Hello from what feels like Week 75 in isolation. By now, you’ve likely run through the gamut of things to do indoors, from cleaning out your drawers to partying on Zoom to cutting your hair. Your Netflix queue has surely been depleted, too, with only the movies you should, but definitely don’t want to watch left (12 Years a Slave… in this pandemic?). But fear not, here 7 pop culture critics, writers and Internet icons share their picks for absolutely ridiculous movies to watch during quarantine that will numb your brain while bringing joy to your days in solitude.
We left the criteria for what deems a movie “bad” up to each writer, which is why you’ll find a range of titles below, ranging from iconic AF (Spice World) to flash in the pan (Soapdish whomst?).
Without further ado, please find a completely unscientific list of bad movies to watch during quarantine.
Double Jeopardy (1999)
Double Jeopardy is a movie I have seen so many times, because there was a decade where it was the ultimate movie that played on TV. Starring Ashley Judd and Tommy Lee Jones, the film follows a woman whose husband frames her for his murder. She goes to prison where a fellow inmate tells her about an obscure law, DOUBLE JEOPARDY. Essentially, it means if she does her time, when she gets out of prison she can find her husband and kill him (because she already did time for killing him). I can say with absolutely no shame, that until maybe six months ago, I thought the movie was legally pretty accurate but SURPRISE, it doesn’t actually work this way in real life.
The movie is truly unhinged in the best way. SO many things happen, and Ashley Judd is amazing and relentless as she seeks justice. Double Jeopardy has literally every ’90s thriller trope you can imagine, but also works so well because of compelling performances by Tommy Lee Jones and Ashley Judd. Most satisfyingly she utters the words, “Double jeopardy” when finally confronting her evil husband. Is it a good movie? Not really. But it’s amazing.
-Sarah Hagi, writer (@geekylonglegs)
Strike! / All I Wanna Do (1998)
I can’t remember with certainty when I discovered Strike! but I do remember how often pre-teen me would say “Up your ziggy with a wah-wah brush!” It’s hard not to laugh after you hurl such an insult.
Strike! is so of its time. Released in 1998, the film is a period piece set in the 1960s, and the story orbits protagonist Odette —or Odie, played by Gaby Hoffman—newly arrived at a prep school for girls. There, chaos ensues because where there are teenage girls there is inevitable drama. Odie becomes part of a group called the DAR, a clever play on the Daughters of the American Revolution but changed to Daughters of the American Ravioli. Here we see the 90s and 00s teen rom-com legend Kirsten Dunst take a bit of a backseat, but nonetheless her very presence in the cast is important. Rachel Leigh Cook is here, too, Monica Keena, and Heather Matarazzo rounds out the core girl group.
Strike! feels like it flew under the radar and, if you know and love the film, you may feel the same. It’s a joint Canadian-American production that was released under different titles for some insane reason, making it hard to track down. I asked someone a good 12 years after this movie was released if we could watch it but they couldn’t find Strike! As a kid, Strike! was always available at the Rogers Video in the plaza near my house. It took a couple of tries but we found it on eBay as All I Wanna Do.
Admittedly, the plot is a bit flimsy and cliché: a girls school soon to be merging with the nearby boys’ prep school—men taking over, once again, parts of the world they ought not. But I love this movie. It’s funny, stupid, and serious. It’s so perfect to escape into right now. Characters grapple with eating disorders, their place as women in the world, sex, and class politics. Strike! is a better title than All I Wanna Do because it captures the essence of these girls taking a stance not simply against this invasion of men but of the administration and the era they are in. To me, this film is like Dick, but less popular. Come for Vincent Kartheiser’s slimy portrait of Snake, a local boy in a gang, and stay for the appearance of Drake’s producing partner, Noah “40” Shebib. Also, Glenn Close appears on the soundtrack. Some report it is loosely based director Sarah Kernochan’s life at a real-life prep school she attended where Close was one of her classmates.
I’d love to say that a younger version of me metabolized a teen comedy that explicitly held up women’s rights (“no more little white gloves”) and the seemingly never-ending struggles women face even early on in their lives. (Again, which women are highlighted? These are white women so the film is not intersectional in nature.) Perhaps I did in some sense because I was defiant then, and I am now, and I still find saying “Up your ziggy with a wah-wah brush” satisfying.
-Sarah MacDonald, culture writer (@sarahsmacdonald)
Hammier than a hog roast, but oh-so irresistible: Soapdish, from 1991.
One, because it touts one of the wildest assemblage of stars: Whoopi Goldberg, Sally Field, Kevin Kline, Carrie Fisher, Robert Downey Jr., Teri Hatcher and Elizabeth Shue! Two, because it is just plain, zany, sudsy fun.
Pivoting around the shenanigans of a behind-the-scenes of a hit daytime drama, and a diva whose best days may perhaps be behind her – Field in the role of Celeste, a stand-in-possibly for Susan Lucci from All My Children – it is an interesting time-capsule in that it harkens back to a time when soaps ruled (there were 12 on the air every weekday then) and before the time when various Kardashians, Bachelors, and Housewives would come along to occupy the space that those serials then primarily played.
I love it, in part, because it is also a capsule of so many actors we have grown with – Downey Jr., for instance, in peak boyish mode, and Hatcher pre-Wisteria Lane. Also, the costumes in it were done by Nolan Miller, of Dynasty fame.
The most iconic scene in the movie? One in which Field’s character, when feeling bad about herself, regularly goes to a mall known as Garden State Plaza to get recognized and adored by her fans – akin to how some stars, these days, will court attention by with their Instagram Stories. Celeste, in a word, is very, very thirsty.
-Shinan Govani, social columnist and pop culture-watcher (@shinangovani)
Alice in Wonderland (1985)
In the ‘80s, television screens were our security blankets. There was nothing more comforting to me than escaping to different worlds by watching my favourite shows, again and again. One of those was Alice In Wonderland circa 1985. An epic, and insane, Made-for-TV rendition of Lewis Carroll’s books, the cast in this version is as stacked as it is random: Sammy Davis Jr., Ringo Starr, Carol Channing, Beau Bridges, John Stamos, Merv Griffin and Scott Baio (lol) to name a few. I had no idea who any of these people were as a child, but the movie they made was musical, fantastical, frightening and surprisingly tender. It isn’t bad, per se, but it is absolutely bat shit bonkers. And yes, the stories of Alice are pretty zany on their own, but add to that Shelley Winters, in full feather regalia, waddling and squawking away as the Dodo Bird, and Telly Savalas as a very bald Cheshire Cat, and you’ve got a truly wacky Wonderland.
Nothing makes sense at this particular moment in history, so seeking out the weirdest corners of comfort nostalgia just feels right. And the perspective I’ve gained by growing up makes watching Alice all the more fun. As a kid, when I saw Carol Channing baaa away to transform from a Queen into a sheep, I hid my face in pillows, scared as hell, but watching it now, I’m like, wow this movie really has a lot of strong female characters in it. Also, as a sober person, I appreciate the ‘85 Alice for being a true TRIP, no drugs involved. This film proves that some of the best adventures happen in our minds, which is fitting since we’re all trapped inside.
-Carla Ciccone, writer (@cciccone)
Spice World (1997)
Close your eyes and try to remember who you were when you saw Spice World for the first time. Me: an 11-year-old kid, desperate to grow up cool and (hopefully) British. I lived in a fake Adidas track jacket that was tight in all the weirdest places. I spent my after-school hours hopped up on those foot-shaped Spice Girls lollipops, hunched uncomfortably in an inflatable chair in my bedroom crying to “Mama” (while my own mother silently rolled her eyes at me from the downstairs kitchen). And while I didn’t have a dime to swing towards concert tickets to see my favourite girl group, Spice World was my ticket into something maybe better—the Spice Bus.
If you haven’t seen it in a while, a refresher: Sporty, Baby, Posh, Scary, and Ginger are gearing up for a huge concert at Royal Albert Hall. Their biggest barriers are the tabloids chasing them, and the fact that they don’t have enough downtime to hang out with their pregnant friend Nicola. Along the way there are millions of costume changes, endless sing-alongs, and of course, an iconic cast that includes Richard E Grant AND Alan Cumming. In some ways the movie feels prescient—the British tabloids are still notoriously terrible (ask Meghan Markle), and we can all relate to the ways capitalism’s drive towards endless productivity gets in the way of downtime—everyone’s got something, their own proverbial pregnant friend Nicola they’ve missed out on because of jobs and life.
But we’re also maybe on the edge of a shift in celeb culture. If our collective response to the “Imagine” video or my own visceral hatred of Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas’ quarantine PR tour are any indication, we might not come out of isolation with the same fandom culture we went into it with. Wherever we end up, I take comfort in knowing that Spice World will always be its own capsule of a time in my life when I was unspoiled in my fandom. Where the Spice Bus felt like the safest, coolest place in the world (until, spoiler, it explodes). Five minutes into the movie and I’m back in my room—age eleven, eyes glistening, singing along to Mama.
-Amy Wood, co-founder of Drunk Feminist Films (@amy_wood)
Mac and Me (1988)
You’ve probably heard that Mac and Me is a bad movie, possibly even one of the worst movies ever made. But a truly bad movie is an awful chore of an experience, and Mac and Me is the opposite of that. It’s one of the greatest movies ever made, if your criteria is based solely on how much fun you have while watching it. It’s the kind of movie that will make you want to gather all your friends on a 2-hour Zoom call to discuss what the hell you just watched.
The plot is simple: A lost-on-Earth baby alien hitches a ride with a family, and we eventually learn that he’s friendly, he communicates with his fingers, and he loves Coke. Sound familiar? It’s obviously a shameless rip-off of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. But which is the better movie? Let’s just say I don’t remember E.T. having a nearly 5-minute long dance-off that takes place in a McDonald’s, which is a THING THAT HAPPENS IN THIS MOVIE. It’s honestly worth it for the dance-off alone.
Even if you haven’t seen Mac and Me, there’s a possibility you’re familiar with its most infamous scene (thanks in part to Paul Rudd), in which a child – A CHILD – plummets off a cliff while using a wheelchair. And that’s not even the most shocking thing that happens in Mac and Me. This movie gives you a fully-naked adult alien waving a handgun around a grocery store while shopping for Coke. Listen, does Mac and Me hold a 0% Rotten Tomatoes rating? Yes. Is it basically 99 minutes of hideous-looking aliens, confused storytelling, and blatant product placement? Of course. Have I already watched it once during self-isolation, and will I do so again? Absolutely.
-Allison Davey, writer, Dlisted (@allisonmdavey)
So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993)
It’s hard for me to remember why I loved this movie so much the first time I saw it. In 1993 I was barely in my teens, so I didn’t have the necessary framework needed to identify all the little things that have since made it a cult classic. I understood the whodunnit of it all, as Mike Myers’ commitment-phobic-beat-poet-man-child tries to figure out if he did in fact, marry an axe murderer (played by a highly crushable Nancy Travis). That part was easy, even for an 11-year-old.
But I didn’t get that it was the ultimate spoof of ’90s San Francisco bohemian cafe culture, because I didn’t really know what any of those things were. I never wondered, ‘Whatever happened to The La’s?’ the obscure British alt-rock band, whose earworm “There She Goes” makes this one of my favourite title sequences ever. (So, what did ever happen to The La’s?) I didn’t jump out of my skin when I saw Michael Richards as a douchey reporter or Phil Hartman as a psychotic Alcatraz tour guide because I’d never seen Seinfeld and I was usually asleep for Saturday Night Live.
I wasn’t keeping score of Mike Myers’ career the way I would now, wondering if this movie plus Wayne’s World the year before, would solidify him as the biggest comedy star in the world. (Spoiler: it didn’t.) I didn’t register the nods to Woody Allen, or the jokes about haggis, or the skewering of supermarket tabloids. And I definitely wasn’t aware of the movie’s long and arduous road from page to screen, the kind of stuff worthy of an oral history.
These are the things I think about when I watch it now, as what I’d like to think is a full-formed adult. But back then, I think what it came down to was pretty simple. I just wanted to spend a couple of hours in that weird world with those weird people. It sure as shit beat the suburbs.
-Dan Barna, writer/editor (@realdanbarna)