Top 20 Best B-Movies of All time

Top 20 Best B-Movies of All time

VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
If these flicks prove anything it's that the major Hollywood studios don't have a monopoly on good movies. For this list, we'll be looking at what modern cinema would describe as a B-movie, i.e. low-budget films that weren't exactly aiming for arthouse prestige. Our countdown includes “The Blob”, “The Room”, “The Blair Witch Project”, “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”, “The Thing”, and more!

Script written by Nick Spake

Top 20 Impressive B-Movies

Just because you get straight Bs doesn’t mean that you can’t be top of your class. Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 20 Impressive B-Movies.

For this list, we’ll be looking at what modern cinema would describe as a B-movie, i.e. low-budget films that weren’t exactly aiming for arthouse prestige. As campy and cheaply made as they might’ve been, these particular B-movies all hold a significant and even important place in cinematic history.

#20: “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” (1988)

Two years after Stephen King published “It,” this film gave us a very different take on the increasingly popular evil clown trope. One might assume that “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” caught on solely due to its title. But there are countless B-movies out there with ridiculous titles and most of them just blend into each other. That this one continues to stand out proves that there’s more to it than a bizarre name and an even more bizarre premise. Thanks to its inventive production design, freaky practical effects, and wicked sense of humor, “Killer Klowns” more than earned its cult status. Few would describe it as “high art,” but the film knows what it wants to be and excels in its execution.

#19: “Carnival of Souls” (1962)

This chilling horror picture was produced for $33,000, which even for 1962 was a barebones budget. Director Herk Harvey didn’t need millions of dollars to create an eerie atmosphere, though. All it took was haunting cinematography, a ghoulish musical score, and actors who could send a shiver up your spine with their fiendish expressions and mannerisms. If anything, the necessity to keep the budget down worked to the filmmakers’ advantage, inspiring them to get extra creative with certain shots. The behind the scenes stories will only make you appreciate “Carnival of Souls” more. Despite slipping through the cracks when it first came out, the film would go on to inspire the likes of M. Night Shyamalan, George A. Romero, and David Lynch.

#18: “Piranha” (1978)

This wildly successful parody of “Jaws” played into similar animal predator-themed B-movies of its time and terrified summer moviegoers with its frenzied school of piranhas that killed anything in its wake. The plot is simple: the U.S. government secretly engineered piranhas for the Vietnam War and canned the experiment at the war’s end. However, through the indiscretion of the lead scientist on Operation: Razorteeth, some surviving creatures were released and many deaths ensued. The film cost under $800,000 to make and earned $16 million at the box office, and even Steven Spielberg quipped that it was his favorite knock-off of his film “Jaws.”

#17: “The Blob” (1958)

What’s scarier than an oncoming slow-rolling evil blob from outer space? Well, a lot of things, which makes this movie one of the campiest horror films ever produced. This is further solidified by the film’s straightforward name, with producers opting out of the initial title “The Molten Meteor.” Even with such a simple premise though - one in which a meteorite crash lands onto our planet and releases an alien being that gets bigger every time it eats someone - the film’s technical aspects dazzled audiences and made the sci-fi horror a box office smash hit. “The Blob” is further memorable for being Steve McQueen’s first big screen lead role.

#16: “Attack of the Crab Monsters” (1957)

Successfully blending suspense, horror and humor, this black-and-white flick only cost $70,000 to make, yet it earned $1 million at the box office, which was quite a feat in the 1950s. Armed with a zany plot, “Attack of the Crab Monsters” follows a research team that sets out to find a scientific expedition that disappeared in the Pacific Ocean before them, only for the group to encounter two giant radioactive crabs in heat. What’s not to love? Besides the wonderfully campy story, the underwater scenes are great as they take inspiration from the book by Jacques Cousteau and the oceanographer’s fame during that era.

#15: “The Toxic Avenger” (1984)

This flick is well known for its unapologetic ‘80s blend of camp and gore! In this superhero movie, the protagonist begins his journey as a scrawny nerd named Melvin that’s picked on while he’s working as a janitor at a local gym. Like many superhero origin stories that have come before and after it, “The Toxic Avenger” sees the protagonist fall into a toxic vat, only to be disfiguringly transformed into the super strong titular character, affectionately known as Toxie. The movie’s plot was screwball enough for it to attain cult following through midnight movie showings and garnered it enough success for multiple sequels and a cartoon series – though the latter was unfortunately poorly received.

#14: “Pink Flamingos” (1972)

Even as the old studio system died out and New Hollywood rose up, John Waters was seen as an outsider whose work was generally too strange for mainstream moviegoers. But that didn’t stop him from finding an audience that shared his appreciation for camp, dark comedy, and transgressive art. Led by an uproarious performance from Divine, “Pink Flamingos” put Waters on the map. The film prided itself on being “an exercise in poor taste,” even using that as a tagline. While “Pink Flamingos” was every bit as trashy as it aspired to be, Waters’ self-aware approach set it apart from other exploitation films at the time. Controversial yet playful, “Pink Flamingos” showed that there was a market for underground films willing to push the envelope.

#13: “Foxy Brown” (1974)

We can’t talk about B-movies without bringing up the Blaxploitation genre, which peaked in popularity throughout the ‘70s. During this period, Pam Grier emerged as arguably the most iconic leading lady of the genre. Fresh off the success of playing the titular character in “Coffy,” Grier reunited with director Jack Hill for this spiritual successor of sorts. Critics initially wrote “Foxy Brown” off as sleazy and stereotypical, as they did many Blaxploitation features at the time. Yet, others would come to view Foxy as a beacon for female empowerment, as well as a trailblazer for African-American action heroines. Looking back years later, this is not only one of the most entertaining Blaxploitation films, but also one of the most influential.

#12: “Plan 9 from Outer Space” (1959)

This is director and writer Ed Wood’s seminal sci-fi film! Often regarded as one of the worst productions in cinema history, it also has one of the most passionate cult followings. The black-and-white sci-fi horror flick’s plot is surreal – aliens want to prevent mankind from destroying the universe by initiating Plan 9, which brings the planet’s dead back to life – and expectedly, there are a lot of issues! This includes redundant dialogue and actors reading from their scripts during scenes. Terribly… great!

#11: “The Room” (2003)

Tommy Wiseau wrote, directed, produced, and starred in “The Room,” which is often considered one of the worst films ever… impressively bad, you might say. However, its nonsensical plotline, awkward dialogue and camera shots have earned the 2003 film cult status. Intended as a serious romantic-drama, Wiseau has since re-billed it as a black comedy after it faced critical backlash. While the story follows a poorly executed love triangle between a banker, his fiancée, and his best friend, the real gems are the narrative flaws and subplots, such as the scene in which characters are inexplicably playing football in tuxedos. It doesn’t make much sense as a whole, but “The Room” is oddly worth suffering through again and again - with Wiseau’s memoir of making the film even being adapted into a critically acclaimed movie 14 yeas later!

#10: “Braindead” [aka “Dead Alive”] (1992)

This “zom-com” was directed by Peter Jackson of “The Lord of the Rings” fame. Its plot is classic B-movie material, following the spread of a zombie virus through a hybrid creature known as a “Sumatran rat-monkey.” This creature is the offspring of tree monkeys that’ve been raped by infected rats – so, needless to say, “Braindead”’s filled with tons of gore. Called “Dead Alive” in North America, its most memorable scene is perhaps when the main character fights his zombie mother, during which she sucks him back into her womb. Initially a box office failure, the comedy horror flick has since garnered a cult following and critical acclaim.

#9: “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” (1978)

This is a classic comedy horror flick – director and writer John DeBello intentionally created a B movie that was a satire of B movies. As such, “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes” is filled with references to horror classics, such as Hitchcock’s “The Birds” and Spielberg’s “Jaws.” The premise is simple: tomatoes that are tired of being consumed have somehow been turned into evil killers, and it is up to a presidentially appointed team to save America. Despite a meager budget and poor critical reviews, the comedy horror became a surprising success among moviegoers, attained cult status and spawned several sequels.

#8: “The Blair Witch Project” (1999)

Often praised for its impact on independent filmmaking, “The Blair Witch Project” is also among the most profitable B-movies ever produced. With its unknown actors, largely improvised dialogue, and handheld cinematography, it comes as no surprise that this horror film was made for less than a million dollars. The home movie aesthetic proved to be a selling point, however, as audiences weren’t sure if they were witnessing a legitimate documentary or the greatest hoax ever filmed. Just as found footage flicks were a novel idea at the time, so was viral marketing and the internet played a huge role in its $248 million box office revenue. A different kind of B-movie for a new generation, “The Blair Witch Project” was a true gamechanger.

#7: “Mad Max” (1979)

“Mad Max: Fury Road” cost at least $150 million and even scored a Best Picture nomination. This franchise is rooted in B-movie glory, though, and the 1979 classic remains Max Rockatansky’s grittiest outing. Starring a then-relatively-unknown Mel Gibson, “Mad Max” marked the feature-length directorial debut of George Miller. Despite having limited money and resources, Miller crafted a high-octane post-apocalyptic world that was as hard-hitting as a war zone and as hellish as a heavy metal album cover. Bringing something utterly unique to the exploitation genre, “Mad Max” went on to make more than $100 million at the worldwide box office. While the franchise would get bigger and in many respects better, revisiting the original reminds us how much you can accomplish with so little.

#6: “Re-Animator” (1985)

We’re not sure if this is what H. P. Lovecraft had in mind when he wrote “Herbert West–Reanimator” in the 1920s. If you think about it, though, many of Lovecraft’s stories seem tailor-made to be reworked as B-movies, and this cult classic demonstrates why. “Re-Animator” has all the trademarks for a classic mad scientist tale, but what really gives the film a pulse is its sense of humor. A talking severed head has never managed to be so gruesome and yet simultaneously so funny. It’s tough to convey just how gory “Re-Animator” gets while keeping this video in good taste, but it earns the X rating it received upon release. To come up with some of this bloody imagery, you’d definitely need an imaginative head on your shoulders.

#5: “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975)

“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” remains something of an anomaly. Distinguished by its tongue-in-cheek comedy, this musical was essentially a loving sendup of B-movies. At the same time, “Rocky Horror” still functioned as a legitimate B-movie in its own right with a mix of horror, science fiction, and camp. Finding a balance between parody and homage, it showed moviegoers that trash shouldn’t be rejected; if anything, it should be embraced and audiences most certainly embraced “Rocky Horror.” Through late-night showings, it exploded into a phenomenon with fans becoming an integral part of the experience. The fact that people still regularly attend screenings in Dr. Frank-N-Furter attire is a testament to the film’s unlikely legacy. Midnight movies wouldn’t be what they are today without it.

#4: “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1956)

A lot of B-movies are enjoyable purely based on how over-the-top and silly they are, but “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” is a different breed entirely. Granted, the acting can be a tad hoaky and it was clearly made for next to nothing. Keeping in line with its theme, though, the film is more than meets the eye. Peeling back its plot about pod people, there’s a thought-provoking message about conformity. Some critics have even argued that the film is an allegory for anti-communism, although that reportedly wasn’t the intention. Commentary aside, the film works as a tense, innovative, and (above all else) fun thriller. The studio may’ve labeled it as a B-movie, but “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” has gone down as an A-lister.

#3: “The Thing” (1982)

It’s only fitting that we’d transition from one movie about body-snatching to another. With a budget of $15 million, this John Carpenter classic did admittedly cost more than some of the other movies on our list. Let’s be honest, though. “The Thing” is a B-movie at its core, from its creepy central creature, to its cast of cult actors, to its joyfully disgusting practical effects. In a way, B-movies have always been in Carpenter’s DNA with “They Live” being another key example. Of all his films, however, “The Thing” possesses the most qualities that we look for in a B-movie. It’s the kind of flick that’s best experienced late at night with a bucket of popcorn ready to throw up into the air in shock.

#2: “The Evil Dead” (1981)

This film single-handedly launched the careers of director Sam Raimi and lead actor Bruce Campbell. Its plot was straightforward: five college kids are staying in a cabin in the woods when they inadvertently unleash the undead through an audiotape. “The Evil Dead”’s story and gore even had Stephen King raving! In fact, the critical reviews it earned back then still stand now. The cult classic was also an instant financial success everywhere, - except for in the States, where its $2.4 million gross was considered disappointing. Regardless, the supernatural horror flick would go on to spawn a media franchise, including two well-received sequels, “Evil Dead II” and “Army of Darkness,” video games and a TV series.

Fake #1: “Bee Movie” (2007)

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

#1: “Night of the Living Dead” (1968)

This ‘60s movie immediately became the standard for zombie films! George A. Romero’s classic was produced on a measly $114,000 budget and earned more than $30 million at the box office! As it was released a month before the introduction of the MPAA film rating system, many unaware parents let their children go see “Night of the Living Dead,” and since many came out emotionally traumatized, a public outcry quickly ensued. Despite this, the zombie movie has made a lasting impact on the horror genre. Spawning several sequels and inspiring multiple remakes, its success also allowed co-creator John A. Russo to write the novel “Return of the Living Dead,” which was turned into a successful B-movie of the same name in the mid-’80s directed by Dan O’Bannon.