Whether it’s a guilty pleasure which you feel has been judged unfairly or a critically lauded masterpiece you think is overrated, chances are that you’ve disagreed with Rotten Tomatoes at some point. Although the box office may not always reflect what critics are saying, there’s no denying that the review aggregator has had an effect on the way audiences perceive movies. Since the site launched in 1998, the Tomatometer has scavenged the web for writers’ thoughts on the latest releases and while the website is far from perfect, it’s arguably played a detrimental part in what viewers decide to see.
Looking back at some of the less than stellar films of the past few years, it goes without saying that some features managed to escape with an undeserving score. Starting from 1998, we searched RT to find those movies which have not only built a reputation for angering fans, but which also should have received a score below 60% on the rotten to fresh scale. In some cases, critics were simply caught up in the hype of the time. In others, the score is simply inexcusable. Either way, we’re here to correct the wrongs of the past. So without further ado (and to the disagreement of some of our readers, we’re sure), we present the 15 Fresh Movies Of Rotten Tomatoes That Should Be Rotten.
15. Spider-Man 3 – 63%
Rounding out the trilogy, Spider-Man 3 is the black sheep of the Tobey Maguire/Peter Parker years. Director Sam Raimi would later fault himself for the movie’s shortcomings, saying he never fully believed in the characters chosen (read: Venom). Of course, Raimi’s direction wasn’t the only flaw to the third Spidey film. The need to top the bar set by Spider-Man 2 led to a surplus of bad guys. Although Thomas Haden Church could have made a more convincing Sandman had he been given more material to work with, Topher Grace was terribly miscast as Eddie Brock, and James Franco’s performance was over-the-top, bordering on parody.
Although Spider-Man 3 offered some of Spidey’s worst on-screen moments, including a joke centered around an emo version of Peter Parker dancing through the streets of New York City, it’s arguably not the worst Spider-Man movie to date (The Amazing Spider-Man 2 holds a lower RT score of 52%). Still, with its tonal inconsistency and its lack of a strong central narrative, it’s hard to argue that the critics weren’t being generous when they awarded the film a 63% fresh rating, even if the final score is only 4% away from mediocrity.
14. Quantum of Solace/Spectre – 65%/64%
Over the course of his fifty year film career, James Bond has treated audiences to some questionable adventures, but few were as bad as these two Daniel Craig-starring features.
Following the well-executed Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace ditched the classic spy movie tropes – the awesome megalomaniacal villain, the impossible world-saving plot, and the copious amount of love-making – for a yawn-inducing eco-terrorism story that served as nothing more than a journey of self-discovery for Bond as he coped with his past. Removed of his signature quips, Bond takes an all too serious turn for the worse, producing a film devoid of style and wit.
If Quantum of Solace fails by doing too little, Spectre can be blamed for doing too much. In a poorly conceived plot twist, the movie manages to mess up one of Bond’s biggest rivals, Blofeld, by re-writing him as Bond’s foster brother. Overlooking the global surveillance “Nine Eyes” program, the mastermind reveals that he was responsible for every tragedy that happened to Bond in the previous three films. Not only is the plot ludicrous, but it renders everything before it pointless, making the other three films mere footnotes in a larger, convoluted storyline.
13. Stuart Little/Stuart Little 2 – 66%/81%
With the exception of Pixar, which has found the balance between childlike innocence and maturity in over 90% of their movies, most kid’s movies cater to the younger audience. Critics know that and often adjust their reviews accordingly. The problem is that we can’t remember the last time anyone decided to heap praise onto Stuart Little, as a wonderful children’s movie or otherwise.
As talking animal pictures go, Stuart Little is pretty straightforward. A mother and a father adopt a cute, charismatic mouse. The couple’s son expresses his disinterest in a younger brother, but in time he adapts and they live happily ever after. That is, after Stuart manages to escape the clutches of the family cat Snowbell. In the sequel, Stuart teams up with Snowbell in a road trip where they set out to find a lost canary named Margalo. In hindsight, it’s easy to see how critics could have been caught up in the cutesy animation and talking antics of Stuart, but the white mouse does little to add to the talking animal genre, making for a rather boring viewing experience if you’re an adult and a sub-par effort if you’re looking to entertain the youngsters.
12. Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones – 65%
After The Phantom Menace kicked off the Star Wars prequels with an underwhelming 55%, critics settled down a little with the follow-up Attack of the Clones, rewarding it a slightly improved rating of 65%. Our only problem is that the sequel may be somehow worse than Episode I. Replacing heavy exposition with possibly the worst on-screen chemistry of all time, audiences were forced to endure as Hayden Christensen’s Anakin acted out his anguish in a helpless cartoonish style and Natalie Portman’s Padme went through the motions, delivering one cringe-worthy line after the next.
Although the prequels would be somewhat redeemed with Revenge of the Sith, a film which held up well among critics with a 79% approval rating, it still remains unclear how one of the most disliked entries of the franchise escaped with a score even barely above the fresh threshold. For a film which largely spends its time building up the emotional core of the prequels, its own disinterest in the story’s romantic pairing proves to be crippling, making Attack of the Clones a wasteful two and a half hour experience.
11. The Matrix Reloaded – 73%
Setting a precedent for the action movies of the new millennium, The Matrix debuted in 1999 with an invigorating vision: a reality-altering world inside of a world where special effects are a thing of beauty. The Wachowskis would revisit their mythos four years later in hopes of topping their blockbuster, expanding on the universe they created. Unfortunately, the pressure of creating a broader world would lead to a by-the-book sequel that was largely repetitive compared to its predecessor.
The first giant misstep for the Wachowskis would come with the incorporation of Zion, the last human city remaining after the nuclear fallout of the real world. The entrance into the city would lead to a whole cast of new characters, driving much of the narrative away from Neo and the other survivors of the first film. On top of that, the action sequences tried to one-up the original, leading to the now famous Burly Brawl between Neo and Agent Smith’s many assimilated clones. Ultimately, however, the Hong Kong-style martial arts and cyberpunk action loses its edge as the Wachowskis fail to bring anything new to the table, making the Matrix sequel a one trick pony without an emotional core to drive the plot forward.
10. Superman Returns – 76%
Ten years removed from Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns, the movie has largely been tossed to the wayside thanks to the DCEU. Written as a more mature, romantic take on the Man of Steel, fans were irked to find Kal-El coming back to Earth to a much younger Lois Lane and a son named Jason, who the hero never knew existed. Making matters worse, Singer claimed the movie was a continuation of Christopher Reeve’s franchise, taking place sometime after the second movie. Little indication of that connection was given, however, making for a backstory that left many questions unanswered.
Arguably, there was some good that came from Singer’s efforts. Although the 22 year old Brandon Routh was considerably younger looking than Reeve, he did evoke the same kind of iconic stature as his predecessor. Likewise, Kevin Spacey played a convincing Lex Luthor, even if his half-baked plan to build a continent based on the geology of Krypton proved to be underwhelming. In the end, Singer’s admiration for Richard Donner’s Superman weighed too heavily on the final result. What should have been a rebooted version of the DC icon became an odd tribute that inevitably failed to resurrect its protagonist.
9. Paranormal Activity – 83%
Made on a shoestring budget of $15,000 and raking in a total of $193 million, Paranormal Activity lured audiences into the theater with the promise of a frightening payoff that would scare their socks off. Hailed by critics as one of the most terrifying movies in years, many horror fans were disappointed to find an hour and a half of handycam shots documenting a series of loud noises and a door mysteriously moving by itself. Apart from the standard haunting storyline, all the action went unseen, leading to a rather boring film which left its audience more irritable than scared.
Compared to the other five Paranormal Activity films that followed, the first movie of the horror franchise still remains the most notable achievement of the series, and as an experiment in amateur filmmaking, it’s a success story which manages to do quite a bit with a while lot of nothing. Still, the final result falls way short of the hype. By the end, audiences are treated to little more than a home video with the occasional jump scare that should be highly regarded for what it was able to do for aspiring filmmakers rather than what it did on screen.
8. Noah- 77%
Looking past the furor from the Christian community surrounding the movie’s sensitive subject matter and director Darren Aronofsky’s claims of making the “least biblical Bible movie ever,” Noah is an ambitious project which suffers from an erratic tone. Exploring themes of environmentalism and humanism, Aronofsky draws on a long tradition of interpretation to stretch the story of Noah’s Ark into a two hour, twenty minute epic, but the results are squandered with bombastic imagery which seems more keen on recreating J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth than telling its own story.
At the heart of Noah’s tale, buried beneath the barrage of somber imagery and existential reflections on society, is a crumbling patriarchal tale brought on by one man’s burdening visions of the world’s end. The stellar cast, led by Russell Crowe, is ultimately wasted, however. Instead, the star becomes the abundance of CGI effects, which include computer-generated animals, talking rocks that look like Transformers, and a messy final battle scene which is more frustrating than it is entertaining. Somewhere along the way, Aronofsky loses sight of his vision, making this blockbuster as forgettable as it is controversial.
7. Crash – 75%
The most controversial pick of our list, Crash was the indie darling that fought its way to the Academy Awards, taking home the top prize for Best Picture and stunning the many viewers waiting to hear Brokeback Mountain’s name be called. Whether it was from the shock of disappointment or a genuine sense of hatred, the backlash from the win was immediately felt, and ever since, the movie has been hailed as the worst picture to ever be crowned best of the year.
The problem most angry reviewers seem to share about Crash is its not so subtle parables on the topic of racism in America. Despite being accused of viewing racism through an ideological lens, the movie has been heavily criticized for its depiction of stereotypes – the African American carjacker, the Persian store owner, and the trigger-happy LAPD – all of which seem to reinforce prejudices rather than argue against them. Whether viewers walked away overwhelmed or rolling their eyes, there’s little doubt that Crash continues to spark debates about the depiction of minorities in movies, making it a picture that should fall somewhere in the middle of the Tomatometer at best.
6. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey/The Desolation of Smaug – 64%/74%
Following the acclaim of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson had a lot riding on him to recreate the ingenuity of Middle Earth with The Hobbit, but what should have accounted for one wildly adventurous three hour movie quickly became a stretched out trilogy of its own. Starting with the excessive LotR references which reintroduced characters like Frodo and Legolas, Jackson made some heavy changes to Tolkien’s story. In the end, the director found himself juggling too much and the messy balancing act made for a bloated narrative, which was only outmatched by the unnecessary amount of CGI that filled up the film’s most vital action sequences.
Taking into account the things which make LotR so great – the finely tuned cast of characters, the epic sense of world-building, and a well-contained, deliberately paced narrative – all of it is taken for granted in the Hobbit franchise. Although the last film of the trilogy, Battle of the Five Armies, would get its due by debuting with a rotten score of 59%, the same could not be said for the first two entries, leaving us stumped as to what the critics were thinking.
5. Spy Kids/Spy Kids 2 – 93%/74%
Compare the 93% critics’ rating of Robert Rodriguez’s first Spy Kids movie to the audience score of 46%, and you can see why it makes our list. The reaction is understandable given that many of the viewers rating the movie are adults complaining about the turgid plot and cheesy special effects, but the truth of the matter is that Spy Kids just doesn’t hold up well. The plot plays out like one giant hallucinogenic nightmare where kids are left unaccompanied by some questionably irresponsible parents, setting up one confusing moral tale for the children watching at home.
The first film centers around the mad man Fegan Floop, who uses his techno-wizardry to make a cadre of putty-faced monsters named Floogies. These Floogies are actually people made to act like brainwashed puppets, who work alongside another group of servants made entirely out of horribly CGI-rendered thumbs. If the odd story isn’t enough to throw you off, the tame action scenes and awkward acting from everyone involved is the icing on the cake. Things don’t fare much better for the sequel, which tries to re-create the same energy from the first film, but only succeeds in becoming even more bombastic and wacky than its predecessor.
4. Iron Man 2/Iron Man 3 – 72%/79%
Nearly a decade removed from the first film of the MCU, Robert Downey Jr. is still the biggest personality of the franchise, but even he couldn’t save the messy second and third acts in the Iron Man movie trilogy.
Although Iron Man 2 is generally looked at as a weak link in the Marvel movie chain thanks to Mickey Rourke’s phony-sounding Russian accent, a horrendously choreographed fight scene between Tony and War Machine, and an uninspired final act, its biggest downfall was its commitment to setting up the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the end, Tony Stark juggles too much in his second picture to keep the plot compelling, making for a jumbled narrative.
Iron Man 3 didn’t fair much better. Besides ruining the Mandarin with a cop-out twist that irritated Marvel fans, the motivations surrounding bad guy Aldrich Killian and the Extremis terrorism plot weren’t well thought out, leading to a lackluster chapter in Stark’s story that could have easily been left out altogether. In the end, the third chapter is a nice platform to showcase more explosive set pieces, but is only a small, insignificant part of Tony’s overall story.
3. The Blair Witch Project – 86%
Although the subgenre of horror movies known as “found footage” began as early as 1980 with the shocking faux-documentary Cannibal Holocaust, it was The Blair Witch Project which brought the new style of filmmaking into the mainstream. Marketed as a real horror story captured on film by three student filmmakers, the movie was shrouded in mystery before its release. Whether audiences thought it was real or not, directors Eduardo Sanchez and Daniel Myrick had the distinct advantage of playing off viewers’ fears, allowing them to use their imaginations to guess what terrors lied off-screen without having to show much.
Now nearly two decades removed from the first Blair Witch film, the movie’s guerrilla-style filmmaking is more nauseating than it is terrifying. For nearly an hour and a half, viewers are asked to watch a group of twenty-somethings trek through a forest, making dumb mistakes like losing their only map and walking towards scary noises in the dark, all for an ending that never pays off. Although we’d agree that the film felt like a stroke of genius in 1999, the opposite feels true today as the found footage genre continues to become one of the most overused horror tactics in Hollywood.
2. Prometheus/Alien: Covenant – 73%/71%
Treading familiar territory, director Ridley Scott revisited his sci-fi magnum opus Alien, doing away with the claustrophobic “trapped in space” setting to explore wider themes about the origins of mankind. Although an exploration into the uncharted territories of the Alien mythos sounded like a good idea on paper, it led to more plot holes than answers, and had many viewers wishing they could rewind the clock to the days when the franchise was still a space-faring horror story.
Speaking from a purely visual perspective, Prometheus and Alien: Covenant should be commended for their set designs, but the same cannot be said about their scripts. The first of these films, marketed as a quasi-prequel, is painfully undecided in which story it wants to tell. Bouncing back and forth between a philosophical tale debating the intricacies of Darwinism and creationism and a violent monster movie, Prometheus crawls its way to a unfulfilling conclusion that leaves much to be desired. Covenant tries to make amends for the flaws of Prometheus, but misfires by adding a convoluted Xenomorph origins story to the Alien mythos. Sadly, both films have left fans of the original Alien with a bad taste in their mouths – and little hope for the survival of the series.
1. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – 77%
Coming in at a staggering 77% on Rotten Tomatoes, our only guess is that Steven Spielberg must have had some damaging information on the majority of Hollywood’s critics to get such a welcome response for the fourth Indiana Jones film. The long-awaited Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was not only a remarkable failure, but it stripped away all that was held dear by fans of the original trilogy. Apart from CGI gophers and a convoluted plot involving ancient extraterrestrial relics, the film lacked the thrills of its predecessors and saw our beloved Indy as an aging protagonist being hurdled thousands of feet by a nuclear bomb while tucked away in a refrigerator.
Generally speaking, when it comes to reviving past franchises, there’s a certain bit of nostalgia that can sometimes blind critics and fans to the truth, but in this instance, it appears the audience was the first to debate the quality of a once sacred film series. If hindsight is 20/20, we’re willing to bet that many of the critics that reacted positively to Crystal Skull’s Looney Tunes-style antics are wishing that could take back the words they wrote.
What other “fresh” movies did the Tomatometer completely misfire on? Let us know in the comments.