Since the beginning of film, there have always been low-budget, nonsensical movies that have made names for themselves in the world of pulp art. What a lot of people don’t realize is that there is an art to creating a “B” movie. What arguably started out as the armpit of cinema, has turned into a genre of its own, one that is mocked yet highly regarded. From the acting to the plots, from the set design to the music, here are some of the “B” movies that help define this genre.
Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)
One of the most famous “B “films of all time, there’s nothing quite like Plan 9 From Outer Space. Directed by the eccentric Ed Wood (who was later portrayed by Jonny Depp in Tim Burton’s biopic), this film features all the staples of a “B” movie. Actors are replaced midway through the movie without explanation, special effects are mediocre, and the plot is completely non sequitur. But perhaps the ingredient that has made this film survive over five decades is the genuine passion put into the film by the director. No one sets out to make the worst movie ever, but its got to take some talent somewhere to have it recognized fifty years after its release.
Hard Ticket to Hawaii (1987)
This movie’s got it all: babes, beaches, and bazookas. It’s about cops (or something or other) layin’ down the law in beautiful Hawaii. It’s like if Dog the Bounty Hunter and his family were really beautiful and they didn’t just arrest people but blew them up. This ain’t no hula, this is a Hard Ticket to Hawaii.
The Room (2003)
Since it’s release seven years ago, Tommy Wiseau’s The Room has developed quite the cult following. Tommy spent several years of his life making this movie, supposedly using all his funds to write, star, edit, and direct in this independent drama. After its release, however, people couldn’t believe what they were seeing, and now Mr. Wisaeu tends to dub The Room as a “black comedy” (but we’re not buyin’ that). If you live in LA, there are some movie theaters that screen the film every week with special appearances by the cast and the director/star/editor/writer himself! The trailer doesn’t do it justice, but here is a quick scene that accurately represents the quality of The Room.
Troll 2 (1990)
Three words: “OH MY GODDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD”.
Black Dynamite (2009)
Released last year, Black Dynamite is a comedy/action adventure which pays homage to the “B” movie sub-genre, blaxsploitation. In the vein of Shaft or Superfly, this film nails all the blaxploitation musts: karate (everywhere and all the time), smooth suits, pimps, low riders, afros, and a score that Isaac Hayes probably listens to in heaven. Black Dynamite is a highly underrated new release that is honestly a must see.
Surf Nazis Must Die (1987)
It’s The Warriors meets a Tyler Perry movie in this action film set in a post-apocalyptic California. The coasts are ruled by the evil Surf Nazis, who in case you missed it, must die. There’s only one person who can stop them…I’ll let you watch the preview.
Nearly a decade after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, creator Tomoyuki Tanaka had taken post-war fears and anxiety of the Japanese and created a monster that we’ve all come to know as Godzilla. Since it’s first film in 1954, this monster who once terrorized the Japanese shoreline, has been featured in nearly 30 sequels as a protector who defends the earth from other monsters such as Megalon, King Ghidora, Mothra, and who could forget, Space Godzilla. Even after fifty years, Godzilla remains and mostly like will remain a classic in monster cinema.
Cannibal Holocaust (1980)
One of the most controversial and shocking horror films of all time, Cannibal Holocaust boasts its status of being “banned in over 50 countries.” This Italian made film follows a documentary crew as they adventure deep into the depths of an unknown rainforest, only to meet their gruesome doom by the hands of indigenous tribe members. This film was so graphic and so disturbing that director Ruggero Deodato had to prove to a Milanese courtroom that his actors were still alive. This one takes some guts to watch.
Quentin Tarantino is regarded as one of the genius directors of this generation, but what many people don’t realize is that his work is inspired heavily by exploitation “B” cinema. In 2007, however, he made it known when he and Robert Rodriguez released their film Grindhouse, which featured two films, one directed by each director that paid homage to the exploitation films of the 70s and 80s. Planet Terror is a synth-filled zombie film and Deathproof features an insane Kurt Russell who kills people with his car. Grindhouse even included several fake trailers, one of which was actually made into a movie (Machete directed by Robert Rodriguez will be released in September).
This one is hard to explain but I’ll give you a brief explanation. It’s about a young Japanese schoolgirl who invites a group of close girlfriends to her aunt’s house for some summer fun. All the girls are unaware, however, that her aunt is actually dead and the house is actually haunted. The girls then begin to slowly disappear in a very gruesome fashion. Don’t bother trying to keep this explanation in the back of your mind when watching this film because overall, it just doesn’t make any sense. Regardless, this Japanese export is quite bone chilling, and it’s got a fantastic psychedelic soundtrack.
A “B” Movie Gone Wrong: Snakes on a Plane (2006)
Remember all the hype about this movie? It was Samuel L. Jackson on a plane, with some snakes. Simple, fun, exciting, the expectation for this movie was incredibly high. When it was released, however, it failed to deliver and it’s not because people were expecting it to be Oscar worthy. The problem was, Snakes on a Plane was trying to be a “B” movie, and perhaps trying way to hard. There was no heart or genuineness in its execution and it is for that reason that people hated it. The misconception about “B” movies is that because they’re bad they’re easy to make. I would suggest watching the movies on this list. Keep an open mind and you’ll see what makes these films so special.