50. The Magic Sword
Director: Bert I. Gordon
The best film by B-movie maven Bert I. Gordon, the director of The Amazing Colossal Man and others, The Magic Sword may also be the best overall movie that ever got the MST3k treatment. It’s honestly a wonderful little slice of fantasy adventure, stylistically quite similar to a movie like The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. You’ve got veteran actor Basil Rathbone as the evil wizard, Estelle Winwood as the good witch/mother of the hero and a bevy of brave, multicultural knights trying to survive seven deadly curses and save the princess. I imagine I would have loved this movie if I was a child growing up in the early 1960s.
49. Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
Director: Russ Meyer
Great title, right? Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is one of the definitive exploitation films of the mid-1960s, the product of famous sexploitation auteur Russ Meyer, whose fixation on large-busted women has become synonymous with his name. Oddly enough though, the film is actually fairly empowering when it comes to its female leads, a band of three go-go dancers who conspire to defraud a villainous old man. Being a Meyer film, you can expect a certain grungy quality, along with the following: Racecar driving, women punching and being punched in the face, and huge freaking boobs. And also a big, dumb idiot named “Vegetable.” As the trailer claims, it’s “totally satisfying.”
48. Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2
Director: Lee Harry
There aren’t many B movies that have become famous for the absurd delivery of a single line, but the garbage day scene from Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 certainly conferred a special brand of infamy. The rest of the movie is almost as crazy though, if that can be believed. It’s structured so strangely—first plodding out over a series of flashbacks that shamelessly steal reams of footage from the first film, and then snapping into the present where the brother of the first film’s killer goes on a rampage of his owwould expect from the “garbage day” clip, it’s Eric Freeman’s performance as Ricky that makes this one so much fun to watch. The shame is apparently still in full effect today: When the film’s director tried to track him down to participate in DVD commentary, he found Freeman completely unreachable.
47. The Barbarians
Director: Ruggero Deodato
We had a Barbarian Brothers movie earlier on the list with Double Trouble, but The Barbarians was made five years earlier, before they became master thespians. This is a film that literally has no reason to exist besides the fact that they had access to these two beefcakes. The plot is the Conan rehash you undoubtedly knew it would be—two young children captured by an evil warlord and raised to become gigantic, musclebound gladiators must fight to take down his empire, blah, blah, blah. Peter and David Paul are both absolutely abysmal—they don’t even try to throw on an “old-timey” accent like everyone else. Hearing these giant guys in loin cloths speaking in a Jersey-like accent is pretty damn funny.
46. Killer Klowns from Outer Space
Directors: The Chiodo brothers
This is the sort of B movie that you probably know by name even if you’ve never seen it. It’s a deliriously weird sci-fi horror flick where aliens who just happen to look like clowns land on Earth in a ship that just happens to look like a big-top tent, then turn people into cotton candy and eat them. It’s a definitive example of the trashy 1980s horror flick, a movie I heard whispered rumors of growing up but never would have been allowed to view. Culturally, it’s mostly significant for being the only film produced and directed by the Chiodo brothers, Stephen and Charles. Outside this movie (still considered their opus and too distinct to forget) they’ve provided effects for dozens of bad horror movies and a few mainstream ones, with titles ranging from the Critters series to Will Ferrell’s Elf, believe it or not.
45. Ninja III: The Domination
Director: Sam Firstenberg
There was a time in the mid-1980s when ninjas were just about the coolest possible characters for an American action movie. American filmmakers officially caught the fever with 1981’s Enter the Ninja, but this sequel was where the genre hit one of its most nonsensical highs. “Historically inaccurate ninjas fighting stuff” was deemed not enough of a premise for this one, so it’s about a sexy aerobics instructor (all hot women in the 1980s were aerobics instructors) who is possessed by the ancient spirit of an evil ninja. Thus, it becomes part The Exorcist and part inexplicable Godfrey Ho-style slice-em-up. It’s just an absolutely ridiculous film—probably the only time that ninjas have staged a daring golf course ambush.
44. It Came From Beneath the Sea
Director: Robert Gordon
The name in the director box says Robert Gordon, but all you really need to know is “Ray Harryhausen.” This movie has one of his niftiest creations, the giant killer octopus that runs amuck on the open ocean and eventually attacks the Golden Gate Bridge in a classic sequence. “The H-Bomb blasted it loose from the depths of the Pacific, but not even the H-Bomb can kill it!” blares the trailer. It’s just about the perfect expression of 1950s nuclear paranoia, all wrapped up in a science fiction shell. It was a huge drive-in success, making more than 10 times its original budget in box office receipts.
43. Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors
Director: Freddie Francis
British film studio Amicus Productions made a lot of goofy “portmanteau” horror flicks in the 1960s and 1970s, but this anthology is one of the funniest. I mean seriously, how great is that title? It’s made all the greater by the fact that the whole framing story takes place on a train—the Dr. Terror character (the fabulous Peter Cushing!) literally has no house and no horrors. Aboard the train, he reads the future and foretells the terrible deaths of five other men via tarot cards, in stories that run the gamut from werewolves to voodoo priests and man-eating garden vines. Christopher Lee shows up in one of the stories as a pretentious art critic who gets what’s coming to him and then some. It’s charmingly innocuous and chaste, incapable of scaring a soul.
Director: Albert Pyun
This film is essentially the consolation prize for two other failed film projects. Pyun (director of the largely forgotten 1990 Captain America movie) was initially contracted to shoot a sequel for the earlier Masters of the Universe He-Man adaptation, along with a live-action Spider-Man movie, but both projects had their funding stripped. After spending money on costumes for both films, however, the studio still wanted something to show for their troubles. Enter Jean Claude Van Damme, playing a kickboxing badass in typical Van Damme fashion. Propelled by kickboxing, he utilizes kickboxing to kickbox his way through a post-apocalyptic landscape replete with kickboxers … and the occasional cyborg. It’s the most badass trailer you’ll ever see for a feature film with a $500,000 budget.
41. Masters of the Universe
Director: Gary Goddard
And speaking of Masters of the Universe … this film is insane! Rushed to completion in 1987 in an attempt to boost flagging sales of He-Man action figures, it landed with a resounding thud. It’s a perfect example of a film that probably sounded great when a marketing guy pitched it to a board room of coke-snorting executives, but in execution it wasn’t something that could be captured in a non-ridiculous way in a low-budget action movie. Dolph Lundgren as He-Man and Frank Langella as Skeletor seem to be completely unaware of what decade they’re in and play their roles as if they’re Flash Gordon and Ming the Merciless. The whole movie acts as if it’s still the mid-1950s, which is the only context in which someone could have kept a straight face while watching Masters of the Universe. It’s one of the most sincerely over-the-top films of the 1980s.