There are good movies, bad movies and classic movies. But some of the movies that we hold most dear are the guilty pleasures. They can range from the politically incorrect to the unintentionally bad to the deliciously cheesy – or all of the above. Here are five of my most guilty favorites:
“Airport” (1970) launched the star-studded disaster film craze of the 1970s, three increasingly lame sequels, and the beloved spoof “Airplane!” but the first film was the best.
The cast is a wild mix of straight-faced movie stars (Burt Lancaster and Jean Seberg), Broadway legends (Helen Hayes and Maureen Stapleton) and C-list scenery chewers (George Kennedy as the cigar-chomping Joe Patroni). And as the pilot – wait for it – Dean Martin.
The film was nominated for 10 Oscars including Best Picture (what were they thinking?) and the nail-biting plot features an airport blizzard, a stranded plane, and an unhinged passenger with a bomb. Big budget cheese doesn’t get much better than this.
“Viva Las Vegas” (1964) was not nominated for any Oscars, but Elvis Presley and Ann-Margret make an irresistible pair in this candy-colored musical romp through Sin City.
The King plays racecar driver Lucky Jackson who’s out to win the Las Vegas Grand Prix, but hi-jinks ensue when he loses his money and falls for sexy swim teacher Rusty Martin. Part romantic comedy, part travelogue for Las Vegas itself, the film has a playful innocence all its own — and the chemistry between the two stars is electric.
As “Borat” (2006) Sacha Baron Cohen created the most iconic trickster hero since Charlie Chaplin, as a Kazakh reporter setting out to discover America. While filming this faux documentary, he tricks dozens of real people into revealing their prejudice and bigotry.
The result is the most politically incorrect and jaw-droppingly tasteless film in recent memory. A slew of lawsuits ensued after the film was released, none of which panned out for the humiliated plaintiffs. Read the fine print before you sign that release, people.
“Team America: World Police” (2004) is the greatest satire ever filmed — with a cast of marionettes. “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone lampoon gung-go right-wingers, liberal celebrities, and every over-blown action film ever made in this foul-mouthed tale of an elite anti-terrorist group.
The lyrics of their rousing fight song say it all:
America, fuck yeah! Comin’ again to save the motherfucking day, yeah! /America, fuck yeah! Freedom is the only way, yeah! /Terrorists, your game is through, ’cause now you have to answer to /America, fuck yeah! So lick my butt and suck on my balls! /America, fuck yeah! What you gonna do when we come for you now!
But one guilty pleasure stands head and shoulders above them all:
“Valley of the Dolls” (1967) is either the best bad movie ever made or the worst good movie ever made. I’m still not sure. Based on Jacqueline Susann’s (even worse) novel, it follows three young women in their pursuit of stardom and success.
Along the way, they become trapped in a web of sex, booze, drugs, pornography — and hilariously bad dialogue. When I interviewed Patty Duke (who stars as the Judy Garland-esque Neely O’Hara), she told me she’d hoped the film would be a serious look at drug addiction. Poor thing.
“Valley of the Dolls” did however provide its cult of gay fans with:
— Some of the worst musical numbers ever filmed;
— A ladies room cat fight between Duke’s Neely and Susan Hayward’s Helen Lawson;
— Some of the most beloved quotes in all of film including: “I’ve gotta’ be up at 5 a.m. and sparkle Neely, sparkle!” and “Boobies, boobies, boobies!”
But then again, as Sharon Tate’s Jennifer says: “You know how bitchy fags can be.”