Word of mouth can ruin a movie’s chances faster than you can say “box office bomb.” Sometimes it’s justified, because the movie really is that bad. Other times, you’d get the impression that maybe people shouldn’t have been so quick to judge, or perhaps they had their minds made up before they actually saw it.
Just because something has a bad reputation doesn’t instantly make it truly bad. Here are a few movies that really don’t live up to all the negative hype… provided you’re willing to give them a chance.
Here are 10 Great Movies With Bad Reputations.
10. The Wolverine (2013)
For starters, The Wolverine gets points for not being X-Men Origins: Wolverine. People who remember it fondly at least have that as a starting point. Still, the third act of a movie is often what people remember, and this is where The Wolverine begins to break down. The ultra-hammy Viper took center-stage, channeling Uma-Thurman-as-Poison-Ivy and utterly failing while displaying a vomit-inducing grab bag of snake powers that weren’t consistent with her origin. Meanwhile, the iconic Silver Samurai is turned into a shiny mech-suit brought to life with some questionable CG and lasts for only ten minutes before getting killed. Also, there are, like, loads of ninjas. Probably too many ninjas.
But all of this doesn’t detract from the fact that Wolverine’s second solo outing was nowhere near as bad as people tend to think. The whole affair doesn’t play out like a typical superhero flick, especially with Logan de-powered for most of it, instead relying more on a noir feel, which was a refreshing direction for the series. This time, the story is more personal and not encumbered by loads of other, poorly-recognized characters, and it explores Wolverine’s time in Japan, a famous setting straight from the comics.
Viper aside, the female presence in the movie has to be applauded; Yukio acts as Logan’s friend, ally and protector all in one, while Mariko is a strong character in her own right – and not just because she’s great at martial arts and throwing knives. The movie realizes that a strong female character isn’t just one who can stand up to men in a fight, yet breaks down in tears any time the script requires them to be emotional.
9. Dungeons and Dragons (2000)
Dungeons and Dragons was never going to win any Oscars, unless they made an exclusive category for overacting, just for that year, and gave it to Jeremy Irons to keep forever. It’s appeared on lists of the worst films ever made, it was critically-savaged…and yet, why do so many people hold it as a guilty pleasure?
It all depends on your definition of a “good” movie. The plot of Dungeons and Dragons isn’t that bad, nor is it confusing, and it fits the genre: an evil wizard wants an evil staff that would let him control dragons and take over the world and so forth. A band of heroes decide that this is unhealthy behavior, and must race to find the staff before the evil wizard does. There’s an evil bald lieutenant, a cantankerous dwarf and a plucky heroic thief. None of this is hard to follow.
Still, the thing that really makes Dungeons and Dragons not only watchable, but enjoyable? Everyone knew what they were getting into. It’s clear when you compare the actual talent of the cast compared to their performances that they were totally aware of the fact that they were making a cheesy movie based on a tabletop RPG with a bad reputation (sorry, but it’s true), and they’re having as much fun with it as possible. You could play some kind of drinking game to decide who’s going to melodramatically overact their next line, or show up in a period costume that looks like it was stitched together by someone’s mother. This is a movie in which award-winning actor Jeremy Irons will randomly add gems such as “haaaatatatata!” to the end of his lines, because he cares that much. Or little, it’s hard to tell. But if there ever was a move that unintentionally crosses the line from drama to comedy, it’s this one. Does that make it a “bad” movie? Not if it could potentially be enjoyed by anyone willing to take it at face value.
8. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie (1995)
Again, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie was never going to be a critical darling, given that it was aimed at fans of the original Power Rangers series. That would be the one with spandex, rampant overacting and horribly spliced Japanese kaiju footage.
Oh hey, d’you know what the MMPR movie didn’t have? Any of that. It might not hold up to the average moviegoer, but let’s be honest: how many ‘average’ viewers would’ve been watching a Power Rangers movie? This was for the kids and the fans, and as an extension of the series, it was a step up in all the right ways. You realize pretty quickly that the main cast have genuine talent when they’re given actual, honest-to-goodness lines with some thought behind them, which amps us the drama in a way that few of the episodes actually managed. Visually, the movie upgraded the unflattering spandex to some flashy-looking armor, gave us a villain (Ivan Ooze) with an actual face and rendered the Zord fights in CGI, rather than having a put-upon stunt person flailing around in a blocky suit. And sure, it was terrible CGI, but points for trying. Also, it was 1995. Topping the whole thing off is a stellar score composed by Graeme Revell.
Best of all, there was no attempt to repurpose Japanese footage, as the entire thing was written and shot from scratch, meaning they could go wherever they wanted with the direction and continuity. You may not think the end result was a gleaming cinematic gem… but as an actual, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers movie? It was exactly what it should’ve been.
7. Titan A.E. (2000)
Titan A.E. doesn’t have the worst reputation, but neither is it remembered fondly by the masses. Due in part to a badly-handled advertising campaign, hardly anyone saw it in cinemas. Adults didn’t feel inclined to watch what looked like an animated kids’ movie, while parents didn’t want their kids watching something that looked a whole lot darker than your average Disney flick.
It’s a shame that things were handled this way, as it buried a rare example of a serious Western adult animation – and that wasn’t all Titan A.E. had going for it. Accompanied by an awe-inspiring score from Graeme Revell (again) that perfectly invoked the infinite reaches of space, the movie contains a compelling narrative based around the restoration of the human race after the destruction of Earth. The film blends CGI with 2D-animation, most of the time done pretty well, and contains such voices as Matt Damon, Bill Pullman and Drew Barrymore.
Some of the visual effects fall a bit flat, and the whole affair is thoroughly dated by scads of early 2000s rock, but still… at least it’s good rock. The movie itself could be considered an animated classic, if it hadn’t been so tragically forgotten. In the end, it was sadly just a movie that didn’t have a place. Plus, it was partly written by Joss Whedon. We know he makes good stuff.
6. Punisher: War Zone (2008)
If Punisher: War Zone committed a single cinematic crime, it’s that it was made a couple of decades too late. ’80s action flicks often subsisted on relatively mindless violence and unrelatable heroes, which is exactly what we got in the Punisher reboot you probably haven’t heard of.
Notably not following on from the original Punisher movie, War Zone is a reboot that ramps up the violence and gore, and it wasn’t too well-received because… people went into a movie about The Punisher not expecting that?
Admittedly, a lot of punching and shooting does not make a great movie, even if the title character is mostly known for doing a lot of that. Still Roger Ebert put it best when he said that “Punisher: War Zone is one of the best-made bad movies I’ve seen.” The film was at least well-made, and in terms of invoking the Punisher from the comics and emulating the tone, it did a whole lot better than the original. It might be soaked in darkness and grit, but if you really NEED a proper Punisher movie, anything else would be blatantly unfaithful.
5. Pacific Rim (2013)
Pacific Rim is a bizarre case of a movie that made over double its budget, was well-received by critics, was freaking awesome and still somehow has a bad reputation. This is possibly due to its premise, which is essentially giant robots punching giant monsters. It sounds dumb, it often looks dumb, the accents are terrible and the script is somewhat lacking. None of these even come close to making Pacific Rim a bad movie, but they go a long way in rallying the haters – even if they hadn’t actually seen the movie (and given that it made most of its money overseas, it’s likely that many of them didn’t).
It can safely be said that Pacific Rim does far more right than it does wrong. It’s also a sure bet that if you walked into this movie looking for a poignant and touching representation of the mysteries of love and the human spirit, then you definitely had the wrong theater. The movie never tries to rise above its premise, because it never needed to; it was based on visual panache, the spectacle of gigantic warriors smacking monsters in the face with actual cargo ships, because such a thing had never truly been done with such a budget. The fact that it actually had a coherent plot is just a plus, even if there are raised eyebrows at some of the cheesiness. Yes, there is a character called “Stacker Pentecost” and a couple of faux-Australian pilots who can’t imitate accents to save their lives. The rest of the movie renders these complaints obsolete.
4. Daredevil: Director’s Cut (2003)
The original Daredevil was a comic book movie misfire at the start of an era. While not as bad as people make it out to be, it’s rightfully remembered for squeezing Ben Affleck into some questionable-looking red leather and a weird dance-fight between him and Jennifer Garner in a children’s playground. And probably some other stuff, but the dance-fight was especially weird. Critics noted that the movie was all style and no real substance, moving from one familiar scene to another without much originality.
This wasn’t the original intention, as noted by director Mark Steven Johnson. The movie suffered from a whole lot of meddling from executives, resulting in the watered-down version that made it to screens. It might be the same movie on the surface, but the Daredevil director’s cut bumps the movie up to an R-rating and adds thirty minutes that do a surprising amount to address common complaints about the original. The extra footage expands on Ben Affleck’s Matt Murdock, fleshing him out as an actual character instead of just a foil to the ultra-cool Daredevil.
However, the overall greatest change comes from the revival of the subplot that has Matt Murdock acting as lawyer, the trappings of which add to the grit (yes, this was a movie that actually needed more grit), trim down the awkward romance and restore some modicum of sense to the entire thing. If nothing else, it goes to show just how much of a difference half an hour can make to a movie’s reputation. Especially when all the problems were caused by it falling into the hands of people who were supposed to make it better.
3. The Wicker Man (2006)
Yes, The Wicker Man. The one with the bees.
This was a movie that had to stack up against a cult classic from thirty years earlier, and by all accounts, it didn’t do it all that well. Critics will cite the overacting (mostly from Nicolas Cage), bad direction and how the whole thing comes across as so farcical that you just had to laugh.
It might sound like a typical case of a poor, hipster Hollywood director stamping their foot and weeping salty tears over how nobody “gets” their vision…but the actual truth isn’t too far off. The whole thing wasn’t exactly intended as a strict remake, but instead drew more on its source material and became an intentionally absurd metaphor for sexism and misogyny. Cage has stated that he was aware of this, hence why his performance was so over-the-top it orbited the Earth and came right back to where it started.
Whether you believe this or not, the fact still remains that The Wicker Man is entertaining, one way or the other. It’s practically a gem of unintentional comedy…and if that comedy was intended all along, it’s a straight (and successful) black comedy, with us all kind of missing the point. If nothing else, it gave us the ever-useful “NOT THE BEES!” meme.
2. Starship Troopers (1997)
Speaking of satire that flew over the heads of the general public… you may remember Starship Troopers. It’s easy to watch the trailers, or just the opening scenes, and get the impression that the movie is a straight sci-fi horror with plenty of gore and bad special effects. In other words, a lot like most other sci-fi horrors.
Instead, Starship Troopers did away with the messages of its source material and flipped it on its head, presenting a satirical account of a war on foreign soil soaked in propaganda and disturbing Nazi imagery. This is perhaps the reason the film is so polarizing, as even the main characters are swallowed up in the propaganda machine by the end, making the viewing experience an uncertain one.
While the film has other merits, it’s certainly a bold move to make an entirely anti-war movie by way of giant killer bugs. On the surface the movie seems to lack any kid of depth, though as many have noted, this was an intentional contrast between the wildly aggressive propaganda films and the stark nature of the actual war. If this hurts the film, it seems to be a sacrifice director Paul Verhoeven was willing to make to get the message across. Thus, Starship Troopers becomes less of a fun, Friday night flick and more of a grim-yet-necessary PSA. It all depends on perspective.
1. CHAPPiE (2015)
CHAPPiE is the story of a remarkable robot with the mind of a child, which critics delighted in using as a comparison for the film itself. While the visuals were praised, the story was seen as clunky and full of flaws, while the characters outside of CHAPPiE weren’t the most compelling to watch.
However, CHAPPiE just happens to be one of those movies that takes a bit of surface scratching to uncover the actual goodness. It could’ve been better presented, but the story of a childlike robot has a surprising amount of heart and even significance for a future in which we could be facing these quandaries ourselves. The character of CHAPPiE might come across as abrasive and difficult to like, though he’s entirely a product of his harsh environment.
Overall, CHAPPiE might not do so well at telling a story… but it’s a movie that ironically has a great deal of soul, and it just takes a little bit of understanding from the audience to see it. Every movie has narrative flaws that can be picked apart by anyone with enough time, but a movie so genuinely full of humanity, coming from a robot no less, is harder to find.
Know any other movies that get too much of a bad rap? They probably deserve a shout-out in the comments…