Movies you won't believe actually exist

Everyone loves a good movie, and sometimes, even a bad one can wind up being fun to watch. There are some films, however, that exist in that hazy gray area outside those two extremes, where they're not defined by quality as much as the fact that they somehow manage to exist in the first place. These are the weird movies: the forgotten or ill-advised sequels, the offbeat ideas that were stretched out to feature length, and the obscure but secretly awesome cult classics that are exactly the kind of strange that you'll want to watch them right now.

Read on to find these movies. You might not believe these are real, but trust us: They actually exist, and they're every bit as bizarre as they sound.

Karate Bearfighter (1975)

If movies were judged by the quality of their titles, then Karate Bearfighter would be considered one of the greatest films of all time, up there with Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Shogun Assassin 2: Lightning Swords of Death. Unfortunately, even a title that great can't keep this movie from being the greatest martial arts spectacular that most people have never heard of.

It's still pretty awesome, though. As the title implies, Karate Bearfighter is built around Masutatsu Oyama (played by the great Sonny Chiba, of The Street Fighter fame) being forced to fist-fight a bear to the death in order to raise money to pay for the medical treatment of a child who was injured by the members of a rival karate school. In other words, it basically has the same plot as, say, Breakin', but with all the breakdancing to save the rec center replaced by a man punching a bear while it tries to murder him. Admittedly, the actual bear fight isn't that great in terms of special effects, and pretty clearly involves Chiba slugging it out with a man in an awkward and ill-fitting costume, but it's still well worth seeing.

And the best part? It's based on a true story. No, really: Mas Oyama was a very real person best known for founding full-contact Kyokushin karate, as well as demonstrating his strength by fighting bulls and killing them with a single punch, a talent that earned him the nickname "Godhand." Not coincidentally, he also trained Sonny Chiba, who starred in an entire trilogy of movies (very loosely) based on Oyama's life — Karate Bearfighter is the second, sandwiched between Karate Bullfighter and Karate For Life.

Pottersville (2017)

To say that Pottersville is a bad movie is sort of like saying outer space is cold. It is, and extremely so, but it's far better defined by the sheer incomprehensibility of it all, and no one is quite sure how and why it came to exist. Plus they both have their share of stars.

Based on the title and the otherwise irrelevant Christmastime setting, Pottersville seems like a weird sort of sequel to It's a Wonderful Life, except that it takes place in the bad timeline where George Bailey was never born. There's even a scene at the end that mirrors the heartwarming bit in the original where the citizens of Bedford Falls show up to help George with the kind of friendship that makes him "the richest man in town." The thing is, Pottersville's version involves one of the characters essentially having to call a town meeting and browbeat everyone into doing it — and that comes after about 80 minutes of a plot based around a man getting blackout drunk dressing up as a sasquatch because he finds out his wife is a furry and has been hopping her bunny-costumed self over to the local sheriff's.

The weirdest thing about it, and the reason it got a little more attention than most other Christmas movies that are released straight to Netflix, is how much star power it has. Academy Award-winner Michael Shannon, Mad Men's Christina Hendricks, Reno 911's Thomas Lennon, Deadwood's Ian McShane, Archer's Judy Greer, and former Hellboy Ron Perlman all show up in this thing. And since they all seem like they're getting there scenes done in as few takes as humanly possible, it's hard to shake the feeling that the whole thing is a weird combination of a fever dream and a Producers-esque tax dodge.

Empire (1964)

If you've ever been watching a movie — any movie — and thought "These moving pictures are great, but I wish that there wasn't anything actually happening," then have we got a film for you. Empire, directed by pop artist Andy Warhol, has all the fun of going to the movies without any of those troublesome events. Instead, it's 8 hours and 5 minutes of the Empire State Building as seen from an office building 16 blocks away. That's it. That's the entire movie. Oh, and it's actually shown in slow motion — despite the lengthy runtime, there's only about six hours of footage that's been stretched out.

To be fair, you do get to watch the Sun set and some lights come on, and if you manage to stick it out to the end, you'll be rewarded with a glimpse of Warhol's reflection in the window through which he's shooting, but otherwise, you can pretty much get the effect by looking at, say, a postcard. If you're in Manhattan, you could probably even try going outside to capture a truly immersive experience, but be warned: Things actually sometimes happen out there.

What's really remarkable about Empire is that it's Warhol's second attempt at filmmaking in this style. It's actually a refinement of the formula he first created in an earlier movie called Sleep from the same year, which consists of 5 hours and 20 minutes of footage featuring performance artist John Giorno taking a nap. Really.

Rubber (2010)

Despite the title, Rubber is not a horror film about a condom that kills people. Instead, it's an 82-minute French movie, filmed in English, about a tire named Robert that comes to life, gains psychokinetic powers, and then goes on a killing spree. Because really, what else is a tire going to do when it comes to life and gets psychokinetic powers?

There's a weird metatextual element to the film, too. It opens with a crowd of people in the desert being gathered together and told that things in movies often happen for no reason, which filmmaker Quentin Dupieux said in an interview was less of a commentary on other films and more because he didn't want to explain how or why a tire could come to life. For the record, the crowd is also murdered over the course of the film, but not by a tire. They get taken out with poisoned turkey.

Beyond that, Rubber seems to draw its inspiration from some pretty weird places. At one point, there's a scene where a sheriff tries to blow Robert the Tire up by dressing up a mannequin as the woman that the tire's been trying to kill for a whole movie and then loading it up with dynamite, in the style of Wile E. Coyote. The most direct influence on the tire's character (which has no dialogue but still has motivations and thought processes), though, according to Dupieux himself, is Pixar's Wall-E.

Killer Condom (1996)

Yes, this movie actually is a horror film about a condom that kills people.

For most moviegoers, that's a shocking premise, but if you're familiar with the other movies produced or distributed by Troma Films, it fits right in with the rest of the catalog. It is, after all, the low-budget schlock studio that had its greatest success with The Toxic Avenger, gave J.J. Abrams and James Gunn their starts, and is mostly known for movies with titles like Chopper Chicks in Zombie Town, Pterodactyl Women From Beverly Hills, and (one we can all get behind) Surf Nazis Must Die!

Even stacked up against those, though, Killer Condom is pretty weird. It focuses on a private detective named Luigi Mackeroni investigating a series of cases where men who stop at a seedy hotel for some down-low trysts wind up getting their ding-dangs bitten off. Needless to say, the culprit is a flesh-eating prophylactic with fangs, and which leaves Luigi a grape shy of a bunch after their first encounter, if you get our meaning. With that in mind, Luigi sets out for a very personal sort of revenge, while also dealing with a star-crossed romance with a gigolo.

The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T (1953)

TV specials like The Cat In the Hat and How the Grinch Stole Christmas! are among the most well-known and beloved television programs of all time, but there's one piece of the Dr. Seuss canon that's rarely discussed: The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T, a 1953 live-action journey into a mind-bogglingly bizarre look at the horrors of piano lessons. It might be so obscure because it was such a dismal failure that Seuss made no mention of it in his autobiography and once compared its brutal critical reception to a moment on set when one child actor got sick and led to a chain reaction of 150 boys all vomiting at once.

But here's the thing: This movie is absolutely worth watching. In The Guardian, Danny Leigh wrote that it's a "delirious, surrealist tale" that "deserves just as much praise as Pixar," and despite the fact that it was a huge flop at the box office, he's not wrong. Set in a strange, fever dream fantasy world, the story follows 10-year-old Billy as he's menaced by a nightmare version of his piano teacher, Dr. Terwiliker. In the dream world, Terwiliker's strict music lessons — loosely based on Seuss' own experiences with a grumpy piano teacher as a child — are twisted into a mad plot to enslave 500 children (with 5,000 fingers) to play a gigantic piano. If that wasn't enough, the hallucinatory Terwiliker also wants to brainwash and marry Billy's mom, keeping her from hooking up with Billy's preference, a neighborhood plumber named Abner Zabladowski.

It's a truly strange film — and was a lot stranger and darker before half the musical numbers and Terwiliker's tendency to decapitate his henchmen were all cut out at the studio's request — but it does an incredible job of translating Seuss' signature visuals into live-action with dizzying set designs and beautiful matte paintings. The results are as disorienting as you'd expect, but Dr. T has managed to become a cult classic after its more recent video release.

Christmas On Mars (2008)

In Jingle Bell Rocks, a documentary about Christmas music, Flaming Lips front man Wayne Coyne shares a story about a movie that his mother described to him when he was a child. According to her, the film was a Christmas movie about astronauts (or possibly sailors) who were going to die on a disabled ship, but were visited by some strange entity who gave them the impression that, as Coyne says, "it was going to be all right." Perhaps unsurprisingly, Coyne was never able to find such a movie, and eventually realized that his mom had probably fallen asleep while watching two different films and gotten them mixed up in a dream.

So naturally, he made the movie himself.

The result is Christmas On Mars. Produced over the course of seven years and featuring an appearance from SNL and Portlandia star Fred Armisen, the film stars Coyne as "The Alien Super-Being." This strange visitor comes to a colony on Mars just as the colonists are planning a Christmas pageant to celebrate the first human child born on the planet. Naturally, the Alien is cast as Santa Claus in the pageant because the astronaut who was previously going to play Jolly Ol' St. Nick committed suicide due to space madness. It's actually even stranger than it sounds, but Pitchfork may have summed it up best by writing that "the film plays like a 2001 that looks like it cost $2,001 to make."

Going Bananas (1987)

Given its tendency to produce movies like the body-swapping martial arts classic Ninja III: The Domination and American Cyborg: Steel Warrior, we could probably fill an entire list of unbelievable movies with the output of the Cannon Group. Even on that list, though, Going Bananas would be at the top. Heck, its very existence is so difficult to believe that it would probably make it on there two or three times.

In terms of plot, it's actually pretty basic. A shockingly intelligent orangutan named Bonzo befriends a young American boy named Ben who's inexplicably touring Africa — referred to as "the darkest and cruelest" of all continents because movies were still pretty racist in 1987 — alongside Dom DeLuise and Jimmie "J.J." Walker. Actually, we should probably clarify that DeLuise and Walker are playing characters in the film, but it wouldn't actually make much difference if they were starring as themselves. Either way, hijinks ensue that range from staggeringly awful to uncomfortably racist, including Bonzo being kidnapped by and escaping from a circus, flying an airplane, and straight up speaking English to Ben and singing songs about how much he loves him. And yes, in case you were wondering, Bonzo's screeching, falsetto voice is among the worst pieces of audio ever committed to film.

What really makes this movie so strange, however, is how it came to exist in the first place. According to the documentary Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films, the original plan was for the film to star Clyde, the orangutan that had co-starred with Clint Eastwood in Every Which Way But Loose. When Clyde was brought in for a meeting, studio head and screenwriter Menahem Golan actually began pitching the movie to Clyde, who (and we cannot stress this enough) was actually an orangutan and therefore probably not interested in movie pitches. In the end, though, Clyde dropped out, probably because the role would've required him to speak English and fly an airplane, and the part went to famous little person actor Deep Roy and a truly terrible ape costume instead.

Ace Ventura Jr.: Pet Detective (2009)

Every now and then, you come across a movie that feels like a background gag from the glory days of The Simpsons somehow managed to claw its way into reality. This film, in which the Ace Ventura franchise goes back to the well with exactly the sort of straight-to-video reboot that has never ever worked out, is one of those.

It will not shock you to learn that Jim Carrey, the star of the first two (and in many people's minds, only two) Ace Ventura movies, is completely absent from this third installment. Instead, our star is his son, Ace Jr., who needs to solve animal crimes in an effort to clear his mother's name after she's framed for kidnapping an endangered panda.

And that's what's so weird about this movie. It's not that someone thought it would be a good idea to film a kid doing his best "all righty then!" impression and then attempt to charge people money for it. It's that this nominally kid-friendly reboot is dark. The stakes are literally Mrs. Ventura being sent to prison, and if you were a fan of the original movie who dropped into this one wondering what your ol' pal Ace was up to, this movie makes sure to explain Carrey's absence by informing you that Ace Ventura Sr. went missing 10 years ago in the Bermuda Triangle and is now presumed dead. Why would you do that? Why would you do any of this?

House (1977)

Of all the films on this list, House is the one that you need to see immediately if you haven't seen it before — and actually, even if you have seen it, it's never the wrong time to watch it again. It's also the one that's probably the most well-known. A high-end Criterion Collection version was released in 2010, and it's become a cult favorite for fans of Japanese cinema and surreal horror flicks.

Also known by the Japanese pronunciation of Hausu to avoid confusion with the American horror flick of the same name, House tells the story of a group of schoolgirls, with each one named for their defining trait. There's Fantasy (who's always imagining things), Prof (the smart one), Mac (who's always eating), Melody (the musician), the kind-hearted Sweet, and Kung Fu (the tough one) who at one point gets into a fistfight with a severed head. The leader of the clique is Gorgeous, and when she gets angry at her father for coming home from his vacation with a new wife, she convinces the other girls to go for a vacation at her aunt's house in the country. The problem, as you might've gathered from the whole "severed head" thing, is that the aunt is actually a witch who absorbs the girls' youth by murdering them in increasingly bizarre ways. Sweet, for instance, is attacked by a possessed futon, and Melody is eaten, piece by piece, by a grand piano.

It's a strange film, but it comes by its strangeness honestly. Tasked with making a horror movie, director Nobuhiko Obayashi based the story on nightmares and fears of his 10-year-old daughter Chigumi, and intentionally avoided making the special effects look realistic in order to underline the dreamlike quality of a story that bounces between characters drowning in a house full of blood spat from the mouth of a demon cat, and a man turning into a pile of bananas for no particular reason. It's amazing, in every sense of the word.