Ten Worst Movies?

Yesterday it was twelve appalling cars, so today we’ll tackle the ten worst movies according to Salon. But there’s a problem – Heaven’s Gate isn’t on the list.  Our favorite movie review of all time, by Joe Queenan (which was actually a review of The Hottie and the Nottie) should be required reading for whoever put this list together. A taste:

This brings me to my major point. To qualify as one of the worst films of all time, several strict requirements must be met. For starters, a truly awful movie must have started out with some expectation of not being awful. That is why making a horrific, cheapo motion picture that stars Hilton or Jessica Simpson is not really much of an accomplishment. Did anyone seriously expect a film called The Hottie and The Nottie not to suck? Two, an authentically bad movie has to be famous; it can’t simply be an obscure student film about a boy who eats live rodents to impress dead girls.

Three, the film cannot be a deliberate attempt to make the worst movie ever, as this is cheating. Four, the film must feature real movie stars, not jocks, bozos, has-beens or fleetingly famous media fabrications like Hilton. Five, the film must generate a negative buzz long before it reaches cinemas; like the Black Plague or the Mongol invasions, it must be an impending disaster of which there has been abundant advance warning; it cannot simply appear out of nowhere. And it must, upon release, answer the question: could it possibly be as bad as everyone says it is? This is what separates Waterworld, a financial disaster but not an uncompromisingly dreadful film, and Ishtar, which has one or two amusing moments, from The Postman, Gigli and Heaven’s Gate, all of which are bona fide nightmares.

All that said, none of these very, very, very bad movies automatically qualify as the worst film ever made. While it may disappoint those who welcome my occasionally unconventional opinions, I am firmly in the camp that believes that Heaven’s Gate is the worst movie ever made. For my money, none of these other films can hold a candle to Michael Cimino’s 1980 apocalyptic disaster. This is a movie that destroyed the director’s career. This is a movie that lost so much money it literally drove a major American studio out of business. This is a movie about Harvard-educated gunslingers who face off against eastern European sodbusters in an epic struggle for the soul of America. This is a movie that stars Isabelle Huppert as a shotgun-toting cowgirl. This is a movie in which Jeff Bridges pukes while mounted on roller skates. This is a movie that has five minutes of uninterrupted fiddle-playing by a fiddler who is also mounted on roller skates. This is a movie that defies belief.

A friend of mine, now deceased, was working for the public relations company handling Heaven’s Gate when it was released. He told me that when the 220-minute extravaganza debuted at the Toronto film festival, the reaction was so thermonuclear that the stars and the film-maker had to immediately be flown back to Hollywood, perhaps out of fear for their lives. No one at the studio wanted to go out and greet them upon their return; no one wanted to be seen in that particular hearse. My friend eventually agreed to man the limo that would meet the children of the damned on the airport tarmac and whisk them to safety, but only provided he was given free use of the vehicle for the next three days. After he dropped off the halt and the lame at suitable safe houses and hiding places, he went to Mexico for the weekend. Nothing like this ever happened when Showgirls or Gigli or Ishtar or Xanadu or Glitter or Cleopatra were released. Nothing like this happened when The Hottie and the Nottie dropped dead the day it was released. Heaven’s Gate was so bad that people literally had to be bribed to go meet the survivors. Proving that, in living memory, giants of bad taste once ruled the earth. Giants. By comparison with the titans who brought you Heaven’s Gate, Paris Hilton is a rank amateur.

If you want more Queenan, nothing is funnier than Red Lobster, White Trash, & the Blue Lagoon.  Trust us.

Panned! The 10 Worst-Reviewed Movies [Salon]

The problem with pop-culture lists is that they’re always overweighted toward recent years.

That said, I’m surprised anyone remembers Howard the Duck. The real crime of the movie wasn’t being awful, it was pissing on what had been one of the most esoteric and interesting comics — especially in the later issues where the writer got tired of being a comic-book writer, and started blogging before the fact. I’m sure I’ve referenced “Trapped in a world he never made!” once or twice during my tenure.

But to the point: A movie that takes down a studio can’t help but top any such list. There’s bad, and then there’s apocalyptic.

I’ve seen 3 of the worst reviewed movies:
Mission to Mars
Showgirls (because of the nudity, duh.)

The only one I liked was 8mm and it was because it was weird.

I’m surprised that stuff like Transformers and other Bayhem shit isn’t on the list, but it could be because of low expectations from a schlockmeister like Bay.

Also: Any list that doesn’t include Jar-Jar is proof of a lazy writer.

Lucas could be his own category on this list.

The Crystal Skull sucked.

@ManchuCandidate: And Willow, of course.

I’d also mention That Fucking Ewok Happy-Dance Movie, but RML has his dog trained on me.

Which one? There are two. The ROTJ and the TV movie with Diabeetus Wilford Brumley.

Oh, and 1941? Not quite Cimino levels of self-destruction, but Spielberg barely survived.

I’ve seen one out of 10 – Cocktail. It was awful, but only garden-variety awful. Queenan mentions Pasolini’s 120 Days of Sodom, which a cellmate at work told me about a few weeks ago. He said I’d need to shower afterwards. So it’s in my Netflix. Also, he mentioned a film called The Centipede. That’s got to be seriously awful.

@ManchuCandidate: I don’t count the TV movie, or else we’d have to include the Christmas special.

So ROTJ it is. Originally it was supposed to be “Revenge”, but Lucas wussed out. That was the first sign of the apocalypse to come.

@blogenfreude: Ex-Defamer God Mark Lisanti liveblogged a viewing of Centipede a few weeks back. So bad, it’s destined for cult greatness.

@ManchuCandidate: I saw “Showgirls” and appreciated it for Elizabeth Hurley’s athleticism. I also appreciated at least one other actress’s athleticism in that film. Yes, very athletic. How can you pan a movie that helped put pole-dancing into some of the tonier (hah!) fitness clubs?

@nojo: “G.I.Jane”? That Harrison Ford-Annette Benig vehicle where he played a lawyer who got amnesia? Gawddam that was awful.

At least I sat next to Joe Ely and his family during “The Bear”.

And who among us hasn’t had their childhood scarred by Darby O’Gill and the Little People?

Oh, that’s right. Anyone lucky enough to be born too late.

That would be Elizabeth Berkley actually. She’s a lousy actress, but her Showgirl highlights make watching “Saved By the Bell” reruns feel creepy (not that I watched them.)

@Nabisco: Cheater. You knew G.I.Jane would be awful going in.

Ya’ll are forgetting that by Hollywood standards, a movie can’t be bad if it makes money, such as Transformers.

@Original Andrew: Or Avatar, of course, which I finally got around to watching the other day. Cameron and Lucas should just go get a room.


The Centipede, from what I’ve read, wouldn’t qualify for a “worst movie” list because it’s intentionally going for raw gross-out factor.

On the other hand, I don’t understand why Salon’s hating on Hudson Hawk. Terrible, campy and cheesy – but in an endearing pulp-comicbook sort of way. It’s always seemed (to me) to be a movie where the producers were in on the joke. “Heaven’s Gate”, on the other hand, seems like a serious attempt to make a serious movie that *accidentally* turned into a bizarro post-modern mess.

@ManchuCandidate: Somewhere in your house, you have hidden SBTB DVDs – admit it. We should be like porn buddies – if something awful happens to you, I’ll get to your house fast and remove embarrassing shit like that.

@al2o3cr: in an endearing pulp-comicbook sort of way

Beatty films Dick Tracy using an interesting palette of comic-book colors, fails.

Rodriguez films Sin City using an interesting palette of comic-book colors, succeeds.

Lesson: Don’t let Dustin Hoffman mumble his way through your comic-book movie.

For those of you, like me, who want more Queenan:

For years, I’d been vaguely aware of Michael Bolton’s existence, just as I’d been vaguely aware that there was an ebola virus plague in Africa. Horrible tragedies, yes, but they had nothing to do with me. All that changed when I purchased a copy of The Classics. When you work up the gumption to put a record like The Classics on your CD player, it’s not much different from deliberately inoculating yourself with rabies. With his heart-on-my-sleeve appeals to every emotion no decent human being should even dream of possessing, Michael Bolton is the only person in history who has figured out a way to make “Yesterday” sound worse than the original. He’s Mandy Patinkin squared. His sacrilegious version of Sam Cooke’s “Bring It on Home to Me” is a premeditated act of cultural ghoulism, a crime of musical genocide tantamount to a Jerry Vale rerecording of the Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy in the UK” And having to sit there, and listen while this Kmart Joe Cocker mutilates “You Send Me” is like sitting through a performance of King Lear with Don Knotts in the title role. Which leads to the inevitable question: If it’s a crime to deface the Statue of Liberty or to spraypaint swastikas on Mount Rushmore or to burn the American flag, why isn’t it a crime for Michael Bolton to butcher Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas”?

I’m never very good at these things because I haven’t seen a whole bunch of movies. That said, though, I’m surprised at the inclusion of Hudson Hawk on a top 10 list. That wasn’t even Bruce Willis’s worst movie. The boat cop thing he starred in with SJP was much worse.

And I agree about the bias toward movies in the last 20 years. There are a bunch of bad movies from the 70s that everyone seems to forget about because the industry would rather remember it as the decade of the auteur (or whatever it is they call it in film school). Not too long ago, “Mother, Jugs, and Speed” was on tv and I watched it because it had Bill Cosby and was advertised as a comedy. It was terrible as a movie and absolutely non-existent as a comedy.

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ: Damn, you just jostled Silver Streak from the dark corners of my mind, where it was safely hidden for years.

@blogenfreude: Brilliant. The only redeeming thing about “Yesterday” in the original* is that it was backed by “I Should Have Known Better” as a single. It was made for musical pimples like Bolton.
@ManchuCandidate: Right. She had me at “Elizabeth”, and I never watched that teevee show (a generational thing, I suspect).

*Confirmed Beatle on the Beatles v. Stones continuum, mind you.

@nojo: Not good, but again not the worst either Wilder or Pryor ever did together. That would be “Hear No Evil, See No Evil”. Ridiculously unfunny and made all the more difficult to watch because of Pryor’s obvious health problems.

Is it wrong that I’m rooting for anyone but Dario Franchitti just so I don’t have to see/hear about Ashley Judd?

i can’t get enough either. also manolo dhargis. i look forward to their pans more than their picks. hilarious stuff.

the sequel to saturday night fever. the title is buried deep, thank god.

@TJ/ Jamie Sommers /TJ:
I think you jinxed it.

To be fair, better Ashley at the finish line than in a movie.

@baked: the title is buried deep, thank god

Stayin’ Alive!

Never tempt fate in a graveyard.

I’m not so much a fan of smart-alec losers writing in Salon having been on the receiving end of that kind of jealous camp in my time.

The awfulness or not of Heaven’s Gate is mostly conditional on the director’s astounding hubris. I thought it a very strikingly designed movie with some of the most interesting and carefully thought-out exteriors of the old west. And if its dramatics leave one slightly limp it’s a lot better than Titanic which is risible on many levels..

I also like 1941. It’s a very smart idea that suffered from production bloat but is full of fun and has one of the best photographed dance numbers I know. Like Silver Streak. I thought it a very smartly judged entertainment.

My least favorite movies would most likely have to include the recent Synecdoche which is flat-out putrid; Zabriski Point the movie that bankrupted MGM and caused the sale of the studio backlog; And Something Happened with poor Carol Baker. Very nice and very smart woman and very bad marriage.

Stayin’ Alive makes a very good double bill with Soap Dish next time you have a bunch of show-folk over.

wait. i’m confused. i liked soap dish!

my review of titanic: sit in a chair in front of a closed window. have someone point the hose at the window. get a man and a woman to say “jack!” rose!” “jack!” “rose!” jack!” “rose!” for THREE hours.
you saw it.


I’M KING OF THE WOR— [Woody Allen’s monster enters frame and devours Leo alive]

@Benedick: I will add HG to my Netflix – about time I watched the whole thing. As for Titanic … seeing Kate Winslet with her shirt off made it worthwhile, but if you saw it in DC, the asshole in the back of the theater yelling ‘DIE ALREADY!’ when Leo was in the freezing water was, of course, moi.

@blogenfreude: @nojo:

the line of the movie that makes 14 year olds swoon and makes me burst out laughing? “i’d rather be his whore than your wife !!!!”

speaking of die already, ever see the show “i shouldn’t be alive”
morons doing moronic shit? it kills it for me that they narrate.
i want them to die already!

@baked: Soap Dish is very amusing. I love it that Sally Field cries in every scene. If you add to it the truly hilarious view of the business of show in Stayin’ Alive as a curtain raiser while keeping one finger on the remote to speed through the boring bits, you can have a very nice time.

@blogenfreude: It’s not much good but neither was the very pompous The Deer Hunter which was as foolishly over-praised as Heaven’s Gate was slammed. But I did think that the designs were very original and it’s gorgeously photographed. If you want to talk merely dreadful I’d suggest The Lady in the Water or whatever it’s called as being a true stinker. Everything about it reeks. And – beach read alert! – the bio of the director which is called something like The Man Who Heard Voices is truly badness of a whole new magnitude. There is something on every page to make you spray your Wheeties onto the page. You end up feeling sorry for the Disney execs. And by Disney execs I mean Disney execs. A must read.

@baked: Me, too, re Soap Dish, and congratulations on your new baby. Bella is indeed bella.

@baked: @lynnlightfoot: “Her brain will laterally explore within the next three houses. It’s a dreadful, dreadful thud.” Love it!

@baked: @flippin eck: Could you tell our wardrobe person, whose name I don’t quite have yet, that I don’t feel quite right in a turban. What I feel like is Gloria FUCKING Swanson! Am I 70 David, am I 70? Why don’t you just put me in a walker? By a goddamned walker and put me in it!

Add a Comment
Please log in to post a comment