There are a lot of generic top 10 movie lists out there that will give you the films that are in every sense of the word flops—i.e., poor box office, bad critical reception, awful word of mouth. However, my appraisal of these films depends on abstract factors such as: Was I angered? Did the movie make me want to walk out? Was it so bad that it was good? Did it star Edward Furlong? While most of these films lost money, a couple of them were profitable--and some of them went on to become classics, cult or otherwise. However, a film’s legacy depends more than a simple equation of dollars and cents.
10.) Pecker (1998)
This film really doesn’t belong on any list anywhere ever, but it just so happens that I had the misfortune of watching it a little over three years ago, and was so angered, bored and aggravated by it that I have been waiting ever since for a platform to air my misgivings. I now have that platform. The movie has three fatal ingredients: John Waters as writer, Edward Furlong as Pecker (whose screechy voice seems as tortured by the pains of puberty as it was in Terminator 2) and John Waters as director. Basically Pecker takes pictures of his family and implausibly shoots to stardom. One of the best lines is when a photographer takes photos of Pecker (would the real irony please stand up?) and he screeches, “But I don’t want to be a model!” I don’t want him to be an actor, either, and I think we’ve both been granted our wishes.
9.) Jersey Girl (2004)
Writer/director Kevin Smith gave messy birth to this stinker in 2004, and I remember almost nothing about it except for one delightful little scene when Ben Affleck cries over a crib as he delivers a monologue about love and devotion. This was the only movie I’ve ever watched that actually made me embarrassed for an actor on screen—the kind of feeling you get when you watch your little sister at her piano recital, praying she’ll not botch up the remainder of “Fur Elise”. That’s how I felt with the crib scene, and pretty much all of Affleck’s performance. And, uh, pretty much all of his performances before and after that one. Smith does best when he expatiates on farts, sex and blasphemy.
8.) Split Second (1992)
In all likelihood you’ve never heard of this film, and in all likelihood no one you’ve ever met has heard of it, either. This film is about the future which, ironically, is set in the year 2008. Despite its B-movie qualities its cast is half-way decent: Rutger Hauer as the hero, Kim Catrall before her Sex and the City days, Michael Pollard and Pete Postlewaite. But neither of the film’s two directors possessed a lick of competence and were unable to overcome the penury of their $7 million budget to create any impressive visuals. This shoddy Alien rip-off was a ham-handed attempt at bringing Rutger Hauer’s career back to life after the brief brilliance he displayed in Blade Runner. Alas, ‘twas not to be. That said, this movie is, in fact, so bad that it’s good. Highly recommended.
7.) Ishtar (1987)
Everyone’s heard of Ishtar, if only because it’s notorious for being one of the biggest bombs in the history of film. Lost over $40 million, hurt Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beaty’s careers (temporarily, though writer/director Elaine May hasn’t been allowed back in the director’s chair in the past 21 years and has written little else) and became a one-word joke in Hollywood. When we fall, we fall hard. At least, Ishtar did.
6.) Nearly Everything Spielberg Has Done This Decade
There was a time when everything Spielberg touched turned to gold. I’d say right around the turn of the millennium that all changed. A.I. was the avatar of all that would blow up from 2001 on. The list of shame is long: Minority Report, Catch Me If You Can, The Terminal, War of the Worlds, Munich (a box office failure with many Oscar nominations) and the very recent Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Them there’s a lot of explosive material for a bomb, a bomb called: The First Decade of the 21st Century. Of those films A.I. certainly takes the cake. It lost millions of dollars, was a major downer (Spielberg doesn’t handle the darker side of sci-fi well), and had a hefty 146 minute run time. Probably the best part of the film was watching the boisterous robot incarnation of Chris Rock get destroyed as he busts out jokes throughout the chaos.
5.) Planet of the Apes (2001)
This film stars Mark Wahlberg.
4.) Dune (1984, 2000, 2010)
Sometimes a bank is so big, like Bear/Stearns, that when it goes under the federal government bails it out, citing the unsatisfying nostrum that the bank is “too big to fail”. Just as this omits to ever take the people suffering from the failure into account, so too has Hollywood omitted to take movie goers into account by rehashing what has been a bad idea two times in a row, soon to be a third. Dune was a great book. It has been proven to not be a great movie or tv mini series, and come 2010 Peter Berg intends on reproving what so many of us have learned the hard way. The 1984 version was strange, in cohesive, and basically unwatchable. The mini series was so dull and its effects so slipshod I couldn’t finish the first part. Why, oh why, does humanity refuse to learn from its monumental blunders? If Paramount is willing to get behind Dune, who’s to say Italy won’t take a stab at invading Poland?
3.) Citizen Kane (1941)
This film is often on top 10 flops lists, but you aren’t likely to find it on anyone’s top 10 worst movies list. Many people argue that Orson Welles’s masterpiece is the best film ever made, period. I think that’s going a little far, but it’s interesting that what was in 1941 one of the biggest flops ever is now enshrined in the halls of cinema history. Not many people like this movie—you love it or you hate it. For all the accolades heaped on it by every film appreciation society in the world, it’s in black and white, almost two hours long and, quite frankly, boring as spit. It might be regarded today as a masterpiece, but it’s possible the people who saw it first had it right: this is one long, boring-ass star vehicle with more auteur indulgences than a P.T. Anderson movie. Only upon its rerelease in Europe in the 50s and 60s did people realize they had a classic on their hands.
2.) Blade Runner (1982)
When Blade Runner was released in ’82 it bombed. The narrative is strange and convoluted, and yet the plot seems at times nonexistent. The voice over of the original theatrical release fills in the gaps but detracts from the noirish feel of the film. Add to that a pretty silly performance by Sean Young and you’ve got yourself a flop. The director, Ridley Scott, saw to it that his director’s cut fixed many of the problems of the original theatrical release, and the film has been a cult favorite ever since. Rutger Hauer’s portrayal of the replicant, or artifical human, Roy Batty is the movie’s best. By the end of Blade Runner we love its chief villain much more than the hero. Few lines in cinematic history have lodged themselves in the collective psyches as firmly as Hauer’s last few did: “I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain... Time to die."
1.) King Kong (2005)
Peter Jackson’s King Kong is a flop in every unredeemable sense of the word. Everything from its bloated budget of over $200 million (we could’ve liberated Iraq for an hour with that money) to its bloated run time of 181 minutes to its bloated director helped make this film a steaming pile of monkey sh*t. Jackson spent the first 40 minutes of the movie trying to build up the nonexistent character arcs of his cartoon characters on a boat, so that by the time they reached the island I leaned over to the friend I was watching the movie with and whispered, “When do we get to see the f*#*ing monkey?” But we do get to see the monkey, we even get to see him fight a tyrannosaurus rex, which was nice. It’s my suggestion to all those who haven’t seen this movie yet but intend on doing so to promptly turn off the movie after the monkey-dinosaur match, because everything after that is simply more bloat and incompetence.