What’s the worst movie ever made? Everyone will have their own opinion on the subject, but for many people it’s The Room, released in 2003.
Googling “the worst movie ever” brings up a movie actually called “The Worst Movie Ever!” first, but second on the list is indeed The Room.
The acting from male lead Tommy Wiseau (who also wrote, directed and exec. produced) is one of the main reasons why the film is so bad. Here’s a little taste.
There are various other reasons too, which we’ll get to.
Yet despite the movie being so bad – thousands of people have parted with cash to watch it, often multiple times.
As Vox points out, The Room is actually much loved.
Like a movie made by an alien
Tom Bissell wrote the book The Disaster Artist together with Greg Sestero, who starred in the movie alongside Wiseau.
Wiseau plays Johnny, who as Bissell told Vox “does an amazing job at his bank and is constantly saving them money. He lives with his future wife, he thinks they have a great life but she’s secretly sleeping with his best friend Mark (Sestero).”
In fairness, Sestero’s acting is actually pretty good in The Room.
Bissell says he has seen The Room “more than a hundred times and less than 150 times.”
Brilliantly, he also says “It’s like a movie made by an alien that never has seen a movie, but has had movies thoroughly explained to them.”
Adding to the woes of Wiseau’s acting are the fact that a lot of the dialogue makes no sense, characters say and do things that don’t reflect how humans actually behave, and, Bissell points out, “there’s a table full of framed photographs of spoons.”
He adds that: “There’s not often a work of film has every creative decision that’s made in it on a moment-by-moment basis seemingly be the wrong one.”
Celebrity endorsements for the worst movie ever made
The Room is popular among certain celebrities. Seth Rogan says he “became obsessed with it”, and he joins legions of other fans who are responsible for sold out monthly midnight screenings in countries around the world – a decade and a half after the movie came out.
So why is it still so popular?
Vox explains that The Room now exists in a category known as “paracinema”, which comprises all forms of cinema outside of the mainstream, including art film, horor, Elvis flicks government hygiene films, and beach party musicals.
However, The Room is more specifically known as a trash film: a genre of movies that are low budget, amateurishly produced, and do not hit the standards of mainstream movie making.
And by not fitting into standards, we mean it falls well below standards.
Which should suggest that anyone who watches it must have bad taste in movies, right?
Saved by the irony
This is not the case, of course. While there may be one or two people who go to screenings and can’t understand why everyone else is laughing and jeering, the vast majority like The Room for reasons that are heavily laced with irony.
Many people have watched a bad movie, music video or some other poor attempt at creativity and laughed at it. This, those people will be pleased to know, may be a sign of greater levels of intelligence, according to some studies.
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute asked people who regularly watch trash movies what they found so appealing. Among the main factors are their “transgressive nature and subversion of the standards of mainstream filmmaking”. These appeal points closely match those of avant garde art cinema.
People who bought The Room on Amazon also bought, according to Amazon’s tool to let you know such details, trash classics like Birdemic and Troll 2, but also art house films like the Holy Mountain and Dancer in the Dark.
A good taste of bad taste
That ironic viewpoint we mentioned is also referred to as “camp”. Susan Sontag wrote that “Camp asserts that good taste is not simply good taste… there exists indeed a good taste of bad taste.”
Ironic enjoyment of bad entertainment enhances bonds between people who take part in the mockery together.
This is something that sociologist Pierre Bourdieu called “cultural capital” – a kind of social currency that has an effect on somebody’s position within a social circle.
The Room screenings are crazy
Bissell explains that screenings of the room often involve “startling cruelty, shocking misogyny, unbelievable inventiveness and real joy”.
People throw plastic spoons, wear costumes and yell call and response lines at the screen.
If you like a movie theater to be quiet when you’re watching, screenings of The Room are not for you.
Bissell summed up for Vox the conflict between why The Room is possibly the worst movie ever made and yet one of the most loved cult films.
“The room to me shatters the distinction between good and bad; do I think it’s a good movie, do I think it’s a strong movie that moves me on the level that art usually moves me? Absolutely not, but I cant say it’s bad because it’s so watchable, it’s so fun, and it’s brought me so much joy,” he says. “How can something that’s bad do those things?”
However, he does caution that if you’re gonna see The Room for the first time, it should not be at a live screening (because you won’t hear anything over the noise of the audience).
Coincidentally, there was news this week on the third worst movie ever made according to Google’s results. It’s the 20 year anniversary of Batman & Robin, and director Joel Schumacher took the opportunity to apologize for the poor attempt at filmmaking.
He also still has to answer questions about George Clooney’s “bat nipples”.