10. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
(David Yates, 2018, UK / USA)
No, it’s not as “bad” as all that. But in terms of dollars spent by a well-oiled production team working at a major studio, this is surely one of the most inexplicable misfires in history. It’s excruciatingly bad storytelling mixed with genuinely incomprehensible visuals and editing, and it was made by craftspeople who had done basically the same exact movie five times already just fine. Mediocrity I could get, but this is rank incompetence, and I am at a loss to explain it. Even something like Cats is at least fucking awful because of misguided passion. Grindelwald feels more like a glitch in the matrix, like the universe itself had to break for something this unenthusiastically dysfunctional to escape into the world.
9. Point Break
(Ericson Core, 2015, USA)
Clearly the decade’s worst remake, for starters, removing the poetic homo-brocialism of the glorious original, and shifting the focus from Southern California neo-hippies to X-games rejects. But you can still make X-games cinema work, if you are not a complete loathsome fuckhead who thinks the right aesthetic is one of non-stop screaming hot digital cinematography that would rather make the world look like a lifestyle porn magazine dipped in Mountain Dew than find anything remotely like a satisfactory way to stage action scenes. Sadly, Mr. Core is that loathsome fuckhead, which is presumably why the film has decided that continuity editing is for pussies, and so does everything in its power to make certain that we can never tell what the fuck is going on.
8. God’s Not Dead 2
(Harold Cronk, 2016, USA)
The first one is adorably hapless; the third almost gets around to actually making a compelling argument about the correct behavior of a devout Christian that only gets derailed by the abysmal acting. It’s really only the second film of the decade’s second-saddest trilogy (see #4) that truly plumbs the depths of terrible filmmaking and grotesque, inhuman morality. None of these films take place in a recognisable version of the real world, but GND2 uniquely takes place in a world that is our precise opposite, which makes its whining, martyred tone all the more unbearable and shrill. Reluctant points for the saving throw of having Ray Wise play a reptilian ACLU lawyer whose hammy, self-satisfied evil is just barely not enough to make this enjoyably kitschy.
(Tom Dey, 2010, USA)
A ten-year reign of terror ended in January, 2020: prior to Dolittle, I would have declared without a moment’s hesitation that this was the worst movie about a talking CGI animal talking ever made. It’s fall from its throne pleases me: Dolittle is at least outlandishly misguided, whereas Marmaduke is just miserable and pettily impersonal, the kind of unfathomably terrible movie that got that way only because nobody cared about the project in any way, and so everyone was trying to cut every corner they possibly could. Insulting to my dignity as a human, a lover of well-made children’s cinema, and a low-key fan of The O.C. It does, however, have the most aggressive “smelly dog farts” jokes that I have ever seen, if that’s your jam.
6. Proud Mary
(Babak Najafi, 2018, USA)
Two years later and I’m still reeling from the discovery that you can actually put proper money into a motion picture produced by establish professional filmmakers, and still end up with sound and cinematography that would have earned a bright red F and a “See me in my office” from any halfway decent film school in the country. The film wastes the precious resource of a Taraji P. Henson leading role on a boilerplate “assassin on the run” thriller that might have been merely bad if it weren’t so boring, predictable, and unclear on crucial points of its own narrative and characterisations. It even screws up setting a satisfying action scene to Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary” cover, and I’m like, dudes, you had one job…
5. The Devil Inside
(William Brent Bell, 2012, USA)
You don’t become a horror fan without developing the ability to overlook how fucking bad most horror is, but there’s no preparing for how fundamentally unacceptable this is at the most rudimentary level of storytelling and understanding what happens when you put the camera there. The thankfully-expired fad for first-person camera and found footage was never wielded more incoherently, nor with a more obvious remit to paper over how shockingly cheap and shoddy the rest of it was. For Christ’s sake, it can’t even rip-off The Exorcist properly, and that’s the easiest job in horror. Just about the only thing it has for a personality is a persistent hatred of the Catholic Church that makes it feel like the worst film of the Protestant Reformation.
4. Atlas Shrugged: Part I
(Paul Johansson, 2011, USA)
Atlas Shrugged II: The Strike
(John Putch, 2012, USA)
Atlas Shrugged III: Who Is John Galt?
(James Manera, 2014, USA)
I don’t know that any of these would have been sufficiently wretched, on its own, to make it onto this list (okay, that’s not true, Part II definitely would). But the combined power of all three movies makes for a defiantly ill-judged boondoggle of adaptation, shredding Ayn Rand’s doorstop into incoherent ribbons that could hardly satisfy her faithful, and definitely confirms for the rest of us that there’s something demonically inhuman about this quasi-story. Props to the wildly cheap production value (a whole lot of lobbies subbing for other spaces here), and of course, the way that every part had to be recast every time, as actors fled the project. Gnady, we hardly knew ye.
3. Movie 43
(Various directors, 2013, USA)
Remember that time when Hugh Jackman’s neck was a scrotum? Because I have concluded that nothing I can do short of carving chunks of my own brain out with a penknife will make me forget. Now, any old movie can be gross and stupid; this one has all that, plus a somewhat evil outlook on human beings, and probably the most overqualified cast ever assembled for a single film project. And it takes undue, unpleasant joy in humiliating them – Jackman is at least having a merry time with his throat-balls, and there are several extremely famous people who are making much bigger asses of themselves, with much less apparent good humor about it. Genuinely vile in the way only a vindictively unfunny comedy can be.
(Lawrence Kasanoff, 2012, USA)
So: the most soulless movie of the century, the most soulless movie ever made, or the most soulless movie of which the human mind can conceive? The brainchild of an executive who profoundly misjudged the fondness we have towards brand mascots, this doesn’t even work as a whorish exercise in wanton product placement, given that most of the companies involved pulled out well in advance of the film’s completion, after a torturous production that stretched on for more than a decade. So instead all we have are awful parodies of mascots fighting Nazis (in a dumb kids’ movie!), brought to life through animation so blocky and unyielding that you could probably make a more attractive movie using only software that came preinstalled on your phone.
1. Birdemic: Shock and Terror
(James Nguyen, 2010, USA)
An object lesson in the dangers of ever listening to anybody’s opinion on anything. Birdemic is, according to its cult, the bad movie event of the decade (and, I mean, here I have it at #1, so they’re not wrong), verily The Room for the ’10s. Competence-wise, there’s something to that, but the very important difference is that The Room is a big stupid hoot, and Birdemic is about as fun as doing your taxes in a dentist’s waiting room. I consider myself a semi-professional bad movie watcher, but it still took every ounce of willpower I had to muscle through this viciously inept Hitchcock rip-off, and not even its world-historically terrible visual effects couldn’t amuse me. Some bad movies are just fucking bad, not even energetic enough to be fun camp, and and this one is pure, wall-to-wall agony.