32 Movies That Are So Cheesy, But So Awesome

Considering that all art is subjective, I do not necessarily believe there are “bad” movies, but I do recognize that some do boast a higher quality in production value, acting, logic, and overall authority of their material. The rest are, typically, panned or widely forgotten, while a rare few have managed to stand the test of time for being so uproariously ridiculous (usually by unintentional means) that you cannot help but love them. The following are some essential examples of the most laughably over-the-top and awesomely cheesy movies in cinematic history.

Mitch Cohen in original Toxic Avenger

(Image credit: Troma)

The Toxic Avenger (1984)

The flagship title of Troma — a production company that specializes in the cheesiest and sleaziest cult classics you may or may not have ever heard of — is The Toxic Avenger. The story of a gawky custodian (Mark Torgl) turned into a grotesque, but friendly, creature of superhuman size and strength (Mitch Cohen) is, oddly, charming and has enough impressive practical effects to forgive its many shortcomings in terms of logic and class.

Clowns from Killer Klowns From Outer Space

(Image credit: Trans World Entertainment)

Killer Klowns From Outer Space (1988)

A creepy clown movie that beautifully encapsulates what makes harlequins both something to scream or laugh at is Killer Klowns from Outer Space. It is also one of the most unique alien invasion movies in the way its central, extraterrestrial antagonists needlessly incorporate a circus-inspired aesthetic into their plan for world domination.

Nicolas Cage in Con Air

(Image credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution)

Con Air (1997)

For its explosive sequences, Con Air earns itself a spot among some of Nicolas Cage’s best action movies. That being said, the thriller about a prison transfer plane hijacked by its own convict passengers — played by the likes of John Malkovich, Danny Trejo, Steve Buscemi, and even Dave Chappelle — is still an utterly ridiculous romp from beginning to end..

Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Running Man

(Image credit: Tri-Star Pictures)

The Running Man (1987)

Before The Hunger Games, there was this adaptation of a novel by Stephen King (under the pen name “Richard Bachman”) set in a dystopian future in which the most popular reality show on television sees contestants literally fighting to the death. Fans of Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s propensity for using puns will have a ball with The Running Man, in which the actor has a ridiculous quip for each of his increasingly cartoonish kills.

Patrick Swayze in Road House

(Image credit: MGM)

Road House (1989)

Patrick Swayze leads director Rowdy Herrington’s Road House as a black-belt martial artist hired as a bouncer in a rundown bar in Missouri. The plot is totally all over the place and the fight sequences are extremely over-the-top, which fans see as perfectly valid reasons to love it.

Darren Ewing in Troll 2

(Image credit: Epic Productions)

Troll 2 (1990)

The plot of Troll 2 alone — which sees goblins disguised as humans plotting to feast on a vacationing family by turning them into plants — is enough evidence of its ridiculousness. Add nonsensical dialogue, robotic acting, and the mere fact that there is not a single “troll” in the movie, and you have one of cinema’s most hilarious disasters.

The stars of The Happening.

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

The Happening (2008)

When viewed as an attempt at an earnest horror movie, The Happening — starring Mark Wahlberg as a teacher struggling to survive an event causing people to spontaneously take their own lives — is perceived by most as a failure. However, when viewed as a twisted dark comedy, it is one of writer and director M. Night Shyamalan’s most entertaining achievements.

Sylvester Stallone in Rambo: First Blood Part II

(Image credit: Carolco)

Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)

First Blood was a powerful, intimate, character-driven drama about a lonely veteran (played by Sylvester Stallone) at war with, not only the authorities of a small town but also his own past trauma. Rambo: First Blood Part II — the first follow-up to the 1981 adaptation of David Morell’s novel — throws all that to the wind and resorts to mindless violence. However, boy does it deliver the action well.

Tommy Wiseau in The Room

(Image credit: Wiseau Films)

The Room (2003)

Hailed as the definitive example of “so bad, it’s good” cinema is writer, producer, director, and star Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. This “drama” about a man (Wiseau) unwittingly caught in a love triangle with his “future wife” (Juliette Danielle) and best friend (Greg Sestero) is so laughably bizarre and infectiously quotable, that it has since become a midnight movie classic worthy of repeat viewings.

Rome jumping off a tank and onto a car in Fast and Furious 6

(Image credit: Universal)

The Fast And Furious Movies (2001-Present)

While high-octane car chases and mind-blowing stunts were always key to its success, the first installment of the Fast and Furious movies is still a relatively grounded and mature crime thriller. However, by the fourth installment, the franchise threw all logic out the window in favor of one-upping itself with the biggest and most improbable stunts imaginable, including literally going to space at one point.

Casper Van Dien in Starship Troopers

(Image credit: Sony)

Starship Troopers (1997)

There is no doubt that Starship Troopers is an essential example of a cartoonish sci-fi action flick that just about borders on being war propaganda. However, as most critics did not seem to realize at the time, that was actually the point of director Paul Verhoeven’s satirical, cult favorite adaptation of Robert A. Heinlein’s novel that pits humanity against giant alien bugs.

Lena Headey watches as Gerard Butler stands stoically in 300.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

300 (2007)

Where do we start with 300? Zack Snyder’s otherwise visually inventive adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel is an overly self-serious and thoroughly inaccurate depiction of the Battle of Thermopylae, but the result is still an undeniably mesmerizing and even, at times, inspiring epic.

Nicolas Cage in Face/Off

(Image credit: Paramount)

Face/Off (1997)

The idea of an FBI agent (played by John Travolta) literally switching faces with a notorious terrorist (played by Nicolas Cage) as part of a top-secret mission sounds like the setup of a joke. But only a director as ambitious and style-oriented as John Woo could make Face/Off even more wonderfully absurd and insane in its execution.

Arnold looking at you in Commando

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

Commando (1985)

Out of all the best Arnold Schwarzenegger movies from the 1980s, Commando is easily one of the silliest. Yet, out of its comical elements — including the main hero’s name being “John Matrix,” for one — comes a rewardingly entertaining revenge tale.

Bruce Campbell in Evil Dead II

(Image credit: Renaissance Pictures)

Evil Dead II (1987)

Sam Raimi redefined what horror was capable of by making the sequel to his low-budget breakout classic a cartoonish supernatural thriller that was actually in on the joke. As a result, Evil Dead II is considered by many to be the definitive installment of the beloved possession film franchise and one of the best horror-comedy movies of all time.

Matt Hannon in Samurai Cop

(Image credit: Demel International Corporation)

Samurai Cop (1991) 

If the title Samurai Cop is not enough to get a chuckle out of you, watching writer and director Amir Shervan’s police B-movie staring Matt Hannon and Mark Frazer will have you howling. Every single aspect of filmmaking in this cult favorite — from the wooden acting to the stunted action choreography — is handled so amateurishly, that it is truly a wonder to behold.

Shark from Deep Blue Sea

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Deep Blue Sea (1999)

The only thing scarier than a shark is a horde of sharks imbued with above-average intelligence after being used as guinea pigs in an experiment to cure Alzheimer’s. The otherwise intriguing concept of director Renny Harlin’s Deep Blue Sea does lead to some “unintelligent” moments, but Samuel L. Jackson’s performance makes it all worth it. 

Sylvester Stallone in Demolition Man

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Demolition Man (1993)

Demolition Man — which pits Sylvester Stallone as a hardened lawman against Wesley Snipes as an eccentric terrorist — is one of the few Stallone movies that actually has some real authority over its cheesiness. Set in a future in which Taco Bell is the only restaurant that exists and toilet paper has been replaced with three metal seashells, there is some intriguing satire amid its over-the-top action.

Devon Sawa lying on the floor in a panic in Final Destination.

(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

The Final Destination Movies (2000-Present)

The original, first chapter of the Final Destination movies boasts one of the most unique concepts for a horror flick of its time — following a group of teens stalked by death itself. All of the sequels merely recycle the plot, but avoid feeling repetitive by inventing increasingly elaborate and absurd ways to add to the body count.

Flash Gordon in a ship

(Image credit: Columbia)

Flash Gordon (1980)

A good way to describe Flash Gordon — starring Sam Jones as the titular teen football player, who becomes an intergalactic hero — might be “Star Wars lite.” However, do not let that discourage you from experiencing its gloriously surreal and endearingly cartoonish sci-fi/fantasy adventure elements that made fans out of Seth MacFarlane and Mark Wahlberg’s characters from Ted.

Victim from Piranha

(Image credit: New World Pictures)

Piranha (1978)

Piranha is considered to be one of the best Jaws rip-offs of its time, but not because it is as scary and sophisticated as Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster. Director Joe Dante and executive producer Roger Corman’s creature feature is a classic because of how hilariously hokey it is.

Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone in Tango & Cash

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Tango & Cash (1990)

Sylvester Stallone and Kurt Russell make a great pair as the title heroes of Tango & Cash. In fact, their chemistry as two wildly different cops forced to work together to find and defeat the crime lord who framed them is, just about, the sole saving grace of the astonishingly ludicrous story.

Stephen Chow in Kung Fu Hustle

(Image credit: Columbia TriStar Film Distributors International)

Kung Fu Hustle (2004)

In his review of Kung Fu Hustle — in which secret warriors defend their housing complex from a ruthless gang in 1940s Shanghai — Roger Ebert described the film as “like Jackie Chan and Buster Keaton meet Quentin Tarantino and Bugs Bunny.” That is, indeed, a perfect way to describe writer, director, and star Stephen Chow’s action-comedy that masterfully blends stylish, near-balletic martial artistry with cartoonish absurdity.

Peter Weller in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension

(Image credit: Disney / Fox)

The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension (1984)

Before multiverse movies became a prevalent Hollywood trend, the ultimate cross-dimensional action flick was The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Starring Peter Weller as the title hero — a rock star racing to save a parallel Earth from an alien invasion — the ’80s favorite is a wonderfully uproarious thrill from beginning to end.

Bruce Campbell in Army Of Darkness

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Army Of Darkness (1992)

While Evil Dead II was a balanced blend of horror and comedy, the third installment of Sam Raimi’s iconic Evil Dead movies, Army of Darkness, is a full-on slapstick farce that happens to take place in a medieval era tormented by otherworldly forces. Holding it all together is Bruce Campbell, portraying the heroic Ash Williams at the peak of his moronic and bumbling nature.

Sylvester Stallone in Cobra

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Cobra (1986)

Few films better represent Sylvester Stallone’s ‘80s action hero era quite as definitively as Cobra. The title character — whose real name is Lt. Marion Cobretti — is an ultra-cool, loose-canon cop who spews bone-dry one-liners and doesn’t bother removing his dark aviator sunglasses before engaging in a shootout.

Kurt Russell and the Big Trouble in Little China cast

(Image credit: Disney/Fox)

Big Trouble In Little China (1986)

Quite possibly John Carpenter’s funniest movie is Big Trouble in Little China, which brings ancient fantasy lore to a modernized urban setting. Much of the comedy comes from Kurt Russell’s performance as the charming, yet imbecilic, Jack Burton, whose only real motivation to take on the mystical Lo Pan (James Hong) and his enchanted goons is to retrieve his semi-truck.

Betty White in Lake Placid.

(Image credit: Twentieth Century Fox)

Lake Placid (1999)

Bill Pullman, Bridget Fonda, and Oliver Platt take on a prehistorically large crocodile in Lake Placid, which is one of the funniest creature features of its time, if not all time, and it is not out of failure to take its story seriously. Much of the dialogue is the typical witty banter you hear in similar thrillers and the gore is gloriously absurd, but the cherry on top is the twist that Betty White’s character, Mrs. Delores Bickerman, has been feeding the croc and its children the whole time.

Jason Statham on the phone in Crank

(Image credit: Lionsgate)

Crank (2006)

Writing and directing duo Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor’s maximalist approach to storytelling is at its most excessive and unhinged in Crank. The thriller stars Jason Statham as a hitman who endures a series of increasingly dangerous tricks to keep his heart rate above a certain level and keep himself alive.

Dragon Sound from Miami Connection

(Image credit: Drafthouse Films)

Miami Connection (1987)

Producer and co-director Y.K. Kim stars in Miami Connection as the guitarist in a “rock and roll martial arts band” that gets caught up in a vicious gang war in Florida. After being released for home viewing more than two decades after its poor theatrical run, the action flick’s upbeat tunes, hilarious dialogue, and even funnier action sequences have deservedly earned it a cult following.

Shark from Sharknado

(Image credit: The Asylum)

Sharknado (2013)

There are certainly better shark movies than Sharknado, such as Jaws or Open Water. However, do those involve a chainsaw-wielding protagonist taking on cyclones infested with aquatic apex predators? Nope.

A killbot from Chopping Mall

(Image credit: Lionsgate)

Chopping Mall (1986)

Produced by B-movie legend Roger Corman, Chopping Mall follows a group of young shopping center employees who become locked inside after hours with robots designed to protect them. Unfortunately, the machines suddenly become reprogrammed to kill after the main security system server gets struck by lightning, which is only the first improbable thing that happens in this trashtastic sci-fi horror favorite.

By finding the humor in a film’s “flaws” — or appreciating humor in general — audiences have helped these films achieve the iconic status their creators craved.

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