When a bad movie is released the world is quick to wonder “how did something so horrible get made?” From unfinished scripts being greenlit for release, to actors checking out on set because they don’t like the director, right down to studio interference that can sink a previously good film – there’s lots of reasons that bad movies are made.
Yet, as bad as the worst film is that you’ve seen recently, it might not even be comparable to some of the films which were so bad that studios hid them away from audiences entirely. Think of a bad movie, then imagine for a second how bad that movie would have to be for it to not be released at all.
Imagine all the millions of dollars that go into making a film and what it means when studios, producers, and directors would rather lose that money than embarrass themselves by showing what they've made. We live in a world where the movie The Room exists, so try to imagine a film that could have been even worse than that.
The good news is there's no need to picture it, because we have all the horrendous films right here. These films are so embarrassing to those involved that they've spent time and money ensuring that audiences will never know about them-- it's time to finally change this.
Here are the 15 Movies That Were So Bad They Were Never Released.
Before David O. Russell was a perennial Oscar darling, he was one of Hollywood’s notorious bad boys. He is as well known for causing havoc on set as he is known for his cute romantic comedies. There’s no doubt that David O. Russell is a talented director, but something clearly went very wrong on the set of Nailed.
Considering the track record of everyone involved in this film, from Russell to writers Kristin Gore, Dave Jeser, and Matthew Silverstein, it’s safe to say that no one expected Nailed to be so much of a catastrophe. A-lister Jake Gyllenhaal starred opposite Jessica Biel, and that’s not to mention a supporting cast, which included James Marsden, James Brolin, Paul Reubens, and more.
Alas, none of it was meant to be, as the satire – about a waitress shot in the head with a nail gun, who then goes on to become a congresswomen – was partially reshot after Russell ditched the production. Nailed never made it to theaters but a reassembled version of the movie was finally seen on VOD and in limited release as Accidental Love in 2015. Russell was credited as "Stephen Greene."
14 Bunyan and Babe
Here’s a secret that the powers at be don’t want you knowing: around 10 years ago John Goodman, Kelsey Grammar, and Jeff Foxworthy got together and lent their voices to a CGI animated movie about Paul Bunyan. The tagline was “an adventure that’s too big for reality,” which, while not being a very good tagline, also turned out to be strangely prophetic.
As an MGM film (before MGM filed for bankruptcy), Bunyan and Babe isn’t like some of the MGM movies that got lost in bankruptcy – this one was actively hidden away from audiences. Though trailers have been released for the film, which is said to have been in production for ten years, one look at the animations shows that MGM Film could have done better, and we have to wonder what kind of blackmail the studio had on John Goodman that prompted him to sign up.
13 Dark Blood
It’s understandable that, when an actor dies tragically in the middle of shooting a film, said film gets delayed, or worst case scenario cancelled altogether. However, the public might occasionally crave the final work of the deceased actor. Oddly enough, what happened with Dark Blood – River Phoenix’s last film – is a different story.
With almost all of the movie having been shot before Phoenix’s death, director George Sluizer made a final cut of the film, only to never release it to the public. The movie focuses on the story of a man – named Boy – who lives in the middle of the desert awaiting the apocalypse, the film was screened a handful of times at film festivals before being buried forever for unknown reasons.
While there have been attempts to get the movie a release date in the years since, the last known plan for the film’s release came in 2012, and obviously didn’t happen. As much as we’re curious to see River’s last acting role, it would seem that if Dark Blood was any good it would have seen the light of day already.
12 Uncle Tom's Fairy Tales: The Movie for Homosexuals
With a title like Uncle Tom’s Fairy Tales: The Movie for Homosexuals, one can only wonder how anyone thought it was a good idea. The fact is, despite featuring Richard Pryor in what would have been his first starring role, all accounts of this bizarre film state that it just wasn’t worth salvaging – which is why no one’s seen it since it was filmed in 1968.
Directed by Penelope Spheeris of Wayne’s World fame (who was a film student at the time), Uncle Tom’s Fairy Tales was about a group of Black Panthers who kidnap a white man and put him on trial for every racially-motivated crime in the history of America.
The film was screened in Pryor’s basement. Spheeris has claimed that Pryor and his wife, Shelley Bonis, began to argue, which led to Pryor ripping up the film's negative. Spheeris managed to salvage the film, which was allegedly bought by Cosby, though he convinced Pryor to never show the film. According to the Pryor biography, Furious Cool, by David and Joe Henry, Cosby's only comment on the movie was that “this s**t is weird.”
11 Empires of the Deep
The American-Chinese co-produced Empires of the Deep had a budget of $130 million. However, its production team is committed to keeping their crimes against cinema buried forever – despite the film boasting the largest budget in Chinese film history.
Plagued with production issues – including four directors and ten scriptwriters – Empires of the Deep was about… well, we don’t really know, but it had something to do with mermaids. It was a CGI-heavy spectacle film initially intended to be directed by Pitof, best known for Catwoman. However, even Pitof backed out of the film, and when Pitof won’t direct your film you should pretty much pack it in.
Of course, no one did this, and the film ended up being made with various directors and many actors, who were replaced one after the other. From there, the trailer was released and was met with shameless mocking from the film community. The only logical next step was a mercy killing.
10 The Brave
Remember when Johnny Depp played a Native American in The Lone Ranger and the world criticized him? Do you also remember when Johnny Depp directed a movie called The Brave in 1997, played a Native American, and the whole world criticized him for the first time? No? Well, it happened and it only helps make the living-legend that is Johnny Depp even more legendary, but not in a good way. Our advice to Johnny Depp is to stop playing Native Americans.
The Brave was a colossal mistake. Blasted by critics when it debuted at Cannes in 1997, Depp refused to grace the world with the movie that he had starred in, co-wrote, and directed. However, if we know anything about Depp it’s that he’s a sensible guy who will come to his senses and— yeah, not likely. He’ll probably just end up making Mortdecai 2. Or, you know, any other film that requires him to wear heavy makeup and do a needless accent.
9 A Bad Situationist
What happens when comic legends David Cross, Sarah Silverman, Jon Benjamin, Marc Maron, Janeane Garofalo, Todd Barry, Jon Glaser, and Brendon Small star in a political satire? Apparently nothing, according to the movie A Bad Situationist.
Like many self-financed indie movies made in New York in the late '90s and early 2000s, A Bad Situationist never got a proper release despite starring so many people who have since made it big. However, unlike say, Louis C.K.’s movies of the same time, writer-director Sam Seder still isn’t a household name, which makes his film a bit harder to release.
Add to this the fact that the film just wasn’t very kindly reviewed – even among the select few that saw it – and what you have is something of a... bad situation.
8 Big Bug Man
As another entry in the "great-actor’s-last-role-that-went-wrong" category – if such a category existed – Big Bug Man is a Marlon Brando movie that was so bad it will never see the light of day. It is an adult animated comedy co-starring Brendan Fraser, and seemed doomed right from the start.
Brando was asked to play a dangerously obese man, but instead opted to play the part of an evil old lady named Mrs. Sour. From that point on Brando recorded all of his lines in his own home – and, under his own accord, put on makeup, a wig, and dressed like an elegant elderly woman.
Big Bug Man followed a man who was bitten by bugs and became a superhero. So, you know, Spider-Man but 100 times worse. Additionally, the poster had a character kissing someone’s butt. Brando said it was one of the most enjoyable times he ever had making a film.
7 Gods Behaving Badly
Two of the finest living actors – Christopher Walken and John Turturro – once starred as Zeus and Hades respectively in a film about, you guessed it, Gods Behaving Badly. Based on the novel by the same name, the film was fully shot and edited, and even made its way to a film festival in Italy, before it was sucked into the very same underworld where Hades watches Johnny Depp’s The Brave on repeat.
It was compared to a bad 1990s SNL sketch by The Hollywood Reporter. All that is known about the film today is that it had a disgraceful CGI opening scene and a very hilarious poster that featured Walken wearing a dollar store wig and headband.
Having said that, Gods Behaving Badly is the type of film that dreams are made of. Sure, bad movies are fun to watch, but the only thing better than a B-list bad movie is a C-list bad movie with A-list stars. Ah, what could have been.
6 All American Massacre
After seven Texas Chain Saw Massacre films no one is really clamoring for a new one. Yet William Hooper, the son of original director Tobe Hooper, made a Texas Chain Saw prequel and called it All American Massacre. Despite the best intentions, no one really cared about the film being released and it remains, at best, an intriguing what-if to this day.
Featuring the original Chop-top and flashbacks, the film is apparently a 60 minute feature, which, despite being incredibly short for a film, still sounds painfully long when you get into the details. One such detail is that the film’s score was composed by guitarist Buckethead – a guitar player who performs with a literal bucket on his head.
This tidbit, coupled with the fact that no one even knew if they had the rights to the Texas Chain Saw Massacre film, ensured that All American Massacre was never released, and the film still remains unseen over 15 years after being completed.
5 Nothing Lasts Forever
Lorne Michaels is a name in Hollywood that opens doors, makes people famous, and gets things made. Yet it wasn’t always this way for the Saturday Night Live icon.
Nothing Lasts Forever starred Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd in a dystopian, totalitarian New York setting. Filled with magical hobos, a trip to the moon on a city bus driven by Bill Murray, and lofty dreams of being an artist, the film – made in 1984 – may have come a decade or two too late if its aim was to catch on with the LSD crowd.
Originally intended to be released by MGM, the studio shelved the film indefinitely after press screenings went disastrously wrong. Given all of the fame that Murray and Aykroyd later enjoyed, you’d have to think that Nothing Lasts Forever must’ve been pretty dreadful to remain hidden away all these years.
Somewhere in an alternate reality is a world without Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s Sausage Party. And that world is one that instead has the film Foodfight. Oh, how we wished we lived in that world instead of this one. Not because Sausage Party is bad, but because Foodfight sounds like one of the worst films of all time – and we need to see it.
Starring Charlie Sheen and Hilary Duff, Foodfight was first brought to the public’s attention in 2001, when it was revealed that the movie would feature a lot of product placement. Delay after delay meant that the film never even made it to theaters, and was only released on DVD in 2012, over a decade after it was first announced.
The bar for a Charlie Sheen CGI-animated film isn’t very high to begin with, so we can’t begin to guess how bad this film really is. Perhaps we also need to give the film’s producer, Larry Kasanoff, a little slack, considering that he was certain his studio, Threshold, would become the next Pixar... At least until the computer drives holding all the movie's files were stolen in what he calls an act of “industrial espionage.”
3 Don's Plum
Don’s Plum starred none other than Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire before fame took them both and threw them on opposite career paths. It was an improvisational black and white drama, and was also so bad that DiCaprio and Maguire reportedly refused to allow its release.
At the time of Don’s Plum, DiCaprio and Maguire were known around Hollywood and the tabloids as being part of something called the “P***y Posse.” If that sounds unflattering, it’s because it was, especially to the future Spider-Man and eventual Academy Award Winner Leo DiCaprio.
Fearing that the behaviour displayed in the film would tarnish their reputations forever, the two actors hired lawyers and claimed that they had been tricked into starring in the film for a friend. This lawsuit eventually blocked the film’s release indefinitely.
2 Fantastic Four
The legends of Marvel’s original 1994 Fantastic Four are true, the film really was worse than the three Fantastic Four films that came after it. As one of the first ever Marvel superhero films, Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four was meant to be an origin story that helped the studio hold on to the rights to the characters. What it ended up being is something much, much more.
Filled with B-movie effects and a final battle with Doctor Doom, Fantastic Four was actually all set to be a blockbuster film before the world realized that it’s seemingly impossible to get a Fantastic Four movie right. After trailers were released and the movie was heavily promoted, the film’s release date came and went and nothing happened.
Though some believe that the film was never made to be seen, others allegedly claim that Marvel executive Avi Arad paid producers millions of dollars to hide the film away so it wouldn't tarnish the brand. These rumors point to cash exchanging hands and Arad ordering all copies of the film to be destroyed, something that actually sounds like it would make a better story than anything featured in any of the Fantastic Four movies. Bootlegs of the film are still rumored to be circulating on the internet to this day.
1 The Day the Clown Cried
The infamous The Day the Clown Cried is horrendously bad. You’ve probably heard the stories and seen the interviews, which filled you in on Jerry Lewis’ biggest embarrassment. However, there’s a reason you know about The Day the Clown Cried – it’s famous for being so atrocious that Jerry Lewis refuses to let it be seen by anyone.
Directed by and starring Lewis, the film is about a German clown that must entertain children as he escorts them into the gas chambers. However, this is not Life Is Beautiful. Time and time again Jerry Lewis has said that he will not allow his film to be seen by anyone, as it turned out to be a colossal mistake in every possible way.
Yet every now and again there are reports of very famous people having seen cuts of the film – and even those people, presumably trusted by Lewis, have said that the film is horrible on a whole new level. While we’re morbidly interested to see how bad it is, perhaps with The Day the Clown Cried we should respect Lewis’ wishes and let this film remain a part of awful movie history.
Which of these movies do you think is the worst? Are there any that, despite never being released, you wish you could see? Let us know in the comments!