Nobody intentionally sets out to make a bad movie, but it invariably does happen from time to time. Whether it’s a poor script, sloppy direction, or hammy performances, if all a film’s elements aren’t working together in unison, something can get derailed and things turn out for the worst.
But even the most terrible movies were made by professional directors, some of whom even have a gem or two on their resumé. This means that even if the final product is awful, there can still be a moment or two of greatness that makes us wonder why the entire movie couldn’t be of similar quality. We know films are subjective, but here are 10 Amazing Scenes in Terrible Movies.
Superman Returns (2006)
Leaving the X-Men franchise to bring Superman back to the big screen, director Bryan Singer was looking to craft a love letter to the Richard Donner films he grew up watching. Though the film has a lot of promise and received positive reviews from some critics, it was not exactly a shining moment for the character. Fans took issue with the lack of action and depiction of Superman, which made the movie come off as a dull exercise that struggled to hold our attention. But for one set piece, that wasn’t a problem.
In the beginning of the film, Superman announces his presence by rescuing a malfunctioning airplane. Thrilling and visually impressive, audiences were treated to a throwback of old school Kal-El heroics that illustrated why the world still needed him. Everything from the rousing musical score to Superman’s reminder that flight is still the safest way to travel screamed classic movie magic, and the scene serves as Superman’s triumphant return in both the movie’s universe and our theaters. If only the rest of the movie could have been this exciting; in the end, it was a tease for a rousing adventure that we never got.
Attack of the Clones (2002)
The problems of the Star Wars prequels have been well-documented by now, but even they have their merits. George Lucas showed he still had what it took to create a compelling character moment in Attack of the Clones, when Anakin Skywalker travels back to Tatooine so he can rescue his mother Shmi. Speeding to the Tusken Raider camp where she is being held captive, Anakin watches in horror as his mom dies in his arms – setting off a chain reaction that would lead the young Jedi to Darth Vader.
The scene in question was dark and haunting, a gut-punch that spoke to our basic fears that made Anakin sympathetic. It also had serious implications for Anakin’s motivations later on in the trilogy. The scene firmly established that the premonitions he has of his loved ones suffering could come true, setting up his arc and eventual turn in Revenge of the Sith. Even more impressive was Hayden Christensen’s performance, as he conveyed so much emotion and inner-turmoil in the brief sequence. His career may have come to a screeching halt after these movies, but he showed he had the capabilities of pulling off strong, mostly dialogue-free moments.
X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)
The film that’s accused of derailing one of the most important modern superhero movie franchises, The Last Stand doesn’t offer much to recommend to moviegoers. However, its first moments rank among the finest in the whole series. As his wings start to grow back, a child Angel frantically locks himself in the bathroom so he can cut his wings off. Terrified of what might happen to him if his family finds out the truth, Angels worst fears are realized when his father discovers him and says, “Oh God. Not you.”
The scene is an ideal encapsulation of one of the original trilogy’s overarching themes: prejudice against mutants. It was a great entry point to the “mutant cure” subplot, showing why certain characters would willingly sign up for treatment. Despite being blessed with magnificent gifts, all any mutant wants to be able to do is blend in with society. The Last Stand illustrated that at times, they would go to extreme lengths to accomplish that – even mutating themselves instead of accepting who they are. Too bad the rest of the film couldn’t achieve the same kind of payoff.
Die Another Day (2002)
With its extravagant special effects and ridiculous (even for Bond) gadgets like an invisible car, Die Another Day brought Pierce Brosnan’s tenure as 007 and the franchise itself to an end. The film was so poorly-received that EON Productions decided a hard reboot led by Daniel Craig was the best way to revive it, but Die Another Day still contributed one of the standout moments in the series’ 50+ year history. No matter how you feel about the movie, it’s hard to argue against the fencing sequence.
Pitting Bond against Graves in a high-stakes sword fight, the scene is remarkable on many levels. Of particular note is that the battle was done practically, meaning it gave Die Another Day a grittiness the rest of the movie largely lacked. It was fun to watch the actors duel against each other, as they tired and got bloodied up as it went on. The scene felt real and gave the proceedings a true sense of danger. Well-choreographed and serving up the right amount of tension, the fencing bit gave Brosnan’s final mission something we’d all remember fondly.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009)
The sins against this movie are too great to count, and this project became so infamous that it was eventually erased from franchise continuity entirely. Even so, when it was arriving to theaters in 2009, the first solo Wolverine movie had a lot of potential, and the opening credits sequence seemed to deliver on that in spades. Featuring Wolverine and Sabretooth fighting their way through every war in history as indestructible soldiers that gave their allies the upper hand in any battle.
Quite frankly, this would have made a more interesting movie than the one we got. With a thrilling portrayal of the characters’ past being the first thing we saw, it seemed to be setting up an epic finale to build towards in the main plot. Sadly for fans, this sequence ended up being the most hardcore action we saw in the film, but it was still awesome to see play out on-screen. It felt like a cool throwback to the classic war films of yesteryear and still holds our attention to this day.
The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
When compared to its groundbreaking predecessor, the first Matrix sequel wasn’t quite as revolutionary. Deemed too heady and philosophical for its own right, it sent the blossoming franchise down a dark road that only got worse when Revolutions opened a few months later. The substance of the followups may have been underwhelming for some, but the Wachowskis proved they were still masters of action. No matter which way you look at it, the freeway chase is one of those special movie moments that demanded to be seen on the largest of screens.
The directors made headlines for this sequence because they actually constructed a freeway they could film on. Taking the concept of a Hollywood car chase and putting a sci-fi spin on it, they showed us that truly anything was possible in the world of the Matrix. Agents popped up to wreck havoc with our heroes left and right. Trinity swerved all around traffic to escape. The stakes were high and the death-defying stunts were absolutely breathtaking. Even those who dislike the sequels have to admit that this is one of the industry’s greats in terms of car chases.
Spider-Man 3 (2007)
After reaching new heights for superhero movies in general with Spider-Man 2, director Sam Raimi killed his beloved franchise with its followup. Trying to balance too many subplots and characters, Spider-Man 3 struggled to maintain a coherent plot and even pacing. Even so, the filmmaker was still able to inject some heart into his movie, most notably the moment where sympathetic criminal Flint Marko is reborn as super villain Sandman.
It’s common knowledge now that Raimi always intended to include the character in his third Spider-Man project, and the passion he had was evident in this scene. With no dialogue, it’s Exhibit A for the power of the visual language of cinema, using haunting imagery to create something that is beautiful and touching. Elevating this sequence to the next level is the musical score that accompanied it, as that was the final ingredient that transformed it into one of the most heartbreaking parts in the trilogy. Marko was never a bad guy, he was just dealt a series of bad hands, and it’s hard not to feel for his plight.
Fantastic Four (2005)
Thought to be more Joel Schumacher camp than Bryan Singer seriousness, the first Fantastic Four movie from the mid-2000s set superhero movies back a bit when it came out. Thin characterizations and a weak villain were deemed the biggest culprits, but Tim Story was still able to deliver some elements that fans responded to. Chief among them was Michael Chiklis’ performance (not his look) as Ben Grimm/The Thing, as the actor illustrated he was a fan of the character and tried to do him justice despite the poor material he had to work with.
One of his strongest bits comes moments after Grimm first transforms into his superhero alter ego. He attempts to reconnect with his wife, but is heartbroken to learn that she is horrified at the rock “monster” he has become. Even though Grimm pleads with her that it’s still her Ben under there, his spouse refuses to let him back in the house, leaving Ben alone. It’s a scene that recalls the anti-mutant paranoia of Singer’s X-Men movies and also sets up Grimm’s character arc in an effective way. A big part of Fantastic Four is making peace with the person you’ve become, and the Thing’s journey wouldn’t have paid off so well without this sequence.
It’s no secret that Hollywood has had a lot of trouble adapting famous video games to film. A big reason why perhaps is a movie’s inability to recreate the “feel” of a game, which allows players to become actively involved with what’s happening in the story. Though the filmmakers behind Doom didn’t change the game in the industry, they were still able to achieve that second part to great success with a nail-biting action scene that was shot in the first-person style of the games.
The scene was able to get audiences immersed in the proceedings, leaving them on the edge of their seats as the characters fought their way through the complex. Danger could have lurked at every turn, and the free-flowing camera movements went a long way in getting viewers to buy into the concept. The pulsating music track that played along with the scene only added to its intensity and sense of nerve-racking. It was crafted so strongly, that it’s justifiable to wonder why the rest of the movie couldn’t be handled in a similar fashion. Yes, a movie entirely in first-person would be hard to pull off, but all the elements in this sequence worked in harmony and it would have been fun to see more of it.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
While not inherently an awful film, the first of Peter Jackson’s three Hobbit installments was nonetheless disappointing. Taking the smaller fantasy novel and trying to spread its narrative across three epic films, the movies were accused of being drawn-out to the point where things lagged on and struggled to get moving. It was a decision that spelled death for the trilogy, which is a shame because Jackson was able to direct some killer sequences that harkened back to his Oscar glory days of 2003.
Arguably the most anticipated moment of the entire trilogy, fans could not wait to see the iconic “Riddles in the Dark” showdown between Bilbo and Gollum brought to life in a live-action film. There was a lot of pressure for Jackson to deliver, and he certainly did. This sequence was memorable just for the nostalgia trip of seeing Andy Serkis work his magic as Gollum once more, but there was much more to it than that. It provided some nice character development for Bilbo, as the young Hobbit was forced to use his wit and intelligence to escape the creature’s cave (setting up his later confrontation with Smaug). It was also a showcase for Jackson’s keen sense of directing, as he amped up the tension with Tolkien’s writing – even though we know how it would all end.
Even if a film didn’t live up to your expectations or was a downright catastrophe, it doesn’t mean it has to be a total loss. It’s still possible for a bad movie to have a scene or two that’s memorable for all the right reasons and show us there’s hope for the creative team behind the project. We’ll always prefer critically acclaimed works to these types of projects, but it’s nice to know there are chances for redemption.
As always, our list is not meant to be all-inclusive, so be sure to share some of your favorite scenes from bad movies in the comments section below!