2016 is drawing to an end, and it’s been a doozy for a great many reasons, including a multitude of celebrity deaths and one of the most heated presidential elections of all time. When it came to movies, 2016 was a mixed bag, with an equal share of hits and misses. While Rogue One defied the odds (and the implications of its bumpy production and extensive reshoots) to win strong critical praise, flicks like Batman v Superman and Jack Reacher: Never Go Back failed to impress average moviegoers… But things got much worse from there, and that’s what this list is for.
2016 saw its fair share of great, good, fair, and bad movies, but this list is for the absolute worst of the worst. The films on this list look up at “rock bottom” as a standard of excellence which they will never be able to reach. Prepare to cringe, in sheer awe of Screen Rant’s Worst Films Of 2016.
Note: these films are presented in order of their theatrical release in the United States, and are not in any type of subjective ranking. Furthermore, we’re not looking at direct to video stinkers with severely limited theatrical runs or streaming originals; wide theatrical releases only. Through these rules, Adam Sandler and Kevin James’s Netflix originals found a loophole to avoid Screen Rant’s wrath, as did the godawful Nina, starring Zoe Saldana… in blackface. Without a doubt, 2016 was, in a word, weird.
Norm of the North
Release Date: January 15th
Who could have predicted that a Rob Schneider movie would earn a spot on this hall of shame? Actually, all things being equal, that would seem a pretty safe bet. Norm of the North is an 88-minute exercise in dull writing, terrible animation, and bored acting, even by Rob Schneider standards. Even worse, the voice cast is padded with some top-notch talent who were obviously desperate for a quick buck; Bill Nighy, Heather Graham, and Hell on Wheels veteran Colm Meaney all lent their talents to this film which did not deserve them.
Schneider plays Norm, a polar bear who has the magical ability to talk to people. The movie gets precious little mileage out of this tired gimmick, and the laughs are few, fleeting, and far between. Making matters worse is the animation from the C-List studio, Assemblage Entertainment. The imagery is so flat and the animation so robotic, it makes the likes of Ratchet & Clank look like Pixar’s best by comparison.
Release Date: January 22nd
Robert De Niro is one of the greatest actors of all time, and Zac Efron recently found his calling as a comedic lead with roles in movies like Neighbors and the upcoming Baywatch adaptation. He was also arguably the saving grace of the otherwise underwhelming Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (which only just barely escaped the wrath of this list).
Nobody thought that DeNiro and Efron were a match made in heaven or anything so grandiose as that, but such a combination should have turned out better than this heaping pile of vile antics. DeNiro pleases himself in his introductory scene, and it only gets worse from there, with Efron accidentally smoking crack and being mistaken for a pedophile, for starters. The jokes here are so mean-spirited and cringe-worthy, they barely qualify as “lowbrow.” There will always be a lowest common denominator who confuse “crass” with “comedy,” but all others should stay away. From start to finish, Dirty Grandpa lacks the charm and wit of its obvious progenitor, the similarly-titled Bad Grandpa, to which this film legally bears absolutely no connection.
The 5th Wave
Release Date: January 22nd
The 5th Wave is a puzzle with all the right pieces, but put together in a completely incorrect fashion. Chloe Grace Moretz is one of the most talented young actors in Hollywood today, but her gifts are completely wasted on this Young Adult sci-fi misfire. This mis-mash of Independence Day and Invasion of the Body Snatchers lacks the spectacle of the former and the relevant allegory of the latter. The film aims to be a gritty YA tale, along the lines of The Hunger Games, but is too sheepishly directed and protective of its audience to come across as anything other than sanitized and safe.
There’s potential in the license, but The 5th Wave does little to provoke or inspire viewers. Instead, its characters are flat compared to their literary counterparts, and the final film is a total bore which failed to find much of an audience. While not an outright box office bomb, it certainly can’t be called a box office hit, either. It’s a mere blip with no significance, no true reason for existing. The movie was eviscerated by critics, and a sequel seems as unlikely as it is unwanted.
Fifty Shades of Black
Release Date: January 29th
As bad as they are, outright bad films like Dirty Grandpa and Zoolander 2 can’t hold a candle to the utter nonsense and buffoonery of Fifty Shades of Black. Even by the embarrassingly low standards of “movies written by and starring Marlon Wayans,” Fifty Shades is a new benchmark of worthlessness. Scary Movie 2, White Chicks, Little Man, A Haunted House… As terrible as they all are, those films are leagues beyond this lazy parody of a film, Fifty Shades of Grey, which was already something of a parody of itself.
The ultimate lowest-common-denominator film, Fifty Shades of Black is a comedy that’s entirely devoid of jokes. Completely forgotten just weeks after its opening, this movie bombed at the box office and sits at a generous 7% on Rotten Tomatoes. At the end of the day, this film will only be remembered as a piece of trivia, as it is the final film featuring The Brady Bunch‘s Florence Henderson, one of 2016’s many celebrity casualties. She played “Mrs. Robinson.”
Release Date: February 12th
The original Zoolander, released in 2001, was a zany-yet-accurate skewering of the world of fashion and modeling. In 2016, or at least 10 years too late, a sequel saw release, and fans who had been waiting for a full decade-and-a-half were underwhelmed, to say the least. Rather than sticking with the aesthetics and sensibilities of the original — which was over-the-top while remaining a legitimate parody of Fashion Week culture — Zoolander 2 goes too far over the edge, turning into a live-action cartoon, and not in a good way.
While there are some totally bonkers non-sequitur jokes which can inspire a laugh by virtue of sheer audacity (Kiefer Sutherland’s miscarriage, anyone?), the majority of the film is just trying way too hard for any of its jokes to stick the landing. Even the cameos reek of desperation, from Susan Sarandon’s Rocky Horror homage to Anna Wintour’s joyless appearance. From Zoolander 2 to the recent closing of Self Magazine, it seems like everything touched by Anna Wintour dies an agonizing death.
Gods of Egypt
Release Date: February 26th
Gerard Butler is Egyptian. Wait, that doesn’t sound right. Gerard Butler, a Scottish man, is a God over the people of Egypt… No, that just sounds worse. The colorblind casting of Gods of Egypt was a huge mistake, but only one part of why the film earns a spot on this list. The story is one-dimensional, and the titular Gods are thinly drawn and poorly acted. Gerard Butler, in particular, completely dropped the acting ball when it came to his character, the God-King Set.
While arguments over the film’s quality were greatly overshadowed by the controversy over its heinously whitewashed leads, make no mistake: this is a terrible film. At the end of the day, Gods of Egypt was destroyed by critics, and audiences turned away, causing the film to become one of the biggest box office bombs of the year. It’s rarely commendable to cheer a failure, to rubberneck at a wreck on the highway, but it was hard not to look at the development, marketing, and release of Gods of Egypt and wonder aloud, “how could the producers have expected a different outcome?”
London Has Fallen
Release Date: March 4th
Gerard Butler has the dubious distinction of having two films in a row on this list. Just one week after bombing with Gods of Egypt, he headlined the unwanted action sequel to Olympus Has Fallen, the England-set London Has Fallen. Unlike Gods of Egypt, London actually turned out to be a smart business decision, thanks in part to its more manageable budget of just $60 million, enough to earn a greenlight on an upcoming sequel, Angel Has Fallen.
However, despite enjoying a decent run at the box office, London Has Fallen is still a generic and exploitative third-rate actioner with few redeeming qualities. While it’s somewhat less shameless in evoking 9/11 imagery as its predecessor, Olympus Has Fallen, London still indulges in trying to make terror attacks look cool, which comes off as being in terribly poor taste. Meanwhile, once America (in the form of Butler’s Mike Banning) finally starts fighting back, the action is poorly staged and cheaply choreographed, with jump cuts aplenty and shoddy CGI at nearly every turn. Here’s hoping that Angel Has Fallen realizes that bigger isn’t actually better, and finally delivers the Die Hard derivative for which viewers had been wanting from the start.
The Divergent Series: Allegiant
Release Date: March 18th
In the YA wars, The Divergent Series has seen steep drop-offs in terms of box office and critical reception. The first movie earned a strong $150 million at the domestic box office, but was pummeled by critics, to the tune of only 41% on Rotten Tomatoes. Part two, Insurgent, saw a minor box office drop, but it was the third chapter, Allegiant, which really suffered from an audience exodus and critical skewering. The threequel brought in just $66 million domestically and earned a brutal 12% on Rotten Tomatoes.
This science fiction story about rebellious teens was always second-tier compared to its contemporaries, but what few holdouts still clung to the series were forced to jump ship by the nonsensical storytelling, farcical plot twists, and bored performances in Allegiant. Even lead actor Shailene Woodley seems to be sleepwalking through her third turn as Tris.
Allegiant‘s box-office woes and critical shellacking proved to be the last straw for studio Lionsgate. They now plan to conclude the series with a made-for-television movie, with empty hopes to spin off into a series. Divergent started out as a hopeful contender behind the likes of Twilight and The Hunger Games, but it quickly ran out of steam and is now little more than a punchline. It also didn’t help that Allegiant fell victim to the greedy studio mandate of having all YA adaptations split the final book in a series into two movies, neither of which possess the substance to sustain their inflated running times.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War
Release Date: April 22nd
Even more than most of the would-be summer blockbusters on this list, Winter’s War reeks of being a product which was manufactured by a corporate machine, rather than crafted by dedicated artists. Of all the unwarranted sequels littering the cinematic landscape, this might just be the most egregious of the lot. While some had a begrudging respect for the visual splendor of 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman, few had enough respect for its characters and story to have any emotion stronger than “ambivalence” towards the prospect of a sequel.
After jumping through strenuous narrative hoops to justify the absence of Kristen Stewart (the lead of the first film, who was allegedly written out after a scandalous affair with director Rupert Sanders, who was also absent from this sequel), the film dives into the life of The Huntsman, played by Chris Hemsworth at his least-charismatic. Then, it shamelessly attempts to capitalize on the success of Disney’s Frozen with its own take on the Ice Queen, played here by Emily Blunt, who surprisingly lacks the hammy charm of Charlize Theron. Slow, stupid, and strenuous to watch, Winter’s War has all the appeal of a bad case of frostbite.
Independence Day: Resurgence
Release Date: June 24th
The original Independence Day is a glorious guilty pleasure, and one of the perennial crowd-pleasers of the 1990s. The characters were broad caricatures of cinematic archetypes, played with melodramatic aplomb by an A-list cast. The story was jingoistic and straightforward. And the action was Roland Emmerich at his best, with minimal use of CGI and full scale models of American landmarks being destroyed with reckless abandon in a manner which was only possible in the pre-9/11 world.
Twenty years later, an uninvited sequel showed up and crashed the party. Even with the presence of returning champions like Brent Spiner, Jeff Goldblum, and Bill Paxton, Resurgence proved to be nothing but a tired retread with none of the spirit that made the original enjoyable. This time around, the massive destruction of the alien attacks were mostly constructed via computer graphics; gone were the impressive miniatures and extensive practical explosions of the original. Even the story plays out like a ham-handed attempt to recreate the shameless joys of the original, but without its plucky spirit.
Years from now, when families crack open a few cold ones and sit around their televisions on Christmas or Thanksgiving or, well, July 4th, they will watch the original 1996 film and enjoy themselves. Then, someone will ask, “should we watch the sequel?” and be answered with a resounding chorus of “Wait, there was a sequel?”
Ice Age: Collision Course
Release Date: July 22nd
Ice Age is the animated series which just won’t die. There’s nothing inherently wrong with harmless family entertainment, but enough is enough. Collision Course marks a new low for the franchise which had been on a downward trajectory since the first sequel. The talents of Denis Leary, John Leguizamo, Ray Romano, and the rest of the cast are simply wasted on these soulless films with no redeeming qualities beyond providing temporary daycare for tired mothers of manic children.
Everyone involved just seems to be gratingly going through the motions, patiently awaiting their paycheck. The animation is way behind the standards of Disney and Pixar, and the jokes are juvenile; even infants are too sophisticated for the efforts on display here. Even Scrat’s sequences, the enjoyably Buster Keaton-esque saving graces of prior films, are lacking this time. On all fronts, Collision Course is proof that this series has run its course.
Release Date: August 5th
As far as the “talking cat movies starring Kevin Spacey” genre goes, Nine Lives is at the top of its class. However, when compared to pretty much any movie outside of that overly-narrow range, Nine Lives fails to pass muster. Once the asinine charm of “Kevin Spacey as a cat” wears off, there is precious little here to enjoy for any viewer… That is, of course, unless one is both a member of the Kevin Spacey Fanclub and a lifelong subscriber to Cat Fancy Magazine.
Kevin Spacey surely must have owed someone a favor; it’s the only logical explanation behind his baffling presence here. Character actors like Jennifer Garner and rising star Robbie Amell are utterly wasted in this gratuitous exercise in scientifically-engineered boredom. Even the inexplicable, yet somehow expected, presence of the great Christopher Walken can’t keep this movie from inspiring sleep in all but the most sugar-addled children.
Release Date: August 19th
1959’s Ben-Hur is a remake of one of the 1925 original, one of the most important films of the silent era. By that logic, then, 2016’s Ben-Hur had a lot to live up to, as the 1959 film is universally beloved as one of the greatest motion pictures of all time. Unfortunately, this ill-advised remake fails to capture any of the magic of the Charlton Heston-starring classic. Low-rent beefcake Jack Huston lacks the charisma and gravitas of Heston, and has absolutely no chemistry with co-star Toby Kebbell, who plays his adoptive brother.
Despite, or perhaps because of, all the magic of the digital age, the climactic chariot race can’t hold a candle to the sheer adrenaline of the 1959 version, and the plot is truncated to the point of having all the substance of a picture-book rendition of the epic story. Also, Morgan Freeman plays Sheik Ilderim, an Arab. Nearly sixty years after Hugh Griffith played the character, Hollywood still isn’t comfortable casting an Arab actor to play an Arab character.
Release Date: September 2nd
Morgan, a maddeningly meandering misfire, was directed by Luke Scott, son of Ridley. In fact, the trailer for Morgan borrows its style from the trailer to Ridley’s 1979 classic, Alien. Unfortunately, the younger Scott’s directorial debut falls flat at every turn and fails to capture the potentially enticing allure of its core concept: a genetically engineered super-human goes psychotic and starts killing scientists with as little cinematic tension as possible.
Despite the efforts of its talented ensemble cast (including Kate Mara, Paul Giamatti, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Toby Jones), Morgan is sunk from the start by a severely sour script. The film offers little in the way of twists or turns, and the “surprise” ending is obvious from the start. It all plays out in graceless workmanlike fashion, completely devoid of charm or personality. Morgan is an uninspired dirge with all the artistic merit of a paint-by-numbers drawing. Better luck next time, Luke Scott.
The Disappointments Room
Release Date: September 9th
It’s not often that a movie conveys critical reaction in its own title; simply put, The Disappointments Room was a huge disappointment. One of the biggest bombs of the year, this horror dud was written by none other than Wentworth Miller. While his effort is worthy of praise, as one should never give up on their dreams of being a famous Hollywood screenwriter… He’s lucky he has the upcoming fifth season of Prison Break to fall back on.
Elsewhere in 2016, Kate Beckinsale starred in the wonderfully whimsical Love & Friendship, but it seems that she had to counter-balance that award-worthy performance with a totally wooden turn here as a woman chased by ghosts. The hook, like so many “jump scares facilitated by ghosts” horror movies, is that the audience is unsure what is real and what is in the characters’ imaginations. Unfortunately, the characters of The Disappointments Room are so bland, and the scares so telegraphed, that there’s literally nothing here for anyone with a cursory understanding of the genre, or even the basic concept of moving pictures, to enjoy.
Release Date: October 14th
The ultimate WTF film of 2016, Max Steel bombed at the box office and earned a rare 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. Based on a children’s cartoon which few over the age of 13 have likely ever heard of, Max Steel is the flimsiest excuse for a superhero movie in decades. It joins the ranks of Batman & Robin and Superman IV: The Quest For Peace as a painfully obvious cheap and cynical cash-grab, with the fatal mistake of using a brand with little recognition and a non-existent fanbase.
If only the movie itself had been semi-competent, then it could potentially make up for its non-entity namesake. Unfortunately, Max Steel is easily one of the worst films of 2016, with a paper-thin script, CGI effects which are arguably worse than the cartoon series upon which it is based, and limp performances from the likes of seasoned vets like Andy Garcia and Maria Bello. The producers had little faith in the project, as it was made with a budget of only $10 million, a pittance by Hollywood standards; their caution towards the film proved to be well-founded, as Max Steel could only muster a pathetic $6 million dollars worldwide. Ouch.
Release Date: October 28th
Even from the start, film adaptations of Dan Brown’s novels were always little more than snark bait for critics. However, The Da Vinci Code book was such a cultural phenomenon in its day that the first film was able to ride the wave of highly-publicized controversy to a stunning global box office haul of $758 million. The first sequel managed to perform within the same ballpark, but this years-too-late minor league threequel failed to gain a following of any sort. Instead, it was greeted with a resounding “meh” by critics and audiences, who laughed at its terrible special effects and abundance of contrived plot twists.
These Dan Brown movies just don’t match with director Ron Howard’s skill-set, and the result is a globe-trotting adventure which feels artificial and outdated at every turn. The Langdon character is just as devoid of charisma ever, a complete waste of star Tom Hanks’ many talents. Basically, Inferno is just as bad as its predecessors, sans Tom Hanks’ funny hair to laugh at. Without the middle-aged-man-mullet, what’s the point?
Release Date: December 16th
There are two Will Smiths. The first is the crowd-pleasing anchor of many a blockbuster movie event, the star of high-profile hits like Men in Black, Suicide Squad, Hancock, and Independence Day. The other Will Smith got lucky with The Pursuit of Happiness and decided to follow it up with Seven Pounds, a clumsy farce with all the subtlety and nuance of a raging grease fire. Unfortunately, that Will Smith returned in 2016 with Collateral Beauty.
A bizarrely mean-spirited Christmas film, Collateral Beauty stars a sleepwalking Smith as the grieving father of a dead daughter. In his grief, he writes letters to the abstract concepts of Time, Death, and Love. In an effort to get him out of his funk, his friends and colleagues decide to prank him, literally, by hiring actors to play Time, Death, and Love, and confront him about his grief. Meanwhile, Michael Pena has cancer, Ed Norton is a faux-hawked philandering jerk, and Kate Winslet’s biological clock is at its tipping point. It’s all a bunch of pseudo-self-righteous nonsense which mistakes mediocrity for profundity.
With a page-one rewrite of the script and a different medium for exhibition (like theater), this film could have been a fairly decent diversion. As it is, Collateral Beauty is simply a waste of an A-List cast who should be off making better movies.
Release Date: December 21st
This movie was hyped for months, solely on the core concept of “Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, alone in space.” When Passengers finally released, audiences were disappointed to learn that there was little to the film beyond the headlining duo — and that Lawrence and Pratt have a lot less chemistry than one would expect. Furthermore, despite the possibilities of an existentialist science fiction film in the vein of genre greats like Rod Serling, Passengers turned out to merely be a Young Adult misfire trying to disguise itself in big-boy pants.
At nearly 2 hours in length, Passengers is a film in dire need of extensive editing. Perhaps getting rid of the first act would have added a modicum of tension to the proceedings; the obligatory mid-movie twist is a lot less affecting if the audience is already in the know from the start. Some of the CGI is pretty decent, and Michael Sheen shines as the robotic bartender, but Passengers ultimately feels akin to the all-consuming vacuum of space: cold, empty, and devoid of human feeling.
What do you think? What was your least favorite movie of the year? Do you agree with all our picks? Sound off in the comments!