The Worst Film Ever Made
I once went to an all-night cult film festival and the cinema had three screens so essentially you had a choice of three films at any time. First up was The Big Lebowski, Brazil and The Room. The first is probably my favourite film. Brazil is Terry Gilliam’s masterpiece and a film that is so good that it can get away with casting Michael Palin as a sadistic torturer. And The Room is considered to be one of the worst films ever made. Its entire fame is based on that it is terrible and yet people were choosing to see this over either of the two classics. It is a mystery to me why anyone would want to watch it at all. I’ve never seen Raging Bull, Vertigo or Oldboy all of which look brilliant and interesting but I just have never gotten round to watching them and it feels a bit wrong to see something like The Room before Raging Bull.
The Room would fit into a category of film known as “so bad it’s good”, that a film with glaring and obvious flaws, with failures of writing, acting, directing can be enjoyable because of these flaws. Usually, it’s not just films that aren’t very good, there are lots of those films, normally it needs something more like the filmmakers thought they had something good. That certainly seems to be the case with The Room and while the filmmakers seem to have embraced the awfulness of their film it certainly seems like they weren’t making it ironically.
Despite its terribleness, The Room is genuinely a cultural landmark with special fan screenings across the world and perhaps has wrestled the title of worst film ever made from Plan 9 From Outer Space. Both films are so notorious that each has been the subject to follow-up films (The Disaster Artist and Ed Wood respectively) which to me look far more interesting than the original films. I understand that I am in a distinct minority in this opinion with many people taking great pleasure in watching bad films. Mystery Science Theatre 3000 has been going for thirty years on the simple premise of watching bad films and making jokes about them (while that premise is simple the rest of the show involves evil scientists, talking robots and captured spaceship pilots). There are many bad movie podcasts such as The Flop House, a show with clever, witty hosts who know lots about films – good as well as bad ones.
The Worst Film Ever Made That Cost $125,000,000
Another contender for the worst film ever made is Batman & Robin and I have seen this one and in my defence, I had hoped it would be good. Before Christopher Nolan resurrected Batman it had been thoroughly killed by this film. There is a supposed Batman curse and that accepting a high profile role in a Batman film will harm your career and this was certainly true for Batman & Robin. The careers of George Clooney, Chris O’Donnell, Alicia Silverstone, Uma Thurman and Arnold Schwarzenegger suffered severe harm and some have still not recovered. This should have been a big success. George Clooney has since proven himself to be a great dramatic actor, director Joel Schumacher had made good films like Falling Down, and it’s easy to forget that Schwarzenegger was once the biggest movie star on the planet. The film is a total fiasco with everything from the script to costumes being picked apart in the subsequent twenty years for being absolutely awful. Personally, I’d say this is a far worse film than The Room; as that was a small film with no stars and not much money the budget of Batman & Robin was $125,000,000 and for that amount people expect results.
Many people say they enjoy “so bad it’s good” films as a “guilty pleasure”. Personally, I’m with the brilliant comedian Josie Long who said instead of having guilty pleasures said you should have “brazen pleasures”, things you love and are proud to love them. This doesn’t mean everything has to be Kieślowski’s Three Colours Trilogy but you don’t need to feel guilty about what you love. Ultimately there are only two types of films – bad films and good films, and what goes in what category is just a matter of opinion. It’s hard to make a definitive argument that Citizen Kane is better than Clueless and it is perfectly valid to say that Alicia Silverstone’s performance is better than Orson Welles’. Personally, I really like Clueless and probably enjoyed watching it more than Citizen Kane and have had to defend it to other people who consider it awful. To me, Clueless is not a guilty pleasure it is a film I’m proud to say I enjoy. If a film engages you entertains you and interests you then it must have something going for it.
So what do people get out of so bad it’s good films and guilty pleasures? Is it just to see a whole group of people fail? After all, many writers and philosophers have talked about the odd pleasure in seeing our friends fail and apparently we get the same pleasure when total strangers do so as well. Maybe it’s even better for us when they spend hundreds of millions of dollars doing it. It still seems bizarre to me to spend time watching something that even the people who made who it aren’t proud of it. I have no plans to ever watch The Room. Maybe when I’ve watched every good film ever made I’ll move onto watching the bad ones but that will probably take me quite a while as people keep making good ones.