Overrated movies leave a bad taste on your "Netflix and chill" experience. With so much to choose from, it’s easy to stick with built-in suggestions, only to find that Netflix has suggested an overrated movie that doesn’t live up to the hype.
Netflix and other streaming services have changed the way we watch movies and TV– there’s no question. For much less than comparable cable options, you have a large library of movies at your disposal, ready to fill up your free nights and anytime you need something to chill to. When you just want to relax, it seems logical to stick with well-known titles – flicks with awards and critical acclaim or, at the very least, a solid all-star cast and/or box-office success to bolster your impressions of a great film. We’ll admit that it’s def a first world problem, but, in the gig economy, your time is at a premium.
In the end, everyone’s going to have his or her own reaction to a movie. It’s just that if you had a more realistic view of it going in, you might be able to genuinely enjoy the good parts, rather than get disappointed at all that it’s not. Here’s our list of 20 Oscar and other award winners, much hyped and even iconic releases, and giant box-office winners that, in the end, just don’t live up to their reps.
20 V For Vendetta (2005)
This movie was based on a graphic novel that came out in 1988, which most likely accounts for its cult-like status in pop culture. It stars Natalie Portman as Evey and Hugo Weaving as V, a role that's become iconic, so much so that his Guy Fawkes mask has become a hacker’s symbol of resistance of choice (it’s the one used by the Anonymous hacker group). The movie made a respectable amount at the box office at $132 million, and got solid, if not often overly enthusiastic reviews across the board, including a 73 rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Is it really worth your time? Maybe. Maybe not. Among the movie’s often cited beefs is the way Portman’s character, the titular V, becomes a romantic heroine, rather than the gritty and even ruthless character of the graphic novel. It changes the nature of the story, and it’s less exciting than it should be. If you like the idea, read the graphic novel instead.
19 Milk (2008)
The story of Harvey Milk, the mayor of San Francisco assassinated for also being an out gay man, is an important one and certainly deserves to be told on film. This movie had what seems like all the right ingredients. Sean Penn filled out the role of Milk to perfection, with a solid portrayal of his lover Jack Lira by actor Diego Luna. The 1970s San Fran aesthetic was authentic, and many praised director Gus Van Sant for the way the movie realistically portrayed the everyday prejudices experienced by the LGBTQI population. It won two Academy Awards for Best Original Screenplay (Dustin Lance Black) and Best Actor in a Leading Role (Sean Penn). Still, what should be an emotionally moving story falls a little flat and doesn’t have the impact that it should, given the real-life nature of the story. Perhaps, it’s the film’s slow pacing or the way too many characters had too little screen time, but, while interesting, it’s not the wrenching story it should be. Check it out for the social and political history if that interests you, but don’t expect a moving experience.
18 The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
The Matrix changed the aesthetic of action and sci-fi movies, and its influence on subsequent filmmaking can’t be undersold. You may be contemplating delving into the whole trilogy one night on your couch, but take heed. When the first flick of the trilogy was released in 1999, it was a bona fide sensation. Two sequels seemed a given, and fans eagerly anticipated the second installation of the three. What would come next for Neo? And who were those albino twins? What happened left many of those fans in shock – a nonsensical storyline and a forced feel to the whole effort. We won’t even get into Matrix Revolutions, the final and most disappointing release of the trilogy. It’s like the filmmakers truly only had enough of an idea to fuel one film but signed on for the deal, hoping for the best. We can’t blame anyone for going for money in Hollywood, but the stinkers that followed such original promise just hurt.
17 Pulp Fiction (1994)
More than two decades after its release, does Quentin Tarantino's pop culture hit live up to its many accolades, including the Palme d’Or at Cannes? So revolutionary was it considered in its time that a man in the audience fainted during its North American premiere screening at the New York Film Festival. Because of an approach to moviemaking that, while well known in art house circles, was fresh and new to the mainstream, it received a stream of deliriously and overwhelmingly positive reviews and became part of the late 20th-century zeitgeist. Who, after all, hasn’t seen that scene of John Travolta and Uma Thurman dancing or Samuel L. Jackson and Travolta, guns drawn? We’re definitely not saying it’s a bad film or that it doesn’t have its place in popular movie history, (it was also a huge boost to the indie film industry) but, in retrospect, the script’s pursuit of hip and cool over substance results in a forgettable experience overall. The visuals are great, the characters and individual scenes memorable, but what does it add up to? Other than chill lines to quote, what does it leave you with? In the years since its release, many have also called out the movie for its heavy dose of racism and homophobia under the guise of iconic pop-culture references.
16 Chicago (2002)
Chicago, a musical on film, surprised more than a few people when it won the Oscar for Best Picture for 2002. After all, the competition included The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Gangs of New York, and critic fave The Pianist. All were solid movies, and Chicago’s not a terrible film, but it’s certainly not the obvious choice. The impressive cast included stars like Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere, John C. Reilly, and Queen Latifah, many of them at or reaching the peaks of their careers. Director Rob Marshall used a lavish kind of aesthetic in the adaptation of a stage musical set in 1920s Chicago. The actors turn in great performances, and the production values are top notch…for a musical. If you love stage musicals, then you’ll enjoy it. However, if you were drawn to the hype and star power alone, then you might consider a better choice for your hard-earned time.
15 No Country for Old Men (2007)
This Coen Brothers movie made a big splash at the Cannes Film Festival the year it came out and garnered an Academy Award for Best Picture, along with a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Javier Bardem. It’s got 93 on Rotten Tomatoes. If you’re a fan of the Coen Brothers’ steady output of quirkily violent films and inventive storytelling, you’d be expecting great things. And… you’d be disappointed. The story is essentially one long chase through southwestern Texas scrubland involving Bardem’s hulking killer, Anton Chigurh, Josh Brolin as Llewelyn Moss, and Sheriff Ed Tom Bell played by Tommy Lee Jones. Moss has decided to play finders keepers with $2 million of Chigurh’s money, and flight, pursuit, revenge, and many, many killings ensue. It’s a stylized action flick of the kind you’d expect, and there are certainly some gripping moments. But as the most ambitious and high profile of the Coen’s releases at the time, it’s a grim story about grim people without offering anything more.
14 Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013)
Blue Is the Warmest Color won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, which, in an unprecedented move, was awarded to director Abdellatif Kechiche and stars Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos. As one of the few high-profile flicks about lesbian romance/coming of age, it got a lot of media attention. It tells the story of two young teenagers who meet and embark on a hot but doomed romance. It’s so hot, in fact, that the two spend a lot of camera time naked and making out. Many, many shots of Adèle’s lovely, firm butt. Doesn’t sound so bad, right? Except that the sex is pretty stylized rather than graphic and gritty, and, well, isn’t this actually supposed to be a story told from a lesbian’s POV? At the time of the Palme d’Or Award, both lead actresses kissed and thanked the director for the cameras. Only weeks after that, however, both were talking to the press about horrible working conditions, a claim that was even taken up by the French union for the film industry. Seydoux went so far as to claim he’d made her feel like a “prostitute.” The controversy caused a lot of stir. Let’s just say that if you’re watching a movie, wondering when all the sex scenes will come to some kind of conclusion, as you likely will toward the end of this three-hour epic, something has definitely gone awry.
13 It Follows (2014)
It Follows is one of those super hyped horror flicks with incredible reviews and talk of it being the next Texas Chainsaw Massacre in terms of influence and style. There’s a lot that works well in this indie movie by director David Robert Mitchell. Maika Monroe plays Jay, who, after an ill-advised hook-up, finds that she’s become infected by a horrible curse – the It, naturally – that then proceeds to follow her. The first hour is great at ramping up the tension while keeping the focus of that tension just off camera. It’s a technique that works well but then starts to lose steam as more and more of the previously unseen horror, which can take the form of anyone, is revealed. After that, it becomes more or less a horror/action flick as Jay and her boyfriend (the stud who gave her this highly inconvenient STD) try to kill It. There are a lot of good moments, and it’s an enjoyable movie for the most part, but it’s not the horror classic touted by some.
12 Spotlight (2015)
Spotlight is one of those films about a worthy topic that everyone wanted to succeed. Maybe that’s why, in the end, it doesn’t. It’s not for lack of star power, with a cast that includes Rachel McAdams, Mark Ruffalo, Brian d’Arcy James, Michael Keaton, and John Slattery. Spotlight is based on the Boston Globe story that brought the horrific systemic child abuse by Catholic priests in Massachusetts to light. Certainly, it’s a story worth telling, given how many times it's been echoed in other parts of the world since then. The problem is that the script is pretty flat and repeats the same points over and over. Marty Baron, the new editor at The Globe, played by Liev Schreiber, wants to shake up the old boys' club, and go after the Catholic church in a religious town. The shock and real-life drama are drained out of a story that should be wallowing in both, mostly due to director Tom McCarthy’s script, which makes it a story about ideas and not people. The work of reporters can seem very dull from the outside, and sadly, that’s what happens in most of this earnest movie.
11 Armageddon (1998)
It may not have been a critic’s favorite, exactly, when it came out (or since,) but Armageddon sure made a lot of money for Touchstone Pictures. Produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and with Michael Bay as director, the movie stars action-flick faves Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck, with Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, Owen Wilson, and many more in what should've been a great ensemble cast. The problem? The story is complete nonsense, and it’s hard to take any of it seriously, even in suspension-of-reality mode. Bruce Willis plays the most awesome oil driller in the world, with the most awesome oil-drilling crew in the world, and his beautiful daughter, naturally, lives with the guys on an oil rig. K. So, when NASA is looking for people to drill a hole in an asteroid that's threatening Earth, they naturally turn to this motley, lovable crew of oil-drilling experts, who demand freedom from all taxes forever and quip their way into the job. They train for exactly 12 days to be astronauts. Liv Tyler spends a lot of time wordlessly emoting (at least, we think that’s what she’s doing) while the boys are at work, and… Ya, we didn’t care either by the end.
10 Wild Wild West (1999)
This movie by director Barry Sonnenfeld stars Kevin Kline, Will Smith, Salma Hayek, and Kenneth Branagh, so you can’t say that it lacked star power or acting chops. The story is a big-screen adaptation of a TV series by the same name that aired in the 1960s. How did it all go so wrong? There are certainly moments when the steampunk-action vibe works, mixing classic old West tropes with sci-fi and Smith’s hip-hop persona. In the end, the story seems to focus too much on a series of sci-fi gadgets that end up as meh rather than wow, losing the comic chemistry that would've saved the story. The special effects look great, but you don’t really care about the characters or the story as it winds its way to a conclusion. It won 5 Razzies for worst film of the year – remember that if you're tempted one night on your couch.
9 Forrest Gump (1994)
Never mind Netflix -- has there ever been a move in filmmaking history more overhyped than Forrest Gump? Tom Hanks was America’s sweetheart when he won the Best Actor Oscar for a movie that's known nowadays for its problematic approach to its titular hero. Hanks plays a man-child with an IQ of 75 who stumbles through history – literally – with his homespun good humor. Could there be a more clichéd view of the intellectually challenged? More troubling, the movie actually seems to be making fun of him at certain points, including a scene where he runs from bullies as a child to the sound of hillbilly music. The scenes of him playing a pivotal role in, like all the events of 20th century American history, are cartoonish, and the story glosses over what should be really dark elements, like his girlfriend Jenny’s sexual abuse at the hands of her father. It won multiple awards, got great reviews, and made more than $300 million. We’re just not sure why.
8 Amelie (2001)
Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s movie, starring the wide-eyed Audrey Tautou, was one of the rare European movies to garner a lot of attention on the North American side of the Atlantic. It’s a beautiful film from a visual standpoint, following the shy romance between Tatou’s Amelie, a charming gamine who wants to help everyone, and Nino. They’re both cute and quirky, and the movie takes them all around Paris. The problem is that the pair -- and the movie itself -- are just a little too cute and quirky and constantly remind us how whimsical the adventure of the two shy would-be lovers is. The red and green aesthetic gets old pretty quickly, and the plot wanders all over the place, seeming to be content to dazzle us with its visuals and delightful wackiness. It’s not enough. The result is a little gooey, like one of those donuts that’s just a little too sweet to enjoy.
7 The Big Short (2015)
Christian Bale, Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, and Brad Pitt star in this story about the financial crisis of 2007-2008. Essentially, the market collapsed when subprime mortgages collapsed, and the financial industry was in on the whole deal. They watched and planned on how to profit when everything went to hell. Director Adam McKay was also responsible for Anchorman and Step Brothers leading up to this flick, which can’t decide if it’s social commentary or black comedy. Maybe that’s because the script is based on a non-fiction bestseller by author Michael Lewis that profiled some of the high-flying personalities at the heart of the financial meltdown. Part of it is the director’s ruse of using celebs like Selena Gomez to explain some of the high finance terms to us, which they do by reciting bits obviously written for laughs. The problem is the movie’s split personality – too disapproving of the antics of the financial types to be genuinely funny, and a bit forced in tone overall.
6 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
E.T., the adorable alien, is stranded on Earth. He’s befriended by a young boy who takes him into his home in suburban California. There, he and his siblings, including a child Drew Barrymore, decide to keep E.T. a secret from the grownups. Drama and mayhem ensue. Perhaps, it’s worth remembering that it was based on The Day The Earth Stood Still, a sci-fi flick with overtones of the biblical Christ story. That explains why a story about an alien tells us nothing about his alien-ness or the world he comes from. Steven Spielberg pulls out all the stops in his attempts to jerk tears from his audience’s eyes before the requisite heartwarming ending. It’s a cute kids’ movie, but not the fantasy masterpiece many hailed it for when it came out. Maybe most tellingly, the Rotten Tomatoes score for the movie is 98% while the audience score is only 71%, hinting that its charms are being recognized for what they are -- a fun family flick.
5 Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow (2004)
This is one of those movies you might across on Netflix and think -- Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jude Law? Why haven’t I seen this before? Maybe it’s worth a look! Maybe not. Jude Law plays the Sky Captain, basically a rich guy who uses his private air force to battle giant robots attacking New York City. Paltrow plays Polly Perkins, a reporter who's his ex-girlfriend, and Jolie plays Captain Franky Cook, a Royal Navy commander. Laurence Olivier plays the villain, Dr. Totenkopf, but even his acting power can’t save this flick. Critics and reviewers seemed to like the movie, and you’ll even find the legendary Roger Ebert’s 4 out of 4 review online. Audiences disagreed with the assessment, however, giving it only 46% on Rotten Tomatoes, and the movie only earned $58 million on a budget of $70 million. Jolie had just made Lara Croft and agreed to film for exactly three days, and it shows in a rote performance. It looks great but fails to generate the kind of excitement an action movie that even a dieselpunk fantasy full of cool gadgets needs to create.
4 Twilight (2008)
Ah, Twilight. Not much of a story. Not much tension or action. But what it did have was hordes of fangirls (and some fanboys, it has to be said) who loved the books so much they were willing to put up with the deficiencies. Kristen Stewart seems to have made a name for herself since the hugely popular Twilight movies that put her in the spotlight by focusing on character roles that make the most of her stony-faced delivery. But as the emotional/whiny Bella, the lack of expression begins to grate after a while. The characters are mostly boring, and somehow, a story about a love affair between a human and a dangerous vampire becomes… equally boring. Where’s Blade or Buffy when you need them? Even co-star Robert Pattinson hates the movie. Yes, it went on to make millions and birth a trilogy, but that doesn’t change the fact that, as a movie, it totally sucks.
3 Alice Through The Looking Glass (2016)
Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland made a whopping $116 million on its opening weekend in 2010. That, no doubt, is what encouraged Disney to follow up with the sequel, also based on the books of Lewis Carroll. It followed other dark, gothic Disney fairytales like Maleficent, and Oz the Great and Powerful, both of which coughed up big bucks. A cast featuring Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, and Helena Bonham Carter and some undeniably fantastic special effects, couldn’t save a lame story. The genuine zaniness of the source material never comes through, and the effort seems forced. The magic of the first Alice movie was gone, replaced by an aesthetic that just threw too much forced zaniness into the mix to be engaging.
2 Love Actually (2003)
Love Actually is one of those flicks that get trotted out every Christmas season, and if your choice is yet another run of Miracle on 34th Street or this movie, we’ll concede that you may prefer a modern story over the classic. Certainly, there’s something to be said for the movie that made flash-mobbing a thing. But, especially in the times we now live in, the idea of Hugh Grant’s delightfully down-to-earth and strongly moral politician dancing around 10 Downing Street is like eating one of those horribly sweet chocolates by mistake. The story juggles multiple characters, bringing them all to highly improbably happy endings. Bill Nighy is one of the bright spots in this uneven flick, filled as it is to the brim with British acting greats like Liam Neeson, Keira Knightley, and Colin Firth, among others. Is it too demanding to ask for a coherent, more believable story from a holiday-oriented romantic comedy? Maybe, but we’re still putting it on the list.
1 Million Dollar Baby (2004)
This movie won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Actor in a Supporting Role for Morgan Freeman. So what do we know? Clint Eastwood has had a successful career as both an actor and director, but it doesn’t translate into what you would call anything groundbreaking or innovative. Million Dollar Baby, the story of the grizzled old coach and young hopeful boxer, follows an old trope. The only thing that made it seem remotely fresh in its day was the fact the young hopeful was a girl, played by Hilary Swank. But take away that one fact, and it’s Clint Eastwood playing the same hard-natured guy who gradually warms up to the kid that he’s been playing for most of his long career. It begins as a sports movie but then ends as a downer story about what happens to athletic promise after a serious injury. The consequences may be realistic, but they don’t make for an entertaining story. Her family is portrayed as one-dimensional trailer trash who don’t even send her a sympathy card, and disability rights organizations took issue with the way the script has Swank’s quadriplegic Maggie call herself an old sick dog that should be shot. It’s not just that a character might feel that way in such a situation; it’s that the movie itself feels that way.
Sources: huffingtonpost.com; gq-magazine.co.uk; theguardian.com