These bottom-of-the-barrel B-movies have a very special place in our hearts.
Some movies earn their cult status by creating rich, believable characters and engaging narratives. Then there are films such as The Room and Sharknado, which have been critiqued as some of the worst movies ever made, but they’ve still amassed a cult following. This recalls an apt proverb: “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.” By breaking the “rules” of filmmaking, trash cinema exists in its own space, outside the mainstream. In other words, they’re so bad they’re good.
A staple of the ’80s, poorly produced, low-budget movies—often referred to as “trash cinema”—relied on unrealistic realism or exaggerated elements such as comedy or horror. IMDb has compiled a long list of the best trash movies that have been cherry-picked to provide you with the best ’80s "trash" movie viewing experience. You’re welcome.
Duane Bradley (Kevin Van Hentenryck) carries around a basket containing a terrible secret.
Without giving away the plot, Duane and his basket-dwelling companion are out for revenge. Sure, the secret’s out of the bag—well, basket—after watching this schlocky horror movie, but that shouldn’t stop you from also watching the sequels it spawned: Basket Case 2 (1990) and Basket Case 3: The Progeny (1991).
Brain Damage is brought to you by Frank Henenlotter, the director responsible for Basket Case.
Brain Damage tells the story of Brian (Rick Hearst), who has become host to an ancient, uncontrollable, phallic-looking parasite that makes him do terrible things. Cue the over-the-top dramatic music…and the laughs.
When college student Jonathan (Peter Liapis) finds his late father’s occult paraphernalia, he tries to follow in his dear old dad’s footsteps.
Looking for fun ideas while hosting a house party, Jonathan suggests his friends join him in a demonic summoning ritual. It doesn’t go to plan as little Ghoulies terrorize Jonathan, his friends, and the neighborhood. While you’re at it, don’t forget to indulge in the sequels Ghoulies II (1987), Ghoulies III: Ghoulies Go to College (1990), and Ghoulies IV (1994).
Another movie that utilized the "evil little creatures" trope was the aptly named Critters. But instead of being summoned demonic entities, the creatures are aliens called Krites who’ve escaped an alien prison ship and landed in rural Kansas, where they wreak havoc.
The film stars Dee Wallace, who would star in another alien movie: Stephen Spielberg’s hugely successful E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (where the alien is cuter and far less death-obsessed). Critters spawned three sequels and a 2019 web series titled Critters: A New Binge, released on Shudder. A fifth installment called Critters Attack! (2019) is a reboot of the series.
TerrorVision is a science fiction horror comedy that follows an alien—the Hungry Beast from the planet Pluton—who gets beamed into the Putterman family’s household via their new satellite antenna.
The three Putterman kids find themselves responsible for stopping the Hungry Beast from going on a murderous rampage. While, on the one hand, TerrorVision could be considered a critique of the dangers of watching too much TV, it’s just an example of trash cinema at its best.
This movie has aliens and zombies and is a slasher film, so it’s a win-win-win. In Night of the Creeps, alien parasites slip through their victims' mouths, turning them into zombie-killing machines.
What is supposed to be the best night of the protagonists’ lives quickly devolves into a nightmare as the evil slug-like aliens take over in this strange—but effective—combination of detective story, horror movie, romance, sci-fi, and comedy.
What happens when a comet wipes out most of the life on Earth but leaves two Valley Girls to fight cannibal zombies and evil scientists? Night of the Comet, that’s what!
Grab your popcorn and enjoy this ridiculous—in a good way—sci-fi comedy horror that highlights everything great about the ’80s: outrageous fashion, quotable slang, and cheesy, synth-driven music.
The title says it all: C.H.U.D. stands for Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers. When people start disappearing around New York City, a police officer, and the manager of a homeless shelter team up to investigate. The responsible party dwells in New York’s sewer system and, as the movie’s tagline declares, “They’re not staying down there anymore!”
A testament to its cult status, C.H.U.D. has been referenced in The Simpsons, Donnie Darko, and, more recently, in Jordan Peele’s Us. And then there’s the schlocky sequel – C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D. (1989).
Cashing in on the perennial popularity of the zombie flick, The Return of the Living Dead is a sci-fi comedy horror centered around two bumbling medical supply warehouse employees who accidentally release a deadly gas, causing the dead to rise from their graves.
The movie marked Dan O’Bannon’s directorial debut (he had previously contributed to computer animation in Star Wars). O’Bannon puts a distinctly ’80s spin on George A. Romero’s 1968 zombie classic Night of the Living Dead—which is directly referenced in the film—successfully combining horror, comedy, and a soundtrack that will appeal to fans of LA-based death rock and punk bands of the era. The movie’s popularity led to the creation of four sequels.
Combining action, comedy, and splatter-horror, The Toxic Avenger introduced audiences to a new kind of superhero. When the 90-pound weakling, Melvin Ferd Junko III, falls into a vat of toxic waste, he’s transformed into a super-strong deformed mutant, ready to fight for justice.
In a world saturated with DC and Marvel superheroes, “Toxie” lovers will be pleased to hear a reboot starring Kevin Bacon and Elijah Wood is currently in post-production. Until then, you have this ’80s trash classic and its sequels, The Toxic Avenger Part II (1989) and The Toxic Avenger Part III: The Last Temptation of Toxie (1989), to keep you entertained.
The Blob is a remake of the 1958 movie of the same name and has to do with an alien organism that crash-lands in a small Californian town and begins consuming everything in its path.
There are no boundaries to the amount of death and destruction the Blob can cause. The question is, can anyone contain the deadly, slimy creature before it wipes everything out?
According to the trailer for this satirical science fiction horror film, the titular “stuff” is a deadly product of nature.
Sugary and addictive, it is a hugely popular dessert in America that eventually starts attacking people, turning them into zombies. The Stuff is a cut above other trash movies in that it carries a message: it’s a satire on America's love of junk food and consumerism.
A New Jersey high school is located only a mile away from a nuclear power plant; what could possibly go wrong?
Yep, you guessed it. The school’s honor students are transformed into rampaging freaks after toxic waste seeps into their water supply. Made by Troma Entertainment, the team that brought you The Toxic Avenger, Class of Nuke ’Em High provides the same level of grotesque violence and laughs. Welcome to Tromaville High!
Coming out of Britain, Xtro—short for extra-terrestrial—is a sci-fi horror movie focusing on Sam (Philip Sayer), a father who returns three years after aliens abduct him. Not wanting to provide spoilers, the way in which Sam returns to Earth from his intergalactic sojourn is disturbing, to say the least.
Featuring psychic powers, a creepy clown, a toy soldier that comes to life, and plenty of alien-themed grossness, Xtro really ramps up the horror. The movie was panned by critics but gathered a cult following due to its extreme horror and impressive special effects.
KEEP READING: ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’s Heather Langenkamp: Our Favorite Final Girl of the ’80s
Paul McClure (he/him) is a Lists Writer for Collider based in Melbourne, Australia. An avid TV/movie watcher and reader, the happiest day of Paul’s life was when Neil Gaiman retweeted one of his articles.
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One Man's Trash Is Another Man's Treasure: 14 Best Low-Budget Movies of the '80s, According to IMDb – Collider
These bottom-of-the-barrel B-movies have a very special place in our hearts.