Some things refine themselves with age: certain cheeses, wine, Helen Mirren. But, not everything matures so gracefully. As we enter awards season, it feels like we end up talking about the "year's best" productions, and chatter centers around three or four top films. But, every now and again, certain cinematic creations are only beloved because our collective consciousness deems them so — or the hype around it felt like any criticism was unwarranted. Yet, certain big hits, ones that got A+ grades by audiences, critics, and award shows, wither when subjected to the passing of time.
Look, many people might not agree with this list, because a lot of these films are loved. Some even won awards. A few are staples on DVD shelves everywhere. But, whether fans like it or not, age hasn't been kind to these movies, which doesn't quite cut it in our critical eye in 2013. Hey, one day we will look back on Gravity or The Hunger Games and think each is rubbish. So, feel free to protest, but, hey — we're just callin' it as we see it.
(Spoiler: Titanic is not on this list. We love Titanic. Kate Winslet's dresses are still amazing.)
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Photo: Courtesy of Lions Gate Entertainment.
Crash — 2004
People. Of different races. All living in one city. Sometimes. Those people. Intersect. And, sometimes...they crash. Was this the tagline of the movie? It should have been. Paul Haggis' oversimplification of the complex, storied racial tensions in Los Angeles had the best intentions — to unpack a pretty tricky, modern issue — but instead feels like a lesson in multiculturalism. The end redemption is too easy. The interconnectivity is too convenient. And, even the effort to tear down stereotypes feel...stereotypical. Crash ditches nuance for a heavy-handed nature in "post-racial America," and the dramatic narrative finds itself wrapped up in a nice little consumable package. "We're always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much that we crash into each other just so we can feel something." Whoa. They said the name of the movie in the movie!
Photo: Courtesy of Franchise Pictures.
The Boondock Saints — 1999
Firstly, one thing must be made clear: Norman Reedus is the most special human being to have ever walked this planet. But, Boondock Saints
is fairly inexcusable. The incredible Willem Dafoe decided, early on that he was just going to harness his most insane performance ever and out-Nic-Cage Nic Cage. The film is rife with horrible stereotypes and even worse accents, from the Irish brothers (or cousins? They are referred to as both) to Italian mobsters to flamboyant homosexual caricatures. In fact, this movie is so bad that people have made a documentary about how horrible it is
. The film is a steaming pile of hyper-masculine sensationalism* and violence, which makes it catnip for teenagers — and that can't be good.
*Also, if the brothers are so against sin, wouldn't they be against themselves, as they are unapologetic murderers?
Photo: Courtesy of Dune Entertainment.
Avatar — 2009
The expectations coming into Avatar were so huge, so monumental, that you couldn't be let down by such a film. Avatar was supposed to revolutionize filmmaking, and, as such, storytelling, too. But, the magical world that James Cameron created seemed pretty reductive and simple, and mind-numbingly dumb plot details feel like jokes played on the audience in retrospect. ("Unobtainium," guys. Unobtainium is the point of the story.) The fact that Avatar doesn't look good on the average TV also lessens its longevity — but that has nothing on lines like, "I was a warrior who dreamed he could bring peace. Sooner or later, though, you always wake up." Also, while we have you here, why couldn't they just talk about a very simple compromise? Like, can't you drill *around* Hometree? Also, the inherent, problematic racism with the white man leading the "natives" is so deeply troubling that it is hard to watch in retrospect.
People cried over this movie. They cried.
Photo: Courtesy of Buena Vista Pictures.
Dangerous Minds — 1994
Though the critical opinion of Dangerous Minds may have changed, this movie was majorly popular when it came out. Perhaps it was Coolio's genius song or even the feel-good story of Pfeiffer's character teaching "the two Dylans" (Thomas and Bob, of course), but we all revered this movie as a "good" film about "serious" topics.
Of course, the narrative of Michelle Pfeiffer's nice, white teacher coming into a school filled with black kids and then plying them with candy and trips is tremendously problematic. Though it is based on a true story, the film is riddled with clichés and problematic depictions. (Michelle Pfeiffer wears a leather jacket! She's tough! Troubled kids will do anything for candy! Even change their lives!) The weird, ultra conservative, "There are no victims" undertone is also creepy, too.
Photo: Courtesy of Pandora Cinema.
Donnie Darko — 2001
So, Donnie Darko
was this cult classic that littered college campuses everywhere, sparking interest in metaphorical physics and alternative timelines. Yet, in order to really understand this movie, you apparently need some sort of guide created by director Richard Kelly
to illuminate the film's message, which is never
a good sign. The bottom line is the movie asks a lot of questions but doesn't provide any instinctually achieved answers, and the time-travel suggestion feels more like a quick fix or trope instead of a real revelation. (Also: Why is it set in the '80s? Simply for the amazing Tears For Fears cover? Which is admittedly
isn't a bad movie, per se, it's just one that belongs in smoky dorm rooms.
Photo: Courtesy of New Line Cinema.
The Notebook — 2004
Commence the throwing of vegetables, but before you do, take a look at Videogum's Gabe Delahaye's impassioned piece
about why this may be the worst movie of all time. Some excerpts: "I’m probably not the original intended audience for The Notebook
. I know that. But who is the intended audience for The Notebook
? Is it jerks? It must be jerks." Also, the poor treatment of Alzheimer's suffering Allie. "You know how families are: always lying to mentally unstable moms because that is better for dramatic effect. What the f*ck is wrong with this family? She is the one who doesn’t always remember who you are, not the other way around, SO PICK UP THE SLACK, S**THEADS."
Plus, perhaps, the most egregious of all details. "Speaking of that story: I love that it deals with every minor detail ('and then he was in the garage, making a chair, and she came in and looked up, and he looked down, and he came down the ladder, taking a break from his work on the chair, but he would get back to his work on the chair later') of their courtship and then ends abruptly and never deals with anything that happened in the 60+ years that followed, including their actual LIVES TOGETHER, or the BIRTH OF THEIR CHILDREN, or the BIRTH OF THEIR GRANDCHILDREN." Enough said.
Photo: Courtesy of Hollywood Pictures.
The Sixth Sense — 1999
Just remember: The Sixth Sense was nominated for Best Film during the Academy Awards. Since, of course, it has become a running joke, with the "I see dead people" line whispered for comedic effect whenever someone is trying to be overdramatic. The movie, which was renowned for its twist ending, is an example of a film that has been ruined by the movies that came after it. M. Night Shyamalan's career has other less bright spots, and each one is known for having a twist ending, with The Sixth Sense haplessly being the prototype for dreck like Devil and The Happening. Sorry, Haley Joel Osment.
Photo: Courtesy of Miramax Films.
Finding Neverland — 2004
Here's a sad fact: Johnny Depp, for all of his great work, has been nominated for an Oscar thrice. Once for this, once for Sweeney Todd, and once for Pirates Of The Caribbean. None of these are a great representation of a career decently spent. Finding Neverland was a charming movie, with about as much quirk as a teacup. Though beloved by critics, this film has fallen prey to the fate of other mediocre Oscar noms, like Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World or The Insider, as being a movie which has no real niche audience.
Photo: Courtesy of TriStar Pictures.
The Doors — 1991
Bio-pics have a pretty easy formula to follow, and The Doors manages to hit all notes: Humble beginnings! Rise to fame! Drugs! Then...fall. While Val Kilmer certainly looks the part (which is one of the reasons it was initially so critically acclaimed), the "serious" filmmaking easily becomes schlocky and overindulgent. The extensive, badly arranged drug trip, Crispin Glover's weird Warhol wig, and then the way that Kathleen Quinlan throws a glass at Kilmer could be straight out of Walk Hard — the movie that is an exact parody of films like this. How impressed we once were with the film's depth has given way to nostalgic amusement. Yikes.
Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Inception — 2010
This is layman's philosophy at its absolute most obnoxious. Dude, let's do a movie where stuff is upside down, and it's crazy, because what happens if you mess with spacetime?! That's an actual transcript we acquired from the writer's room. Mind-bending dream sequences aside, it's still your basic heist movie, and not even a particularly interesting one at that. Yes, it's awesome in its way (particularly if certain green, leafy plants are involved), but it is also so insanely simplistic and in love with its own effects-driven dip into "sci-fi" that it ends up being more laughable than legit. Also, Christopher Nolan is a masterful director, but one who cannot sell audiences on a love story...especially one as complicated as this.
You've been Incepted!
Photo: Courtesy of Fox Searchlight.
Garden State — 2004
This was a very important movie for many teenagers. And, it has its moments. In retrospect, though, we have to say it is basically just watered-down Wes Anderson with a very heavy-handed Manic Pixie Dream Girl factor. The characters are supposed to be charming anti-heroes, but the truth is, they're just kind of obnoxious and unlikeable, and we don't have all that much sympathy. This movie is so incredibly hyper-conscious of its indie cuteness, it's suffocating.