Top movies and great movies are often two completely different things as you’re about to discover. Going over the list of all-time US gross at IMDb, that becomes immediately visible. While it’s okay if you stumbled in to one or two of these expecting a good time, if you liked half, all, or even three of the flicks on this list, then congratulations. You are what’s wrong with America.
James Cameron’s long-awaited follow-up to Titanic should have been a grand return to the action/sci-fi genre after Terminator, T2: Judgment Day, and Aliens. Unfortunately, Avatar is one terrible cliche after another with cheesy dialogue and a heavy-handed political message. The FX make for a pretty cartoon, but it’s hardly what one could call filmmaking. Yet somehow, fans and critics alike enjoyed it, making it more than just one of the top movies, but actually the highest grossing film of all time. Still, we’re inclined to agree with holdouts Devin Faraci (CHUD), who described it as “hackneyed, corny and trite,” and Philip Martin (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette), who called it “a big, dumb movie built to make money but hardly worthy of serious examination,” and Joshua Tyler (CinemaBlend), who points out that “Cameron missed the irony in making a preachy, anti-technology movie using the most technologically advanced tools available.”
2. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
We should probably include Episode II – Attack of the Clones and Episode III – Revenge of the Sith as well since neither film is much better, but that would be a cop-out since there are other really bad movies that deserve our attention. Therefore, we’ll stick with The Phantom Menace, which combined one of the worst child actors with one of the worst animated ones for a less-than-juvenile affair. Making the future Darth Vader a grating little boy started the entire prequel trilogy off on the wrong foot, and the dialogue sounds like it was written by the little guy himself. Perhaps worst of all, the virtual world Lucas creates with his hundreds of millions of dollars in FX are less than convincing. The film doesn’t encourage imagination. It smothers it. Not surprisingly, audiences flocked to see this and its follow-ups, making the prequel trilogy three of the top movies ever made.
3. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
As fun as the first live-action Transformers film was, it can almost be forgiven that the second turned out successful. But this is the Internet, people. We have the ability to spread opinions far and wide and warn all of our friends and family about movies this awful. You should have made it your mission to trash this hunk of junk every free moment if you were one of the unlucky ones, who had to wait in line to see it on opening night. But you didn’t. No, instead you allowed it to turn a profit, AND you got Michael Bay back for the third and fourth films. Seriously, what’s wrong with you people?
4. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
I knew I was in trouble 10 to 15 minutes into this thing when Indiana (Harrison Ford) climbed in to a lead refrigerator to survive a nuclear blast. As if the explosion wasn’t bad enough, the unforgiving container is tossed about 100 feet into the air and crashes to the ground with our hero inside. Even though he walked away alive and well and finished out the rest of the movie, I knew in that moment, Indiana Jones had died, and I never wanted to see him again in another adventure. Unfortunately, in the mad rush to check out the first Indy film in forever, audiences made it yet another entry on this list of terrible top movies and also (probably) the worst successful film of all time.
5. The Twilight Saga
No one is saying women shouldn’t have the right to swoon over hot-looking young guys, even though the phenomenon these films created of late-30s/early-40s moms wearing Team Edward and Team Jacob T-shirts was more than a little creepy. But couldn’t you pick a better series of movies for such an activity? I don’t know. The books may have been excellent. I didn’t read them, but will allow for that point. Even so, the first film is heinous. In act one, Edward stalks Bella, warning her to stay away from him at every turn. Thing is, she isn’t approaching the guy. If he’d just shut up and not talk to her, he’d get exactly what he wants. Then the glittering comes. And the baseball. By the time it was finished, I was finished. Unfortunately, most moviegoers were not. In five films, the franchise grossed close to $3.4 billion on combined budgets of about $400 million.
6. The Matrix Reloaded
In series of top movies like The Matrix, you can generally tell when one entry has disappointed audiences. And that doesn’t necessarily mean the disappointment will show in the numbers. Such was the case with The Matrix Reloaded. For starters, it was pretty clear the movie only happened because the first was a surprise hit. The Wachowskis had to keep their little money train moving and when they collectively crapped out this second film a few years after their 1999 blockbuster, there was a sense it was because the iron was hot rather than having any ideas of value to continue the story. Audiences, remembering the movie they loved, turned out in droves, making Reloaded a $742 million hit on a budget of only $150 million. But the fact its follow-up, The Matrix Revolutions, lost 42 percent of its audience is telling.
7. The Blind Side
I hate “true story” movies that inaccurately portray actual characters for the sake of narrative. That’s what happened with The Blind Side, an undeniable success for star Sandra Bullock. The film took great care in making the Tuohys look like heroes to a hapless black youth, who couldn’t tell offense from defense on a football field. Through audience manipulation, the film earned Academy Award nominations and a hefty box office take in spite of the fact it completely mischaracterized Michael Oher, who (rightly) didn’t appreciate the portrayal. Talking to press in anticipation of the 2013 Super Bowl, Oher had this to say: “Football is what got me here and the movie, it wasn’t me. I always knew how to play football growing up. It was different personalities, stuff like that. Playing football is what got me to this point.” Not so, according to Hollywood’s take. But they know better, right?
8. Man of Steel
Sometimes critics take themselves too seriously when it comes to top movies, dissing films that audiences seem to love. Well, this time, the critics were 110 percent correct. Man of Steel is indeed a rotten film, earning just 56 percent among the nation’s top critics. This number is in stark contrast to the 79 percent score from the RT community. Fanboys are insane about MoS, and I’m sure every one of them hate me for including it here, but a turd is a turd is a turd. What’s especially upsetting about this Superman reboot is that it’s a watchable film up until the last 45 minutes. That’s when producer Christopher Nolan must have checked out, allowing director Zack Snyder complete autonomy. Snyder has a style that would make Ed Wood proud, with other flicks that include the over-hyped 300 and the mind-numbing Sucker Punch, both of which are jacked up on stupid-looking CGI effects. Here, he packs the final act with one ridiculous looking piece of it after another. And in the climactic battle between Zod and Supes, he even mixes CGI with the shaky cam, a filmmaking technique that should have been taken out behind the barn and shot several years ago, for a thoroughly disorienting and dissatisfying conclusion.
9. Die Another Day
Pierce Brosnan’s entire run as 007 was one of disappointment and missed opportunity, probably because he insisted on more and more creative control with each passing film. GoldenEye was a passable Bond, but it just got worse from there, culminating in the now infamous “surfboard scene” from Die Another Day, which looks exactly as good as the time Fonz jumped the shark on Happy Days. The only difference is that Fonz did his feat on no budget, while Die Another Day wasted a significant part of its $142 million play-money on that ignorance and everything that came after it. Oh yes, and you rewarded it by making it one of the year’s top movies with a $431 million take. Nice going, World.
Godzilla is the, well, Godzilla of all crap movies that you people turned in to a hit. Released on May 20, 1998, and shot on a Kong-sized budget of $130 million, it represented everything wrong with movies today. Shallow characterization, cliched scenarios, and a heavy reliance on CGI — that seems to be a recurring theme here — should have kept discerning audiences far away from the multiplexes that summer. Instead, US audiences made it profitable and the international crowd turned it into a bona fide smash. Even today, most people agree that it sucks, but where were you guys when it came out? Oh yeah, contributing to its $250 million in profits. As the big reptile himself would say, “Grrraaaaaarrrrgh!”
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