With Star Wars: Rogue One, the last major release of the year, just days away, the 2016 movie year comes to a close. And what a year it’s been! Superheroes continued to dominate the box office, even while earning mediocre to outright bad reviews. Finding Dory swam to the top of the box office for Disney, while Alice Through The Looking Glass became yet another enormous live-action bomb for the studio. Deadpool became an instant cult film, while other would-be cult movies like Zoolander 2 flopped.
Yes, 2016 saw its share of dud movies, and more than its share of cringe-inducing moments, even in good movies. We here at Screen Rant, after much deliberation, have outlined our most painful moments of the year here. While some are missteps in otherwise entertaining fare, others embody everything wrong with a movie, or the Hollywood system as a whole. Prepare for some eye rolling, and check out the Worst Movie Moments of 2016.
15 “It’s Cherry/Martha” — Batman v Superman
Let’s begin with the obvious. Few 2016 movies—especially blockbuster hits—got raked over the coals the way critics savaged Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Longtime fans had issues with the film too, to say the least. Chief among the elements attacked: Jesse Eisenberg’s portrayal of classic villain Lex Luthor. Whereas most versions of the bald, scheming character imagine him as a middle aged, brooding billionaire with a grudge, BvS envisaged him as a 30-something tech nerd, put off by Superman’s powers and obsessed with Kryptonian technology. Credit the film for trying something new with a character that’s been done the same way time after time, though Eisenberg’s out-there mannerisms and bizarre tics didn’t endear him to audiences. As he ingests Jolly Rancher after Jolly Rancher, inviting a visiting government official to try one himself with “it’s cherry,” groans erupted from the theatre.
Eisenberg’s performance, and indeed the character as a whole, come off far better in the so-called Ultimate Cut, which restores much of the character’s motivations and complexities. Another moment, however, didn’t improve. As the duel between Batman and Superman reaches its climax, they realize their mothers share the name of Martha. David Goyer’s script obviously intends the moment as one of profundity, and on its own, it is kind of a brilliant way to bring the characters together. Director Zack Snyder however, while a fine filmmaker, doesn’t boast subtlety or finesse among his strongest techniques. Thus, the moment comes off ham-fisted and silly, undermining one of the film’s most pivotal beats.
14 The Allegiant Cliffhanger
The adaptation of Veronica Roth’s young adult novel Divergent became a surprise hit in 2014. While not quite on par with other films in the genre, like the Harry Potter series or The Hunger Games, the solid box office take prompted studio Lionsgate to greenlight three sequels. A trilogy of novels, the final book would, like those of Hunger Games and Potter, split into two movies to maximize profits.
Back in March, the third film in the series, Allegiant, opened to savage reviews and an anemic box office performance. Both viewers and critics attacked the movie for splitting the trilogy's final novel into two films rather than one. Thus, Allegiant lacked satisfying action, character development, or plot advancement, and it even ended on a cliffhanger. The film therefore became emblematic of Hollywood’s exploitive, greedy, book-splitting mentality. The movie bombed so hard, in fact, that Lionsgate scrapped plans for the concluding big screen adventure, retooling it as a telefilm! That appears to have upset star Shailene Woodley, who initially said she has no interest in appearing in a TV movie (though that stance may have softened in recent months). The cliffhanger to Allegiant might never get a resolution, making the presumptuous choice to split the novel one of the worst moments of the year.
13 The Suicide Squad climax
Suicide Squad, Warner Bros.' other bid to further expand their DC Comics Extended Universe in 2016 had its share of problems, to say the least. In the days leading up to release of the film, trade papers ran stories about the torrid production history, including the studio’s decision to take the movie away from director David Ayer and have marketing company Trailer Park reedit it! The supposed tinkering, however extreme it truly was, definitely showed on screen. The movie used clichéd and predictable music, lacked a clear structure, and gave several members of the ensemble cast next to zero character development.
The agony of the film, however, came to a head in the movie’s climax, which it may or may not have directly borrowed from Ghostbusters (the original, not the remake). As with most films in the genre, Suicide Squad featured a slam-bang action sequence culminating in a churning vortex of CGI pixilation, and offered nothing in terms of emotional catharsis. As one character shouts, “her heart’s out, lets end this!”, the absurdity of the whole movie topples whatever immersive buildup the butchered narrative had managed to assemble. Cara Delevingne’s Enchantress looks absurd as a villain, and what should have been a fun, exciting romp with some of the DCEU’s most beloved baddies instead melts into an unpleasant smearing of conflicting ideas, questionable writing, and studio interference.
12 The Exposition in Warcraft
When will Hollywood learn—video games don’t make good movies! What a shame too, that Warcraft, 2016’s big attempt at a video game adaptation blockbuster, had to waste so much talent to achieve so little. Director Duncan Jones made one of the best sci-fi movies in recent memory with Moon, while actors Ben Foster, Paula Patton and Ruth Negga have proven themselves to be compelling performers. Negga, in particular, might have one of the most polar career years in recent memory. The actress has generated considerable Oscar buzz for her work in Loving, while Warcraft could end up earning her a Razzie nomination!
The film’s chief sin is its confusing and overdone exposition. Amid the absurd CGI effects and noisy action, Warcraft tries to establish a Lord of the Rings-level mythology, but instead just alienates and bores the audience. If the mythology worked in the Warcraft game series, perhaps that has more to do with the endless hours players devote to winning and exploring a game, rather than a runtime limited to 2-hours. Jones and his cast deserve better, as do the poor souls who paid to sit through the mind-numbing mess.
11 “Learning” — X-Men: Apocalypse
The X-Men have had an uneven film career. While entries like X2 and First Class have become classics of the superhero genre, X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine continue to sting fans for getting their favorite mutants so totally wrong. Their 2016 entry, Apocalypse, isn’t their best movie, nor is it really even a bad movie. It does, however, suffer from a sprawling plot and an utter dud of a villain.
Apocalypse, the godlike mutant villain, has always been one of the most one-note baddies the X-Men have ever confronted. Largely devoid of complexity or reason, his megalomaniacal ambitions always amount to destroying the world simply to wipe out the weak, and his overpowered nature rob stories of suspense. Rather, what fans have always loved about Apocalypse—consciously or otherwise—is the way the other characters react to his actions. Apocalypse the movie knows that, as does actor Oscar Isaac, who tries to treat Apocalypse more as a force of nature than a character. For the most part, that works, though at times the character just comes off goofy. Apocalypse has one of his silliest moments as he awakens from a centuries-long slumber and elects to absorb modern history through a TV set, croaking out the word “leeearrrninnnng” as if to create gravitas. Instead of creating a mystique (pardon the phrase) around the character, the line only reminds viewers of the absurdity and boredom of the film’s chief villain.
10 Whitewashing in Gods of Egypt
Alex Proyas does not get his due credit as a director. The man who directed the sci-fi masterpiece Dark City and created a cult phenomenon with The Crow deserves mention alongside other sci-fi visionaries like Ridley Scott and the Wachowskis. Unfortunately, Proyas’ detours into studio blockbuster filmmaking tend to lose the gritty mystery of his lower-budget efforts.
Gods of Egypt, Proyas’ 2016 outing, has a litany of problems. The movie tried to strike a similar note as the cult classic Stargate, but instead, comes in way off pitch. With ugly effects, garish design, and an outright stupid plot, the movie ranks among the worst of the year. Yet Gods of Egypt commits one greater blunder above all others: it whitewashes the cast.
Even a silly-fun movie like Stargate knew that the residents of Egypt—ancient or otherwise—didn’t look like white Europeans. Give credit to studio Lionsgate and Proyas for apologizing for not casting a more diverse group of actors, though even mea-culpa pleas by the studio and director can’t undo the frustration or outrage over what has become one of Hollywood’s biggest problems in recent memory. Gods of Egypt promptly bombed in theatres with its mostly white cast. Here’s hoping that next time, Proyas finds a project worthy of his skill, and a cast of actors better suited to their roles.
9 De Niro’s Package and anything it does — Dirty Grandpa
Robert De Niro has long held the distinction of one of the best actors alive. Having won two Academy Awards, the man could have his pick of projects. Heaven knows then why he chose to star in the gross-out comedy Dirty Grandpa alongside former teen hunk Zac Efron.
Dirty Grandpa is the kind of movie that knows it can get laughs on the cheap simply by shocking its audience, a-la the Jackass movies or Borat. Unlike those flicks, which earn their hilarity by having the performers actually do all of their crazy stunts, Bad Grandpa tries to cheat using movie effects…with one exception. De Niro spends a good portion of the movie showing off his tallywacker, masturbating and, in perhaps the movie’s worst moment, laying his dingaling on a pillow next to Efron’s face. We really hope De Niro didn’t go the method route on that one, and at least used a prop dong for those scenes for the sake of sanitation.
Dirty Grandpa might well be the worst movie of the year. Without question, the use of De Niro’s member represents one of the most humiliating moments in the actor’s career, and one of the worst moments in all 2016 cinema.
8 Willie Soke's Origins—Bad Santa 2
The original Bad Santa became a hit back in 2003 thanks to a delightfully irreverent performance from Billy Bob Thornton. Over time, the reputation of the comedy grew, to the point where it became a full-fledged, if not ironic, holiday favorite. A sequel probably seemed like a good idea, though Bad Santa 2 probably isn’t the kind of movie fans of the original had in mind.
The movie finds Thronton’s Willie Soke back to his scheming ways, this time uniting with his mother Sunny, played by the great Kathy Bates. Unfortunately, Bad Santa 2 wants to take Willie’s trash origins to a new level of disgust. Much like Dirty Grandpa, the movie thinks it can win laughs simply by gross and shocking moments…like one where Sunny reveals she had her son at age 13. That kind of joke might work in a stand up comedy routine, but in a movie that spends two hours with its characters—played by two terrific actors, no less—it brings up more discomfort than laughs. The original Bad Santa might have had some wit with its trashy protagonist. This sequel is just trash.
7 Brotherly Love — Brothers Grimsby
Sacha Baron Cohen once looked like a visionary comic genius. He nabbed an Oscar nod for the script to Borat, his semi-improvised film about a crazy Kazakhstani reporter, which also made a killing in box office receipts. 2016 saw Cohen try again for shock comedy gold with The Brothers Grimsby, a film which met the opposite level of success from Borat.
One scene in Brother’s Grimsby exemplified just how low Cohen—a very talented actor—has stooped for a laugh. The film features a moment where Cohen’s character must suck poison out of the testicles of his brother, Sebastian (played by Mark Strong). Whereas Cohen’s earlier work like Borat used that kind of humor to shock unsuspecting people on camera, Brother’s Grimsby tries instead to shock the audience. It loses what made Cohen’s humor so great—it’s the reactions of people that are funny, not the gag itself. Brother’s Grimsby bombed, becoming Cohen’s second middling solo vehicle after The Dictator. In the future, maybe Cohen should rely on his abilities as an actor (which, again, are considerable), not a shock comic, to please moviegoers.
6 The very idea of The Angry Birds Movie
If video games have a maddening predilection to becoming bad movies, what chance can smartphone apps have?! The Angry Birds Movie became the first smartphone app to make the transition from very small screen to big screen in 2016. The result seemed to surprise audiences for its watchability factor and entertaining moments.
That said, palatable or not, The Angry Birds Movie represents a new, frightening trend in motion pictures. At what point do studios start basing movie concepts on nothing at all? As a smartphone game, Angry Birds offers a fun little distraction while riding on the subway or in the back seat of an Uber. Yet even as a game, it revolves on a threadbare premise. Moreover, the simple concept of doesn’t offer much in terms of a movie plot. In a sense, that’s good, as it allows the creative team more leeway. At the same time, it betrays the real motives behind the adaptation. Neither the premise nor the characters from Angry Birds attracted studio Sony to the property—the title did. In essence, the studio just wanted to use the title as a springboard to a marketing campaign, not to create a memorable film. The Angry Birds Movie might have come out more watchable than expected, but don’t expect the same for Candy Crush: The Movie.
5 Pregnancy — Zoolander 2
The original Zoolander, while not a major hit way back in 2001, has, as many comedies do, built up a sizable cult audience on DVD. Movies of course play differently on a small screen as opposed to a packed movie house. At-home viewers can chat, use their phones, get up for a snack, pause the movie, or just continue watching it at a later date. Zoolander 2 overlooked this phenomenon, thinking that a big-screen theatrical release would please the DVD cult. Of course, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Farrell and the rest of the cast would probably never accept a direct-to-DVD production. Then again, maybe that should have sent a signal that audiences didn’t really want a Zoolander sequel.
Nor did audiences expect a sequel to rely so heavily on raunchy humor. Zoolander had fun sending up the runway model business, while Zoolander 2 goes for a more anarchic approach. Case in point: Kiefer Sutherland’s cameo as himself in an orgy later “pays off” by having the actor get pregnant and have a miscarriage. In what universe is a miscarriage—even one endured by a man—ever funny? The insanely distasteful joke betrays the inner desperation of Stiller & company to find laughs in a premise that had run out of them. Let’s hope they learned their lesson this time, and won’t subject the world to Zoolander 3.
4 The School Bus chase — Independence Day: Resurgence
An Independence Day sequel seemed like a good idea. The original 1996 movie still has a nostalgic following even today, despite (or perhaps because of) its schlocky style. Much as The Force Awakens caught up with beloved characters years later, so too would Independence Day: Resurgence. Unfortunately, long-belated sequels have a common pitfall involving casting. Directors want to bring back all the characters of the original, but in sequels, finding a function for those returning characters proves tricky.
Resurgence featured a welcome return by actor Judd Hirsch, who spends most of the movie’s runtime driving a school bus of orphans across the country. He, of course, arrives and unites with the movie’s main characters for the movie’s climactic chase. His subplot adds nothing to the movie, other than to have Hirsch back in the fold. A talented, Oscar-nominated actor, Hirsch deserved better. Suggestion to Roland Emmerich: next time, drop one of the new, young pretty people in favor of an actor like Judd Hirsch! He’s more interesting anyway!
Oh, and as for the scene he was brought back for? Hirsch, Jeff Goldblum and co. manage to elude the pursuit of the giant alien queen (who's knocking fighter jets out of the sky like really slow moving flies) in a school bus. The bright yellow kind. Awesome stuff, guys.
Bonus points for Maika Monroe's laughably unconvincing battle cry as her jet swoops in to take the on the Queen.
3 A college age daughter in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2
Nia Vardalos shocked Hollywood way back in 2002 when her quirky, indie rom-com My Big Fat Greek Wedding became the little movie that could. Released that summer, it managed to rake in $241 million in box office receipts in the US alone, and stood alongside other blockbusters like Spider-Man and Minority Report. Vardalos scored an Oscar nomination for the screenplay, and she launched a career as an unlikely leading lady. Vardalos, however, never quite lived up to the precedent of her success. Her subsequent films like Connie & Carla and My Life in Ruins flopped, as did a short-lived Greek Wedding TV spinoff, My Big Fat Greek Life. Her skidding career made a Greek Wedding sequel inevitable…not that the public really wanted one.
In particular, audiences probably didn’t want the movie to make the odd jump of giving Vardalos’ character a 17-year-old daughter. For our readers unfamiliar with math, only 14 years have past since the first Greek Wedding debuted in theatres. That makes the daughter subplot into a transparent act of desperation to give a sequel some otherwise non-existent story fodder. Even die hard fans of the original movie had to roll their eyes at the questionable temporal validity of the choice. Maybe that’s why My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 bombed at the box office.
2 Too much tech in Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk
Without question, Ang Lee is one of the best directors alive. Having scored two directing Oscars—a feat few others have ever matched—Lee’s filmography runs the gamut from the kung-fu poetry of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to superhero fare with Hulk and indie drama with Brokeback Mountain. Unfortunately for everyone, Lee seems to have succumbed to the same bug that hurt the reputations of other beloved directors like George Lucas and Peter Jackson.
In Hollywood, directors have a bad habit of becoming obsessed with advancing filmmaking in significant ways, particularly after directing standard dramas which win them awards. Lee submitted Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk in 2016. Based on the beloved 2012 novel of the same name, Lee filmed the movie using a groundbreaking 120fps digital film, shot the movie in 3-D, and in super high resolution. In fact, only five theatres in the country actually had the technology to show the movie as Lee intended!
Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk may have impressed some on a technical level, but on a dramatic one, it came up short. Many who walked into the theatre expecting to see a heartfelt tale that just so happened to be gorgeously filmed (a la Lee's previous effort, Life of Pi) likely found themselves completely overwhelmed by the movie's visual spectacle--and not in a good way. Rather than attempting to launch the filmmaking industry into a new technological age in a story that was ill-fit for such a feat, we found ourselves wishing that more time had been spent fine-tuning the screenplay.
1 Madea’s Halloween use of Youtube Stars
Tyler Perry continues to perplex critics and Hollywood observers alike. While his films refreshingly revolve around African-American families and stories, they also often suffer from bad acting, bad writing, and horrid direction. In 2016, Perry returned to his (popular?) Madea character in, Boo! A Madea Halloween. The eighth film in the series, it found the character fighting ghosts and crashing frat parties in her usual crazy style. It also found Tyler Perry casting YouTube stars as a stunt.
Now, plenty of talented performers have debuted on YouTube, and the medium of itself shouldn’t damn a career. Perry, however, appears to use his YouTubers only for name value. None have significant roles in the movie, other than to pop up in cameos. If Perry thought he’d win audience converts by including YouTube stars in his movie, he was mistaken. Boo! A Madea Halloween made $75 million at the box office—an impressive total for a movie shot in six days on a $20 million budget. Still, it only reaffirmed the low-rent exploitation onus that Perry’s name carries.
Perry has proven himself a fine producer, and his movies have done well enough that he could probably secure bigger budgets for his projects. Should he want to emerge beyond his somewhat niche market, maybe Tyler Perry should vacate the writer-director’s chair and let a more capable workman helm the movie. That way, he might actually make a good one!
Did we leave out your most cringe-inducing movie moment of the year? Tell us in the comments!