2014 was a good year for movies. Superhero fans were treated to a handful of critically and commercially successful films based on or otherwise inspired by comic book characters, including new installments in the X-men and Captain America franchises and surprise hits from obscure origins like Guardians of the Galaxy and Big Hero 6.
Comedies were well represented at the box office, with hits like 22 Jump Street and Neighbors doling out laughs and raking in dough all summer long. Even fans of more melodramatic fare had no shortage of options at theaters this year, with Oscar-bait like Birman, Boyhood, and Marlon Wayans’ seminal contemplation on the ephemeral nature of human life and the everlasting connections that bind men even in death. We speak, of course, of A Haunted House 2…
But for every well made and thoughtful film to hit theaters this year, there are a half dozen disasters following it, stinking everything up. Films can be bad for any number of reasons: Disinterested actors just there for a paycheck, uninspired writers whose souls have long since been crushed under the weight of their once promising careers, and, worst of all, meddling studio executives more concerned with the bottom line than with the quality of the filmmaking.
The movies on this list are objectively bad; they shouldn’t exist and we’re all a little dumber because they do. However, there’s no accounting for taste and, despite their best (worst?) efforts, many of these movies have their own vocal and slightly sticky fanbases who are likely to take umbrage at their favorite movie’s inclusion in an annual “Worst of…” list. But to get the most objective possible results, this list defers to Rotten Tomatoes here. The tomatometer compiles reviews by the world’s leading film critics to get a consensus on just how decent a movie really is.
Anything with 60% positive reviews or higher is Fresh. Everything else is Rotten – especially these fifteen biggest clunkers of 2014.
15. Transcendence – 19%
Remember when Johnny Depp could do no wrong? We liked Pirates of the Caribbean so much that we all kind of looked the other way for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Tourist. Then Johnny got cocky and in subsequent years tried to convince us he was a 200-year-old vampire and a wise-cracking Native American sidekick.
But earlier this year, the actor once again proved he was out of his depth with the woefully misguided Transcendence, in which Depp’s character is an artificial intelligence researcher who transcends the natural boundaries between man and machine and in the process becomes a power-hungry cyborg hellbent on world domination (or something like that – few viewers made it all the way to the end).
14. Sabotage – 19%
Sabotage was written and directed by David Ayer, the man responsible for critically acclaimed films like Training Day (writer only), End of Watch, and Fury. He’s also been tapped to write and direct 2016’s highly anticipated Suicide Squad adaptation. So you’d be forgiven for expecting more of this Arnold Schwarzenegger-led action flick (not that ol’ Arnie’s movies are exactly Oscar fare, but, still…).
The film revels in violence for violence’s sake, trading things like a coherent plot and believable dialogue for blood and more blood. The only thing more unbelievable than the film itself is how no one involved in the project had the balls to tell poor Joe Manganiello about the trick the hairdresser was playing on him.
13. Transformers: Age of Extinction – 18%
No “Worst Film” list is ever complete without at least one Transformers movie on it. This time around, “director” Michael Bay proved that he’s just trolling the entire world with these ridiculous films.
People complained about the lack of character development in the first three films, so Bay jettisoned the entire non-robot cast in favor of a new set of characters no one cares about. Critics chided him for the lack of plot coherency in the original trilogy. So, Bay introduced and disposed of random transformers at will in Age of Extinction so much that it’s doubtful even he knows what’s going on. And the sheer levels of product placement and pandering to Chinese consumers are the telltale signs of an unabashed egomaniac at the absolute top of his game. It’d be almost impressive if it weren’t so distasteful.
But the movie still made more than a billion dollars at the box office, so maybe he’s onto something.
12. Sex Tape – 18%
Sex Tape probably seemed like a home run during the production’s early stages. It had an enticing, if raunchy, premise, a strong supporting cast, and a pair of leading actors who were good-looking and likable. Somewhere along the way, however, what could have been a smutty delight turned into a paint-by-numbers romantic comedy set against the backdrop of an ill-advised sex tape gone amok in the cloud.
Many critics took issue with the filmmakers’ unwillingness to embrace the more risqué elements of the film’s premise, equating it to a really long, profanity-laden SNL sketch. One critic’s pithy characterization of the film was particularly appropriate: flaccid and impotent.
11. Let’s Be Cops – 18%
22 Jump Street and Let’s Be Cops were released within a couple months of each other. They were each R-rated buddy cop movies starring two charismatic lead characters. One of them was clever, funny, and had audiences leaving the theater holding back tears of laughter. The other was Let’s Be Cops.
Granted, the movie has its funny moments. But on the whole it feels like a crass attempt to capitalize on the recent success of the Jump Street franchise. The biggest knock on the film, besides its derivative nature, was the run time. The film clocks in at nearly two hours, which, combined with the tired premise and recycled jokes, is a good 30 minutes longer than it needed to be.
10. When the Game Stands Tall – 18%
When the Game Stands Tall is the true story about the De La Salle High School football team from Concordia, California and their amazing 151-game winning streak spanning nearly 12 years. The film stars Jim Caviezel as legendary coach Bob Ladouceur and it recounts the 2004 football season, during which De La Salle’s streak finally came to an end.
Sports dramas like this are nothing new – we typically get two or three a year, depending on the available material. What makes When the Game Stands Tall ultimately so forgettable is the ho-hum way it goes about telling its story. It’s a dispassionate approach to a story rife with dramatic potential.
9. Ride Along – 17%
2014 was shaping up to be the year of the Buddy Cop movie and Ride Along kicked things off way back in January. The film, starring comedian Kevin Hart and professional scowler Ice Cube, was roundly panned by critics, though audiences were infinitely more receptive to its hackneyed charms.
Most of the negative reviews focused on the movie’s lack of originality and overreliance on the well-worn cliches that are now pretty much expected, though not necessarily welcomed, in the genre. But the critics’ opinions do not always align with those of the movie-going public (see Transformers above) and the film was a box office success. So much so, in fact, that a sequel is already in the works.
8. Blended – 14%
Adam Sandler, unbelievably, used to be the King of Funny in Hollywood. After Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore, Sandler had so much goodwill that studios were falling over themselves to work with him. But he didn’t continue to challenge himself by taking on risky and diverse projects, Rather, the Sandman opted to make a string of critically reviled, commercially successful films starring his buddies while filming in exotic locations and raking in dump trucks full of money.
In Blended, Sandler and frequent co-star Drew Barrymore go to Africa, crass and vaguely comedic moments ensue, and another Sandler movie grosses over $100 million. The critics hated it, as they have almost every Sandler movie of the last ten years.
7. Winter’s Tale – 13%
Winter’s Tale, starring Colin Farrell, is a movie that came out in 2014. Apparently. The only record of this film’s existence is the glut of overwhelmingly negative reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.
Adapted from a much better novel of the same name, Winter’s Tale is hampered by a romantic subplot between two unlikable characters. And the movie’s excessive earnestness isn’t doing it any favors; it takes itself far too seriously for audiences to ever let themselves become immersed in the otherworldly atmosphere the film is trying to create.
According to critic Peter Travers, Winter’s Tale is the perfect date movie, but only if you seriously dislike your date.
6. The Nut Job – 10%
The Nut Job is what you get when you join production companies from Canada, South Korea, and the United States, supply them with copious amounts of peyote (any psychotropic drug will do, really), and charge them with making a film that was probably pitched as being a cross between Ratatouille and Ocean’s Eleven.
The resulting product, however, more closely resembles the nightmarish fever dream of a park ranger with PTSD than it does either of those fine movies.
The only things wrong with the movie (besides, of course, the very fact that it exists) are its unlikable main character, the underdeveloped supporting players, and the paper thin plot. Other than that, The Nut Job is a perfectly pleas…. Never mind. It’s utter rubbish and you and your kids will be dumber having watched it.
5. The Best of Me – 8%
Like all Nicholas Sparks adaptations, The Best of Me is a divisive film. Most of you reading this probably never registered that this movie exists, much less even bothered to see it. But, like houseflies and dung beetles, Nicholas Sparks fans couldn’t wait to eat this crap up. It’s basically the same as all Nicholas Sparks movies: love, heartbreak, kissing in the rain, sunsets, debilitating diseaseas, and murder. All the ingredients for a perfect romance.
Sparks’ movies have never been well received by critics and people with fully functioning prefrontal cortices, but that’s never stopped them from being made in the past and likely won’t have any bearing on the inevitable future adaptations (there are already two in production!).
But Sparks and his fans don’t care what the rest of us think. He’ll continue churning out this muck and his fans will keep flocking to theaters to see it.
4. Ouija – 7%
There’s really no reason for Ouija to exist. It’s a generic PG-13 horror movie in which a group of stupid teens (that’s not editorializing – they literally make the absolute worst decisions they can in every situation in a desperate attempt to keep the plot moving forward) fight against supernatural evil in a world seemingly without adult supervision.
It’s like the producers saw the success of Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and thought, “What other kitschy ’80s toy can we exploit to make a quick buck off of?” Unfortunately, the Ouija Board popped into their heads before She-Ra Princess of Power. And now the world is just a little bit darker.
3. I, Frankenstein – 3%
I, Frankenstein is without question the best modern cinematic representation of the classic literary monster to hit theaters in 2014. That may be the definition of a qualified success, but it’s about the only way to put a positive spin on the infernal suckfest that is I, Frankenstein.
Aaron Eckhart, the film’s likable and competent star, is powerless to do anything with the terrible script full of horror/fantasy cliches and more cardboard characters than a diorama.
The concept of a modernized Frankenstein’s monster fighting immortal demons sounds metal as all hell but the execution is dull and painfully leaden. Even the film’s brisk 90 minute runtime feels unnecessarily bloated in light of the weak script. Maybe Universal’s forthcoming Frankenstein revamp can breathe new air into the character.
2. The Legend of Hercules – 3%
This year saw two Hercules movies hit theaters. One was a generally enjoyable, if mindless, action film featuring one of the biggest stars in the world (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson).
The other was a tedious exercise in everything not to do when making an adventure film starring a man best known for playing an shimmering vampire in the Twilight series (Kellan Lutz).
The Legend of Hercules possessed none of the self-aware absurdity that made The Rock’s version supremely enjoyable by comparison. Instead, the dozen or so people who actually saw it were subjected to a movie so bad it managed to make an ass-kicking demigod boring and utterly insufferable.
1. Left Behind – 2%
Left Behind is a confused movie. On the one hand, it’s a fundamentalist Christian propaganda film aimed at converting heathens (a.k.a. non-Christians) and reaffirming the beliefs of the Chosen Ones. On the other hand, it stars Nicolas Cage. And, as the internet will gladly tell you (often without any prompting on your part), any film starring the inimitable Nic Cage is automatically, if not always intentionally, amazing.
Cage’s nuanced performance as a secretly crazy person (similar to many other performances in the great actor’s oeuvre) is immediately overshadowed by the film’s plodding pace, distracting dialogue, and obnoxious preachiness. The movie unsurprisingly struck a chord with deeply religious audiences, but the masses generally avoided it. Apparently, people don’t want to buy $12 tickets to see a movie telling them they’re going to Hell. Who knew?