A name to my pain

by Ted on December 4, 2003

My friend Charles Kuffner has his list of the ten worst motion pictures that he’s actually seen. Here’s mine in no particular order, borrowing heavily from people who are funnier than me.

1. Rollerball

Roger Ebert on Rollerball:

Someday this film may inspire a long, thoughtful book by John Wright, its editor. My guess is that something went dreadfully wrong early in the production. Maybe dysentery or mass hypnosis.

This was the most amateurish major motion picture that I’ve ever seen. If the Chewbacca Defense was a movie, it would be “Rollerball.” Has to be seen to be believed.

2. Teen Wolf Too

I saw this in the theater when I was a kid. About an hour into it, there was a problem with the projector, and the film burned up as we were watching it. The audience started cheering. I swear to God that this is true.

3. Undertaker and His Pals

It’s unfair to pad these lists out with dumb B-movies, but I promise you that this is really something special. I saw this during a 30-hour bad movie marathon at college. It was head and shoulders above its competition.

An undertaker and his pals (a restaurant owner and someone else that I forget) drum up business by starting a motorcycle gang that kills people, serves their flesh in the restaurant, and provides the funeral. In order for the copious cannibalism puns to work, they have to be very selective about their victims. This is an actual scene, reconstructed from memory; I might be a little off, but you get the tone.

(The detective who has been sent to unravel the case is in the restaurant of Undertaker Pal. The camera lingers on today’s special, “LEG OF LAMB.”)

UNDERTAKER: Did you hear about the murder of Sally Lamb?

DETECTIVE: Yeah, I did.

UNDERTAKER: I hear they cut her legs off.

DETECTIVE: Yeah. Say, what’s the special today?

UNDERTAKER: Leg of lamb.

The next victim, if I remember correctly, is Ann Poultry.

At the end of the movie, every actor whose character who died during the movie is shown smiling and waving, getting out of the big pot, freezer, shower, or other death scene. This is apparently meant to reassure the viewer that all the killings were just make-pretend. I may never be clean again.

4. A Beautiful Mind

Based on a true story, in the sense that Species II is based on On the Origin of Species*. I know that it’s rude to yell at the screen in the movies, but I could barely keep myself from shouting, “Stay away from modern pharmacology, John! Paranoid schizophrenia can be cured with the love of a good woman!” Ron Howard’s next film, “Squeeze It Out”, is a powerful story about how the power of hugs can overcome cystic fibrosis.

5. Roadhouse

If you’re like me, when you first saw Anakin Skywaker’s mom tell Liam Neeson that Anakin had no father in The Phantom Menace, you got a peculiar feeling, a weird combination of nausea and slack-jawed awe. Sort of a “I can’t believe they actually tried to pull that off” feeling. Roadhouse gave me that feeling for 90 non-stop minutes.

I’d like to share, from Mystery Science Theater 3000’s “Let’s Have a Patrick Swayze Christmas”

Open up your heart and let the Patrick Swayze Christmas in.

CROW: We’ll gather at the Roadhouse with our next of kin.

TOM: Not bad!

JOEL: And Santa can be our regular Saturday night thing.

‘BOTS: We’ll decorate our barstools and gather round and sing.

TOM: Oh, let’s have a Patrick Swayze Christmas this year!

CROW: Or we’ll tear your throat out and kick you in the ear!

A truly amazing motion picture. Ask anyone who’s seen it. Or just sit next to them quietly for a few minutes; they’ll probably start muttering about it.

6. Beastmaster II: Through the Portal of Time

If you enjoyed Conan the Barbarian but thought that Conan was a little too much of a quick-talkin’ smoothie for you, you might enjoy the Beastmaster series. Marc Singer makes Arnold look like Oscar Wilde. It’s basically Masters of the Universe without the star power.

7. Nell

Says Fametracker, “(Jodie Foster was) nominated for the Best Actress Oscar for Nell, a role originated a full nine years earlier by The Goonies‘s wildly overlooked ‘Sloth'”. Horrible, treacly, cynical Oscar grab.

8. League of Extraordinary Gentlemen:

From the Trailer Trash:

The Trailer Trash would like to offer a full retraction for our assertion that League of Extraordinary Gentlemen would be “idiotic dogshit.” We regret any confusion we might have caused readers who assumed from our review that they would be in for an idiotic dogshit film. We now know, of course, that LXG is not a film at all, but rather a two hour slideshow of random images, presented in such a way as to promote the deepest pain and resentment in a viewer possible.

Based on its silly trailer, we fully expected LXG to be awful. What we didn’t expect— what none of us could have expected— was that it would be the most awful thing in the history of mankind. Folks, LXG is Batman & Robin awful. It’s Avengers awful (also starring Sean “Eagle Eye With the Scripts” Connery).

Once a year or so, my fiancée and I deliberately set out to watch a double feature of the worst films we can find. This year, we saw Gigli and the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen on the same night. LXG made Gigli look… not good, but like an actual motion picture.

9. Moulin Rouge

A screaming, grotesque kabuki show of a movie. It’s centered on a love story that’s feels completely false; the stars fall in love just because they’re the most attractive people in the room. Edited by a hyperactive 10 year old locked up with a crate of Red Bull, this is a big fat squealing mess. Some people love this movie, but it felt like a horrible dream to me.

10. To be determined. Last Samurai, I’m looking in your direction…

* The original Species was based on I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.



seth 12.04.03 at 7:24 pm

Thank you for acknowledging the sublime awfulness of “Moulin Rouge.” I have had friendship-threatening fights with people I otherwise respect upon hearing that they like this movie. I have never wanyted less to be sitting in a movie theater; a friend who worked there let me in without paying, and afterwards I wanted my free back. It actually stands at #3 on my least-favorite list.

#2 is “Runaway Bride,” which fulfills each and every conceivable definition of “badly written.” I was on a late-night bus from Boston to New York, unhappy and hung over, and all I wanted to do was sleep. For some reason I couldn’t. And on the bus, “Runaway Bride” was playing.

#1 is “The Doom Generation,” a piece of crap that gives sex, drugs and violence a bad name. It’s so self-consciously “hip” and “edgy,” convinced of its own greatness, that it makes me hate the whole idea of coolness with a seething passion. If this movie were a person, it would be Rose McGowan, who not coincidentally is the star.


DJW 12.04.03 at 7:29 pm

Everyone has their own hobbyhorse, but mine’s really important. It’s called Boxing Helena/ If you’ve seen it, you’d understand.


jim in austin 12.04.03 at 7:36 pm

The list is highly suspect since it doesn’t include Plan 9 From Outer Space. One need only see a 10 second clip from the trailer to move it to the top of any “worst of” list…


Matt 12.04.03 at 7:45 pm

Don’t forget ‘Life is Beautiful’ which is so bad that it made my hair hurt.


Jeremy Osner 12.04.03 at 7:47 pm

I think, the only film I’ve seen that I would categorize as funny in its depth of lameness, was “The man with two brains” (which I saw on my first date with my wife). Though speaking of bad first date movies, my first first date was taking a girl in H.S. to see “The River’s Edge” — perhaps not a bad film, but poorly suited for the occasion. The relationship did not last. Oh and, it occurs to me that a long time ago a friend’s older brother rented a porn video for a group of us that would probably qualify — it was called something like “2069: A Sex Odyssey” and concerned a group of female aliens who come to earth to milk male humans of their ejaculate. Sort of like Rocky Horror Picture Show but without the good elements.


Ssuma 12.04.03 at 7:53 pm

Moulin Rouge I thought had enough good bits too make the really awful bits seem worse, and so should not be on a list of truly awful films. A screaming, grotesque kabuki show of a movie actually makes it sound a lot better than it is so maybe you think the way I do.

the stars fall in love just because they’re the most attractive people in the room.

Always worked for me.


Katherine 12.04.03 at 7:53 pm

1. Jack Frost. Michael Keaton dies in a car accident, but his son plays a wistful song on a magic harmonica (!) so he is reincarnated as a fun loving snowman (!!!). I only actually got through 15 minutes, but it was enough.

2. The Fifth Element. Probably the worst movie I have seen in a theater. My memory is kind of fuzzy; I do know that Bruce Willis and Milla and an incredibly annoying Chris Tucker had to save the earth from a giant ball of pure evil. There were flying cars, and Luke Perry, and the Fifth Element was Love. Argh. The weird thing is that about five of my good friends saw this in a theater too, independently.

3. City of Angels. One of the first in the long line of “what the hell was Nicolas Cage thinking?” and “Meg Ryan was once cute, but now she’s just really annoying” films. Nicolas Cage stops being an angel for the love of Dr. Meg Ryan, but then tragedy strikes a few days later. His angel buddy asks him if it was worth it. “One look in her eyes, one touch of her hair, would have been enough,” he says tearfully. “Instead I f*cked her brains out,” my sister leaned over and whispered to me.

4. Armageddon. People are probably somewhat familiar with this one. It makes the list mainly for its overall incoherence, but three lowlights were:
a) the Liv Tyler/Ben Affleck animal cracker romantic goodbye
b) one of the characters gets “space dementia”
c) another character instructs his crew to “drill this iron bitch.”

5. Attack of the Clones. George Lucas really needs an intervention.


Chris 12.04.03 at 7:59 pm

Apropos of City of Angels, you really should rent Wings of Desire sometime, the movie that “inspired” City of Angels.

It will make you hate City of Angles that much more because it is a beautiful movie.


Katherine 12.04.03 at 8:09 pm

okay, I’ve come up with the rest of the list:

6. Con Air. Peter Pan bus movie; sound was too loud to turn it off.
7. The Story of Us. Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer. See #6 for explanation.
8. Titanic. Not independently THAT awful (I have a reasonably high tolerance for girly movies, seeing as how I’m a girl), but all those Oscars. And that last scene. My eyes.
9. Nothing to Lose. It’s a Tim Robbins/Martin Lawrence buddy movie. I’m sort of embarrassed to have seen it, but my husband has seen it TWICE.
10. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. I actually had to turn this one off, which I do not do very often.


Katherine 12.04.03 at 8:11 pm

“turn it off” should be “tune it out”.

This would be a MUCH better question for presidential candidates than asking them what their favorite movie was.


A canadian 12.04.03 at 8:23 pm

Worst movie I ever saw…

“Wings of Desire” (“Der Himmel über Berlin”) directed by Wim Wender

I went to see it because I thought City of Angels (its bastard American cousin) was intriuging in theory but was ultimately empty in the way most Hollywood movies end up being when they aspire to discuss lofty things like faith. I figured the original European version would be more insightful, meaningful and witty.

Instead I was met with a movie that absolutely delighted in being incomprehensible. (I hate creators that think producing a string of meaningless sentences passes for deep thought).

When the movie wasn’t veering of into sheer nonsense. The director seemed bent on forcing his viewer to wade through pretentious tripe more saccharin than the average Hallmark holiday movie and more ludicrious than the worst episode of Trouched by an Angel. Wings of Desire made Touched by an Angel look like a treatise on faith by St. Thomas Aquinas.

The whole project is the kind of thing teenagers on dope think is deep. Ham-fisted annoying psuedo intellectualism brewed up in a mud pit of ignorance.

A Beautiful Mind

… “Stay away from modern pharmacology, John! Paranoid schizophrenia can be cured with the love of a good woman!”

What I really hated is that it neglected to establish the very important point that mental health medicine has come a long way since the 70’s. I don’t think many people in the 70’s had a wonderful experience with the medication that was then available. Those drugs often had side effects nearly as bad as the diseases. Some people were probably better off not taking them.

But it was all they had. In the same way that sanitariums were all they once had for TB.

Telling stories in this fashion contributes to the notion that mental illness is fake or occurs in those too weak, stupid or helpless to overcome it.


Katherine 12.04.03 at 8:25 pm

on second thought, scratch “Jay and Silent Bob” and bump down a few others for the Disney “Hunchback of Notre Dame” which comes in at number 7. I saw this in a theater, and I don’t have any good excuse.

The only consolation is that the people who made the South Park movie obviously saw it too, because there’s no other way to explain the choreography of Satan’s musical number.


Katie 12.04.03 at 8:42 pm

Moulin Rouge is pretty awful. I actually managed to talk a friend of mine out of liking it, which was an accomplishment. She’s a dancer, and claimed to like the dancing. I objected strenuously: “They edited out any possible musicality or rhythm to the dancing! You can’t see the dancing!” Chicago had the same problem, though less brutally. She came around to my way of thinking when we watched the extras on the DVD when we watched the unedited plainclothes rehearsals then the actual dance scenes in sequence. I said, come on, tell me this horrendous editing didn’t just destroy great choreography. And she conceded that it had.

You know, Life is Beautiful is my favorite movie, and I’ve heard two references to people hating it recently, this comment thread and Jeanne D’Arc, I believe. I’m curious what incites this hatred. I would forestall any objection about its portrayal of the Holocaust by arguing that it’s not really about the Holocaust, but the transfiguring power of imagination, humor, and storytelling. But I want to know: why is it worthy of hatred?

I actually like A Beautiful Mind, though I would acknowledge its flaws, like Ron Howard’s pedestrian direction. And as a matter of fact, there *are* non-pharmacological treatments for schizophrenia; there’s been substantial recent research on cognitive behavioral treatment. It depresses me a little that recovery or management of mental illness without drugs is a laugh line.

On my ten worst list: The Hours was really a truly horrendous experience.


Jeremy Osner 12.04.03 at 8:52 pm

I disliked (but not hated) “Life is Beautiful” primarily because I saw it not too long after I saw “Johnny Sticchino” and Benigni just didn’t live up to his brilliant potential. “Johnny Sticchino” however would surely rank among my 10 or 20 best movies.


david 12.04.03 at 9:11 pm

Atrios has got the English Patient, and he’s right. Nathan Newman made a joke I’ve already stolen a few times: it’s the anti-Casablanca, a shitty movie that teaches, why not help the Nazis, as our narcissistic love is all that really matters in this world?

But I meant to say that I’ve seen Beastmaster 1 more than a dozen times, and the next time it comes on TBS, I’ll be watching.


jdsm 12.04.03 at 9:14 pm

I think it becomes a person to be fair and balanced and not to give in to the temptation to scoff and ridicule, however, some of the films on this list are great and I can only imagine those who dislike them to be people who have only seen 10 films.

“Road House” is great. “Life is Beautiful” is really great. “Moulin Rouge” is entertaining and “A Beautiful Mind” is decent enough.

The worst film I’ve ever seen is the Winona Ryder/Richard Gere monstrosity “Autumn in New York”. Almost as bad was the Keanu Reeves film “Johnny Mnemonic”.


Randy Paul 12.04.03 at 9:51 pm


At least Road House had Kelly Lynch walking nude across her bedroom. I’m still dying to find out how checking someone’s medical records will disclose that they have a BA in Philosophy from NYU . . .

I would make the argument that Titanic may be the worst written movie ever to win some major awards. My favorite example:

Billy Zane: “Who painted those?”

Kate Winslet: “I can’t remember his name. Something or other Picasso.”

I still cannot for the life of me understand what people saw in that movie.

Regarding Life is Beautiful, I saw it once and with a strong family history of diabetes, I’d better not risk it again. After Benigni’s behavior at the Oscars, I don’t even like him at all anymore. He reminds me of an unpleasant houseguest.


fyreflye 12.04.03 at 10:25 pm

Perhaps the most culturally revealing worst movies list would confine your choices to worst films that won an Oscar for Best Picture. Think – yes, English Patient and A Beautiful Mind, but there’s always Gladiator, Forrest Gump, Driving Miss Daisy…you name it. How many “Best” winners have you actually been able to sit through twice? Annie Hall……..


harry 12.04.03 at 10:33 pm

Either you are all very pretentious or none of you have seen the version of THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU with Michael York and Burt Lancaster. Or both. It is better to be both than just the first.


Brett Bellmore 12.04.03 at 10:59 pm

Overdrawn at the Memory Bank. Hey, at least you can laugh at Plan 9, or Robot Monster. Overdrawn isn’t even funny bad. And I LIKE Varley!

Lost in Space, the movie. “Nuff said.

Battlestar Galactica. That’s a prediction, it hasn’t even been released yet.


mike 12.04.03 at 11:36 pm

I can’t believe in all of the lists I haven’t seen my all time number one most hated: The Breakfast Club. I know, John Hughs movies shouldn’t count for the same reason Plan 9 doesn’t, but this one just annoys me more than most.

If time travel is ever invented, it will be to stop production of this piece of crap.


sidereal 12.04.03 at 11:59 pm

Hm. It’s easy enough to assign worst status to crappy garage projects or C-movies, but I’d say those would get 0 stars at worst. There are movies I’d give negative stars to, and they tend to be fairly significant theatrical releases. Mostly they’re movies that make me feel like a worse human being afterwards. Usually I walk out realizing that I’ve just spent 15 bucks to reduce myself.

Se7en comes to mind. I don’t mind the gore or the twisted psychology. . I enjoyed Silence of the Lambs. But there didn’t seem to be any reason for it. Just a 2 hour nihilism vignette edited like a music video with no protagonist, no theme, and no point. In retrospect I think I was in a bad mood that night, but I came out just feeling empty and disturbed. I would have paid 20 bucks to unsee it.

And for my meta-reviews, Ron Howard as a director turned out to be exactly what you’d think Richie Cunningham would turn out to be. A socially successful, whitebread seatwarmer. I wish every one of his movies had been directed by Ang Lee instead.

The Fifth Element and Jay And Silent Bob are both absolute classics of self-parody and are near to my heart. But I could see how they’d be irritating if my sense of humor didn’t swing that way.


JJ 12.05.03 at 12:07 am

Norm MacDonald’s “Dirty Work” beats them all. I should have known, since it’s an SNL-veteran movie, but Christ, it just plain sucked.

And you all forget the new “Planet of the Apes.” One big cliche after another…


Jacob T. Levy 12.05.03 at 12:11 am

Ted speaketh the truth about Beautiful Mind. Good god. There’s something especially jarring about seeing a movie that’s so loathesome when so many people you like and respect swooned for it– like with Titanic, but much, much moreso.

I’ll admit that Life is Beautiful viscerally affected me in the itended way when I first saw it, though I later had time to reflect more rationally and certainly wouldn’t see it again.

If you’re like me, when you first saw Anakin Skywaker’s mom tell Liam Neeson that Anakin had no father in The Phantom Menace, you got a peculiar feeling, a weird combination of nausea and slack-jawed awe. Sort of a “I can’t believe they actually tried to pull that off” feeling.

Heh. Heh heh. In this respect, at least, I am indeed like you.

LXG: As I blogged at the time– the standard problems with super-hero movies are that you have a cool character concept but many years of interlocked stories and continuity with no clear start-and-stop points, some of which were written by writers with a weak grasp on plotting and dialogue. So– given a heroic adventure comic that has the virtue of being a very movie-sized six issue miniseries, written by one of the two or three best plotters and dialoguists in the history of the medium, what’s the obvious thing to do?

Right. Chuck the story completely, take the character concepts, and add Tom Sawyer with a gun.

Jefferson In Paris would certainly make my top 20. The Patriot might well make my top ten. I’ve watched a couple lately that were shockingly bad compared with my very high expectations for them– Love Liza and Laurel Canyon– but neither is quite so epically as the movies under discussion. Indie character flicks aren’t usually catastrophic in quite that same fascinating way. But Focus, with Macy & Dern, is an exception.


Hilary Bok 12.05.03 at 12:36 am

How can you leave out Endless Love? It stars Brooke Shields. It’s a two-hour homage to boring teen obsession. Worst of all, it features Brooke saying wistfully, ‘But Mom, I don’t think anyone will ever love me like that again’ without a hint of irony, after the guy who loved her thus has deliberately burnt down her family’s house, slept with her mother (the closest he can get to Brooke, doncha know), and caused the death of her father.


loren 12.05.03 at 12:41 am

“Roadhouse” has the classic line: “pain don’t hurt.” Priceless.

A deeply disturbing part of “A Beautiful Mind”, I thought, was not in the film itself, but in the DVD extras. There is a scene where Ron Howard plays the role of eager and animated math student, as the real John Nash stumbles his way through some early results. I had to turn it off.

A few obscure contributions:

– They Saved Hitler’s Brain

couldn’t get through it. I see a lot of bad movies, but I would suffer through “Surf Nazis Must Die” before trying to watch this again.

– Nightfall

This is an obscure film version of an Asimov short story that has a cute gimmick (planet with three suns and rare eclipses that lead to panic and periodic collapse of civilization, until some bright folk figure out the candle), but the film is genuinely unwatchable.

– On Deadly Ground

Aikido fans could justify shelling out cash for “Above the Law” — for curiosity’s sake, and because Andrew Davis can actually direct a decent action/drama (it’s not clear he could have done much more with the tools he was given for this gem). But by the time “On Deadly Ground” rolled along (“what does it take to change the essence of a man?”) there was only one possible excuse: a perverse desire to share in the obvious suffering of Michael Caine and Joan Chen. Their presence on the cast made me wonder about contractual obligations. Or outright blackmail.

Vaguely related: I cannot decide whether Joan Chen’s masterwork is “The Last Emperor” or “Blood of Heroes”.


Jeremy Osner 12.05.03 at 1:49 am

Two more come to mind: City Slickers, and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. These two seem always to be on the late night film channel when I am bored and sleepless, looking for something to divert; and they do not do the trick. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels particularly annoys me because it seems like it could have been a pretty funny movie if they would have just found a better screenwriter, and cast Gene Wilder instead of Steve Martin.


James Russell 12.05.03 at 3:05 am

Even Dwarves Started Small, Werner Herzog, 1970.

Why? Because it ends with a five-minute shot of a dwarf standing next to a camel and giggling maniacally. Any movie that ends this way cannot be good.


Danny 12.05.03 at 3:42 am

Batman and Robin.

Simply awful on all accounts. I would have left the theater, except I saw it at a drive-in and wanted to see the second feature.


Nabakov 12.05.03 at 3:42 am

SHOWTIME: “You know you’ve entered flat dramatic terrain when William Shatner towers over it.” — Geoff Pevere, THE TORONTO STAR

“SPIRIT OF THE CIMMIRRON’s” narration comes to us courtesy of Matt Damon, who, having played a horse’s ass in some of his earlier movies, perhaps thought it wise to inhabit the entire nag this time around.” — Peter Ranier, NEW YORK MAGAZINE

THE SCORPION KING “As this chaotic barrage of muscle flexing, swordplay, fireballs, crude digital effects and comic-book quips hurls itself off the screen, it’s like having several garbage cans clogged with stale pizza, lukewarm cola, soggy French fries and greasy, ketchup-stained napkins emptied over your head.” — Stephen Holden, NEW YORK TIMES

I-SPY “Has all the raging excitement of continental drift.” — Marc Savlov, AUSTIN CHRONICLE

ABANDON “Consider the title your best advice.” — Desson Howe, WASHINGTON POST.

DREAMCATCHER: “As five or six bad movies squished together, it almost seems like a bargain. ” — A.O. Scott, NEW YORK TIMES

THE CORE: “Built from an alloy of absurdium and stupidium.” — Joe Morgenstern, WALL STREET JOURNAL

CAT IN THE HAT: “They may as well have skipped the hassle of securing licensing rights and simply called this mess Mike Myers: Asshole in Fur.” — Gregory Weinkauf, DALLAS OBSERVER


Teaflax 12.05.03 at 8:30 am

Fifth Element, check.
Batman and Robin, check.
Life is Beautiful, check.
Phantom Menace, check

But how could Braveheart have been forgotten? A pointless slice of ultraviolence, shouting and plotless meandering that just leaves a really bad taste in your mouth once it’s over. It’s about nothing, means nothing and has no *point* (yeah, I know I said that, but it bears repeating)

Few people have ever seen “Servus Bayern”, but it’s a movie that tries soooooo hard to be weird and arty and unexpected that it’s like a four-year-old who’s jumping up and down screaming “Lookatme, lookatme, loookatmeeeee!”. Atrocious in every sense you can think of.

FWIW, I thought that both Wings over Berlin and Moulin Rouge were fantastic.


Doug 12.05.03 at 8:32 am

The only good thing about The Hours was that it inspired a British reviewer to offer the Best Movie Snark of 2003:

“Hours? It seemed like weeks.”

Also on the beyond-redepmtion-awful, should-have-walked-out list:

Pulp Fiction Two hours of soulless stupidity with none of the panache of a C list pulp writer. Contempt for the audience masquerading as hipster detachment.

The Princess and the Warrior I hope they wrote new dialogue when they dubbed it into English, because it was unbearable in German. Easily three hours too long, even if you thought the characters were marginally interesting, which they weren’t. Failed to redeem itself by killing off said characters. Left me laughing out loud at inappropriate moments because the action was so completely stupid.

Leonard Part VI Even as a high school sophomore I should have known better.


Chirag Kasbekar 12.05.03 at 8:41 am

I can imagine a worse movie than _Independence Day_.

_Close Encounters of the Third Kind_ comes close. Pretty close.


Chirag Kasbekar 12.05.03 at 8:41 am

I can’t imagine a worse movie than _Independence Day_.

_Close Encounters of the Third Kind_ comes close. Pretty close.


Chirag Kasbekar 12.05.03 at 8:42 am

That was ‘can’t’…


ttam117 12.05.03 at 2:18 pm

“Purple Rain”–only movie I ever walked out of.

In regards to “Roadhouse” it is so bad it is cult-movie bad. Check out this deconstruction:


Jerry Martin 12.05.03 at 3:35 pm

Hasn’t anyone seen John Carpenter’s “Escape From LA”?


John isbell 12.05.03 at 4:41 pm

I hope that’s the Rollerball remake in the post, because it looked like stunning sludge and I like the original. They could have cut the plot and given us two hours of a Jean Reno closeup instead.
I also like Beastmaster very much. Never saw II. Lots upthread I like, lots I hate, but I guess my #1 remains Pearl Harbor. Jerry Bruckheimer Must Die!


John 12.05.03 at 4:48 pm

In the obscure category, allow me to nominate “Kuffs” with Christian Slater, from 1992. My wife and I couldn’t believe how bad this was, so we had to watch all the way to the end just to make sure. Fortunately, for every 10 rentals at the video store, we got the 11th free, and this was it. But we still felt ripped off.


Mito 12.05.03 at 4:50 pm

Is there any one movie that everyone would like? How about Doctor Strangelove for example.


Mito 12.05.03 at 4:50 pm

Is there any one movie that everyone would like? How about Doctor Strangelove for example.


John Kozak 12.05.03 at 4:56 pm

What, no:

Fatal Attraction
Terminator 2
Matrix Reloaded
Meet Joe Black



loren 12.05.03 at 5:35 pm

mito: “Is there any one movie that everyone would like? How about Doctor Strangelove for example.”

Good question, but I know from personal experience that “like” is a strange word to use when you see a lot of films and movies. Just to clarify: “films” are what you see in black turtlenecks, “movies” are what you sneak out to see at a half-price weekday matinee when you tell your colleagues you’re going to a very interesting lecture over in the philosophy department … no, not pornos. I was thinking more like “Deep Impact” or “The Hulk”.

Anyway, I see lots of films and movies that I kinda like, and some that I really really like for particular scenes or lines or musical moments, even though I know they suck painfully in some (often a great many) respects. My sense from many of the comments here is that I’m not alone in this.

Thus I want to rephrase the question: what are some movies that a great many people are likely to have a very hard time hating passionately, or feeling genuinely cheated out of their money by?

I think Doctor Strangelove is a plausible candidate, sure.

And here’s some more potential content for the sought-after overlapping consensus …

The Princess Bride
Local Hero

I can think of quibbles with each of these films, but can anyone really hate The Princess Bride?



Dave 12.05.03 at 6:16 pm

“Patch Adams”; How Phillip Seymour Hoffman got involved in this pinnacle of mawkishness is anyone’s guess.

“The One and Only”; Henry Winkler plays a professional wrestler. It’s been at least 20 years since I sat through this turkey, and the memory still makes me wince.


Dave 12.05.03 at 6:38 pm

And for the ladies…

Stepmom. Julia Roberts and Susan Sarandon each trying to be less interesting than the other, annoying whiny moppets, and Ed Harris wishing he was in some other movie entirely. You know a family oriented film is in trouble when they all start dancing around the living room. In Stepmom, they did it three times. Actually caught myself smiling when Sarandon dies of some cancer or another.


pchuck 12.05.03 at 7:24 pm

Beetlejuice is a horrid movie.

My Girl 2 also ranks up there.

Doctor Detroit with Dan Aykroyd.

Al Franken’s Stuart Saves His Family. In fact anything that is a spin off from Saturday Night Live (with a exception of Wayne’s World).

Robin Williams has started in at least three truly terrible movies:

Cadillac Man
The Best of Times


pchuck 12.05.03 at 7:30 pm

I forgot, Tom Hanks. Joe Versus the Volcano, Turner & Hooch, and Bachelor Party.

John Belushi in Neighbors and Continental Divide.


Jeremy Osner 12.05.03 at 8:01 pm

Loren — read the book of “The Princess Bride” and you will come to understand what an awful, mediocre realization the movie is of this fantasic, amazing story. If that does not work then read the book before you see the movie.


harry 12.05.03 at 8:09 pm

any movie with those elements sounds unmissable. Maybe also unwatchable, but unmissable. I’m aiming to see it this week on your recommendation.

I forgot John Carpenter’s In the Mouth of Madness (worse than JC’s Escape from LA IMHO).


fdl 12.05.03 at 8:17 pm

What about the Costner epics?

my bottom 10 has Waterworld, and would have Postman if i’d been dumb enough to go.


J Edgar 12.05.03 at 8:43 pm

Sad to say, there are people who would dismiss Dr. Strangelove out of hand. They feel cheated by a movie made in black-and-white instead of color or colorized.

Some also consider movies with subtitles a burden upon the viewer.

For them, there is Titanic.


Austin Stoneman 12.05.03 at 8:57 pm

My own pick for worst movie (that I’ve seen): “Bring It On,” a movie about cheerleaders which is just totally cliched and smug. And all the quick-cutting dance sequences! Just thinking about it nauseates me.


Girish Maiya 12.05.03 at 9:04 pm

How, oh how, did you miss out on AI? I saw this Speilberg movie when it was first released in a theater and, till date, I cannot think of a worse movie. And it wasn’t bad like some movies are bad. For example, you knew Swim Fan would be bad after catching 10 seconds of the trailer – no this was “serious” bad. This movie weighed on you – if you didn’t see it, you could not be a movie lover – this was Kubrick! this was Spielberg! This was ART! Except it was crap.


Holly 12.05.03 at 9:28 pm

I just saw Femme Fatale last night. It’s the only DePalma movie I’ve ever seen (I think) and it was boring, pretentious and stupid. Antonio didn’t even look hot. (I confess I didn’t finish it – I fell asleep.)

I’m afraid Peter Coyote might have to be added to the Julian Sands Rule: if he’s in a picture, it sucks.

And no, I didn’t think the early lesbo scence in the bathroom was all that hot either.


loren 12.05.03 at 11:08 pm

oh, how could I forget? obvious candidates for the title of `truly astoundingly painful cinematic experience’:

any of the “Billyjack” movies

He was the Steven Segal of an earlier age.


Jesse Walker 12.06.03 at 12:24 am

Many of you have chosen movies I like. Many of you have chosen movies I dislike. Many of you have chosen movies I haven’t seen.

Only one of you has chosen a movie that would without a doubt make my own Worst Ten list. *Stepmom* is wretched filth. I saw it on an airplane, and even by airplane standards, it is godawful.

And yet, believe it or not, it isn’t the worst movie I’ve seen on an airplane. That would be *The Other Sister*. Watching that film is an experience comparable to eating dogshit.


Holly 12.06.03 at 12:54 am

Loren: Yes! Billy Jack is one of those movies so awful that I love to watch it – absolutely
execrable. I love the hippie kids, and the dopey songs, and the dumbass consciouness raising play, and it’s all horrible.

But let’s remember – when the movie first came out, people thought it was cool. Does anyone truly mourn the 70s and if so, why on earth? I think one Billy Jack negates all the cool auteur movies ever made in that decade.

Trivia: I think one of the teenagers in the hippey commune went on to play the Native American officer on Star Trek Voyager.


David 12.06.03 at 6:18 am

I was about to get all pissed off about Rollerball, but then I remembered that somebody made a remake.


The Angry Clam 12.07.03 at 5:08 am

“Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever”


I knew I was in for it when the director credit at the beginning said simply “Directed by Kaos.”

My favorite part is a tossup between the “highspeed” motorcycle chase (at about 15 mph) or the generic bad guy footsoldiers (all of whom wear masks so that they can reuse the extras) getting blown up by C-4, falling over, then standing back up.


pj 12.07.03 at 9:18 pm

Austin — you think “Bring it On” is the worst movie of all time? Its well above average for its genre, I’d say.


Travis Eddings 12.08.03 at 5:59 am

The worst movie I have ever seen is probably “The Telephone” starring Whoopi Goldberg. Check that one out and see if you’re still able to function normally after it’s over.


Dave F 12.08.03 at 11:45 am

People who actually got suckered into seeing Titanic, Roadhouse, etc surely cannot be surprised at finding out they are ghastly. BTW, “Ghost” anyone? Patrick Swayze AND Whoopi Goldberg.

A more useful list would be “top 10 arthouse and critics fave moves that suck the big one.”, which might help innocent bystanders avoid really subtle beartraps.

I’ll post mine as soon as I get a chance.

PS: Crooked Timber should do moe top 10s. The true purpose of the blogosphere.


mark 12.09.03 at 1:06 am

I’m quite fond of “Lovecraft’s In the Mouth of Madness”, but then, I’m a sucker for any movie starring Sam Neill (we are talking about the same movie, right?). Of course, I’ve only seen it once, and I believe it was at the end of a week of High School jam-packed with assessments due, exams, and no sleep, so my critical judgement was probably not awake at the time.

Good catch on “Waterworld”, whoever brought that up. I think we all tend to forget about it (thank God!). I’m kind of shocked that no-one has raised “The Patriot” yet. I mean, jeez, surely not even Americans could like such a steaming pile of crap?

(I say “not even Americans” because the film would clearly be more offensive to British people than Americans, not because I think Americans have inherently bad taste.)


Vance Maverick 12.09.03 at 2:03 pm

In trying to explain why I think Life is Beautiful is so bad, it’s hard to know where to start. However, Theresa Nielsen-Hayden recently posted on an important explanatory concept; I think this movie is a classic instance of a Mary Sue.

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