One of the biggest challenges I face as a film fanatic is convincing people that I’m not a movie snob. And yeah, while I’d prefer to watch a Swedish film from the ‘60s, than a blockbuster from 2013, I can like anything. I don’t like everything, but I can like anything. It just has to be something that tests, inspires or motivates me.
When I tell people how much I genuinely appreciate the films below, they think I’m being sarcastic. But it’s the truth. While they may not be the most critically acclaimed or commercially successful films, I love them all the same. Seriously.
The amazing ‘80s soundtrack, the ridiculous warehouse dance/gymnastics…thing, John Lithgow’s fire and brimstone, Chris Penn’s redneck-with-a-heart-of-gold, the name “Ren,” the epic conclusion… yeah, I love everything about the original Footloose. It’s just so much damn fun.
Point Break (1991)
Of all the movies on this list, Point Break might be the one most frequently written off as “So bad it’s good.” I disagree. I don’t think the movie is so absurd it’s fun, I honestly think it is one of the best action pictures ever made. Sure, it’s kind of silly, but it knows it’s silly (and with a lead character name like “Johnny Utah,” it damn well better). I also consider Point Break endlessly rewatchable. No matter the time, the day, or my mood – no time is a bad time for Point Break. Vaya con dios.
White Men Can’t Jump (1992)
One of my favorite sports movies of all time, there’s a playful earnestness to White Men Can’t Jump that I adore. Much more than the throwaway, street game hustle that it’s made out to be, the film depicts notions of jealousy, tested friendship and doomed love with complete sincerity. It’s also smartly crafted. That jump cut to Jeopardy after Woody Harrelson makes the impossible shot? I love it.
Basic Instinct (1992)
There is something about Paul Verhoeven’s American films that I find ceaselessly appealing. They’re self-entitled and smutty, and Verhoeven has a blast making them. His erotica thriller, Basic Instinct, is without exception the best smut flick the director has made. Now, while the film may not be a landmark in scriptwriting or acting, as far as conventional thrillers go, it is damn well put together. Its mystery, confidence, and, yes, sexiness, captivate like few films of its kind.
Last Action Hero (1993)
Fun fact: Last Action Hero (along with Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, which nearly made this list) were my first introductions to the works of Ingmar Bergman. I remember being young and watching Death come off the screen in the climax of Last Action Hero. It took me almost 15 years to find that film within this cheesy action romp, but when I did, my life was never the same.
So, yeah, that’s just one reason I like Last Action Hero.
Yes, I enjoy Clueless. Yes, I think it’s smart. Yes, I think it is a perfect send-up of American hyper wealth in the mid-‘90s. Yes, I think it paved way for an entire sub-genre of films, the result of which has been mostly poor. No, I am not at kidding.
A theme has emerged here. I’m a fan of movies that are aware of what they are. Whether they execute their reflection through satire, sarcasm or hyperbolic drama, I admittedly find joy in movies that don’t pretend to be something they’re not.
A perfect case in point is Wes Craven’s masterful Scream. Craven and writer Kevin Williamson wanted to make a horror satire about kids who were obsessed with horror films. He wanted his characters to know where the plot was going, and more importantly, to fool his audience into thinking he was taking himself seriously. My point is, Scream is fun. And the people who created it knew that. Its sequels (I love the second, like the third, detest the fourth) lost a bit of the humor found in the original, which is a shame. But for a bit of joy, I never hesitate to go back to the source.
The Rock (1996)
I have seen every film Michael Bay has directed, I haven’t enjoyed any in more than 15 years. Despite this, when I rewatch The Rock, there’s no doubt that it is indeed a Michael Bay film. So then why am I taken with it? Maybe it’s the thrilling action sequences, the sincere humor, or Ed Harris giving it his all – for any number of reasons, I really dig The Rock. It proves that there was a time when Michael Bay made solid movies.
Starship Troopers (1997)
I actually think Starship Troopers is brilliant. Writer Edward Neumeier and director Paul Verhoeven deliberately made a parody clouded under the guise of a popcorn-friendly sci-fi action romp. According to Verhoeven’s fascinating director’s commentary, he embedded fascist references in the film wherever he could. Late in the picture, when we see Neil Patrick Harris donning a long, black trench coat, Verhoeven wants him to look like a Nazi. Starships Troopers is full of these not-so-subtle suggestions. The director also says the film exists to highlight the war blood lust of specific countries. When I watch the film with that understanding, I respect it in a whole new way.
Wild Things (1998)
You know how I said I genuinely love Point Break, even though so many people think it’s So Bad It’s Good? Wild Things is different. The movie is so laughably over the top, so endlessly absurd, that I can’t not love it. Its closing credits may be the most playfully ridiculous sequence I’ve ever witnessed in film. It just keeps going, and going and going, until it doesn’t even make sense. Call it a good time, call it a guilty pleasure, but make no mistake, I love Wild Things without reservation. This movie is the pinnacle of So Bad It’s Good, and I am undeniably drawn to it.