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Revealed! Movie Critics Share Their Guilty Pleasures

They may not be Oscar winners, but these films are worth watching over and again

There’s nothing wrong with a good, old fashioned guilty pleasure.

It might be a trashy reality show or a film we know is God awful but we can’t look away. Film critics have their own guilty pleasures. They’re just like us!

So HiT reached out to the following film scribes to find the movies they know aren’t Oscar worthy … but they love ’em all the same.

Chris Bumbray,

I guess my guilty pleasure would be “Howard the Duck.” While known as being one of the absolute worst movies of all time, as a child who was about five years old when it showed up on cable, it was a favorite of mine. I mean, it had a talking duck fighting aliens! What’s not to love?

Howard the Duck (1/10) Movie CLIP - No More Mr. Nice Duck (1986) HD

Decades later, I know it’s a bad movie, but nostalgia can be a powerful thing. So I still have a blast watching it from time to time!

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Anne Brodie, Corus TV Studio 12

Garry Marshall’s “Overboard” is a silly, slapstick romantic comedy starring Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn about class jumping and diving. I will watch it any time, any place.  Maybe it was their chemistry as a relatively new couple or the sublimely ridiculous story line. I miss funny Goldie.

Overboard Official Trailer #1 - Goldi Hawn, Kurt Russel Movie (1987) HD

“The Long, Long Trailer” stars Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz as Tracie and Nicky, newlyweds who hit the road with a big load. Scenes driving up a terrifying mountain road are brilliantly awkward / terrifying / hysterical. No one has eclipsed Lucille Ball as a physical comedienne. It’s just not possible.

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Paul Salfen,,,

As much as I enjoy well-made Oscar fare, I have a soft spot in my heart for ’80s horror flicks. Sometimes the worse, the better. I think I became intrigued by the VHS artwork in the video stores as a kid, but a few that I keep going back to for semi-annual viewing are “The Monster Squad,” “Friday the 13th Part IV” and “The Lost Boys.” Outside of that, “Friday” and “The Beastmaster” are classics to me.

The Beastmaster (1982) [Vinegar Syndrome 4k UHD / Blu-ray Promo Trailer]

“The Monster Squad” – What’s not to love about a politically-incorrect bunch of ’80s kids fending off the Universal monsters with the help of a character only named “Scary German Guy” and a character that kicks The Wolfman in the “nards” for one of the most classic movie lines of the era? Don’t know it? Ask Ryan Gosling about it.

“Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter” – This one has all of the gratuitous nudity and violence that were prevalent and intriguing to young boys in a pre-Internet age. There’s also some great kills by Jason and it even stars Corey Feldman. And, of course, what’s funnier than “The Final Chapter” tag when you know they weren’t even halfway through?

“The Lost Boys” – With a high degree of mullitude – including a fantastic mullet from Kiefer Sutherland, this one captures the spirit of the ’80s so well and even manages to have some good scares and great effects.

The Lost Boys (1987) Official Trailer - Jason Patric, Corey Haim Vampire Movie HD

Friday” – There’s no good reason why I love this one so much, but I could probably quote every line in the film – and I hardly watch a movie more than once. Sure, this one has quite a following but for good reason – and it’s not Oscar-worthy performances. Just very funny, quotable moments that will pop in your head at the funniest moments in life.

The Beastmaster” – Director Don Coscarelli recently downplayed the love for this movie, saying that the people who love it probably still love it from when they saw it at 14. It may be true, but it’s an ’80s fantasy flick on the highest order, with scary creatures, a little bit on skin and heroic mullets.

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Josh Board, Fox 5 San Diego / KOGO 600 AM

As a film critic, I’m often asked at parties or film panels, to name my favorite movie. You hate to do that. It’s much more fun talking about the worst movies you’ve seen. Surprisingly, I’ve never been asked about a “guilty pleasure” until now.

The first two movies that popped into my mind were “Top Gun” and “Dirty Dancing” which I think both came out in my senior year of high school. But both of those got a decent amount of good reviews. I figured I needed to come up with movies that got mostly bad reviews for my answer to be appropriate for the question. Therefore, I’ll go with these two movies:

“Step Brothers” – I was at a point where I didn’t want to see another Will Ferrell comedy where he just plays a man-child character, but for some reason, the jokes in this all landed. After the press screening, I ended up going to see it at the theatres another five times, each time bringing a few friends that hadn’t seen it. Most of them liked it, but some thought I was nuts.

Step Brothers (3/8) Movie Clip - Bunk Beds (2008) HD

I loved Ferrell’s interactions with John C. Reilly and his parents (Mary Steenburgen, Richard Jenkins). It was the first time I ever witnessed the comedic genius of Kathryn Hahn (now in “Bad Moms”). Rob Riggle, going from a correspondent on The Daily Show to playing a nutjob. It was all hysterical. And some of my fellow critics still give me crap for the good review I gave it, and that was eight years ago!

“Rocky 3” – I’m a huge boxing fan, but I’m also one of the few critics that wasn’t so fond of “Creed.” Surprisingly, other than “Rocky IV,” I’ve liked all the “Rocky” films. But when I mention to people how I liked “Rocky 3,” they look at me like I just said I liked “Godfather III!”

It was the first time we saw Mr. T, and he was surprisingly scary as the villain. It was the first time (and I wish the last) that I had seen Hulk Hogan, playing a nasty wrestler named “Thunder Lips” (which I think may have been the title of that sex video he was seen in, but who knows).

Some critics think it was “jumping the shark” to have Burgess Meredith die, but even that worked.

John Urbancich, WKYC TV,

Even if I’ve been doing this so long that too many quickly come to mind. In fact, when I was working (35 years) for a real live newspaper, we always listed our guilty pleasures and “most overrated” along with our best and worst of the year.

One that quickly comes to mind, though, is “Big Trouble in Little China,” which my kids loved, too, and so much of the magic of movies can be seen through the eyes of the very young. Of course, it was directed by John Carpenter, with Kurt Russell, playing a John Wayne-like rogue, and the rest of the cast just seeming to be having loads of fun. (I was even reminded of Russell’s Jack Burton when we saw him basically play the same character in Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” last year.)

Anyway, it was panned big time in 1986, and I took a lot of heat when I put it in my Top 10 that year.

Big Trouble In Little China (1986) - Official Trailer

If you’re looking for more recent vintage (and, come to think of it, a similar genre), there’s last year’s “American Ultra,” a creatively bizarre summer sleeper that, alas, never woke anyone up but me. It did, however, prove (to me at least) that Kristen Stewart (nicely playing the grounded love interest to Jesse Eisenberg’s whacked-out hero) actually does have a pulse.

Willie Waffle,

Of all of the guilty pleasures in the world, my favorite is the story about the man who saved every one of us. “Flash Gordon” was one of the first movies I saw in the theater by my own choice, so it always has held a special place in my heart.

It was a young boy’s fantasy come to life as the blonde-haired superstar quarterback saves all of humanity, and his special lady, from evil Ming the Merciless.It has everything a young boy wants in a movie from spaceships to football heroes to massive battle scenes.

Flash Gordon | Official Trailer [4K]

Then, I caught “Flash Gordon” on television several years later.OH MY GOD!  WHY DID MY MOTHER EVER LET ME SEE THIS MOVIE?  As a young adult, I was shocked to realize one of my favorite boyhood films was one of the filthiest movies ever made!

Not content with double entendres, I think “Flash Gordon” actually may have several triple entendres!  My face flushed with embarrassment as every sneaky line of dialogue and sultry outfit took on new meanings, which helped melt away that childhood naivete.

Flash Gordon (6/10) Movie CLIP - To the Death! (1980) HD

Worst of all, “Flash Gordon” turns out to be a mediocre movie, when witnessed by the eyes of an older Willie. Yet, it doesn’t stop me from taking a step back in time whenever I catch it on cable, and enjoy a moment to howl at the horribly written jokes and scenery chewing acting the younger Willie didn’t realize were there.

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Peter Keough, Boston Globe

Many years ago when I was a critic at he Chicago Reader I was secretly pleased when asked to review John Landis’s “Three Amigos” (1986), a film which in our professional terminology is categorized as a “dumb-ass comedy.” I appreciated the break from my usual assignments, such as Taiwanese films about dead grandmothers and East Germany documentaries about black lung disease. Not that I intended to condescend to the material by lowering my critical standards.

So much for those.

¡Three Amigos! Official Trailer #1 - Steve Martin Movie (1986) HD

I don’t know if  it was when the Amigos confront a saloon full of menacing tough guys, who have mistaken the washed-up act for notorious gunslingers and are intimidated by the innocuous trio into joining in the chorus of “My Little Buttercup.” Or maybe it was the scene when Ned Nederlander schmoozes with a group of bewildered Mexican urchins and brags about his téte-a-téte with Dorothy Gish (“You know,” he says, “Lillian’s sister”).

But at some point I noticed someone laughing too loud, and too often, and in an unnervingly monotone, maniacal manner. I looked around; people were looking at me. Then I realized the person laughing was myself.

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Brian Truitt, USA Today

Sure, “Flash Gordon” is pure campy silliness with an over-the-top Queen soundtrack but it’s the first movie I ever saw in a theater and beloved still to this day. A New York Jets quarterback who goes to space, finds love, resists temptations of cosmic femme fatales and teams up with hawkguys sounds like a recipe for the worst film of all time. Thanks to sheer earnestness, cool visuals and Saturday morning cartoon spectacle, though, it’ll always have a place in my heart.

Before I was allowed to see how good he was in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” the underrated genius of Tim Curry came alive in 1985’s “Clue,” by far the best movie ever made based on a board game and having multiple endings. (It is a hallowed hall indeed.)

The slapstick, screwball comedy hits nicely for the youngsters with its group of colorful murder suspects (and victims), and it becomes a much smarter affair when you’re an adult with the fantastic wordplay, memorable one-liners, various double entendres and sexual innuendo, and a surprisingly high body count.

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Howie Movshovitz, Colorado Public Radio

I love “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.” Maybe I just loved the sight of the beast swallowing a diving bell. It was on TV a lot when I was a kid. “Terror in a Texas Town.” Joseph Lewis is a fine director, but when I was 11 I didn’t know that. I liked the face off at the end — the villain in black with two fancy 6-shooters and the good guy (Sterling Hayden) with a harpoon.

Brooke Wylie, WeWriteThings.Co

Rationally, I know “Batman Forever” is a terrible picture. It’s overproduced and nonsensical, but Val Kilmer was my first Batman. And as much as I adore “The Dark Knight,” Tommy Lee Jones is the Two-Face of my heart. Give me that sweet Seal song, Jim Carrey at his zany peak and Chris O’Donnell at his most adorable any day. I can’t resist it.

Batman Forever (1995) Official Trailer - Val Kilmer, Jim Carrey, Tommy Lee Jones Superhero Movie HD

For many in my generation, Nicolas Cage is a punchline — not for me. He’s particularly appealing in “Gone in 60 Seconds.” Few performers give as much as Cage in any role, much less when playing a guy whose smoothest move with the ladies is to breathily mention car parts “bolted to each other’s body structures.” I feel no shame in reporting that I can quote large swaths of this picture, it’s pure joy every time I get sucked into it.

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Paul Asay,

I like good movies. I appreciate good movies. But sometimes, frankly, I’d much rather watch a bad movie. Like, “Plan 9 From Outer Space” bad. Would you take away my critics credentials if I confess that I watch the movie about every year? That I’d rather watch it again than, say, watch something deep and moving with subtitles, for even the first time?

It need not be “Plan 9,” of course. I dig pretty much anything that might be spoofed on MST3K … old horror flicks and grade Z sci-fi epics are a hoot. And frankly, even when I’m reviewing a film, I’d much rather see something that’s really bad than something that’s just so-so. You know?

I never could understand why “Green Lantern” got such a bad rap. Sure, it wasn’t exactly “The Dark Knight,” but it was just fine.

And “Waterworld?” For all the flak it took, I think it’s actually a pretty good movie. Dennis Hopper hamming it up? Kevin Costner glowering? It had action! Excitement! A reasonably coherent story line! Every time I see it on television, I end up watching a good chunk of it and enjoying it–not in a snide, ironic way, but because I think it’s pretty fun.

Waterworld Official Trailer #1 - Kevin Costner Movie (1995) HD

Oh, and my first favorite movie was Disney’s “The Cat From Outer Space.” That film SPOKE to me when I was 7. The first movie that I almost stood up and cheered for during the rousing conclusion. Granted, it wasn’t my favorite movie for long … “Star Wars (Episode IV)” came out a few months after. But frankly, I’d still love to see “Cat” again.

There’s more, of course. Far more than I’m comfortable admitting. But that gives you a start, at least.

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  1. The Giant Claw is my numero uno Guilty Pleasure. I highly recommend Guilty Pleasures of the Horror Film and Son of Guilty Pleasures of the Horror Film, edited by Gary and Susan Svehla.

    1. Not The Giant Claw! As a kid I’d watch just about any piece of crap on TV. But even as a 10-year-old I thought the Giant Claw was the worst film ever. Unbearably, unbelievably bad. But a lot of laughs!

      1. I’d much rather watch it than most of the drek on movie and TV screens that gets passed off as science fiction nowadays.

  2. The “Fast and the Furious” franchise for me. I’ve seen every one in the theater and that comes as a shock to friends and family. They are all stupid movies, really awful, and yet it harkens back to being a kid and watching “Smokey and the Bandit” “Cannonball Run” and “Hooper” that make them fun.

  3. I loved reading the other critics posts! I, too….liked Overboard. And, after seeing another Kurt Russell movie on this list, wondered what actor/actress appears most on our choices.

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