Back in the day, a B-grade movie aka “B-movie” is defined by a low-budget commercial motion picture that usually has to claw its way onto the silver screen – if it even gets past production on a shoestring budget (as compared to a high-budget A-movie) at all. At that time, most B-movies only made it as far as one instalment per movie.
These days, some of these movies make it as far as not only the silver screen but they will also go on to inspire multiple sequels. Some older B-movies even got remade into, yes, you guessed it – another B-grade movie (read: Piranha).
But that’s not to say that all B-movies will turn out bad or have turned out bad e.g. bad editing, bad cast, cheap production design, bad storyline, cheesy effects, cheesier script, etc. At least not the B-movies of the “future”, so to say. In fact, some were surprisingly good! So much so that, aside from becoming hits and some going on to get nominated for awards or win awards, you’d forget that it was a B-movie in the first place.
Like these (we chose some of the more recent ones):
Super Mario Bros. (1993)
Super Mario Bros. is an American science fiction fantasy adventure comedy film directed by Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel. The film was a loose live-action adaptation of the 1985 Nintendo video game of the same name, and stars Bob Hoskins as Mario, John Leguizamo as Luigi, Dennis Hopper as King Koopa, and Samantha Mathis as Princess Daisy. It tells the story of the Mario brothers, as they find a parallel universe, where King Koopa is a dictator. Their task? To rescue Princess Daisy and stop Koopa from attempting to merge the dimensions so that he could become a dictator of both worlds.
Despite the it being a cheesy movie, it still did well because throngs of “Super Mario” video game fans charged into the cinemas to watch it. Much loyalty!
Mortal Kombat (1995)
Mortal Kombat is an American video game franchise, developed by Midway Games’ Chicago studio. The original game has spawned many sequels and has been spun off into several action-adventure games, films (animated and live-action with its own sequel), and television series (animated and live-action).
The live-action film of the same name, “Mortal Kombat”, an American fantasy martial arts film written by Kevin Droney, directed by Paul W. S. Anderson, was released in 1995. The film starred Robin Shou, Linden Ashby, Bridgette Wilson, Christopher Lambert, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and Talisa Soto. It’s a loose adaptation of the early entries in the fighting game series Mortal Kombat. Other spin-offs include various comic book series, a card game, and a live-action tour.
Starship Troopers (1997)
Starship Troopers is a 1997 American military science fiction action film directed by Paul Verhoeven and written by Edward Neumeier, originally from an unrelated script called “Bug Hunt at Outpost Nine”, but eventually licensing the name Starship Troopers, from a science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein. It is the only theatrically released film in the Starship Troopers franchise.
The film had a budget estimated around USD105 million, making it the ultimate B-movie with A-movie budget. The film went on to spawn several sequels: “Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation” (direct-to-video, 2004), “Starship Troopers 3: Marauder” (direct-to-DVD, 2008), and “Starship Troopers: Invasion” (direct-to-DVD, 2012).
Empire Records (1999)
Empire Records is am American coming-of-age film that follows a group of record store employees over the course of one exceptional day before the store sells out to a major chain. The employees of this independent music store try to avoid being sold to a large chain, all while learning about each other. The film was directed by Allan Moyle and stars Anthony LaPaglia, Robin Tunney, Rory Cochrane, Renée Zellweger, Ethan Embry, Johnny Whitworth, and Liv Tyler.
It was probably one of the greatest movies from the 90s that managed to spawn a strong cult following after – not because its production is excellent per se. In fact, the movie did pretty badly at the box office. But you see, Empire Records was driven by an amazing OST e.g. Toad the Wet Sprocket, Gin Blossoms, The Cranberries that stole the hearts of the 90s kids.
The Virgin Suicides (1999)
The Virgin Suicides is an American drama written and directed by Sofia Coppola, produced by her father Francis Ford Coppola, starring James Woods, Kathleen Turner, Kirsten Dunst, Josh Hartnett, and A. J. Cook. Based on the novel of the same name by Jeffrey Eugenides, the film tells of the events surrounding the lives of 5 sisters in an upper-middle class suburb of Detroit during the 70s. After the youngest sister makes an initial attempt at suicide, the sisters are put under close scrutiny by their parents, eventually being put into near-confinement, which leads to increasingly depressive and isolated behaviour.
The only reason why this movie has been categorised as a B-movie is because it’s an independent film. However, one has to remember that The Virgin Suicides actually went on to win 3 awards and score 11 other nominations.
Idle Hands (1999)
We’ll come right out and admit it right now – the only reason why anyone should watch this is for its gorgeous cast, notably Devon Sawa and Jessica Alba. Idle Hands is a horror comedy film directed by Rodman Flender, written by Terri Hughes and Ron Milbauer. As mentioned, it stars Devon Sawa and Jessica Alba, as well as Seth Green, Elden Henson, and Vivica A. Fox. The main plot follows the life of an average lazy stoner teenager, Anton Tobias (played by Devon Sawa), whose hand becomes possessed and goes on a killing spree, even after being cut off from his arm.
The film’s name is based on the saying “idle hands are the Devil’s play-things” or “idle hands do the Devil’s work”.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The Blair Witch Project is an American found footage horror film written, directed, and edited by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez. The film relates the story of 3 student filmmakers (Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, and Joshua Leonard) who disappeared while hiking in the Black Hills near Burkittsville, Maryland in 1994 to film a documentary about a local legend known as the Blair Witch. The viewers are told the 3 were never seen or heard from again, although their video and sound equipment (along with most of the footage they shot) was discovered a year later and that this “recovered footage” is the film the viewer is watching.
This B-movie was made with on a shoestring budget of only USD25,000 but received enormously positive reception from critics and went on to gross over USD248 million worldwide, making it one of the most successful independent movies of all time. It spawned a sequel, “Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2” in 2000. Another sequel was planned for 2001, but did not materialise. A trilogy of video games based on the film was also released in 2000.
Battle Royale (2000)
Based on a 1999 controversial novel of the same name, Battle Royale (バトル・ロワイアル Batoru Rowaiaru) is a Japanese action thriller that was directed by Kinji Fukasaku. The film tells the story of Shuya Nanahara, a junior high-school student who is struggling with the death of his father and is forced by the government to compete in a deadly game where the students must kill each other in order to win. Basically Japanese schoolchildren with weapons killing each other.
It’s probably not a B-movie in the conventional sense. After all, it did cost about USD4.5 million to produce. But it does have the workings of a typical Japanese B-movie e.g. extreme (but so fake) gore, over-the-top sappiness that’s borderline cheesy, bad acting, and bad writing. The film aroused both domestic and international controversy and was either banned outright or deliberately excluded from distribution in several countries. Oh, it also went on to get heavily compared to another novel-turned-film, “The Hunger Games”. For obvious reasons.
Thir13en Ghosts (2001)
American horror film Thirteen Ghosts (also known as 13 Ghosts and stylised as Thir13en Ghosts) is a remake of the 60s film “13 Ghosts” by William Castle, directed by Steve Beck. The story centres Arthur Kriticos (played by Tony Shalhoub), a widower, who is informed by his uncle’s estate lawyer, Ben Moss (played by JR Bourne), that he has inherited a mansion following his uncle’s death. The only problem is, his uncle was a very rich collector of “unique things” including his malicious collection of ghosts!
As all B-movies that are of the horror genre go, one wouldn’t have expected this to be entertaining but it was! If you like toying with the whole supernatural idea and if you enjoy watching people die, uh, creatively, then we say you need to give this one a go.
Date Movie (2006)
In the days before we had access to a bountiful of movie spoof videos on YouTube, there were movies spoofing movies. Date Movie is an American parody film directed by Aaron Seltzer. Much of the story line was not-so-seriously based on that of the romantic comedies “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and “Meet the Fockers”, and therefore, a funny-as-heck spoof. It stars Alyson Hannigan, Adam Campbell, Sophie Monk, Jennifer Coolidge, Mauricio Sanchez, Eddie Griffin, and Fred Willard.
Yes, of course B-movies can be genuinely funny without being only hilarious because it’s an #epicfail.
Vampires Suck (2010)
The people behind Date Movie further milked that B-movie charm with Vampires Suck, a vampire spoof film based on the highly popular Twilight film series. Vampire Suck was directed by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer, starring Jenn Proske, Matt Lanter, Christopher N. Riggi, Ken Jeong, Anneliese van der Pol, and Arielle Kebbel. Like the first Twilight (2008) movie, Vampire Suck has a story line that centres on a teenage girl who finds herself torn between 2 boys. As she and her friends wrestle with a number of different dramas, everything comes to a head at their prom. Basically, it’s like Twilight, but funnier.
What’s not to love?
Warm Bodies (2013)
Warm Bodies is an American paranormal romantic zombie comedy film based on Isaac Marion’s novel of the same name. Directed and written by Jonathan Levine, the film stars Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Analeigh Tipton, and John Malkovich. The film focuses on the development of the relationship between Julie (played by Teresa Palmer), a young woman, and “R” (played by Nicholas Hoult), a zombie, and how their eventual romance develops throughout. The film is noted for displaying human characteristics in zombie characters, and for being told from a zombie’s perspective.
Warm Bodies was nominated for 5 Teen Choice Awards, out of which the movie bagged one. It also the 40th Saturn Awards’ “Saturn Award for Best Horror Film” category.
Scary Movie 1 – 5 (2000 – 2013)
Needs no introduction.
Where can you get the above movies, you ask? Most of them should be out on DVD by now. Alternatively, you could always (cough) torrent (cough) them.
If you’ve got any that you’d like us to add to the above list, let us know in the comment box below!