Like any art form, film is a subjective medium. What might be touching to one viewer could be eye-roll inducing to another; a CGI-heavy summer blockbuster might wow filmgoers looking for popcorn escapism while eliciting groans from ticket buyers who do not believe style is a replacement for substance. There has never been a film that all viewers unanimously agree on. The highest rated movies listed on Rotten Tomatoes have their detractors and, conversely, the lowest rated movies have their champions. Film experiences vary by our interests, our tastes, and (if we’re being totally honest) our mood at the time of viewing – making it near-impossible to place most films at a fixed point on the spectrum between bad and great cinema.
However, from time to time, Hollywood spits out a movie so bad, so technically incompetent, that its failures are hard to ignore. Some of these movies go on to become, unintentionally, so-bad-they’re good, where others remain downright unwatchable. As with our annual “Worst of the Year” recaps, we only include the worst mainstream releases, rather than divisive movies that were underwhelming to certain filmgoers (we’re looking at you Transformers franchise). Our picks highlight the intolerable bores that failed to deliver on even their most basic ambitions – these are the unfunny comedies, the not-very-scary horror movies, the superficial dramas, and the snooze-inducing action flicks.
Of course, our list is not definitive. So feel free to share your own picks in the comments. NOTE: Entries are listed in chronological order – not in order of bad to worst.
25. Reefer Madness (1936)
Premise: A cautionary tale, delivered as a lecture to parents during a school PTA meeting detailing the dangers of marijuana use, Reefer Madness follows the corruption of well-intentioned teenagers Mary, Jimmy, and Bill, who are sucked into the dangerous world of cannabis use and become increasingly addicted to reefer – until their lives are outright devastated by drug addiction.
Why It’s One of the Worst: Originally titled Tell Your Children, financed by religious conservatives as anti-marijuana propaganda, the film took itself extremely seriously – until it was re-cut. Taking advantage of the movie’s poor production values, acting, and story, pro-marijuana advocates repositioned Reefer Madness as unintentionally hilarious comedy, subverting its original anti-drug message in favor of poking fun at out of touch adults. The movie was re-screened for college-age moviegoers – with proceeds helping to fund the California Marijuana Initiative (which sought to legalize cannabis in 1972). Shortly after, New Line Cinema secured a copy of the movie and continued to screen Reefer Madness to cult-movie fans for years to come. Eight decades after its initial release, Reefer Madness remains one of the most-watched bad movies in film history – with plenty of unintended comedy for viewers to enjoy… for free (thanks to public domain).
24. Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959)
Premise: Aliens target the San Fernando Valley for attack, reanimating corpses from a community cemetery – returning the undead to life as zombies and vampires. However, instead of a malevolent invasion plot, the aliens use their ghoulish soldiers to stop the creation of Solaranite (a man-made energy source that would threaten the universe).
Why It’s One of the Worst: Originally titled Grave Robbers from Outer Space, directed by cult horror icon Ed Wood, Plan 9 From Outer Space was an ambitious idea – combining extraterrestrials, undead monsters, and malevolent human scientists into a single story. Unfortunately, execution of the cautionary post-WWII story failed in every way imaginable – turning Wood’s zany attempt at bridging gothic horror with nuclear age sci-fi into a convoluted mess. Conceptually, Grave Robbers from Outer Space was already a tough sell to audiences but blatant continuity problems (day/night shots within single scenes) and poor special effects made it clear that Wood’s vision had exceeded his filmmaking resources and ability. Plan 9 From Outer Space is so strange, and production on the film so bizarre, that it was the primary focus of Tim Burton’s 1994 film, Ed Wood, starring Johnny Depp.
23. Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966)
Premise: On vacation near El Paso, Michael and Margaret, along with daughter Debbie, become lost on the road. Eventually the family stumbles upon an isolated house – maintained by a creepy groundskeeper named Torgo. However, as Michael, Margaret, and Debbie unpack, they discover that Torgo is the puppet of a malevolent cult – a malevolent cult that sacrifices severed hands to the god Manos.
Why It’s One of the Worst: Famous for its undressing at the hands of Joel Hodgson in Mystery Science Theater 3000, Manos: The Hands of Fate was written, produced, directed by, and starred, fertilizer salesman Harold P. Warren as part of a bet with Route 66 co-creator Stirling Silliphant. While conversing with Silliphant at a local diner, Warren claimed that it wasn’t difficult to make a horror movie – betting that he could successfully write, produce, direct, and star in his own horror film. Brought to the big screen by community theater actors and an amateur tech crew, Manos: The Hands of Fate was riddled with continuity errors, disconnected tangents, amateur acting, and cringe-inducing voice-over work/dubbing. Nevertheless, to his credit, Warren had a sense of humor about his failure, even stating that Manos could be the worst film ever made.
22. Barbarella (1968)
Premise: Based on Jean-Claude Forest’s “pornographic” (for the time) Barbarella comic series, the 1968 film adaptation saw the titular character traveling the galaxy in search of the malevolent Doctor Durand Duran. Fearing Durand Duran’s latest invention, the Positronic Ray, will threaten our galaxy, the President of Earth sends Barbarella to the Tau Ceti region in space – to bring the villainous scientist to justice.
Why It’s One of the Worst: Jean-Claude Forest’s original comic strip has become synonymous with female sexual liberation and mid-twentieth century sexual revolution. While the comic still has plenty of critics, who claim the book objectified female sexuality rather than championed female sexual liberation, director Roger Vadim’s Barbarella film distilled Forest’s comics down to a campy sci-fi tale where the heroine’s sexuality is expressed by rewarding sidekicks with sexual favors throughout the journey as well as overloading a machine that causes “death by orgasm.” Like many genre films of the time, Barbarella walked a clumsy line between imaginative production designs and limited resources (that further undercut campy story and acting). In spite of incompetent execution, Barbarella remains a cult-hit to this day – thanks to weird onscreen shenanigans as well as a few timely themes and story beats that actually resonate with modern pop-culture/social satire.
21. Howard the Duck (1986)
Premise: Duckworld resident Howard the Duck, busy reading Duckgirl magazine, is launched into space – landing in Cleveland, Ohio. Howard soon discovers that he was transported to Earth when human scientists tested a cross-dimensional transport device. Unfortunately, the heroic humanoid duck isn’t the only being pulled from another dimension during the test – as the Dark Overlord of the Universe has also arrived on Earth (and now plans to enslave humankind).
Why It’s One of the Worst: Inspired by the Marvel comic book of the same name, Howard the Duck bares little resemblance to its source material. Still, divergence from its print inspirations were the least of Howard the Duck‘s shortcomings – a film that was panned for subpar special effects, uninspired performances, and an uneven tone that vacillated between campy humor and downright crass, violent, and (worst of all) unfunny scenes. Despite a zany setup and some talented moviemakers behind the camera, Howard the Duck was uninspired and boring filmmaking – failing, most of all, due to an unlikable and wooden depiction of the film’s starring duck (both in terms of characterization and animatronic effects). Meager ambitions, and passionless execution, produced a film that is too bland to really enjoy – even as a so bad it’s good movie viewing.
20. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
Premise: Following the events of Superman – Superman III, The Quest for Peace sees Lex Luthor trick the Man of Steel into creating a Kryptonian clone (by combining Superman’s DNA with solar radiation during a nuclear detonation). Unchecked, and with Superman weakened by radiation sickness, the threat of “Nuclear Man” looms large over Metropolis.
Why It’s One of the Worst: In response to Cold War paranoia, the dangers of nuclear proliferation take center-stage in director Sidney J. Furie’s addition to the Christopher Reeve-starring Superman series. Unfortunately, social commentary (how should Superman react to nuclear war?) gets lost in an uninspired Superman movie franchise sequel with a downright cringe-inducing villain and muddled storyline – made all the worse by budget cuts that forced Cannon Films to slash special effects and entirely remove key scenes. As a result, The Quest for Peace is an unfinished shell – neither exciting to watch nor a coherent Superman tale. Some DC fans manage to stomach the film as an odd-ball cap to the 1980s Superman quadrilogy but there’s no doubt that, even compared to critically panned Superman III, The Quest for Peace was a failure – bad enough to put the franchise on hiatus for over fifteen years.
19. Mac and Me (1988)
Premise: An alien family is stolen from their home planet during an unmanned NASA space mission – and transported to a secret military base on Earth for study. During an escape attempt, with FBI agents in pursuit, the youngest alien, later dubbed Mac (Mysterious Alien Creature), has a chance encounter with the Cruise family – eventually revealing himself to their son, Eric.
Why It’s One of the Worst: Following the phenomenal success of E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, Orion Pictures was looking to give young moviegoers a new lovable alien on the big screen (and new merchandise to buy). Unfortunately, where E.T. pushed boundaries in special effects and storytelling – creating one of movie history’s most enduring, and charming, non-human characters, Mac and Me was a shameless and dopey cash grab. Eight years after E.T.‘s release, Mac and Me‘s special effects were actually less convincing than the film’s inspiration – and entirely lacking in heart. Two decades later: Mac and Me is best known as a recurring gag on Conan. Whenever Paul Rudd is featured as a guest, instead of showing footage from his new film, Rudd brings the same clip (every time) from Mac and Me.
18. Troll 2 (1990)
Premise: After years in the suburbs, Michael Waits decides to temporarily uproot his family – to experience life in the rural farming town of Nilbog. Joined by his wife Diane, son Joshua, and daughter Holly, along with Holly’s boyfriend (and dopey friends), Michael journeys to Nilbog – despite warnings from ghosts that goblins (not trolls) will capture the Waits, transform the family into plants, and consume them (because these goblins are vegetarians).
Why It’s One of the Worst: Troll 2 was marketed as a sequel to John Carl Buechler’s 1986 fantasy film Troll – even though no trolls appear in Troll 2 and there are no actual connections to Troll. Campy performances, homophobic jokes, a convoluted story, horrendous special effects and makeup, as well as death by popcorn drowning, are only a few of the problems that made Troll 2 a worst film ever made contender (a movie so bad the director, Claudio Fragasso, used the pseudonym Drake Floyd instead of his real name). Despite being completely incompetent in nearly every way imaginable, the movie found a second life as a so-bad-it’s-good cult classic – with Troll 2‘s bizarre journey to the big screen chronicled in a documentary from Troll 2 actor-turned-director, Michael Stephenson, titled Best Worst Movie.
17. Highlander 2: The Quickening (1991)
Premise: Two decades after Highlander, which saw immortal Connor MacLeod gifted with mortality when he defeated The Kurgan, MacLeod is now an old man – living in the literal shadow of an artificial shield designed to fix Earth’s thinning ozone layer. When negative side effects of The Shield lead to humanity’s decline, MacLeod must find a way to save Earth once more – while putting an end to ancient foes.
Why It’s One of the Worst: The original Highlander film was a fun tale of ancient mysticism meeting modern society – with coherent themes highlighting the importance of life (and death). When director Russell Mulcahy returned for the follow-up, the filmmaker faced one setback after another. Undercut by an undercooked mix of cautionary environmentalism and sword-wielding fantasy, The Quickening also suffered from a demotivated central star (Christopher Lambert was forced by contract to return) and memorable on-set injuries (Lambert chipped Michael Ironside’s tooth and Ironside chopped the tip off Lambert’s finger). A testament to how little quality mattered to financiers, after the budget took a hit thanks to rampant inflation in late 1980s Argentina, producer meddling led to drastic departures from Mulcahy’s original vision (even contradicting backstory from Highlander) during filming and post-production – prompting the filmmaker to release his own “Renegade Version.”
16. Showgirls (1995)
Premise: Leaving a sordid past, Nomi Malone hitchhikes to Las Vegas in search of fame and fortune as a showgirl. Instead, Nomi takes work at a seedy strip club where her talents as a trained dancer are unappreciated. Later robbed of a role in the famed Stardust Casino show, Goddess, Nomi sets out to secure her spot as a premiere showgirl (as well as enact revenge on an untouchable celebrity that sexually assaulted her best friend).
Why It’s One of the Worst: The famous misadventure between fan-favorite filmmaker Paul Verhoeven and former Saved By the Bell sweetheart Elizabeth Berkley, Showgirls was a strange blend of the director’s penchant for subversive social criticism and an otherwise bland tale of girl-power drama. Verhoeven’s approach could have delivered biting Las Vegas showgirl commentary but stiff performances (especially in erotic dance and simulated sex scenes), coupled with bizarre subplots and relationships that struggled to be insightful, much less convincing, made for a film that failed as titillating erotica or a memorable character story. Showgirls’ reputation for unintentional comedy value led to the term “Showgirls-bad” (used to describe future so-bad-they’re-good films) and is best known as a cautionary tale of what not to do when transitioning out of teen sitcom stardom.
15. Battlefield Earth (2000)
Premise: 1,000 years in the future (3,000 AD), humanity has been enslaved by ruthless extraterrestrials known as the Psychlos. On Earth, the Psychlos are commanded by Security Chief Terl – a bitter leader who was discarded by his superiors. Going against orders, Terl devizes a get-rich-quick scheme, using human slaves, to buy transport off Earth – until his plot backfires and human rebels lead an uprising against the entire Psychlo race.
Why It’s One of the Worst: Based on the book by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, Battlefield Earth is often regarded as one of film history’s biggest misfires. A movie that had all the necessary components (A-list actors and a sizable budget, even a passable science fiction backdrop) for huge box office success, but director Roger Christian’s execution ultimately left a lot to be desired – resulting in a $40 million loss (not including marketing and promotion) for producers. Despite John Travolta infusing millions of his own money into the project (and its planned sequel), Battlefield Earth was considered an unprecedented low for blockbuster filmmaking – a benchmark by which future box office bombs would all be compared. Reaction to Battlefield Earth‘s most basic components were so scathing that most critics didn’t even bother to comment on the film’s questionable pro-Scientology ideologies.
14. Glitter (2001)
Premise: Aspiring singer Billie Frank tours the local club circuit with her fellow foster kids-turned-friends-turned-backup singers. In a steady rise to stardom, Billie signs with unscrupulous manager, Timothy Walker, only to later be discovered by Julian “Dice” Black – who collaborates with the singer on a series of successful tracks (and, in the process, becomes romantically entangled). However, the pair’s love and music are put at risk when Timothy returns to call-in an unpaid debt.
Why It’s One of the Worst: After numerous delays, Glitter was co-developed by Mariah Carey, along with writer Cheryl L. West, and director Vondie Curtis Hall – ultimately producing a cliche-riddled rags-to-riches tale that borrowed heavily from overly familiar film tropes and hip-hop industry caricature. In addition to underwhelming performances and melodrama, Glitter was waylaid by an overly-complicated story packed with outlandish character arcs that Curtis-Hall failed to “earn” through believable or affecting drama. Instead, Carey’s film remains a quintessential example of what can happen when talented musicians try their hands, unsuccessfully, at acting (via an uninspired story that falls flat as nuanced drama nor unintentional Showgirls-bad comedy). Worst of all, for a musical, Glitter even failed to spawn a catchy soundtrack for Carey fans to champion (the album peaked at #7 on the Billboard Top 200).
13. The Room (2003)
Premise: Successful San Francisco banker Johnny enjoys a blissful life (full of passionate lovemaking) with his loving fiancee, Lisa. Johnny is a generous guy, pampering Lisa with elegant dresses, and doling out money to support neighborhood college student Denny – that is until Lisa becomes “bored” with Johnny and turns her attention to seducing his best friend, Mark. Blindsided by Lisa and Mark’s betrayal, Johnny sets out to reveal their affair… and, along the way, teach Denny about the dangers of drug use.
Why It’s One of the Worst: Alongside Troll 2, The Room is often regarded as cinema’s best-bad film. Though writer/director/producer/actor Tommy Wiseau initially claimed his film was a serious drama, the director has since recanted, indicating he always intended The Room as a black comedy. Despite overwhelmingly negative reviews upon release, advocacy from comedians and cinephiles (who viewed Wiseau’s film as unintentionally funny) led to “positive” word-of-mouth and, subsequently, theatrical expansion – which Wiseau wisely chose to embrace. Years later, The Room has become a staple of the midnight movie circuit – a fully interactive viewing experience in which the audience can shout their favorite lines, throw plastic spoons at the screen, and make crude comments at the movie’s expense. For more information, check out the A.V. Club‘s guide to viewing The Room.
12. Gigli (2003)
Premise: In order to influence the case against a wealthy New York crime lord, mob enforcer Larry Gigli is instructed to kidnap the intellectually disabled (and “Baywatch”-obsessed) son of a federal prosecutor. When Gigli’s boss, Louis, becomes concerned that his charge isn’t up to the challenge, the mobster hires criminal-for-hire, Ricki, to join the operation. In spite of initial bitterness, Gigli develops feelings for Ricki – just as Louis turns to violence in his plan to extort the federal prosecutor.
Why It’s One of the Worst: Even though Gigli was a relatively straightforward romantic comedy (albeit one with an extremely convoluted story), writer/director Martin Brest (Beverly Hills Cop) racked up a $75 million budget during production. Unfortunately, A-list leads Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, even at the height of “Bennifer” fever couldn’t prevent Gigli from bombing in theaters – which pulled in a meager $7.2 million worldwide (before the studio axed its theatrical run three weeks after release). Most critics placed blame squarely on Brest for an overly-complicated story riddled with one-dimensional stereotypes and narrative cliches. Yet, the harshest criticisms of the movie targeted Brest’s inability to squeeze romantic chemistry from his leads on screen – even though Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez had started dating off camera at the time of filming.
11. From Justin to Kelly (2003)
Premise: The “Pennsylvania Posse,” college students and party promoters Justin and Brandon, along with their friend Eddie, travel to Fort Lauderdale for spring break – where they meet visiting Texan Kelly. Despite an initial attraction between Justin and Kelly, Kelly’s scheming friend Alexa attempts to keep the pair from dating – resulting in a series of misunderstanding (and American Idol-inspired musical numbers).
Why It’s One of the Worst: Movies that are more “product” than “art” are nothing new in Hollywood – as studio executives regularly look for cheap opportunities to turn a major profit. Still, even with that in mind, From Justin to Kelly is one of the most shameless cash grabs in film history. Outright advertised as “The Tale of Two American Idols,” From Justin to Kelly was slammed by critics as a hollow attempt to squeeze more money out of American Idol‘s popularity – outright exploiting the film’s two leads (who had little-to-no acting experience and even less onscreen chemistry). Seeing the final product, 20th Century Fox got cold feet, preparing to release From Justin to Kelly on home media just six weeks after it premiered. Theater chains boycotted the plan, threatening to pull the film entirely. In return, the studio agreed to delay VHS and DVD releases but when From Justin to Kelly bombed at the box office, and was dumped by theaters, 20th Century Fox went back to their original plan: rushing the movie to DVD to recoup costs.
10. Catwoman (2004)
Premise: Patience Philips is a meek graphic designer working for a high-profile cosmetics manufacturer – until she inadvertently stumbles upon information that implicates her boss in covering up side effects of the company’s new anti-aging cream. Left for dead, Philips is resurrected by the Egyptian goddess Bast to become a “catwoman” – a supernatural spirit of vengeance and protector of the innocent.
Why It’s One of the Worst: Inspired by the success of Tim Burton’s Batman series, Warner Bros. had been eager to capitalize on a female DC spinoff for years (Ashley Judd had planned to star); yet, in his efforts to bring Catwoman to the big screen director Pitof took a few too many liberties with the source material, undercutting any change of wooing die-hard comic book fans, while also failing to imbue Patience Philips with a layered character and/or pro-feminist story that could have attracted casual filmgoers to the film (comic book adaption or not). Instead, Catwoman failed across the board with underwhelming action, convoluted mythology, and a depiction of the titular character that prioritized Halle Berry’s sex appeal over nuanced performance or development. Overly-confident that Philips could be portrayed as the latest iteration in a long line of famous “catwomen,” Pitof even inserted a headshot of Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns to tether his soon-to-be-panned 2004 film to prior Batman movies.
9. Alone in the Dark (2005)
Premise: After scientific experimentation imbued Edward Carnby with supernatural senses and the ability recognize paranormal entities, Carnby was field-trained in a top secret government organization (tasked with hunting mystical threats). Years later, Carnby wanders the world investigating occult dangers, but when the detective stumbles upon remnants from mysterious demon-worshippers, Carnby finds new clues to the mysteries of his own past.
Why It’s One of the Worst: Alone in the Dark, the second video game adaptation from fan-hated filmmaker Uwe Boll (who also directed House of the Dead, Postal, BloodRayne I – III, Far Cry, the Dungeon Siege movie trilogy In the Name of the King, and an Alone in the Dark sequel, to poor critical reception), was universally panned thanks to a confusing story, low budget action, laughable dialogue, and soulless performances (with a starring role for Christian Slater). Boll blames critics and viewers for not appreciating his work; yet, at the time of release, Alone in the Dark screenwriter Blair Erickson made his own feelings apparent, indicating that Boll didn’t know how to make a good film and had replaced story with slimy CG effects, scantily clad women, and one cinematic cliche after another.
8. Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2008)
Premise: When successful software engineer Rod and his high school crush-turned-Victoria Secret model Nathalie make love for the first time in a motel, the pair awaken to find their town under siege by a massive flock of vultures and eagles. Driven crazy by global warming, the mutated birds developed unnatural abilities (capable of spitting acid and exploding as kamikaze die-bombs) – to enact punishment on polluting cars, people, and gas stations, alike.
Why It’s One of the Worst: Partly inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s classic The Birds, Birdemic: Shock and Terror is a head scratching blend of laughable special effects, one-dimensional characters, and D-movie production values (audio quality is especially bad) – producing a hilarious (albeit unintentional) viewing experience for so-bad-it’s-good movie connoisseurs. Despite a heavy reliance on special effects, Birdemic‘s avians are budget computer renders that defy physics (floating in the sky) and do not mesh in live-action composite shots. Similarly, even though writer/director James Nguyen set out to make a cautionary ecological statement, Birdemic‘s aim to connect exploding eagles with An Inconvenient Truth (which cameos in the film) is, at best, difficult to follow – and would be, in anything but a Showgirls-bad movie, completely asinine.
7. Disaster Movie (2008)
Premise: Back in 10,001 B.C, Amy Winehouse predicts that the end of the world will occur on August 29, 2008. On the prophesied date, a group of 20-somethings attend a Sweet Sixteen party for twenty-five year-old Will (you read that right) only to be caught in a torrent of natural disasters (tornados, earthquakes, meteor strikes, global freezing, and more). Together the group run mother nature’s gauntlet (and one celebrity cameo after another) to save the world with a crystal skull.
Why It’s One of the Worst: Like most genre parodies, Disaster Movie is littered with pop culture references as well as satirical send-ups of well-known film, TV, and music properties – in an effort to woo guilty laughs from moviegoers looking for a brainless time at the theater. Unfortunately, Disaster Movie is the quintessential example of lowest-common-denominator humor – throwing everything, including the kitchen sink, at its viewers. The 2008 film is a lazy man’s time capsule of long forgotten references that even failed to impress critics and moviegoers of the time. From Hannah Montana to Beowulf, Jumper, Hancock, Indiana Jones (and his infamous crystal skull), among others, Disaster Movie spends more time packing in half-baked references than it does actually satirizing the disaster film genre – all without bothering to include even the most basic moviemaking fundamentals (example: a coherent story).
6. The Last Airbender (2010)
Premise: After centuries of peace between the Fire, Air, Water, and Earth nations, Fire incites a war against the others. Years later, Aang (the reincarnation of a powerful Avatar Spirit) learns to harness all four elements – able to control air, water, earth, and fire. Tasked with ending the fighting, Aang works with Katara, the last Waterbender, and her brother Sokka to defeat threats from the Fire nation’s Commander Zhao and disgraced Prince Zuko.
Why It’s One of the Worst: M. Night Shyamalan both wrote and directed the blockbuster Avatar cartoon-to-live-action adaptation The Last Airbender. In addition to critical panning (for flat performances, stilted dialogue, generic storytelling, and stale direction), The Last Airbender is most notorious for inspiring the term “racebending” – referring to a production that casts white actors in the roles of traditionally ethic characters. Shyamalan defended the casting of caucasian performers as character that were, to most fans, unequivocally Asian – throwing gasoline on an active fire. Even though The Last Airbender is a bungled adaptation, one that isn’t fun to watch (even ironically) and was rejected by Avatar creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, Shyamalan’s film was a turning point for conversations about onscreen diversity in Hollywood – as a what not-to-do cautionary tale for future filmmakers.
5. Jack and Jill (2011)
Premise: When ad executive Jack and his aimless sister Jill get in a fight at Thanksgiving dinner, Jack agrees to let his twin sibling stay with him through Hanukkah. Despite Jack’s frustrations, he does feel bad for Jill (who is struggling after the death of their mother) and decides to take his sister to a Lakers game as an apology. Although, when Jack and Jill encounter Al Pacino at the game, the famous actor (who Jack needs for a TV commercial) ignores Jack and takes a liking to Jill instead.
Why It’s One of the Worst: Based on plot alone, Jack and Jill could have been a harmless family comedy; yet, the synopsis doesn’t tell viewers that divisive comedian Adam Sandler plays both Jack and (via drag) Jill. While critics threw Pacino a bone for his work in the film, in addition to a few isolated surprises worthy of laughs, most viewers mocked director Dennis Dugan for nearly every other element of Jack and Jill – most notably the film’s central, often unfunny, setup (Adam Sandler playing a female version of himself) which is utilized to the point of nauseam. Several panned Sandler movies predated Jack and Jill but Dugan’s film has since become a focal point of the actor’s larger decline – as an example of his increasing reliance on gimmickry rather than wit.
4. Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star (2011)
Premise: Stuck in a small midwestern town, with no career or love prospects, Bucky Larson inadvertently discovers that his parents are former porn stars. Despite no sexual experience, Larson journeys to Hollywood under the assumption that he is destined to follow in the X-Rated footsteps of his parents. Unfortunately for Larson, porn movie filmmakers are less convinced – until the aspiring actor’s greatest shortcoming becomes a calling card to stardom.
Why It’s One of the Worst: Co-written and developed by Adam Sandler, Bucky Larson become one of the lowest rated films on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes – without a single “fresh” review to its name. Frequent Sandler collaborator Nick Swardson, who starred as Larson, attempted to defend the film – claiming the risqué subject matter was difficult to market and that most reviewers went in with closed minds (expecting to hate the movie). Nevertheless, casual viewers also found Bucky Larson’s juvenile telling of a buck-toothed midwesterner, with a famously small penis, trying his hand at pornography (alongside characters with names like Dick Shadow and Miles Deep) to have failed at every turn with no redeeming value – unable to succeed at it’s primary (and already unambitious) goal of low-brow middle-school humor (while also being too tedious to be enjoyed as so-bad-it’s good comedy).
3. Fateful Findings (2013)
Premise: Struck by a car, suffering near-fatal injuries, Dylan awakens from a coma with a heightened awareness of the world. Unable to explain the origin of his new powers, Dylan decides to focus his energies on hacking into the deepest “government and corporate secrets” – uncovering confidential information that corrupt politicians and the 1% have kept hidden from the public for decades (leading the have-nots in a worldwide revolt against fascist haves).
Why It’s One of the Worst: Not as well known as The Room or Troll 2, in-the-know cinephiles count Fateful Findings as one of the best so-bad-it’s-good movie misfires. Starring Neil Breen (who also wrote, directed, produced, and fills in for other roles behind the camera), Fateful Findings was billed as a “paranormal thriller” but, instead, the movie is an incomprehensible mix of mysticism, computer hacking, and government conspiracy (all with a straight face). The final film doesn’t bother to explain what exactly happens after Dylan is hit by the car – though he is followed throughout his life by an ethereal entity (manifested as whips of white smoke) and prone to weirdly erotic mental episodes (which are visualized with a naked Breen alone with a nude woman in a room covered by plastic black garbage bags). Viewers never learn what information Dylan uncovers in his sleuthing either, but when he announces the secrets at a press conference (in front of a shoddy green screen projection of Washington’s Capitol Building), they’re dark enough to trigger a hilariously-rendered mass suicide among the government and business elite of the world.
2. Movie 43 (2013)
Premise: An anthologized set of comedy shorts, Movie 43 is stitched together by “The Pitch” – the story of screenwriter Charlie Wessler who pitches a series of bad scripts to studio executive Griffin Schraeder and manager Bob Mone. Pitches (and subsequent short films) include a blind date featuring a man with testicles hanging from his neck, a marriage proposal for a scatophiliac, a genital mutilating MP3 player, and a Tampax commercial involving a shark, among others. In certain markets, “The Pitch” was replaced with “The Thread” – which followed a group of teenagers as they search for a film (Movie 43) so bad that it could end the world.
Why It’s One of the Worst: Despite successful anthology comedy inspirations (such as The Groove Tube and The Kentucky Fried Movie), an all-star cast of fan-favorite actors, including several academy award winners, and some genuinely talented people behind the camera, Movie 43 was a colossal failure (both critically and commercially). A mean-spirited, juvenile, and unfunny film, that made everyone involved look bad, Movie 43 had few supporters. Even the rare positive reviews acknowledged that the film prioritized crude humor over coherent laughs at nearly every opportunity – an approach that, prior to filing, led certain actors to grow increasingly uncomfortable with their proposed Movie 43 roles. Some (most famously Richard Gere) attempted, unsuccessfully, to withdraw from the project.
1. United Passions (2014)
Premise: Charting the creation of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (aka FIFA), United Passions follows famed businessmen-turned-FIFA presidents Jules Rimet, João Havelange, and Sepp Blatter, chronicling their contributions toward organizing soccer leagues around the world under a single governing body – as well developing international competitions (most notably the World Cup).
Why It’s One of the Worst: Unlike most entries on this list, United Passions is a technically proficient film. However, the movie has since been dismissed as corporate self-celebratory fluff – with 90% of the film’s financing coming directly from FIFA. In order to put a positive spin on the organization, writer/director Frédéric Auburtin ignored decades-old corruption claims against FIFA executives. Tim Roth has since spoken out about his role as Sepp Blatter, indicating that he was disheartened to discover that United Passions wouldn’t address the scandals and tried to convey as much as he could in his performance. Ultimately, the film’s release was overshadowed by the FIFA corruption case in 2015 – which led to resignations of both João Havelange and Sepp Blatter on numerous corruption charges. Since the former FIFA presidents were portrayed as heroes in United Passions, without a hint of their seedy dealings, most critics now consider Auburtin’s docudrama to be a naive and incomplete account of events or, more likely, a dishonest piece of propaganda that is just as corrupt as its real-life subjects. Watch John Oliver’s takedown of United Passions on Last Week Tonight.
As indicated, our list is not all-inclusive and, due to limited space, we had to leave off plenty of terrible films. Ultimately, we tried to strike a balance between highlighting the worst movies ever made as well as ensuring that our choices also afforded interesting backstories for informative reading. For that reason, we encourage you to share your own picks for the Worst Movies in History in the comment section. In the meantime, here are a few of Screen Rant’s favorite (dis)honorable mentions to get the conversation started:
- Batman & Robin (1997) – Bat-credit card and bat-nipples. Enough said.
- Baby Geniuses (1999) – Sixteen years later, CGI simulated talking baby mouths are still terrifying.
- Easy Rider 2: The Ride Home (2012) – A prequel to Easy Rider in name alone – with none of the same actors or filmmakers returning.
- A Thousand Words (2012) – A straightforward drama in which comedian Eddie Murphy isn’t allowed to speak. Makes sense.
- Sharknado (2013) – Admittedly B-list camp but, look closer, some of these actors are taking their role in a film about a cyclone filled with sharks extremely seriously.
- Jupiter Ascending (2014) – Starring academy award-winner Eddie Redmayne as a villain who whispers and yells.