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The 20 Worst Summer Blockbusters Ever

Features
by The Playlist Staff
May 6, 2014 4:02 PM
34 Comments
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“Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen” (2009)
Barring a glorious surprise with the upcoming fourth installment, none of Michael Bay’s “Transformers” movies are any good. But the first film at least has its Spielberg-approved boy-and-his-car story to ground things, and the third has the most impressive mayhem in its admittedly over-extended third act. The middle installment, “Revenge Of The Fallen,” has neither of these things. Instead, it has a generic, formulaic plot that essentially replicates the first film (perhaps a side-effect of the writers strike, though that Kurtzman, Orci and Ehren Kruger were the credited writers suggests that you were never going to get much on the page), noisy action, not one but two resurrections of characters thanks to a bullshit MacGuffin, endless action sequences that still don’t find a way to actually tell the fucking characters apart, an increasingly hateful lead performance by Shia LaBeouf, random pot-brownie gags and an increasingly thick vein of misogyny (Megan Fox posed ludicrously on motorbikes, an attractive woman who tries to seduce LaBeouf only to LITERALLY TURN OUT TO BE A TRANSFORMER), and an even thicker one of racism. Even for defenders of Bay, this one’s inexcusable.
Nadir: The jive-talking robots Skids and Mudflaps, caricatures so racist that they’d be shocking in the 1940s.
 
 
Xanadu” (1980)
We’ve mostly tried to avoid films that fall into the “so bad they’re good” category, but that line is definitely blurred with the almost preternaturally campy disco musical “Xanadu.” While it is undoubtedly terrible, featuring nonsensical plotting and dreadful wooden acting, not least from Olivia Newton-John whose register is stuck on “wholesome Aussie on skates” when she’s supposed to be a mysterious semi-divine muse sent to help lunkheaded artist Sonny (Michael Beck) find his talent, it is so gleefully, day-glo, video-effect terrible that it’s quite entertaining. And there are even (brief) moments when it’s almost good, with Gene Kelly’s flashback dance with a 40s siren (also Newton-John) a creditable routine that’s oddly touching. That said, what’s endearing is the cheesiness of a film that has no idea how bad it is, nor that the flash-in-the-pan roller-disco aesthetic it revels in is not, in fact, going to last forever. Or even the week.
Nadir: Any moment when no one’s dancing or singing or skating and you’re suddenly aware they thought they were making a film here.
 
 
"Super Mario Brothers" (1993)
In an interview with The Guardian, the late, great Bob Hoskins answered the questions “What is the worst job you’ve done?”, “What has been your biggest disappointment?” and “If you could edit your past, what would you change?” with the same answer: “Super Mario Brothers.” Not a soul would disagree. The first, and maybe still the worst, major video-game-to-movie adaptation (there’s some very tough competition), it takes the seminal, colorful platform Nintendo games, and like some premonition of how Hollywood would be twenty years on, turns it into a weirdly gritty “Mad Max”-inspired story about Dennis Hopper trying to turn everyone into dinosaurs. Fans of the game would be puzzled by the complete lack of resemblance to the thing they loved, everyone else would just be bored out of their minds at what filmmakers Rocky Morton and Annabel Jankel (the creators of “Max Headroom,” and who blew up their own careers with the movie) came up with.
Nadir: Dennis Hopper turning into a T-Rex.
 
 
“Jonah Hex” (2010)
The films on this list are terrible, but most are at least recognizably movies: they have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and tell something that at least resembles a coherent story. The same can’t be said of “Jonah Hex,” which runs at a mere 81 minutes, and sucks like a vacuum for every single incoherent one of them. Starring Josh Brolin as DC Comics’ back-from-the-dead, heavily-scarred bounty hunter, who takes on John Malkovich’s auto-villain with the help of Megan Fox’s prostitute, it’s a movie that makes more sense from the trailer than from the actual movie, feeling like the filmmakers (in this case, “Horton Hears A Who” director Jimmy Hayward, who replaced Neveldine and Taylor at the last minute) wrapped the project, only to remember three weeks before released that they hadn’t shot thirty pages of the screenplay, and had to glue something together, because the posters had already gone out. With millions of dollars spent on these movies, a basic degree of competence is the very least you can expect from them. But not from “Jonah Hex.”
Nadir: A final fight sequence that randomly cuts together two fight scenes between the same two people in two different locations, for reasons that no human being on earth can effectively explain. No clip available, but here’s a scene where the film randomly shifts into animation to make up for it.
 
 
Pearl Harbor” (2001)
He’d go on to do it with clones in “The Island,” and with warring alien robots with “Transformers,” so we suppose it’s no surprise that Michael Bay was able bring his unerring talent for making headachey, tedious movies out of potentially exciting premises with “Pearl Harbor.” But the travesty here is that this is history, and one of the most important, tide-shifting, annals-rewriting events of the 20th century at that, and Bay manages to take that dramatic gold and spin it into straw: the final film is a lumpen flavorless bore, featuring three of the least charismatic actors who’ve ever graced a blockbuster in Kate Beckinsale, Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett, in a “love story” so inert we can never really remember who is who. Everything about this film makes us sad, especially the absolute tragedy of its 3-hour running time.
Nadir: So. Many. Flags. So. Much. Slo-mo.
 
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34 Comments

  • ? | June 14, 2014 10:10 PMReply

    star wars,transformers, why are those on here they weren't that bad or batman and robin what was wrong with that!!!!????

  • Jessa | June 12, 2014 10:03 AMReply

    A tardy comment to express unapologetic love for Far And Away! All he knew was Joseph loves Shannon. THAT WAS ALL HE KNEW.

  • jawsnnn | June 8, 2014 11:18 AMReply

    ......six years before it blew its nose on “Watchmen,” .........

    Watchmen was actually a pretty decent, faithful and watchable movie that gets bashed on for no reason. It was not as good as the graphic novel. But Watchmen the graphic novel is a monument of achievement for any piece of art. To expect a film adaptation to come even close to it is unrealistic.

  • Dan | June 5, 2014 9:36 PMReply

    The attack sequence of Pearl Harbor is fantastic. The love triangle is of course dreck, and the Doolittle Raid addendum they tacked on so the movie wouldn't end with America on the losing side feels rushed, but the titular event the film exists to portray is solid.

  • Hagbard Celine | June 4, 2014 8:37 PMReply

    Viermaliges Glück

    Rolling from the past into the future. It works always !
    For me the absolute Fantasy Masterpieces.

    Willow, Goonies, Legend and Krull.

  • Rick | June 2, 2014 1:52 AMReply

    I actually liked Masters Of The Universe when I was a kid but I haven't seen it in a long time. I do often like cheesy movie so I'd probably still like it.

  • Duder NME | May 24, 2014 11:04 AMReply

    Yet another blogger misunderstands The Phantom Menace. It was never solely about a trade embargo, and the various aliens are only projections of a viewer's own inherent racism (which I'm sure you've been told about and decided to ignore anyway), leaving the rest to baseless subjective expectation, as if Lucas owed anything to a bunch of faux stockholders. Oh, but at least we got a tired "childhood rape" meme out of it. Way to contribute to being "fans", internet.

  • ? | June 14, 2014 10:13 PM

    i agree with al 100%

  • al | June 13, 2014 9:05 AM

    No the all the Star Wars movies were awesome I have no idea what you are talking about. So was Pearl Harbor and ALEG. The other movies ok in my list but honestly how you going to write that Green Lantern sucked and did not put Dare Devil or Electra in the same Category they all sucked but Green Lantern was good compared to them Two. Transformers 2 plot sucked the action was pretty awesome.

  • Mike | June 4, 2014 2:35 PM

    Oh come on. The Phantom Menace is a dreadful movie. You can stick your head in the sand as much as you like & try to convince yourself that it was not that bad. But it was & I didn't need anyone to tell me it sucked. Oh no... It's Star Wars... so it can't suck.... WRONG!!!!!!

  • Piablo | May 20, 2014 10:54 AMReply

    "The jive-talking robots Skids and Mudflaps, caricatures so racist that they’d be shocking in the 1940s."

    This is getting to be real annoying. Why are 'jive talking' robots racist? Much like the 80's were characterized by the california surf craze and the hippyish 'cowabunga man' way of talking, today is about the urban centers. Like it or not, 'jive talking' is beyond blacks and beyond urban ghettos. It's all races, all localities, and there's nothing racist about it.

  • Duder NME | May 24, 2014 11:11 AM

    The staff has never heard of "wiggers". They seems to misunderstand a lot.

  • John Matrix | May 14, 2014 7:20 PMReply

    Some real stinkers on this list. A few observations:

    - A friend once said "I beg you not to watch Speed 2." I should have listened to him.
    - Batman & Robin was bad, but I didn't hate it. I thought Batman Forever was much worse.
    - The raven flying out of Jonah Hex's mouth was one of the funniest things I've seen in years.
    - I enjoyed Masters of the Universe. I was a teenager at the time, but still...

  • Sanker from india | May 8, 2014 11:18 PMReply

    "Likable star Ryan Reynolds"
    What?! What?! WHAAAAATT?!?!?!

  • Kevin | May 8, 2014 12:52 PMReply

    I agree with most of these, although Jonah Hex is getting a bit of a bad rap here. Lordy, it's a terrible movie, but I actually enjoyed myself at it. The second Pirates film comes to mind as one that was wayyyyy worse.

  • jason | May 7, 2014 5:30 PMReply

    Slumdog Millionaire

  • Narrator | May 10, 2014 11:52 PM

    You don't really "get" the concept of summer blockbusters, do you? Slumdog Millionaire was A) made with a budget of $15 million that B) had a limited release in C) November.

  • NewYorker | May 7, 2014 3:59 PMReply

    i actulley love almost alot of these films, watched Batman & Robin alot when its on tv like the Hub or IFC. i also liked Phantom Menace, Green Lantern, Super Mario Bro &, The Happening(better then M Night's last 2 films)

  • Aline | May 7, 2014 11:32 AMReply

    Feels like there were a lot of bad movies in 1987.

  • Anthony | May 7, 2014 10:50 AMReply

    Star Wars Episode I wasn't that bad as reviews gave it, yes Jar Jar Binks was annoying, but I saw it 5 times in theatres

  • Leigh | May 7, 2014 2:45 AMReply

    After the awesome "Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home", which until the new JJ Abrams Trek came out was the most successful Star Trek movie out of all of them (U.S. Box Office when adjusted for inflation is 230 million, but I bet that's low), the atrocity known as "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" premiered in June of 1989. It grossed less than half of "Home" and is considered by most to be the worst film of the franchise.

  • Duder NME | May 24, 2014 11:09 AM

    Red matter < Row Row Row Your Boat? Granted, a stretch, but wuh?

  • Mark | May 7, 2014 3:51 PM

    Worst film of the franchise, until JJ Abrams came along.

  • Alex Gradet | May 6, 2014 7:18 PMReply

    "'Rocky V' is very hard to sit through; 'Lost in Space' we've all kind of forgotten about but yep, it was shit."

    Not defending their quality (they have none), but the former was released in November, 1990, and the latter in April '98 (famously unseating Titanic at the top of the weekend charts). So neither belongs on a summer list anyway.

  • cirkusfolk | May 6, 2014 7:05 PMReply

    Where is the shit that is The Hangover 3? Only fair if you have Sex and City 2. Oh, and I'll defend Cocktail til I die!

  • Adam Scott Thompson | May 6, 2014 10:56 PM

    +1 for Cocktail.

  • ASFan | May 6, 2014 6:03 PMReply

    I disliked Pirates 4 more than Pirates 3 by a distance.

  • James | May 6, 2014 5:24 PMReply

    Masters of the Universe is a great movie. Shame on you all.....
    I HAVE THE POWER!!!!!!!!!!

  • Duder NME | May 24, 2014 11:12 AM

    LET THIS BE OUR FINAL... BATTLE!

  • Mojo | May 6, 2014 5:15 PMReply

    Went to a $1 theater and sat through a double-feature of Jaws 4 and Superman 4 when I was a kid. I have never paid $1 to watch a movie again. So that meant watching "Phantom Menace" at full price.

  • That Kid | May 6, 2014 4:55 PMReply

    For those who can, or are brave enough to, remember Max Payne. Or better yet, don't.

  • Chris | May 6, 2014 4:42 PMReply

    You definitely picked the wrong Shyamalan. "The Happening" is bad, but not "The Last Airbender"-bad. Not even close.

  • cirkusfolk | May 6, 2014 7:04 PM

    Same with After Earth.

  • Rob | May 6, 2014 4:34 PMReply

    Seen most of these movies. I love League of Extraordinary Gentlemen just because it was so terrible. But Green Lantern... wow. God awful.

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