We all have a movie we love not because it's good, but because it's so incredibly bad. But why do we like bad movies so much? Cult hits like Tommy Wiseau's The Room have maintained a steady popularity among audiences not in spite of, but because of their flaws. YouTuber Now You See It has a theory that not only explains our love of poor movies, but also our admiration for really good ones.
I absolutely love the room, bizarre I just love everything about it's unintentionally hilarious and Tommy wiseau is unreal, what a film, the scene in the flower shop is on another level ha— Gardsy 📽 (@Gardsy) November 14, 2017
Now You See It's theory revolves around his definition of "camp." Camp, in his eyes, is when a movie indulges in overly theatrical or unrealistic choices, which everyone in the movie treats as seriously as possible. Taking advantage of camp is not a new trick — the seriousness surrounding the insanity of a Sharknado is very similar to the tongue-in-cheek fear of a Robot Monster in 1953.
But it's not just bad movies that use camp for laughs! Now You See It also pointed out many instances when good, even great movies, let themselves get carried away by theatrics that would never occur in real life while the rest of the film treated them as perfectly normal and serious. Movies by well-respected filmmakers like Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, and Aaron Sorkin regularly feature campy behaviors or quirks that delight audiences. Aside from the obvious comedic value of watching something silly be treated with huge amounts of respect, camp also forces the audience away from binary thought processes like "good vs. bad." They're simultaneously good AND bad.
As the perfect example of a "campy" movie achieving greatness alongside constant silliness, Now You See It cites The Princess Bride, Rob Reiner's classic adventure flick, which is often noted for its humor and over-the-top theatrics. Framing the story as a children's tale, The Princess Bride makes endless choices solely for dramatic flair — while never failing to take them seriously.
But why do we like bad movies? Following the same logic as before, it's because they make theatrical, unrealistic choices and take them completely seriously. The only difference is that they're not doing it on purpose. Bad movies use camp to the same effect, but without the intentionality. In other words, the seriousness with which they treat what were probably "bad" movie-making choices like horrible acting, dialogue, and camerawork, reads to a modern audience as funny, or even profound.
*Warning: Video contains explicit language and just some of the worst acting you'll ever see*