This article was originally published on 9/7/22. 

Roger Corman is recognized and remembered as, at best, the “King of the B Pictures” and, at worst, a “bad” movie director. Well, yours truly decided to tackle that question at the beginning of 2022. How do we see his work in the 21st century? With a filmography spanning more than 70 years, how does this fascinating cinematic figure fit into the film industry as we know it today? Believe it or not, I got my hands on all but one of Corman’s credited directorial features between physical media and every streaming site. Only the 1956 western, The Oklahoma Woman, continues to illude me.

Truthfully, a lot of the mainstream coverage examining Corman’s work doesn’t do the director justice. Roger Corman shaped Hollywood as we know it today. His movies (and Corman himself) crafted genre filmmaking as we know it. A workhorse of epic proportions, Corman brought a keen eye for up-and-coming talent. Dozens of contemporary filmmaking masters earned their earliest experience working under Corman’s tutelage, including Joe Dante, Ron Howard, James Cameron, Jonathan Demme, Peter Bogdanovich and Francis Ford Coppola, to name a few. 

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Believe it or not, these small-budget gems aren’t that hard to find! For those interested in taking the Corman plunge (trust me, it’s fun!), here are our Top 11 favorite Roger Corman films. Each of them is available to stream somewhere!  

1. The Intruder (1962)

William Shatner shrugs for the camera in Roger Corman's The Intruder.

The Intruder

Our first Corman film is The Intruder. This is a movie I didn’t discover until 2022, when I tackled this challenge. In the grand history of Corman’s career, this little movie is definitely an outlier. However, it is a much-loved diamond-in-the-rough. Corman admits in multiple interviews that The Intruder is, at the same time, his favorite of his works but also his biggest disappointment.

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The Intruder follows the story of a southern town on the eve of integration. When a mysterious man in a white suit (a pre-almost everything William Shatner) comes to town, he stirs up a hornet’s nest of tension in the already volatile environment. Robert Emhardt, Leo Gordon and Charles Beaumont co-star in the movie. Corman directs the picture from a script by Charles Beaumont.

For a filmmaker who’s often characterized as an auteur of “bad” movies, The Intruder stands apart in the usual sea of sci-fi and horror delights. While the movie was reportedly one of, if not the only, Corman film to lose money, it traveled the film festival circuit at the time. In the cultural reevaluation over the following sixty years, The Intruder emerged as a heralded entry in Corman’s filmography. Ultimately, 1960s audiences weren’t ready for this challenging story of racial integration.

The Intruder is currently streaming on YouTube and Roku.

2. A Bucket of Blood (1959)

Dick Miller smokes a cigarette in Roger Corman's A Bucket of Blood.

A Bucket of Blood

Ultimately, A Bucket of Blood is one of the most iconic and recognizable Roger Corman pictures on this list. Even those superficially familiar with his work are likely to know this movie, and it’s the entry point for many in jumping into his filmography. Between 1959 and 1960, the director hit his stride with movies like A Bucket of Blood, The Little Shop of Horrors, House of Usher and Last Woman on Earth.

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These movies take a step beyond Corman’s standard fair of the mid-1950s. They were more complex and creative and, in that, showed the still young filmmaker coming of age and not afraid to take some chances.

A Bucket of Blood follows Walter Paisley (the iconic Dick Miller). While he’s stuck bussing tables at a beatnik watering hole, Walter yearns to be an artist. After accidentally killing a cat, he hides the animal’s body in clay. The resulting sculpture strikes a note with everyone who had once made fun of him, giving Walter the popularity he yearns for. However, with his art now in the spotlight, he needs to keep creating. There’s only one problem, how does he keep a supply of bodies?

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A Bucket of Blood is small in scale, very typical of Corman’s work during this era. However, the melding of the performances (notably Dick Miller) and Charles B. Griffith’s script gels into a truly memorable film incorporating everything we love about Corman. It’s scary and just a little violent, but it’s a heck of an entertaining movie.

A Bucket of Blood is available to watch on Amazon Prime.

3. The Wasp Woman (1959)

Susan Cabot prepares the beauty serum in Roger Corman's The Wasp Woman.

The Wasp Woman

I’d be shirking my duty if I didn’t represent at least one example of a standard Roger Corman “monster” movie on this list. There are quite a few to dive into, especially during the 1950s. And to be honest, stereotypical “bad” movie ideas aside, most of these works are tremendously enjoyable viewing experiences. There’s latex, ping-pong ball eyes and tons of strange costume creations. Dive in and enjoy. 

The Wasp Woman is one of the darker entries in this series of films. It follows Janice Starlin (Susan Cabot) as the bookish head of a cosmetics company. Feeling insecure about herself and the course of her business, she begins experimenting on herself with one of her latest beauty treatments. However, everything that can go wrong goes wrong, and she turns into The Wasp Woman. Corman directs from a screenplay by Leo Gordon. 

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While The Wasp Woman is towards the end of Corman’s first wave, it still plays like a number of his early films. Most noticeable is the recurring presence of his stock company. Lead actress Susan Cabot appears in a number of Corman’s films. The same is true of actors Bruno VeSota and Barboura Morris.

The monster in The Wasp Woman is a bit more sophisticated than some of Corman’s earlier creatures. However, these movies do require a bit of reevaluation when coming at them in 2022. After all, these are small-budget, practical-based effects. It goes without saying, in a world of CGI, these stand out… and not always in a good way. It is a stretch to call these “scary.” (They’re great to watch with a group, though!)

Ultimately, these movies are a study in filmmaking. These demonstrate big budgets aren’t necessary to make movies. You don’t need a big studio. Movies are collaborative efforts. All a filmmaker needs is a camera, people willing to act, and a group of friends to help with the work.

The Wasp Woman is currently streaming on Tubi. 

4. The Wild Angels (1966)

Nancy Sinatra embraces Peter Fonda as Diane Ladd looks on in The Wild Angels.

The Wild Angels

The Wild Angels spotlights Roger Corman entering the later half of his directorial career. Hitting screens in 1966, culture was changing at a lightening fast pace. Counterculture replaced the innocence of the 1950s, and early 1960s and The Wild Angels shows Corman easily finding his way in this rapidly changing industry. 

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The Wild Angels stars Peter Fonda (in a pre-Easy Rider role), Nancy Sinatra, Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd. The story follows the drama surrounding a biker gang as they wreak havoc in the California desert. Corman directs from a script by the never-fail Charles B Griffith with (reportedly) uncredited contributions by Peter Bogdanovich. 

The Wild Angels is fun to watch, especially for those with an eye for history. It has already been mentioned for Fonda that this role predates his mainstream breakout on Easy Rider by almost two years. This is an impressive cast, very much at the beginning of their stardom. Real-life couple Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd (parents of Laura Dern) are equally fascinating to watch with an eye toward where their careers would progress. Even Peter Bogdanovich appears in an unspeaking role in the finale. He’s visible in a fight sequence… if you squint. 

Ultimately, The Wild Angels is not an easy sit. As mentioned, Corman dove into counterculture during this point in his career, and his study (and the influence) of real-life biker gang the “Hell’s Angels” is all over the movie. There’s rough subject matter and certainly troubling iconography for those familiar with the gang’s history. However, in his work on The Wild Angels, it is clear how much Roger Corman laid the groundwork for the movie industry as we know it. In his work in the 1960s, Roger Corman created Hollywood cinema as we knew it in the 1970s. 

The Wild Angels is streaming on YouTube and Roku. 

5. The Last Woman on Earth (1960)

Betsy Jones-Moreland shares a drink with Robert Towne in Roger Corman's The Last Woman on Earth.

The Last Woman on Earth

The Last Woman on Earth is another early Corman feature. This one, though, takes an interesting step back from his usual monster fair, showing not only a savvy example of quiet, well-crafted tension but with a writing (and a rare acting) appearance from legendary screenwriter Robert Towne

The Last Woman on Earth follows the story of a woman (Betsy Jones-Moreland) who, along with her lover (Robert Towne) and her husband (Anthony Corbone), decide one day to go scuba diving. There’s a lot less drama underwater. However, as they come up for air, the world has changed. Everyone on the island has died. They’re the last three people on Earth. As mentioned, Roger Corman directs The Last Woman on Earth from a script by Robert Towne. 

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Towne came to The Last Woman on Earth as a struggling 26-year-old actor. According to second-hand accounts, the youngster was close friends with (then) up-and-coming legend Jack Nicholson. Nicholson started in the industry as part of Corman’s stock company with roles as early as the Corman-produced feature The Cry Baby Killer in 1956. ln the years to follow, Towne would move on to pen such well-known screenplays as Shampoo, Chinatown and even the first two revamped Mission: Impossible movies. He’s still considered one of the greatest screenwriters in film’s young history. 

A fun “Corman-ey” note, The Last Woman on Earth is one of two films the director made simultaneously with the same cast and crew. Ever the frugal filmmaker, this was a common practice in Corman’s establishment. Why make one movie when you can produce two? The second work was the equally delightful Creature from the Haunted Sea, which gives audiences one of the best Corman monsters to ever cross the screen and another Robert Towne acting appearance!

The Last Woman on Earth is streaming on Prime Video. 

6. Gunslinger (1956)

The poster for Roger Corman's The Gunslinger


I found my way to Gunslinger for admittedly nerdy reasons. Yes, I watched it in a quest to finish the filmography of the great William Schallert. That’s another write-up, though, kids. 

Admittedly, I came to Gunslinger in a bit of a cynical place. The story follows a woman (early Corman staple Beverly Garland) who, after her sheriff husband (Schallert) is murdered by outlaws, resolves to put on his badge and run the town herself. The movie co-stars John Ireland and fellow Corman stock company members, Allison Hayes and Jonathan Haze

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Getting back to my cynicism. Gunslinger is a very early Corman venture. While it is billed as the sixth directorial credit in his filmography, the 1956 western came barely a year after his feature-length debut directing Five Guns West. As I sat down to watch this (knowing the plot and the budget), I had images of girl fights, sexualized action and more than a boatload of misogyny. I mean, just look at the poster. 

Au contraire! While Garland and Hayes are billed behind John Ireland, Gunslinger is fully and completely their film. Watching these women go toe to toe is a thing of beauty. Neither performer pulls back on their power despite this being a 1950s western. Neither is a damsel-in-distress. This is seen at its most incredible when Hayes repeatedly refers to her henchman’ (Haze) as “Little Man,” much to his annoyance. 

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Of course, this isn’t to call Gunslinger a feminist diamond in the rough. However, watching Hayes and Garland at their peak proves delightful to watch. These women are tough, they are strong, and they’re forces to be reckoned with. 

Gunslinger is currently streaming on Pluto. 

7. The Trip (1967)

Peter Fonda enters the room in Roger Corman's The Trip

The Trip

This is the second appearance of actor Peter Fonda on this list. The son of classic Hollywood legend Henry Fonda, Peter Fonda began hitting his stride in the late 1960s. The Trip came shortly after the Wild Angels and before his true breakout in Easy Rider.

The Trip is… a trip (pun intended.) The movie features a backstory that is equally as entertaining as the movie itself. The story follows Fonda as a movie producer who, thanks to a friend (Bruce Dern), takes a hit of LSD. The resulting “trip” helps him learn a bit about himself and guides him through a personal crisis. The film co-stars Dennis Hopper, Susan Strasberg and Salli Sachse. Corman directs the movie from a script by Jack Nicholson. Yes, that one. 

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The Trip is less a narrative feature film and more a fascinating cinematic experiment. Corman wrote extensively in his memoirs about the lead-up to filming the movie. A relative “square,” Corman had little experience with drugs… he never had the time. As he tells the story, the director took acid in a controlled environment (as Fonda does in the film), and it is reportedly Corman’s experience depicted in The Trip

The Trip is a swirling kaleidoscope of psychedelic imagery. With names like Hopper, Fonda and Nicholson attached, this movie is a pure visualization of the 1960s “tune in, drop out” counterculture almost two years before Easy Rider blew minds in much the same way. Here we have Roger Corman on the cutting edge, once again. 

The Trip is currently streaming on Amazon Prime. 

8. The Raven (1963) 

Vincent Price makes friends with the birds in Roger Corman's The Raven

The Raven

In a discussion of Roger Corman’s career, we would not be doing our job if we didn’t dive into his early 1960s work with Vincent Price. Beginning with 1960’s House of Usher and running through 1964’s The Tomb of Ligeia, most of these gothic horror films took their influence from the works of Edgar Allan Poe and starred Price in roles that would define his star persona for the rest of his career. 

The Raven hits during the middle of this stretch and follows a magician (Peter Lorre) who has been turned into a raven by a professional rival (Boris Karloff). With no one to help him but his son (Jack Nicholson,) he turns to a wizard (Vincent Price) who can help him out of his predicament. Corman directs the film from a script by Richard Matheson.

Another iconic writer, Matheson, started as a novelist and branched into television and screenwriting in the 1960s. He’s best known for his work on The Incredible Shrinking Man and I am Legend. Matheson was a mainstay in most of these films. 

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Each of the Poe films stand as iconic in their own way. The enormously successful movies were some of the highest budgeted works to come out of the Corman camp. The Raven is certainly the most fun, and the strength of this cast speaks for itself.

Few films unite quite so many legends of classic horror while bringing such a fun and uniquely original tone. This cast is rarely better than they are right here (particularly Peter Lorre, who is having a blast.) Film fans should also have fun watching Jack Nicholson (a contemporary legend) honing his skills opposite some of the earliest stars of horror cinema. The Raven is a fun must-see for fans of classic horror. 

The Raven is currently streaming on Amazon Prime. 

9. Gas-s-s-s (1970)

The teenage cast realizes they don't need the adults in Gas-s-s-s


Gas-s-s-s or Gas! -Or- It Became Necessary to Destroy the World in Order to Save It is a Corman movie with a decidedly complicated legacy. The 1970 feature is one of the final works the director completed. The film premiered the year before 1971’s Von Richtofen and Brown, the work which brought the first stage of Corman’s career to a close. 

Gas-s-s-s features a young cast, including Robert Corff, Cindy Williams, Ben Vereen and Bud Cort. In the movie, a poisonous gas escapes from a military facility capable of killing everyone over the age of 25. With no adults to get in their way, the kids play… and everything that entails. Corman directs the film from a script by George Armitage

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The biggest issue with Gas-s-s-s is that the movie isn’t quite sure what it wants to be. This stems from behind-the-scenes problems during the editing process. Corman wanted one thing, while the studio had other ideas.

Watching the movie, this push and pull is clear as the film progresses. Corman’s fingerprints are all over the first hour. The first two acts are quirky, weird and delightful. However, as it builds to its conclusion, something shifts. All of a sudden, this quirky, effortless story must expend a lot more effort. It loses its wacky and wonderful tone and ends up feeling harsh. The change in creative voice is certainly noticeable, but the first half of Gas-s-s-s definitely makes it worth a watch. 

Gas-s-s-s is currently streaming on Amazon Prime. 

10. Teenage Caveman (1958)

The poster for Roger Corman's Teenage Caveman

The Teenage Caveman

I revisited Teenage Caveman this year after initially watching this in my early teens. Kids, remember when AMC used to show classic movies? Even better! They showed the drive-in fair, which doesn’t get nearly the love it deserves in popular culture. 

Teenage Caveman is precisely what it sounds like… well, almost. It follows classic television mainstay Robert Vaughn as a (you guessed it!) teenage caveman. One day, he decides the grown-ups don’t know what they’re doing and, in defiance of tribal laws, strikes out to find answers to the universe’s big questions on his own. There is, of course, a twist! One which I certainly, won’t be spoiling here. Upon my revisit of this movie, I actually found it quite innovative. R. Wright Campbell receives credit for the script. 

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In the grand scheme of Corman movies, Teenage Caveman is a little smaller. It’s simpler. It incorporates the monster elements which were Corman’s bread-and-butter during the late 1950s. However, Teenage Caveman sees him inching towards the later phase of his career. The monsters were still fun, but he was starting to play with some ideas in his scripts. He’s asking questions and exploring new ideas. 

At the same time, Robert Vaughn excels in a movie that must have been a challenge. The dialogue is scant and Vaughn is on-screen by himself for huge stretches of time. However, the young actor shows the skill which would keep him in front of the camera for the better part of the next 60 years. His following film roles would partner him opposite legend Fred MacMurray and (then) legend in the making, Paul Newman

Teenage Caveman is currently streaming on AMC+. 

11. The Little Shop of Horrors (1960)

Jonathan Haze, Mel Welles and Jackie Joseph look at Audrey II in Roger Corman's Little Shop of Horrors.

The Little Shop of Horrors

I extended this list to 11 precisely for the purpose of including this movie. It felt wrong to put together a Roger Corman list that didn’t include the film he’s probably most remembered for by contemporary audiences. For those millennials out there like yours truly, there’s a strong chance you remember The Little Shop of Horrors 1986 musical remake of the same name starring Rick Moranis and Steve Martin (among others.) In fact, I saw the musical before I saw Corman’s original. 

For those who might not know, The Little Shop of Horrors follows Seymour (Jonathan Haze), a young man with a passion for plants. He raises a new creation but soon discovers it not only has a personality of its own, but it’s carnivorous. Jackie Joseph co-stars as the object of his affection (and his plant’s namesake) Audrey. Corman stock players Dick Miller and Mel Welles co-star. Eagle-eyed viewers should again be able to spot a very young Jack Nicholson in an incredibly memorable role. Charles B. Griffith is credited on the script alongside Corman. 

The Little Show of Horrors is everything that makes a Corman movie. It’s micro-budget in scale and was made incredibly fast. However, the fascinating nature of this plot stays with you. It incorporates the best elements, ranging from the monster effects which manage to make Audrey II scary yet lovable to solid performances from the chronically under-remembered Haze and Broadway veteran Jackie Joseph. Heck, Jack Nicholson takes a part lasting mere minutes and crafts himself a career out of it. 

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Did I mention The Little Shop of Horrors was (according to Corman) shot in 2 and a half days? In fact, the director writes in his memoirs the feature was actually shot as part of a bet. Corman wanted to see if they could finish a film that fast (they only had the set for two days.) 

The Little Shop of Horrors is widely available on physical media and streaming sites like YouTube. 

When All is Said and Done…

Roger Corman isn’t simply “The King of the B’s.” This is frankly a disrespectful oversimplification of a genuinely titanic career. In almost 80 years behind the camera, Roger Corman shaped the movie industry as we know it today. His low-budget genre movies are not only a blast to watch, but he wasn’t afraid to give up-and-coming talent a boost as he built his own career. Thanks to Roger Corman, many of Hollywood’s contemporary legends are working today. Ultimately, Roger Corman is the father of contemporary Hollywood cinema as we now know it. Dive into his work and have a blast! 

This article was originally published on 9/7/22. 

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