Since it started producing its own original content in 2013, Netflix has given the world some real gems. It has redefined the television industry with shows like Orange Is the New Black, GLOW, and House of Cards (which I don’t think we’re allowed to talk about anymore). It has also given us some great original films with true classics such as Hush, I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore, and the recently released The Meyerowitz Stories, which may result in an Oscar win for Adam Sandler, something nobody ever thought would happen in this dimension.
For all of its great content, however, Netflix has produced some real clunkers. I suppose that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. I mean, when you’re releasing literally dozens of movies and television shows a year, it’s only natural that a significant portion of them are going to be resounding failures. This year alone, the streaming juggernaut has produced almost 100 movies, some of which have been great, some of which have been pretty good, and some of which have been downright terrible. You’ve probably heard a lot about the Netflix successes of the year - Netflix spends a lot of money making sure you do - so today we’re going to balance things out by taking a look at some of the studio’s cinematic shortcomings.
In the interest of fairness, here are the 15 worst Netflix movies of 2017.
15 You Get Me
Starting off this list is one of Netflix’s most recent thrillers, You Get Me. Now, I use the word “thriller” only to denote the movie’s genre and for no other reason. Believe me, You Get Me is anything less than thrilling. The film documents the plight of Tyler Hanson (played by Taylor John Smith) in the aftermath of what was supposed to be a one-night stand with Holly Viola, a character played by Bella Thorne, an actress far too talented for the production.
The worst thing about You Get Me is its complacency. It feels like just another Netflix movie; one only commissioned to beef out the film library and keep subscribers happy. Unfortunately for Netflix, it failed to do the second of those two things. You Get Me received lukewarm reviews from average viewers and was panned by critics and anybody with any sort of fondness for cinema and filmmaking.
14 Sandy Wexler
In the introduction to this article, I mentioned Adam Sandler’s supposedly Oscar-worthy performance in The Meyerowitz Stories, a comedy-drama following three brothers who reunite in New York City to pay homage to their father. It’s a fantastic movie and is up there with the finest Netflix has ever produced. The same cannot be said of Sandy Wexler.
Sandy Wexler is an alleged comedy which sees Adam Sandler portraying the titular character, a down on his luck talent agent whose clients include a stuntman and a professional wrestler. The movie is your typical Adam Sandler farce, although it’s not nearly as charming as Billy Madison or Happy Gilmore. It mainly relies on Sandler’s hacky silly voice and haphazard, skill-less slapstick, which warrant little more than a chuckle in 2017.
13 Girlfriend’s Day
Bob Odenkirk is a fantastic actor. His portrayal of Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman has taken Better Call Saul from a rushed Breaking Bad spin-off to a legitimate television success with a life of its own. As a writer, however, his talents seem to be waning.
Girlfriend’s Day was released by Netflix on Valentine’s Day of 2017, a semi-clever nod to the film’s plot, which sees Odenkirk’s character tasked with creating the perfect card for a new holiday (you guessed it, Girlfriend’s Day) after becoming entangled in a deep-rooted and dangerous conspiracy. Upon viewing the film, most critics agreed that it had moments of promise, maybe even genius, but was ultimately flat and unfulfilling. It could have been a great comedy had Odenkirk enlisted his long-time writing partner David Cross to help with the script, but something (possibly pride) caused him to go it alone and the film and its viewers suffered for it.
12 War Machine
War Machine - a film with the tagline “We’re gonna liberate the sh** out of you” - is intended to shine a light on America’s corporate greed and baffling love of war. It’s a noble pursuit, there’s no denying that, but the film is about a decade too late. It feels like a cheap imitation of Team America: World Police, done with a bigger budget and real people who somehow manage to be less convincing than the marionettes that take center stage in its 2004 alternative. Furthermore, War Machine doesn’t have even half the heart of Team America: World Police and it’s blatantly obvious that its producers are driven by a desire to make money as opposed to a desire to topple a corrupt regime. Peace, according to Netflix, is a commodity.
11 The Discovery
If you were to watch the first 20 minutes of The Discovery and then turn it off before writing a review based only on what you saw, you’d probably have nothing but positive things to say about it. The movie follows an aging scientist who manages to prove the existence of an afterlife only for millions of people to begin killing themselves in order to get to the other side. It’s an interesting premise that is supported by a cast composed of Rooney Mara, Jason Segel, and Robert freaking Redford. Somewhere towards the middle of the movie, however, things just start falling apart. The whole plot stops making sense and the ending fails to tie up loose ends. On top of that, the characters are more than a little preachy and it’s difficult to shake the feeling that the script’s writers were more interested in giving “inspirational” life advice than they were in crafting a meaningful story.
10 Death Note
Netflix’s PR team spent a lot of time and money trying to present Death Note as a legitimate horror/thriller combo, the kind that scares fully grown adults when they watch it with the lights out. Unfortunately, the movie still comes across as a stale teenage outcast chick flick.
Death Note tells the story of a high school student who learns that he can kill anybody he doesn’t like simply by writing their name in a cursed notebook he inexplicably comes into possession of. And hilarity ensues. It’s not supposed to, but it does. As well as for its unconvincing acting and poorly written dialogue, Death Note received criticism for its tendency to deviate from the Japanese manga series of the same name, upon which it was supposed to be based.
9 Sand Castle
Sand Castle tells the story of a young American private assigned to a dangerous mission on Iraqi soil long before he is ready. In fairness to the film’s cast, it is remarkably well-acted, but that’s about where the positives end.
The most common complaint about Sand Castle has been that it fails to add anything new to the war genre, which at this point is almost exhausting as war itself. It’s just another war movie. Sure, it will probably have some degree of appeal for war buffs who can’t get enough of combat dramas and thrillers, but regular moviegoers who have no opinion about the war other than that it sucks will have a hard time sitting through this two hour glorified recitation of Dulce et Decorum Est.
8 Amy Schumer: The Leather Special
Netflix likes to categorize its stand-alone documentaries and stand-up specials as movies, likely in an attempt to make its movie production department appear more active. It’s understandable, then, that the streaming giant tried to present Amy Schumer: The Leather Special as one of the biggest comedy films in its short history.
At the time the special was announced, Amy Schumer was among the most famous comedians in the world and was coming off a string of films, television appearances, and stand-up tours. Unfortunately for Netflix, Schumer’s tireless schedule didn’t leave her with much time to test out her new material and she went into The Leather Special with arguably the weakest jokes of her career. The film was panned by critics and stand-up fans alike, with most complaining about Schumer’s over-reliance on sex jokes and her obvious failure to adequately rehearse the material prior to filming.
7 Shimmer Lake
Netflix’s crime drama Shimmer Lake is a pretty daring release. The entire story is told in reverse, which is kind of cool and was no doubt intended to add a whole new dimension to storytelling and filmmaking. That being said, the movie probably would have had a lot more impact if it were, you know, good.
Shimmer Lake follows a small-town sheriff who must put family to one side when investigating a bank robbery in which his brother appears to have played a role. It received negative to mixed reviews from most critics, with many admitting that the script showed great promise but was totally derailed by the telling of the story in reverse. The gimmick really wasn’t necessary and cost the world a quality crime drama. Maybe Netflix will someday see the light and place Shimmer Lake in Oscar contention by re-releasing it with a more traditional format.
6 The Most Hated Woman In America
The Most Hated Woman in America is a historical drama that tells of Madalyn Murray O’Hair story, an atheist who managed to secure the banning readings of the Bible in America’s public schools. It could have been a fantastic film had Netflix focused only on O’Hair’s professional life, but the writers went out of their way to include her kidnapping and murder. Now, I understand that those things need to be covered in any Madalyn Murray O’Hair biopic, but they were paid such great attention in this movie that they eclipsed O’Hair’s contributions to the separation of church and state in America. What she achieved during her lifetime was incredible, but The Most Hated Woman in America minimizes her accomplishments while furthering the story of her grisly demise.
5 Small Crimes
Small Crimes is a remarkably average movie. Unforgivably so. It takes the story of Dave Zeltserman’s wonderful novel of the same name and maligns it with a poorly written script and equally poor performances from its main cast.
As more than one critic observed, the lack of a quality script makes it difficult to differentiate one character from another, which in turn makes it difficult to understand the various twists and turns of the film. By the end of the first half hour of Small Crimes, you’ll likely be so tired of rewinding and re-watching to understand the plot that you’ll either turn it off or resign yourself to playing Candy Crush as the remainder of the film rolls out in the background. Small Crimes is one of hundreds of Hollywood examples of a book being far superior to its major motion picture adaptation.
4 Little Evil
Little Evil would have been far better received had director Eli Craig released it in the wake of his beloved debut film Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, which hit screens in 2010. Back then, parody movies were still being released on a regular basis, so there would have been more than enough room for Little Evil, which plays up the horror genre’s evil kid trope for laughs. In 2017, however, the film feels out of place and disjointed, as if it were written immediately following the release of Scary Movie and then hastily rewritten last December in order to make it more relevant. The story - which sees Adam Scott’s character doing battle with the suspected demon spawn of his new bride Evangeline Lilly - is actually quite touching, but the jokes almost always fall flat, so fans of comedy should take their search for a Friday night film elsewhere.
3 To The Bone
The writers of To the Bone had the noble aim of exposing the typical Netflix subscriber to the effects of anorexia and the harsh consequences of our beauty-obsessed culture. In fairness to them, they did it pretty well. Actress Lily Collins plays the role of Ellen - a millennial who has battled anorexia for almost half her life - with a realism few others could offer and the skill of the supporting cast only adds to the uncomfortable viewing experience.
That being said, To the Bone is painfully slow moving. It almost feels as though the movie’s producers were so concerned with presenting a realistic portrait of an anorexic 20 something year old that they totally neglected to craft any real plot and what little story is there is far too unoriginal to be of any significance. To the Bone is the kind of film you watch as part of a college course (one that has nothing to do with filmmaking) and certainly isn’t appropriate viewing for when you want to relax and unwind after a tough day.
2 The Babysitter
The Babysitter is up there with the worst movies Netflix has ever produced. It tells the tale of, you guessed it, a babysitter who is discovered to be a member of a Satanic cult. The absurdity of the plot would be charming were it executed better, but The Babysitter smacks of B movie complacency. It’s your typical teen horror farce and attempts to distract from its lack of quality jokes and decent storytelling by playing on the sexuality of its star, Samara Weaving. Don’t get me wrong, Samara Weaving is a very attractive woman and I’m sure I would have had a great time if she had been my babysitter when I was going through puberty, but no amount of good looks can make up for such a poorly written supposedly comedic script. The Babysitter is well-deserving of its reputation as a sleepover movie, mainly because you can expect to be out like a light within the first 20 minutes.
1 Handsome: A Netflix Mystery Movie
Handsome: A Netflix Mystery Movie was written as a vehicle for Garlin and was designed to play to his comedic strengths. The finished product, however, fails to capture the skilled Garlin that we have come to know through Larry David’s exceptional writing and directing ability. The movie doesn’t have much of a plot and seems to be more concerned with getting in as many jokes as possible than it is with telling a coherent story. That would be forgivable if the jokes were in any way decent, but they are hacky and lacking in all comedic integrity. The devoid-of-plot thing that works so well on Curb Your Enthusiasm really doesn’t lend itself to the world of feature-length cinema and anybody who dares to watch Handsome: A Netflix Mystery Movie will feel all two hours tick by… And it’s only 80 minutes long.