Culture

26 Films Rotten Tomatoes Got 100 Percent Wrong

The Tomatometer is beloved and useful, but far from perfect—here are 26 films that the aggregator got wrong.

Photo Credit: Screen Capture / Rotten Tomatoes

Rotten Tomatoes has been catching a lot of heat lately. As Hollywood tries to make sense of its current box office slump, producers, actors and directors have been pointing at the critical aggregator, which quantifies movie reviews and deems Tinseltown’s beloved properties as either “fresh” or (gasp!) “rotten.”

Moviegoers too have been laying into the site. Last year, fans of the movie “Suicide Squad” circulated a petition attacking Rotten Tomatoes for designating the film as “rotten” due to its overwhelmingly bad reviews.

Yes, that’s absurd — but it does raise valid questions about whether the website’s black-or-white, win-or-lose mentality unfairly disadvantages movies that happened to fall on the wrong side of the critical consensus or overly rewards films that just so happened to get a few mildly positive reviews.

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To answer at least some of those questions — and deliver a little cinematic justice — here’s a list some of the most egregious cases in which the site either maligned a good film or elevated a bad one.

1. “Jurassic World,” 2015, 77 percent fresh

Be honest: “Jurassic World” sucked. It’s understandable why it pulled in nearly $1.7 billion at the box office, given that it was a much-hyped sequel to a beloved classic, but the critical acclaim a little baffling. In many ways, the film was a step back from its 1993 predecessor — the CGI-ified dinosaurs looked much less convincing than those in the original, and the plot conveniently ignored scientific advancements (such as the discovery that many dinosaurs had feathers). The first film advanced public knowledge of paleontology. This one regressed it. Even worse, “Jurassic World” did absolutely nothing with a fantastic premise. Setting the new movie in a functional theme park was a great idea, but instead of focusing on dinosaurs chowing down on customers in modern facilities, it only includes a brief scene featuring such an attack before reverting to the jungle setting that had been done to death in the previous three films. Let’s not even talk about having Bryce Dallas Harper running for her life in heels just because she happens to be a woman.

2. “Suicide Squad,” 2016, 25 percent rotten

This movie is no masterpiece, but it deserves much better than the critical trouncing it got. There is a gritty and fun sensibility to the movie that makes up for the plot holes (of which there are an abundance) and weird editing (you can tell that director David Ayer had planned more extensive backstories for the villains, which were then cut to ribbons by the studio). This is not to say the movie isn’t flawed, but aside from the wretched Joker scenes, the rest of the film itself is actually pretty entertaining. Margot Robbie nails the character of Harley Quinn, Will Smith is both charming and surprisingly vulnerable as Deadshot, and the titular Squad itself has excellent chemistry. When the cast is just allowed to read Ayer’s dialogue and let it sink or swim on its own, the movie usually succeeds. Not a great movie by any means, but hardly one that belongs in the same category as DC’s two biggest failures, “Man of Steel” and “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.”

3. “The Glass Castle,” 2017, 49 percent rotten

Why on earth was this movie panned? Woody Harrelson and Brie Larson are breathtaking as an alcoholic and abusive father and his psychologically recovering daughter. The script pulls no punches and director Daniel Destin Cretton demonstrates that the storytelling skills he showed off in his previous film, “Short Term 12,” were hardly a fluke. It’s easy for movies like this to get dragged down in clichéd plot twists or maudlin sentimentality, but “The Glass Castle” pulls off the deft trick of sympathizing with its monstrous characters while refusing to spare their horrid behavior from the unflinching eye of the camera. No, it’s not a great film and this cinematic adaptation of a well-regarded book offers enough plot holes that only a trip to the bookstore could help work out. These are valid flaws, to be sure, but hardly sufficient reason to pan the film outright. It deserved better than a lousy 49 percent.

4. “Crash,” 2004, 75 percent fresh

This Oscar-winner for Best Picture isn’t even the best film called “Crash” — that honor goes to David Cronenberg’s 1996 thriller. This, however, reeks of simplistic moralizing, is lousy with hackneyed dialogue and filled ludicrously contrived melodrama that only pours out of writers and director who think they understand racism but really, really don’t. For pete’s sake, this is a movie with lines like this: “Mom, I can’t talk to you right now, okay? I’m having sex with a white woman.” Really. The fact that it was directed by a tone-deaf white guy, Paul Haggis, and co-written by both him and another tone-deaf white guy, Bobby Moresco, is hardly surprising. What is a bit of a shocker is that it managed to rob a genuinely great and revolutionary film, “Brokeback Mountain,” of the Academy Award. This turkey should be sitting somewhere around 33 percent, and that’s only because of the cinematography and editing.

5. “The Amazing Spider-Man,” 2012, 72 percent fresh

While the second “Amazing Spider-Man” film was rightfully panned as over-cluttered and derivative, the first one was inexplicably praised despite possessing those same flaws. It’s a mindless remake of the 2002 “Spider-Man” with Gwen Stacy replacing Mary-Jane Watson and The Lizard replacing The Green Goblin. Looks like it got just enough tolerable reviews to put it into “fresh territory.”

6. “Society,” 1989, 50 percent rotten

Thematically reminiscent of John Carpenter’s “They Live,” which was released just one year earlier, this should-be horror classic manages to deliver old-fashioned scares and gross-out humor alongside some searingly incisive and relevant social satire. This is a movie that needs to be rediscovered as a cult classic.

7. “Shock Treatment,” 1981, 50 percent rotten

This little-known sequel to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is directed by the original film’s co-writer Richard O’Brien and possesses all of that movie’s madcap inventiveness and charm. It is also a surprisingly prophetic look at how television and commercialism will destroy American life, from our marriages to our essential humanity. And, as you would expect from a good “Rocky Horror” sequel, the songs are catchy as hell!

8. “The Truman Show,” 1998, 94 percent fresh

The premise of this film is ingenious, but that’s all it really is — a great premise. The execution, on the other hand, is pretty subpar (it may be esteemed director Peter Weir’s worst outing). The keepers of the fake town that contains unknowing captive Truman Burbank make a ton of dumb decisions, while Jim Carrey himself mugs and overacts so much as Truman that it takes the viewer out of the scenario. This movie is more memorable than actually good.

9. “The Girl on the Train,” 2016, 43 percent rotten

Critics seem to have found this movie dull and uninspired. This was a classic case of panning the good because it didn’t rise to the occasion of being great. “The Girl on the Train” may contain a premise that Alfred Hitchcock or a similar director would have done better, but that doesn’t stop it from being a perfectly enjoyable suspense film of its own.

10. “Sing,” 2016, 73 percent fresh

It’s easy to imagine how the corporate executives behind “Sing” thought up the movie’s premise. “Hey, do you know how the ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’ and ‘Glee’ franchises made a lot of money by covering pop songs? Well, let’s do that but with cute talking animals!” It’s a shame they didn’t come up with interesting characters, a decent plot or good jokes as well. Just a guess, but that 73 percent may come from critics saying, “sure, take the kids,” and not really caring whether any adults would be able to digest it.

11. “The Mummy,” 1999, 57 percent rotten

If there is one good thing about the bland train wreck known as the 2017 “The Mummy,” it’s that it allows critics to better appreciate the underrated virtues of the 1999 film. This was a campy and fun adventure flick, with Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weisz lending unexpected heft to the leading roles. Unlike the new version of “The Mummy,” this one also holds up to repeated viewings.

12. “Waking Life,” 2001, 80 percent fresh

This is the kind of movie that gives the arthouse genre a bad name. It is brimming with pseudo-philosophy that isn’t half as profound as it believes itself to be and a dearth of humor that turns the proceeding into a dull slog. The animation is admittedly quite nice, brilliant even. But that isn’t enough to compensate for its deficiencies elsewhere.

13. “Hannibal,” 2001, 39 percent rotten

It’s understandable why critics panned this film — it was the much-anticipated follow-up to the brilliant, seductive “The Silence of the Lambs.” “Hannibal” is nowhere near as good as that movie. Few thrillers have been before or since. That doesn’t mean that this installment isn’t worth seeing, however. Anthony Hopkins is still a hoot as Hannibal Lecter, and the story is sufficiently engrossing as a thriller/horror flick and crime drama to keep the audience engaged.

14. “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones,” 2002, 65 percent fresh

While “The Phantom Menace” may be the most maligned of the “Star Wars” prequels (and is rightly designated “rotten” on the site), it isn’t the worst film in that trilogy by far. That distinction belongs to “Attack of the Clones,” which is just as boring and witless as its predecessor without any compensating virtues. Say what you will about “The Phantom Menace,” but at least it had an identity that made it memorable. “Attack of the Clones” leaves your system as soon as the end credits start rolling.

15. “Saw VI,” 2009, 37 percent rotten

While “Saw VI” did better on the Tomatometer than most other “Saw” films, it deserved to be rated outright fresh. Like “Society,” this film uses its horror premise as a way to offer brilliant social commentary — in its case, about the inhumanity of America’s health care system. Given that it was released while the debate over Obamacare reached a peak, it couldn’t have been more timely.

16. “Avatar,” 2009, 84 percent fresh

So dazzled were the critics by the once-innovative 3D technology the James Cameron epic sports that they didn’t seem to notice there was a very, very bad movie sticking out of the screen. There is a great trailer mashup that compares “Avatar” to “Fern Gully,” and that really says everything about why this flick is overrated. Like the “Star Wars” prequels, it tries to conceal its bland dialogue and cookie-cutter characters with eye-popping special effects, but at least those movies had a somewhat original story. “Avatar” is just a ripoff of a much, much better 1992 animated film.

17. “Bad Santa 2,” 2016, 23 percent rotten

This seems like a case of critics revering a classic so much that they can’t bring themselves to accept its sequel. “Bad Santa 2″ is very much a fitting followup to the first movie in terms of humor, characterization and the ability to match heart with raunchy, cynical human comedy. Add Kathy Bates to the mix as Willie T. Soke’s mother and you have a recipe for a great time.

18. “Split,” 2017, 74 percent fresh

There is a lot that’s right about “Split,” particularly the brilliant way it ties itself into Shyamalan’s underrated 2000 classic “Unbreakable,” but the problematic premise is too distracting to overcome these issues. This is a movie that hooks you in by depicting a legitimate mental health disorder as something that can turn you into a literal super-powered monster. That vile premise deserves a 65 percent deduction, no matter how effective the thriller that surrounds it is.

19. “Anaconda,” 1997, 38 percent rotten

Oh, come on. How can you not like this dopey, scary flick? Like “The Mummy,” this is a late ’90s adventure romp that doesn’t get its due. Swimming against the critical tide, the late Roger Ebert nailed why this movie works so well in his review: “‘Anaconda’ is an example of one of the hardest kinds of films to make well: a superior mass-audience entertainment. It has the effects and the thrills, but it also has big laughs, quirky dialogue and a gruesome imagination.” Amen.

20. “Signs,” 2002, 74 percent fresh

Arguably, this was the beginning of Shyamalan’s decline. The twist ending here is random instead of well-crafted, neither the aliens nor the premise itself are scary and the dialogue is worse than hackneyed. Worst of all, it actually believes itself to be profound, but does little to back up that conviction. With a few changes it could have been an entry in the so-bad-it’s-good genre, but the self-consciously Spielbergian touches and its sleepy, sleepy first two acts means it’s not even worth watching for laughs.

21. “The Deer Hunter,” 1978, 94 percent fresh

Although director Michael Cimino is best remembered for the 1980 cinematic disaster “Heaven’s Gate,” all of the problems with that film appear here as well. Yes, it won nine Oscars, but try watching it on streaming some time. You’ll find it’s  too long and poorly paced, contains lush shots with nothing particularly interesting happening in them and gets bogged down in its own preachiness. The acting is superb, of course, but the talent is wasted.

22. “Julien Donkey-Boy,” 1999, 26 percent rotten

In contrast to “Split,” which indulges audiences by allowing them to see the type of sensationalized depiction of mental illness that they subconsciously want, “Julien Donkey-Boy” is the story of mental illness — as well as the environmental conditions that cultivate it — that demands you accept it on its own terms. It is emotionally brutal, but that uncompromising brutality is precisely what makes it so effective. This should have won Oscars, not been relegated to the heap of so-called “Rotten” fare. Yes, it is hard to watch — but that doesn’t make it bad.

23. “Robots,” 2005, 64 percent fresh

While Hollywood loves to remake classic films, it should really focus on remaking movies that had a lot of potential but never lived up to it. “Robots” is a case study in this: The animation, though acceptable, doesn’t do as much with its nifty premise as it could, and the story is so formulaic that it’s almost offensive to the intellect. Imagine if Pixar had tried to make a movie starring robots. Oh, wait . . . it did.

24. “A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child,” 1989, 33 percent rotten

When “Nightmare on Elm Street 5″ appeared on a marquee during the recent remake of “It,” it was a welcome nod to a great horror film that has yet to receive its due. “A Nightmare on Elm Street 5″ has some of the goriest, most searing visuals to ever appear in this franchise, and actually confronts feminist issues — such as being a single teenage mother, coping with mental illness in a sexist culture, body dysmorphia and the pressure to remain attractive, and debates over whether to get an abortion — in a surprisingly mature and frank way.

25. “Star Trek Into Darkness,” 2013, 86 percent fresh

Talk about a movie that consists of nothing but fan service. It would be one thing if the filmmakers flat-out admitted they were trying to remake the classic “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan,” but instead they tried to pull a fast one on audiences — paste superficial aspects of that movie (the presence of Khan, the death of a major character) onto their own bland action flick. This could have been okay if they had made a decent cerebral “Star Trek” movie, but instead they wound up with a sub-par action flick. It has none of the magic, none of the positivity, none of the deliciousness of “Trek” adventures. It’s as if Zack Snyder commandeered the Enterprise. No idea in the world how critics fell for this.

26. “Fantastic Four,” 2005, 27 percent rotten

This may not be a great movie, but it is a surprisingly faithful adaptation of the story and (sometimes hokey) spirit of the early 1960s “Fantastic Four” comic books. At a time when Hollywood was moving in a dark and gritty direction with its comic adaptations, Tim Story’s willingness to stick to the campy silliness of the source material is commendable. The 2015 reboot of the series, however, well and truly earned its 9 percent RT rating.

 

Matthew Rozsa is a breaking news writer for Salon.