The art of dressing up as a fictional character and pretending to be them is considered serious business by some, and the bar for quality just keeps getting higher year to year. However, for every phenomenally accurate cosplay that can be seen parading around a convention hall drawing all the camera flashes, there are also those that are a little less polished. Serious “business” means business. Those lucky enough to call themselves “professional” cosplayers can actually make a full-time income from their hobby. With huge followings on social media, they are treated like quasi-celebrities, able to draw huge crowds with convention appearances.
Of course, it’s not all down to a fluke. These professionals — as well as highly skilled amateurs — spend weeks, even months, crafting their weaponry and props, sewing their capes, embellishing their corsets, painting their helmets, and styling their wigs to look as picture-perfect as possible. But, what if you don’t quite have the budget or the design skills to rival the competition? If you can’t be the best — why not be the worst instead? This is not a list intended to degrade or mock anyone who is clearly trying their hardest. No, this is a celebration of those who are the absolute best at looking the absolute worst. So much so, that it’s almost an art form in of itself. These are the funniest budget cosplays ever created — the cruder, the better.
15. IRON TAPE MAN
Iron Man’s popularity on the big screen has certainly translated into the cosplay scene since his cinematic debut. Over the years, there have been some incredible versions of the eponymous red and yellow mechanical suit, as well as the man inside of it. And, of course, there have also been some slightly less incredible versions.
It seems that the go-to material for penny-pinching Iron Man cosplayers like this one is paper. Lots of paper. And that’s actually pretty impressive in a weird way, especially when you think about how flimsy the material is. What sets this particular Paper Iron Man apart from the others is their copious (and very visible) use of tape. Plus, there’s the hilarious detail of the unblown Repulsor Beam balloon, and the face. The face.
14. TEENAGE MUTANT PLASTIC TURTLES
Oh. Oh the horror. There are loads of interesting ways over the years that cosplayers have tackled the challenge of creating full-body, humanoid, turtle costumes — which is no easy feat, even for veterans. Many favor body paint, foam, plastics or even paper. But, this troupe of Turtle fans, whose photo was posted to Reddit, chose something a little more “out there” — green, um, trash bags? Plastic wrap? Whatever it is, things are going to get sweaty very fast under there.
If you think about it, the Turtle team looks like something out of a Cronenberg body-horror film anyway — the creepily realistic versions in the Michael Bay movies prove it. So, in a weird way, these glistening, cosplay monstrosities kind of capture that essence quite well.
13. CARDBOARD PRIME
The Transformers have to be up there with some of the hardest characters to bring to life in 3D. Well, unless you’ve been given a multi-million-dollar special effects budget ala Michael Bay, that is. And even then, that price tag just proves how much effort has to go into the task. Some seriously impressive Optimus Prime costumes have been spotted at Cons around the world, constructed from plastic, metal or even just plain cardboard.
Usually, if the latter is used, a few good licks of paint are needed to hide the humble material, but this cosplayer, whose photo first surfaced on FunnyJunk, has boldly gone against the grain. Along with his introduction of a new expletive-laden catchphrase for Prime (“Optimus Prime, Bitches!”) — plus his glorious swagger — you just can’t help but love this terrible costume.
12. CREEPILY SPECIFIC SIMPSONS
This nightmare-inducing photoset of a group of The Simpsons cosplayers was posted to Reddit. Suitably titled “A Dash Of Creepy Cosplay,” the photos recreated oddly specific scenes from the cartoon, such as Smithers down on his knees in front of Mr. Burns, Sideshow Bob doing “crazy face” in his prison cell, and Homer giving the finger to onlookers as he’s sucked into the sinkhole in The Simpsons Movie.
If that wasn’t strange (and funny) enough, the costumes themselves seemed to be trying to recreate the characters with some element of realism, rather than play up their cartoonishness as other Simpsons cosplayers have done. With taped-on ping pong balls for eyes, sickly yellow face paint, and low budget make-shift props, these really go above and beyond the call of “bad.”
11. NIGHTMARE ON EEVEELUTION STREET
You know that moment in every jump-scare, horror movie when a character turns a corner and suddenly the monster is right there? Well, that’s the feeling you get from looking at these photos that were posted to Imgur. To be perfectly fair, the level of craftsmanship that went into this freakishly large Eeveelution trio is a little higher than most of the others on this list.
The cosplayer(s) have clearly broken out the sewing machine to get these together, and they’re recognizable as the first three Eevee evolutions from the First Pokemon Generation. Flareon’s face is weirdly humanoid and Vaporean’s teeth do not need to be that sharp but, the main problem is obvious, right? The legs. The creepily long front legs. Why? They say if you stare into the eyes for too long your soul will be lost.
10. SANIC DUH HADGEHOG
Sonic? Is that you? You’re looking a little, uh, puffier than usual. This photo snapped by cosplay fan PatchouliNewerth at MegaCon 2014 captures a Sonic The Hedgehog cosplayer literally having the best time of his life in one of the strangest Sonic costumes ever created.
It kind of looks like Sonic was going (characteristically) too fast, slammed into a wall, but then dusted himself off, put some jean shorts and a fanny pack on and headed straight to the convention floor. Honestly, the only thing that actually clues us in to the fact that the costume is even supposed to the titular blue speedster is the color scheme and the white gloves. The signature pose helps a little too. Sort of. But, then there are those eyes. Those bulging, dead eyes…
9. TRON GUY
Throughout the history of “bad cosplay,” one name continually comes up time and time again. Part man, part myth, part machine, part mustache, this legendary figure is known simply as “Tron Guy.” In 2004, computer programmer Jay Maynard uploaded photos of a DIY Tron-inspired suit to his website, which quickly went viral. Since then, Jay’s online fame has landed him appearances on Jimmy Kimmel, America’s Got Talent, and even a cameo in South Park — all in his infamous “Tron Guy” costume. He’s almost become a character in his own right. The suit itself isn’t without technical prowess (and has even won an award at a Cosplay Masquerade) but the charming DIY quality coupled with Jay’s unique style make this a so-bad-it’s-good cosplay for the ages.
8. STAR WARS: NO HOPE
It’s a six-in-one special! This photo of a group of ambitious Star Wars cosplayers was posted on In A Far Away Galaxy and features an eclectic mix of characters — Yoda, Princess Leia, Darth Vader, R2D2, C3-PO and… Jabba the Hutt?
What’s great about this shot is that it really tells a story, in this case about six fans rooting through a trash can and wearing whatever they could find. Cardboard, used clothes, some old paint cans, bits of plastic — nothing has been left to waste. Even the trash bag and bin itself were incorporated. This really is cosplay on a dime. The Princess Leia one is arguably the best (though that’s not saying much) but R2D2 looks to be the best at not breaking character, don’t you think?
7. DAVY CARROTS JONES
Anucha “Cha” Saengchart is a man on a mission, and that mission is to create cosplay on the lowest budget possible, i.e. nothing. As Anucha, he works as a carer for the elderly in Thailand, but,online, he’s known as the man behind the Lowcost Cosplay Facebook page. This is budget cosplay at its highest (or lowest) level.
This particular costume is modeled after the tentacle-faced Davy Jones from the Pirates of the Caribbean film series. Other than the skin coloring, the replication is uncanny, right? To recreate Jones’ pirate hat, Anucha has two frying pans held up to his head, and the signature tentacles have been cleverly constructed with a bunch of carrots (with their soil in shot) taped seamlessly to his face with in matching orange. Nailed it.
6. THE STYROFOAM THING
The Thing is a bold choice for any cosplayer. For any other member of the Fantastic Four, you’d just need enough confidence to rock a skintight blue suit (and maybe a wig) and you’d be halfway there. But, having to construct a huge rocky, orange body for yourself is quite the challenge.
The daunting task clearly didn’t put off the young cosplayer in this photo from Hype Seek, who, while presumably opening a newly delivered toy, was struck with inspiration at the sight of the styrofoam packaging. What makes this funnier is that he could have improved it a lot just by painting the pieces orange, or placing them closer together. But, no — he made it this far and thought to himself, “this’ll do.” 10/10 for effort.
5. SUPER BANANA-SAIYAN GOKU
This is another one from Anucha, aka Lowcost Cosplay. Similarly to the Davy Jones costume, he’s gone with another food-based creation here — this time using bananas to recreate Goku’s iconic Super Saiyan hair from the Dragon Ball franchise. Knowing Anucha as the professional he is, this probably wasn’t just any random bunch of bananas. Oh no.
Presumably, many hours were spent at the grocery store selecting the right candidate based on color, shape, length and closest resemblance to the Saiyan’s golden locks. Then presumably came an arduous process of trial and error in his bathroom to decide which of his top picks was the, uh, best of the bunch. His selection for the end result certainly creates a polished, low-cost illusion, complete with cardboard, yellow eyebrows.
4. MAD MAX: CURLER ROAD
Mad Max: Fury Road is famous for its insane set designs and gorgeously wild costumes. In fact, the creative teams behind most of the film’s visual elements racked up quite a few Oscars, and deservedly so. Almost in homage to the film’s rough, DIY aesthetic, the cosplayer croweshmo was suddenly struck with inspiration after stumbling across some eyelash curlers in the bathroom.
With the right facial expression and a clever optical illusion, he was able to uncannily recreate one of the film’s most iconic shots — like when the titular Max was gagged and strapped to the front of Nux’s car. Considering that the actual implement used in the film looks like it’s little more than a garden fork, an eyelash curler isn’t a million miles away, really.
3. I AM FOOT
Yet another breathtaking entry from Anucha, the creative genius behind Lowcost Cosplay, this beautifully simple cosplay of Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Groot using only his foot and a Sharpie makes the rest of his work look downright over-complicated by comparison.
Groot, as you know, is essentially a self-regenerating alien tree (“Flora Colossus” to be exact) with a very limited vocabulary. Using an actual tree, or branches from one, would have been an obvious choice here for a low-cost cosplay. But Anucha is never one to think inside the box. Presumably seeing a resemblance between his own natural skin tone and Groot’s, he clearly realized that the foundation for one of his lowest-costing cosplays yet was right in front of him — or, right below him, to be exact. Genius.
2. PATRICK CONE STAR
This photo might just be the very definition of “time wasting” at work. During what looks to be a busy day sorting through tools and materials at a warehouse or somewhere similar, this cosplayer came across some ordinary, orange traffic cones, and was suddenly hit by a Spongebob Squarepants-shaped bolt of inspiration.
The beauty of this is the simplicity. It’s really only one repeated element, but the illusion is complete. An undeniable replica of the basic shape of Patrick Starr. If he cast a shadow on the wall, you’d probably be mistaken for thinking the real deal had snuck out of your TV somehow. The cherry on top of this photo that was posted to Reddit is the look of sheer joy on his face as he poses.
1. HAND SPOCK
To boldly go where no budget cosplayer has gone before… Of all of Anucha’s Lowcost Cosplay photos, “Hand Spock” remains the gold standard. This is budget cosplay in its purest form. Look at it. It’s radiant. It’s transcendent. It’s just… so low-cost. As a bonafide pop cultural icon, Spock is one of the most easily recognizable faces from Star Trek — as well as sci-fi in general. Recreating him with even a vague level of accuracy is therefore not too much of a stretch for even the most inexperienced cosplayers.
Anucha has even proved this before by powdering his face, straightening his hair, donning a blue jumper and pulling his ears up to easily replicate the character. However, that process looks positively convoluted compared to the glorious effortlessness of “Hand Spock.” Just a blue cup, a black ladle, a hand — and you’re done! Magnificent.
Do you know any other low-cost cosplays? Let us know in the comments!
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