This week’s entry: List of Films With A Zero-Percent Rating On Rotten Tomatoes
What it’s about: Alongside IMDB and the website you’re reading now, one of the internet’s most valuable resources for cinephiles is Rotten Tomatoes, a site that aggregates film reviews from around the web. Which you know, if you read last week’s column, in which we looked at Wikipedia’s list of films with 100-percent RT scores—i.e., movies that never received a bad review. This week, we look at the other end of the spectrum: films that never got a good review. It’s a remarkable parade of failure, with enough sure-fire flops like Space Chimps 2: Zartog Strikes Back, and Sex Lives Of The Potato Men (not to mention higher-profile disasters like S. Darko or A Low Down Dirty Shame) to keep Nathan Rabin busy for decades.
Strangest fact: A movie doesn’t have to be well-known to be well-disliked. The list is sortable by number of bad reviews—the infamously terrible Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever tops the list with 116 thumbs down. But for every high-profile disaster like the Roberto Begnini Pinocchio, Jaws: The Revenge, or universally despised Jon Voight blackmail reel Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2, a forgotten stinker like J-horror remake One Missed Call can be second on the list with 79 bad reviews. Direct-to-DVD Charlie Sheen political thriller Shadow Conspiracy gets only one fewer negative note than the list’s latest entry, Adam Sandler crime against humanity The Ridiculous 6.
Biggest controversy: Sometimes all the talent in the world can’t make a bad movie work. Added to the list in the past few years were The Sea Of Trees, in which Gus Van Sant directed Matthew McConaughey, Ken Watanabe, and Naomi Watts to universally negative reviews; Christmas Eve, in which Patrick Stewart, Cheryl Hines, and Gary Cole are among an ensemble of characters “trapped in six different elevators on the titular evening”; a 2011 Chinese-language remake of What Women Want with Gong Li and Andy Lau; or Lulu On The Bridge, which manages to squander the talents of Harvey Keitel, Mira Sorvino, Willem Dafoe, Vanessa Redgrave, and Mandy Patinkin.
Thing we were happiest to learn: Despite what we said last week, movies apparently were better in the good old days. Of the 354 movies on the list, none were made before 1950. Only 29 were before 1980. And even the first movie on the list, 1952 Bette Davis vehicle The Star, netted its lead an Academy Award nomination, so how bad could it have been? Clearly, the bad movie was invented in the mid-’50s, and has cut a larger and larger swath through Hollywood ever since. Of course, there’s a remote possibility that these results simply show that critics aren’t going back to review 70-year-old movies unless they’ve stood the test of time, and the bad movies of the early 20th century were simply swept into the dustbin of history. But we prefer to believe that no one made a bad movie until Panavision came along and screwed everything up.
Thing we were unhappiest to learn: Hollywood has made some awful, awful sequels. Some of the many sequels that populate the list are follow-ups to movies that weren’t much good in the first place (Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser; Atlas Shrugged Part III; Look Who’s Talking Now!), but there are plenty of retreads of films that were pretty great the first time around. Besides a certain shark movie that bought Michael Caine a very nice house, there’s Staying Alive, the unnecessary Saturday Night Fever sequel directed and co-written by Sylvester Stallone; The Bad News Bears Go To Japan; The Sting II (made without a single cast member from the original); Slap Shot II: Breaking The Ice (made 25 years after the original, with Paul-Newman-to-Stephen-Baldwin representing perhaps the biggest downgrade in sequel history); and Disney direct-to-DVD dreck like The Fox And The Hound 2, and Mulan II. Remarkably, there are whole series of unredeemable sequels on the list: four Police Academy sequels; three Leprechauns; two sequels each to Lost Boys, Children Of The Corn, and Beethoven (the big shaggy dog, not the composer); and five different National Lampoon straight-to-video atrocities. There are also lots of late entries in series that ran on too long. (Prom Night IV is on the list. I-III were pure gold.)
Also noteworthy: While there are plenty of bad movies on this list, there are surprisingly few historically bad movies. MST3K favorite Manos: The Hands Of Fate is represented, as is the Ed Wood-penned Orgy Of The Dead, but none of Wood’s directorial work makes the list, whether because someone out there gushed over Bride Of The Monster, or it didn’t meet Rotten Tomatoes’ minimum of 5 reviews. Other famous stinkers like Santa Claus Conquers The Martians, I Spit On Your Grave (which Roger Ebert considered the worst movie ever made), Caligula, Howard The Duck, and Leonard Part 6, apparently each have their defenders, as none are on the list.
Best link to elsewhere on Wikipedia: The only links here are to films, and to List of Films Considered the Worst, which we’ve already covered. So we’ll just throw out some more noteworthy unlovable movies: Good Times, the Sonny & Cher vehicle you never knew existed (by French Connection and Exorcist director William Friedkin), Heartbeeps, Andy Kaufman’s final role; Burt Reynolds’ directorial debut (and Sterling Archer favorite) Gator; and Hot To Trot, a film that somehow failed despite an Oscar-worthy premise: Bobcat Goldthwait plays an investment banker, and John Candy is the voice of a horse who “helps Bobcat’s character make smart decisions in investing,” which ends with Goldthwait romancing Virginia Madsen and riding his portfolio adviser in a horse race.
Further Down The Wormhole: While last week, we learned that plenty of documentaries get nothing but good reviews, there are exceptions. Among them is The Undefeated, a 2011 Sarah Palin hagiography filmed by one of her supporters. Palin is, of course, the former half-term governor of Alaska, and ongoing polarizing figure within the Republican Party. While the Grand Old Party will be fighting tooth and nail to win several swing states come November, one state that will surely be in the red is Wyoming, which passed a law in 2006 closing down several unaccredited colleges suspected of being diploma mills. Diploma mills are schools with questionable credentials which will hand out an impressive-sounding college degree to anyone who pays tuition, regardless of academic achievement. And when we say anyone, we mean anyone, which may be why Wikipedia has a list of animals with fraudulent diplomas, which we’ll examine next week.