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The Best Worst Movie Ever

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In pop culture we looooove ourselves some lists – and Best/Worst Film Lists are no exception. I’m goosing the concept: which film, in a wholly subjective poll with a sample voter size of exactly ME, would be the Best “Worst Film?”

IF you had to choose. IF it was the last movie on earth. If it was the Thunderdome and two movies went in but only one could leave. Etc etc.

Parameters: The Golden Raspberry Awards since 1980 have annually “dis-” honored the Worst Film Of The Year. Here is La Liste D’Infamy from earliest to most recent, or as I’ll call it, the “talent pool.” (I don’t blame you if some of these flicks flew under your cinematic radar):

  • Can’t Stop the Music
  • Mommie Dearest
  • Inchon!
  • The Lonely Lady
  • Bolero
  • Rambo: First Blood Part II
  • Howard the Duck / Under the Cherry Moon (tie)
  • Leonard: Part VI
  • Cocktail
  • Star Trek V: The One What Shatner Directed
  • The Adventures of Ford Fairlane / Ghosts Can’t Do It (tie)
  • Hudson Hawk
  • Shining Through
  • Indecent Proposal
  • Color of Night
  • Showgirls
  • Striptease
  • The Postman
  • An Alan Smithee Film: Burn, Hollywood, Burn!
  • Wild Wild West
  • Battlefield Earth
  • Freddy Got Fingered
  • Swept Away
  • Gigli
  • Catwoman

Some notes:

  • Sylvester Stallone, Bo Derek, and Gina Gershon have each starred in two of these films.
  • Joe Eszterhas is the screenwriter responsible for two of them.
  • Bruce Willis & Demi Moore have each starred in two – for a total of four – while they were still married. Coincidence? (At least they didn’t make the fatal mistake of starring in a movie together, like Bennifer Version 1.0 did with Gigli).
  • John Derek has written and directed two of these films – the very same two that his wife at the time (Bo Derek) starred in. Coincidence?

According to the Internet Movie Database, the movie from this list with the LOWEST aggregate member rating (on a scale of 1-10) based on total votes is Gigli, with a rating average of 2.3.

So the worst “Worst Movie Ever” is Gigli.
Which I saw in the freaking theater.
Opening weekend.
Paying full price.
I can NEVER get my one-hundred and twenty-one minutes back. But I can take it off my list out of sheer spite.

Now I’ll ask the remaining nominees to please stand until disqualified by the following criteria:

  1. No sci-fi, cos’ if it’s on this list it’s Galactic Cheese (Battlefield Earth & Star Trek Shatner).
  2. No musicals for the same reason – and thank Zeus there wasn’t a sci-fi musical (Can’t Stop the Music, Under the Cherry Moon).
  3. Ditto comic book adaptations (Howard the Duck, Catwoman).
  4. Remove any movie with exclamation points in the title, because there’s an unwritten rule in Hollywood that these movies always, ALWAYS suck out loud (Inchon! & Burn, Hollywood, Burn!).
  5. Erase any and all period war dramas crippled by ham-handed direction, uber-sappy melodrama, and Melanie Griffith playing anything other than a ditzy blonde (Shining Through – though how the hell does A Stranger Among Us, where she’s a NYC police detective pretending to be a Hasidic Jew, not make this list?!)
  6. Take away the “adventures in ecstasy of a woman’s erotic awakening or re-awakening” (Lonely Lady, Ghosts Can’t Do It, Indecent Proposal).
  7. Also take away movies that actually CONTAIN “an erotic adventure” IN the subtitle of the movie (Bolero, I’m eye-rolling in your direction).
  8. Take away stand-up comedian “vehicles” – although calling Tom Green a comedian is a stretch, he’s just Canadian most of the time (Leonard Part 6, Ford Fairlane, Freddy Got Fingered).
  9. Take away movies that bleed red, white, and blue Jingoism (Rambo 2, The Postman).
  10. And just take Madonna (Swept Away). Please.

That whittles it down to the following:
Color of Night
Hudson Hawk
Mommie Dearest
Wild Wild West

And believe it or not, there’s a clear-cut winner.

Lest you think I have Bruce Willis favoritism, I’m voting Color of Night off the island immediately. First, because I figured out the Captain Obvious ¡WHIZ-BANG PLOT TWIST! instantly. Second, because I didn’t ask to see Bruce Willis’s penis, I didn’t want to see Bruce Willis’s penis, and yet I saw Bruce Willis’s penis.

Now on to Cocktail. Which I’m throwing down a flight of stairs & bouncing off this list for three reasons:

  1. Gina Gershon’s old nose.
  2. That evil song “Hippy Hippy Shake.” I hate the Georgia Satellites.
  3. That evil-er song “Kokomo.” I hate the Beach Boys even more than the Georgia Satellites.

This may be unpopular but I’m axing Mommie Dearest next. This Joan Crawford biopic is basically a made for TV piece of schlock. But in it Faye Dunaway has made a Camp/Cult Film For The Ages, if not The Definitive Camp/Cult Film. Her performance here has contributed so indelibly to the pop culture and the pop landscape (No… more… wire… HANGERS!!!!) that it’s too easy to call this the Best Worst Film and too impossible. It transcends this list. Not that it isn’t a terrible movie, but it’s too imbued in the culture to withstand a fair evaluation as a Best Worst Movie. And besides, I don’t want to rain on the Gay Pride Parade and any appropriated iconic totems.

Hudson Hawk. This movie is quite ungreat. But in the film Bruce Willis gives amazing Bruce Willis. He always gives good Bruce. He’s so adept at it. And he’s the MVP of this flick. Think of how truly bad it could have been with, say, Sylvester Stallone. Or Madonna. And in addition, I didn’t have to see his penis. But I still have to remove it from the list. Even with the Willis Factor™ it wasn’t funny as a comedy and it wasn’t exciting enough as an actioner. It tries to be both and it’s neither. I hate fence-straddlers. Fail greatly & spectacularly at one thing instead of being non-committal and mediocre at two.

Wild Wild West. This movie is also quite ungreat. And it’s eerie how similar it is to Hudson Hawk. Another lumbering dunderheaded movie hoisted up by its own big-budget petard. It even has the charming Will Smith giving fantastic Bruce Willis. It’s slick and not wholly unpleasant. But like HH, it’s not funny enough as a comedy and not whiz-bang enough as an action flick. There’s no there, there. It’s missing that, I don’t know what, something French?

So, like Highlander, there can be only one. And here there is only one movie left on this list. The BEST, WORST MOVIE IS… SHOWGIRLS!!!(exclamation points added by me)

Without a doubt. No contest. The only true winner on the entire list, because this movie is unblinkingly consistent in tone throughout. The other movies go for a vibe and fail to reach it or find it or sustain it. The other movies try too hard to be serious, or funny, or futuristic, or Madonna. Or even be Showgirls. Showgirls just is.

It’s a Perfect Storm of Best Worsts: Actual showgirls. Gina Gershon with new nose. Laughs, intentional and unintentional. Sex. Wooden dialogue. Boobs. Vegas. This movie is exactly what it purports to be. It didn’t aspire to be Oscar-worthy nor set out to be anything but what it is. And it delivers such rich schlock and cheese – and delivers it beautifully – that it rises above the rest. It’s that cliché “so bad it’s kinda good.” It’s a Zen bad movie. THE Zen best worst movie. Showgirls – THE Citizen Kane of Best Worst Movies. EVER. Showgirls – kid-tested, stripper approved.

This article appeared in slightly modified form on Tiffany Leigh’s blog, Soundtrack To The Motion Picture. ED/PUB:LM

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About Tiffany

  • Baronius

    Shark – hee hee hee hee hee! Starship Troopers was on tv a few weeks ago. I never get tired of that movie. It’s like every person on the screen has no idea what “acting” is. Try to comprehend this: a movie in which Denise Richards might not be the worst actor.

    I thought Stone was terrible in Basic Instinct. There’s something about her that reminds me of styrofoam. Of course, Joe Eszterhas and Paul Verhoeven worked together on Basic Instinct and Showgirls, Verhoeven going on to make…Starship Troopers. It’s like Six Degrees of Failure.

  • My favorite bad movie of all time was the Fountainhead. I was pregnant at the time I saw it, and I laughed so hard I thought I would go into prematire labor.

  • Shark

    Tiffany, this is good stuff. Thanks for sharing.

    PS: Overlooked by the Raspberry Awards, but should be on the list:

    Starship Troopers.

    Also contains the “best” Worst Actor in history: *Caspar Van Diem — who provides more unintentional laughs than a hurricane of Nitrous Oxide.

    *see also “On the Border” for a righteous runner-up.


    PPS to Joe Eszterhas: Kill Yerself. Seriously. Kill Yerself.

    Thanks in advance,

  • John Bil-

    Just to re-re-re-iterate on the article you just read:

    This list took an already EXISTING list from which to work: the Golden Raspberry Awards. I took their “winners” from the past 25 years and made a go of choosing just one from their list. Their website: link

    If you take offense at Rambo 2’s inclusion, you may want to take it up with them. I only used what they gave me to work with. And incidentially I agree. Rambo 2 isn’t terrible. Rambo 3 is much worse. But that’s like saying Porky’s 3 wasn’t as solid as Porky’s 2 – rearranging deck chairs on the good ship Mediocre.

    So because of the subjective nature of opinions of what is best and worst, and also due to the fact that there are, say, eleventy billion movies in the known media universe, I HAD to whittle it down. Because there will ALWAYS be someone who disagrees with “yeah, but what about THIS movie or THAT one?”

    Opinions are great because we all think some movies kick ass, and other movies suck. But we just can’t agree on which. Which is why they are opinions.

    And due to the sample size, if you think about it, IF you feel that one out of 27 bad movies shouldn’t be on this list then that ain’t that bad a percentage, because that means that there are 26 other flicks that suck for real, or a whopping 96% of them. So if Rambo 2 is your four percent, take it.

    I hated Monster also. But if “Monster” is the worst movie you’ve ever seen, consider yourself very very lucky. Virtually any of the other movies on this list trump that flick in crappulenthood – six ways to Sunday.

  • Rambo 2 was a good movie, what the hell are you talking about. Monster is my pick for the worst movie. It is the only movie I ever saw that half the audience walked out on.

  • Me either; I thought it was really good. Remember the guy with the baseball fantasy? I forget the details, but it was really funny.

  • Actually, Rodney, I’m right with you on Girl 6. I felt like it was a very well done film overall; stylish, good Madonna cameo like you said, Theresa Randle was great, and having the soundtrack by Prince was a stroke of brilliance. Can’t really understand all the 2-star ratings, to be honest.

  • So very glad to hear that, Tiffany. Seven Beauties is Top Twenty; sometimes my Top Ten, depending on my mood. A riveting film that was highly praised in its day but seems to have dropped off everyone’s radar since. Too politically incorrect, perhaps, or just too something? I know we’re getting off-topic, but anyway…

  • Re: Madonna: I think you nailed it. (Not *her*). She’s a star, like John Wayne, and a host of others, that one likes a certain way, and is good a certain way. No more, no less.

    She was one of the prostitutes in the mish-mash scene in Shadows & Fog that included John Cusack, is all I recall. And yeah, Woody wasn’t so hot there. I do remember the studio that was producing it went under too at the time, so a handful of pictures got bungled in their completion and delivery – not that this would have excused S&F.

    I loooooove Wertmuller. Seven Beauties drops my jaw every time. I was fortunate enough to take a great Italian cinema course in college, so made my bones on some of the great stuff.

  • It occurs to me she was not bad in Dick Tracy and was okay in Girl 6, a Spike Lee joint I seem to be alone in smoking. She may have been okay in Shadows and Fog, although the only thing I remember about thatr is that it’s Woody Allen at his absolute worst (not to mention his most derivative of Bergman).

    Madonna is at her level best being Madonna — as in Truth or Dare. The description “authorized inside look” may be an oxymoron, but whatever this thing is, it’s fascinating.

    Being a big fan of Lina Wertmuller, I couldn’t bring myself to watch Madonna in the remake of Swept Away, and was glad that it sank like a stone.

  • No shame in digging “Crazy For You.” And the movie has Matthew Modine and Linda Fiorentino, so it’s eminently watchable.

    I don’t believe in the phrase “guilty pleasures.” I love that song, but it’s probably because it was one of my first junior-school slow dances with someone I was very sweet on.

    I also like “Who’s That Girl.” So I guess bad Madonna movie = great Madonna song.

  • Vision Quest…”Crazy For You”…i found out it was Madonna and thought, “uh oh, i like a Madonna song”.

  • Slow News Day at work so here’s a selected Madonna biography:

    “A Certain Sacrifice” (film debut)
    “Vision Quest” (first of several perfs where she plays herself, ostensibly)
    “Desperately Seeking Susan” (as “Singer at Club”)
    “Shanghai Surprise”
    “Who’s That Girl?” (I think question marks are like exclamation points in movie titles, 99% of the time)
    “Bloodhounds of Broadway” (probably a singer?)
    “Dick Tracy”
    “Shadows and Fog” (playing a prostitute. I’m not touching that one)
    “A League Of Their Own” (a movie and performance I actually like)
    “Body of Evidence”
    “Dangerous Game” (Abel Ferrara self-indulgent nonsense)
    “Blue In the Face” (improv quasi-sequel to “Smoke”)
    “Four Rooms” (ick)
    “Girl 6”
    “The Next Best Thing” (which may or may not have indirectly killed its director, John Schlesinger)
    “Swept Away”
    “Die Another Day” (cameo)

    What’s amazing are the directors with which she’s worked: Schlesinger, Spike Lee, Allison Anders, Alan Parker, Ferrara, Woody Allen, James Foley, Wayne Wang… makes for one hell of a trivia question.

  • i looked on imdb.com, it’s the one released in 1970.

    go ahead an rent it, it’s baaaaaad.

  • Equinox was also a movie by Alan Rudolph, I think, where Matthew Modine played twin brothers? Or is your Equinox and my Equinox not the same? (I *did* work in an independent video store so pardon me getting my ‘geek on).

    And I agree, Sharon Stone did seize that moment in Basic Instinct. Sometimes movies are hits based on right place, right time. Based on a star’s cresting fame, or being annointed one way or another by the media, or finding something that obsesses the nation collectively (remember the California Singing Raisins?)

    So many movies are “before their time” and don’t find an audience, then look very prescient in retrospect. I often wonder if a behemoth like “Titanic” would have been as huge a movie ten years ago, or ten years from now.

  • And don’t forget Body of Evidence — in which Madonna tried to imitate Sharon Stone imitating Madonna and failing miserably. Say what you will about Basic Instinct, but Stone’s performance was really great — one of those where she not only overcame the script but embodied some kind of perfect femme fatale.

  • the worst movie i ever saw was called “Equinox”. as far as i can remember, the only ‘star’ in it was frank bonner, who played herb tarlek in wkrp in cincinatti.

    so bad it was good, in an ed wood sorta way.

  • These lists are fun. Thank you all for commenting!

    Given the total subjectivity of the “worst movie ever,” I *had* to limit the sample size and thought the Razzies was a good “objective” list to work from. The Razzies also tend to skew towards “high profile” meltdowns based on press in any given calendar year.

    So that’s why Graffiti Bridge, as well as some of my personal favorite “worsts” – Nightflyers, Alan Quartermain and the Lost City of Gold, Shanghai Surprise, Who’s That Girl etc. – aren’t on this list. (It actually stuns me that Madonna isn’t on a worst list more often – other than Desperately Seeking Susan, she’s Talent-Free in all her perfs)…

    Joe Eszterhas also wrote Jagged Edge, which isn’t terrible. Robert Loggia was nominated for his performance in it, and Music Box was nominated for Oscars too (Jessica Lange, right?). But for the most part Eszterhas was more lucky than good – he came out with Basic Instinct the perfect time – when the straight-to-video erotic thriller was primed to explode, ready to be A-Listed – so he was rode the zeitgeist. FYI, his autobiography, Hollywood Animal, is a great read – as long as you don’t believe ONE single word of it…

    Finally, what’s also interesting – and maddening – about films is that a good crew, or a “fun time” working on a film, is no indicator whatsoever as to a movie’s ultimate quality. Often times the train wrecks turn to box-office or critical gold, and just as often the smoothly-running productions churn out pap. I work freelance in film and television and can attest to this.

    Steven Soderbergh once was asked in an interview (Actor’s Studio I think) what the most fun he ever had was on a movie set. He probably said Ocean’s 11, but then made the point that one thing (most fun) has nothing to do with the other (quality movie). If that were the case, he said, then The Cannonball Run would be considered the greatest movie ever made.

  • Actually I can’t remember whether I saw the Breathless remake before or after Godard’s…all I know is the cheese, for me, was just too much to take. Although I thought there was some great use of Link Wray on the soundtrack. And yeah, not even I can argue with Valerie Kaprisky.

  • And a good film titled Music Box, starring Jessica Lange and Armin-Mueller Stahl; a pretty involving thriller about a woman who discovers her dear old dad may be a Nazi war criminal.

  • Baronius

    Wow. I just did a search on Joe Eszterhas, and he was the brains behind:

    Basic Instinct
    Burn Hollywood Burn

    That is a resume.

  • Fun stuff… although you could give Showgirls the benefit of the doubt that it is so cheesy that it’s good. Anyone see the Shaquille O’Neale film Steel? I’d have to put that up there for being really, really bad.

  • *Great article. My wife and I saw Bolero at the theatre, and it was a truly memorable experience; twenty minutes into it, the film jammed and the audience cheered. The crowd converged on the lobby to get its collective money back; the clerk said he could only give out tickets to a free show since the money had already been deposited. “I can certainly understand that,” said one patron.

    *The remake of Breathless was pretty good, I thought — people mainly hated it because they didn’t think it compared to Godard, which was the wrong comparison to make, really. Stanley Kauffmann pointed that out in his original review in New Republic, that you can’t really compare the remake with a movie that revolutionized cinema. If you think of it as a movie that simply lifted Godard’s story and told it in its own glitzy L.A, terms, it works pretty well — and the ending, where Gere faces off against the cops by doing this crazy Jerry Lee Lewis dance, was just wild, weird, and silly enough to work; or at least, it worked for me. And Valerie Kaprisky is a stunner, isn’t she?

    *Ballhaus started out working for Fassbinder, I think, so he has a lot of great work to his credit besides Scorsese, as well as a lot of crap. It’s amazing the number of lousy American films that have great DPs on them. David Crosby’s dad, Floyd Crosby, is a notorious example — working with everyone from the great Robert Flaherty to Roger Corman.

  • Oh, no fucking wonder, I just IMDb’d again and Richard Sylbert did the production design. He’s fantastic…even if he did also do the ’80s Richard Gere remake of Breathless (my vote for WORST worst movie since 1980).

  • I have to confess, I’ve both seen and enjoyed Under the Cherry Moon. It’s camp as hell: the bizarrely homoerotic relationship between gigolos Prince and Jerome Benton, the frequent appearances of boomboxes in a nominally 1930s setting, the “Wrecka Stow” bit, the whole concept of Prince being taken seriously as an actor (or, for that matter, director).

    But I’d also like to mention a few less ironic high points, not necessarily to trigger some kind of critical reappraisal (which it doesn’t deserve) but maybe to argue that there’s no way it could have possibly been as bad as Howard the Duck. For one thing, the cinematography is fantastic. I know as well as you know that Prince had nothing to do with it, but he knew who to hire: Michael Ballhaus (if it makes you feel better, I did have to IMDb this) was also D.P. for several Scorsese films (Goodfellas, Last Temptation of Christ, Gangs of New York)…and, admittedly, at least one other Raspberry winner (that would be Wild Wild West. And I like the eccentric sets and costumes, which snatch influences from classic Hollywood cinema and then bring them “up to date” with the absolute outer limits of ’80s “high fashion.” Also, any movie with the Parade album as its soundtrack can’t be ALL bad.

    That said, and speaking of Prince movies, why didn’t Graffiti Bridge make the list? Now THAT shit was unwatchable. Or did they just ignore it out of pity?

    Anyway, funny article.

  • I’ve only seen Wild Wild West and Battlefield Earth of those on your list… and WWW was bearable… but BE was horrid horrid horrid.

    A hint to film makers– if the best quote you can cull from reviews to put on the front of the DVD is something to the effect of “has creative scene cuts” then your movie is doomed.

  • Maurice

    I thought Showgirls when I first saw the uncut list! Good call! Very funny writing! Good job.

    You made me laugh.

  • Okay, between the Thunderdome bit and the last line, I was simply peeing my pants. TOO damned funny.