Some people just don’t listen. Well, a lot of people just don’t listen. We have this lovely system set up where hundreds of professionals known as “film critics” are able to see movies before any of us in the general movie-going population. These individuals watch these films early and tell us what they think of them in just a few column inches. Generally, they’ll let us know if a film is awful, amazing, “not great but worth checking out”, or “not bad but worth missing in the theaters”. We as paying consumers don’t have to blindly spend our $12 to see a movie only to find out that it’s one of the worst films ever made. Someone else gets paid to do that on our behalf. It’s a pretty amazing concept when you think about it.
Despite being so amazing, we tend to blow these critics off and see terrible movies anyway. Sometimes we even have the audacity to get mad about it. A Michigan woman once tried to sue the movie studios for what she claimed was a “misleading trailer” for the Ryan Gosling movie Drive. Her claim was that the trailer made the film look like a Fast and the Furious clone, which Drive is not. In the case of Drive the reviews from critics were favorable. However, had this Michigan woman just read some reviews or even a plot synopsis, she would have known that this wasn’t a car chase film. Her situation was entirely avoidable.
Unfortunately, we keep going to see bad movies despite being warned well ahead of time. Sometimes we go in droves and turn some pretty terrible movies into huge money-making hits. Let’s take a look at some of the horrible films that we turned into huge blockbusters.
12. The Last Airbender
Budget: $150 Million
Earned: $320 Million
There are so many things that went wrong with this one. Despite the fact the film made more than twice what it cost, had this adaptation of the much beloved animated series just been good, it could have been a film series that joined the ranks of Harry Potter or the Marvel movies. Unfortunately, director M. Night Shyamalan made a number of mistakes when adapting the material. He cast the protagonists, who were originally characters of color, as white. In an industry that’s trying to be more inclusive of other races, this was a big mistake.
He also changed the pronunciations of characters names.
The film is also guilty of a number of plot holes. For example, a nation of people who could bend the element of earth to their will were kept in a prison camp completely surrounded by rocks and dirt.
There are a myriad of problems with this film that would require its own list. Despite making a lot of money, these gripes stacked up and Nickelodeon was pretty sure that a second film would be unsuccessful after such a backlash from movie-goers and critics alike.
11. Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace
Budget: $115 Million
Earned: $1 Billion
Obviously this one succeeded on the Star Wars name alone. Had this not been a Star Wars movie, it would have been dead somewhere after being announced and before pre-production.
The first problem was Jar Jar Binks. Fans disliked the character so much that his role in the films was greatly diminished for Episodes II and III. The character only saw some real use in the popular Clone Wars animated series. This worked out since the series was directed more towards children.
Fans also disliked the over-abundance of CGI used in the film. The technology to do so was still pretty new but it just wasn’t there yet. Nothing in the battle scenes seemed to have any weight and objects didn’t seem to be there.
Fans have created a new order to watch the first six films in the series that doesn’t include this installment and focuses more on the story of Vader.
10. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Budget: $185 Million
Earned: $786 Million
It definitely takes a great character to make a great movie. You won’t find a good movie that doesn’t have any good characters in it. Unfortunately, just having a great character doesn’t guarantee your movie will be great as well. Case in point, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
While the films in the Jones series were always a little over-the-top, this one really cranked the craziness up to 11. Jones survives a “nuke town” bomb by hiding in a refrigerator. Believe it or not, Spielberg has actually fessed up and took the blame for this one.
Harrison Ford was also just a little too old and tired looking for the role. The films acknowledged this by passing the torch to Shia Lebeouf at the end of the film, but decided not to move forward with that as Shia has become a bit difficult over the years.
Also: Ancient aliens? Really?
9. Grown Ups 2
Budget: $80 Million
Earned: $247 Million
Who knows why this film did so well? The first film in this sub-par comedy vehicle for fading stars was pretty terrible itself. Grown Ups 1 should have been a first indicator that Grown Ups 2 was going to be pretty awful. Regardless, everyone went to see it and they were all absolutely shocked when it turned out to be so bad.
Unfortunately, people have been making this mistake with Sandler’s films for several years now. A whole list could be made with Sandler films alone (Jack and Jill and Don’t Mess with the Zohan, for example) but we’ll leave the poor guy alone. He gets enough grief from the Internet.
8. Wild Hogs
Budget: $60 Million
Earned: $250 Million
Much like Grown Ups, Wild Hogs was just a comedic vehicle for fading stars. Martin Lawrence never had much relevance after his show went off the air, save for starring in the deplorable Big Momma’s House films. Travolta hadn’t been in anything decent since Pulp Fiction. Tim Allen has always hovered somewhere between “much beloved leading man” and “who cares?” ever since Home Improvement left the airwaves. William H. Macy, while a great actor, is more known for his supporting character roles, rather than one of the major stars of a film. It’s very surprising so many people went to see these actors in what appeared to be a pretty safe film, and then were so surprised when it turned out to be sort of bad.
Since the film made money, someone tried the formula again with Old Dogs. The film was much worse than Wild Hogs, but we’re not ready to pick on the late Robin Williams just yet.
7. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
Budget: $195 Million
Earned: $1.1 Billion
Much like Star Wars, this film made tons of money due to the name recognition and a couple films that preceded it that ranked as “pretty darn good” to “not as good as the first but not entirely terrible.”
It sounded like there was a lot of drama going on with the cast and crew during the filming and that may have affected the quality of the final product. Maybe the story just became a little tiring for movie-goers. Either way, folks seem to agree that this installment was rather bad. The entire series wasn’t completely scrapped, but it was completely refurbished (while remaining in continuity) for a fourth film. Most people felt that the fourth installment was the best in the series after the first.
6. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
Budget: $145 Million
Earned: $401 Million
It’s amazing that this series lasted as long as it did as it was pretty bad from the get-go. The series even spawned spin-off films. It makes sense that people would go see the first installment since there was nothing to base an opinion off of and there hadn’t been a movie featuring a mummy out in quite some time. Maybe people kept seeing future installments because they were just optimistic that things couldn’t get any worse? Well they could get worse. They could add abominable snowmen into the mix of villains.
Unfortunately, no matter how bad a movie is, if it keeps making money they’ll keep making sequels. Fortunately, they put a cap on the series after this stinker and the Scorpion King spin-off movies were relegated to direct-to-dvd status.
5. Twilight: New Moon
Budget: $50 Million
Earned: $710 Million
This film isn’t just the worst Twilight film, but it has been referred to as “the worst vampire film ever made” in many circles. Even people who are absolutely in love with the Twilight Series had to admit that this was a pretty bad film. Most of the flick involves Bella moping around her house and trying to kill herself. What a wonderful message to send to recently jilted young girls, by the way. This is interspersed with Bella and Jacob trying to convince the audience that they actually have some kind of chemistry. It’s a good thing the books put Bella and Edward together, because Stewart and Lautner were not going to be able to pull a convincing relationship off for two more films.
Fortunately for the studios, the series had enough of a fan base that even a bad installment couldn’t destroy an entire series. Save that job for The Last Airbender.
4. Pearl Harbor
Budget: $140 Million
Earned: $449 Million
Usually war films do rather well and instill a mass feeling of patriotism across the country. This tends to happen whether the film is good or not, so long as the film is pretty accurate on a historical level. Somehow, Pearl Harbor succeeded in being a war movie that everyone saw, but nobody wanted to get behind. Perhaps this is due to the fact that Bay really just made a romantic drama with a lot of explosions, big boats, and cool scenes with airplanes. Viewers expecting a gripping, tense, and historically accurate war film along the lines of Saving Private Ryan were able to figure out that the trailers and title were very misleading. The film had more of a focus on the relationships of the two main characters and completely missed the point as to what a film called “Pearl Harbor” should have actually been about.
Everyone went to see it. Everyone hated it.
3. The Devil Inside
Budget: $1 Million
Earned: $102 Million
It’s really no surprise that a found footage film did extremely well in terms of budget to dollars earned. Found footage horror flicks are very easy to make for very little money. Well, very little money as far as film budgets are concerned. As long as a good marketing campaign is put in place that adds a sense of realism to the flick, people will usually show up for a strong opening weekend (for a horror film) and then the money tapers off once word gets out that the film isn’t very good, very scary, and is just like any other found footage horror film. By this time, these inexpensive films have already made much more money than anyone put into them. The Devil Inside is a text book example of this rather regular occurrence in the world of cinema.
2. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Budget: $125 Million
Earned: $485 Million
This reboot of the long popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise gets a little more flack than it deserves, but critics and general viewers are completely justified in their assessment that this wasn’t a very good movie. Once again, name recognition can make for a strong box office return whether the movie is good or not. At one point, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles dethroned the far superior and much more acclaimed Guardians of the Galaxy in terms of weekend gross (to be fair, Guardians had already been out for a week). It also helps that this film was definitely directed at the new and younger fan-base rather than being a nostalgia trip for adults that loved the characters when they were children. You can place a sure bet that we’ll be seeing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II in two to three years.
1. Fifty Shades of Grey
Budget: $40 Million
Earned: $421 Million (and counting)
Just about everyone that went to see this film didn’t enjoy it. We can hopefully assume that they won’t be adapting any more books from this series of “soccer mom erotica.” Even the film’s stars, Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan, have publicly admitted that they think the film is pretty bad.
Unfortunately, like Twilight, the film has staying power based on its name alone and it really doesn’t matter what stars think of the films they star in. Kristin Stewart and Robert Pattinson both thought pretty poorly of the Twilight films, but even that and a couple legitimately bad movies didn’t stop that series from adapting all the books. Even though people know better, we’re probably going to see some more Fifty Shades films.
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