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Where Is the Thin Line Between a Good-Bad Movie and a Bad-Bad Movie?

Ever since we first heard about Real Steel, the robot boxing movie starring Hugh Jackman, a small boy, and — let's repeat ourselves — some boxing robots, we have been very, very excited. Admittedly, our excitement has never been of the, "Oh, wow, that movie looks like a wonderfully crafted piece of art!" variety. Upon seeing the trailer, our hearts quickened at the prospect of Steel being truly awfulsome, and in our fall movie preview we described it as our "great goofball hope." In other words, we have been crossing our fingers that Real Steel is the perfect good-bad movie.

While a film that features a robot doing the robot (let that sink in for a second) would seem to be well positioned to be just such a film, good-bad movies aren't easy to make. It's far more common for a filmmaker to make something that's just mediocre (which is no fun at all) than to make something so silly it transcends its horribleness to become hilarious. And when a movie hits that level, it becomes truly memorable: Seventeen years after Showgirls was released and became an instant Hall-of-Fame stinker, it remains as quotable as the day it first came out. But 1995 also brought us the wearily inept Four Rooms, Tank Girl, and Congo, and when was the last time you passed by those on cable and stopped with a wicked grin on your face, let alone remembered them unprompted? After all, there is exceptionally bad (The Room, Ed Wood's films) and then there are just movies that have bad moments.


Is the recently released Abduction just mediocre, or, given time and its absurd lines ("If you don't give me that encrypted list, I'm going to kill all your Facebook friends"), could it rise to the level of good-bad, worthy of multiple drunk revisitings?

And isn't the real wonder of Gigli that, as horrible as it is, it never become even good-bad, it just stays permanently boring?

Is Barbarella such a strange concoction, its Jane Fonda outfits so silly, that we have to take its good-badness seriously?

Is Ishtar actually just ... good-good, unfairly labeled an epic turkey because it bombed?

Similarly, was Waterworld actually competently, if ponderously made and only awarded punch-line status because of its enormous price tag?

And speaking of bad Kevin Costner movies, could The Postman have achieved good-badness if it had been an hour shorter?

Could Hudson Hawk have been good-bad if it weren't for the off-putting smugness on display?

If The Happening is good-bad and The Last Airbender is bad-bad, could The Last Airbender also have been good-bad if it featured murderous trees?

Was Snakes on a Plane trying too hard to be good-bad to actually succeed?

Is there any universe where Battlefield: Earth could have been good-good?

Some believe Glitter, Mariah's infamously bad feature-film debut, is camptastic: We would argue it's just dull.

Please, argue with us. What are the perfect good-bad films? What are bad films that, in some moments, achieve good-badness? What are some films that tried for but failed to achieve the state of good-bad?

Photo: Touchstone Pictures, Lionsgate, MGM, Chloe Productions