Have you ever looked at a movie’s score on the Rotten Tomatoes meter and wondered what the heck the critics were thinking? The fact is that critics don’t always get it right, and on more than a few occasions the audience rating for a movie can be very different than the critic rating. General audiences don’t always give credence to the opinions of critics. Some of the worst reviewed movies of all time are the biggest success at the box office. Critics sometimes even change their minds about a movie.
It’s not just critics and audiences who sometimes differ vastly on whether a movie is good or not. Sometimes a film’s cultural significance changes over time. It may be that a movie was simply so cutting edge and ahead of its time that everybody hated it when it first came out. There have been many movies that were despised when they were first released, but as time went on they eventually became classics. People just didn’t understand these movies when they were first released, so they naturally hated them. Sometimes the exact opposite happens. Maybe some critics were blinded by nostalgia and thought the movie was good when it wasn’t. Here’s a look at ten movies that the critics were absolutely wrong about.
10 Wet Hot American Summer
Sure comedy is subjective, and this cult classic’s absurdest humor might not be for everyone. However, in the 15 years since this movie’s release, things have dramatically changed. Not only did nearly every critic hate Wet Hot American Summer, but it was a huge financial failure, too.
Now it is considered a critical darling and proved to be so popular that a Netflix prequel TV show was made. Wet Hot American Summer has a mere 32% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, yet it has a 78% audience score. The Netflix TV show Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp, has a stellar 91% critic rating despite being a near carbon copy of the movie. Times have certainly changed.
9 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
It’s quite baffling that this stinker has a 78% fresh critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s even certified fresh. It’s possible that nostalgia blinded the reviewers on this one because it’s a huge step down from the original Indiana Jones trilogy, which is fun, well made and exciting. Audiences hated this one and it only has a 54% audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
The movie was so bad that a new term for a franchise being over the hill was coined. It used to be when something got so bad we would say it “jumped the shark” in reference to the silly Happy Days episode where the Fonz water skied over a shark, but now the term “nuked the fridge” is used in reference to when Indy hid inside a refrigerator to escape a nuclear blast.
When you team Steven Spielberg up with Robin Williams, you would expect to see a masterpiece of cinema, but that’s not the way critics saw it. This movie about a grown up Peter Pan who returns to Neverland has a mere 30% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The vast majority of critics hated Hook. Some called it exposition heavy and overstuffed.
Audiences certainly didn’t seem to mind that, and simply enjoyed the fun nature of the film. Audiences gave the film a 76% on Rotten Tomatoes. Even Spielberg himself didn’t care for the movie. In 2013 he said: "I want to see Hook again because I so don't like that movie, and I'm hoping someday I'll see it again and perhaps like some of it."
7 Patch Adams
Here’s another Robin Williams movie that was hated by critics and loved by audiences. It has an abysmal 22% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an even lower top critic rating of just 19%. It was criticized for being too sappy and sentimental. However, audiences certainly didn’t see it that way. Moviegoers were enamored by the performances of Robin Williams and Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
The film has an audience score of 74% on Rotten Tomatoes. Despite the poor critical ratings, the movie went on to become a box office hit grossing over $200 million worldwide. It even was nominated for two Golden Globes – for the movie itself and for Williams' performance. So, some critics must have liked it.
6 The Dark Knight Rises
Critics absolutely loved The Dark Knight Rises, and its critics score is nearly as high as The Dark Knight, which is considered by many to be the best comic book film of all time. The Dark Knight Rises has a critics score of 87% to The Dark Knight’s 94%.
General audiences loved it even more, but it was fans of comic books that absolutely hated it. Many found it boring, long and nonsensical. Fans saw the character’s motivations as absurd. Even worse is that it’s a Batman movie with barely any Batman in it. Third movies in series are usually bad, and for many hardcore Batman fans that is certainly the case with Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies.
Today it’s considered a horror masterpiece and one of the most thrilling movies of all time. Critics today love the movie, but when it was first released it was reviled. The shocking nature of the movie and the filming techniques used by Alfred Hitchcock proved to be too much for many of the critics at the time of the movie’s release, in 1960.
It really was a movie that was ahead of its time. However, things quickly changed. The amazing audience response to the film changed the film’s critical perception almost immediately and Psycho ended up being nominated for four Academy Awards.
Ishiro Honda’s original Godzilla movie was almost universally hated when it was released in Japan in 1954. Many called it exploitative and criticized the film for trying to capitalize on the destruction suffered by the Japanese during World War II. However, that’s what makes the film such a masterpiece. The bleak unsettling visuals and destruction makes it more relatable than the cheesy sequels that followed.
Of course, Godzilla would eventually become a phenomenon and critical darling in Japan, and when the Japanese version was released in the USA in 2004, critics loved it – this was the first time many critics had a chance to see the original Japanese version of the film rather than the American version, which was edited to include scenes of Raymond Burr. “They called it grotesque junk, and said it looked like something you'd spit up,” said Honda about some of the critics' reactions.
3 Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Perhaps this film was simply too weird for critics when it was first released. The adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s book, which told the tale of his drug-fueled exploits in gonzo journalism, was hated by the majority of critics when it was released. Today, it isn’t fairing much better.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas currently has a Rotten Tomatoes score of just 49%. Audiences certainly disagree about the quality of the film because it has a 90% audience rating. Interestingly, it wasn’t just the movie that was hated. Many reviewers were highly critical of Thompson’s groundbreaking book as well.
2 The Shining
The Shining is considered by many to be the greatest horror movie of all time, and one of the best movies made by Stanley Kubrick. Kubrick was never full appreciated in his time, and in fact he never won an Oscar for best director. "With everything to work with, ... Kubrick has teamed with jumpy Jack Nicholson to destroy all that was so terrifying about Stephen King's bestseller." said a move critic from Variety.
In fact, it was even nominated for two Razzies – Kubrick for worst director and Shelly Duvall for worst actress. Today the film holds a certified fresh rating of 91% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Comedy fans and fans of Christmas movies are big fans of this adaptation of a Christmas Carol, starring Bill Murray. It’s dark, heartwarming and funny, but critics panned it when it was released. Now the movie has a modest 67% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but its top critic rating is a horrendous 25%.
Audiences seemed to like it slightly more with a 71% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. However, this is one of those films that is on TV every Christmas and today it is regarded as a classic by many. Maybe in a few more years its critical reception will climb even more. Roger Ebert called it an angry film and said it wasn’t funny.