The release of ancient-Rome disaster epic Pompeii fills an important place in cinema this year: the guilty pleasure. What would moviegoing be like without those films that no one wants to admit that they enjoyed just a little too much?

PompeiiPompeii Is Pure Guilty Pleasure Cinema

In order to qualify, a movie needs to work on a level beyond what it intended: Pompeii generates plenty of laughter along with the thrilling destruction and emotional melodrama. In this sense, it's almost like a companion piece to Roland Emmerich's 2012. Last year, Emmerich also turned his action thriller White House Down into a guilty pleasure thanks to some deliberately over-the-top mayhem (by contrast, Olympus Has Fallen played everything dead straight, thrilling some viewers but annoying everyone else).

More: read our full review on Pompeii

Guilty pleasure films can come from almost any genre. The crazed comedy 21 Jump Street (2012) was so much unexpected fun that it has spawned a sequel, which arrives next month. The entire Fast & Furious series has been built on its guilty-pleasure qualities, entertaining us with both muscle-car carnage and plot lines we can laugh at. And then there are more shamelessly trashy dramas that are so bad that they're actually entertaining, a tradition stretching from 1962's What Ever Happened to Baby Jane to 1995's Showgirls to 2010's Burlesque 

Other guilty pleasures so far this year include the ridiculous Liam Neeson action movie Non-stop and Nick Frost's corny dance comedy Cuban Fury. They're not great movies, but you'll have a great time watching them. But don't tell anyone I said that.

Watch the trailer for Pompeii: