Top 10 Bad Films by Good Directors

Well, since I did the good films by bad directors list last week, I felt it was only appropriate to move on and do the opposite in the following week. Same rules apply. One film per director, and once again, I should mention that these directors don’t all have just one bad film to qualify for this list, although I have said to get one of the directors on this list I have extended a number out to say three bad films is the maximum you’re allowed. This went a bit pear-shaped when I realised the director I put on for that actually has four bad films, but I’d already made the list and thought it was a pretty good list so let’s go with it anyway.

10. Spider Man 3

Directed by Sam Raimi

Sam Raimi was a bit of a difficult choice for this one; I actually had a choice between two films in regard to his filmography. Now, I was for the longest time considering go for Oz: The Great and Powerful which was a rather boring film that had terrible miscasting, including the weird decision to have Mila Kunis as The Wicked Witch of The West, but I settled on Spider Man 3 being his worst film. While Sam Raimi has directed some awesome films in the past including the previous two Spider Man films and, of course, The Evil Dead films to say the least, his conclusion to Spider Man was really off kilter. For one thing, the film not only has to introduce one new villain and give him a back story, it also has to reintroduce Harry Osbourne as the new Green Goblin, though luckily his motivations have been established in the previous two films, as well as introducing Venom with minimal amount of time to spare. I reckon they could have done a decent job of showing the conflicted nature that Venom brings on to Spider Man, but man they screwed it up. This is why that infamous dance scene has been mocked relentlessly.

This film is trying to bring a darker tone to what was a rather light franchise up to that point, and on no level was it successful. It is low on this list because I still kind of find myself enjoying Spider Man 3 for the most part. The stuff of the Sand Man is actually really good and probably the best thing about this film. But when you talk about many of the problems with the Sam Raimi Spider Man trilogy, most of it is not stark in Spider Man 3 but is amplified to absurd proportions. This is particularly the case with Mary Jane Watson who Kirsten Dunce is trying her best with, but the writing of this character is just awful, especially in this film. It also stays from going higher on the list because frankly it is also not the worst Spider Man film – that easily goes to Amazing Spider Man 2 which is now, in complete retrospect, an entirely pointless film and has the exact same problem in regard to the too-many-villains that this film has but it had to establish all three of the from the ground up which gave no time for character development.

9. Alien 3

Directed by David Fincher

David Fincher is an excellent director. He has directed some excellent works including The Social Network, Gone Girl and Fight Club, and his contribution to cinema has not gone unfounded. One of the things that surprised me however was that when I was starting to become a fan of David Fincher’s films, I was surprised to find he had directed Alien 3. Now, Alien 3 was Fincher’s first big film project and it’s very clear he had a lot to learn, hence why his follow-up film Se7en was a much better production. Alien 3 really suffers from a lot of problems – for one thing, it’s a drab-looking film. The other films definitely have rather cold and isolated looks to them, that’s not up for dispute, but the way Alien 3 is shot I can’t even tell who’s who (not helped by the fact that every cast member has been shaved bald so it’s really difficult to tell anyone apart). Not to mention it’s just an all-around off-kilter film; there’s no real clear direction that’s been given. The other two films had some cool ideas, the first film having themes of isolation and entrapment with the space setting and one alien that’s able to completely overrun the entire crew of a spaceship, followed by the second film which went for a more action-heavy edge and introduced a very likeable cast of characters. Alien 3 seems to want to go for both of these and fails miserably. I think Finch wasn’t really ready for a project like this. Though, with that being said, I honestly think that if he were put in charge of another Alien film, he could do a decent job. However, as it stands, his only Alien project to date Is pretty weak all things considered.

8. The Lady Killers

Directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

I’m not the biggest Coen brothers’ fan in the world. I do quite like the Coen brothers’ films, some of my favourites being No Country For Old Men and their True Grit remake, which should have gotten Haley Steinfeld her Best Supporting Actress Oscar. I have no idea what they were thinking however when they put together The Lady Killers. The film is just awful; it’s a frankly ugly movie in virtually every regard. It just feels ugly and childish as all hell. I really don’t get what direction the Coen brothers were going for. Plus, I don’t think it was possible that you could actually manage to make Tom Hanks really unlikeable in the film and not for the reasons that you were trying for. It’s just a mess of a movie, easily one of the Coen brothers’ worst. And there’s a very good reason when you bring up the Coen brothers’ career that this film never comes up.

7. Alien Covenant

Directed by Ridley Scott

Okay, please never read my review of Alien Covenant because it took me a few weeks to realise that I had given this film an unfairly decent review because Alien Covenant is awful. I was really tossing for the Ridley Scott entry to be either this or Prometheus because while I think Prometheus fails for its rather lofty ambitions, Alien Covenant fails because it takes those lofty ambitions and pretty much scraps them for the worst by-the-numbers Alien films in the franchise. I have no idea what Ridley Scott was going for with this one – not only does it not work on several levels building up from Prometheus, it actively feels like it’s a rant against people that didn’t like Prometheus. It’s almost as if he’s saying, ‘Oh, you don’t like what’s in Prometheus?’ Well, I’m going to make a film that sort of puts in everything you want but makes you feel awful for wanting it there in the first place. The characters are deeply unmemorable and the thing that pushed it over the top is one of the most self-indulgent performances from Michael Fassbender whose role has been greatly over-expanded for no good reason, including one of the most self-indulgent moments I’ve seen in a long time. Even at the time I thought it was a bad decision to get Michael Fassbender to do that.

6. Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull

Directed by Steven Spielberg

Steven Spielberg is probably one of the best directors that has ever been around. There is a reason why his name has been synonymous with film directors along with Alfred Hitchcock. I had two real choices to pick with Spielberg, but Spielberg had some bad films and I had other choices that I was considering for this list. The Lost World: Jurassic Park which, let’s face it, is not that great a film but is at least entertaining in a few regards so it obviously wasn’t meant for this list. But there was also AI which, due to the death of Stanley Kubrick who was meant to direct it in the first place, I can sort of forgive a lot of the decisions that were made for that film given that Spielberg was put in an almost unwinnable situation.

So, that left me with the worst Indiana Jones movie, The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull. Okay, there are so many things wrong with Indiana Jones: The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull, including that it brought a sci-fi element which never should have been there in the first place. It’s trying way too hard and everyone’s giving performances which make it seem like they don’t want to be on set. But the thing that bothers me the most about Indiana Jones: The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull is it’s dull. It is so dull and unmemorable. In fact, the only thing that is memorable about it is the surviving-the-nuclear-bomb-by-living-in-a-fridge sequence; that’s all we remember about that film. And the reason isn’t just because it’s a bafflingly stupid moment but its because everything else in the film is really dull so it stands out even more. I mean, if you think about it, there’s a lot of very dumb moments in the other Indiana Jones films but they’re genuinely enjoyable and exciting films so you kind of can suspend your disbelief and get over it. The fact that we didn’t get over that moment speaks to this movie’s failings. I think this is down to the demand for another Indiana Jones film that really never should have been made because you get a sense that no one really wants to make this film when you see it. Dumb film, let’s hope the in-production Indian Jones 5 turns out way better, though I’m not holding my breath.

5. Alice in Wonderland

Directed by Tim Burton

Okay, Tim Burton was actually the most difficult choice because he’s the director I mentioned who has four bad films. While I’m a fan of Burton, when he’s off the ball he is appalling. In fact, out of all the directors on this list, he has the least number of good films. The difference is, in most cases when he does make a bad film, there are some actually interesting ideas in place. When I was making this, you could pick films like Batman Returns and Mars Attacks for that basis, which are not exactly bad films but they also are very clunky films in parts. I really had four other films to choose from: It could have been Dumbo for how bleak and ill-advised it was in virtually every regard and how it’s trying to pander to an audience in the strangest way imaginable; Dark Shadows which is just a weirdly bleak version of his tropes all in one place; the Charlie and The Chocolate Factory remake which has one of Johnny Depp’s worst performances ever, and his Planet of The Apes remake which was just spared from this list because of the excellent make-up effects that were used in it. But there’s one film that really bothers me and that’s Alice in Wonderland. I have no idea how Tim Burton made a film this bad out of Alice in Wonderland. I’ve seen so many people defend this film, but I absolutely detest it in every regard – it’s just awful! The biggest problem with the film is it takes a story of mad lunacy and imagination and turns it into a battle epic with tons of characters and weird CGI all over the place. It’s got most of the typical Burton actors in it because every film he was making around that time had to have Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter in it but some of the casting are actually decent choices. Stephen Fry as the Cheshire Cat was a good choice and I actually thought Matt Lucas was a good choice for playing both Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum. But god, it’s weird in how its direction has gone. These films really take a story which has absolutely no plot and gives it way too much plot. I don’t know what Burton’s going for with this one; he kind of tried to do a hybrid of Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass and he’s failed at both which is even more ironic considering that this film got a sequel which was entitled Through The Looking Glass which was also an awful hybrid of Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass, though Burton didn’t direct that one so he doesn’t take any of the blame for it. Also, I hate to say this because I know the actress is trying but she’s been given bad direction in every sense of the word but I really don’t like Mia Wasikowska (Alice) – she just acts dull throughout everything and has virtually no expression whatsoever. I don’t know what the idea they were going for was.

4. Ghost of Mars

Directed by John Carpenter

Ghost of Mars came out in the Mars craze, but this film came out in 2001 – we were over that craze by then. But if anyone was going to get it right it would have been John Carpenter who’s directed some of my favourite horror films including Halloween, The Fog and a film that’s always going to be in my top 10 favourite films of all time, The Thing.So here’s the thing, John Carpenter does have a really bad film in his filmography and it’s Ghost of Mars, one of the most ill-conceived films in this trend. It really stands out for just how bad the writing is. For a writer and director who was known for making really smart characters that made bad decisions because they were put in very desperate situations in films like Halloween and The Thing, you do have to wonder why he wrote such dumb characters in Ghost of Mars. There are some interesting ideas in Ghost of Mars but they’re ultimately awfully executed and it doesn’t even really feel much like a John Carpenter film – none of the director’s trademark is on this movie. And this film has awful performances from lead actors Natasha Hensgate, Ice Cube and Jason Statham, who have all been in far better films than this. It was no wonder that Carpenter wouldn’t direct a feature length film after this until the 2010’s The Ward which didn’t do much better, and it appears that the man has retired almost entirely. And no wonder Ghost of Mars is just an awful film – it’s badly shot, badly acted and the cinematography is terrible. If this and The Ward are the last two films from John Carpenter, it’s a sad way for his career to end.

3. The Dilemma

Directed by John Howard

Okay, now we’re going from just bad executions to: What the hell were you thinking making this movie in the first place? I have no clue what was going through Ron Howard’s mind when he decided to make a comedy about infidelity with actors like Vince Vaughn, Kevin James, Channing Tatum, Winona Ryder and Jennifer Connelly. This is one of the most ill-conceived comedies I have seen in my life. There was no way they were going to get any laughs of this rubbish so why did anyone agree to be in it? No joke, if someone had told me Ron Howard directed this I would have assumed this was a Happy Maddison production. That’s the level we’ve reached, people! Ron Howard has great films to his name – I actually really like his films like Rush, Apollo 13 and I even kind of liked the Star Wars film he did. But this is easily his worst work, including a rather offensive joke early on during an electric car presentation that was leaked in all the trailers. Yes, they put that as their best step forward. There’s a reason why Ron Howard and none of the cast members ever talk about this film.

2. Jack

Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

Yeah, you heard right. The man who directed The Godfather and The Rain Maker directed a film where Robin Williams plays a 10-year-old child that looks like a 40-year-old man. Look, if Francis Ford Coppola really wanted to work with Robin Williams, there were several better solutions than making this movie. It’s one of the most awkward films to watch. Robin tries both doing dramatic and comedic acting within the same film which has historically had very mixed results. Robin is an actor who I always thought is only as good as his director so Coppola should have been a match made in heaven, but they were working on a script that fails miserably. I think more people need to be more aware of this film – any time that people have said that Robin Williams was never in a bad film and I bring this one up, everyone I know either hasn’t seen it or, if they have, they then have to admit they forgot that one.There are some truly outstanding scenes in this film, from a concept that was doomed from the start.

1. Cats

Directed by Tom Hooper

Tom Hooper is definitely an excellent director, nominated for several Oscars, but I have a bit of mix-and-match when it comes to the guy’s credentials but I stand by that he has made some excellent films. I think one of my favourite films he has directed would be The Danish Girl which had excellent performances from both Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander which won her her Oscar. And of course, despite the fact it was received with rather mixed reviews from both critics and audiences, he had turned some success to Les Misérables. I think that’s why Universal thought there might be some awards possibilities with Cats if we brought him on board but man, he lets his hubris show with the bafflingly poor film Cats.

For one thing, you won’t be surprised that most of the best parts of this film are when actual singers are involved. Yeah, when you make Jason Derulo one of the best parts of your film you know something’s gone wrong. Right from the start we knew this film was going to look atrocious – the effects in the trailer were vomit-inducing and they actually managed to be worse when the final film was done since many of the versions that were sent to cinemas were incomplete shots. Some of them actually had the characters in motion capture suits in the background. And, of course, the human-handed Judy Dench who was completely in cat mode otherwise at the end became infamous. This is a film they actually had to patch after release. Not to mention, it’s just bad in every regard; it’s not even so bad it’s good. It’s just awkward to watch. They tried to add a plot to a Broadway show that has absolutely no plot whatsoever. The characters are all over the place and no one’s really that great of a singer, particularly with Rebel Wilson’s terrible singing performance, Ian McKellen who doesn’t seem to even be trying and almost talk-sings his way through his song, and Judy Dench who breaks the fourth wall for about five minutes straight at the end in one of the worst scenes of any film of the last decade. I never got through the whole scene. I actually had to fast forward it because I was so bored.

Cats is a disaster brought on by a director and a studio that were trying to capitalize on the success of The Greatest Showman. I really think this film could have actually been animated and been more of a success. Face it – this film is never going to work as a live-action film. It being animated probably would have fixed a lot of problems; they even could have probably kept the relative plotlessness that the Broadway show had. Man, Cats is a disaster of this generation and it easily would have been my worst film of 2019 if I had actually made the mistake of seeing it in a cinema.
Calvin – Nerd Consultant

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One comment on “Top 10 Bad Films by Good Directors
  1. Neeb/Neve says:

    I feel like Tim Burton and Ridley Scott are really tough ones to pick worst films for. Scott’s stuff I just find frustrating whereas Burton has sunk into his comfortable niche now and feels no need to innovate.

    The most recent Burton film I saw was “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” after having read the book and it felt so half-assed. My worst film for him would be the “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” remake for Depp and those oompa loompas that made me want to break stuff. Also the original was so much better.

    Alien: Covenant was garbage though, yeuch. You made the right call there.

    Oh god I forgot there was an Indy 5 coming out. Just let the poor guy retire.

    What did you think of John Carpenter’s Vampires? I remember watching it with a buddy and she thought it was terrible. I have no idea what I thought of it but I always thought it and Ghosts of Mars were similar. (Its sequel, Vampires Los Muertos, had Jon Bon Jovi in it lol)

    I’m dying to see Cats, if nothing else but to see the expression on my mum’s face while she watches it (she saw the original show). There’s also a certain “cut” of the film that’s rumored to exist that I’d like to see, out of morbid curiosity.

    I hope you’re all doing okay with this Covid stuff.

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