I love B-movies, and by that I not only mean movies made on a small budget with a lot of love and cheese but also bigger-budget, big-studio movies that quickly fell out of favor and don’t get much screen time on the various cable networks. You could probably call them “cult films”, but that doesn’t quite work for me. Cult movies usually do have a pretty vocal, fanatical following and do get shown on the cable nets. Dune, The Fifth Element, and The Princess Bride are all cult movies though none of them are B-movies, as I see them.
What I mean are the movies that, when someone mentions them, you say something like, “Oh, right! I remember that movie. It was pretty good. When is it coming on again so I can watch it?”
1) The 13th Warrior — Antonion Banderas plays a temporarily-exiled Arab diplomat in a retelling of the Beowulf story based on a book by Michael Crichton. There is one particular “hero moment” toward the end of the film that gives me goosebumps every time I watch it.
2) Dude, Where’s My Car — It’s stupid the first time you watch it. Funny the second and third time, because you stopped thinking “this is dumb” and found a couple of the recurring jokes. Seriously, the Continuum Transfunctioner gag is funny! Beyond that, I can almost guarantee you’ll do the whole “Dude! Sweet!” thing with one of your friends within a day or so of watching the movie.
3) Highlander — Yes, it’s dated, but it still holds up as a thinking man’s action flick with an incredible Queen soundtrack. You get a guy with a hard Scottish accent playing an Egyptian Spaniard, a guy with a Belgian accent playing a Scotsman, and an American playing a Russian in one of the most quotable movies ever made. What’s not to like?
4) Evolution — I’m not sure how you can go wrong with David Duchovny, Orlando Jones, Julianne Moore, and Seann William Scott in a “Ghostbusters”-style comedy, but this movie didn’t do very well at the box office. Oddly enough, it hasn’t become a staple of the cable networks even though far worse (but similar) movies like Men in Black 3 and 2012 get almost weekly runs on some channel or another. This movie is dirt-cheap on Amazon. Pick it up.
5) Duel — Stephen Spielberg’s debut as a feature film director is this suspense flick starring Dennis Weaver and…that’s it. Just Dennis Weaver being menaced by an unseen man in a very well-seen tractor trailer. The movie is based on a Richard Matheson story (please say you know of Matheson) and packs an intense level of suspense in the relatively small space of a Dodge Dart.
6) The Last Starfighter — I have professed my love for this movie publicly before, but I’ll do it one more time. It’s a hero movie, wrapped in a crunchy space opera shell. It was one of the first to use CGI heavily (and it shows). It has good aliens and bad aliens, The Music Man, a pretty girl, a video game, and the Death Blossom. What more does it need?
7) Victory — When I was a kid in the mid to late-70s, the first wave of soccer-mania had reached the United States. We had the North American Soccer League which lured such stars as Franz Beckenbauer and Pele away from Europe and South America (GO DIPS!). Kids like me signed up for local soccer leagues in droves. And we watched this movie, which featured a ton of soccer players playing either Allied POWs or German prison guards. Oh, and Sylvester Stallone was the goalkeeper for the Allies. You also get Michael Caine and Max von Sydow in non-soccer roles.
8) UHF — If you love Weird Al Yankovic, you’ll love this movie. If you don’t love Weird Al, I…wait. You don’t love Weird Al? What’s wrong with you? Who drained away your sense of wonder and whimsy and love for creative pop music? Okay, here’s the plot summary. Weird Al wants to save his UHF radio station from a rapacious FM station owner, so he puts on a telethon featuring a bunch of Al’s real-life friends and Al-like skits. And a fire hose.
9) The Blood of Heroes — I don’t know quite how to describe this one. Mix Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, The Longest Yard, and Gladiator together and that’ll get you close to this story about a team of “juggers” on one last good run to fortune and freedom. It’s written and directed by David Webb Peoples, who also had a hand in the screenplays for Blade Runner, Ladyhawke, Soldier, and 12 Monkeys. It stars Rutger Hauer, Joan Chen, Delroy Lindo, and Vincent D’Onofrio, which is a ridiculous amount of acting power. I used to see it, back in the 90s, on HBO quite a lot, but hardly anymore. Hugely underrated. (Ladyhawke should be on this list, too, but I don’t want two movies from the same screenwriter and with the same lead actor. But keep it in mind.)
10) BASEketball — The guys who make “South Park” made a movie about two slackers who invented a new professional sports league. You get funny bit roles from Jenny McCarthy, Ernest Borgnine, and Robert Vaughan, and cameos from pretty much everyone who worked on-air at ESPN when the movie came out. It’s quotable, goofy, NSFW, but also well-written and well-acted. I’d put it up there with Major League and The Replacements as my three favorite sports comedy movies.
BONUS NUMBER 11 BECAUSE I HAVE A FEEBLE GLINT OF PROMISE IN MY EYE
11) Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins — Like the more famous cult flick The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, this movie promised a whole series of cool action flicks with an iconic character played by a solid character actor. The movie should have been a success. Fred Ward played Remo, the man called The Destroyer, star of over 150 novels written by Richard Sapir and Warren Murphy. Joining him were veteran actors Joel Grey, Wilford Brimley, J.A. Preston, and Kate Mulgrew. The director and screenwriters were both veterans of the James Bond film franchise. Remo fought thugs on the Statue of Liberty, for Pete’s sake! His fanfare theme is my ringtone! The movie should have been a success, but wasn’t. Maybe 1985 was a crowded movie year. Maybe Ladyhawke was too tough a movie to beat.