Op-Ed: A defense of bad movies


Nicki Anahita

A very bad movie that knows it is bad.

Have you ever watched a movie and thought, “Wow this is really bad. I’m gonna turn it off right now and watch something up to my taste levels, like ‘Pulp Fiction’ or some Batman movie?”

Then you are probably really, really, REALLY boring. 

People who don’t enjoy bad media, we think, are missing out on one of the greatest joys in this world: pure, unadulterated entertainment. 

In an article published in the journal Poetics in 2016, Keyvan Sarkhosh studied peoples fascination with, in his terms, “trash films.” This article concluded that fans of these “trash” movies are fans of them due to their desire to analyze the media they consume. The study found that lovers of bad cinema tend to also be fans of museums and other forms of classical art as well as having higher levels of education. Sarkhosh calls these people “cultural omnivores” due to their consumption and enjoyment of both incredibly high and lowbrow art.

Now, people’s enjoyment of bad movies does not mean that all movies should be bad, but not all movies should be good. The bad movies, one could argue, are even what makes the good movies good. And besides, bad movies are more than just cheesy, plot hole filled brain rot. They can be one of the most fun and joyous entertainment experiences of all. 

We think you just don’t know how to watch bad movies. And that’s okay! We are gonna teach you. 


Some movies you think are bad might actually be masterpieces.

Let me guess: You think “Legally Blonde” is overrated? WELL IT’S NOT! YOU JUST HATE POPULAR THINGS! “Legally Blonde” is all about a woman who is so okay with being the accessory to someone else’s life that she actually wants to fight to remain that way. But, in that fight she realizes she has the potential to do whatever she wants and she should never just be the cheerleader to some man. That’s a great story. Other movies you probably think are bad are probably just things meant for teenage girls. Many people think that because something comes in a fun and cute package, that it can’t be full of heart and teach valuable lessons. Like” Mean Girls,” “Clueless,” “Easy A,” “10 Things I Hate About You,” etc. 


What makes a bad movie good? 

Now when we say “bad movies” we aren’t talking about those super wannabe-highbrow think pieces that fall short of their goals and everyone calls “bad” because of that. Those movies tried really hard to be good which honestly takes away the appeal of the bad movie because the badness is just plain sad instead of entertaining. 

When we say “bad movie” we’re talking about horrific masterpieces such as “The Kissing Booth” trilogy. The trilogy averaged a 22% critic score and 38% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes and received reviews such as “'[The Kissing Booth’s]’ troubling treatment of the female body and unrealistic representation of high school hinders its ability to accomplish anything meaningful,” by Tess Cagle at the Daily Dot. Are they all dumpster fires of incoherent teenage babble and melodramatic storylines coupled with bad acting? Yes. Are they all also some of the funniest movies you could ever spend your time watching? Yes. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t blush and swoon A LITTLE BIT at Jacob Elordi’s character, Noah Flynn. “The Kissing Booth” movies are filled to the brim with him just being hot and honestly, that is a big appeal of them and there is nothing wrong with that. Yes, his character acts vaguely misogynistic throughout the entire first movie but sexism can be forgiven if it gives you the hottest character you’ve ever ogled at. There is something just purely magical about the inconsequential fluff and fan service that “The Kissing Booth” trilogy shoves down your throat like a doctor with a popsicle stick when you have strep and we love them for that. Fan service gets too bad a rap in today’s anti-hedonistic society with everyone claiming that it ruins the artistic prowess of “true cinema” or whatever. We don’t know much about that because we’re hot so we like when things cater to us.

Though critics and audiences are allowed to feel what they feel, we believe there is a fundamental misunderstanding of what entertainment and media needs to accomplish. Many share sentiments with Cagle in that art needs to be meaningful to be good but it truly does not. Sometimes, art can just exist without having any larger message or purpose because the purpose can literally just be to entertain. And even if the purpose of a film is solely to entertain, there can still be messaging within that. For example, what are the filmmakers trying to achieve with this? Who are they trying to entertain? Is the main character an audience proxy? If so, are they doing a good job of it? All these questions and more can be sparked from watching a simple, silly, “mindless” movie and the fun of it is answering them, whether it be serious or not.


Okay now that you know why bad movies are actually good,  how do you actually go about enjoying them?

There are two main ways to properly enjoy bad movies: with friends and on a first date. 

With friends:

First, you have to pick the right friends. If your friend’s favorite movie is “Pulp Fiction,” “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Joker,” “Moonrise Kingdom” or “The Godfather,” tell them to go smoke an 8-pack somewhere else and get out of your house. 

But, if your friend can’t stop talking about the new Barbie movie, loves “Mamma Mia,” and thinks Anne Hathaway was seriously misjudged, they are your perfect candidate, so grab a couple pints of your favorite Ben and Jerry’s pint and snuggle up on the couch. 

First, pick a movie by grabbing your favorite Ouija board (preferably covered in googly eyes, pompoms, puff paint, and glitter) and ask the spirit of Betty White which movie you should watch or just like pick a movie. If you’re still having trouble, some of our go-to’s are “Mean Girls 2,” “Tall Girl 1 and 2,” “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before 2 and 3,” the “Twilight” movies, “A Cinderella Story: Once Upon a Song,” “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen” and “Five Feet Apart.” 

Now you need to pick a game to play. Now this game is unique to every friendship but we will give you ours as a starting point for you.

Each person needs to pick a character before going into the movie. That character is now theirs. Anytime someone’s character does something that makes you physically cringe, look away or release involuntary yelps of disgust, the other person gets to slap you in the face (not too hard) and then they get an extra spoon of ice cream.

A game like this will get you both super into the movie and you might not be able to understand the plot anymore (not that you would anyway) but at least y’all are now having a great time physically assaulting each other. 

First date:

Play a game very similar to “with a friend” but every time a character talks like a 90-year-old woman who just got Twitter for the first time, start making out as long and intensely as you can. And see if you can keep paying attention to the passionate kissing you’re doing. But, if you can no longer focus on the hottie in front of you because the movie is just too crazy, y’all are not in love and should just call this off now before it gets too serious. 


Finally, it’s time to discuss.

The best part of any movie experience is the debrief you have afterwards. This can go a long way in shaping how you feel about the movie as a whole because, yes, you can cringe and “Ooh” and “Ahh” at the movie while it’s playing but the real and true, fully fleshed out thoughts are a thing to be reserved for the very end. 

“Watching bad movies and riffing on the content with a group of friends is a bonding ritual,” said professor of psychology at Illinois State University, Eric Wesselmann on what makes watching bad movies so good, on a podcast with WGLT.

The experience of a bad movie is fully a communal one. There is no real joy in experiencing them by yourself because you already know how you feel, you have nobody to bounce your feelings of shock and cringe off of to see how they reacted as well. The aspect of ganging up on a film and its filmmakers to laugh at and ridicule can feel incredibly cruel if done by yourself but creates a sense of playful banter when with other people.

“Part of the idea is that the presence of other people can intensify the emotional experience… to the extent schadenfreude is still pleasure, despite the fact it’s malicious, one possibility is it amplifies that pleasure by co-experiencing it with other people. Another part of it is it’s affirming of your viewpoint. If I hate a thing and you hate a thing, then I know you see the world the same that I do. That can be a very satisfying experience,”  said Mina Cikara, an assistant psychology professor at Harvard, in an interview with The Cut.

Schadenfreude is the pleasure derived from someone from another’s misfortune. 

In the end you may not get to see an Oscar winning performance tonight, but you will have done something even greater. You will have stopped being a pretentious loser who cannot go a single conversation without mentioning some band no one cares about, your favorite white male director and some French film you didn’t really watch but pretend you did. You will have freed your taste range from the caged-egg state it was in and therefore, will have freed your mind to be a free range hen. And also become less annoying as an added plus.