Let’s be honest, I haven’t really seen the worst movies of 2015. There are plenty of terrible comedies (whose trailers I saw over and over again so that I know I hate them) that I did not see. There are plenty of movies that just didn’t look interesting to me, that I probably would have found boring, that I didn’t see. I did see a lot of movies though; in fact I saw a movie for every week of the year in 2015, so I’m not drawing from nothing here.
I went into all these movies thinking that there was at least a chance I would like them.
A great critic that speaks to you can give you an impression of how you’ll like a movie whether or not they liked it themselves. If there is a movie critic out there that good right now I haven’t found them. The second best option is to find a critic whose tastes seem to align with your own. This list is a testament to the fact that I haven’t been able to find that either this year.
Since my perspective seems to be unique, or at least underrepresented I might as well share it. To illustrate my point I’m going to include the rotten tomatoes score and (if there are any) Oscar nominations for the movies on this list
10. Straight Outta Compton
The careers of N.W.A. are fascinating, and their music is still very relevant today and Straight Outta Comptonwas brave enough to take that story and sand off all the edges until it became a palatable blob of a film. This movie is more interested in hitting bullet points than it is in telling a story.
The one reason to see this movie is for O’Shea Jackson Jr. giving an amazing performance as his dad, Ice Cube. “Fuck tha Police” and “No Vaseline” breathe life into the movie, but that only highlights how little the movie itself brings to the table. Listening to those tracks on their own tells you everything worth knowing here.
Nominated for 1 Academy Award – Writing (Original Screenplay)
Rotten Tomatoes Scores: Critics 88%; Audiences 93%
9. Ex Machina
With good performances and a thoughtful premise, Ex Machina had me in for much of its runtime, but it just fell apart at the end. Too much of the plot relies on the stupidity of main characters we’re told are geniuses. I also don’t like or care about them.
For all it does right, Ex Machina ultimately left me cold. It’s not so much terrible as it makes me mad for wasting its potential. A dumb movie cloaked in the veneer of intelligence.
Nominated for 2 Academy Awards – Visual Effects and Writing (Original Screenplay)
Rotten Tomatoes Scores: Critics 92%; Audiences 86%
8. The Revenant
A tortured man’s quest for revenge that just felt dull and uninvolved. The Revenant is more interested in religious symbolism and pretty landscapes than it is in story and characters. There’s an artificiality to everything, despite the actual pain and suffering the crew and cast went through to make the movie. This is a tale of a man suffering that wants to make sure the audience is safe behind a glass window, and never actually invested in what’s going on. An upsetting story that’s meant to not upset you (Or at least Academy voters). It’s also wrapped up in all kinds of typical casual racism to make sure that Academy voters are really at home.
This is a movie built for the Oscars that I mostly just found boring. The movie hits every nail as hard and obviously as it can because it knows there’s a good chance its audience has fallen asleep.
Nominated for 12 Academy Awards – Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role (), Actor in a Supporting Role (Tom Hardy), Cinematography, Costume Design, Directing, Film Editing, Makeup and Hairstyling, Production Design, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Visual Effects.
Rotten Tomatoes Scores: Critics 82%; Audiences 86%
No movie disappointed me more this year than Sicario. I really wanted a thriller staring Emily Blunt and I got none of that. Instead, her character is pointless to the overall story and is exploited and shit on to make a point. It’s also blatant and gross in the way it goes about doing this. Another movie much dumber than it makes itself out to be.
Sicario‘s opening moments are great and point toward a much better movie. After that though the movie is basically a good looking corpse: cold and rotten.
Nominated for 3 Academy Awards – Cinematography, Music (Original Score), and Sound Editing
Rotten Tomatoes Scores: Critics 93%; Audiences 86%
Ok, I was pretty sure this one was gonna be terrible, but I thought there was at least a chance it could be my kind of terrible. No such luck.
Early on though, it seems like Pan could pull off being a really entertainingly bad movie. Between Hugh Jackman’s scenery devouring and pirates chanting both “Smells like Teen Spirit” and “Blitzkrieg Bop” there’s some bad movie magic happening here.
Unfortunately those moments only come early on, and the rest of the movie is mostly just boringly bad. This is like a Hollywood producer’s dream of a movie, in all the bad ways. Turns the Peter Pan story into an action movie about a destined hero. It’d be funny if it weren’t so pathetic, cliché, and boring.
Rotten Tomatoes Scores: Critics 26%; Audiences 44%
5. Bridge of Spies
Bridge of Spies is a movie about a historical event which sounded interesting that convinced me that no, that historical event wasn’t interesting at all never mind.
I was mean and hateful in my review of Bridge of Spies, but I will say that it’s not entirely this movie’s fault that I hate it so much. However, I also don’t want to understate how much I fucking hated watching this movie. The review isn’t dishonest to how I felt. I didn’t mean to insult people who like it, but I feel like the movie was made for idiots; or at least people who want to turn their brains off and relax into a pile of gelatinous goo before watching a movie (Which is fair enough, sometimes that’s what you want to do). Like The Revenant, the movie assumes the audience fell asleep during it so it has to make everything simple and clear. I just did not have the stomach for the sentimentality, overly simplistic worldview and old school rah-rah nationalism Bridge of Spies offered up for consumption.
This isn’t a movie about the cold war, it’s cold war nostalgia. Nostalgia for a time when the fate of the world was determined by a few white men in suits; when women were irrelevant and black people were invisible. Like in so many of his movies, Spielberg’s boner for father figures is in full effect, but this movie does nothing to justify putting up with that. I desperately wanted other perspectives because the one on offer gave me nothing of value and just pissed me off.
I just don’t like any of the filmmaking here. The soundtrack is insufferable and the sound mixing utilizes it to drown out scenes entirely. The production design makes everything look fake and bland. And the movie doesn’t even hang together as one thing; it feels like two separate stories crammed together, which made the exasperation I had at the tedium of it all that much worse.
The script is fine, and there could have been a good movie here, but nothing is weighted right; the nuance is shorn off. I found this movie incredibly frustrating to sit through.
Nominated for 6 Academy Awards – Best Picture, Actor in a Supporting Role (Mark Rylance), Music (Original Score), Production Design, Sound Mixing, Writing (Original Screenplay)
Rotten Tomatoes Scores: Critics 91%; Audiences 89%
’71 is based on the true story of a British Soldier who became separated from his unit during a raid in Belfast in 1971. Like Straight Outta Compton there are parallels to draw between the situation in Ferguson and the military raids depicted here. Unfortunately this movie just doesn’t work on any level.
For one the main character, though based on a real person, feels like a living macguffin here. He travels around from place to place for the sake of scenes involving other characters so that the director can explore this conflict. He has no personality or screen presence and I just don’t care about him at all.
On top of that the director himself completely fails to establish any real sense of place here. There’s no tension in scenes of our hero being chased because it’s so unclear where anyone is in relation to anyone else.
Also, there are a bunch of story cliches here that just feel cheap. In particular that the movie twice goes to the well of killing a kid to show the horrors of war. Kinda three times actually as one of the kids manages to have it happen to himself twice.
I’m not sure what point this movie even wanted to make about The Troubles, but this movie just sucks.
Rotten Tomatoes Scores: Critics 96%; Audiences 81%
3. Fantastic Four
How is Fantastic Four only the third worst movie I saw this year, what the actual fuck?
This is a perfect storm of a bad movie: a director with a vision that doesn’t mesh with the source material; clear studio interference that muddles even that vision; a terrible, nonsensical final script; and just all around garbage filmmaking.
A large portion of this movie is basically unconnected scenes of people yelling at each other in underground bunkers; in ways that not only don’t build to anything but often contradict each other. The movie is ugly in some misguided attempt to get some Cronenberg-like horror out of this story, but also plays out just like it was another Tim Story movie. Everything is wrong.
The movie undermines every character it spends time on. There’s the sexist way the movie treats the character of Sue Storm; she doesn’t even go on the goddam mission that transforms everyone. Reed Richards comes off as a shit head who abandons his friends for a year until they find him. Much of the movie is based around the idea of the military being evil, or untrustworthy, but the movie is too incompetent to show even one instance of this being the case. And don’t even get me started on what this movie does with Doctor Doom.
This movie is 100% garbage. The only reason it’s not lower is that it doesn’t have the artistic vision that makes the next two movies so profoundly gross and detestable, it’s just a mess.
Rotten Tomatoes Scores: Critics 9%; Audiences 19%
2. Kumiko the Treasure Hunter
I wasn’t quite sure of my feelings about Kumiko when I walked out of the theater, but that mostly has to do with how much I like Rinko Kikuchi’s screen presence, because honestly this movie is hatefully bad.
This is the story of a broken, crazy woman who goes on a mad quest to go die alone in the snow. Specifically she travels to find the money buried in the snow at the end of Fargo.
This is an ugly movie that thinks it’s a quirky quixotic tale. Kumiko herself is so unpleasant and ridiculously stupid, there’s just nothing to be gained by spending time with her. This is Fargo‘s False Quixote; a work that hitches its wagon to the coattails of a much better work while at the same tame failing to understand that original work in the slightest.
Rotten Tomatoes Scores: Critics 88%; Audiences 62%
1. The Gift
Every person I’ve heard talk about The Gift favorably has said one main thing: “this movie is incredibly tense.” I just don’t see that at all. It’s super frustrating because I feel like I’m in an alternate universe. Communication failed me with this one. All I see is a predictable film that has needless jump scares and isn’t even confident enough in its premise to follow through on it.
I just don’t think there’s tension here. At all. Whatever idea this movie thinks it has about your past coming back to haunt you rings completely hollow for me, because this movie never actually makes the past matter. Everything that ends up mattering here happens in the present. This movie isn’t even confident enough in its own idea to carry through on it.
There’s also another issue.
The big reveal at the end of The Gift is misogynist and awful. No other moment in any work of fiction this year makes me so furious.
So it’s got that going for it.
This was the most unpleasant filmgoing experience I had all year and it kinda made me hate everything and everyone.
Rotten Tomatoes Scores: Critics 93%; Audiences 76%
At least it wasn’t nominated for any Academy Awards.