What is a B-Movie?

So, I thought that maybe it would be a good idea to try and explain what a “B-Movie” is and where they came from.  When most of us think of B-Movies, most of us will think of sci-fi movies from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, horror movies from those decades and still others may think of action movies from the 70’s and 80’s.  But to find out where they came from, I guess we should see what the definition of B-Movie is.  Dictionary.com defines B-Movie as “a low-budget movie made especially to accompany a major feature film on a double bill.”

Back in the Golden Age of Hollywood, when TV was still in its infancy and not running even 12 hours of programming a day, most movie theaters ran double features.  The main attraction was of course the second one, but you didn’t want to run another big movie as the opener so they started making lower budget movies to use.  These were always less publicized and rarely featured the A-List actors of the time.

Sometime in the 50’s most theaters stopped using this format and started just running the feature movie, mainly because features were getting longer and there was no real need for another full length film.  B-Movies then came into their own.  They became known for low budgets and ingenuity, such as creating blood out of food coloring and corn syrup.  The early B-Movies were usually westerns, cheap to film and in the early days of cinema westerns were popular.  Then came the 50’s and sci-fi movies were churned out by the thousands, some of my personal favorites come from the 50’s and 60’s sci-fi craze.

While the definition has changed over time and can be confusing, such as the above mentioned dictionary.com definition to two definitions on Wikipedia.com, “a genre film with minimal artistic ambitions” and “a lively, energetic film uninhibited by the constraints imposed on more expensive projects and unburdened by the conventions of putatively “serious” independent film.” One thing has been consistent, many mainstream directors, producers, writers and actors got their start in B-Movies.  One classic example is George Clooney in Return of the Killer Tomatoes 2.  While he was a TV actor prior, that movie role was I believe his first major movie role.  They’ve also been a haven for actors that were winding down their careers, such as Donald Pleasance, who appeared in James Bond as Blofeld then later in his career played Prossor, the leader of a Nazi-ish society in a post apocalyptic world, in the movie Warrior of the Lost World.

So that’s pretty much what I know about B-Movies and I hope that helps explain the genre a bit.  Personally, some of my favorite movies come from this realm, people aren’t worried so much about playing it safe, they’ll take a chance on plot ideas that most major movie companies wont, especially when it comes to sci-fi.  I highly recommend doing a bit of digging and I’ll bet you’ll find many B-Movies that you’ll love, and of course, some are simply so bad they’re good!

Thanks for reading!

John