The Top 10 Worst Movies I’ve Ever Seen
Sometimes I liken movies to meat at a butcher shop. First you have your upper echelon movies like The Shawshank Redemption and Jaws. They’re like the prime cuts of beef, filet Mignon, Porterhouse, etc. Then you have the middle of the road films, good but not great. Let’s call them the high quality deli meat. At the bottom you have bits of refuse like The Room and Trolls 2. It’s akin to taking all the left over dribs and drabs of other meat, processing it through the meat grinder, and turning it into “mystery meat” for the school cafeteria.
Previously, I’ve written about my favorite films. Now it’s time to look at the dreck, the lowest of the low, the movies I consider the absolute nadir of cinema. The following is a list of the top ten turd-burgers I’ve ever had the misfortune to witness:
Honorable Mention: Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
Directed By: Sidney J. Furie
Starring: Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman
Plot: Superman decides to rid the world of nuclear weapons and Lex Luthor creates a sun-man dressed in horrible Lycra to fight the Man of Steel.
Assessment: At the age of eight I had, what I thought at the time, the “pleasure” of seeing this movie in the theater. This may be hard to believe, but I wasn’t nearly as adept at judging films at eight years old as I am at thirty-eight. Three decades gives you perspective. People rag on Man of Steel and BvS constantly, but Superman IV killed the franchise for almost twenty years. It’s amazing that in the course of less than a decade we went from the directing caliber of Richard Donner to a dude who directed Ladybugs. Ironically, the two screenwriters (Lawrence Konner and Mark Rosenthal) would go on to write for The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire. This one was obviously not their best effort. To be fair a large part of the problem were the events leading up to the film. A year before its release, the Superman franchise was sold to Canon films. At the time of filming the fourth installment, Canon had thirty projects in the works. The production ran out of money. Consequently we got erupting volcanoes that looked like they were pulled from an elementary school science project involving baking soda. Christopher Reeve sums this movie up in his autobiography Still Me:
We were also hampered by budget constraints and cutbacks in all departments. Cannon Films had nearly thirty projects in the works at the time, and Superman IV received no special consideration. For example, Konner and Rosenthal wrote a scene in which Superman lands on 42nd Street and walks down the double yellow lines to the United Nations, where he gives a speech. If that had been a scene in Superman I, we would actually have shot it on 42nd Street. Richard Donner would have choreographed hundreds of pedestrians and vehicles and cut to people gawking out of office windows at the sight of Superman walking down the street like the Pied Piper. Instead, we had to shoot at an industrial park in England in the rain with about a hundred extras, not a car in sight, and a dozen pigeons thrown in for atmosphere. Even if the story had been brilliant, I don’t think that we could ever have lived up to the audience’s expectations with this approach.
10. Out of Africa (1985)
Directed By: Sydney Pollack
Starring: Robert Redford AND:
Plot: Karen von Blixen (the very overrated Meryl Streep <sarcasm>) recalls her time in Africa as a wealthy Danish woman running a dairy farm. She meets Denys Finch Hatton (Robert Redford) and soon falls in love. The movie then attempts a slow death by boredom over a period of 161 torturous minutes.
Assessment: When I was in college I had the good fortune to have renowned movie critic Jack Garner as a professor. I’ll never forget something he said to me once about movies: “I’ve seen four-hour epics that lasted five minutes and eighty minute films that lasted two weeks.” Out of Africa definitely falls into the latter category. I was forced to watch this meandering, dry, and thoroughly unentertaining film in my sociology class. I think I fell asleep three times. The only worthwhile aspect of this movie is David Watkin’s cinematography for which he won an Academy Award. Incidentally Out of Africa won best picture that year as well. God knows why though.
9. Highlander 2: The Quickening (1991)
Director: Russell Mulcahy
Starring: Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery
Plot: A sequel to the 1986 classic, immortals fighting each other takes a backseat to the…ozone layer? What?
Assessment: The original Highlander was one of those films that defined my childhood. I thought the concept (immortals who can only die through beheading and fight for “the Prize”) was incredibly original, the fight scenes spectacular, it sports a kick-ass soundtrack by Queen, and Clancy Brown remains one of the best on-screen villains to this day. That’s why it befuddles me to no end that Mulcahy, who directed the original, would tarnish the legacy of the first film with this garbage followup. The plot, such as it is, involves the destruction of the ozone layer. Inexplicably Connor MacCleod (Lambert) partners with a scientific team and replaces the ozone layer with an electromagnetic field that casts the world in perpetual night, because apparently that’s somehow better. The environmental agenda in this film becomes so obvious, even Happy Feet and An Inconvenient Truth were like, “Slow your roll bro.”
In other developments, the origins of the immortals are revealed involving an alien planet, a rebellion, being reborn on Earth, and…you know what it doesn’t even fucking matter. Part of the appeal of the original was that you didn’t know where the immortals came from or why they were fighting for “the Prize.” Rather than leave it there we get the biggest cop-out in the world, namely:
Additionally, somehow Ramirez (Connery) is revived, despite being beheaded in the first film. I don’t know how much money they threw at Connery to be in this dumpster fire, but it must have been a lot. Shit show does not begin to accurately describe this film.
8. A.I. (2001)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Haley Joel Osmet, Jude Law, Frances O’Connor
Plot: In the late 22nd century artificial intelligence becomes a reality and the world is populated with Mechas, humanoid robots with emotions and thoughts. The plot centers around David (Osmet) a Mecha that resembles a human child. A.I. chronicles David’s attempts to become a “real boy” by looking for a blue fairy. Also there’s a talking teddy bear involved… and aliens.
Assessment: Steven Spielberg may be the best director who’s ever lived. He’s gotten to that rare director level where even “lesser” Spielberg films are still pretty great.
Except for A.I.
I’ll probably take some shit for this one but I don’t care. This is hands down the worst Spielberg film and easily one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. I was so disappointed. It’s one of the few films I almost walked out on. The film is essentially Spielberg aping Kubrick who was prepping to make A.I. before passing in 1999. I laughed out loud when a talking teddy bear made an appearance and nearly walked out about thirty minutes later. Honestly, the film comes off boring, tiresome, and explores no new territory when it comes to the idea of what it means to be human. San Francisco Chronicle critic Mick LaSalle describes my feelings best saying A.I.:
“…exhibits all its creators’ bad traits and none of the good. So we end up with the structureless, meandering, slow-motion endlessness of Kubrick combined with the fuzzy, cuddly mindlessness of Spielberg.”
YUP. That about sums it up.
7. Batman and Robin (1997)
Director: Joel “I murdered the franchise” Schumacher
Starring: George Clooney, Chris O’Donnell, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Uma Thurman
Plot: Batman (Clooney) fights Mr. Freeze (Schwarzenegger), Poison Ivy (Thurman), bad puns, horrible CGI, Bat nipples, and the Dark Knight’s legacy.
Assessment: Jesus where do I begin with this crap-fest? Miscast, bereft of charm, and sporting more bad puns than a Dad Joke convention, this movie killed the franchise for the better part of a decade. We got Bat Nipples, piss poor acting, and the complete raping of the villain Bane. Schumacher’s direction is slapdash and filmed with a color palette that would make a ’60s LSD burnout blink uncontrollably. Batman Forever was bad enough but Batman and Robin makes Batman Forever look like goddamn Citizen Kane by comparison. Thank God for Christopher Nolan.
6. Noah (2014)
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Ray Winstone
Plot: A very loose Biblical adaptation of the story of Noah’s Ark.
Assessment: If you’ve been following me on HoG for a while you know I’ve reviewed this movie before.
I was not a fan.
Films always require a certain suspension of disbelief but Noah requires invasive surgery to remove that suspension. Aside from being beautifully shot, this movie is racked with, “Are you serious???!!” moments, everything from the thinly veiled pro-Vegetarian subplot, to justifying the theft of women to serve as wives, to rock monsters. It’s Bad with a capital “B.” Aronofsky is one of the great visionaries of our time, but I’d suggest you pretend like you’re blind if you’re anywhere near this film.
5. House of the Dead (2003)
Director: Uwe Bol
Starring: Jonathan Cherry, Tyron Leitso, Clint Howard (yes that Clint Howard)
Plot: Based on the popular videogame series, two college students attend a rave on an island and find it overrun by flesh-eating zombies.
Assessment: FUCK. UWE. BOL.
Seriously fuck him.
Cult classics aren’t necessarily “good” (The Evil Dead, Trolls 2), however you can say one thing about most of them: the crews are legitimately trying to make a great movie. Not so with Uwe Bol. The guy’s admitted he intentionally goes out to make bad movies. That is a complete and utter insult to every actor, director, screenwriter, et al., that is trying to make it in this business.
For some reason Bol revels in doing videogame adaptations and House of the Dead might be the worst of the bunch. Overly gory but in no way scary, House of the Dead is a ninety minute endurance test. Banal and forgettable, probably the most egregious choice Bol makes is to edit in clips from the ACTUAL VIDEOGAME. That’s just lazy directing all around. Thank God he’s retired from directing. Uwe Bol you will not be missed.
4. Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem (2007)
Director: The Brothers Strause (seriously)
Starring: Steven Pasquale, Reiko Aylesworth
Plot: The sequel to Alien Vs. Predator, this cash grab insult to human intelligence finds a Predator ship crash landing in Colorado. However, an alien from the first film implanted itself in one of the Predators and what emerges has the DNA of both species. Aliens and a Predator descend on a small town where unsuspecting (read “stupid”) townspeople begin to fall left and right.
Assessment: OK, confession time. I actually liked the first Alien Vs. Predator film. I thought the concept was cool if not always the execution.
AVP: Requiem however? Emmm…not so much.
This movie is so frenetic and uninspired, it’s like writer Shane Salermo threw darts at a wall and just decided to include whatever sci-fi/horror clichés it hit. Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem answers the question, “What do you get when you take brothers whose claim to fame is founding a special effects company and have them direct an Alien film?” The answer is the visual equivalent of the alien chest-burster scene from Alien. Seriously, this film is so bad the directors intentionally use bad lighting to mask (unsuccessfully) how putrid the movie is. I kept picturing Ridley Scott somewhere crying one solitary tear like that Native American in the ’70s commercial.
3. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)
Director: Russ Meyer
Starring: Dolly Read, Cynthia Myers, John LaZar
Plot: In this parody of the 1967 film, The Valley of the Dolls, this film….this film….ok honestly this film almost defies description. There are women in a rock band and something about an Aunt’s family fortune and a male music producer who turns out to be a chick. Oh and it was also written by movie critic Roger Ebert.
Assessment: I talked about cult classics earlier and this is definitely one of them. I distinctly remember watching this film at a sleepover when I was thirteen or fourteen. There was a lot of sex, so much so it felt like part porno film (which I later discovered was intentional), so it was appealing. However, there’s no way anyone would call this a good film. Roger Ebert himself describes it thusly:
“I think of it as an essay on our generic expectations. It’s an anthology of stock situations, characters, dialogue, clichés and stereotypes, set to music and manipulated to work as exposition and satire at the same time; it’s cause and effect, a wind-up machine to generate emotions, pure movie without message.”
An essay? If I were the teacher I’d have preferred the student had plagiarized something. While Roger may have intended to do these things, the truth is that it’s a just a horrendous movie with no deeper meaning.
2. The Happening or Mark Wahlberg Talks to Plants (2008)
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel
Plot: The world gets attacked by plants and people start committing mass suicide.
Assessment: I took my then fiance Megan to see this “film” in June of 2008. By then we’d been engaged for almost a year, which I’m thankful for. Reason being that if we hadn’t been I think she would have dumped me like a Michael Bay scene without explosions. In fact when the movie ended, I believe she said something to the effect of, “I hate you right now for taking me to this movie.”
Can’t say as I blame her.
Top to bottom this film is horrendous. From the production value, to the asinine plot, to the atrocious pacing–it’s one of those movies you walk out of where you tell yourself, “Welp, there’s two hours of my life I can never get back.” However, the worst aspect of this film is the acting. People give Mark Wahlberg a lot of shit for being a horrendous actor. I’d say that’s overly harsh. He’s not Daniel Day-Lewis but he’s not Rob Schneider by any stretch of the imagination. But GOOD GOD is he bad in this film. Wahlberg demonstrates that “acting” can possess a very broad definition. I mean this scene alone proves it:
The Happening began a downward spiral for Shyamalan that he’s just now starting to dig himself out from. Soulless, jejune, and in no way suspenseful or scary, for a movie about mass suicides it’s a wonder audiences didn’t slit their wrists midway through the movie.
- Battlefield Earth (2000)
Director: Roger Christian
Starring: John Travolta, Forest Whitaker, Barry Pepper
Plot: It’s the year 3000 and an alien race called the Psychlos have ruled Earth for 1000 years, using humans as slave labor to mine minerals and other resources. However, following a stereotypical “hero will rise” plot, a human named Jonnie Goodboy Tyler (Barry Pepper) betrays a Psychlo named Terl (John Travolta) who tried to use Jonnie for his own nefarious purposes, and leads a revolt against the alien race.
Assessment: Passion projects are a funny thing. Sometimes you get success stories like Scorsese’s latest Silence or Stallone’s Rocky. Other times you get failures like The Last Witch Hunter and Swept Away. Then there’s Travolta’s Battlefield Earth that’s in a category of awful all its own.
The actor and noted cult follower–errrr Scientologist–labored for years to get this movie made. He couldn’t find the necessary funding due to the film’s script and connections to Scientology. In the end, Travolta ended up contributing millions of dollars of his own money to finance the film. He probably wishes he had that money back now as the film bombed. Shocking based on the plot description I gave you I know.
You may be surprised to hear this, but the novel the film was based on was written by the founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard. To be honest I’ve read the book and it’s actually quite good, a throwback to the pulp science fiction stories of the 1930s, 40s, and 50s. The movie however is not.
Earlier in this article I mentioned Jack Garner, and I distinctly remember the byline when he reviewed the film: “BATTLEFIELD BOMB.” A near perfect description of this travesty of cinema. Travolta and Whitaker are believable as aliens in the same way David Duke and George Wallace are believable as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. Which is to say not at all. The acting in the film makes Wahlberg’s performance in The Happening look like Gregory Peck in To Kill A Mockingbird by comparison.
Battlefield Earth is one of those films where you leave the theater and say, “How the Hell did this thing even get made?” Like the Bible says, “All is vanity” and man does it show in this movie. Script, direction, acting, special effects, character development–all of these are either poorly done or non-existent. Audiences agreed. The flick was a box office failure, raking in just under $30 million against a $73 million budget.
This may sound weird coming from a person who appreciates good cinema, but I’m almost thankful for movies like the eleven I’ve mentioned in this article. It makes you appreciate quality filmmaking even more. If nothing else it makes great fodder for Mystery Science Theater 3000.
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