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Great Movies That Got Rotten Reviews

Who says film critics always get it right? We rounded up the best bad reviews of classic movies, trashed by everyone from Roger Ebert to Pauline Kael.


Casablanca (1942)

An American expat (Humphrey Bogart) running a nightclub in Casablanca, Morocco, must decide whether to help his former lover (Ingrid Bergman) and her husband escape the country during the early days of World War II.

Review: “The love story that takes us from time to time into the past is horribly wooden, and clichés everywhere lower the tension.”—New Statesman

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The Wizard of Oz (1939)

A tornado sweeps Dorothy and her dog, Toto, away from Kansas to the magical land of Oz. She meets new friends and foes in her quest to get home.

Review: “It has dwarfs, music, Technicolor, freak characters and Judy Garland. It can’t be expected to have a sense of humor as well, and as for the light touch of fantasy, it weighs like a pound of fruitcake soaking wet.”—The New Republic

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The Godfather, Part II (1974)

Starring Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro, the movie continues to tell the violent saga of the Corleone family crime syndicate.

Review: “It’s a Frankenstein monster stitched together from leftover parts. It talks. It moves in fits and starts but it has no mind of its own… Looking very expensive but spiritually desperate, Part II has the air of a very long, very elaborate revue sketch.”—Vincent Canby, The New York Times

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Titanic (1997)

A society girl (Kate Winslet) on her way to get married meets a struggling artist (Leonardo DiCaprio) and falls in love on the ill-fated ocean liner.

Review: “What does $200 million buy? The 3-hour-and-14-minute ‘Titanic’ unhesitatingly answers: not enough.”—Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

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Star Wars (1977)

The first-released film in George Lucas’s epic series of movies about Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Princess Leia, and Yoda in a galaxy far, far away.

Review: “It’s an assemblage of spare parts—it has no emotional grip… an epic without a dream.”—Pauline Kael, The New Yorker

Hey, movie buffs: these are the most scientifically inaccurate films ever. 

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Forrest Gump (1994)

A simple and kind-hearted boy from Alabama (Tom Hanks) falls in love with his best friend, Jenny. He tries to save her as he becomes witness to some of the most important events in history.

Review: “It is… glib, shallow, and monotonous, a movie that spends so much time sanctifying its hero that, despite his ‘innocence,’ he ends up seeming about as vulnerable as Superman.”—Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

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Vertigo (1958)

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, this classic film tells the story of a former police detective battling his own demons who becomes obsessed with a beautiful woman.

Review: “The old master has turned out another Hitchcock-and-bull story in which the mystery is not so much who done it as who cares.”—Time

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2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

In this science-fiction tale directed by Stanley Kubrick, astronauts are sent to the moon on a mysterious mission and wind up in a battle between man and machine.

Review: “The slab is never explained, leaving 2001, for all its lively visual and mechanical spectacle, a kind of space-Spartacus and, more pretentious still, a shaggy God story.”—John Simon, The New Leader

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Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

The epic tale of T.E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole), a British officer who led Arabian tribes in a battle against the Turks during World War I.

Review: “The fault is also in the lengthy but surprisingly lusterless dialogue of Robert Bolt’s over-written screenplay. Seldom has so little been said in so many words.”—Bosley Crowther, The New York Times

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Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway star in this film about the most famous gangster couple in history, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.

Review: “Conceptually, the film leaves much to be desired, because killings and the backdrop of the Depression are scarcely material for a bundle of laughs.”—Dave Kaufman, Variety

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A Star is Born (1976)

A musician (Kris Kristofferson) helps a fledgling singer (Barbra Streisand) find fame while his own career falters due to age and alcoholism.

Review: “A bore is starred.”—Village Voice

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The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

In this sequel to Frankenstein, Dr. Henry Frankenstein is coerced again into helping a mad scientist create a mate for the monster he has already created—with disastrous results.

Review: “This is a pompous, badly acted film, full of absurd anachronisms and inconsistencies.”—Graham Greene, The Spectator

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Gladiator (2000)

Starring Russell Crowe, Gladiator tells the story of a general who is betrayed and forced to become a common gladiator and eventually avenges his murdered family.

Review: “By the end of this long film, I would have traded any given gladiatorial victory for just one shot of blue skies.”—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

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Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest

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