30. Time Chasers
Director: David Giancola
The final film on this list to be featured on MST3k, Time Chasers is a gloriously misguided time travel B movie. It’s one of the most watchable movies ever featured on the show, but some small aspect always just feels off about the production. The hero Nick is such a putz, rocking a hideous mullet and generally getting his ass kicked by everyone he encounters. The villain might as well be Skeletor in a business suit for how well he hides his scheme. They couldn’t even make his airplane-mounted time machine look cool. The time travel segments are definitely highlights, like when they go all the way back to the American Revolution in order to mill around with war re-enactors wearing mismatched uniforms.
29. The Haunted Palace
Director: Roger Corman
Probably the coolest of Corman’s “Poe Cycle” of films, even though this one has literally nothing to do with Poe, instead being a story lifted directly from H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.” This was Corman working with his biggest budget and proving that he was never a bad director, simply a constrained one. I adore the visual look of these films—like Hammer’s movies of the same period they’re grandiose and gothic and absolutely beautiful. Plus they have the talents of Vincent Price as the descendent of a notorious madman—but how much evil runs in the family blood? It’s got all the great clichés, including a mob of villagers with torches and pitchforks. A sumptuous story of revenge across generations; check out the classic trailer.
Director: Godfrey Ho (as Godfrey Hall)
This is pretty much the only “high-budget” action film that ninja-master Godfrey Ho ever had a chance to make, which is to say he had more than 20 bucks. Starring world karate champion Cynthia Rothrock as a kickass female street fighter, it still has to bring in a male hero to do “the real fighting” against a psychotic street fighter/serial killer known as “Stingray.” The movie became infamous thanks to its final fight scene between Rothrock, Stingray and the male hero, and I’m warning you right now: This might very well be the cheesiest fight scene ever filmed. And as if that wasn’t enough, the movie even has the gall to end a few minutes later with a five-way freeze frame high-five. It’s like a movie constructed entirely from action clichés.
27. The Roller Blade Seven
Director: Donald G. Jackson
Remember when I called Hell Comes to Frogtown one of the more coherent films by Donald G. Jackson? This is why. When Jackson met martial artist/producer Scott Shaw, they elevated their work to Henry Darger-tier outsider art. Employing a style coined as “Zen Filmmaking,” they set out to make a post-apocalyptic, rollerblade-centric action movie with absolutely no script involved. As Shaw says, Zen Filmmaking “allows for a spiritually pure source of immediate inspiration to be the only guide in the filmmaking process.” Here, it guided them to a movie about a nomadic warrior who teams up with a kabuki mime and a banjo player to defeat Joe Estevez and Frank Stallone in a Road Warrior-like wasteland. The Roller Blade Seven pretty easily manages to be the most psychedelic, mind-bending film on this entire list—my attempts to describe here only hint at its profound weirdness. It’s a movie that is indescribable until you experience it.
26. Foxy Brown
Director: Jack Hill
Essentially a remake or sequel to Coffy from a year earlier, Foxy Brown is pretty much that film with another layer of gritty blaxploitation appeal. The beautiful Pam Grier is the hyper-sexual Foxy Brown, who goes on the warpath after her boyfriend is killed by members of a drug syndicate. Everyone ends up feeling her wrath, from pimps and dealers to men selling women into sexual servitude. It’s the prototypical blaxploitation revenge picture, but lifted above others with great theme music and the sex appeal of Grier. And of course, there is the wonderful moment when she runs over some honkies in an airplane.
25. Laser Mission
Director: B.J. Davis
Who knew that Brandon Lee made so many deliciously terrible films before The Crow? Movies like this are cinematic junk food, lowest common denominator flicks that aren’t insulting to watch because they’re completely aware of their role and don’t aspire to be anything else. Laser Mission is the kind of film where you could predict 75 percent of the plot points before watching it—cool guy mercenary is sent on a dangerous mission, meets girl, falls in love, kills bad guy, roll credits. It stands out with the stupidity of its characters, particularly Ernest Borgnine as brilliant German laser scientist “Dr. Braun,” which is self-aware bad movie casting if ever I’ve seen it. The trailer tells you everything you need to know and then some.
24. The Toxic Avenger
Directors: Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman (as Samuel Weil)
Even if you’ve never seen The Toxic Avenger, I bet you probably know the gist of it: A wimpy janitor is transformed into a hulking monster via a barrel of toxic waste and goes about the messy business of punishing his tormenters and exposing the town’s drug-smuggling mayor. It’s Troma’s signature film, and “Toxie” has now been the studio’s official mascot for 30 years. It really serves as a template for the average Troma film, with over-the-top gore, crass language and unapologetic sexuality and titillation. One of Troma’s first really successful films in the home video market, it inspired three sequels: Part II, Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie and Citizen Toxie: The Toxic Adventure IV. Rumors of another sequel pop up every few years, but only Lloyd Kaufman knows for sure.
23. Black Samurai
Director: Al Adamson
His character in Enter the Dragon made karate champion Jim Kelly a star, probably the best-known black martial artist of his day. This naturally made him a shoo-in for the blaxploitation genre, and within a few years he made some absolute classics, including Black Belt Jones and Three the Hard Way. Black Samurai was made a few years later and clearly felt the need to push things far past the boundaries of reality and into cartoonish excess. Flipping through this movie is an absolute trip: “Alright, Jim Kelly is flying around with a jetpack right now. Okay, now he’s fighting voodoo priestesses. Alright, now he’s fighting … is that an eagle?” And always the answer is “Yes. Yes, he’s fighting an eagle in hand-to-hand combat.” Because that’s what you do when you’re Jim Kelly and you’re hunting down a ruthless “warlock” who plans to hold the world ransom with a “freeze bomb.”
22. Night of the Demons
Director: Kevin S. Tenney
With no reservations, this is one of the best horror flicks of the 1980s. A classic of the “teens party in a spooky location and all die terrible deaths” sub-genre, their deaths in this case are caused by an ancient demon that they unwittingly release from the cellar of a creaky old funeral home. Rather than simply being a monster movie though, it’s simultaneously sort of a demonic possession flick, as the demons take control of various members of the party and transform them into twisted versions of themselves. It’s a movie that owes a lot to the Evil Dead series but has an additional camp factor because of how strongly it captures its time period—the characters are gross caricatures, a clear satire on prevailing youth culture. They’re all memorable, especially scream queen Linnea Quigley, who of course gets naked in short order.
21. I Am Here….Now
Director: Neil Breen
I truly believe that five years from now, Neil Breen will likely have inherited a place in the terrible movie hall of fame, alongside the likes of Ed Wood and Tommy Wiseau. The writer, producer and director of three feature films, he is the sincere, bizarro filmmaker du jour of the information age. I Am Here….Now is his middle film, and it might be the only thing on this entire list that can compete with The Roller Blade Seven for the right to be called “weirdest flick.” Like all of Breen’s films, it stars the former real estate agent as a messiah-like figure, this time an alien from the stars who arrives to cast judgment on mankind…or something. It’s kind of hard to tell, because the actors appear to be people Breen found at the bus stop on the way to the shoot. It’s imperative that you understand, however, that this film is utterly sincere. Everything you see in this compilation of clips is meant to push Breen’s simplistic, idealistic agenda. That is of course what makes it so weirdly charming, the filmmaker’s unfailing belief in the sanctity of his message.