As much as we love Mystery Science Theater 3000, Red Letter Media, and The Flop House, it’s time that we face the truth: there’s really no such thing as a bad movie. Sure, there are movies we may personally dislike for one reason or another, but when we use phrases like “so bad it’s good” or “guilty pleasure,” we’re twisting ourselves into knots trying to say something quite simple: this movie makes me happy, regardless of its quality or what other people think.
The film-centric social media site Letterboxd has made that fact plain with a newly-released list of movies with low ratings and over 1000 likes. In other words, these are movies that users give one or two stars (out of five), and yet still like by pressing the “heart” icon.
The list of fifty includes many titles familiar to fans of the aforementioned shows and podcasts. There’s perhaps the most famous “so-bad-it’s-good” movie The Room, in which writer/director Tommy Wiseau casts himself as a good person with a great butt who is betrayed by everyone he knows. There are several Twilight movies, the 2000s hit franchise about a love triangle between an affect-less teen, a sparkly vampire, and a werewolf who falls in love with a baby. And there are numerous Star Wars entries on the list, including the cocaine-infused Holiday Special.
While many of these movies can be enjoyed as wonderful bits of outsider art, which flaunt good taste to bring us something truly wonderful, others remind us of the bitter state of fandom discourse. Both Captain Marvel and Black Widow appear on this list, movies that received middling from critics but sparked vitriol from online misogynists. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice takes the number 21 slot, a movie largely savaged by critics but vehemently defended by Zack Snyder fans. And, of course, The Last Jedi is there at number 13.
Fortunately, these sorts of squabbles don’t dominate the list, leaving plenty of room for people to celebrate weird movies that make their own rules. Take for example Cats, the Andrew Lloyd Webber oddity from director Tom Hooper, who tried to stick to the musical’s high-brow roots as a book by T.S. Eliot, despite filling the screen with dancing cockroaches, a seemingly naked Idris Elba cat, and a genuinely awesome tap-dancing cat. Or the M. Night Shyamalan movie Old, which has a ridiculous premise about a beach that makes you old and some terrible dialogue (Ken Leung’s character is named Jarin and he’s a nurse, you may have noticed), but also boasts striking cinematography and powerful acting from Gael García Bernal and Vicky Krieps.
More than anything else, the Letterboxd list proves something that we all know is true, whether or not we want to admit it. “Good” and “bad” are subjective opinions; all matters of personal taste. And if we insist that movies try to meet some objective standard of craft, then we’ll miss out on some amazing cinema.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go tell someone on the internet that Suicide Squad sucks and they are wrong for liking it…