The '90s was a decade filled with wonderful movies: Pulp Fiction, The Silence of the Lambs, Toy Story, Goodfellas, and The Shawshank Redemption are still highly regarded today. However, it was also a decade in which some truly horrendous movies came out.
It was a transitionary period in which movie studios didn’t know what the next box office sensation would be. It was a time when studios were throwing the proverbial spaghetti at the wall, just to see what would stick. A lot of movies were poorly received, but some clearly stand out above the rest.
This isn't to say that these movies are the worst of all time. Rotten Tomatoes doesn’t simply measure the quality of the film, but instead measures the percentage of critics who liked it. A movie that everyone agrees is slightly below average will receive a worse score than a movie that is loved by a few and hated by everyone else.
There are also some terrible movies that Rotten Tomatoes hasn’t been able to aggregate, due to lack of enough reviews for. The infamous Troll 2 received a score of 6%, but that score is based on only 18 reviews most of which were published well after the movie came out.
Here are the 20 Worst Movies of the '90s (According to Rotten Tomatoes).
20 Hook (1991) 29%
Perhaps the most beloved movie to appear on this list, it may be shocking to hear that Hook was critically panned when it was released and remains the worst reviewed movie in Steven Spielberg’s directorial career (behind even the unbelievably bad 1941).
The movie was a box office success making over $119 million and was enjoyed by viewers (with an audience score of 76%), but failed to capture the imaginations of critics.
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote, “No matter how much cash Hook earns, it will take more than pixie dust to fly this overstuffed package into our dreams”. Similarly, Roger Ebert said in his review of the movie, “The conclusion of Hook would be embarrassingly excessive even for a movie in which something of substance had gone before”.
19 The Flintstones (1994) 22%
We only have ourselves to blame for our current climate of reboots, remakes, and sequels. Why would Hollywood invest in original ideas and screenplays when a live-action reboot of The Flintstones can gross over $130 million; breaking Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’s record for the highest debut on Memorial Day weekend.
Quentin Curtis of The Independent wrote, “The 32 scriptwriters' idea of a joke is to suffix every name with rock. The opening title announces the film as a "Steven Spielrock" production. And it's downhill from there, with an avalanche of rubbish at our heels”.
While most critics wrote The Flintstones off as a below average cash grab, the movie did have some defenders. Caryn James of The New York Times wrote, “While the movie may act like a madeleine for television-obsessed baby-boomers, it works even better as a colorful playland that will appeal to small children”.
18 Spawn (1997) 18%
Spawn is an adaptation of the comic book series of the same name. It tells a violent, grisly story of a super soldier who dies, goes to hell, and is then tasked with leading hell’s armies. In order to appeal to a wider audience, filmmakers tried to keep the final product at a PG-13 rating.
The result was a box office success, but a critical flop. Spawn doubled its $40 million budget and grossed over $87 million at the box office.
In his review of Spawn, Jay Boyar of The Orlando Sentinel wrote, “This barely coherent hunk of junk is like a cheap horror film with only a suggestion of the grisliness that appeals to fans of cheap horror films.” Similarly, Lisa Alspector of The Chicago Reader wrote, “This hopelessly redundant action gross-out aspires to a form of hip vacuousness -- and may achieve it.”
17 Judge Dredd (1995) 17%
Unfortunately, 1995 was not a good year for Sylvester Stallone. In addition to the aforementioned Assassins, he was also the star of Judge Dredd, which is now best known for its appearance on practically every “bad movie” podcast and web series. While the costume, make-up, and special effects departments were receiving acclaim for their work, Sylvester Stallone was receiving awards for “worst actor”.
Critics called the movie uneven, saying that its mixture of comedy and violence fell flat. Todd McCarthy of Variety called Judge Dredd, “A thunderous, unoriginal futuristic hardware show for teenage boys”, and Geoff Andrew of Time Out said, “this slam-bang Stallone vehicle never quite delivers what its confident, fizzing visuals seem to promise”.
James Berardinelli predicted its “so bad it’s good” status when he said, “Sometimes, it's rather amusing, but it's impossible to decide whether this is accidental or on purpose”.
16 The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990) 16%
When it came out in 1990, The Bonfire of the Vanities seemed to be a sure-fire hit. Based on the bestselling novel by Tim Wolfe, the star-studded cast included the likes of: Bruce Willis, Melanie Griffith, Morgan Freeman, and then up and comer Tom Hanks.
The director, Brian DePalma, was hot off the success of The Untouchables and the critically praised Casualties of War. All of the parts seemed to be in place to make a serious contender for year-end awards.
The movie debuted in December and it bombed spectacularly, making back $15 million of its $47 million budget. The critical response was even worse. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave it 0 stars and wrote, “On film, Bonfire achieves a consistency of ineptitude rare even in this era of over-inflated cinematic airbags.”
15 Assassins (1995) 15%
Assassins was the first script by The Wachowskis to be made into a feature-length film. The movie, which was helmed by Superman director Richard Donner, bombed at the box office and with critics. It lost $20 million dollars and remains the Wachowskis' worst reviewed movie.
Critics specifically picked on the script and the movie’s acting. James Berardinelli of ReelViews wrote, “In addition to Stallone's inflexible facial expression, the film is saddled with a preposterous script and hideous dialogue. Plus, it weighs in at a too-long one-hundred thirty-two minutes.”
Roger Ebert gave Assassins 1.5/4 stars and wrote, “this movie is filled with such preposterous impossibilities that Forrest Gump could have improved it with a quick rewrite.”
14 Chairman of the Board (1997) 13%
Chairman of the Board seems like it should be a parody movie on an episode of The Simpsons rather than an actual movie. Starring, of all people, Scott ‘Carrot Top’ Thompson, the movie is about a surf bum who befriends a wealthy business woman and subsequently inherits her fortune 500 company when she dies a few weeks later.
It cost $10 million to make and only managed to earn back $181,233 at the box office. It was very poorly received and is considered one of the worst movies ever made, currently sitting at #67 on IMDb's bottom 100 list.
In a 2002 review of the film, Keith Phipps of The AV Club wrote, “Chairman Of The Board isn't a good movie, but, look, it's a Carrot Top movie. Anyone popping down seven bucks to see it will either know the dangers going in or be too stupid to care.”
13 Striptease (1996) 12%
Striptease, the winner of 6 Razzie Awards in 1997 including: Worst Picture, Worst Actress, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, and Worst Screen Couple. The movie tells the story of an ex-FBI secretary who, after losing her job and her daughter, is forced to become a dancer in Miami where a U.S. congressman falls in love with her.
Demi Moore was paid a record-breaking $12.5 million to star in the movie and was the reason most people went to see it. Striptease was hated by critics and was later nominated for “Worst Movie of the Decade” in 2000.
When writing about the film, Rita Kempley of The Washington Post said, “the film’s premise is thinner than the heroin’s G-string”, but Jay Boyar of The Orlando Sentinel wrote, “if you get stuck at Striptease, my advice is to relax and try to enjoy its occasional pleasures”.
12 Batman and Robin (1997) 10%
The Tim Burton/Michael Keaton Batman movies were very well received in 1989 and 1992. When Keaton was replaced by Val Kilmer and Tim Burton was replaced by Joel Schumacher for Batman Forever in 1995, the critical response dropped significantly. The final iteration before Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Batman & Robin was a disaster.
Featuring the infamous nipple costume, the movie was nominated for 11 Razzies and was panned by critics and audiences alike.
In his 2017 revisit of the film, Jason Bailey of Flavorwire writes, “Schumacher is like a bad stepdad who thinks we'll love him if he just feeds us candy all day. (Yes, Burton is the daddy in this metaphor - the manic-depressive, annoyingly emo daddy)”. Steven Rea of The Philadelphia Inquirer called the movie a “loud, long and pointless spectacle.”
11 Beverly Hills Cop III (1994) 10%
Beverly Hills Cop is a classic film that propelled Eddie Murphy to stardom. Beverly Hills Cop II isn’t as great, but is far from a terrible movie. Beverly Hills Cop III is a disaster that remains one of the worst reviewed movies in Eddie Murphy’s career, which includes bombs like Norbit, The Haunted Mansion, and Nutty Professor II: The Klumps.
The movie doubled its production budget and grossed $119 million worldwide, but it was reviled by audiences and critics alike. Audiences didn’t like the series' pivot away from comedy and many critics accused the movie of being a lazy cash grab.
Caryn James of The New York Times wrote, “as surely as if it were a McDonald's or a Burger King, Beverly Hills Cop III is part of a money-making franchise, though this one has been abandoned for so long it has cobwebs on top of cobwebs”.
10 Milk Money (1994) 8%
It should come as no surprise that Milk Money is a terrible movie. The film begins with three young boys paying a call girl to flash them and ends with that same woman falling in love with one of the boy’s fathers.
John Mattson’s script, which was later nominated for a Razzie, was sold to Paramount Pictures for $1.1 million. This was a cost that was easily made up by the movie’s box office performance, as it grossed $45.1 million domestically.
However, the critics were not as kind. Leonard Klady of Variety described the movie as, “a misguided comedy with Hall of Shame pedigree." Stephen Hunter of The Baltimore Sun described the movie as, “A work so rancid and alienating you can only suppose it was planned as a tax loss”.
9 Spy Hard (1996) 8%
1995 may not have been a good year for Sylvester Stallone, but the entire decade of the 1990s was bad for Leslie Nielsen. Of the 8 movies he starred in throughout the decade, none managed to receive received positive reviews. Spy Hard is another attempted action parody in the vein of the much more successful The Naked Gun and Airplane! movies.
Spy Hard turned a profit, but was accused of vutting corners by critics who wished the movie would have used Leslie Nielsen’s comedic talents better.
When writing about the movie John Petrakis of The Chicago Tribune said, “As funny as Nielsen can be, like all comic actors he still needs the quick-thinking jokes and zingy one-liners to be genuinely funny”, and Ralph Novak of People Magazine called it a, “haphazardly executed send-up”.
8 Cool as Ice (1991) 8%
Six months after his show-stopping performance in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Secrets of the Ooze, Vanilla Ice was ready for his next career move. In 1991, he starred in Cool as Ice, a modern remake of the 1953 Marlon Brando film, The Wild One.
The movie’s plot surrounds a drifting rap group/bike gang, lead by Vanilla Ice, who shake up life for the residents of a small town. The plot takes several bizarre turns, including a bizarre revelation about secret identities and a kidnapping by corrupt cops.
Cool as Ice was critically panned and only made back $1.2 million of its $6 million budget. Richard Harrington of The Washington Post wrote, “Having established that he can't rap or dance, Vanilla Ice now adds acting to his resume -- call it the tri-imperfecta of pop”
7 Ghost Dad (1990) 7%
In the early '90s, Bill Cosby was one of the biggest stars on the planet. The Cosby Show ran for a very successful 8 seasons and was the highest rated show on television five years in a row from 1985-1990.
Ghost Dad was directed by Oscar winner Sidney Poitier and, at least on paper, seemed to be a surefire success. While the production budget for Ghost Dad was never reported, it only grossed $24 million at the box office and received overwhelmingly negative reviews.
In his 1.5/4 star review, John Hartl of The Seattle Times said that the best thing about the movie was its short 83-minute runtime and wrote that, “Ghost Dad may be the dumbest major-studio movie of this none-too-bright summer.”
6 Mr. Magoo (1997) 7%
The Flintstones proved that there was a lot of potential money to make in live-action remakes of cartoons from the 1960s. To this end, Disney decided to revive the UPA animation cartoon, Mr. Magoo, a retired millionaire whose refusal to admit he is nearly blind leads to a series of comical misadventures.
The movie only ran in theaters for 2 weeks before a backlash from blind and near-sighted groups forced Disney to cut its losses. It only managed to gross $20 million against a $30 million budget before it was pulled.
Critics were not kind to Mr. Magoo. In his review, Roger Ebert wrote, “Mr. Magoo is transcendently bad. It soars above ordinary badness as the eagle outreaches the fly. There is not a laugh in it. Not one.”
5 Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot (1992) 4%
Sylvester Stallone has made some terrible movies, but 1992’s Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot is one of the worst. Stallone even admitted this in an interview with Ain’t It Cool News when he said it was, "maybe one of the worst films in the entire solar system, including alien productions we’ve never seen". He went on to say that, "a flatworm could write a better script".
The movie is about a tough cop whose mother comes to stay with him and increasingly interferes with his life. The movie went on to turn a profit, but it was despised by critics.
In his review of the film, Roger Ebert said, “It is moronic beyond comprehension, an exercise in desperation during which even Sylvester Stallone, a repository of self-confidence, seems to be disheartened”.
4 Cool World (1992) 4%
The worst rated movie of Brad Pitt’s career is also one of his strangest. The original script for Cool World was about a cartoonist who fathers an illegitimate half-real/half-cartoon daughter. The daughter hates herself and her father and subsequently tries to kill him.
That script was scrapped by the movie’s original producer and was later re-written as a story about an animated world in which cartoons can become real if they "mate"with a human.
The result is a creative and commercial mess that lost $15 million at the box office. Critics praised its visual style, but criticized its story and one-dimensional characters.
Brian Lowry of Variety described the movie as, “A realm with precious little humor and zero pathos, to be admired only for its considerable technical achievements” and Roger Ebert described it as, “a surprisingly incompetent film” in his 1-star review.
3 Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997) 3%
When Mortal Kombat came out in 1995, it received a very mixed reaction. Critics gave it below average ratings while audiences rated it slightly above average. Its sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, received no mixed reviews -- only bad ones.
Annihilation still managed to make a $20 million profit, but it was hated by audiences and critics. In his 1.5/4 star review, Steven Rea of The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote, “Never -- at least not since the first Mortal Kombat -- has tedium been so loud, so full of backward flips and flying fists to the kissers of centaurs from another realm”.
The critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes reads, “with its shallow characters, low budget special effects, and mindless fight scenes, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation offers minimal plot development and manages to underachieve the low bar set by its predecessor”.
2 Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997) 3%
Speed was one of the biggest hits of 1994. It grossed over $350 million worldwide and has a 93% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Its sequel, Speed 2: Cruise Control, wasn’t able to get anywhere near that level of success.
The movie was supposed to star Keanu Reeves, but the star of the original movie pulled out in pre-production. The critical consensus on Rotten Tomatoes is harsh, but succinct: “Speed 2 falls far short of its predecessor, thanks to laughable dialogue, thin characterization, unsurprisingly familiar plot devices, and action sequences that fail to generate any excitement.”
In his DVD review of the film, Stephen Thompson of The AV Club said, “Speed cost something like $30 million; this sequel cost four times as much. So why is it such a feeble, aimless piece of junk in comparison?”
1 Baby Geniuses (1999) 2%
The worst reviewed movie on this list was also a box office success. Considered one of the worst movies ever made, Baby Geniuses is another movie that seems like it ought to be a parody rather than an actual movie.
It made $36 million dollars at the box office, which was good enough to spawn a sequel Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2. The sequel is currently ranked at #3 on IMDb's bottom 100 list. The original also holds a spot on the list, but it’s the much more respectable #71.
The movie landed a spot on Roger Ebert’s most hated movies. In his review of the movie he wrote, “Babies are cute only when they're being babies. When they're presented as miniature adults (on greeting cards, in TV commercials or especially in this movie), there is something so fundamentally wrong that our human instincts cry out in protest.”
Are you a fan of any of these critically panned movies of the '90s? Let us know in the comments!