The Room: Is it still the worst movie ever made?

Has any movie managed to usurp Tommy Wiseau's 2003 film?

Prod DB © Wiseau-Films / DR THE ROOM de Tommy Wiseau 2003 USA avec Tommy Wiseau
Tommy Wiseau in 2003's The Room. (Alamy)

On 27 June, 2003, The Room premiered in Los Angeles and the legend of the "Citizen Kane of bad movies" was born. Now 20 years on, has any movie come along to claim the crown from Tommy Wiseau's magnum opus?

A seasoned connoisseur of bad movies, always on the search for a film that is objectively rubbish but yet manages to still be incredibly entertaining, I might be one of the few people who’s watched the whole Wild Things franchise, Road House 2 and Plughead Rewired, the not-at-all anticipated sequel to Circuitry Man starring the baddie from Commando.

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So I’m honoured to lend my cinematic tastebuds to this list on the 20th anniversary of The Room, wondering if it remains the best worst movie ever made.

The Room (2003)

Prod DB © Wiseau-Films / DR THE ROOM de Tommy Wiseau 2003 USA avec Tommy Wiseau
Tommy Wiseau in 2003's The Room. (Alamy)

The stories are now legend, captured brilliantly in both the book and movie version of The Disaster Artist, the story of its complicated production and the enigmatic leading man at its centre.

The talk-along screenings are myriad, the endless MacGuffin titbits you miss until at least the 15th viewing, the memes – my God, the memes – are all there and fully deserved. This tale of a man, his betrayal, his sorrow has rightly sat upon the Mount Olympus of great bad movies since its release back in 2003.

Wiseau’s face towered over LA on his infamous billboard for years after. But have any films since managed to topple his achievement?

Pretenders to the throne

Blackbird (2022)

The UK poster for Blackbird, the debut feature film from Michael Flatley (Lord of the Dance). (Wildcard Distribution)
The UK poster for Blackbird, the debut feature film from Michael Flatley (Lord of the Dance). (Wildcard Distribution)

It’s a particular joy that Michael Flatley’s debut as writer/director/actor/everything else of a major motion picture begins with his film company name and logo - Dancelord Pictures, accompanied by a load of tapping feet.

The remaining 80 minutes are never going to live up to that, or the drone shots of his Irish country pile and his whimsically-angled funeral hat, even though he tries his best.

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Like Wiseau, this is a glorious narcissistic achievement, but suffers fatally for being far too po-faced. There are some laughs for sure – a mythical society of war criminals who all wear the same ring, a secret agency called The Chieftains, ChatGPT dialogue and a great moment when the head baddie giggles at something and then suddenly stops and looks constipated.

Watch a trailer for Blackbird

It’s even got its own Jaws IV sequence — bear with me — where Flatley and his buddy get caught up in a close-range shootout which would be literally impossible not to die in, before emerging a little sore the other side. You see? Like how Michael Caine and Mario van Peebles escape Bruce the shark despite basically being bitten in half and kept underwater for 10 minutes.

On the plus side, Flatley lets himself kill someone by punching them once in the face and there’s a definite opening for Blackbird 2. But no embarrassing love scene?! What are you playing at, Michael?!

For now, “The Greek shipping tycoon wants to talk to you, as well as the Mafioso on table 12.” Close, but no jaunty cigar.

Cats (2019)/Sex And the City 2 (2010)

James Corden as Bustopher Jones in 'Cats'. (Credit: Universal)
James Corden as Bustopher Jones in 'Cats'. (Universal)

Yes, Cats and Sex And The City 2 are embarrassingly awful. But with top-tier talent, hundreds of millions in the budget and the backing of big studios, there is simply no way these two cinematic atrocities should be considered on the same level as The Room.

Kristin Davis, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall and Cynthia Nixon in 2010's Sex and the City 2. (Alamy)

They should make you very, very angry. You can feel furious that some genuinely good actors get made to look foolish and that hundreds of highly-skilled FX artists are hung out to dry because the assignment was so badly conceived from the get-go.

Read more: Andrew Lloyd-Webber shares Cats reaction

But don’t you dare compare this to Wiseau’s gem.

The oeuvre of ‘auteur’ Neil Breen

You might not have heard of Neil Breen, so if you have not, I suggest you go and Google him. Then come back and agree that it would be punching down of the highest order for me to criticise his attempts at filmmaking.

They are objectively terrible and it’s faintly ridiculous that he seems (I think?) to actually believe what he’s doing is breaking new ground in the sci-fi genre.

But mostly what you should think after watching Twisted Pair or Fateful Findings is that as he approaches retirement from whatever industry has enabled him to afford the Adobe Stock image subscription which makes up the majority of what you see on-screen (there is one truly incredible moment in a private jet during Twisted Pair where the stewardess walks into ‘the plane’ and looks directly at the camera which I’m pretty sure is a buyable gif projected on a green screen), he’s found himself and his friends something to do on the weekend. It clearly makes him happy, let him be.

The Fanatic (2019)

John Travolta plays an obsessed fan in Fred Durst's thriller 'The Fanatic'. (Credit: Quiver Distribution)
John Travolta plays an obsessed fan in Fred Durst's thriller 'The Fanatic'. (Quiver Distribution)

There are various forums online that proclaim 2019’s The Fanatic, co-written and directed by Limp Bizkit singer Fred Durst and starring John Travolta as an obsessive stalker with a terrible bowlcut, to be one of the worst films ever made.

But I would counter with this. John Travolta is one of Hollywood’s greatest ever stars. Indeed, I would suggest one of its greatest actors. I’m serious. The man cannot not be interesting to watch. He is so comfortable in his thespian skin, so magnetic as a performer, that it is physically impossible for anything in which he stars to be bad to sit through.

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You can think it unworthy of his talents, you can think the film as a whole to be a poorly-directed, terribly-written mess. These things are true. But it’s got Travolta in it. So it can’t be that bad.

Go and watch Speed Kills (2018) and tell me I’m wrong.

United Passions (2014)

Sam Neill and Tim Roth in 2014's United Passions. (Alamy)

This biopic of FIFA starring Tim Roth as Sepp Blatter has been rubbished by pretty much everyone involved in the making of it.

Talking to Yahoo in 2016, Roth said: “[United Passions] was a crap movie that I did for for money.”

“Most actors, truly, never get to make a movie they’re proud of at all. We get to make a lot of movies we’re NOT proud of, but that [United Passions] would come pretty much top of my list.”

As such, it can’t be considered on the same level as The Room because to stand against that masterpiece you too have to be convinced you’ve made something that’s all but guaranteed to be accepted into the American Film Institute’s list of protected movies.

When even the filmmakers and cast hate what they’ve created – and not even during some ironic convention panel 30 years later – it’s toast.

The Birdemic franchise

BIRDEMIC: SHOCK AND TERROR, 2008. ©Severin Films/Courtesy Everett Collection
2008's Birdemic: Shock and Terror. (Severin Films/Everett Collection/Alamy)

Possibly the closest Hollywood has to an auteur on the scale of Tommy Wiseau is James Nguyen. This former software salesman has the same kind of nebulously-constructed finance model as his compatriot, as well as the always-excellent 12-year gap between production and release of his thriller, Replica.

But it is for the Birdemic franchise that Nguyen has truly become a Tinseltown behemoth and rightly so. Very weird, produced with little to no knowledge of cinematic tradition but with a barrelful of chutzpah, the three Birdemic movies could have been put in the hands of a big-name filmmaker and probably been a perfectly-serviceable B movie trilogy.

Unfortunately, they weren’t. But the writer/director’s self-belief, his reasoning that there was a general public waiting with baited breath for his movie output, is a joy to share in.

Where Nguyen doesn’t quite reach the heady heights of Tommy Wiseau in by nature of the fact that Tommy trusted himself to make an intimate, pathos-fuelled family drama driven by witty dialogue, raw emotion and scenery-chewing characters. The former relied on killer birds.

The results are in…

Prod DB © Wiseau-Films / DR THE ROOM de Tommy Wiseau 2003 USA avec Tommy Wiseau
Tommy Wiseau in 2003's The Room. (Alamy)

Many have tried, but 20 years on, they’ve all failed: The Room remains the worst movie ever made.

Hail King Tommy!

Nostalgia: Read more