Although it’s been around for almost 40 years, CinemaScore didn’t really take off until the 1990s. Today, it’s considered an integral part of mainstream movie marketing, with studios eagerly awaiting opening-day figures to determine whether their films scored with audiences or left them wanting.
CinemaScore is responsible for those letter grades assigned to new films as determined by a random selection of moviegoers in select cities. The grades range from F to A+, with the vast majority of films receiving marks in the A and B range. After all, audiences are disproportionately inclined to like the movies they’re paying to see on opening day, so higher marks make perfect sense.
Target audiences also play into the final grade. How else, for instance, could something as atrocious as Alvin and the Chipmunks receive an A rating were if not for the kids packing opening-day moviehouses? Target audiences might also explain why the acclaimed Punch-Drunk Love earned a D+, as viewers were probably expecting a typical Adam Sandler comedy.
Certainly, there have been plenty of films over the years that have left CinemaScore audiences wanting. Most earn grades in the C range, but 83 have managed to be dismissed with either a D, D+ or D-. And then there are those 19 titles that were mercilessly damned with that harshest of all grades: the F.
Here, then, are the 20 Most Hated Movies Ever, According To CinemaScore.
20 EYES WIDE SHUT
All told, 12 movies have received a D- grade from CinemaScore participants. While most were films lambasted by critics as well as audiences — like Gigli and Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 — a few were ambitious efforts misunderstood by the masses. Chief among these was 1999’s Eyes Wide Shut, the final film from Stanley Kubrick.
Had Eyes Wide Shut been released in the 1970s, in the midst of serious works by Ingmar Bergman, Bernardo Bertolucci, and Kubrick himself, it arguably would have been a sensation. But because it emerged in the same year as the likes of Big Daddy and Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, it bored audiences who had expected to see a skin flick starring then-married Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman.
Yet Eyes Wide Shut remains a mature, pensive, and uncompromising film by a master filmmaker. Adapted from Arthur Schnitzler's novel Dream Story, it’s indeed best examined as a dream, a nocturnal odyssey steeped in sexual themes and examining the circumstances that stand poised to break the bonds between a husband and wife.
On the critical compilation site Rotten Tomatoes, where 2017’s mother! enjoys a 67% Fresh rating, the consensus blurb reads in part that this “thought-provoking” drama “may be too unwieldy for mainstream tastes.” That’s putting it mildly, to say the least.
Writer-director Darren Aronofsky, responsible for such dazzling, if downbeat achievements as Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan, is behind this psychological thriller in which a married couple (Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem) find their lives disrupted by the arrival of a pair of unique guests (Michelle Pfeiffer and Ed Harris).
Released just a few weeks ago, mother! is the most recent of the 19 movies to date that have earned an F grade from CinemaScore.
Yet Aronofsky has insisted that he’s not surprised by the harsh judgment; as he noted in an interview, “What’s interesting about that is, like, how if you walk out of this movie are you not going to give it an F? It’s a punch. It’s a total punch. And I realize that we were excited by that.”
18 THE WICKER MAN
The 1973 cult classic The Wicker Man centers on a repressed detective (Edward Woodward) who visits a remote island off the coast of Scotland in search of a missing girl and in the process unearths a decadent and primitive society. The film offers a slew of ambiguous interpretations that (depending on the viewer) either speaks out against rigid Christian doctrine, against reckless hedonism, or against any form of organized worship.
Writer-director Neil LaBute's 2006 remake is a disastrous miscalculation, shucking religion completely and instead fashioning the tale as a battle between what LaBute apparently views as upstanding male dominance and wicked feminist doctrine. Nicolas Cage plays the befuddled protagonist - no longer a God-fearing (and sex-fearing) cop but rather a generic movie detective.
Further hampered by its fondness for annoying dream sequences, The Wicker Man mopes along drearily, the only jolts coming from the unexpected bursts of delicious camp provided by Cage. Choice bits include “Step away from the bike!” and, of course, “Not the bees! Not the bees!”
17 WOLF CREEK
The United States isn't the only country capable of churning out lousy slasher flicks, as evidenced by 2005’s one-punch of France's High Tension and Australia's Wolf Creek. Both center on maniacs who get their jollies by carving up innocent bystanders, but while High Tension barely survived with a C- from CinemaScore audiences, Wolf Creek was carved up with an F.
Writer-director Greg McLean’s Wolf Creek strands three college-age kids in the Australian Outback, where they meet a hulking roughneck (John Jarratt) who proceeds to slice and dice them as he sees fit. The film bills itself as “Based On True Events” — a dubious claim since the film is rife with the sort of boneheaded plotting that can only be found in sub-par thrillers of this nature.
The punchline? Wolf Creek was released domestically on December 25. So much for seasonal goodwill to all!
16 KILLING THEM SOFTLY
Writer-director Andrew Dominick followed his masterful 2007 Western The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford with 2012’s Killing Them Softly, a crime drama that nabbed positive reviews in some quarters but bombed with audiences.
Based on George V. Higgins' novel Cogan's Trade, Killing Them Softly stars Brad Pitt as a professional killer tasked with locating and eliminating the low-level crooks who were dumb enough to rob a Mob-enforced card game.
For the most part, this is a generic crime flick offering the usual Tarantino-inspired exchanges, loving attention to violence, and the lone female representation in the form of a solitary hooker (billed as, yes, "Hooker" in the end credits) who's only on hand to be insulted by James Gandolfini's boozy hitman.
What elevated the film in the minds of many critics was its attempt to make a meaningful statement by equating the crime underworld with America’s political and capitalist ventures — a message that, incidentally, mob movies had been making since The Godfather, decades earlier.
15 ALONE IN THE DARK
Given director Uwe Boll’s reputation for making terrible movies on the order of House of the Dead and Postal, one might reasonably expect his resume to be filled with titles that garnered F ratings from CinemaScore audiences. Yet only one of his films — 2005’s Alone in the Dark — was even put forth to be graded. Clearly, once was enough.
An abysmal adaptation of the video game series, Alone in the Dark stars Christian Slater as Edward Carnby, a detective whose cases generally involve paranormal activities. His latest assignment finds him confronting interdimensional demons hoping to overrun our planet.
Alone in the Dark stumbles from one astonishingly awful sequence to the next, but it does offer the perverse pleasure of seeing Tara Reid ludicrously miscast as a brilliant anthropologist who helps Carnby combat the otherworldly invaders.
The 2007 oddity Bug finds Tracy Letts adapting his own Off-Broadway play as directed by The Exorcist helmer William Friedkin.
Ashley Judd plays Agnes, a lonely waitress who shacks up with a brooding stranger named Peter (Michael Shannon). This irks her ex-con ex-husband (Harry Connick Jr., about as menacing as a Chihuahua), yet even his threats seem irrelevant once Peter begins to complain about the insect infestation in her apartment. Do the bugs really exist, or are they only in Peter's — and maybe Agnes' — imagination?
Friedkin maximizes the claustrophobic feel of the intimate surroundings, although it probably required the services of David Cronenberg (Naked Lunch, The Fly) to truly turn Bug into a freak-out session. Then again, CinemaScore viewers were obviously freaked out enough by the film’s grungy atmosphere and suffocating paranoia.
13 THE BOX
It’s probably fortuitous that 2001’s Donnie Darko never played enough theaters to be subjected to a CinemaScore grade, since it’s likely that bleak beauty would have been eviscerated for its eerie ambiguity. 2009’s The Box was one film by Richard Kelly that did snag a wide release, and it was soundly thrashed.
Adapting Richard Matheson's short story "Button, Button", Kelly fashions a complex tale out of a simple premise. A solemn stranger (Frank Langella) hands a married couple (Cameron Diaz and James Marsden) a box and informs them that if they press the button on top, someone they don't know will die but they'll be rewarded with one million dollars for their action.
A fable about the moral choices people make and the importance of accepting the consequences of one’s actions, The Box is both ambitious and uncompromising. The fact that Kelly doesn't cheat in the final moments - a grasping effort to placate timid moviegoers - is what ultimately sealed its doom.
Stephen Rea earned accolades and an Oscar nomination for his leading role in 1992’s The Crying Game, but seeing this fine actor turn up in 2002’s Feardotcom is nothing less than a crying shame.
This grisly movie finds poor Rea cast as Alistair Pratt, a serial killer who might be the person responsible for a series of unique murders that baffle a New York detective (Stephen Dorff). It’s eventually ascertained that all the deaths are linked by a website that offers voyeurs the opportunity to watch all manner of torture and murder being committed.
Feardotcom turned off both critics and audiences with its unrelenting gore and mayhem. Even with last-minute trims that avoided an NC-17 rating, the R-rated release was tagged as one of the bloodiest pictures of its period.
11 EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
January has traditionally been a dumping ground for the various studios’ cinematic waste, so at least critics were prepared when Eye of the Beholder opened in the first month of 2000. Audiences not attuned to release strategies, on the other hand, were largely blindsided by this unappealing thriller that wasted the services of two suddenly popular performers.
Ashley Judd was coming off the 1999 box office hit Double Jeopardy while Ewan McGregor had ascended to a new level of stardom thanks to his turn as the young Obi-Wan Kenobi in 1999’s Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. But the Force abandoned both of them with this sloppy thriller in which a twitchy British agent falls in love with a man-hating serial killer and stalks her as she continues to commit murders across the U.S.
Murky in terms of both its visual style and its storyline, Eye of the Beholder aspired to be another Vertigo but failed miserably.
10 LUCKY NUMBERS
John Travolta headlined two terrible movies in 2000, and it’s amusing to note that Lucky Numbers earned a worse CinemaScore grade (F) than the infamous Battlefield Earth (D+).
As director, Nora Ephron helmed eight movies, working from her own script on seven on those occasions. Lucky Numbers was the exception, making us wonder what she saw in Adam Resnick’s script about a Pennsylvania TV weatherman (Travolta) frantically trying to get out of debt. Eventually deciding he can rig the state lottery since it broadcasts from his station, he enlists the aid of his conniving girlfriend (Lisa Kudrow), who also happens to be the person who draws the winning powerball.
Laughs are few and far between in Lucky Numbers, with characters so odious and idiotic that they undermine the levity of the piece. The most unexpected casting arrives in the form of documentarian Michael Moore, here playing Kudrow’s asthmatic — and perpetually self-pleasuring — cousin.
9 LOST SOULS
Exactly how revered is two-time Oscar-winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski? Steven Spielberg has the clout to hire anyone to shoot his movies, yet since Schindler’s List back in 1993, he has used Kaminski to photograph all of his films — 16, to be exact — and has already employed him for his next three as well.
Kaminski elected to try his own hand at directing with 2000’s Lost Souls, to decidedly underwhelming results. Even with a release date that placed it right before Halloween, viewers were disinterested in this supernatural thriller in which a devout Catholic (Winona Ryder) tries to convince an atheistic journalist (Ben Chaplin) that his body has been chosen to house Satan’s earthly form.
Although the reviews were as brutal as the audience reaction, critics did rave about one aspect of Lost Souls. The visual look of the picture was repeatedly singled out — hardly a surprise for a movie directed by an accomplished cinematographer.
8 IN THE CUT
Jane Campion has proven herself a great director with such works as The Piano and Bright Star, but she added a misplaced sense of artful abstraction to the 2003 psychosexual drama In the Cut.
Cast against type, Meg Ryan delivers an appropriately dour turn as Frannie Avery, a lonely New Yorker who falls for a roughneck detective (Mark Ruffalo) cryptic enough to make her suspect he might also be a serial killer who's been hacking up women.
On the most commercial level of a murder-mystery, In the Cut is a complete washout, jammed with gaping plotholes and a laughably obvious culprit. Yet as a stylized study of sexual longing and violent retribution, the film occasionally threatens to spring to life. This is especially true when it centers on Frannie's fragile sister Pauline, a broken woman sensitively played by Jennifer Jason Leigh.
Indeed, all the characters (and the attendant relationships) worming through the film have potential, yet they're repeatedly forced to take a backseat to tired thriller elements.
7 DR. T & THE WOMEN
Weirdly watchable but also acrid and annoying, 2000’s Dr. T & the Women finds director Robert Altman getting snakebit by the sort of ensemble piece that has generally served him well over the course of his storied career.
Richard Gere delivers one of his most mannered performances as Sully Travis, a Dallas gynecologist affectionately known as Dr. T. He loves his wife (Farrah Fawcett) but also feels he must place her in a psychiatric ward. He also has to contend with two grown daughters (Kate Hudson and Tara Reid) and an alcoholic sister-in-law (Laura Dern), but he finds respite once he falls for a golf instructor (Helen Hunt).
Dr. T & the Women is far more charitable toward Dr. T than toward the women (most of whom are depicted as meddlesome or self-absorbed), and even with Shelley Long and Liv Tyler in the cast, none of the performers make much of an impression.
Perhaps inspired by the success that fellow countryman Alejandro Amenabar enjoyed with 2001’s The Others, Spain’s Jaume Balaguero similarly wrote and directed a horror yarn filmed in European locations but cast with English-speaking actors.
Released in Spain in 2002 and throughout the rest of Europe in 2003, the moribund Darkness was kept from the light of day by its U.S. distributor until December 2004, when it effectively served as a cinematic lump of coal for curious American filmgoers.
X-Men actress Anna Paquin stars as a teenager who moves into an eerie home in the Spanish countryside with her demented dad (Iain Glen), mean mom (Lena Olin), and younger brother (Stephan Enquist) who receives the bulk of the supernatural abuse being doled out by the house.
The revelation of why their home is haunted comes after a deadening opening hour in which nothing even remotely interesting occurs. What follows is more frantically paced but no less dull.
Not even the sight of George Clooney’s bare butt could prevent CinemaScore graders from bombing 2002’s Solaris.
This second big-screen adaptation of the Stanislaw Lem novel stars Clooney as a psychologist who's sent to a space station orbiting the planet Solaris to investigate some strange occurrences. Soon after arrival, he bumps into his wife (Natascha McElhone), a baffling phenomenon considering she committed suicide years earlier.
Give both Clooney and director Steven Soderbergh credit for trying something different – as is often the case, they’re more interested in moviemaking than movie marketing. But for a film that attempts to make some salient points about humanity's emotional pull, it's an often chilly endeavor, and it’s no surprise general audiences rejected this leisurely paced film outright.
The main signs of life in Solaris come courtesy of Jeremy Davies, whose off-the-wall turn as a jittery crew member perks up the proceedings.
4 SILENT HOUSE
A remake of a 2010 Uruguayian film, 2011’s Silent House finds future Scarlet Witch Elizabeth Olsen cast as Sarah, a young woman staying at a desolate lakeside property with her father and uncle. Sarah eventually finds herself alone in the house, at which point she begins spotting shadowy figures lurking in the rooms and starts experiencing a series of frightening hallucinations.
A number of reviewers were more lenient toward Silent House than other films of its ilk, with many praising Olsen’s performance and the decision by directors Chris Kentis and Laura Lau to shoot the entire film as seemingly one long, uninterrupted take. Yet even its defenders strongly objected to its ugly and unconvincing ending, a denouement that likely led to a number of those F grades from CinemaScore.
3 THE DEVIL INSIDE
Opening on the first Friday of 2012, The Devil Inside remained one of the most profitable films of the year. Made for less than one million dollars, its worldwide total managed to hit $100 million. In the U.S. alone, it grossed $53 million, although a whopping $33 million of that amount came on its opening weekend.
Once critics were able to drop their reviews (no press screenings had been held before its debut) and CinemaScore audiences could share their F designation, the movie’s box office plummeted a head-spinning 76% on its second weekend.
Why anyone was that interested in The Devil Inside in the first place is a mystery, since it was yet another “found footage” horror yarn. This one involves demonic possession and a pair of priests forced to decide whether an exorcism needs to be performed.
The Devil Inside featured a conclusion that infuriated audiences even more than the one for Silent House, since the film ended abruptly and viewers were directed to a website to learn more about the story!
2 DISASTER MOVIE
Writer-directors Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer found their niche by making low-rent spoofs of contemporary flicks. Five of their efforts were placed before CinemaScore viewers; while Date Movie, Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans and Vampires Suck all earned grades in the C range, 2008’s Disaster Movie received the dreaded F. Consequently, it ended up grossing the least of the quintet, and by a wide margin.
As usual, the filmmakers take an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach to comedy. The plot of Disaster Movie involves the efforts of a group of friends to avert the impending end of the world, but it’s really just a feeble framework for witless gags involving various franchises and celebrities.
Kim Kardashian and Carmen Electra are among those appearing in supporting roles, and targets include No Country for Old Men, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Alvin and the Chipmunks, The Love Guru, Hellboy, Speed Racer, and on and on and on.
1 I KNOW WHO KILLED ME
The giddy heights of Mean Girls and Freaky Friday were already a fading memory when Lindsay Lohan appeared in I Know Who Killed Me in 2007. Hounded by paparazzi, plagued by substance abuse, and bounced from projects because of her unreliable behavior, Lohan nevertheless managed to stick with this movie.
I Know Who Killed Me represents a radical departure from Lohan’s earlier efforts, as she plays a far more adult role in this one. Well, make that two roles, as she plays the part of both pianist Aubrey Fleming and stripper Dakota Moss. Dakota just might be an imaginary figure created by Aubrey to cope with the shock of having been kidnapped and tortured by a serial killer.
I Know Who Killed Me was despised by CinemaScore viewers, who handed it an F rating. Yet their loathing was easily matched by that of Golden Raspberry Award members — the movie won a total of eight Razzie awards, including three for Lohan and one for Worst Picture.
Have you seen any of the movies on this list? Would you give them an F? Let us know in the comments!
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