When it comes to cinema, the ‘80s were quite an unforgettable decade. There are dozens of examples of incredible films that came out that decade, with each genre of cinema getting several notable additions to the point where many helped shaped the current cinematic landscape. The 1980s were especially good for Science Fiction movies. Movies like Blade Runner, Back to the Future, The Terminator, and The Thing all came out in the ‘80s, but there are even more films that were released under the Sci-Fi genre.
Movies from the ‘80s are not only still talked about to this day, but some of the film series are even still going. For example, the newest Terminator is due to come out this year, and the sequel Blade Runner 2049 was released in 2017.
Many of these films are hard to forget, but Sci-Fi also had its fair share of duds in the ‘80s. The genre will never forget titles like Robo Vampire or Howard the Duck. These films, and many others are notoriously bad films, but there are some films that are so bad that they actually turned out to be sort of good. Here are 20 Notoriously Bad ‘80s Sci-Fi Movies (And 5 So Bad They Were Good.)
25 Notoriously Bad: Superman IV: The Quest For Peace
Superman is no doubt one of the most recognizable superheroes in existence. The Man of Steel first appeared in Action Comics #1 in 1938, but since then he has appeared in a number of TV shows, movies, video games, and of course comic books. Henry Cavill is the latest actor to play Superman, but Christopher Reeve played the character for several years starting in 1978.
A total of four Superman movies starred Christopher Reeve. Not only is Superman IV: The Quest for Peace often referred to as one of the worst Superman movies, but it has also gone done in history as being one of the worst superhero movies ever.
24 Notoriously Bad: Howard The Duck
Lucasfilm is known for pumping out some incredible films; however, Howard the Duck was not one of them. Howard was based on a Marvel comic book character, although his adaption to a live-action film wasn’t very well received. In fact, the film was pretty much panned by most critics.
There weren’t a lot of high points in Howard the Duck, except for maybe the stop-motion animation sequence near the end of the film. The film was nominated for seven Golden Raspberry Awards in its heyday and the film’s reputation has only gotten worse over the years.
23 Notoriously Bad: Piranha II: The Spawning
Over the years there have been a few different films centered on crazed piranhas. The first film that started this craze was Piranha in 1978, but a sequel called Piranha II: The Spawning was released a few years later. Piranha itself didn’t get great reviews, but reviews for Piranha II were even worse.
The main complaint of the film is the horrible special effects, but there isn’t a whole lot of positives for the movie either. While most people consider The Terminator to be James Cameron’s directorial debut, Piranha II: The Spawning was actually his first feature-length film.
22 Notoriously Bad: Roller Blade
Some people might remember the 1975 film Rollerball starring James Caan, but not very many people have even heard of the 1986 film Roller Blade directed by Donald G. Jackson. The film takes place in a future where people rebel against a fascist state with the help of roller-skating nuns.
If that doesn’t sound weird enough, then just watch the film for yourself. Even though Roller Blade didn’t go over great with critics, the film did get four sequels; all of which were directed by Jackson and were equally as bad, if not worse.
21 Notoriously Bad: Robo Vampire
Remember RoboCop from Peter Verhoeven’s Sci-Fi classic RoboCop? Yeah, that’s not him in the picture above. Robo Vampire was a 1988 Sci-Fi film that was released in Hong Kong that is a clear rip-off of RoboCop. The story is about a narcotics officer who is turned into an android after he is fatally wounded on the job.
The synopsis is almost identical to RoboCop, except the main character goes on a mission to rescue his coworker from a warlord and a vampire. Needless to say, the film isn’t remembered fondly and even makes the RoboCop sequels look good.
20 Notoriously Bad: Heartbeeps
Heartbeeps is a romantic Sci-Fi flick from 1981 that showed two robots falling in love. The film starred Andy Kaufman and Bernadette Peters, with Allan Arkush directing. Upon the film’s release, Heartbeeps was panned by critics and did rather poorly at the box office.
While the film is known for being a horrible movie, the film did get nominated for an Academy Award due to Stan Winston’s work on the characters' makeup. Needless to say, the film didn’t do well in the ‘80s and it looks like people’s opinions haven’t changed, with the film having a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes.
19 So Bad It’s Good: Maximum Overdrive
The 1986 film Maximum Overdrive is unique for a few reasons. The film is based on Stephen King’s short story “Trucks,” but the film was also directed by King himself. Even though many movies are based on King’s work, Maximum Overdrive stands as King’s only directing gig.
The film revolves around machines coming to life and attacking humans. Even though the film can be silly at times, Maximum Overdrive is still a fun film to experience. The soundtrack for the movie is also memorable since it consists of several different songs off of AC/DC’s Who Made Who album.
18 Notoriously Bad: Solarbabies
Solarbabies was one of the two films directed by Alan Johnson, who is more known for his work with choreography. The film is set in a post-apocalyptic future where teenagers find a magical orb that can bring rain and water back to Earth.
Most reviews for Solarbabies were very bad and author Joe Kane went as far as to call the film, “A pathetic Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome rip-off, working from a script which must have been scrawled in Crayola.” His review might sound harsh, but most people who saw Solarbabies would agree that the film was just plain bad.
17 Notoriously Bad: DeepStar Six
With more popular underwater monster movies like Leviathan and The Abyss, it’s easy to forget about DeepStar Six. This film was about the crew of a deep-sea Naval facility, called DeepStar Six, who discover a frightening sea monster.
DeepStar Six was released in 1989 and directed by Sean S. Cunningham, who is mostly known for his work on the Friday the 13th franchise. The design of the sea creature may be the highlight of DeepStar Six, but otherwise, the film fell flat for a lot of people.
16 Notoriously Bad: Alien From L.A.
There are dozens of successful Sci-Fi movies about aliens, but Alien from L.A. isn’t one of them. Alien from L.A. stars Kathy Ireland as Wanda Saknussemm, a teenager who ventures to find her missing father in Atlantis. Ireland would continue to act after 1988, although she Is mostly remembered for Alien from L.A. because of how bad the film was.
Surprisingly, the film got a sequel called Journey to the Center of the Earth in 1988, which performed equally as bad as Alien from L.A. Like many films on this list, Alien from L.A. has earned a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes.
15 Notoriously Bad: The Pumaman
Today superhero movies are everywhere, but they were a little less heard of in the ‘80s. Sure there were superhero movies back then like Batman and the Superman sequels, but there were far less caped crusaders on the big screen then there are today.
The Pumaman was a low-budget Italian film that starred Walter George Alton and Donald Pleasence. The movie was one superhero film that came out in 1980 that didn’t do well with fans or at the box office. The film was so bad that it even made it into an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000.
14 So Bad It's Good: TRON
TRON may not be the greatest Sci-Fi flick ever made, but it is at least better than most films on this list. TRON was released by Disney in 1982 and stars Jeff Bridges as a computer hacker who is sucked into the software of a computer.
TRON doesn’t really live up to the hype today and some of the action sequences in the film just come off looking silly. That being said, the film has gained a cult following over the years, which likely helped get the sequel, TRON: Legacy, made in 2010.
13 Notoriously Bad: Megaforce
Megaforce was released by 20th Century Fox in 1982. The film was about a defensive unit who completed missions using futuristic and high-tech vehicles and weaponry. There really isn’t much to say about Megaforce, except that the popular opinion of Megaforce is that it is awful. The movie was directed by stuntman Hal Needham, who also directed The Cannonball Run and Smokey and the Bandit.
Unfortunately for Needham, his film was panned by critics and was even nominated for three Golden Rasberry Awards. Megaforce came out around the same time as The Road Warrior, which could have been partly to blame for the bad box office run, but the film is still known for being horrible.
12 Notoriously Bad: Mac And Me
One of the most infamous films on this list is the 1988 film Mac and Me. The movie was a blatant rip-off of Steven Spielberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. While E.T. won four Academy Awards, Mac and Me was nominated for four Golden Raspberry Awards, two of which the film won.
The film has almost an identical plot to E.T., which is one of people’s main complaints, besides the constant product placement of McDonald’s and Coca-Cola in the movie. Needless to say, E.T. went down as one of the most beloved Sci-Fi movies of the decade, while Mac and Me is seen as one of the worst movies ever made.
11 Notoriously Bad: The Dungeonmaster
The Dungeonmaster was released in 1984, after clearly taking ideas from Disney’s TRON as well as the game Dungeons and Dragons. The film stars Jeffrey Byron and Leslie Wing and was co-directed by David Allen, Charles Band, John Carl Buechler, Steven Ford, Peter Manoogian, Ted Nicolaou, and Rosemarie Turko.
Instead of having one solid storyline, the film acts as an anthology film, including seven different segments within the movie. Anthology films can sometimes be fun, like Creepshow, however most reviews for The Dungeonmaster have been overwhelmingly negative.
10 Notoriously Bad: Galaxina
Galaxina was a 1980 Sci-Fi comedy starring Playmate Dorothy Stratten. The film had a very low budget, which was apparent to anyone who saw the film. The film was apparently shot in less than 20 days, which meant certain scenes had to be cut, but it’s unlikely that additional scenes could have saved this film.
Galaxina does benefit from not taking itself seriously, but instead, it parodies popular Sci-Fi movies like Star Trek and Ridley Scott’s Alien. While people remember Galaxina because of how bad it was, it is also remembered because Stratten’s life was taken from her at the age of 20 years old just a few months after the film was released.
9 Notoriously Bad: Zapped!
Acting as almost a parody of Carrie, Zapped! is about a high school nerd who exacts revenge on his bullies after getting telekinetic powers. Zapped! is remembered primarily for two things; containing a lot of nudity, and getting absolutely horrible reviews.
Since the film was geared toward teenagers, Zapped! earned a decent amount of money at the box office. When it comes to Hollywood, money talks, meaning Zapped! did well enough to earn a sequel. Zapped Again! was released in 1990, although this film went straight to VHS and didn’t get a theatrical release.
8 So Bad It’s Good: Killer Klowns From Outer Space
Killer Klowns From Outer Space is one of those movies that is just so bad that it turned out to be incredibly entertaining. The plot of the movie is absolutely ridiculous, focusing on aliens that look like clowns that invade Earth.
It is later discovered that the clowns are harvesting humans for food and trap their victims in a cocoon made out of cotton candy. The aliens also use guns that shoot popcorn and have balloon animals that come to life. Over the years, Killer Klowns From Outer Space has become a cult classic, but sadly, a sequel has never materialized.
7 Notoriously Bad: Saturn 3
Released in 1980, Saturn 3 revolves around two scientists working on the asteroid fields of Saturn who go up against an evil eight-foot tall robot. Even though Saturn 3 is known for how bad it is, the film did have some impressive talent behind it.
The film starred Farrah Fawcett, Kirk Douglas, and Harvey Keitel, but what’s even more impressive is that Stanley Donen directed the film. Donen is of course remembered for films like Singin’ In The Rain and Charade, but unfortunately, Saturn 3 is also part of his filmography.
6 Notoriously Bad: C.H.U.D. II: Bud The C.H.U.D.
C.H.U.D. was released in 1984 and focused on disappearances that were happening in New York City, thanks to a group of humanoid monsters. The film didn’t really do great with critics, but a few years later a sequel called C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D. was released.
This film shows the US Government performing experiments on the monsters, which eventually get released into a suburban neighborhood. C.H.U.D. has seemingly turned into a cult classic over the years, but the reviews for C.H.U.D. II are even worse than the first movie.
5 Notoriously Bad: R.O.T.O.R.
RoboCop, The Terminator, and Judge Dredd were three great films, so why not smash them together into one? That’s exactly what Cullen Blaine did with R.O.T.O.R. in 1987. The film was about a police robot who escaped a government lab and starts attacking civilians.
R.O.T.O.R., which stands for Robotic Officer Tactical Operation Research, stole ideas from all three of the films listed above, but performed way worse than all of them. Currently, R.O.T.O.R. has a 2.6 out of 10 on IMDb.
4 Notoriously Bad: Leonard Part 6
Bill Cosby had several successful TV shows and movies in his career, but Leonard Part 6 wasn’t anywhere close to a success. The film was released in 1987 and received mostly negative reviews from fans and critics.
In the film, Cosby’s character Leonard Parker comes back from retirement to save the world, but in real life, Cosby’s star power couldn’t even save the film. Not only did Leonard Part 6 do awful with critics, but it was also a massive box office bomb and didn’t even come close to making back its budget.
3 So Bad It’s Good: Return Of The Killer Tomatoes!
When Attack of the Killer Tomatoes! was released in 1978 it wasn’t a big surprise that the film didn’t go over well with critics. Even though the first film was nowhere near a success, the film received several sequels, one of which was released in 1988. Return of the Killer Tomatoes! took place 10 years after the original and is notable for starring George Clooney.
The film is absolutely ridiculous, but sometimes, complete absurdity can be as entertaining as a critically acclaimed film. Return of the Killer Tomatoes! isn’t a film that is supposed to be taken seriously and that’s part of the fun of this sequel.
2 Notoriously Bad: Pulgasari
Pulgasari is a typical giant monster movie, only this one is known for being notoriously bad. People from Toho Studios worked on the special effects department for the film, but that was really the only high point for the movie. What’s more interesting than the actual movie is the story behind it.
Director Shin Sang-ok had been taken in by the North Korean government under Kim Jong-il’s rule and was forced to make movies for the country. Obviously, Shin Sang-ok wasn’t passionate about the film, which shows in the final version of the film.
1 So Bad It’s Good: The Stuff
The Stuff was released in 1985 and was about a strange goo that starts to infest the world after being advertised as a new dessert. The Stuff was directed by Larry Cohen and stars Michael Moriarty and Andrea Marcovicci.
The film should by no means be labeled as a critically acclaimed film, but the film is still fun to watch even to this day. The special effects are part of the charm of the movie, which was likely part of the reason why it was advertised as a horror movie instead of a satirical comedy.
Are there any other terrible Sci-Fi movies from the '80s we missed? Sound off in the comments!