When it comes to opinions on movies, your own personal reaction is the most important, despite what many critics would like you to believe. Critical writing does have its place, of course, and when there are armfuls of new movies coming out each and every week, a critic can be useful in separating the wheat from the chaff and advising you where you should spend your hard-earned cash.
Having said that, there is definitely a divide between critics and audiences. Some critical darling can garner gushing press reviews, but still end up disappointing your average movie fan. The flipside is true too, and it’s always disheartening to see that a film you enjoyed has been on the receiving end of a critical mauling by some acid-tongued writer. As a review aggregator, Rotten Tomatoes collects many critics’ reviews together and displays them on one page, with an easy-to-understand “Fresh” or “Rotten” rating, a “Tomatometer” percentage score at the top and more detailed breakdowns below. It’s not a perfect system as we’re about to see, but it does usually give people the general, overall consensus on the quality of a movie. But, as you may have guessed from the huge title above, we’re not here to talk about all those boring times RT got it right (read: usually).
Here are 15 Times Rotten Tomatoes Scores Were Way Off.
15. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) – 77%
Regardless of what you may think of 2008’s belated entry to the Indiana Jones series, there was undeniably a backlash surrounding the film when it came out. Many hardcore fans of the series felt that the once-great series had been tarnished with the newer, subpar chapter. Whilst this may be over-dramatic, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is generally thought of as the weakest movie in the Indy franchise by a large margin. It does have its defenders, but the considering the sheer amount of hate and nitpickery it’s endured, you could be forgiven for thinking that everyone slated the film as soon as it came out.
As it turns out, not everyone did. In fact, most critics seemed to enjoy the adventures of older Indy. Contemporary reviews were rather generous to Indy 4, and it sits on Rotten Tomatoes with a comfortably Fresh rating of 77%. However, the tipped popcorn on the other side of the page tells a different story. The Audience Score for KotCS is an underwhelming 54% with over a million user reviews collated. Fingers crossed that the forthcoming Indy 5 pleases both critics and audiences alike. We could all do with another great Indiana Jones escapade.
14. Equilibrium (2002) – 38%
Equilibrium tells the story of John Preston (a pre-Batman Christian Bale), a “cleric” in charge of keeping the peace in a dystopian future world that has banned emotions. Residents of the city of Libria must take medication to suppress their natural emotions in an attempt to curb the volatile and destructive natural inclinations man has for hatred and war. As the story goes on, John Preston has a change of heart and starts trying to dismantle the oppressive state keeping Libria’s population enslaved. Basically, picture Footloose, but instead of rock music and dancing being banned, Kevin Bacon runs around a warehouse frantically laughing, crying and appreciating art instead.
The film has a goofy premise, but it’s a solid sci-fi actioner. It does some decent world-building, with some neat touches in creating an oppressive Orwellian regime. It features some great performances from Bale, Emily Watson, Taye Diggs and Sean Bean, and pulls off its story with a certain degree of style. Best of all, the action is genuinely inventive. The movie incorporates gun-kata – a martial art where the combatants use guns as extensions of their bodies. This leads to some unique and incredibly smooth gunplay sequences. The film’s got its dumb moments, but it was never aspiring to be high art, despite taking itself very seriously. Critics dismissed it as derivative and a rip-off of The Matrix, but appreciation of the movie has grown since 2002, earning it a very respectable 81% Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes.
13. Sharknado (2013) – 82%
Don’t worry folks, we’re in on the joke. Sharknado was never aiming to be a good film. Quite the opposite, in fact. It’s a love letter to B-movies and old-school creature features that takes direct-to-DVD style schlock to its illogical conclusion – a tornado consisting of angry sharks that attack California. It gained quite a bit of internet buzz based on the name and premise alone, but as Samuel L. Jackson’s Snakes on a Plane learned before it, internet hype is a fickle thing that will only bother to stick around if your film’s actually good. Critics loved the over-the-top corniness of it all, but regular people were less impressed.
The film sports a measly 33% Audience Score. Many have argued that the reason for this is that the average Joe hasn’t seen half the movies Sharknado is heavily inspired by and may not appreciate the irony, but intentionally bad is still bad. Looking through the user comments, nobody seems sure whether the movie’s meant to be a comedy or not. No matter your opinion on the movie itself, the reaction to it is undeniably split, and way more controversial than its impressive 82% rating may imply.
12. Suicide Squad (2016) – 26%
Two of this year’s most polarizing releases ended up coming from the Warner Brothers DC Camp. Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was raked over the critical coals on release, but fans hoped that the fun-looking Suicide Squad would add some variety and energy to the DCEU. When Suicide Squad was released, it garnered startlingly similar reviews to BvS, scoring a 26% to Dawn of Justice‘s 27%. Even the most devoted DC fans will admit that neither film is perfect, but considering the new style and direction of Suicide Squad, many people felt the film deserved more love than it got. The divide reached a bizarre peak when a popular petition was shared around, calling for Rotten Tomatoes to be shut down over its low DC scores. The petition was later withdrawn, with the creator stating that it wasn’t a serious call to action and more to promote awareness of the critical low-balling Warner Brothers’ superhero offerings have received as of late.
Many sites (including this one) gave the movie a reasonably positive write-up, but a movie as ungraceful as Suicide Squad was never going to be a big hit with the highbrow newspaper crowd. The movie has a solid 66% Audience Score, and despite some less than charitable reviews, it still managed to earn some serious money at the box office. Many reviews singled out Jared Leto’s Joker as a sticking point, but few took the time to praise Will Smith’s performance as Deadshot, Margot Robbie’s superstar-making turn as fan-favorite Harley Quinn, or Viola Davis’ awesome and intimidating Amanda Waller.
11. X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) – 58%
Bryan Singer’s first two X-Men films really helped to shape the superhero movie landscape we know today. However, when Singer jumped ship to work on Superman Returns, the studio gave the task of helming the third film to a new creative team led by director Brett Ratner. The series’ literal and figurative direction changed overnight, and botched what should have been one of the best X-Men stories put on screen: The Dark Phoenix Saga.
Most people agree that The Last Stand is one of the worst X-Flicks, next to its successor, the Deadpool-ruining X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The Last Stand was always meant to close out a trilogy, but Fox never intended to let the X-Men franchise lay dormant. Thankfully, the poor reception of Last Stand forced them to focus on spin-offs instead of the teased sequel at the end.
The disappointing but entirely watchable X-Men: Apocalypse was released earlier this year, and somehow managed to score even lower than The Last Stand. It’s pretty safe to say that, in general terms, Apocalypse isn’t worse than The Last Stand (so very few things are). We’re thankful for that fact, too.
10. Die Hard with a Vengeance (1995) – 51%
The original Die Hard is widely considered to be an action masterpiece. Sequels were always going to be a tough challenge, but recently, the wheels have fallen off the franchise rather spectacularly, with the latest entry to the series being the poorly-reviewed A Good Day to Die Hard.
The third movie in the series, Die Hard with a Vengeance, does away with many of Die Hard hallmarks. Instead of crawling through vents, Bruce Willis’ John McClane is tear-assing around New York City trying to stop a mad bomber with a predilection for mind games. Along the way, McClane meets Zeus (Samuel L. Jackson), an average citizen roped into Simon’s games by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Whereas Die Hard 2 was more of a straight-up sequel to the claustrophobic original, Die Hard with a Vengeance at least pushes the series into new areas. Of all McClane’s sidekicks, Zeus is the best and undeniably the funniest. McClane and Zeus’ reluctant friendship grounds the plot well, and both men are well characterized. The movie does run out of steam towards the end with a rather anticlimactic finale, but the movie has arguably done enough up until that point to just about get away with it. 51% seems a little callous, but the audience score of 83% (higher than Die Hard 2‘s 70%) suggests that Die Hard with a Vengeance may be considered the second best film of the series by many.
9. Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002) – 65%
The Star Wars prequels have been thoroughly dissected by the Internet at large. It’s unlikely that there’s anything new to say about them at this point. However, it’s important to note that as hot as the flame wars got, none of the prequels ever dropped below 50% on the Tomatometer. The lowest is Phantom Menace at 55%, but Attack of the Clones is sitting fairly prettily on a pretty respectable 65%. Whichever of the first two you think is worst, doesn’t 65% seem high for a film that features the legendarily weak and forced romance between Hayden Christensen’s Anakin and Natalie Portman’s Padmé?
Perhaps critics were just relieved that the wacky space adventures of annoying Kid Anakin were over and scored accordingly, but it’s hard to tell for sure. Obviously, movie quality is subjective, and Episode II does have the Count Dooku/ Yoda showdown, but 65% still seems high for a movie that salted the earth with the tears of millions of frustrated fans.
8. Kingdom of Heaven (2005) – 39%
Nobody was particularly happy with Kingdom of Heaven‘s theatrical release, least of all director Ridley Scott, who has gone on record as saying he was disappointed with the final result. The film’s pacing was inconsistent and it seemed to be both in a rush and thuddingly slow at times, with some questionable narrative choices. Critics weren’t kind to Kingdom of Heaven, with many unfavorably comparing it to Scott’s previous sword and sandal epic, Gladiator.
So why is it on this list? Two reasons. One, the theatrical cut isn’t as bad as the score suggests. It’s compromised, but Sir Ridley’s signature style and skill still arguably mark it out from the majority of historical epics. Two, a far superior Director’s Cut exists, which turns an average slash-em-up into more of the sweeping epic it was intended to be before the studio got their grubby hands on it. The 39% score doesn’t reflect the significantly better reviews the movie got when released on DVD, and may put off a prospective fan from giving the film a chance.
7. Home Alone (1991) – 55%
It’s hard to believe that a holiday institution like Home Alone is officially “Rotten” on RT. Few will argue that the film is a masterpiece, but audiences seem to have embraced Chris Columbus’ family-friendly home invasion movie more than its mediocre score indicates. You all know the deal – 8 year-old Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) is accidentally left behind by his family, and must use whatever he can find to protect his home from a pair of bumbling burglars (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern). It’s a big, silly, live-action cartoon of a film, complete with slapstick noises.
Home Alone was a big box office hit at the time and kickstarted a whole slew of imitators, all eager to cash in on the lucrative trend. The movie remains popular and has a solid 79% Audience Score in its favor, so perhaps a shove into “Fresh” territory wouldn’t be the worst thing. Perhaps it’s the movie’s status as a Christmas film that makes it invulnerable to criticism. After all, the movie does a great job of reinforcing the spirit of the holiday and emphasizing the importance of family, which is tough to argue with.
6. Speed Racer (2008) – 39%
The Wachowskis found themselves in a difficult spot after their Matrix sequels made big bank, but critically disappointed. They wrote and produced the great V for Vendetta, a grim and mostly faithful take on Alan Moore’s seminal graphic novel. This led many people to think the siblings would continue on their path of groundbreaking science-fiction efforts. However, they pair threw the world a curveball when it was announced that their first post-Matrix directing job was Speed Racer, a live-action, hyper kinetic adaptation of the cult anime series. The reviews were pretty awful, and the movie ended up flopping at the all-important box office.
One of the many negative reviews on RT states that “Twelve-year-old boys should be wowed, but for the rest of us, it will depend on your appetite for eye candy.” This is all well and good, but isn’t that sort of the whole point of the film? As it is a live-action cartoon, the movie is unabashedly aimed at kids. It’s goofy and corny, but the cast take the silliness seriously. Emile Hirsch is a solid lead, Matthew Fox is enjoyably gruff and brooding, and the pairing of Susan Sarandon and John Goodman as Speed’s parents works a treat. The action is stylish too, with some real creativity on display in the many visually impressive race sequences. It’s definitely a divisive movie that isn’t for everyone, but the Audience Score of 60% suggests that the film does have its fans who like it way more than the Rotten rating suggests.
5. Back to the Future Part II (1989) – 62%
The Back to the Future series is considered one of the best movie trilogies of all time. The second installment is usually considered the weakest, but surely it’s better than a few notches above mediocre, no? The sequel’s vision of Hill Valley in the far-off space year of 2015 is a lot of fun, and a great excuse to come up with wacky future inventions. Hell, it gave us the Hoverboard, something those of us who lived in the actual 2015 are still sorely missing a proper version of (we do have power lace Nikes now, but it’s a small victory by comparison).
Back to the Future II is a unique sequel, as its time-travelling gimmick allowed a clever way to revisit the original film. The movie culminates with both a past and present Marty running around in 1955, with present Marty having to ensure his past self’s success in returning to the future. Most second entries in a trilogy are the darkest, but some of BTTF 2‘s bleakness didn’t sit well with critics at the time. Famed critic Gene Siskel slammed the film, calling it “a surprisingly oppressive, rapid-fire, noisy, gadget-filled action picture lacking the emotion of the original ”. As the years have gone on, critical opinion has shifted more in the film’s favor, but 63% seems a little miserly for such an interesting chapter in the BTTF saga.
4. Hook (1991) – 30%
For kids of a certain generation, the low scoring of Steven Spielberg’s Hook seems like a travesty. Objectively, Hook isn’t Spielberg’s best work, but how could it be when you have a filmography as impressive as his? Having said that, there is a certain charm to Hook that many grumpy critics clearly missed. You’ve got the always fantastic Robin Williams as the lead going up against a weird and wonderful Dustin Hoffman as Captain Hook. The film has huge and detailed sets, seriously imaginative setpieces, and a real sense of swashbuckling fun. Plus, the film has an excellent John Williams soundtrack. You can’t beat a bit of Johnny W.
Hook may seem like some kid-friendly nonsense to boring adults, but people who grew up with the film are surprisingly passionate. Nostalgia messes with all of us in some capacity, but perhaps it’s Hook‘s bittersweet themes of growing up and forgetting how to play that resonate with people, especially as they grow older. 30% seems way too harsh for a film that still has the potential to be loved by new generations of kids. Bangarang!
3. Man on Fire (2004) – 39%
If you were to skim Man on Fire‘s IMDB page, you’d see that it’s generally considered to be a solid revenge thriller with a mixed Metacritic score. However, if you click over to Rotten Tomatoes, the movie has a rather ugly 39% Critic Score. Denzel Washington plays John Creasy, a burnt-out teetotal, ex-military badass who gets roped in to private security work by an old colleague. Creasy’s charged with taking care of the 9 year-old Pita Ramos (Dakota Fanning). Pita is abducted in Mexico City and Creasy loads up on black-market weapons and explosives and brutally tears through the criminal underbelly in search of poor Pita.
Tony Scott’s revenge flick doesn’t do anything particularly new, but it does tell its story with an assured confidence. It’s got some great performances from Washington, Christopher Walken, mini Dakota Fanning and Mickey Rourke, plus some genuinely stylish action beats. Many reviews dismissed it as just another violent revenge story, but it’s tough to feel like the film was given a fair shot, considering the Audience Score is a hefty 89%, a full 50% higher than the critical one.
2. Spy Kids (2001) – 93%
Robert Rodriguez’s first foray into the kid-friendly movie arena was treated shockingly well by critics. When Carmen (Alexa PenaVega) and Juni’s (Daryl Sabara) superspy parents disappear, the Cortez kids must embark on a mission to save them, using only their wits and several of their parents’ super cool spy gadgets. Reviews praised the film’s colorful visuals, sense of humor, and family values, but regular people don’t seem convinced, with a comparatively bad 46% Audience Score.
Spy Kids isn’t a bad flick by any stretch — it’s arguably pretty good for what it is, but the lofty 93% seems like a bone of contention for many users. It’s easy to see why too, as its 93% puts Spy Kids within spitting distance of some of Disney/Pixar’s heavy-hitters and some all-time classics of the genre. It’s easy to be cynical about kids’ films, but 93% does seem high, especially when it’s a better rating than all but one of the Harry Potter films.
1. The Boondock Saints (1999) – 20%
When The Boondock Saints was released back in 1999, most reviewers mercilessly tore the film apart. It was slated as a Tarantino rip-off, clearly inspired by QT’s revenge-fuelled bloody epics, but having none of his skill. In case you haven’t seen it – fraternal twin brothers Connor and Murphy McManus (Sean Patrick Flanery and some guy named Norman) get a proclamation from on high that they should rid their hometown of Boston of its criminal element. The McManus boys become violent vigilantes and tear through the underworld with righteous fury on a mission from God, whilst Willem Dafoe’s spectacularly over-the-top FBI Agent Paul Smecker tries to bring them in.
Boondock Saints is many things, but it isn’t subtle in the slightest. It’s loud, brash, and ultra-violent, but there’s always a little room for that if you’re into such things. The movie has one of the most polarizing scores on all of RT, with a rotten 20% from critics and a whopping 91% Audience Score. Boondock Saints has undeniably become a cult hit, one that’s seemingly growing in popularity with each passing year. While fans of the film continue to debate just how good the original is, one thing we can all agree on is that the sequel, Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, is a huge dumpster fire of a movie (albeit one that somehow has a higher RT rating than its predecessor).
What other films do you feel are completely misrepresented by their aggregate review scores? Sound off in the comments.