Spellbound (1945): Alfred Hitchcock would be nowhere if people held his films to a level of believability. That said, what’s really vexing about this one isn’t its silly plot. It’s that it’s beholden to an inane pop interpretation of Sigmund Freud. Gregory Peck has suppressed memory of a murder and, because Freudian analysis was suddenly in vogue, that means the case is solved via a dream sequence. A dream sequence designed by Salvador Dalí, mind you, as well as a wonderfully ludicrous climax involving a forced perspective and a giant revolving pistol. Call it a draw.
Branded to Kill (1967): It’s not that the films of Seijun Suzuki are stupid; intelligence or even basic coherence simply don’t interest them. For more than 10 years, the Japanese stylist worked steadily for Nikkatsu studios. The one stipulation: He could do whatever he wanted, as long as he wasn’t too weird. But he was bored with the dumb scripts—usually yakuza boilerplate—so he overcompensated by becoming more and more experimental. Finally, after Branded to Kill —essentially an avant-garde work—he was fired for making “movies that make no sense and no money.”
Elvira Madigan (1967): Bo Wiederberg was a film critic who sought to prove there was more to Swedish cinema than Ingmar Bergman. Like, say, feature-length perfume ads. Luxurious slow-mo and a Mozart’s piece now known as “the Elvira Madigan suite” are in service of what Roger Ebert coined “The Idiot Plot.”
Flash Gordon (1980): The 1930s Flash Gordon serials were a triumph of production design that inspired, among others, Star Wars. The Dino De Laurentiis version isn’t quite so inspirational (at last not yet), but the stunning visuals are in direct proportion to the imbecility of the script. And you’ve never seen so much red.
Snake Eyes (1998): Brian De Palma will direct a movie just to handle one sequence. Here, it’s a hellzapoppin’ 15-minute tracking shot opener. After that ...
Immortals (2011): For Tarsem Singh (The Fall), the dumber the script is, the crazier the imagery. In this case, a bastardization of Greek myth yields some of the most wack visuals snuck into mall theaters since David Lynch’s Dune.