Hopefully you had yourselves a merry little Christmas, and have spread as much love and joy as you possibly can, because we’re about to take a look at films at are far from joyful.
That’s right, it’s that time of year again, when we round up all the year’s best and worst films to see which ones stuck out for the right reasons (and also for the wrong reasons), and we’re kicking off as we do every year with a look at the very worst films to stink out our cinemas in 2019. These are the films that left us shocked, embarrassed, and in extreme cases maybe even a little suicidal after sitting through such cinematic misery that we hope to never go through again in our lives, and this year we had plenty of abominations to choose from.
Before we get on with the show, a little reminder of how the lists are carried out: films are only eligible if they were given an original UK release between January 1st and December 31st 2019, meaning that it has to have been out in the UK between those dates in order to qualify without being released elsewhere in the world beforehand. So, any 2018 awards holdovers like Green Book or The Favourite, which were released in the States and other territories in 2018 before eventually making it to the UK in 2019, are therefore ineligible. This also applies to any movies that may have been reviewed on this website during film festivals or early advance screenings but do not have an official UK release until next year, which would mean that current awards contenders like Jojo Rabbit, 1917, A Beautiful Day In The Neighbourhood etc are also ineligible for these lists (just so it remains fair for films primarily released this year in the UK). This year, though, I am making one major exception to the rule, and you will find out more when we get to it soon enough.
So, with all of that out of the way, we can finally begin our countdown of the year’s worst films, but not before a brief list of movies that were bad but didn’t quite make it onto the list (in no particular order):
- Gemini Man
- Men In Black International
- The Laundromat
- What Men Want
- Mrs. Lowry and Son
- Lucy in the Sky
- Wonder Park
- Fisherman’s Friends
- The Curse of La Llorona
- The Secret Life of Pets 2
- Red Joan
- Black Christmas
And now, on with the (shit)show…
15 – SERENITY
On paper, a movie starring Academy Award-winning actors Matthew McConaughey, written and directed by Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight seems like it would be fine enough… but then, you sit down to watch the damn thing.
Ill-conceived on nearly every level, it features some of the most embarrassing performances that the likes of McConaughey, Hathaway, Jason Clarke and Diane Lane among others have given throughout their careers, though in fairness to them they have been handed some pretty terrible dialogue to say from a writer who really should have known better. There is not one person involved with this movie that isn’t hamming it up to some degree, whether it’s the actors or Knight’s amateurish direction which amps up the pretension and plays each one of its insane twists with a straight face.
That includes the most banal and nonsensical twist of them all, which is – spoiler alert, in case you’re still curious about this film – that the whole thing takes place inside of a video game that a young boy has rewritten the code for so he can fantasize about killing his father. First of all, there have to be much less complicated outlets for which this kid could take to vent his frustrations, and secondly, the fact that Oscar nominated writers and actors thought that such a dumb twist would actually work in their movie makes this all the more crazy.
Admittedly, the whole concept is so laughably ridiculous that it could be seen as so-bad-it’s-good party viewing, which is partly why it’s not higher ranked on this list (that, and there were just 14 worse movies I saw this year), but it doesn’t diminish the fact that this is brain-dead material executed in the most brain-dead of ways…
14 – X-MEN: DARK PHOENIX
Say what you will about Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox earlier this year, but as long as it now means that the Disney-owned Marvel Studios can finally hit the reset button on the X-Men franchise, which came to a crushingly dismal conclusion with Dark Phoenix, then it will be money well spent.
The fourth in Fox’s rebooted take on the mutants attempted to tackle a popular comics storyline that was famously bungled in X-Men: The Last Stand, yet somehow they screwed up again by failing to explore the weight that came with the plot and its central character Jean Grey. Instead, it was just another by-the-numbers X-Men movie, hitting all of the familiar beats without adding anything new or exciting to the mix, and not even series regulars like James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and especially Jennifer Lawrence – whose Mystique is unceremoniously removed from the picture about halfway through – seem to care anymore about where this series or their characters are going.
Audiences certainly no longer cared, with the film receiving the worst reviews of the series and scored the lowest total gross of any X-Men movie, with even series writer Simon Kinberg (who made his directorial debut with the film) admitting in interviews that the film was a failure. As a way to round out this particular X-Men continuity before its inevitable Disney-backed reboot, it was a sputtering finish to a series that started great with entries like X-Men: First Class and Days of Future Past, and then progressively deteriorated as it went along.
Well, at least we had Deadpool and Logan in between…
13 – GODZILLA: KING OF THE MONSTERS
One of the most common complaints about Gareth Edwards’ divisive Godzilla reboot was that there wasn’t much of Godzilla in it. Well, for the Michael Dougherty-directed sequel we certainly got more of him – but at a headache-inducing price.
The giant lizard decked it out with Mothra, Rodan and King Ghidorah, which if the movie was competently focused, written or at the very least lit well would have been a sight to see. Instead, we got discombobulating set-pieces which were hard to make out due to the constant darkness it set itself in, complete with characters who somehow turned out to be even less memorable than the ones in the Edwards movie, and a scientific plot which made less and less sense as it went along.
Its biggest crime, however, is that it’s painfully boring. This is a film that by all accounts should be amazing – after all, it’s a giant lizard with atomic breath fighting other giant creatures, as is tradition with a Godzilla movie – yet there is nothing for you to care about, not in the script, not with these characters, and not even with Godzilla himself who doesn’t do a whole lot until the final reel, and even then what he does do it’s hard to make out because it’s filmed so shoddily. Even the much-maligned Roland Emmerich Godzilla movie had a campy quality to carry itself, whereas this film has absolutely nothing about it to earn its rank of king.
Next year will see Godzilla go up against King Kong in the aptly-titled Kong vs. Godzilla – right now, I’m rooting for the ape…
12 – THE HUSTLE
For his feature directorial debut, British comedian Chris Addison ensured that nobody would hire him again after delivering a DOA remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (itself a remake of 1964’s Bedtime Story), which proved to be such a laugh-free catastrophe that not even the inclusion of Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson could liven things up.
They both play gender-reversed versions of the characters that Michael Caine and Steve Martin played respectively in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, but whereas that film had charm, sophistication, and most of all great comedy, The Hustle has Anne Hathaway (sporting a very camp British accent) shoving a chip that’s been dipped in toilet water right into Rebel Wilson’s face. That alone should give you an idea of the kind of low-grade humour this film works with, and it’s exactly as uninspiring as you may think it is.
Beyond it being woefully unfunny, with not one single joke providing a solitary laugh, it’s just awkward to watch as the direction and performances seem rather off. You can tell this movie was made by someone who’s never directed a movie before, because the focus is all over the place, and scenes will just go on and on without any attempt to reign any of the seemingly improv-heavy dialogue in. That’s despite the clear intent of being a throwback to screwball comedies like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, but The Hustle misses so much of the spark that made those other movies work.
In attempting to remake Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, they’ve just made something that’s dirty and rotten…
11 – DUMBO
This year, Disney went a little overboard with their live-action remakes of classic animated IPs, and while many of them weren’t especially great, by far the most difficult to sit through was Tim Burton’s take on the one about the flying elephant.
Stretching the 64-minute cartoon into a narrative that’s almost twice the length, it somehow manages to achieve less than what the original did in half the running time. Ehren Kruger’s script is filled with dull, lifeless characters who feel more artificial than the titular CG elephant (who is admittedly rather adorable), played by good actors like Colin Farrell, Danny DeVito and Michael Keaton who are directed with not one ounce of passion from Burton. This unfortunately extends to the two young performers Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins, who give some of the year’s most wooden performances under Burton’s watch, although they are not helped by Kruger’s script which doesn’t give them a lot to work with either.
Although it does what a lot of the other Disney remakes fail to do by doing something different with the story, the stuff that they added makes very little sense, and has far too many clichés to its name which don’t entirely add up, from the villain’s motivation to the fact that those flat-as-hell children are in a lot of the movie. It makes the film so dull to sit through, because you’re constantly waiting for the next plot point to drop since there’s nothing in between to hold your attention, or you’re waiting for the film to make a forced callback to the original film (nowhere is that more evident than how they shoehorn in the Pink Elephants sequence, which is more awkward than nostalgic).
Say what you will about this year’s remakes of Aladdin and The Lion King (even Lady and the Tramp, which wisely went straight to Disney+ instead of a theatrical release), but at least they didn’t feel completely empty on the inside like this film did…