Ten Very Guilty Movie Pleasures

Films I Can't Help But Watch

by J. M. Pressley
First published: September 7, 2007

We all have our guilty pleasure movies, the ones that we can't seem to quit watching.

We all have our guilty pleasure movies, the ones that we can't seem to quit watching. We can rationalize them all. They're bad, and we know it. It's not like we're deluding ourselves into thinking that they're classics that simply have been misjudged over the years. They're the films that you only admit to when you're among friends, because your friends already have more embarrassing material on you, so they don't care as much. Besides, you've most likely watched one or more of these flicks with them at some point.

So here I am, reasonably well read with a lot of exposure to the fine arts in my lifetime, finding myself drawn in like a moth to the celluloid flame. For some reason, these films have left a mark. I'm not sure why. I suspect that most of them just happened along during my impressionable formative years. Anyway, here are ten movies that I'm never going to live down again.

Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972)

Even in a bad film, it's hard not to appreciate yet another Hammer Films pairing of Christopher Lee as Dracula and Peter Cushing as Van Helsing. The opening chase is classic, as is the climactic battle between Lee and Cushing. In between, you have a whole lot of early seventies London psychedelia. I first got hooked on this as a rerun on the old "CBS Late Movie" series (which also introduced me to Kolchak: The Nightstalker).

Smokey and the Bandit (1977)

To be fair, nearly any movie Burt Reynolds made from the mid-seventies through the eighties qualifies as a guilty pleasure for me, but this one wears the crown. It doesn't overreach, either; it's a little over 90 minutes of high-speed chase in a Trans-Am for the sake of a beer run. Kudos to Sally Fields as a runaway bride and Jackie Gleason as Sheriff Buford T. Justice. And believe it or not, this film was actually an Oscar nominee for Best Film Editing.

The Black Hole (1978)

Welcome to Disney's effort to horn in on the sci-fi action wave in the wake of Star Wars. This is a movie in which the whole is much less than the sum of its parts. Despite some impressive visual effects, an experienced cast, and an intriguing premise, the film was a disappointment at the box office because the script couldn't escape the gravitational pull of camp. Still, I read the book and watched the film when it came out, and it may even end up in my DVD collection. Egad.

Love at First Bite (1979)

This movie had me at "Children of the night...shut up!" George Hamilton is the only lead actor to make this list twice (see below), and the joke of a well-tanned vampire is priceless. With supporting performances from Susan Saint James, Richard Benjamin, and Arte Johnson, I just can't seem to change the channel if I see it playing. That's more than I can say for a lot of other vampire movies, comedy or not.

Zorro, the Gay Blade (1981)

It's the movie starring George Hamilton! And George Hamilton! Taking turns as Don Diego and Bunny Wigglesworth, Hamilton manages to play both for different laughs. I sometimes wonder whether this movie would stand a chance of being made today, but it has some snappy dialogue and a great supporting cast in Lauren Hutton, Brenda Vaccaro, and Ron Leibman. The film earned a "Razzie" nomination for Worst Musical Score; I merely find the music unmemorable.

The Pirate Movie (1982)

If this list were in order of embarrassment, this would float right to the top. First, I'm not usually a huge fan of musical productions. Second, it's utterly sophomoric. Third, if it weren't for Kristy McNichol, I would probably never have sat through this flick in the first place. And yet, I'm a sucker for this particular movie. There is no possible explanation for it.

Lone Wolf McQuade (1983)

The end duel between Chuck Norris and David Carradine is the reward for sitting through this movie. Norris channels Clint Eastwood as a maverick Texas Ranger who won't go by the book. It's a montage of cop/oater movie cliches that's helped by making the dialogue secondary to the action. Having Barbara Carrera around doesn't hurt either. It's also worth the price of admission to see the escape when Norris is buried alive in his truck—not because it's believable in the least, but because it's over the top on so many levels.

Top Secret! (1984)

Nobody should tell you that this movie holds a candle to Airplane. Heck, it may not even hold a candle to Hot Shots. But it does earn some points for being Val Kilmer's theatrical debut. The humor is all over the wall, lumping in sendups of multiple film genres with typical Abrahams/Zucker sight gags and horrible puns. And why is there a French Resistance in East Germany? I make sense of neither the movie's lack of coherent plot nor my curious fascination with watching it.

Overboard (1987)

With any movie that relies on amnesia as a salient plot point, I usually reserve no mercy. On the surface, there is no reason why I should enjoy this trite movie. Except that I like both Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn. And the dialogue is written reasonably well. And I do enjoy the occasional romantic comedy. Feminists may have a differing point of view, but I've always seen it as the funniest movie ever to feature the kidnapping and subsequent indentured servitude of an amnesiac.

Weekend at Bernie's (1989)

The movie's tagline is one of best examples of Hollywood truth in advertising: "Bernie may be dead, but he's still the life of the party!" It's not dark humor, it's a movie-length, one-note sight gag. This is a movie I actually hate myself for liking, but then I think about the waterskiing scene, and it still elicits a smile. It at least trumps any SNL skit made into a movie by actually being funny.


Internet Movie Database, Amazon.com