Despite the protests of various film studios, Rotten Tomatoes is really nothing more than a hub that allows moviegoers to see various reviews that already exist in one place. As such, we can’t help but laugh whenever we hear a studio executive refer to the site as the death of the industry.
Even still, there is something to be said for the way that aggregate review scores affect our perception of certain films. One reviewer gives a bad or tepid review to a film you are looking forward to? That could be attributed to a variety of factors. 100 reviewers state that they feel the same? That…ok, that’s harder to argue against.
While the aggregate review system provides a complete look at the overall reaction to a particular film, that doesn’t mean that it’s a foolproof system. Far from it. From time to time, a particular film which you believe is generally considered to be great/awful receives a Rotten Tomatoes score that reflects the exact opposite.
Then there are the times when you’re left staring at your screen convinced that Rotten Tomatoes has made some kind of terrible mistake because there is no way the score they display, could possibly be real.
These are 20 Movies Whose Rotten Tomatoes Scores Are Disgraceful.
20. Wet Hot American Summer – 32%
This recent recipient of two Netflix comeback series was almost universally panned upon its 2001 release. The most common complaint amongst critics was that this screwball comedy simply wasn’t funny. Some admitted that it did a good job of parodying several genres, but also felt that those same genres were so dumb in the first place that a parody of them was superfluous.
That sentiment is understandable, but many viewers found that Wet Hot American Summer was simply too energetic and wonderfully weird not to love. The movie’s shockingly talented cast clearly had fun reciting the kind of on-the-spot parodies usually reserved for South Park episodes.
19. Spy Kids – 93%
“Hey, director Robert Rodriguez, you just directed some of the most intense and violent films since the grindhouse era. What are you going to do next?”
As strange as it was to hear that Rodriguez was going to make the leap into children’s entertainment, it’s even stranger to look back on Spy Kids now and realize it was incredibly well-received by critics.
So far as we can tell, part of the reason the film was so highly regarded has to do with the fact that it was released shortly after a series of kids films that were dreadfully awful. We freely admit that Spy Kids is not a dreadfully awful movie.
18. The Basketball Diaries – 46%
Every now and then, a truly depressing movie manages to win the hearts of a suddenly defeated audience. The Basketball Diaries is such a movie.
Well, to be fair, it eventually became such a movie. Upon its release, this movie about a group of young people who choose drugs over more promising life alternatives was widely-criticized for being too depressing. Some felt that the movie was all dread and no substance.
While you could argue that films like Requiem for a Dream improve upon what The Basketball Diaries tried to do, it’s unfair to criticize this film for being too dark when it so effectively portrays an all-too-real aspect of life that we often turn a blind eye towards.
17. Lucky Number Slevin – 51%
If you were just going off of Lucky Number Slevin’s previews and reviews, you’d probably think it was a generic action film.
Honestly, there are times when Lucky Number Slevin is a generic action film. Critics chose to focus on these aspects of the movie by calling out its reliance on style and an unhealthy fascination with Tarantino-esque films.
None of that really matters, though, because Lucky Number Slevin ultimately proves to be a smooth, fun, well-acted, well-directed, and sometimes genuinely clever action movie.
Lucky Number Slevin certainly takes cues from Tarantino – who has also been known to borrow from film history – but it also draws from directors like Kurosawa and Hitchcock to tell a story about feuding families and mistaken identity that is ultimately effortlessly entertaining.
16. Man on Fire – 39%
It’s no coincidence that most of this list consists of comedy and action films. Both of those genres have been subject to critical lashings over the years simply because the line between a good comedy/action film and a bad comedy/action film is often quite thin.
That said, Man on Fire’s abhorrent critical reception is baffling. Believe it or not, the chief criticism surrounding this film involved its use of violence. Some felt that this revenge movie was simply too brutal and lacking in substance.
In retrospect, it’s clear that some critics couldn’t get past Tony Scott’s eclectic direction. If they could have, they would have seen that Man on Fire is one of the few truly great revenge epics ever made. It patiently establishes the relationship between its primary characters before going into overdrive and becoming a well-above average action film.
15. Cocktail – 5%
We’re not saying that Cocktail is a great movie. We’re not even saying that Cocktail is one of the best Tom Cruise movies. It isn’t, and it isn’t.
Even still, a 5% rating is an absolute joke. Cocktail‘s biggest problems stem from the fact that director Roger Donaldson wanted to make a very dark movie about nightlife and celebrity, while the studios wanted something a bit peppier. This curious blend of styles resulted in a film concoction that sometimes leaves you feeling dizzy, but is nonetheless intoxicating. There’s a weird energy to this movie that has helped turn the project into something of a cult classic.
14. Saw – 48%
Contrary to popular belief, not every modern jump scare horror flick is automatically torn apart by critics. Sure, most of the great ratings are reserved for art house horror films like The Witch, but movies like The Conjuring and Paranormal Activity were rightfully recognized as a cut above the average genre schlock.
When it came to Saw, however, many critics were way off. At the time of its release, the movie was panned for being shallow, too violent, and fairly stupid. The funny thing about the too violent criticism is that much of Saw’s violence is simply implied rather than shown.
Actually, Saw is a remarkably subtle film in many respects. It uses a collection of memorable moments to tell a surprisingly complex story in a breathless way. Of course, Saw looks particularly brilliant when stacked up against the wave of torture porn films it inspired.
13. Equilibrium – 38%
Equilibrium is one of those movies most people seem to have seen long after its disappointing theatrical run. That’s hardly a surprise, given that the movie’s marketing made it look just like The Matrix and that the film was blasted by nearly every critic who reviewed it.
Many reviewers felt that the movie was trying too hard to replicate the dystopian narratives of works like 1984 and Fahrenheit 451. On top of that, they felt the film’s action sequences just didn’t make up for the obviousness of its influences.
That’s the wrong way to approach this film. Equilibrium should be viewed as a very, very good action movie – seriously, the fight scenes are just fantastic – that supplements the shooting with some well conceived (if slightly well tread) musings on the dark path our society walks.
12. Natural Born Killers – 46%
You never can tell when critics are going to rally behind a violent film and when they’re going to outright denounce it. Natural Born Killers is an example of the later.
Some critics, like Roger Ebert, recognized that Natural Born Killers‘ excessive violence and utterly bizarre nature were utilized in an attempt to translate how ridiculous our media-driven world has become. Others were too busy covering their mouths in shock to say any kind words at all.
Natural Born Killers has problems, but it hits far more than it misses. It’s a film devoid of humanity that still manages to hit far too close to home. Natural Born Killers’ commentary may be blunt, but it’s hard not to be too blunt when you’re commenting on something that keeps slapping the world in the face while people continue to ignore it.
11. Super Troopers – 35%
There was a time when it felt like nearly every dorm room in America had a copy of Super Troopers in it. This 2002 comedy about a group of fun loving highway patrolmen trying to stay employed just spoke to a young generation of viewers who quoted it at every opportunity.
Despite its eventual success, Super Troopers was despised by many critics. On the one hand, the disconnect was obvious. Super Troopers was made for a young – preferably stoned – audience, and critics analyzed it as a piece of pure cinema.
The funny thing about that, though, is that Super Troopers actually holds up well from a technical perspective. The writing is clever, the performances are great (or at least enthusiastic), and the premise is somewhat original.
10. Willow Creek – 86%
Willow Creek is the kind of movie you really want to love.
First off, it comes from director/actor Bobcat Goldthwait, who has a habit of making clever and dark movies that just don’t quite hit their mark. Second, it’s a deliberate horror movie that rarely relies on jump scares. Those are all good things that critics rightfully praised in their reviews.
The problem is that Willow Creek is ultimately a fairly uninspiring found footage movie. Yes, you could write-off some of its flaws as a symptom of the story’s deliberately old-school design, but that does little to cover up for the movie’s lack of memorable moments and general entertainment value.
This is a fine enough movie, but it’s a step or two below other found footage films.
9. The Boondock Saints – 20%
Like many of the films on this list, it’s easy enough to see why critics didn’t like The Boondock Saints. It’s a movie that chooses style over substance most of the time. As such, it was absolutely destroyed by critics, who called it a childish piece of post-Tarantino filmmaking that could almost be a parody if it didn’t take itself so seriously.
However, those who latched onto the film argued that none of that really matters if you so happen to enjoy Boondock Saints’ particular brand of action entertainment. Yes, The Boondock Saints is a relatively dumb action movie, but it’s a dumb action movie with an above-average plot, some truly memorable actions sequences, and all the other components a movie needs to be the type of flick that you can watch over and over again.
8. Bad Boys – 43%
It’s worth noting that Bad Boys II was also critically panned – 23% on Rotten Tomatoes – but that movie was rightfully called out for being too long and too aimless.
The hate surrounding the original Bad Boys is a bit more confounding. As you might imagine, Bad Boys was criticized for being a dumb action film full of illogical plot points and inane action sequences. That’s par for the course. What’s truly incredible is that few critics managed to point out that Will Smith and Martin Lawrence’s chemistry elevated Bad Boys and turned it into something much more meaningful than a forgettable action flick.
7. Apocalypto – 65%
While critics weren’t quite as eager to tear into Mel Gibson’s films as they are now – for reasons we’ll not get into here – Gibson’s 2006 epic Apocalypto was met with a lukewarm reception from critics who had just written off the hugely successful Passion of the Christ as a piece of historic torture porn. As such, Apocalypto religious imagery and violence triggered the all-too-eager criticisms of those who went into the film expecting to hate such things.
Others, however, saw that Apocalypto was Gibson’s finest attempt yet at making a historical epic that had something more to offer than just visceral emotional reactions. It’s a stunningly beautiful film that takes the time to slow down and let audiences soak in the atmosphere.
6. Scream 2 – 81%
The original Scream is one of the most historically significant horror films ever made. It ushered in a new era of self-aware slasher films that dominated the horror landscape for a time. It has a 79% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Scream 2 is a pretty good sequel that is entertaining enough in its own right, but features little of the original film’s inventiveness. It has an 81% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
While we certainly can’t rule out the possibility that some critics simply enjoyed the sequel more, we’re going to attribute Scream 2’s unusually high rating to a case of “FOMO.” Perhaps some critics simply underestimated the appeal of the original movie, and compensated by acting a little too enthusiastic when it came time to receive its leftovers.
5. Die Hard: With A Vengeance – 51%
Okay, this one is kind of mind-blowing.
While the original Die Hard is rightfully reviewed better than Die Hard With a Vengeance, we simply cannot explain how the utterly forgettable Die Hard 2 is rated higher than the clearly superior third film. In fact, critics couldn’t even agree on what was wrong with the film. Some said it was too slow in the first half, while others argued that its second half was nothing but car chases.
Few critics pointed out that With a Vengeance features one of the most amusingly intricate heist plots ever committed to an action film, as well as a villain who is almost as memorable as Hans Gruber himself. Die Hard With A Vengeance is one of the few action movies that remains clever without sacrificing its breakneck pace.
4. Stuart Little 2 – 81%
During the summer of 2002, an influx of madness temporarily consumed the film critics of the world. This specific mental disorder caused said film critics to label Stuart Little 2 an enjoyable, beautiful, and engaging film fit for the whole family.
At least, that’s as close as we can come to understanding why Stuart Little 2 has an 81% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Stuart Little 2 isn’t an unwatchable movie, but it is one of the most forgettable pieces of family entertainment we can barely recall. While it’s understandable that critics would have praised the movie’s (now-dated) special effects, we’re at a loss when it comes to understanding why the film was praised for its uplifting plot and fun sequences.
3. Constantine – 46%
Constantine was released at a time (2005) when most people turned to comic book-based entertainment for some cheap thrills starring classic characters. This seems to be what many critics were expecting from Constantine.
As such, some reviewers couldn’t help but point out – quite accurately – that Constantine is not a really an amusing superhero movie. Parts of it are, but much of the film is devoted to the troubling mythology of the comics.
Some years later, many fans have come to recognize Constantine as a sign of changes on the horizon. Constantine is a wonderfully weird movie highlighted by some incredible performances – Peter Stormare’s portrayal of Satan is one of the best in film history – and a truly excellent example of world building.
2. About A Boy – 93%
About a Boy is a perfectly fine romantic comedy released at a time when Hugh Grant was carving out a little slice of the genre to call his own. Today, the movie comes across as an okay film to throw on one boring afternoon if you so happen to be into such things.
At the time of its release, though, About a Boy was widely praised as a tremendous leap forward for Grant and the genre.
The movie certainly benefited from the fact that a movie starring a lovable child actor is destined to win over critics every few years – Nicholas Hoult being the child actor in question this time – but otherwise, it’s a bit baffling to fully understand why this movie was such a tremendous hit with critics.
1. Home Alone – 56%
We freely admit that fine films in the Christmas genre can sometimes get a pass for flaws that would hinder any other movie. Maybe that’s not fair, but that’s just the way it is.
So, yes, critics were in the right when they pointed out that Home Alone suffers from an uneven script, some flat humor, and a surprising influx of violence. All of that is true.
It’s also true that Home Alone is one of the quintessential Christmas films. From a purely visual standpoint, it’s a masterpiece. Every frame is gift-wrapped in red, green, and gold colors. The music, meanwhile, is implemented well enough to make you sympathize with those who play too much Christmas music around the holidays.
Home Alone isn’t perfect, but as a Christmas movie, it comes pretty close to that status.
Can you name any other films whose Rotten Tomatoes scores seem completely off-base? Let us know in the comments.
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