Top 5 Vertically Challenged Films

For your consideration, here are my top 5 favorite films featuring “fun size” actors. Much like most of America and their life expectancy, for this list I am going for quantity over quality. There are plenty of great films featuring Billy Barty and Peter Dinklage, the films on this list are more about the celebration of large groups of little people. Also, no Wizard of Oz, because if I was a midget I am sure I would be sick of that movie too

5. Time Bandits – Terry Gilliam (1981)

Coming in at number 5 is possibly Terry Gilliam’s oddest film (and that is saying a lot), Time Bandits. I would like to put this higher on the list because it may be the best use of little people in a film, but unfortunately it also features the least amount of them.  I won’t go too much into the detail of this movie because I don’t want to ruin anything for those who haven’t seen it, but it is more or less about six dwarves that highjack an 11 year old boy in the middle of the night and take in on a nice little jaunt through time and space. Also Ian Holm will change the way you think of Napoleon forever, if Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure hadn’t already. The surprise success of this movie gave Gilliam the creditability for studios to let him go nuts with his budgets on Brazil and the Adventures of Baron Munchausen. Those were not so successful. I believe this is due to the lack of dwarves, though the late Jack Purvis appeared in all three.

4. Willow – Ron Howard (1988)

As much as I try and hate Ron Howard for the horrors that he has brought upon the cinematic world in the past decade, I can never stay mad at him after revisiting Willow. To be fair though, he was just a hired hand in this project. Originally titled Munchkins, this fantasy romp was the brain child of George Lucas. And boy does it have Lucas written all over it. Not only did they use the majority of the actors that were force to sweat it out in the Ewok costumes from Return of the Jedi, the lead Warwick Davis played Carrie Fisher’s little side kick, Wickett. I would love to see some type of Planet of the Apes type scenario were Willow travels to the future were the Nelwyns have been enslaved by the Ewoks. Yeah, that would be great. Luckily for Lucas, this film made just slightly more money than Howard the Duck. That film also featured a midget actor, though creepily, half of the time it was a kid in that suit. So you would think with a whole village full of pint sized thespians Willow would hold the record for most midgets and/or dwarves on screen, but that honor goes to our next honoree.

3. Under the Rainbow – Steve Rash (1981)

There are reportedly 150 midgets in the movie, so why isn’t it number one on this list? Because it is an awful awful movie. Truth be told I have only seen this movie once, and that was about a decade ago, but as I remember there is not strength in numbers. Set in 1938 and featuring a plot that I won’t even get into, Under the Rainbow does have a few elements that make it worth watching. Billy Barty does an awesome German accent. There are drunk midgets. Chavy Chase and Carrie Fisher stumble around trying not to trip over there co-stars. That is about it. There is not else to really say about this except for what Carrie Fisher herself said on the Tonight Show, that this was the worst movie she ever did. Here is another fun fact about how bad this movie is: this film pretty much ruined director Steve Rash’s career. Before this he directed the Oscar awarding winning The Buddy Holly Story, since this he has directed the Pauly Shore vehicle Son in Law and sequels to American Pie, Bring It On and Road Trip. Ouch.

2. Terror of Tiny Town – Sam Newfield (1938)

Terror of Tiny Town is easily the best all midget western ever made. From the genius that brought you I Accuse My Parents and the Lost Continent comes a spine tingling adventure of epic perorations. I am going to go ahead and just use the Wikipedia plot summary “The plot is about a cowboy helping out a beautiful ranch owner menaced by local thugs.” That isn’t really important. The important thing is the tiny actors riding tiny horses and drinking tiny whiskeys in not so tiny bars while tiny prostitutes wear tiny garters. And all the sight gags you can shake a tiny stick at. Plus a Hasidic midget! Apparently this movie was made on a dare. I’d believe it. Its so entertaining that Brad Pitt talks about it in Johnny Suede. It is available in a combo package with the Wackiest Wagon Train in the West that features Bob Denver playing a guy named Dusty. Cool.

1. Even Dwarfs Started Small – Werner Herzog (1970)

This is hands down one of the most fascinating pieces of film ever created. Much like the four previous films on this list, the gimmick of Herzog’s masterpiece of insanity is little people. However, that is about were the comparisons stop. This film is anarchy on the tiniest scale. The dwarfs do things in this movie that are legally questionable to say the least. Herzog pushes these actors to the absolute limits and put his and their emotional and physical safety in jeopardy. There is an infamous story about the lengths that Herzog was willing to go to get his minions to do his bidding. During production after an actor was both run over by a car and set on fire, the cast threatened to walk out. Herzog convinced the actors to stay if he promise to jump into a pile of cacti after filming had finished. He did good on his word and has been quoted as saying “Getting out was a lot more difficult than getting in”.  You really haven’t lived until you’ve seen a midget antagonize a camel.

I’ll leave you with a poster for a movie that I hope to track down some day.


3 Responses to “Top 5 Vertically Challenged Films”

  1. John Levy Says:

    I have NEVER seen “Under The Rainbow”, I must remedy this soon, that looks like a good time. And yes…..I too want to see a Planet Of The Apes/Willow/Ewok bizzarro movie…please.

  2. Matt Caruso Says:

    No Tom Cruise or Stallone movies?

  3. Matt Caruso Says:

    Under the Rainbow played pretty much every day when we got cable in NY. Suffice to say, I watched it a lot since I didn’t know any better. …the pearl is in the liver…

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