The problem with “Worst Movie of the Year” lists is that they’re never even close to being accurate. Sure, they’re typically filled with bad movies ‐ but they’re bad films that were “good” enough to get a theatrical wide release. While it can be fun slinging insults at the latest Adam Sandler film it’s guaranteed to be better than some of the absolute garbage that only gets a release straight to DVD or VOD. Pixels may be bad, but Muck is pure torture.
An actual “Worst of the Year” list would be filled with titles most people haven’t even heard of, and there’s zero fun in that.
Instead we’re listing the year’s most disappointing movies. They’re not all bad, but none of them fulfilled the promise of the talent involved or, in the case of a couple sequels, of the films that came before them. So here, in increasing order of disappointment, are Jack Giroux’s and my picks for the year’s biggest letdowns.
15. Bone Tomahawk
Far too many of you inexplicably love this misfire, so I’m just going to get it out of the way first. A western about frontier cannibals starring Kurt Russell, Richard Jenkins, Patrick Wilson, and Matthew Fox sounds like a guaranteed success, but its execution misses the mark far more often than it strikes its target. Russell is a man born to shoot guns, talk with a drawl, and wear that glorious mustache, and yes, the final thirty minutes feature some brutal action and kills, but far too much of the film’s seventeen-hour running time is a sad and silly slog. Everyone but Russell overacts, characters behave without logic, dialogue feels “written” as opposed to natural, and time is spent on so many inconsequential events. I wish I loved it ‐ I really and truly thought I would ‐ but instead I’m content being a minority of one (and the guy who gets to write this list). ‐ Rob
14. Fantastic Four
20th Century Fox
Josh Trank’s superhero reboot had its fair share of production troubles, and it shows in the final product. Fantastic Four isn’t disappointing because it’s a bad movie, but because it’s mediocre one that shows signs of potential. The first hour takes its time building up these friendships, but then the movie turns into a hot mess once Dr. Doom reappears. After the film jumps forward in time, it abandons its characters and tone. ‐ Jack
It’s not that we thought Cameron Crowe’s latest would be great ‐ it’s that we truly hoped it would be. Say Anything, Almost Famous, and Vanilla Sky are all immensely memorable films, but the past decade has seen our faith in Crowe in decline, and Aloha might just be the nail in his cinematic coffin. It’s an absolute mess of ideas that barely function individually let alone in conjunction with others, and all of the beautiful Hawaiian scenery and talented performers can’t do a damn thing to help it. ‐ Rob
12. Black Mass
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Some have hailed Black Mass as Johnny Depp’s return-to-form. It’s true ‐ Depp is very good under all that makeup ‐ but it’s a performance serving a strangely unsatisfying crime film. Thematically, there’s not much to contemplate in director Scott Cooper’s film. When it comes to its end, you’re not left with much besides a handful of strong scenes and an intimidating performance from Depp. Cooper has a firm grasp on tension and has a way with actors, but the end result is severely muddled. ‐ Jack
11. Crimson Peak
I know, I know. Guillermo del Toro’s latest isn’t a horror movie! It’s a gothic romance! Except it is a horror movie. Sure the gothic romance elements are there too, but the film is packed with (ineffective) jump scares, gory bits, and ghosts. Neither genre really succeeds here ‐ it’s never scary or unsettling, and the dark tale is empty of anything aside from pretty visuals. To be clear, the movie is gorgeous and features some of the year’s best production design, but it’s difficult to care about anyone or anything in it. The characters are all obvious and bland, and the events are more dumb than mysterious. ‐ Rob
The Weinstein Co.
Antoine Fuqua (The Equalizer) knows how to craft brutal, R-rated fun. With the exception of Training Day though, compelling drama isn’t quite his forte, and that’s a problem for his newest film. Of course the boxing scenes are exciting, starring a ripped and fully present Jake Gyllenhaal, but Kurt Sutter’s script is more calculated than familiar, and it hits all the familiar boxing drama beats very loudly. ‐ Jack
9. In the Heart of the Sea
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Director Ron Howard has delivered some fantastic films over the years ‐ Ransom, Backdraft, Night Shift ‐ but after a string of mostly duds he returned to top form with 2013’s Rush. So the announcement that he’d be reuniting with Chris Hemsworth for an epic tale of man against nature it was only natural that we got a little bit excited. Unfortunately, aside from some truly spectacular whale action the majority of the film bobs along aimlessly with uninteresting characters, generic squabbles, and “drama” we’ve seen far too many times. It’s still worth seeing in a second-run theater for the whale scenes, but the rest will leave you thirsty for dry land. ‐ Rob
The first hour of Focus is a playful and lean con movie, but then another movie begins ‐ and it’s a far less satisfying film. There’s no question Will Smith and Margot Robbie have chemistry, but it’s just not enough to make this a believable romantic comedy. Following the delightful I Love You Phillip Morris and the enjoyable Crazy, Stupid, Love, directors John Requa and Glenn Ficarra make their most polished film also their least satisfying. ‐ Jack
7. Secret In Their Eyes
To answer your first question, yes, this is a movie that played in theaters this year. You’d be forgiven for forgetting about it as nobody went to see it. As a big fan of the 2009 Argentinian original I knew better than to be all that excited for an American remake, but the story is strong, the director (Billy Ray) is competent, and the cast (Chiwetel Ejiofor, Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman) is stellar. So what went wrong? As it turns out, just about everything outside of the performances misfired. The story was changed just enough to lose everything that made the original so powerful, the ending falls flat instead of leaping angrily into our faces, and even the original’s memorable stadium tracking shot fails to come together here. ‐ Rob
Director Sam Mendes’ followup to the highly successful Skyfall is a James Bond mixed tape featuring both the best and worst hallmarks of the franchise ‐ with a heavy lean toward the latter. Female characters are paper thin, Bond’s quips are tonally at odds with the seriousness of the film, and the villain, played by a miscast Christoph Waltz, is never a real threat to Bond, no matter how elaborate his schemes are. Daniel Craig is still in fine form in the role, but Spectre is, ultimately, a bloated and emotionless spy movie. ‐ Jack
5. Furious 7
It’s possible this one deserves some slack due to the tragedy of Paul Walker’s death during production, but as sad as that was his absence isn’t where the film falters. The back half of the series, parts five and six in particular, revel in logic-free, physics-defying action involving cars, bodies, and other large objects doing things we know to be impossibly ridiculous, but part seven raises the stupidity while lowering the fun. A couple hand-to-hand fight scenes aside the action here is both stupid and dull. The series is no stranger to CG assists, but here far too much of what we’re seeing is computer magic. And before you tell me “But they really dropped cars out of a plane!” please realize that this is less of a cool stunt than it is an expensive demonstration of gravity. ‐ Rob
4. Jupiter Ascending
A huge, original sci-fi fantasy is the kind of movie you want to root for, especially if it’s written and directed by the Wachowskis. The filmmaking duo are never not ambitious, so when they miss the mark, at least it’s interesting to watch ‐ but that’s just not the case with Jupiter Ascending. The Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis-led film never builds a tangible world both because of the CG-heavy environments and the unfortunate outcome that neither story nor stakes ever feel tangble. You’re always at a distance from the film and its occupants. When a wolf/human hybrid fights a giant flying lizard it should be a sight to behold, but it falls ridiculously flat. But hey, at least Eddie Remayne has a lot of fun in this one. ‐ Jack
3. [REC] 4: Apocalypse
After absolutely loving [Rec] and [Rec] 2 ‐ and accepting Rec : Genesis as an anomaly due to Paco Plaza flying solo in the director’s chair without his usual co-director ‐ I had high hopes that the stronger of the two filmmakers, Jaume Balagueró (Sleep Tight), would close out the franchise in gloriously terrifying fashion. Instead what we got was the worst of the series. There’s nothing remotely apocalyptic about it as the action takes place entirely in a confined space ‐ a ship instead of the first two films’ apartment building ‐ and it’s utterly devoid of scares, innovations, or interesting story turns. Sure it’s nice seeing the return of Ángela (Manuela Velasco), but one gory kill aside she’s wasted along with everyone and everything else here. ‐ Rob
Michael Mann’s (Heat) thriller isn’t as exciting or as thoughtful as his previous efforts. Even as a major fan of Miami Vice and Public Enemies (laugh all you want, I don’t care), it’s hard to defend his latest. Mann returns to familiar tropes in this cold, high-stakes thriller, and gives us a lead (Chris Hemsworth) who rarely offers a compelling point-of-view. The filmmaking is often gorgeous ‐ visceral, dirty, and intimate set pieces ‐ but Mann can’t quite gloss over the rushed romance and other major problems. ‐ Jack
1. Avengers: Age of Ultron
Hopes were higher for this film than most others on the list due entirely to the fact that the first Avengers is so damn entertaining ‐ and the entire team, both before and behind the camera ‐ was returning for the sequel. Instead of more fantastic action, big laughs, and solid character beats though we instead got the most bloated film in history. Too many characters, all vying for a stand-out moment and failing to find one, fill the screen and drown out the fun. The script does no one any favors, least of all the audience, and the result is an ugly, uninteresting mess resting far too heavily on its laurels and the good faith of Marvel fans. ‐ Rob