The 50 Most Bizarre B-Movies From The '50s, '60s, & '70s
The Groovy Era was full of some of the most purely strange b-movies that have ever been made and if you skipped them the first time around (or weren't alive when they were screening at drive-ins) it's time to check them out.
The following cult classics are from every genre from science fiction, to horror, exploitation, and even the beach party flicks that were popular for about two seconds.
Keep reading to find creatures from space, communists, werewolf bikers, and A LOT of radiation. Remember, all of the following b-movies are campy cult classics, and they're absolutely worth your time.
Plan 9 From Outer Space
With all of the plans from outer space out there it's hard to know which one is the most maniacal. Thankfully Ed Wood wrote and directed this film all about interstellar beings resurrecting the dead as zombies, vampires, and bumbling creeps before humanity can build a sun-powered bomb. Starring Vampira and believed to be the "worst film ever made," Plan 9 From Outer Space is a must see.
Mesa of Lost Women
This 1953 cult classic follows a mad scientist working in Mexico to create giant spiders so he can harvest their venom and inject into women that he kidnaps. From there he hopes to use these genetically enhanced spider-women to do, uh, something... evil?
Cat Women of the Moon
Finally, a film that posits that cat women are living on the moon. When a group of astronauts discover these cat women they also discover that these cat women want to steal their spaceship and leave them to rot on the Earth orbiting rock.
Them! asks the question, "What would you do if you were attacked by giant nuclearly mutated ants?" If you're anything like the folks in this 1954 sci-fi B-movie you'd grab a flamethrower and start rocking.
Steve McQueen stars in this classic film about a small town fighting a big glob of space trash that eats everything in its way.
The Creature With the Atom Brain
The 1955 schlock-fest has it all: Nazis. A mad scientist. Zombies. Wise guys. Radiowave powered mind control. All of these disparate elements come together when the mad scientist uses mind controlled zombies to bring an exiled Italian mobster back to power. Great!
Godzilla, King of the Monsters!
The Japanese version of this film is a stone cold classic, but the American cut does away with much of the subtext and instead focuses on an American journalist who saves the world from the giant nuclear lizard. Sadly not after Godzilla destroys Tokyo.
I Was A Teenage Werewolf
Hypnotized into turning into a werewolf (that old story), Michael Landon plays a teenager doing his best to overcome his anger issues by smashing one jar of milk at a time. While this movie hits every trope of the teen problem movies of the '50s, it's an undeniable classic.
Beautiful Women and the Hydrogen Man
This cult classic follows the Tokyo police as they investigate a strange group of people who disappear, only leaving their clothes as evidence. Is a serial killer? Nope. It's a mutant living in the sewers that's melting everything it gets its "hands" on.
I Married a Monster From Outer Space
Don't you hate it when this happens? When Marge Bradley Farrell realizes that her husband has been swapped out with an alien from a mysterious planet she has to stop an invasion before the rest of the men on Earth are replaced and the women give birth to human-alien hybrids.
Monster on the Campus
No, this isn't about the hazing scandals of the '90s (and 2000s, also the 2010s), it's about a professor who comes into contact with the blood of a prehistoric fish. The professor lives out the worst nightmare for academics everywhere as he turns into a Neanderthal with a bloodlust for college-age teens.
The Brain That Wouldn’t Die
In this stone cold cult classic, an unhinged, mad doctor does everything he can to keep his decapitated girlfriend alive while also keeping a giant mutant creature chained up in his basement. Ah, love.
The Hideous Sun Demon
When Dr. Gil McKenna is exposed to radiation (natch) he turns into a lizard monster whenever he's hit with sweet Vitamin D from the sun. This is one of the few films with two credited directors, and you know what that means. It's not very good.
Teenagers From Outer Space
Teenagers are bad enough, but teenagers from outer space? Forget about it. When a teenaged alien catches feelings or an Earth girl he decides to stop his are from turning the Earth into a food source. It's kind of like Romeo and Juliet but with giant space lobsters.
The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies!!?
This delightful cult classic from the 1960s shows just what can go wrong when you burn a fortune teller at your local carnival. When the young Jerry fails to heed the warning of a Romani woman she lays the smack down on him curse wise and turns him into a non-living mixed-up zombie.
Girl in the Gold Boots
From the director of The Astro-Zombies, this exploitation classic shows just what happens when you go all in on your dreams. Specifically the dream of becoming a go-go dancer in a club that's actually a front for a drug dealer who also employs a draft dodging folk singer.
Fire Maidens From Outer Space
The one thing every astronaut hopes for is to simply find an old man and his bakers dozen of sexy daughters on a moon, and that's pretty much what happens in this movie. Unfortunately before the astronauts can settle down on the 13th moon of Jupiter they have to take care of a pretty nasty monster. Ain't that the way it always goes?
Attack of the Crab Monsters
When a group of researchers travel to a forgotten island in the Pacific to study the effects of nuclear radiation they get a little more than they bargained for. Specifically, giant man-eating crabs.
Spacemen Appear in Tokyo
You read that right, spacemen do appear in Tokyo in this very strange film about starfish alien creatures who turn a female of their species into that of a human woman pop star to warn Earthlings of an impending meteor. Also known as Warning from Space, this truly bizarre film is said to have influenced Stanley Kubrick while making 2001: A Space Odyssey.
When a college professor's wife goes out of town the last thing expects is for his futuristic television set to start controlling his life. This film now feels less like fiction and now more like a documentary.
Invasion of the Saucermen
Don't you hate it when you just want to take your best gal up to lover's lane but you end up running over an alien with a huge head and jumpstarting an interplanetary war? Starring Frank Gorshin (The Riddler from Adam West's Batman series), this film is a lot of fun even if it makes absolutely no sense.
The Saga of the Viking Women and Their Voyage to the Waters of the Great Sea Serpent
Do you like sea serpents and viking women? If so, you're in luck because this movie definitely has both of those things. Even if you're not into all the delights that the title promises, at just over 66 minutes there's not a wasted moment.
The Brain Eaters
Featuring Leonard Nimoy in an early role (so early that his name is misspelled in the credits), this Roger Corman cult classic shows just how quickly society can break down when parasitic creatures from the center of the Earth start boring into people's heads and turning them against one another.
The Giant Gila Monster
Come for the giant gila monster, stay for the Mexican beaded lizard that was used by production when they couldn't actually get ahold of a gila monster.
The 30 Foot Bride of Candy Rock
So this movie is insane. Once you finish reading every word of this article drop what you're doing and seek it out. The film follows Lou Costello who plays an inventor who's wife grows to enormous size after she's exposed to radiation. He's fine with it, but of course the local yokels take issue with a giant woman looming over their town.
Two Thousand Maniacs!
Hoo-boy this one is a doozy. Inspired by Brigadoon, Two Thousand Maniacs! shows just what happens when a group of northern tourists find themselves captive at a Confederate celebration on the centennial of the Civil War. Like every film by Herschel Gordon Lewis this movie is not for the faint of heart.
Manos: The Hands of Fate
Plan 9 From Outer Space gets all the credit for being the "worst movie of all time," but that's only because enough people haven't submitted to Manos: The Hands of Fate. Written, directed, starring, and produced by Harold P. Warren, the film follows a vacationing family who runs afoul of a satyr, his Frank Zappa looking master, and a bunch of hypnotized wives.
I Accuse My Parents
Parents take heed - If you let your children have even an ounce of freedom they'll run away from home, get a job at a diner, join a gang, commit murder, and then blame the whole thing on you. At least that's what can happen according to I Accuse My Parents.
Werewolves on Wheels
In this treasure of a '70s relic a biker gang destroys a Satanic monastery, and because of that one little mistake they're destroyed by a werewolf.
I Was a Teenage Frankenstein
Being a teen in the 1950s was no laughing matter. You're parents didn't take you seriously. You had to get good grades and try not to look like a goof in front of your sweetheart, and don't forget about the looming threat of mad scientists who seek to turn you and your friends into a bunch of mixed up body parts much like some kind of Frankenstein monster.
The Atomic Brain
Yet another film about a rich heiress bringing three women from Europe to America so she can put her brain into one of their nubile bodies.
Prince of Space
This Japanese export is confusing to say the least, but it features a superhero who pretends to be from space who fights humanoid aliens who are actually from space with the help of a group of precocious children. It's not for the faint of heart.
Santa Claus Conquers The Martians
Believe it or not, but in this humble holiday film Santa Claus does in fact conquer the Martians. Why is Kris Kringle at war with our brothers from the red planet? Simply because Martian parents don't want their children to grow up fetishizing capitalism like Earth children. That doesn't sit right with Saint Nick, and you know what happens when you're on his bad side.
Secret Agent Super Dragon
This Italian rip off of the James Bond series follows a CIA agent trying to stop a crime syndicate from dosing the United States with a psychotropic drug. If you can handle the dubbing this will easily be in your top 10 James Bond films.
When the sheriff of a small hamlet is dusted by outlaws, his wife picks up the badge and takes out the trash. She also falls in love which honestly feels a little too soon but who are we to judge?
Teen-Age Crime Wave
This "taut" "thriller" shows just what kind of trouble teens can get into after they break out of prison and take over a family at a farmhouse. Great title, okay movie.
Invasion U.S.A. shows just what can go wrong if you, yes YOU, don't do your part to stop the red wave of communism in 1950s America. When a group of lackadaisical Americans ignore the Cold War, Russian forces take over the United States much to the chagrin of our main characters. The twist at the end of this movie is not to be missed.
The Sword and the Dragon
This weird little Soviet fantasy film is both a fascinating historical document and one of the strangest movies about Barbarians attacking 13th century Russia that you'll ever see.
How do you feel about creepy ventriloquists? How about body swapping? Animated dolls? Well in this film a creepy ventriloquist hypnotizes some poor schmo into zapping his spirit into a doll while using those same powers to get major bucks out of his audience. It's a little dry (read: English) but it's honestly a pretty cool movie.
The Violent Years
This Ed Wood penned film is a trenchant critique on young, rich people who uqsetheir privilege to get their kicks committing crime and *checks notes* joining the communist party. Ed Wood's films tend to play out like surreal video installations when he's behind the camera, but with an actual director at the helm The Violent Years is actually very watchable.
This Island Earth
One of the best b-movies of all time, This Island Earth takes the audience from a research laboratory, to a bigger laboratory, to outer space while an Earth scientist tries his hardest to save an alien race from dying out completely.
The Giant Spider Invasion
This 1975 cult classic shows a small town in Wisconsin in peril as mutant spider eggs hatch out of a meteor and begin laying waste to the area. Out of all the b-movies here The Giant Spider Invasion was the biggest hit, scoring a hot $15 million box office off of a minuscule budget.
Also known as Five the Hard Way, this exploitation movie about indie motorcycle racers has some pretty uncomfortable scenes but it's oddly compelling.
The Horror of Party Beach
An excellent addition to the beach party genre, The Horror of Party Beach shows just what can go wrong when radioactive sea monsters start dragging girls into the ocean. If you're wondering, yes there are multiple dance sequences.
The Phantom Planet
A straight up classic, The Phantom Planet is a Gulliver's Travels riff about an astronaut who crash-lands on a planet full of tiny aliens only to be shrunk down and taken prisoner.
To get revenge on a drug kingpin who killed her fiancee, the furious Linda goes undercover with her her fiancee's brother as drug runners to bring the entire operation down.
Track of the Moon Beast
Has this ever happened to you: When a mineralogist in New Mexico is bonked on the head by a small meteor he becomes a lizard monster by the light of the full moon.
Horrors of Spider Island
When an all-girl dance group and their manager crash land on an island they discover that it's crawling with mutant spiders, literally.
This goofball beach movie follows two college buddies as they attempt to solve the theft of a mysterious Chinese scroll while dancing to Little Richard. At the same time, a set of parents is in the middle of their own heist. This may not be an "essential" film but it's definitely worth checking out if you're looking for a cinematic relic of another era.
When a caveman walks out of the Neolithic era and into 1960s southern California he wreaks all kinds of havoc. It's up to you Tom Nelson to save the day. This is a truly weird b-movie that you've got to see. Just remember to watch out for snakes.