Top 10 Unintentional Comedies of the 90s

by Eric Melin on March 31, 2009

in Top 10s

Today’s user-submitted Top 10 comes from Ryan Magnuson, a musician and film student at Kansas University in Lawrence, KS. Ryan proves that there is more than one way to read a film, and sometimes it’s better if it’s not the way it was originally intended. If you’d like to submit your own Top 10, just email me at eric@scene-stealers.com. Here’s Ryan:

There’s usually only one way a bad movie can be entertaining. It has to be bad enough to make a person laugh. An unintentional comedy is either a comedy that is not funny (or funny in a way that’s not intended) or a film outside of the comedy genre that does not intend to be viewed as a comedy. There’s nothing funnier than seeing a film take itself too seriously. This list contains movies that unintentionally flip the genre that spawned them. In the process, they become accidental “hit” films. These films are similar in that they all reflect played-out Hollywood trends of their day. Sometimes trendy 90s social commentary is attempted and unsuccessfully conveyed. This list salvages 10 sad failures of film and gives them new life! These are the Top 10 Unintentional Comedies of the 90s.

whoopi sister act 210. Sister Act 2: Back In the Habit (1993)

This Whoopi Goldberg sequel is a true cornerstone of disasterpiece cinema. Nothing “keeps you off the streets” quite like a viewing of this accidental laugh riot. I say “accidental” because when you’re laughing, you’re not laughing with the movie—you’re laughing at it. These rag-tag group of misfits—the disadvantaged choir students in Whoopi’s class—understand that giving up is not an option. Add some “crazy” goody-goody nuns and things get hysterical! One scene gets this film in: The choir concert at the end will give you chills to the funny bone as well as head-cracking raps about God: “You down with G.O.D.? Yeah you know me! You down with G.O.D? Yeah you know me! Who’s down with G.O.D.? Everybody!” The class comes out in street clothes and their performance includes a section where two rappers come out and “crush the mic.” “Sister Act 2” is safe enough to be shown in the classroom for inspirational purposes, and the fact that its suitable for all ages means that kids have a better chance of seeing what unintentional comedy is all about early on! This hopelessly clean movie is a slam dunk—a 10 on the corny meter. The unintentional jokes just continue to roll. It almost got beat out by “Dangerous Minds,” but saved itself by having such an un-punny title.

platt mcconaughey time to kill9. A Time to Kill (1996)

Oh my. This John Grisham adaptation is offensively hilarious. The acting (not to mention—the inconsistent accents!) from an all-star cast including Samuel L. Jackson, Matthew McConaughey, Ashley Judd, and Chris Cooper is over-the-top bad. These are great actors. This proves how weak the script, written by Oscar-winner Akiva Goldsman (for “A Beautiful Mind”), really is. It is a scream how unfunny the “comic relief” role played by Oliver Platt is. He is not charming or witty, and is surprisingly disposable for such a prominent role. Any thought-provoking intentions or ideologies the movie might have been trying to achieve are killed, given the melodramatic shift of focus to the lawyers. For example, there’s an extended hospital scene with Sandra Bullock (the hot-shot add-a-piece to the legal team of Matt and Platt), but none with the prepubescent rape victim that the story supposedly centers around. We do not see the victim’s family throughout most of the film. Instead, we see the lawyers’ late night sessions, relationships, and personal struggles with the case. The light-hearted attitude of these characters negates any serious subject matter that might be at hand. This film is about racism in the Deep South, but it forgets what it’s about to the point of ignoring it completely. This cheapens anything worthwhile it might be trying to say. I’m embarrassed for director Joel Schumacher, who must answer to this steaming pile for the rest of his life. At its worst, it almost resembles contemporary Hollywood Klan porn.

fraser pesci with honors8. With Honors (1994)

“Boy oh boy.” This box-office flop-turned-underground-classic, the audience is constantly treated to kernels of wisdom from a rather unlikely source—a homeless bum (Joe Pesci) who goes to Harvard. An archetype “Did the teacher teach the students or did the student teach the teacher?” scenario occurs when he moves in with four college students. The laughter roars with honors and without regret. Brendan Fraser and Patrick Dempsey help deliver the goods, but it’s Pesci that steals the show. He secretly crashes at the university library, making him an “educated” bum, but still with all the laughs and pitfalls of an ordinary bum. It also contains one of the unintentionally funniest death scenes ever, as Fraser weeps as he reads the last letter written by Pesci, predicting the honorable graduation of Fraser’s character. Quite possibly the worst catch phrase in motion picture history—”Boy oh boy”— is repeated to rolling eyes from characters who will one day learn and grow to miss this really annoying smelly homeless guy. The makers of this film really stink up the joint when they keep mistaking this movie for something with worthwhile and intelligent moral significance.

multiplicity keaton7. Multiplicity (1996)

This Harold Ramis-directed “comedy” makes the list based on sheer ridiculousness alone. A work-obsessed Michael Keaton needs a way to spend more time with his family, so a quirky scientist makes a clone to help him out. That clone makes another clone, and when a fourth clone is added, all hell breaks loose. That’s when all the most atrocious jokes really come at you. You see, the fourth clone is mentally handicapped. Dressed in wacky clothes, says funny stuff like, “I like pizza.” and “I got a wallet.” The jokes are not funny and the “serious marriage problem” talks between Keaton and wife Andie McDowell turn into a barn-burning laugh party when Keaton begins to shed real tears as he tells his wife how much he loves her. No convincingly serious moral dilemmas are ever established and the clones are simply not funny. The movie actually suggests that the third clone didn’t come out right because it’s gay, and the fourth clone really didn’t come out right because he is obviously mentally handicapped. I could see where someone might get offended, but the real joke is on the writers that called these characters interesting or funny to begin with. Buddy, we are laughing at you, not with you. “Multiplicity” is an unintentionally funny comedy to be reckoned with.

christian slater kuffs6. Kuffs (1992)

As if the 8Os cop theme wasn’t played out enough, along comes the empty and formulaic “Kuffs.” This movie is unintentionally funny because the punchlines are some of the weakest and most stock Hollywood has ever seen. One multiple offender: Slater talks bad about his girl throughout the movie, than says shruggishly, “women.” Ha-ha funny: Cops get kicked in the nuts and their voices go falsetto. Christian Slater breaks the fourth wall and talks to the audience throughout the film with the most laughably boring narration ever. There is a cheap imitation of a “Beverly Hills Cop”-type score, some completely meaningless gunfire porn, and one of the most ridiculous love stories I’ve ever seen. From “Saved By the Bell”-type heartbroken phone calls to the continuous 8th-grade love sentiments, it is impossible to take co-stars Milla Jovovich and Slater seriously. I left this at #6, but one could make an argument for this one potentially cracking the top 5 someday. It is the “Coupon the Movie” of cop films.

edward norton gere primal fear5. Primal Fear (1996)

This “thriller” cracks the top five because it is so serious and somber yet impossible to take seriously. Ed Norton got an Oscar nomination for the most melodramatic part ever, a stuttering Southern man with multiple-personality disorder on trial for double murder. Laura Linney and Richard Gere combine for a vicious laugh team in this one. Gere is the take-no-crap defense lawyer who goes up against the vulnerable prosecutor (Linney). They turn in classic depictions of alcoholic lawyers who also—once in a while—cuss and match wits in hilarious insignificant fashion. “I wish you two would do your fucking goddamn jobs!” is a classic Gere quote that provides endless unintentional laughs! Their hilariously unbelievable and hollow characters are dropped into a premise that actually had potential, which ends up making serious scenarios mutate into unintentionally funny ones. It is nearly impossible to take the narrative as seriously as the actors do. It also has a really pretentious operatic and choir-filled score that inflates the ridiculousness with every soprano. If you need an unintentionally hilarious Oscar movie, this would definitely be my recommendation.

higher learning rappaport4. Higher Learning (1995)

John Singleton’s wannabe-“Do The Right Thing”-on -campus is an absolute slaying of any reflection on reality whatsoever because the characters and situations are so ridiculous. The only kind of higher learning we get is of the unintentional comedic genius Singleton can be when his dramatic intentions automatically flip to comical ones. Ice Cube is funny because he is Ice Cube. However, his character amounts to nothing, lost in this movie’s lack of ideological significance. I almost put this at number one because it is literally a laugh a minute. Unrealistic scenarios (from the neo-Nazis that recruit Michael Rappaport to shoot minorities on campus to the “lesbian only” depiction of homosexuality on campus) and way too many ideological black holes make it hard to take this movie’s “message” seriously. That is, unless one takes it seriously as a comedy. Great success!

indian summer poster3. Indian Summer (1993)

This film’s message: “some things never change.” When it comes to bad movies, this is certainly the case. Writer/director Mike Binder’s “Indian Summer” is the most unintentionally funny coming-of-age adult flashback film I’ve ever seen. A pretentious movie gets even more pretentious in one scene when characters try to tackle racial injustices of the past. They talk about the time when their camp counselor didn’t hire a guy because he was African-American. The title of the film and the fact that everyone in the film is white only makes Bill Paxton’s flashback that recalls the incident even funnier. Everyone gets more than they bargained for—such as unending clichés passing for genuine life lessons—when they revisit a childhood summer camp. The kicker in this one, however, is a melodramatic bridge scene where a one-on-one talk between Kevin Pollak and Elizabeth Perkins turns into a surface-value reflection and laughable introspective sentiment. As he talks about how much smaller the camp has gotten, Pollak gets sage advice from a friend: “Nothing has gotten smaller. You have changed.” All of the jokes are wickedly bad and all the characters are tragically unfunny. Camp counselor Uncle Lou, played by Alan Arkin, and his mentally handicapped assistant (played by “Spider-Man” director Sam Raimi!) provide for some great unintentional laughs. This movie tries embarrassingly to tug at the heart strings. Instead, it tugs itself right into the lake. It was rescued from drowning after this list flipped its intended effect. You’re welcome.

congo gorilla glasses 3d 19952. Congo (1995)

This movie is one of the greatest shams of all time. Laura Linney, one year before her raucous turn in “Primal Fear,” turns in an unintentionally masterful performance here. “Put ‘em on the endangered species list!” Make no mistake—she holds the key to this film being as unintentionally funny as it can be. Supposedly she is sent into the African jungle to rescue her missing ex-fiancé, but secretly her boss (the laughably hostile Joe Don Baker) just wants her to find diamonds. Baker is laughably hostile, and Tim Curry is out-of-his-mind bad as the foreign diamond expert. Instead of doing the book justice, we get almost no graphically violent gorilla scenes, and actors in gorilla suits pale in comparison to CGI effects in other movies like “Jurassic Park.” A talking gorilla and a disastrous foreign accent by Ernie Hudson “The Great White Hunter” also help lower the boom on any hope of taking this movie seriously. Not until this list has it gotten the credibility it deserves. Frankenstein-esque comparisons about humans and the limits of technology are squandered for gut-busting ridiculous high-horse scenes about diamonds. We thought we were getting a bloodier Jurassic park through the previews and the violent reputation of the novel. Instead, we get a film that disappointed many fans of the book by making it a soft movie about nothing that worthwhile or satisfying. I bask in its unintentional beauty.

bye bye love reiser 19951. Bye Bye Love (1995)

Something about Paul Reiser’s performance makes me think that he really thought this movie was going to be good. How could it be any more unintentionally hilarious? It’s got everything. Three divorced fathers (Reiser, Matthew Modine, and Randy Quaid) find solace in one another as they go through the daily grind of divorced life. The funniest scenes are when Paul Reiser interacts with his daughter. After getting mad at his daughter and throwing money at her in frustration (bad call), she storms out of the house. The door closed, he reflects. “Shit!” Later, he “risks his life” by scaling a branch that is literally 10 ft. off the ground to “rescue” his daughter from their old tree house. Heartwarming! Folks, Reiser’s communication issues between him and his daughter are so cringe-riffic, they will have you begging for more. Modine is a true player. When multiple women come over for dinner and run into his girlfriend—oops! Things get “scary” when he yells at his son for crying about his friends not being able to sleep over. Modine’s “Joker “character from “Full Metal Jacket” resurfaces and erupts more than once! This is especially true when Reiser almost sleeps with Modine’s ex-wife. Don’t forget how terrible Rob Reiner is as the divorce D.J., but give Jack Black credit for his cameo. At times, Randy Quaid is funny, but only because he is Randy Quaid. The script is terrible and most of his scenes are like most of everyone else’s scenes—unintentionally hilarious. James Taylor spawn Ben Taylor offers an unbelievably ineffective musical closer, covering “I Will” by the Beatles during a laugh-inducing epilogue montage, and he absolutely murders it. It cements this little-seen (only $12 mil at the box office) film’s place at #1. “Bye Bye Love” is a true champion because the dramatic scenes are far and away the most hilarious unintentional laugh-grabbers I’ve ever encountered on the silver screen. (Yes, I saw this in its original theatrical run.)

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers and regular critic for KCTV5. He’s a member of the BFCA, VP of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also the current 2013 Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Clark March 31, 2009 at 11:07 am

I never thought “Primal Fear” was comical. I really like that movie. As for the others in this list, they are just bad, not in a way that makes me laugh, but in a way that makes me sleep and be pissed for seeing them.

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2 Kenny March 31, 2009 at 12:36 pm

You’d be lying to yourself if you didn’t think that Congo is pretty sweet.

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3 Ryan April 2, 2009 at 9:19 am

I thought this list was so bad it was funny, you missed out on great unintentional comedies like RoadHouse and missed out on Samuel L. Jackson and McConaughey movies besides A Time to Kill, when they are the princes of a list like this. Some of these movies are dreadful but not in an enjoyable way. And where is Nick Cage? His absence is inexcusable for nearly all his recent work, just a bad job not having the king of unintentional comedy on un unintentional comedy list. I could go on but This list needs a do-over

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4 Kevin April 2, 2009 at 1:01 pm

What’s better than having Michael Keaton in your movie? Having FOUR Michael Keaton’s in your movie! Genius!

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5 Reed April 2, 2009 at 3:41 pm

This is a great list. Thankfully,I’ve only seen one of these films (though I may have caught Bye Bye Love and forced myself to forget the incident).

Some other options:
The Island of Dr. Moreau
Independence Day
Batman & Robin
Meet Joe Black

But I have another Sam Jackson nominee that should be included. My friends and I went to see National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1 at the cheap, $1.50 theater hoping to get a few chuckles. There is nothing intentionally funny about this movie. Nothing. But there is a truly horrendous scene towards the end where Emilio Estevez loads up with all kinds of ammo and gear. The ammo and gear is too heavy and he falls over. That’s the only joke in the scene. It’s also the worst one in the movie (quite a strong statement, believe me). I think because this joke was so awful, my friend Boris and I began laughing uncontrollably and continued for the remaining 15 minutes of the movie. It was like we were just overcome by all the bad jokes and had gone insane. Our other friends became irate with us, but there was nothing we could do to stop the laughter. I still don’t know how this happened… and I don’t plan to re-watch the thing to find out.

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6 Kenny April 2, 2009 at 10:55 pm

I forgot to mention that the soundtrack to Congo is pretty badass.

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7 Elliot April 3, 2009 at 2:32 pm

Yup! Joe Don Baker is a sure thing when it comes to making laughable films.

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8 Ryan April 4, 2009 at 8:07 am

Is it just me or did I not see any steven segal or roadhouse? Its probably just an oversight but still; also no gary busey?? Somebody needs to start watching late nite cable

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9 keri Jarvis April 6, 2009 at 10:37 am

Ryan Magnuson’s list is awesome! Not only is his piece funny, but it is written well. I am a 90′s girl and 35 years old and had a blast reading it. I think Ryan is “The Bomb” or “Fat” or “Sick” or whatever other term people use to compliment others! Nice Job, Ryan!

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10 matt April 19, 2009 at 6:55 pm

how about “snake eyes”? by the middle of the movie, my friends and i were almost shitting in our pants laughing so hard at each ludicrous and useless scene. by far, the worst (and best) movie ive ever seen at the theatre.

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11 Reed May 5, 2009 at 12:22 pm

I caught a bit of Freejack the other day and thought of this list.

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