It should be easy to make a good film. You get a solid story from some talented writers. Grab a few folks who can act their way out of a paper bag. Sign on a director who knows which way to point the camera, throw money at the problem, and you’re done. Except, sometimes, even with all those elements, the universe aligns to make something better. A truly terrible work of cinema to be forever heckled in dorm rooms for ages to come. In celebration of these monstrosities, here are the 15 worst movies of all time according to Rotten Tomatoes.
It’s been said life imitates art. Yet, sometimes art has trouble imitating life. Or imitating other art telling the exact same story. Sometimes art has trouble being art because it took eight long years to make and thus has more alterations than a surgical addict. Yet, the real flaw of Gotti is that it tries to exonerate the Teflon Don, who was a legitimate bad guy. Though, at least there’s enough wigs to make Phil Spector take notice, and enough music from Pitbull to confuse Italians, Americans, and the latin community alike.
When Drew Carey tried his utmost to kill the story of Pinocchio, the gauntlet was cast down. It was a huge surprise when Oscar winner Roberto Benigni picked it up and effectively declared, “I’m going to destroy this beloved fable. I’m going to cast a 50-plus year-old man as the little wooden boy. I’m going to then dub his voice over with the guy who starred in Road Trip and Inside Schwartz. This $45 million budget is either going in someone’s pocket or up someone’s nose. I’m going to make a man-child so unlikable you’ll beg for Adam Sandler’s temper tantrums. Benigni out.”
One name stands out among bad movie fanatics: Cage. Ordinarily, when you get Nick Cage, you also have a director to put a bit in his teeth so he doesn’t go, how you say, full Cage. In this case, his brother Chris is behind the lens, and clearly didn’t know how to pump the brakes. Then there’s the saving grace of Charlie Sheen working for a man with a lobster claw. If you see only one movie on this list, here’s your winner. It’s a constant game of scene one-upmanship, where new madness must be introduced, lest you begin to wonder why the sound design is eerily nonexistent.
Once Upon a Time in Brooklyn (2013)
Ice-T grew up in south central Los Angeles after living in the cannibalistic penal colony that is Newark, NJ. He was an actual gangster. Yet, he never looked at the director, the writers, or the other actors and said, “Hey, this is nothing like gangster life.” He also didn’t look at himself, because his performance in Leprechaun in the Hood was far more compelling, and then he was acting against the titular Lucky Charms enthusiast. Long story short, a handful of aging wiseguys and a “Once upon a time in…” title does not a quality film make.
Dark Crimes (2016)
Ordinarily, when it’s said that an actor has reinvented themselves, it’s meant as a compliment. Jim Carrey has toiled endlessly to be the exception to that. He has perpetually tried to flee from the preposterous antics that made him a household name, and the result has been seeming like he’s talking out of his ass more than when literally talking out of his ass. The bottom should have been Joel Schumacher’s The Number 23, but Carrey wasn’t done digging. Most disturbing is Dark Crimes’s opening wherein accused sexual harrasser Brett Ratner’s RatPac production name appears between shots of a woman being tormented.
Staying Alive (1983)
Saturday Night Fever, the precursor to this film, had complex themes, like love, freedom, and finding one’s self. Under the quill of Sly Stallone, Staying Alive explored other themes. These included lousy broads always getting in a guy’s way, engaging in reckless sex during the height of the AIDS crisis, and being rewarded for being a monster to your mother, your girlfriend, and pretty much everyone else in your life. Additionally, strutting.
What the world needs is a version of The Hunger Games, but instead of a charming female lead, let’s cast aging curmudgeon Bruce Willis as he does nothing but phone it in to collect a paycheck. Let’s make him a cop, framed for a crime he didn’t commit, because that storyline wasn’t old when the world was new. When you factually know Stone Cold Steve Austin can and has done the same basic thing better, it’s time to pack it in.
A Thousand Words (2012)
Oh, Eddie Murphy, when will we tire of seeing your facile and insincere jabber land you in trouble? Actually, about ten minutes into Delirious when you’re hip-deep in hate speech against homosexuals. A Thousand Words takes the one thing Murphy has in his quiver, his incessant chatter, and cuts it down to mugging for the camera. Imagine if they made Chris Tucker a mute. That has nothing to do with this. Simply bask in that glorious world.
The Father of Invention (2010)
Kevin Spacey, prior to becoming persona non grata during the Me Too movement, was able to make some truly unlikeable characters watchable. Here, he doesn’t even seem to be trying to give us any interest in the redemption of some late night infomercial huckster. Largely because his character is trying to rebuild his empire of shilling junk to insomniacs between wallowing in self-pity. Even charming Heather Graham fades into the woodwork as if ashamed to be there. Which is shocking when you’re working with the vaunted director of not one but two NFL 360 films.
Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas (2014)
Normally a movie about rescuing the spirit of Christmas focuses heavily on moving away from crass commercial materialism and moving toward love, family, and perhaps spirituality. This story makes the case that materialism is the way to love, family, and perhaps spirituality. It points to gross consumerism as the path to God. It also venerates the many, many pagan symbols, such as Christmas trees, as being intensely Christian. It nearly topples from being utterly unaware of itself right into biting satire.
All Roads Lead to Rome (2015)
You can put a camera on the charismatic and adorable Diane Lane for nearly two hours while she flits and flirts around under the Tuscan sun. It’s not a total waste of time to watch Julia Roberts stuff her face with Italian cuisine before she goes off to pray and love. However, try the same basic formula with the woman who is slowly eating the marrow out of Matthew Broderick’s bones, and you have an accidental horror movie that’s essentially “Carrie Bradshaw’s Intolerable Sister Goes to Europe.”
Rogue Hostage (2021)
You know you’re in for a ride when the title is clearly random words thrown confusingly together. In exactly what way can a hostage be rogue? Does it mean they aren’t hostaging correctly? Then, you put in the overactor’s overactor, Mr. John Malkovich. Which you would think would make this a peppy little Con Air kind of romp. But it is as dour as a Congressional budget hearing, sans the wackiness and whimsy.
The Con is On (2018)
Tim Roth, Uma Thurman, lunatic Crispin Glover, Parker Posey, and even Stephen “Class and Charm Personified” Fry star. Yet only the most hardy moviegoer will survive to the end credits. The script reads like a virgin trying with hormonal desperation to be funny, but it’s not helped when each performer seems steadfast in oozing narcissism until you want to slap the smug right out of them. Thankfully, the plot is completely underdeveloped.
Killers Anonymous (2019)
Killers Anonymous is not intended for entertainment. It is performing a public service. The goal here is to make hitpersons so flat, boring, and forgettable that no one would ever want to go into the murder business. Picture an Accountants Anonymous meeting that sometimes erupts into oddly dull violence surrounded by a lot of pop and sizzle camerawork. Congratulations, you’re picturing something more interesting than this film. Now add in Gary Oldman drinking and spectating while Jessica Alba gets “street” with a bandana and pigtails.
The V.I.P.s (1963)
For anyone who thinks Liz & Dick besmirched the careers of the beloved Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, please view this abomination. It’s actually the tale of Vivien Leigh trying to leave Sir Laurence Olivier, which makes it a showpiece of difficult lovers playing difficult lovers in a tiresome homage to ego that’s everything sickening about celebrity culture. The one defensible point of the movie is the incredible performance turned in by Margaret Rutherford. It doesn’t save the film but rather highlights how dreadful everyone else is. Every time Rutherford is on screen, it’s like someone turning the lights on at your favorite bar.