What is the worst movie you’ve ever seen? Top 5? I’m always interested in hearing people’s responses, much like their favorite movies.
So began an e-mail conversation that proved to be worth sharing.
I host a “four-star” movie night once a month, and I’ve had people suggest switching to a “no-star” movie night, just once, just for fun. MST3K, after all, had a certain cult following. And even among my own friends, there is someone who hosts “hor’ nigh’” — deliberately shortened to either include “horror” films or “horrible” films.
But to me, with very few exceptions, bad movies are simply bad. And life is too short for bad movies!
Here’s the conversation:
Since I brought it up, here are some that come to mind for me:
Howard the Duck - immediately after leaving the theater (yes, I spent full retail to see it) I drew a complete blank as to what had just transpired (“two hours of my life I’ll never get back”). Methinks Lucas never quite recovered from that.
Highlander 2 - although I’ve never actually seen it, I’ve never had so many people tell me not to watch a movie even out of curiosity (more than for “Battlefield Earth”). “Seriously, dude, it will make you spoon your own frontal lobe out,” according to one friend.
Jaws III - This was probably the highest expectation-to-disappointment ratio of any film. The summer before, they showed a teaser trailer with a vertically letterboxed shot of water. The fin enters the shot. The letterbox zooms in to reveal two more, making the “III.” I got chills. Then I found out it was going to be in 3-D. How cool can this get? I waited a whole year and sat through one of the lamest things even Lou Gossett, Jr., bless his B-movie heart, did.
Robot Jox - Now this one is really bad, but the kind of bad that’s good if you’ve got the right frame of mind. Lots and lots of hackneyed, clichéd lines, and a laughable plot. In the apocalyptic future, only the U.S. and Russia exist. They no longer fight conventional wars, but instead settle all disputes with giant robots. I saw it in college and my roommates and I began making a list of the outstanding quips. It’s on my Netflix queue.
For some reason, most music movies like Under the Cherry Moon and Magical Mystery Tour turn out to be un-freakin-watchable. Nice soundtrack in most cases, but for some reason they try to weave a narrative through it.
There are so many... I’ve Tivoed the occasional turkey just to see what the fuss was all about. I only got through two hours of Heaven’s Gate. A little editing could’ve made that into a moderately dull movie.
Well, back to work for me... thanks for indulging.
An interesting question, and far more interesting than my answer will be.
Trouble is, having been to several small-town film festivals, having been on the screening committee for a film festival, and having been through film school, I’ve see a lot of garbage that is so small and independent that you would have never heard of it. The bottom of the heap is full of badly-acted, badly-written, badly-produced home movies either supposed to be touching and sentimental or “in the style of” Quentin Tarantino.
And the bottom of the heap is bottomless. There are limitless bad home movies, any one of which is going to be worse than Robot Jox. What the question really needs is an artificial bottom, below which we don’t count it as a “movie.” Maybe the boundary should be something like “feature films that got distribution.” Then you get into the more interesting MST3K-type discussions. (But to me, “bad movies” go so far below that artificial barrier that the question itself is kinda pointless.)
That said, some of my least favorite movies recently have been:
The Life of David Gale, in which Kevin Spacey tramples on the deeply-held beliefs of both sides of the death penalty debate (i.e., everyone)
What the Bleep Do We Know?, in which people mistake quantum weirdness for human-scale weirdness, and new-age mysticism for science
Collateral Damage — now here’s a “bad” movie that’s almost so bad it’s good — this is probably the kind of answer you were looking for.
Alexander, Oliver Stone’s way-too-long, boring, pointless “epic.”
The last slot I’ll leave open for all those festival- and homemade films that are boring, pointless, or bad.
I agree about the artificial barrier. Anyone can make a bad film, but it takes a special kind of producer/director team to get a real stinker through the whole major studio process.
Perhaps what interests me, as with major label music releases, is how those heaps got greenlighted (or is it greenlit?). I’ve heard that sometimes projects go through purposely to lose money, such as for a tax write-off, tax shelter or drug money laundering.
Otherwise, we are forced to consider the possibility that someone thought they would make money off Vanilla Ice’s third album.
Then again, some movies would never have seen the light of day based on their merits alone. A player with some muscle finagles enough of a budget to do “a serialized space opera based on a Japanese film” barely squeaks through — that is, until it becomes a bazillion-dollar earning blockbuster. Same way the Beatles got signed despite the fact that “guitar bands are on their way out.”
Speaking of festival films and indies, I sometimes check them out because the premise has piqued my interest, and I think that perhaps the masses have overlooked a gem. Then five minutes into it I realize that this, in fact, is a turkey. No films come to mind at the moment, perhaps for the best.
Speaking of turkeys, I loved 1941 for some reason.