Imagine a world where you’re spoon fed cold, baked beans every day. You’d have the gloopy, sticky mess shovelled into your mouth and you’d try to shriek, tomato sauce dripping down your quivering bottom lip, because this is just wrong, but your mouth is full of sugary evil. Occasionally you’ll make eye contact with somebody who you know thinks the same as you, but they’ll quickly look at their shoes. You can’t blame him – everybody loves beans, right? Best just ignore the temptation to point out that you’re eating beany wrongness and chow down with the masses.
This is what watching a properly beloved film is like. You know that it’s nonsense; your intelligence is insulted by the liberties the director has taken with reality and Roger Moore is too old to play James Bond’s dad, never mind 007. It’s pointless to think too deeply about it because everybody else loves the damn film and secretly hates you for calling it out on its ridiculousness.
With that in mind, here are ten films that are loved by everybody, despite being utter drivel. While they’re not necessarily bad films – some of them are stone-cold classics – elements of the plot, premise or story make no sense whatsoever. From plot-holes you could fit a T-Rex through to deliberate obtuseness, you’ll never look at these movies the same way again. Contains spoilers and nitpicking.
10. Home Alone
A gripping psychodrama about an out-of-control pre-adolescent who tortures character actors, Home Alone absolutely smashed the box office in 1990. It has since become a staple of holiday TV programming, a classic for Generation X kids who now have their own families. There’s just one flaw with the plot: all of it.
Ignore the fact that Harry and Marv would only need a collective IQ above that of a scatter cushion to avoid most of the traps – a glowing, bright red doorknob? Touch it, quick! – and why they didn’t just lock the irritating squirt in the cellar when they got the chance and look at the wider picture. The parents knew they’d left him at home before they’d even landed in Paris, which gave them plenty of time to phone the police back home before shenanigans broke out. The neighbours would surely have been aware that the McAllisters were in Paris and phoned social services as soon as they saw Kevin?
Pedants may at this point refer to a scene early in the movie where the weather knocks out the electricity and phone lines. It doesn’t stop Kevin using the phone to order pizza. Home Alone may be a Christmas classic, but it’s utter humbug.
9. 2001: A Space Odyssey
Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 sci-fi epic, 2001:A Space Odyssey is correctly viewed as one of the greatest films of the genre, or even of all time. Kubrick’s stunning use of visuals add a layer of divine beauty to Arthur C. Clarke’s compelling story about the evolution through time of mankind. The only bone of contention that many critics seem to have with the film, save its pretentiousness, is the bewildering plot.
The iconic final scene centers around a massive fetus floating along in space. Where did it come from and why is it there? Kubrick doesn’t lower himself to explaining silly things like the actual plot to we mere mortals, instead leaving entire cinemas to scratch their heads in perfect confusion.
Luckily, the original novel is still in print for those who haven’t quite worked out the ending. It centers around the black monolith that is seen at the start of the film. The monolith is an alien device that accelerates the evolution of a species; hence the primitive apes come into contact with it and discover the ability to use weapons to murder each other. After HAL is shut down at the end of the story, Dave comes into contact with the monolith and rapidly enters the next stage of human evolution – he becomes the Star Baby that is seen at the end of the film.
David Lynch is a director who delights in making his audience think. Films such as the superb Blue Velvet and the nightmarish surrealism of Lost Highways terrify and provoke debate in equal measure. The term ‘Lynchian’, though surely derives from his 1977 art house masterpiece, Eraserhead.
The film doesn’t deal with plot in the traditional sense, rather an assorted sequence of images concerning protagonist Henry, his wife and mutant spermatozoid lizard baby. If you’re fond of Jennifer Aniston rom-coms, this one might not be for you. Henry draws comfort from The Lady In the Radiator whilst being controlled by the deformed Man In the Planet, ultimately stabbing his horrific creature/offspring to death by the end of the film before dancing in goo.
The film is wilfully baffling and it was designed to make no sense whatsoever, in the traditional meaning of the word; Lynch has never explained the interpretation of the film as he sees it, instead insisting that every viewer takes something different from it. A popular interpretation is that Eraserhead is about fear of fatherhood, while a great theory abounds on fan sites that Henry is fighting against fear itself. Frankly, anybody who invests any time with the film can ultimately decide for themselves and be no less correct than anybody else.
7. The Tree Of Life
Terence Malik is one of the most well-regarded directors of all time and does not deserve to have his works of genius dissected. That said, there are large swathes of The Tree of Life that simply make no sense whatsoever. The 20 minute sequence depicting the Big Bang and the subsequent creation of the universe is mesmerizing and beautifully executed but cannot work in the manner Malik seems to want it to within the framework of the film. The premise relays on the viewer believing that all the jarring imagery and sequences are a product of Jack’s memories. The creationism sequence works as an answer to his mother’s question of where God is, but only if this is Jack’s imagination at work. If that is the case, how do you account for the sequences which seem to be the product of his parents’ memories?
The ending of the film grates and makes little sense. While there are many discussion boards about the ending, which sees Sean Penn’s older Jack walking along a beach for an interminable length of time, it’s hard to find a common consensus about what it all means. Is he in Heaven? Is it an out-of-body experience? After 20 bum-numbing minutes of wandering, does anybody still care?
6. Jurassic Park
Steven Spielberg could do little wrong in the early ’90’s, directing and producing some of the biggest films of the era. 1993 was a particularly busy year for the bearded maestro, featuring the release of not only Oscar bait Schindler’s List, but one of the best summer movies of all time, Jurassic Park. This year’s release of Jurassic World is testament to the eye-popping effects and decent performances of the original film, but let’s not kid ourselves that the film did well because of the plot – Jurassic Park is enjoyable hokum.
It would be mean-spirited to point out that it is literally impossible to bridge gaps in dinosaur DNA by splicing frog DNA, given that the novel and film are intended to be escapist entertainment rather than scientifically accurate. Nor would it be kind to question what kind of lunatic allows his grandkids to visit a theme park that hasn’t yet earned a safety certificate, let alone one full of scaly death machines. It would also be both unkind and mean-spirited for John Hammond to invite paleontologists to a park that will essentially render them redundant after he’s already created the beasts.
Important points one and all, but the plot detail that makes the whole exercise seem monumentally dumb is the case of the incredible shrinking T-Rex managing to fit into the visitors’ center at the end of the film. Watching that scene, another question arises: admittedly, you may have other things on your mind when facing a couple of hungry, toothy velociraptors, but surely a T-Rex wouldn’t be able to sneak up on you when it’s heavy enough to make the ground shake?
5. The Karate Kid
Despite being regularly cited as one of the best family films of the eighties, The Karate Kid is a writhing hotbed of debased, morally bankrupt anti-family messages. It’s little wonder that Generation X grew up to be so dysfunctional watching films like this; a terrifying thought in regards to the current generation, who were expected to root for Jaden Smith rather than the guys giving the cocky nepotist a scuffing.
So why is The Karate Kid such a dangerous film? Is it because Mr Mayagi uses Daniel-San as cheap labor to wax his car, rather than pay a valet to do it for him? Or because teaching a teenager to stand up to violence and bullies by kicking the snot out of them is a little bit wrong? The answer lies in the climactic scene, with Daniel facing off against his nemesis, Jonny. Despite the fact that kicks to the face are repeatedly expressed as being against the rules, Daniel promptly kicks Jonny in the face and wins. Way to teach kids that cheating is good, Karate Kid. He should have been kicked out of the tournament and made to wax Jonny’s car as punishment.
4. Harry Potter
Harry Potter, the Chosen One, the nemesis of nasally-challenged baddies. Is he everything he’s cracked up to be? The books and movies would have you believe that he’s destined to become the most powerful wizard of them all, but there is little to back this claim up, other than the repetition of the claim itself. Isn’t Harry just a bit rubbish at being a wizard, all things told?
Consider all the tools that Harry is given in order to do his wizardly job well. Does he utilize them to their full potential? He’s a dab hand with an invisibility cloak, but then it would be hard not to be good at being invisible providing that you don’t walk into people all the time. One of the best tools – and biggest perks – of Harry’s arsenal is that he has his own time travel device: the time-turner. Though he does use it to save the life of Sirius Black and the time-turner has its own rules, Harry barely uses it after the Prisoner of Askaban movie. This makes absolutely no sense – he has a way of going back five hours in time and altering the course of literally any event but chooses not to, meaning scores of people die while Harry plays Quidditch. Even Lord Voldemort would find that a tad cold.
Armageddon is a good, old-fashioned Hollywood blockbuster, a spectacle movie in every sense of the word. It’s also both a Michael Bay movie and a 1990’s Bruce Willis movie, which can only mean one thing – the plot was probably written by a six-year-old.
The story is simple: massive asteroid hurtles towards earth, expert drilling team is dispatched to drill a nuke into the surface and blow it up, saving the world. The plot, however, is awful. From the minute Bruce chases Ben Affleck around a flammable oil rig, merrily discharging a shotgun, everything is utterly inexplicable. It would take less time to teach astronauts to drill than it would to train drillers to go into space. The asteroid is too close to earth for the shuttle to reach it in time before it kills us all.
But Bruce is going to nuke it anyway, you say? This wouldn’t change a thing: it would only mean that the planet was ended by a shower of smaller rocks that could wipe out a planet by itself, rather than just one the size of Texas.
2. The Matrix
The Matrix is a treat for the eyes, if not the brain. While the Wachowskis’ masterpiece is rightly lauded for having an excellent premise and groundbreaking special effects, there are so many plot-holes that it’s hard to rematch the film after finding one without the whole story being rendered nonsensical.
How can Neo leap into the body of Smith at the end of the first film and not cause permanent damage, but Smith doing the same at the end of Revolutions kills Neo in the real world? Why did the idiot humans scorch the sky to block out the source power for the machines – the sun, the source power for…humans?
More interesting, though still idiotic, is how Cypher manages to unplug from the Matrix unaided to meet Smith, when it’s already been established that you need somebody else to do it for you. An interesting theory is that Cypher could have written out a code to let himself in and out unaided, or could even be The One himself.
1. The Terminator
Time travel is such a risky notion to write about that it’s amazing that so many films and novels use it as a central premise. All you need is the slightest mistake by your antagonists and the viewer can lean back and say, “Come on, you can travel back in time, man. Go and do it again”. While the heroes can and usually do make an almighty mess of time travel, what about the antagonists?
Bad guys don’t come any bigger than Skynet, the sentient force behind the machines that wipe out humanity. Faced with its own destruction, Skynet decides to send a Terminator back in time to murder the mother of the unborn leader of the human resistance, John Connor. While it chooses wisely by sending back an Austrian slab of pain, why only send back one? There was literally an army of the things being mass produced. Why not send back a whole bunch of them at once? Or why not send the utterly unbeatable fembot from Rise of the Machines, the one who could turn her arm into a flamethrower? Imagine the effect on Sarah Connor’s hair-sprayed locks. For an all-powerful sentient machine trying to sustain its own existence, Skynet does seem to leave a lot to chance here.