There is a lot that goes into making a movie. From writing a script, casting the actors, storyboarding the scenes, scouting the locations, building the sets, shooting and re-shooting the scenes, editing the footage, adding the soundtrack, and then screening the movie for test audiences and/or studio executives, there are a lot of moving parts–and a lot that has the potential to go wrong.
Whether it was well-laid plans that just didn’t pan out, something that seemed like a good idea at the time but seems worse in retrospect, or simply too many different creative forces working against each other, a lot of movies don’t end up how they were intended. Most of the time, that creative failure is evident to everyone involved, creator and consumer alike. In some instances, however, an otherwise beloved film is nonetheless derided by its creator, and for a variety of reasons.
Sometimes, a filmmaker is ready to disown their own film before production has even finished. In other cases, it takes a few years and a little distance for a filmmaker to realize that their movie didn’t work out the way they wanted it to. Either way, there’s little that can be done once a film is finished and given over to the masses.
Here are 15 Famous Movies That Are Hated By Their Creators.
15. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Michael Bay, director)
Despite all the criticism leveled at director Michael Bay and the quality of his films, his movies rarely flop– and more than that, they tend to be monster hits. When you make one blockbuster after another, it’s easy to be pretty full of yourself and be extremely proud of your work. Michael Bay is nothing if not unfailingly confident in his talent.
So the fact that the director actually admitted that the first Transformers sequel, Revenge of the Fallen, maybe wasn’t the best movie ever made definitely says a lot about its quality. Sure, Shia LeBeouf badmouthed it, too, but he tends to badmouth most of the stuff he’s been in.
Bay blames the 2007 Hollywood writer’s strike for Fallen‘s failings, saying that he was forced to spend months prepping a multi-million-dollar Hollywood epic with only a few vague pages of what the story was going to be.
14. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Steven Spielberg, director)
Prior to Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, there was little dispute over what was the weakest of the Indiana Jones movies. Although Temple of Doom has its share of defenders– and it’s still nowhere near being a bad film– it’s tough to make the case for it not being inferior to the Indy movies that bookend it. One of the main complaints levied against it is that it’s more slapsticky and gimmicky than the other Indy movies, with the introduction of a wise-cracking kid and a perpetually screaming romantic lead.
Ironically, director Steven Spielberg now looks down on Temple of Doom for very different reasons. He actually feels that Doom is way too dark. Both he and writer George Lucas were in the midst of very bitter divorces at the time, and neither tried all that hard to keep their personal turmoil off the screen. The evil glee that Mola Ram exhibits as he literally rips someone’s still-beating heart out of their chest is perhaps a bit too on-the-nose.
13. Fear and Desire (Stanley Kubrick, writer and director)
Stanley Kubrick’s reputation as an extreme perfectionist cannot be understated. Actor Joe Turkel claimed that the famous bar scene in The Shining took six weeks of 12-hour days in order to get to how Kubrick wanted it. And that’s just a single scene. Shelley Duvall also reportedly became physically ill and even began to lose her hair over the tough demands of the director during that same film.
While most directors tend to have a warm fondness for their first films, acknowledging the flaws and their growing pains but ultimately chalking it up to a fun learning experience, it probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that Kubrick doesn’t allow for any positive feelings about his messy directorial effort.
A popular urban legend claims that Kubrick attempted to collect all known copies of the film to prevent it from ever being seen again. Whether that is true or not, he wasn’t entirely successful, as the movie aired on Turner Classic Movies in 2011 and was released on DVD and Blu-Ray the following year. To be sure, it is far from being a classic, but it isn’t quite the amateurish mess that Kubrick believed it to be.
12. 8mm (Andrew Kevin Walker, writer)
After writing the acclaimed thriller Se7en, Andrew Kevin Walker was one of Hollywood’s hot screenwriters to watch. While the studio wanted to tone down the more gruesome aspects of that movie’s script, director David Fincher and star Morgan Freeman went to bat for Walker and fought against the proposed cuts, leaving it very close to the writer’s original vision.
Because of that experience, Walker was emboldened to try another extremely dark film, assuming that he’d again be able to retain his creative vision throughout. Things started off rocky for 8mm, about the underground world of snuff films, taking nearly four years to finally get the formal go-ahead by the studio.
Joel Schumacher came aboard to direct, with Walker being given the impression that Schumacher would defend him against any studio meddling in the same way that Fincher did. That ended up not being the case, however, as Schumacher was reportedly more than willing to go along with the studio’s much more sanitized version of the film.
11. Alien 3 (David Fincher, director)
David Fincher may have gained the confidence to defend the grittiness of his movie Se7en, but in his directorial debut, he wasn’t quite there yet. Being able to take the reigns of the revival of the Alien franchise seemed like a dream job for a first-time film director, but as Fincher soon found out, there was a reason why it had taken six years for the project to get off the ground.
Alien 3 faced all manner of development hell, with a revolving door of writers and directors steadily coming on and off the project. Fincher, who at the time was only known for music videos, was the director who finally stuck around and saw the troubled production through to the end. He even did extensive reworking of the script himself, though it was mostly just to try and make something coherent out of the mess it had become; he didn’t have the time or the freedom for a much-needed do-over.
Following mostly negative reviews and weak domestic box office returns, Fincher would go on to disown the film, saying that he could only do so much with the mess he walked into and the impossible deadlines set upon him.
10. Accidental Love (David O. Russell, director and co-writer)
Between stories of coming to blows with George Clooney on the set of Three Kings to the much-publicized leaked footage of screaming matches with Lily Tomlin during filming of I ♥ Huckabess, David O. Russell’s reputation for being difficult to work with was well-established. While a lack of financing is the official reason why his 2008 romantic comedy Accidental Love was put on extended hiatus, it’s hard not to let the writer/director’s reputation come into play when theorizing on why the production of the film was troubled.
After quitting the movie, Russell took a couple of years to lick his wounds and reassess. The result was his major comeback trilogy of The Fighter, Silver Linings Playback, and American Hustle, all critically-acclaimed, Oscar-nominated films that are considered the best of his his career.
Because Russell had such a major career renaissance, the studio that owned Accidental Love decided to complete it without his involvement, and the result, not surprisingly, is a complete disaster of a movie– though one with an absurdly stellar cast. Russell has since taken his name off the movie, with his credit being changed to pseudonym “Stephen Greene.”
9. Batman & Robin (Joel Schumacher, director)
Much of what Batman & Robin gets grief for— absurdly over the top villains, a gaudy neon aesthetic, rubber bat nipples– was actually introduced in the previous film, Batman Forever. But while Forever was a decent flick overall and managed to stay somewhat grounded (likely due to Tim Burton still being on board as a producer), it was with B&R that all of those elements were amplified to ridiculous levels.
Joel Schumacher, who took over directing duties after Warner Bros. asked Burton to step down, has claimed that he lobbied to make his Batman films closer to what Christopher Nolan’s take ended up being. He said the studio didn’t want to go backward and do an origin story, and instead wanted the franchise to move forward. W
hile Schumacher has said that it was his job to do what his bosses wanted and that’s the film he delivered with Batman & Robin, he has also said that it ultimately falls on a director’s shoulders to make a good film, and in that regard, he is willing to accept the blame for B&R‘s failings. After seeing Batman Begins, Schumacher grew even more embarrassed of the movie he was reportedly forced to do.
8. The Underneath (Steven Soderbergh, director and co-writer)
After becoming an indie darling and the talk of Sundance following his debut film Sex, Lies, and Videotape, Steven Soderbergh struggled with an extended sophomore slump that saw a string of under-performing releases over the next few years. Of the seven films Soderbergh directed between Videotape and his next major success, Out of Sight, the only one with which Soderbergh has expressed any significant professional disappointment over was the 1995 noir film The Underneath.
The writer/director doesn’t put the blame on anyone else for Underneath‘s lack of quality, simply saying that he had grown a bit bored as a filmmaker and that his heart simply wasn’t in it for that particular movie. This will come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the filmmaker’s resumé, as his next film was the highly experimental comedy Schizopolis. It was clear that Soderbergh was looking to rejuvenate himself creatively, and even though reception to Schizopolis was mixed, it was definitely the mark of a director who had rediscovered his love of filmmaking and his desire to push himself creatively again.
7. An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn (Arthur Hiller, director)
For years, directors who wanted to distance themselves from a movie for whatever reason had the option to have their credit be changed to the pseudonym “Alan Smithee.” Over 100 movies, TV shows, comic books, and music videos had been credited to Smithee in the 32 years the name was officially in use.
In an attempt to comment on the Alan Smithee legend, writer Joe Eszterhas (Flashdance, Basic Instinct) and director Arthur Hiller (Love Story, Silver Streak) teamed for a film about a movie with such a disastrous production that the director– who happens to already have the name Alan Smithee– tries to literally burn the movie. The Hollywood satire drew a strangely eclectic cast that teamed Whoopi Goldberg, Jackie Chan, Sylvester Stallone, and Monty Python‘s Eric Idle with rappers Chuck D and Coolio. No, the picture above wasn’t photoshopped.
In a hilarious example of life imitating art, when Hiller saw the final cut of the film, he was so embarrassed by it that he unironically asked to be credited as Alan Smithee. The movie made such a negative impact that the Director’s Guild of America permanently disallowed further use of the Alan Smithee credit shortly after.
6. Dune (David Lynch, director and writer)
It’s hard to imagine David Lynch, the filmmaker behind experimental and creatively daring movies like Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet, and Inland Empire, as well as the TV series Twin Peaks, to have ever dealt with not having full creative control over his work. David Lynch productions are typically 100% “his” through and through, for better or worse.
However, when Lynch set about adapting Frank Herbert’s sci-fi novel Dune, Lynch was in a constant battle against studio meddling. To be fair, there was a lot more money at stake than Lynch had previously been asked to be responsible for, and it’s a lot harder to have full creative control over a $40 million epic than an ultra-low-budget movie like Eraserhead.
Still, Lynch complained of having to compromise his creative vision as well as being denied final cut rights, resulting in him distancing himself from the film. Depending on the version of Dune— there are at least three different cuts– his directing credit is listed as Alan Smithee and/or his writing credit as Judas Booth, the latter being an intentional mash-up of biblical backstabber Judas and Abe Lincoln murderer John Wilkes Booth. Tells us how you really feel about it, David!
5. Rope (Alfred Hitchcock, director)
Having spent nearly three decades making films in black and white, thriller master Alfred Hitchcock wanted his first Tecnicolor movie to be something special. Based on the 1929, the director wanted his movie adaptation of Rope to feel like a filmed play. To achieve this, Hitchcock filmed the entire movie in a single room, and used a series of long takes that were edited together to give the appearance that the whole film was one continuous take– a technique most recently employed by Alejandro J. Iñárritu’s Oscar-winning Birdman.
While critics, both at the time and since, had mostly positive things to say about Rope, Hitchcock himself was never particularly fond of it. He has referred to it as a failed experiment, chalking the whole thing up to little more than a stunt and a studio indulging him in trying out a few new cinematic tricks. At the director’s request, Rope was little-seen beyond its initial theatrical run in 1948, and it wasn’t until some of Hitchcock’s lesser-known works began to be explored following his death in 1980 that audiences and critics finally rediscovered and studied the experimental film in earnest.
4. The Day the Clown Cried (Jerry Lewis, director and writer)
The only movie on this list that has never actually been released, The Day the Clown Cried is still worthy of discussing because of its fascinating backstory and, more relevantly, its creator’s staunch hatred of it.
After decades as one of the world’s favorite comedic actors, Jerry Lewis decided he wanted to try his hand at writing, directing, and starring in a much darker movie than he had ever attempted before. How dark?
The Day the Clown Cried is the story a WWII-era German clown who is arrested by the Gestapo after publicly criticizing Adolf Hitler. He is sent to a prison camp where he is eventually tasked with– unknowingly– luring Jewish children onto the trains that will take them to concentration camps. In the movie’s final stretch, he finds out he is luring children directly into the gas chamber, and he feels so guilty about it that he decides to just go into the chamber with them.
In addition to being a supremely depressing movie, Cried is also, by most accounts, just a flat-out bad one. Lewis himself is embarrassed by it and has refused to allow its release, saying it was a major miscalculation and lapse in judgement.
3. Annie Hall (Woody Allen, director and writer)
Woody Allen tends to be overly critical about his acclaimed body of work, which, although it suits his persona, seems strange for a filmmaker who has been beloved and prolific for four decades.
Hannah and Her Sisters, Manhattan, and Annie Hall easily belong near the top of anyone’s “Best of Woody Allen” list–and yet, those are the three movies he tends to rag on the most. With Annie Hall, Allen has said that he wanted the movie to be more about what happens inside of a man’s brain before, during, and after a relationship, and that he failed to convey that the way he intended to. He says he was never all that interested in the actual relationship at the core of the movie, and that that was meant to be just a minor part of the movie– but then that ended up becoming the focal point and the only thing people cared about.
One filmmaker’s failed psychological exploration of a guy’s brain is the rest of the world’s beloved romantic comedy, apparently: The American Film Institute ranked it fourth on their list of best comedies and #31 on their list of best movies overall.
2. American History X (Tony Kaye, director)
It’s one thing to just want to distance yourself from your movie after it doesn’t turn out the way you want. But merely disowning American History X, Tony Kaye’s directorial debut, wasn’t good enough for him. Despite a seemingly smooth process actually filming the movie, it wasn’t until studio New Line asked for edits after Kaye delivered his first cut that things began to sour. Not content to just battle the studio privately, Kaye took his disgust with the studio’s treatment of his film to the press, supposedly spending six figures of his own money on 35 full-page ads that attacked the movie and its star and producer, Edward Norton.
Kaye tried to get his name taken off the movie, but because he took his battle so publicly, he was unable to do so. Kaye’s behavior didn’t endear him to the rest of Hollywood, and the director never had anything approaching a normal career going forward. He has completed only one more scripted film and two documentaries in the 19 years since his first film.
1. Natural Born Killers (Quentin Tarantino, writer)
Compared to the Quentin Tarantino of today, where he takes years to make a movie and writes and directs every one himself, it’s hard to imagine that he was once so prolific a writer that he actually let other directors take some of his scripts off his hands. The writer didn’t have a problem with Tony Scott directing True Romance. Oliver Stone’s take on Natural Born Killers, on the other hands, didn’t do Tarantino proud.
Stone actually first envisioned Killers as an Arnold Schrwazenegger-sized action movie, but society’s obsession with criminal cases during that time– O.J. Simpson, the Mendenez brothers, etc– had him re-evaluate and make the film more about a murderous couple who knew they’d become media heroes. Either version would’ve varied greatly from Tarantino’s script, and he wasn’t remotely happy with the direction Stone was taking his story in.
Tarantino was so disappointed with Stone’s version of his script that he initially wasn’t even going to see the movie at all. After relenting, he attended a screening, but reportedly hated just the first scene so much that he walked out. He did eventually settle on keeping a “story by” credit, but refused to be even co-credited with Stone for the screenplay.
Do you like agree with these creators’ assessments of their own movies? Let us know in the comments!