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35 Great Movies That Got Rotten Reviews When They Came Out

Who says film critics always get it right? Grab the popcorn, because these poorly reviewed films are absolutely worth a watch.

Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings and prices are accurate and items are in stock as of time of publication.

Rd 35 Great Movies That Got Rotten Reviews Ft Jv V2RD.com, Getty Images (3), via amazon.com (3)

Critics missed the mark on these movies

Before there was the almighty review section of every online shopping site, we looked to movie critics to fill us in on whether a film was worthy of our dollars, eyeballs, and time. A trip to the movie theater isn’t exactly an inexpensive activity, so the opinions of these cinephiles has been historically a pretty important factor in terms of whether or not we buy those tickets. However, these film buffs don’t always get it right. In fact, some features that were badly panned by critics ended up becoming what we now consider the best movies of all time.

This surprising list includes some of the most iconic dramas, comedies, romantic movies, and horror films—many of which went on to become blockbusters and award winners. It just goes to show you that sometimes it’s best to trust your gut and take a chance on a big-screen story that looks interesting, regardless of what the so-called experts have to say.

Cluelessvia amazon.com

Clueless

Released: 1995

Rated: PG-13

Director: Amy Heckerling

Critics didn’t love Clueless as much as audiences? As if! The reviews were most certainly mixed on this 1995 comedy, based on Jane Austen’s Emma and starring Alicia Silverstone as Cher, a Beverly Hills teen navigating her social circle and the halls of her wealthy high school. Time magazine critic Richard Corliss had this to say about the film upon its release: “Paying to see Clueless is not really mandatory. You can learn most of the jokes by surfing the TV and newspaper reviews and get a hint of Silverstone’s blithe luster by watching MTV’s relentless promotions. Taking this Cliffs Notes route, moreover, saves you from sitting through several slow stretches of plot sludge.” Way harsh! Personally, we think Cher and her crew offer a timeless classic that touches on all of the nuances of teenagedom, even if it’s in a glossy, California setting.

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Casablancavia amazon.com

Casablanca

Released: 1942

Rated: PG

Director: Michael Curtiz

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. Today, when we think of Casablanca we think of romance, intrigue, and the glamorous bygone era of old Hollywood. But at the time, the New Statesman’s critique of the beloved classic said the love story was “horribly wooden” and filled with “clichés everywhere that lower the tension.” To the fans of the film who are offended by such a shoddy review, or to those who are about to discover it for the first time, we say, “Here’s looking at you, kid.” After all, the flick is filled with some of the most memorable movie quotes of all time.

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Takenvia amazon.com

Taken

Released: 2009

Rated: PG-13

Director: Pierre Morel

Just when he thought he could take it easy, a retired CIA agent (Liam Neeson) finds himself right back in the action and putting himself in danger when he must save his kidnapped daughter. Fans ate up every minute of one of the best action movies of all time, spawning sequels; however, critics were less than thrilled. Roger Ebert only gave the movie two and a half stars, saying it was “preposterous,” although he admitted no one expects these kinds of popcorn thrillers to be plausible. Entertainment Weekly called it a “propulsively outlandish B movie.” Not exactly the words that would inspire someone to plop down the cash for a movie ticket. But moviegoers did, and it turned Neeson into a bona fide action star. For the record, he went on to play the character of Bryan Mills another two times.

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The Wizard Of Ozvia amazon.com

The Wizard of Oz

Released: 1939

Rated: PG

Director: Victor Fleming

A tornado sweeps Dorothy and her dog, Toto, away from Kansas to the magical land of Oz, where she meets new friends and foes in her quest to get home. The Wizard of Oz is one of those classic family movies your kids will love—and that you’ll be excited to watch together for the first time. Today, the flick seems like something spectacular, and the nostalgia involved warms the heart. But Otis Ferguson, film critic for The New Republic, hated the film at the time of its release, writing, “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.” But the joke was on him, as the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.

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The Godfather Part Iivia amazon.com

The Godfather Part II

Released: 1974

Rated: R

Director: Francis Ford Coppola

Starring Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro, this movie sequel continues the violent saga of the Corleone family crime syndicate. The original film, which came out two years earlier, won three Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor for star Marlon Brando. However, the folks behind some of the most widely read film reviews didn’t have a lot of love for the sequel. Take this tidbit from New York Times columnist Vincent Canby: “It’s a Frankenstein’s 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.” Still, The Godfather Part II won an impressive six Oscars, including Best Picture. But it’s one of those classic movies people lie about watching, so if you haven’t seen it yet, we’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse.

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Beachesvia amazon.com

Beaches

Released: 1988

Rated: PG-13

Director: Garry Marshall

Sure, you have to be prepared to watch Beaches with several boxes of tissues by your side, but the film is an absolutely touching tribute to the ups and downs of friendship and life. It’s an odd-couple sort of relationship, with two very different women (Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey) sharing a friendship from childhood: one from an upper-crust upbringing, and the other with a more down-and-out lifestyle as an aspiring entertainer. But a reviewer for the Los Angeles Times liked the book better, saying, “The movie is missing what the book had reams of: heart, connective tissue, sense, sensibilities, a good ear, and a bad mouth.” While that might be true, Beaches is one of those sad movies that brought audiences together because they loved the story so darn much. And let’s not forget the film’s power ballad “The Wind Beneath My Wings,” belted out by the one and only Divine Miss M.

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Titanicvia amazon.com

Titanic

Released: 1997

Rated: PG-13

Director: James Cameron

A society girl (Kate Winslet) falls in love with a struggling artist (Leonardo DiCaprio) on the ill-fated ocean liner. That’s about as succinct a plot summary as one can possibly get, but it doesn’t hurt the film’s popularity that we’re still fascinated by the Titanic more than 100 years after the famous ship’s sinking. James Cameron’s sweeping film drew so many people to theaters, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who had not actually gone to see it more than once—and that says a lot about a movie that’s more than three hours long. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times, however, wasn’t buying what Cameron was selling. “What does $200 million buy? The 3-hour-and-14-minute Titanic unhesitatingly answers: not enough,” he wrote in a review headlined, “The Titanic Sinks Again.” Do you know what we say to that? “I’ll never let go, Jack. I’ll never let go.”

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Star Wars A New Hopevia amazon.com

Star Wars

Released: 1977

Rated: PG

Director: George Lucas

The first-released film in George Lucas’ epic series of films about Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Princess Leia, Han Solo, and Yoda in a galaxy far, far away, the first of the Star Wars movies paved the way for blockbusters with tons of merchandise and created a fandom like no other. To this day, the film, which has the subtitle A New Hope, is as important in pop culture as it was back in 1977. At the time, though, critics didn’t have the nicest things to say about the sci-fi feature. Pauline Kael of the New Yorker wrote, “It’s an assemblage of spare parts—it has no emotional grip… an epic without a dream.” Legions of fans beg to differ.

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Bad Boysvia amazon.com

Bad Boys

Released: 1995

Rated: R

Director: Michael Bay

When you have Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in one of the funniest buddy-cop comedy movies, plus some seriously amazing action sequences, how could you not have a hit on your hands? Moviegoers flocked to see Bad Boys (and still watch it replayed on TV), but critics lambasted the film, which was directed by Michael Bay. “The flabbergasting scenes here—written by a team of Tonight Show and David Letterman Show writers and directed by hot, young TV-commercial and music-video director Michael Bay—are slick, fast, loud, mostly derived from other movies and often senseless,” wrote Michael Wilmington of the Chicago Tribune. To each their own, but we were in for this movie in 1995—and for the sequels that followed.

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Wet Hot American Summervia amazon.com

Wet Hot American Summer

Released: 2001

Rated: R

Director: David Wain

Since it stars some of the funniest talent around, including Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Molly Shannon, Michael Ian Black, and Elizabeth Banks, you’d think Wet Hot American Summer would be a slam-dunk critical success based on their collective comedic chops alone. It’s downright hilarious, and it became a sleeper hit that eventually spawned a limited-edition series reuniting the cast. But Mr. Showbiz’s Michael Atkinson described the film as “a mess, bouncing nonsensically from one style of farce to another, leaving large vacuums and dead spots—which may themselves, of course, be deliberate.” He can say what he wants, but we’ll return to this campy movie set in the ’80s time and time again.

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Forrest Gumpvia amazon.com

Forrest Gump

Released: 1994

Rated: PG-13

Director: Robert Zemeckis

A kind-hearted boy from Alabama (Tom Hanks) falls in love with his best friend, Jenny (Robin Wright), and witnesses important events of the 20th century. Forrest Gump gave us some of the most memorable scenes and movie lines in film history, including the infamous “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Today, there’s even a Bubba Gump Shrimp Company restaurant chain, whose name is derived from the business Forrest and his bestie cooked up. But although it was loved by fans, it wasn’t necessarily loved by critics. Entertainment Weekly‘s Mark Harris had this to say about it: “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.”

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Vertigovia peacock.com

Vertigo

Released: 1958

Rated: PG

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Vertigo tells the story of a former police detective battling his own demons who becomes obsessed with a beautiful woman. Starring James Stewart and Kim Novak, the film is now considered a classic by fans of thriller movies, and of Hitchcock in particular. It’s hard to believe any critic could have distaste for a film that’s held in such high regard today, but Time magazine’s review was less than stellar: “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.” Although we appreciate the reviewer’s pun, if you love a good mystery, give Vertigo a watch.

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2001 A Space Odysseyvia amazon.com

2001: A Space Odyssey

Released: 1968

Rated: G

Director: Stanley Kubrick

One of the best sci-fi movies ever, this flick directed by Stanley Kubrick is about astronauts sent to the moon on a mysterious mission who wind up in a battle between man and machine. “For all its lively visual and mechanical spectacle, this is a kind of space-Spartacus and, more pretentious still, a shaggy God story,” wrote John Simon of the New Leader when the film came out. Keep in mind that the movie won an Oscar for its dazzling visual effects (which were a big deal for the time), and Kubrick was also nominated for the Best Director award. We side with the real critics—the fans—on this one, because 2001: A Space Odyssey was an instant classic that earned its place in film history.

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The Sandlotvia amazon.com

The Sandlot

Released: 1993

Rated: PG

Director: David Mickey Evans

If you were a kid in the ’90s or were a parent of tweens at the time, then there’s a special place in your heart for The Sandlot. The story revolves around a ragtag bunch who have one thing in common: their love of baseball. The trials and tribulations of growing up in the early 1960s are explored, and the flick is equal parts funny and nostalgic. It also gave us the gem of a line: “You’re killing me, Smalls.” Today, the movie continues to hold up with young audiences newly introduced to it, but back then, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer‘s William Arnold may have given the film its most cutting critique: “The Sandlot is so exploitative of the myth of baseball and rings so false as a nostalgia piece—and is so unfunny as a comedy—that it makes The Bad News Bears look like Pride of the Yankees.” Sorry, but no: This is one of the best ‘90s kids movies you need to rewatch.

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National Treasurevia amazon.com

National Treasure

Released: 2004

Rated: PG

Director: Jon Turteltaub

When we read Empire‘s review of this family-friendly Nicolas Cage flick—and one of the most patriotic July 4th movies—we cringed. It’s downright savage. Take a look: “Pulling off the neat trick of being simultaneously moronic and mildly educational, National Treasure is The Da Vinci Code lite—rubbish certainly, but not without a certain charming stupidity.” Despite the critical naysayers, moviegoers loved this flick, and it did exceedingly well in theaters. Guess the average entertainment seeker likes the premise of a historian’s mad dash to find a legendary American treasure before some bad guys more than the typical film reviewer. The sequel, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, premiered three years after the original.

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Armageddonvia amazon.com

Armageddon

Released: 1998

Rated: PG-13

Director: Michael Bay

There are so many things to love about Armageddon: There’s action, romance, family drama, and cool special effects. Oh, and Aerosmith’s killer power ballad “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” which gives the flick one of the best movie soundtracks. It also boasts a great cast with Ben Affleck, Bruce Willis, and Liv Tyler. Still, film critics weren’t sold. “The movie is an assault on the eyes, the ears, the brain, common sense, and the human desire to be entertained,” wrote Roger Ebert in 1998. The New York Times‘ Janet Maslin penned a similarly terrible review, saying, “Though it means to be inspiring, it has quite the opposite effect. There’s not a believable moment here.”

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Lawrence Of Arabiavia amazon.com

Lawrence of Arabia

Released: 1962

Rated: PG

Director: David Lean

If you take a look in the classic-movie vault, you’ll definitely find Lawrence of Arabia, which stars Peter O’Toole as T.E. Lawrence, a British officer who led Arabian tribes in a battle against the Turks during World War I. The film was nominated for an impressive 10 Academy Awards and won seven, including Best Picture and Best Director. By those standards, you’d think this would be a slam dunk with critics. But since it’s on this list, you know it wasn’t. “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,” wrote Bosley Crowther of the New York Times.

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Bonnie And Clydevia amazon.com

Bonnie and Clyde

Released: 1967

Rated: R

Director: Arthur Penn

Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway star as famous gangster couple Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow in one of the most captivating true crime movies ever made. When we first meet Bonnie she’s a waitress, bored with her humdrum life until she meets Clyde, who has a criminal past. Their violent crime spree oddly made them “couple goals” in pop culture, which lasts to this day: Beyoncé and Jay-Z even built a whole song around the duo. But Dave Kaufman of Variety couldn’t see what all of the fuss was about in his review, saying, “Conceptually, the film leaves much to be desired, because killings and the backdrop of the Depression are scarcely material for a bundle of laughs.” Fair point, but it’s still a must-see.

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A Star Is Born 1976via amazon.com

A Star Is Born

Released: 1976

Rated: R

Director: Frank Pierson

Today when we think of A Star Is Born, we conjure up images of the most recent adaption starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga. But back in 1976, Kris Kristofferson and Barbra Streisand put their own spin on one of the best movie musicals of all time, about a former star helping a fledgling singer find fame while his own career falters due to age and alcoholism. The heartbreaking drama had audiences in tears all over the world, but apparently for some critics, those were tears of agony. “A bore is starred,” quipped the Village Voice‘s famous review of the film. A review in the Hollywood Reporter was slightly less savage, complaining mainly that the flick focuses too much on the main stars and not enough on the supporting cast. Still, if you loved the Cooper and Gaga version, you should check out the 1976 entry.

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The Bride Of Frankensteinvia amazon.com

The Bride of Frankenstein

Released: 1935

Rated: Not rated

Director: James Whale

In this sequel to Frankenstein, Dr. Frankenstein is coerced again into helping a mad scientist create a mate for the monster (Boris Karloff) he has already created—with disastrous results. What was he thinking? Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice…well, you know. In the original film, moviegoers presumed both the not-so-good doctor and his monster invention had not survived. But, surprise—they sure did! It’s one of the best Halloween movies to watch around the holiday, or as part of any old movie marathon. At least we think so. Graham Greene’s review in The Spectator, though, leads us to believe he doesn’t agree: “This is a pompous, badly acted film, full of absurd anachronisms and inconsistencies.”

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Gladiatorvia amazon.com

Gladiator

Released: 2000

Rated: R

Director: Ridley Scott

Even if you’re not a pop culture trivia whiz, you probably know where is this movie quote from: “Are you not entertained?” Of course, it’s this surprising underdog story. In the Ridley Scott–directed picture, Maximus (Russell Crowe) starts out as a big-deal general who finds himself demoted to common gladiator after a sinister betrayal. Needless to say, this move does little to help him avenge his murdered family, so like any good action film character, he has to take matters into his own hands. Gladiator was a massive hit at the box office, so clearly movie seekers thought it was worth seeing. But Roger Ebert’s review wasn’t so sparkling: “By the end of this long film, I would have traded any given gladiatorial victory for just one shot of blue skies.”

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Jawsvia amazon.com

Jaws

Released: 1975

Rated: PG

Director: Steven Spielberg

Yes, it’s a horror movie, but it’s also one of the best beach movies ever made—and started the tradition of the summer blockbuster. Jaws further proved its power by literally making people afraid to go in the ocean for fear of sharks after its 1975 premiere—and today. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the film stars Roy Scheider as a local sheriff desperate to locate a killer shark plaguing the oh-so-quaint Amity Island. The mere sound of the Jaws theme music (you know the one) insinuates there’s trouble afoot. Although the film did get many fine reviews from critics back in the day, it also had its fair share of harsh comments. “While I have no doubt that Jaws will make a bloody fortune for Universal and producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown, it is a coarse-grained and exploitive work which depends on excess for its impact,” wrote Charles Champlin in the Los Angeles Times. “Ashore it is a bore, awkwardly staged and lumpily written.”

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Space Jamvia amazon.com

Space Jam

Released: 1996

Rated: PG

Director: Joseph Pytka

Who knew a movie featuring the Looney Tunes gang and NBA superstar Michael Jordan, with tons of random cameos including Bill Murray and Charles Barkley, could be so polarizing? When it comes to Space Jam, people either love it or they hate it. Fans of the movie will defend its entertainment value until their very last breath, but some reviewers were equally severe in their criticisms. “The saddest part about this whole affair is that it took Bugs and Co. 60 years to make their feature debut—and this is what they get,” said the Miami Herald‘s Rene Rodriguez. “At one point, Daffy Duck is discussing merchandising royalties and says, ‘We gotta get new agents—we’re getting screwed.’ In Space Jam, even the cartoons are in it only for the money.”

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The Shawshank Redemptionvia amazon.com

The Shawshank Redemption

Released: 1994

Rated: R

Director: Frank Darabont

The Shawshank Redemption gifted us the wonderful big-screen duo of Andy (Tim Robbins) and Red (Morgan Freeman) in one of the best drama movies of all time. As they spend years together in prison, the film chronicles the journey of these unlikely friends, long-term inmates who form a close bond. On any given weekend you’re like to find this movie being replayed on television because it’s that good to watch over and over again. Some critics, however, found the film listless. “Speaking of jail, Shawshank-the-movie seems to last about half a life sentence,” writes Desson Thomson in the Washington Post. “The story, chiefly about the 20-year friendship between Freeman and Robbins, becomes incarcerated in its own labyrinthine sentimentality.”

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Psychovia amazon.com

Psycho

Released: 1960

Rated: R

Director: Alfred Hitchcock

This Hitchcock thriller’s shower scene featuring Janet Leigh’s heart-pounding screams has been riffed on countless times in pop culture. And to this day motel manager Norman Bates is still among the creepiest of all film characters—made all the more disturbing because this horror movie is inspired by a real story. The movie was also shocking to audiences because in a surprise twist (spoiler alert!) the purported lead star is killed off early on in the movie. But of course, critics wouldn’t be critics without some sort of, you guessed it, criticism. “The trail leads to a sagging, swamp-view motel and to one of the messiest, most nauseating murders ever filmed,” says a Time review. “At close range, the camera watches every twitch, gurgle, convulsion, and hemorrhage in the process by which a living human becomes a corpse…. The nightmare that follows is expertly gothic, but the nausea never disappears.” Actually, that’s kind of a compliment for a horror flick!

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Pretty Womanvia amazon.com

Pretty Woman

Released: 1990

Rated: R

Director: Garry Marshall

Julia Roberts was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for her role in 1990’s Pretty Woman, now considered one of the best romantic comedies of all time. Many poked fun at the idea of a wealthy businessman falling for a call girl he meets in Hollywood, but moviegoers fell in love with the couple and the pairing of Roberts with actor Richard Gere. Time magazine critic Richard Corliss wrote, “A ticket to Pretty Woman buys you mechanical titillation and predictable twists…Old-fashioned, assembly-line moviemaking without the old panache.” Perhaps, but we still love it, and so do a legion of fans.

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Deep Blue Seavia amazon.com

Deep Blue Sea

Released: 1999

Rated: R

Director: Renny Harlin

Admittedly, the premise of Deep Blue Sea is a little off. First, you have a team of scientists working toward finding a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Sounds reasonable—but then you get to the part where this team is doing their work at a research facility so isolated by water that they find themselves the prey of three super-smart sharks. It all sounds a bit mixed up, don’t you think? Well, cast that aside because this movie is a cult classic for the very same reasons it seems so implausible. And along with Jaws, it’s one of the films that have made people afraid to go in the water. “A preposterously silly bit of work, chock-full-o’ nuts and rife with the kind of plot holes you could drive a submersible ROV through,” wrote Marc Savlov in the Austin Chronicle.

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Dirty Dancingvia amazon.com

Dirty Dancing

Released: 1987

Rated: PG-13

Director: Emile Ardolino

Maybe you’re just in it for the dancing, the romance, or the nostalgia, but Dirty Dancing is one of those flicks you can watch over and over because it just makes you feel good. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention its iconic line, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” But Roger Ebert wasn’t here for any of it. “The filmmakers rely so heavily on clichés, on stock characters in old situations, that it’s as if they never really had any confidence in their performers,” he said in his review. Another critic, for TV Guide, felt the supporting cast was pretty unlikeable. “One problem with the film is that it does nothing to endear the Catskill social setting to an audience; the inhabitants seem to be competing for awards in obnoxiousness,” wrote Sandra Contreras. That’s an interesting observation, especially as 40 years later, guests still enjoy visiting the Dirty Dancing resort where the movie was filmed.

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Man On Firevia amazon.com

Man on Fire

Released: 2004

Rated: R

Director: Tony Scott

There are few actors that do action and suspense as well as Denzel Washington, and he doesn’t disappoint in 2004’s Man on Fire. In this flick, he plays a former CIA operative who takes a job protecting a prominent family. When things don’t go as planned, he promises vengeance for them, including their young daughter (Dakota Fanning). The movie was a worldwide success, but critics weren’t on board with Tony Scott–directed film. “It’s dispiriting to see good actors doing smart, solid work with so much unadulterated garbage swirling around them,” writes Stephanie Zacharek on Salon.com. “Scott’s art is also death, and we, the audience, are the ones he’s jabbing at with his ruthless paintbrush. It’s about time someone told him where to stick it.”

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The Shiningvia amazon.com

The Shining

Released: 1980

Rated: R

Director: Stanley Kubrick

If you’ve ever read Stephen King’s novel of the same name, you know it’s one of the scariest books of all time. And director Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic take on the scary tale definitely leaves us feeling unsettled. But despite a memorable performance by Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance, a man who, with his family, spends the winter in an isolated, haunted hotel, film reviewers weren’t so wowed by it. “Stanley Kubrick’s production of The Shining, a ponderous, lackluster distillation of Stephen King’s best-selling novel, looms as the Big Letdown of the new film season,” said Gary Arnold in the Washington Post. “I can’t recall a more elaborately ineffective scare movie. You might say that The Shining, opening today at area theaters, has no peers: Few directors achieve the treacherous luxury of spending five years (and $12 million to $15 million) on such a peerlessly wrongheaded finished product.” Ineffective? Horror fans would disagree.

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Office Space

Released: 1999

Rated: R

Director: Mike Judge

If you’ve ever worked in an office, or really anywhere at all, you can surely relate to at least one of the hilarious scenes in Office Space, a workplace comedy from writer/director Mike Judge about disgruntled employees who decide to stick it to their obnoxious boss. It’s truly a laugh-out-loud film that’s timeless—well, unless you consider the COVID era when our workplace humor changed to Zoom jokes. Critics were largely on board with the first half of the film, but found fault with the second half. “The collapse of Office Space‘s second half is so egregious that one can’t help but suspect Judge’s Achilles heel may be his writing,” writes Tom Keogh. “It’s not that he can’t write—it’s just that his ideas tend to shine better within a pool of fellow scribes, as proven in his television career.”

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It’s a Wonderful Life

Released: 1946

Rated: PG

Director: Frank Capra

We often assume that classic holiday films like It’s a Wonderful Life must have always inspired the feel-good emotions that make it prime for repeat viewing. But while this story of a disappointed small-town man’s visit from an angel is uplifting for many, it didn’t warm critics’ hearts when it first came out. “Indeed, the weakness of this picture, from this reviewer’s point of view, is the sentimentality of it—its illusory concept of life,” read a line in the New York Times’ review. Meanwhile, in New York’s Daily News, Kate Cameron wrote, “The film is too sprawling in extent, too noisy as to background music and voices and much too obvious in the application of its social significance notes.” We beg to differ: It’s one of the best Christmas movies that brings tears to our eyes every holiday season.

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Tommy Boy

Released: 1995

Rated: PG-13

Director: Peter Segal

Critics might like to scoff at a light buddy comedy, but those who know Tommy Boy love Tommy Boy. The comedic pairing of Chris Farley and David Spade meant lots of laughs for movie-goers, though perhaps the film became even more popular once it was released on home entertainment and could be watched again and again. You know who wouldn’t suggest you watch it on repeat? Roger Ebert, who said, “The movie is an assembly of clichés and obligatory scenes from dozens of other movies, all are better. It has only one original idea, and that’s a bad one: The inspiration of making the hero’s sidekick into, simultaneously, his buddy, his critic, and his rival.”

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The Empire Strikes Back

Released: 1980

Rated: PG

Director: Irvin Kershner

Despite that this movie is (almost) universally considered to be the best in the Star Wars franchise, film reviewers picked at the second flick in the saga just as they did the first. In this “episode,” Luke Skywalker is in Jedi training with Yoda, and the rest of the gang is still at odds with Darth Vader and Boba Fett. So what beef could critics have with The Empire Strikes Back? Oh, plenty. “This time out, the Star Wars enterprise isn’t anywhere as enjoyable as the original,” wrote Joy Gould Boynum in the Wall Street Journal. “One might argue that all this represents a gain, adding to the original, sophistication, richness, depth. But truth to tell, these developments seem little more than inappropriate. To place internal struggles within one-dimensional characters who by definition have no interior is absurd.”

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Inception

Released: 2010

Rated: PG-13

Director: Christopher Nolan

Sometimes a movie is so high concept, even the critics can’t get behind its artistic gravitas. That seems to be the case with this thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio, about a thief who uses dream-sharing technology to commit his crimes. The tables are turned, however, when he’s asked to actually put an idea into a dream, rather than steal from it. The film was an awards-show darling, scoring dozens of nominations and even winning four Oscars in mainly technical categories. However, Rex Reed’s review for the Observer might most succinctly sum up how many folks felt about it: “I’d like to tell you just how bad Inception really is, but since it is barely even remotely lucid, no sane description is possible.”

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