Want something a bit more cheerful? Read my Best 10 Movies Of 2016 (So Far) list here. Also, click on the quotes for my original reviews of each of these ten terrible movies.
I’m not going to lie for you: this list is what I’ve been looking forward to, more than anything else I’ve written for TWIM so far. Ever since I knew I was going to make this, around June-time when the plethora of poor quality was so prevalent that I felt it a dereliction of duty not to create it, The Worst 10 list has dominated my mind. Fact is, some critics don’t like insulting a film – to those who are in that boat, I cackle at your innocent faces from the docks. More than half the time during 2016 (a year that I’ve already been quite opinionated on in the Best list), shut away in a cinema, I’ve felt more like a vulture than a critic, picking away at the bones and having quite a lot of fun as I scrape whatever meat I can find. This year, there have been some massive carcasses. The movie business, especially recently, has shapeshifted into a ‘survival of the fittest’ world – and the 10 dead animals that I’ll be using for dinner here are quite a variety. Some of the fallen never looked like much, a fragile being that never stood a chance – others were predators, some of the most vicious and largest we’ve seen in the wild; but not even they are invulnerable.
Here we go, then. No point musing on 2016 in movies like David Attenborough sleep-talking; we’ve got far more important things to cover today. Think of this list as a plane flying further and further into a storm-cloud: you are going to hit turbulence, probably from the outset, and it will most likely only increase in veracity. All I can say is, read all the safety information provided, make sure you check for the exits, buckle yourself in and check it as many times as possible, and prepare for take-off. These are the roasts you’re looking for; these are the (so far) worst movies of 2016.
Want to know why something didn’t make the list? Read until the end until you find the eligibility criteria.
10) BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE (Warner Bros.)
Logically, we have to talk about the largest perished beast of the lot: while Summer has been and gone now, along with the many terrible movies (many of which are here somewhere) that came with it, I just couldn’t forget how big a misfire Batman v Superman was. And that’s not just because of the fact its a comic book movie with the budget of a small country and the scale of Zack Snyder’s self-perception of his own cock, although the problem lies therein. In my original review, I made my grievances with Zack Snyder’s direction very clear – it was over-the-top, shoddy, once again using a colour filter that would make Peppa Pig look like a 1920s silent film and with such a lack of subtlety even Michael Bay would have complaints. Hell, Donald Trump would have complaints. The fact is, the film runs for 151 very loud and illogical minutes which is annoying enough, but knowing that quite a lot of those movies are included only to set up other DCEU movies in place of what the Ultimate Edition cut revealed was left out (sidenote: the Ultimate Edition is a definite improvement, and saves BvS from going even lower). The dream sequences and the quick cameos by future Justice League members look good on their own, but they’ve been force-edited in there, and it fits about as well as when somebody asks the internet to Photoshop their girlfriend. If the DCEU is going to have any chance of surviving against Marvel’s empire, then Warner has to start trusting the filmmakers (even if they think Zack Snyder is the director to take the DCEU where it needs to go) and not editing the film to within an inch of its life out of nerves. Besides the watchable team of Affleck and Irons strike up an interesting Batman-Alfred dynamic which I liked almost as much as Bale and Caine’s, and a few nice shots, the rest of the movie is to comic book pictures what Doctor Who‘s third season was to Doctor Who – something to be quickly forgotten, with far too much Martha for my liking. Also, Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor…any fucking answers…?
9) GODS OF EGYPT (Entertainment One/Lionsgate)
Yes, I know what you’re thinking – how the HELL is Gods Of Egypt not right down there in the Bottom 3? How is a movie so lacking in plot, characters or anything else allowed to stay in this air, far above what it probably deserves? Oh, I understand. Gods Of Egypt is a movie, scripted with the accuracy of a two year old’s vomit, which somehow makes the most compelling character the one who lies dead for more than an hour of the film. Gods Of Egypt is a movie that had so little moral fibre that it allowed Gerard Butler to effectively wear blackface, play an Egyptian God with a voice best befitting the dairy farmer from the Lidl adverts, and of course had the audacity to conduct a casting that led to the above picture existing (sidenote: no bonus points will be given for identifying the movie’s protagonists) – you could have drawn more passion from some local sand. Courtney Eaton and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau just about survive for at least giving it a little bit of a go, but Butler and mortal protagonist Brenton Thwaites redefine what bad acting is – if you told me they were reading lines from a different film, I would believe you without hesitation as not only are their performances so out of kilter with the rest of the film, I can see the dub from space. Speaking of (I’m not making any of this up), Geoffrey Rush plays a God who must fend off an evil space cloud from his spaceship overlooking the earth, which for unknown purposes is flat. So, with all of that scathing criticism, why so high up? Bluntly, I haven’t laughed more at a movie this year, even if that wasn’t director Alex Proyas’ intention. I haven’t got more mileage out of something I saw at the movies than I did when I began telling people about the film making the earth flat. I’ve thought long and hard about why the story would have benefitted from having a pancake planet, but I’m still trying. There are no explanations, no further words: the earth is just flat. And I’m laughing to the brink of tears just writing this – that inexplicable, totally bemusing shot of a flat earth takes Gods Of Egypt into ‘so bad it’s good’ territory on its own, and I can’t possibly put it too far down for that.
8) THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR (Universal)
This is a surprise to you, as you most certainly forgot that a sequel to Snow White and The Huntsman came out this year. Could be because of all the blockbusters that came out after it, could be because there were seven movies even more rubbish, but the fact is that Winter’s War is a movie that I never heard anybody ask for. Putting it straight, this film is so forgettable it makes Dory look like Russell Crowe from A Beautiful Mind. As well as that, this screenplay (which I famously opined was Frozen written by a twelve-year-old who had unrequited love for an emo) takes down a very solid cast, or at least gave them absolutely no reason to try when the cast read the thing. It’s a total mess; it’s like director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, attempting to join a select group of directors who have had debut and denounement at the same time, decided he wanted to make Christopher Nolan’s Snow White film, but forgot every element that makes Nolan movies, and fairytale movies for that matter, any good. Even if you can tell the cast are throwing a performance away, they cannot be exempt from this poisoned apple: Hemsworth and Chastain, feigning forbidden romance, have facial expressions befitting an IKEA table with similar charisma, and deliver lines in faux-Scottish accents, Hemsworth’s poor, Chastain’s borderline offensive. And if anything, the usually stellar Emily Blunt is the worm in this apple, playing Ice Queen Elsa/Freya like she’s shivering from the cold. It’s odd to watch somebody look like they’re close to bursting into tears while they’re supposed to be delivering a grandiose statement. Blunt’s speech delivery makes Jesse Eisenberg sound like Martin Luther King. But while MLK’s death was a tragedy, The Huntsman: Winter’s War‘s pointless and unnecessary birth reaches similar heights.
7) INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE (Fox)
Going back through my reviews this year to compile this list was a shocking experience. I stunned myself at my sympathy for movies that deserved unreserved hatred and vice versa. But no movie stunned me more so in my original opinion than Independence Day: Resurgence, a film that undisputedly proves that bad really is the absence of good – I really was far too nice to this movie at first glance. Besides a couple of ludicrously scaled up destruction porn from it’s ultimate purveyor, Roland Emmerich (who presumably lives in a doomsday bunker hidden underneath his dungeon), Independence Day: Resurgence is nothing. It is not one atom of anything. I fear that in ten years this will be every summer blockbuster. Not one performance shines above another, nor does an actor have more screen-time than their peer. Not even Jeff Goldblum could give this movie value – if he can’t save your movie, who the hell can? As a sequel, it’s really nothing more than a retread of the same rough storyline, with characters from the original thrown in there to perform narrative tasks similar to those they executed last time out. Not only that, every single actor from Bill Pullman to Judd Hirsch felt far more boring than I remembered, and the new actors from Liam Hemsworth to Jessie Usher (an actor open-cast for the film that is so invisible the U.S. Army is refining him for new camouflage gear) are so boring that I’m beginning to forget. There really is nothing of genuine value to be procured from this film: even the CGI, so utterly ridiculous that its as if Emmerich wanked it into existence, isn’t groundbreaking and looks much the same to X-Men: Apocalypse, released by the same studio just a month before. It’s two hours of emptiness – even the colour scheme was predominantly sterile grey.
6) TRIPLE 9 (Entertainment One)
Speaking of grey, no movie released this year was more flat-out bleak than Triple 9 – what else could we expect from the director of The Road (one of the bleakest things humankind has ever forged from its inherent cynicism), John Hillcoat, who embraces the dark underbelly of the crime world with no windows. If you haven’t heard of this movie (which is probably the case as it was very much a blip on the radar all the way back in February), it’s a surprisingly star-packed crime movie about a team of people who have to perform a heist for the Russian mafia, who have inexplicably bought their souls apparently as there’s no explanation as to why the Russian mafia are holding this lot at gunpoint. Triple 9 is probably different to all the other movies on this list though: there’s no gaping problems with the film. Hillcoat’s direction, albeit darkly lit and full of handheld camerawork isn’t too bad, the screenplay spells out clear motivations although it fails to create engaging characters to convey them, and the multiple big names, Kate Winslet, Casey Affleck and Anthony Mackie amongst them, all put in serviceable shifts even if they don’t have too much to work with. On the surface, Triple 9 is just forgettable – but it provoked me. Problem is, every element of that movie, when thrown into a cauldron and stirred into a mixture, is the dullest thing I’ve ever seen. It made me want to go to sleep. I came close to succumbing to that temptation after 45 minutes of conversation about mostly nothing, but I held my body up and kept my eyes on the screen because something was going to happen, and as a film reviewer I couldn’t let myself miss anything. Safe to say, the moment never came – and for wasting nearly two hours of my life, Triple 9 earns its place on the list. However, Triple 9 is also the cure for insomnia, so at least that’s some kind of a triumph.
5) THE DIVERGENT SERIES: ALLEGIANT (Entertainment One)
“When The Aldi Hunger Games: Irrelevant had finished and I’d got home, I had to look up the plot because I’d forgotten it.”
I think, after spending so long watching absolutely terrible movies, that there are levels to disaster: there’s making a loss, to bombing hard, to bankrupting your studio (you think that’s an exaggeration? Look up Heaven’s Gate, 1980, and come back to me) – it’s a commonly accepted scale. But the third Divergent film, or should I say the first part of it as it is after all a YA franchise, broke new ground this year. When the story broke that Summit Entertainment, the company that owns the film rights to the series, was going to pull the second part of Divergent‘s third movie, Ascendant, out of its 2017 release date and from cinemas entirely in order to take it to (I shit you not) TELEVISION, I laughed so hard I could feel my abdominal muscles for days. Not only because this movie and this franchise, which has been hopeless since it began and has got progressively worse as it’s gone along, utterly deserved this humiliating fate, but because I never in my wildest dreams thought a production company would take that drastic a move. If anything it will make Ascendant even worse, as television viewers are now accustomed to such miraculous things as ‘character’, ‘depth’ and ‘plot’ that the guys who made The Divergent Series: Allegiant can’t even begin to contemplate. This movie was dead on arrival, flatter than the earth in Gods Of Egypt (I will never waste an opportunity to mention that again), and it’s few positives and indeed its infinite negative points were all stolen from other, far more memorable pictures. Robert Schwentke was the unfortunate director whose CV will be irreparably damaged by this, and in the knowledge that good direction requires consistent tone, Schwentke provided the unbroken consistency of having no tone at all. The performances were forgettable from actors you expected it from, and actors you didn’t (Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley can put in proper shifts, but barely stood out in a movie this poor), and if that’s their abilities when they’re working on a $100m+ blockbuster movie, I wonder how they’re all going to perform, as their contracts seem to stipulate that they have to do it, knowing the sequel is a straight-to-TV movie. I honestly can’t wait to see that movie if the cast is retained – two hours of watching famous actors failing to conceal just how pissed they are having to work for three months on a movie that’ll end up on cable or some shit.
4) NERVE (Lionsgate)
The most recent film to appear on this list, and easily the most ridiculous: what was presumably intended as a cautionary tale for the social media age, Nerve, obviously died during production and was resurrected as one of the most brainless movies I’ve ever come across. I feel the best way to describe this morally and logically inept parable of iPhone games gone psychopathic is to talk about one of the oldest games of the lot. If you’ve ever watched people play chess (yes, I know, I am pretentious, and pre-empting your next thought, I am indeed a prick also), you can see the battle of minds, of tactics, between people thinking seven or eight steps ahead on hundreds of different combination. The battle between Nerve‘s plot and myself was fought on far different terms – each plot point, each scene even, foiled me at every turn with stupidity and brainlessness as of then previously uncharted in cinema. After 75 minutes, Nerve initiated a stunning checkmate, in which it moved Queen to B5 and shat into the middle of New York City an arena in which multiple teenagers wearing masks wished for competitors to kill each other to win a grand prize and, in the case of Dave ‘I’m an actor?’ Franco and his rival, their identities, which were stolen by the game itself.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.
Following this, Emma Roberts, the wet fish of screen actresses, in a desperate attempt to stop the depravity precipitated by the evil iPhone app, prepared and subsequently executed a speech. Now we’ve mentioned speeches a few times on this list – Eisenberg twitched and squeaked through his, Emily Blunt was somehow worse, but Emma Roberts is something else. These three will be the Holy Trinity for a very small and probably clinically insane societal cult – Roberts is the missing puzzle piece in the ‘How Not To Pass GCSE English Speaking & Listening’ triumvirate. With the power of a primary school child asking a bully to return their lunchbox, Emma Roberts hopes to appeal to the crowd’s better nature, a sea of anonymous teens, and impassion them not to ask them to fight to the death. They say no; pretty resoundingly in fact. And with that, I put my hands up and leave the chessboard, conceding defeat to the shock of the audience. Forrest Gump beats Kasparov. Well played, Nerve. Very well played.
3) TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS (Paramount)
If you cast your minds back to my complete slating of the movie with a title so long I get older by the end of it, I may have given this film a flat nought. Despite all my moaning about 2016, this movie was the single receiver of a TWIM washout. And yet, I only have it at THREE? ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND? Thing is, as much as TMNT 2 is, of course, absolutely awful, it didn’t inspire in me quite as much hate as the top two movies did. And with that apology out of the way, back to our dinner party in which the main course is roast turtle. This film is utterly terrible, and has literally no redeeming qualities. The performances could win the Golden Raspberry Awards for twenty years straight and you wouldn’t hear too many complaints, director Dave Green showcased to the world his commitment to furthering the work and legacy of Michael Bay (who produced this movie, explaining a lot about why this movie was quite so intensely terrible, as if weaponised for that purpose alone) by copying every bad habit that we’ve picked Bay apart on for something like two decades now, including shots of characters exiting vehicles at an angle that should have its own nausea warning and shooting female characters (i.e. Megan Fox’s breasts, and the rest of her that Bay would probably take a guillotine too if he could) in a way that is so objectified and backward it’ll be more unpopular at a college dorm party than Brock Turner is. And of course, there’s the turtles themselves, who looked more believable as Jim Henson-manufactured puppets than they do as CG creations, win the award pretty comfortably for the most irritating characters in a cinema in 2016, and have a team dynamic resembling a group of third-graders asked to create a group project on the water cycle. If I had the choice between watching this movie again and dropping from 50ft onto a wooden pike, I’d definitely weigh up the options. The best way to put my feelings about this movie, admitting it was the movie with the least good but not the most bad, is this: the two movies coming up are complete twats who deliberately piss you and your mates off, but this movie is like an autistic child trying to be that twat (I’m autistic, I’m allowed to make that joke). You daren’t hit them because you know they can’t throw a punch without tripping over their own feet – it’s just sad really.
2) X-MEN: APOCALYPSE (Fox)
My hate for this movie really does need no introduction. X-Men Apocalypse had a lot going for it – probably the best cast that a blockbuster can possibly have, massive money, Bryan Singer still at the director’s chair – but it also had a lot to live up to. I’m a confessed lover of X-Men: First Class, and as much as I thought Days Of Future Past was a little overrated, I still thought it was extremely solid. All those things made my hate for this movie even sharper. By a distance of lightyears, this was the movie that let me down the most in the last few months, and really for the last few years to be honest. Apocalypse was messy all over the shop; it felt like a total waste of everything that anybody invested into the production, from Fox’s money, the time and talent of the cast, even the crew no matter what role they played. From the very first sequence, set in Ancient Egypt and concerning a mutant fight within a pyramid, with extras seemingly shared with another movie that had Egyptian settings and concerned characters with superhuman abilities. From then on in, over the course of a mercilessly lengthy runtime exceeding the two hour mark by some distance, everything seemed to be wrong with this movie. Even the positive points, of which there were a couple, only served as reminders that there have been far better X-Men movies, most notably another slow-motion Quicksilver sequence that felt like an uninspired plagiarism of the one in Days Of Future Past. The script was wrong in every possible way, and should have been forced through a shredder immediately, with the shredder also scheduled for a deep clean and a clinical sterilisation in order to wash the stench – it wasted Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy and Jennifer Lawrence, some of the most critically acclaimed actors working today, in equal measures. Lawrence had absolutely nothing to do plot-wise and couldn’t do anything with her performance to stand out, while Fassbender appeared a shadow of the dynamic, explosive actor I was blown away by in the last two X-Men movies. Singer’s direction had no focus at all on the plot or the characters, as he was otherwise engaged trying to catch a runaway film like Kristen Stewart trying to close her mouth during The Twilight Saga – obviously struggling, definitely failing. I hated this movie passionately, I hated it in a way I hadn’t previously thought I would as a review writer proper – at the time, I was convinced that no other movie released in 2016 could ire me that much. It was impossible, I said – there is no film that can transcend to a higher level of purposeless omnishambles…
1) THE LEGEND OF TARZAN (Warner Bros.)
…but then Warner Bros. released The Legend Of Tarzan. And I just couldn’t believe what I saw – hell, I scarcely believed it while I was watching it. I remember when I heard it was going to be made and I came to two conclusions – nobody had asked for it and so the movie would most likely make a big loss if the movie did have a $180m budget (which, I hope down to a massive accounting error or an executive working as a double agent for another studio, the movie did have), and it was most likely going to be pretty forgettable, and I’d probably only have to talk about it the one time. But with every scene, every line of dialogue, every stupid piece of cinematography, every failed attempt at making an audience feel emotion, I began to realize that The Legend Of Tarzan wasn’t going to be a movie I could let go of after my original review. Despite securing the services of Samuel L. Jackson…and wasting him by making him say variations on some of his lines from Pulp Fiction and having him try and press forward a culturally revisionist narrative in a film in which only one white man can free thousands of black slaves; Christoph Waltz…and wasting him by having him play the same psychopathic European villain we saw Waltz play in Inglorious Bastards but without any of the colourful dialogue that made Waltz one of the most interesting villains in cinema history; and Margot Robbie…wasting her (or based on the way this movie treats her as a female character, it) in a role that relegates Jane Porter into the following things: a woman who can’t make her own decisions, gets captured easily, is used as a hostage to draw Tarzan into a trap, and whose only imprint on the plot is to scream for her husband to come and rescue her. She might as well have got her dog to it – the dog could have done everything that Robbie needed to and it wouldn’t have felt any less degrading. Tarzan himself isn’t much better – the most memorable thing about Alexander Skarsgard’s unrelentingly brooding portrayal of the ape-man is his weirdly shaped abs, that bemused enough to provoke genuine debate. That’s the only thing about this movie that would. David Yates’s direction is like a collage of every bad habit of every bad director in recent cinemas (except for Tarantino, whose actors he steals as well), and it also features shots that make no logical sense, such as having the camera constantly spin around whilst Skarsgard and Jackson make simple conversation, and having the camera go upside down as Tarzan fights a gorilla on the ground. I could go on forever…
But I think this movie’s earned its triumph already. Congratulations to The Legend Of Tarzan for being the worst movie in one of the worst years I can remember so far. I’m not making the same mistake of assuming this movie won’t be beaten though – the year is not out, and with it being this fateful year, 2016, I genuinely believe that absolutely anything could happen. If you want to know what I think about the rest of the year’s offerings, then I suggest you keep posted on TWIM. If you have any disagreements with this list (and I don’t doubt it for a second), then rant in the comment section – I feel like this entire post is a rant, so it can’t be harmed by more anger.
Eligibility Criteria: All films released in the United States between 1/1/2016 and 31/8/2016 – if a movie does not have a United States release, it’s United Kingdom release date will be used instead. All movies released outside this window are not eligible for consideration.