Everybody knows to put Citizen Kane, Lawrence Of Arabia, and The Godfather on their must-watch bucket movie list. But what about Valley Of The Dolls, Showgirls, and Glitter? As longtime film critic Michael Musto points out in a long read on Longreads, bad movies sometimes have as much or even more appeal than good ones. But why? Musto surmises that “It’s perversely comforting to see brilliant people mess up on such a grand scale, instilling the viewer with a superiority that great films simply can’t provide.” He writes about the catharsis Mariah Carey’s Glitter offered just after 9/11 and how even stars like Kyle MacLachlan and Patty Duke eventually came to appreciate their best worst movies.
Musto is such a fan that he even divides campy bad movies into categories like big stars slumming (aging Bette Davis robbing a bank in 1972’s Bunny O’Hare, or 1971’s bizarre all-star musical Lost Horizon). Horror, of course, gets its own bad-movie section with entries like The Manitou and The Creeping Terror, as do movies so epically horrible they’ve inspired their own further interpretations, like Tommy Wiseau’s The Room (explored in James Franco’s The Disaster Artist) and Tim Burton’s version of Plan 9 From Outer Space in Ed Wood.
There’s a certain schadenfreudean enjoyment that comes from watching these blockbusters fail that only adds to the enjoyment. Sure, you may giggle over the latest big-name comedy. But what are those mild expressions of mirth compared to the howls of laughter inspired by Faye Dunaway screeching, “Bring me the ax!” in Mommie Dearest? As Musto enthuses, sometimes it’s better to just embrace the bad movie fully, and enjoy it completely. You can read more about his favorite film clunkers over at Longreads.