This is a difficult list to write because “aging poorly” can mean so many different things. While many similar lists would tell you that some of the greatest films of all time have aged poorly because their once incredible special effects now seem cheesy, films like The Lord of the Rings and Terminator seem to shoulder the brunt of this criticism. But I don’t want to criticize a movie because film technology has advanced. Others like to criticize films because re-watching them is not as rewarding as a first time watch, a point that physically hurts me because ground-breaking movies like The Sixth Sense and Fight Club are being badmouthed. Why not start criticizing Psycho or The Usual Suspects because we know the ending. No. I won’t. I refuse to.
What I will do instead is try to focus on films that have changed along with our current sensibilities, or films in which our perception of the events, times, actors and issues involved have changed. Even this is unfair because it’s too easy to use a modern lens to look back on a film that existed in a different era, but here we are. I’ll try to be gentle, but the bottom line is, the films on this list differ from classics because they aren’t timeless, and perhaps there’s the rub. Certain films use current day technology, references, issues and mindsets to earn success during their time, but they sacrifice longevity because of it. There will be films on this list that hurt you to see included, films you loved and still do I’m sure. For that, I’m sorry. But if you only knew the films that I’ve left off, you would thank me. I’ve heard suggestions for this list from Jurassic Park to Star Wars, Forrest Gump to Home Alone. I’ve got to draw the line somewhere. Someone has to stand up and say “no more!” Not every film with a reference you’ve forgotten or are too young to understand deserves to be on this list. I can only take so much.
I don’t want to be too hard on Superman because it was innovative and ahead of its time, but since superhero movies have become about as common as a Kevin James movie being roasted by critics, audiences today view them much differently than they did in the 70s. His physique, for example, was not quite what we’re used to seeing today in the freaks of nature like Chris Hemsworth, Henry Cavill and Chris Evans. I won’t turn this into a discussion on CGI, but the 1978 CGI in Superman can be tough for modern audiences to appreciate. Since you can basically see the ropes holding up a flying Reeve, it does look a little silly. From near-hilarious fight choreography to some strange acting performances, the film translates awkwardly today. I love it, but I get it.
14. Mortal Kombat
This one is a tough pill for me to swallow because I still like this film. Yet, even I can’t deny that time has not been kind to it. Perhaps back then we didn’t care about an actor’s ability and just loved it because it was an adaptation of an insanely popular video game. Perhaps all we wanted to see were choreographed fight scenes and how each character would be portrayed on the big screen. Well, regardless of what we were looking for back then, today, this movie is pretty weird. The acting is something else, like something you actually can’t verbalize. It is shockingly bad. Again, I don’t want to come down too hard on aging CGI because I think there’s a nostalgic quality to bad CGI, and it’s actually really cool how our eyes were once tricked by such awful animation, but Mortal Kombat’s CGI is just brutal. Just brutal I say. And that animatronic Goro suit. What a strange and wonderful thing that was. Mind you, today it’s seriously the worst thing ever, but, still, what a thing of beauty.
13. Midnight Cowboy
I don’t know. I might catch some flack for this one, but Midnight Cowboy doesn’t really fit anymore. It’s a Best Picture winner that is arguably one of the worst Best Picture winners in history. Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight are really good, but the whole movie just feels depressing and boring, boring and depressing. The treatment of sexuality is a little weird too, granted it is almost 50-years old, but it can be difficult to appreciate a movie that’s so afraid of homosexuality. It shows a seedy New York that doesn’t quite exist anymore, so even the landscape feels alien. And really, Jon Voight looks downright ridiculous, all tasselled and tall. I don’t know what that has to do with anything, yet here we are.
12. Dangerous Minds
Ignoring the fact that Coolio’s “Gansta’s Paradise” will never get old, the film Dangerous Minds feels a little silly nowadays. Michelle Pfeiffer is not tough, the gangsta’s are unapproachable and unrelatable and I’m pretty sure it’s racist, like really racist. Why are there no poor white kids? Well, ok, there’s like one, but where are the others? It’s basically School of Rock without the Jack. It’ll come to you, give it time. This movie, though it didn’t do all that well with the critics, was hugely successful for everyday audiences. But, since its release, there have been about 10 other movies that are incredibly similar; a teacher trying to connect with at risk kids by using a language that they’ll understand. Whether it’s a true story or not, it’s a patronizing look at at-risk kids and it misses the mark with our modern sensibilities.
Since 1997, the image of John Travolta and Nic Cage has suffered, which makes the film seem a bit stranger today than it did back then. On the one hand, Travolta was coming off the smash hit and career-saving Pulp Fiction, but then he did Battlefield Earth a few years after Face/Off and things started going downhill for him (again). Nic Cage, on the other hand, is just a plain old weird dude and, over time, people realized just how weird he really is. Then there’s the face touching, that horrifying habit that Travolta’s character has in the movie where he runs his dirty hands across his family’s face, sometimes even catching their lips and finger popping them. It’s just really awkward, which is par for the course for Johnny T ever since he introduced Idina Menzel as Adele Dazeem. Man, that never gets old.
Okay, here me out. I’m not saying it’s all of a sudden a bad movie. It’s just not 11 Academy Awards and $2 billion USD good. For me, the movie is also painfully boring, overly dramatic and predictable, and I’m not just talking about the ship going down, I’m talking about everything. It’s been said that Leonardo DiCaprio is now embarrassed of the role, mainly because of how young he looks and acts, but it is kind of embarrassing. That “I’m flying, Jack” scene, for example, is hard to watch. Like, you’re not flying Rose, your feet are still on the friggin’ ground. There’s also the heavily criticized and satirized death scene, which has Rose bogarting a floating door, murdering Jack in the process. It’s hard to watch the film today and separate it from everything mentioned here.
9. Reality Bites
In 1994 when Reality Bites came out, the world was different. But when you re-watch Reality Bites today, you realize just how different, or maybe just how different you are today. The movie is essentially a bunch of jerks sitting around talking about being jerks and why other people are jerks (how bad does that sound?). It’s nearly impossible to relate to unless you were a pretentious wanker in the 90s and never changed. Its stars are great though, I won’t deny that. It’s the plot and dialog that gets me. The film makes you embarrassed that you were ever associated with that generation and makes you feel kind of dirty that you were proud of it.
8. Perks of Being a Wallflower
How is this movie now considered bad if it’s only 4 years old? Well, I’ll tell you. I’m predicting the future here. This movie will soon be seen for the pretentious garbage that it is. Is that too harsh? Seriously, this movie thinks it’s so much smarter than it is, and it sickens me. People will soon realize that there’s a major problem with issues it deals with so lightly and so flippantly, pretending that there’s any sort of real conclusions here. It tries to make rich white kid problems understandable for everyone, but it instead makes its stars look like spoiled brats. And people have the audacity to call this a feel-good movie. Who in their right mind feels good after watching this dimly lit, meandering film that feels more directionless than Melissa McCarthy’s film choices. Maybe that’s the point. It probably is. But it’s a stupid point, and I think people are going to start agreeing with me sooner or later.
7. The Net
It may seem obvious that a film about technology has aged poorly, but the simplicity in which The Net deals with computers is tough to overcome. The young generations of today don’t even use CDs let alone floppy disks, so most of the references will be lost on them, but it’s more than that. The voodoo-esque hacking mentality in the film is just laughable. Sandra Bullock tries to convince us of being a top hacker but yet she types and works around a computer like she’s seeing one for the first time. Now that technology is literally attached to us everywhere we go, it’s weird watching someone look so confused around it. It does make sense though. The film is over 20 years old and Bullock has definitely paid someone to type for her in her blessed life. The movie is a neat snapshot in time though, an interesting look back at how we imagined computers in those days.
Poor Avatar. This movie seems to make every single list of mine. Only seven years since its release, Avatar is almost forgotten (although the sequels, if they ever come out, might refresh some interest). Why is that? Well, my theory is that Avatar is about as close to a novelty as a film can get. And, at the end of the day, no one will care about what it did for camera technology. The effects, even today, are starting to age; in 10 years, they will be nearly unwatchable. The movie captured the wallets of people around the world because of its beauty and use of technology, but now that that’s old news, it has to rely on its story to make it timeless, and the story is god awful. The plot is about as basic as it gets and several other movies have done it earlier and done it better. There’s really no escaping the early death that Avatar is headed toward, a death that no amount of sequels can save it from.
5. I Am Legend
This one is less about the movie I am Legend and more about the movies and shows that have come after it. The abandoned earth genre has seen quite a bit of play in recent years in film, TV and video games. Walking Dead, for example, completely took over and set the precedent for the genre, something that today is hard to overlook. There is the quality of the CGI as well, which was bad even by the standards of 2007. The zombie creature things are of such a poor quality that it really is hard to ignore when watching. There’s also Will Smith, who was still a megastar in 2007, but he’s fell back quite a few steps in the last 10 years, not that he’s not still a household name, just that he doesn’t get the pass from audiences he once had (but his performance is still top notch in this one). Not a bad movie by any stretch, just not nearly as good as it was yesteryear.
There was a time when watching footage of Demi Moore putting on shoes was classified as quality film, but that time is certainly not now. There was a time when the Swayze and his partial mullet was considered sexy, but again, that time is not now. There was a time when romantic movies could use three or four romantic montages of bonding set over slow jams to really tell you everything you needed to know about a couple, but… yeah actually, that still happens quite a bit. But it doesn’t mean it should or that it’s any good. This movie actually makes me uncomfortable to watch. It’s basically two hours of ghost lust, and I don’t understand it anymore. I’m not sure I ever did to be honest.
3. Top Gun
Top Gun is about as 80s as it gets. Musical montages, a young Tom Cruise (with aviator sunglasses) and some of the worst haircuts ever. The entire film is filled with guys that I like to call “dude buds,” just welling over with sexual frustration and forced masculinity. Basically the entire plot is the theatrical version of “anything you can do” but in airplanes and lessons are learned and all that. If you still like movies where a bunch of dudes stare menacingly at each other trying to intimidate one another, then this one is for you, dude. Otherwise, it will likely go down as one of the better films on Laserdisc and one of the worst films on Blu-ray.
2. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Ferris Bueller is an impossible character to connect to, I’m positive about that. He’s the most popular guy in high school, but he’s a jerk to all his friends and the most self-absorbed kid on the planet. When he skips school, with the exception of going to a baseball game, he does things that no kid in the world would do, especially not the most popular kid in a 1980s high school, things like going to an art gallery, going to a rich restaurant and going to a dumb parade. Back in the 80s when the housing market was affordable, things might have been different, but these kids are also the richest kids ever complaining about how hard their lives are. The car they wreck at the end? That’s a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder, one of the most expensive cars in the world. If your family can afford a car like that, I don’t want to hear about your problems, and I’d be willing to bet that only about 1% of America would understand them.
1. American Beauty
A movie about white suburbia is about as hard to recognize today as a movie about the frontier is. Kevin Spacey hates his life because he’s bored, so he stoops to a really creepy level and starts fantasizing about an uncomfortably young Mena Suvari. Eventually Spacey is shot dead, but not from one of the people you’d actually expect, no, because that would make too much sense. Instead it ends with a giant feeling of “so what?” We don’t care about your problems because they don’t feel like problems. They feel like regular day issues, not life-altering issues. Just because you’re bored Kevin, doesn’t mean you get to make a movie about it, a movie about you moaning and complaining for two hours. This is a best picture winner too, a beautifully shot, best picture winner about a despicable man bellyaching about his wonderful life. Shoot me while you’re at it.