When talking about the bad movies that most influenced his work with Divine, John Waters told Vice in 2015, "The worst films ever made aren't funny, they're just tedious. That's the tyranny of good taste." Truly bad movies safely celebrate tired conventions. As a film writer, I ascribe to Waters' gospel and warmly welcome the filthy, the nasty, and the scummy. "Good taste" carries a ton of racist, sexist, and homophobic connotations, and it's often the worst of mainstream cinema that can present the most transgressive ideas. Or, at the very least, these bad films can accidentally spoof the worst of our prejudices and attitudes, and some of the worst movies of the '90s hold up this theory.
At the same time, it's difficult to admit some of my most-loved childhood movies aren't the epics I remember. My Toon Star jersey and Spice World Barbie collection are testaments to the low-brow nerd I actually am, no matter how many times I use the word "oeuvre" in a given day. I will swear up-and-down that Hedwig And The Angry Inch is my favorite movie and go on about the virtues of Alexander Payne's dark humor, all while harboring a deep love for Sylvester Stallone. And so I'm prepared to admit that the '90s produced a slew of bad movies — many of which have grown on me in time. Some of them, though, did present the worst ideas of the decade.
This one is so deliciously bad that it's achieved a hearty cult-following with time. IMO, the best part of the movie is its infamous pool sex scene, where Elizabeth Berkley and Kyle MacLachlan hump like dolphins. Seriously.
2. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
Speaking of Kyle Maclachlan, I'd like to take this opportunity to publicly pick a side with this polarizing Twin Peaks follow-up. When he made this sequel/prequel, Lynch was able to go full-terror, which screwed with the dynamic I loved so much in the show. Other Lynch fans drool over this movie, however, so it's best you come to your own conclusion. Be warned, though, major Twin Peaks spoilers are in this trailer.
3. Troll 2
The powers of evil are very strong in this awesomely bad movie. There's no way to actually critique this film, as it could only exist in this state.
4. Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
By now, we've all heard the loud complaints about Jar-Jar Binks and how he single-handedly almost strangled Star Wars. Sigh.
5. The Fifth Element
This stinker stars Milla Jovovich, Bruce Willis, and Gary Oldman. Sometimes, science fiction happens. The movie might've been better if the producers stuck with the original cast, which included Julia Roberts, Mel Gibson, and Prince, but even that's iffy.
6. Judge Dredd
While the government does currently use privatized prisons and militarized police forces, Judge Dredd imagines an even stranger hellscape, where law enforcement is made up of "Judges." Judge Dredd, played by a super pouty Stallone, is framed for murder and gets caught up in a series of gory misadventures, all of which culminate in a fight for his freedom on top of the Statue of Liberty. Yep. Despite abysmal critical reception, the film was somehow remade in 2012 with Karl Urban taking over Stallone's role as Judge Dredd.
7. Speed 2: Cruise Control
A fitting tagline for this movie? "This ain't Seaworld, this is real as it gets. I'm on a boat motherf*cker, don't you ever forget."
8. Drive Me Crazy
At least we got Britney's "Crazy" out of this smarmy rom-com.
9. Bride Of Chucky
I imagine that the conversation between the writers of this film began something like this: "Hey, I've got a great idea! Let's give Chucky a sex life."
10. Spice World
If you want this film to retain its magic, don't watch it as an adult.
11. Space Jam
Same with this one.
12. Bad Girls
Every line in this movie is a melodramatic proclamation of women's rights. So, yeah, I kinda love it.
Even though The Wedding Singer showed off a sweeter side of Adam Sandler's '90s, dad-com humor, Bulletproof is a sign of the stinkbombs to come.
14. Baby Blood
A monster grows inside of a woman's uterus and calls upon her to kill men for their blood. *crosses fingers for a remake*
15. Falling Down
If you were to base a children's book off of Donald Trump's speeches, it would be Falling Down.
16. Bram Stoker's Dracula
The sheer amount of cheesy Winona-horror and random accents make this bodice-rippin' retelling worth a watch.
17. Shakes The Clown
Well, here's that movie about sad, alcoholic clowns you've always wanted to watch.
I hate to hate on Drew Barrymore, but this is a laughable piece of gender-policing trash where the "evil other self" is a complicated, sexual character rooted in trauma.
After watching this film about the aftermath of the president's assassination a few times, I'm starting to think that JFK actually stands for "Just Freaking Kidding."
Urban legend, blah, blah. This is a horror film based on the now-demolished Cabrini-Green projects in Chicago, and it tells the story of a white graduate student haunted by a black man who used to live there. The real terror in this film is its sense of racism.
21. Destiny Turns On The Radio
Released within Pulp Fiction's explosion, Tarantino's worst is eclipsed by the rest of his neo-grindhouse work.
22. Batman And Robin
For some reason, I've always liked the trashy feel of the '90s Batman movies—they are campy and garish, which feels true to the comics of the era. The muscles are bulging, the colors bleeding, and the one-liners ridiculous. Sidenote: look up the Mr. Freeze version of "Let It Go."
I dig its erratic trailer, but Gus Van Sant broke my heart a little bit with this remake.
All you need to know about this film is that John Travolta becomes Nicholas Cage and provides a slew of excellent freakouts.
25. Wild Wild West
At least we got the theme song out of this movie.
26. American Beauty
Yes, I know this might be controversial, but I believe that this movie can be summed up by Kevin Spacey feeling like a plastic bag drifting through the wind, ready to start again. The Canon's Amy Nicholson called this film a late-millennium period piece, which I think is a fitting description of its problematic themes.
27. Harley Davidson And The Marlboro Man
Action movie or really long ad for toxic masculinity? You decide.
Looking for something to leave a bad taste in your mouth? Set up a screening of these awful movies.
Image: United Artists