and plain ol’ garbage filmmaking. These films must achieve a precarious balance between low budgets, unknown (or notoriously terrible) actors and unpredictable plots to create a piece of art so interesting and unforgettable that it inspires a cult following. The below list is a brief run-down of ten of the most notable of these fantastically bad films.
10. Psycho Beach Party – 2000
This is a relatively recent addition to the list of B-Movie must-sees. This spoofy blend of 1960’s beach party flick and 1970’s slasher film (think “Gidget” meets “Halloween”) offers everything from almost-naked bikini babes to surfing bombshells with multiple personalities. Starring some big names such as Thomas Gibson and Nicholas Brendan, this film is memorable for the premise alone.
9. Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy – 1968
Featuring Jane Fonda as the title character, this futuristic (the year 40,000 if you can suspend your disbelief) film follows the adventures of increasingly-more-scantily-clad heroine Barbarella as she endeavors to rescue the inventor of the Positronic Ray in order to save the Earth from Untold Destruction. Laden with blatant sexual innuendo and a truly ridiculous sci-fi storyline, this film is a requirement for any true connoisseur of cult classics.
8. Manos: Hands of Fate – 1966
Hailed as one of the worst movies of all time, this film was rocketed (well, more like lobbed) into B-Movie history by the irreverent and wonderful series “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” The poorly edited (and written…and acted) film follows the misadventures of a vacationing family when they encounter a harem-like pagan cult of creepy women under the control of the dashingly mustachioed “Master”, and guarded by an inept redneck. While the movie alone is atrocious (x 1000), the viewing of said flick through the filter of MSTK3 is not to be missed.
7. Dolemite – 1975
Falling under the sub-category of Blaxploitation films, this movie is one the most notorious of the genre. The film centers around the street-wise pimp Dolemite (created and played by comedian Rudy Ray Moore) as he tries to save his club (read: brothel) from the clutches of a corrupt detective and a villainous rival pimp named Willie Green. While the character of Dolemite made his debut in several of Moore’s works prior to the 1975 release of the self-titled work, this irreverent film cemented his place as a B-Movie legend.
6. Krull – 1983
While this futuristic fantasy flick can boast such stars as Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane (early roles for both) as well as a respectably high budget, there are a few key phrases that demonstrate why this film falls firmly in the B-movie category. Galaxy-saving babies, a Black Fortress, alien cyborgs, kidnapped princesses, blind prophets and the Glaive (think a space-age ninja star) are but a few of these fantastic phrases.
5. Plan 9 From Outer Space – 1959
This remarkable piece of film magic was directed by Ed Wood, one of the most legendary (and notorious) B-movie directors of all time. It is also credited as the final film of the world renowned Bela Lugosi, although the footage including Lugosi was filmed three years prior as part of another project. The plot follows a race of extraterrestrials as they attempt to halt the construction of a Doomsday device on Earth that will have the power to destroy the universe. Largely panned upon its release, the film was highlighted as B-movie royalty once more by serving as the centerpiece of the 1994 film “Ed Wood”, a comedic biopic of the famous cross-dressing director.
4. Blacula – 1972
Perhaps the most famous of the Blaxploitaion films, this horror flick reveals the infamous Count Dracula to be racist as well as plain old evil, when he turns an African prince into a vampire and bestows upon him the unfortunate moniker of “Blacula.” After two centuries of imprisonment, the prince is freed, only to bring death and destruction to the streets of modern Los Angeles in the search for his lost wife. This campy and heavily clichéd film was the very first to win “Best Horror Film” at the Saturn Awards in 1972.
3. The Evil Dead – 1981/ Evil Dead II – 1987/ Army of Darkness – 1993
The Evil Dead series, starring Bruce Campbell (an undisputed B-movie master) as Ash, the one-handed chainsaw and shotgun-welding hero has become synonymous with the phrase “cult classic”. As the heroic Ash battles the wretched “Deadites”, he must simultaneously rescue damsels in distress and deliver some of the most famous lines in B-movie history. The Evil Dead series has even inspired video games such as the hilarious “Fist Full of Boomstick”.
2. C.H.U.D. – 1984
This film was originally panned by critics, but went on to receive the award for Best Fantasy Film at the Brussels International Festival of Fantasy Film. During the course of searching for several missing persons, it is discovered that a race of mutated humans is living under the streets of the city (naturally, as the result of a huge government conspiracy involving nuclear radiation). The unfortunate, flesh-eating beings are known as “Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers”, or C.H.U.D., for short. This gory horror-fest has topped the list of greatest pulp films for over two decades.
1. The Abominable Dr. Phibes – 1971
As is only appropriate, the number one spot must go to the incredible Vincent Price. In true B-horror style, the heartbroken and disfigured organist Dr. Phibes carves a bloody and vicious path of vengeance through the chain of doctors he believes are responsible for the death of his beloved wife, drawing on the biblical plagues for inspiration. This film received high praise from the critics (even spawning a sequel), as it exhibits every aspect of a truly fantastic campy cult classic.
Do you agree with our selection? We intentionally left Snakes On a Plane off the list because This Blog Rules (TBR) does not deem that to be a true-blue “B” Movie. Let us know your thoughts.