Horrible Hollywood: The Bad Movie Debate (Finally) Returns, Part 1

(Part 1 of 2)


Cue Voice-over Man…

“It was a time for movies. It was a time for bad movies. It was a time for really, really bad movies….”

Back in July I asked for your opinions on said really, really bad movies, and you didn’t disappoint me. I seem to have touched a nerve with this one, as your responses started flooding in within minutes of the post going up – and brilliantly vitriolic they all were too!

So here’s a rundown of some of your best answers to my questions, and a few of my own thoughts on the many (and often furious) issues you raised…

How would you define a bad film?

There were some interesting responses to this. I see a bad film as one that doesn’t even try: the type of movie that quite blatantly and unashamedly aims for the money rather than for the joy of creative expression (although there are plenty of movies that do try – and still fail miserably).

And the ultimate success or failure of a film really does come down to the cinema-goer’s individual, emotional response to it, and whether or not they can relate to it in some way. As one commenter explained, a bad film is “[o]ne which didn’t make me believe. One which didn’t leave me feeling in some way satisfied”.

Related to this are the expectations of the viewer, particularly when the movie is adapted from well known and much-loved source material. The line between a good and bad film can be a thin one in these cases, especially if the cinema adaptation “takes absolute liberties with reality and/or the universe that the film is based in” – something that, I must admit, annoys me too!

However, I’d also have to agree with the many commenters who succinctly defined a bad film as one that completely fails in its objectives (in the words of one irate commenter, “FAIL after FAIL after FAIL”), although, as another reader rightly points out: “what I perceive as the film’s objectives may not be what the film-makers had in mind!”

Is there a difference between a bad film and one you actively dislike? Why?

More interesting responses to this one. Although there can be a great deal of crossover between the two, I very much agreed with the reader who commented: “ a bad film is bad… A film you actively dislike is usually one that is OK, but the subject matter/acting/pacing just utterly jars with you”.

Another reader is more specific in describing this difference, citing The Exorcist and A Clockwork Orange as examples of films he dislikes “but would never call… bad films”. Personally, I disagree on the subject of  The Exorcist – not only do I dislike it but I think it’s also a bad film (it’s nowhere near as good as the original source book, it’s now very dated, and it’s not particularly scary), but I absolutely see his point.

And that point is, of course, that these views are all very subjective, being fundamentally a product of personal taste – I am well aware, for example, that I could be flamed for all eternity by some elements of horror fandom for my opinions on The Exorcist, but that’s just it: those are my opinions. And I have enough cheesy 1980s movies in my DVD collection to be a legitimate target of film critics myself!

What is your most hated film? Why?

Somewhat unsurprisingly, this question really got people ranting! Robert Altman’s Prêt-à-Porter is described by one reader as “incredibly smug”, “terrible on so many levels” and as “the standard against which I judge the relative crapness of movies” – which is indeed saying something.

Another reader vented his fury at the French cult classic Amelie: “[i]t’s like being fed treacle with a bag of sugar chaser” (I can hear my fillings begging for mercy as I type that!), and yet another laid into the ‘horror’ movie Cabin Fever, describing it as having all “the suspense of a broken tightrope”.

George Lucas’ disastrous The Phantom Menace gets a few mentions too, with one reader neatly summing up the sheer mind-numbing awfulness of it all: “it sucks and blows”. Another commenter laid into Batman and Robin, succinctly describing it as “so awful I had face ache from cringing”. A perhaps more surprising choice is The Untouchables, which is its nominator diplomatically considers to be “[f]lawed in every way imaginable” and “actively poor”.

Finally, there’s my selection. That would have to be Titanic, an overblown and melodramatic film that manages to get me really quite irrational due to its spectacular historical inaccuracies, heavy reliance on over-schmaltzy sentimentality and a downright dreadful script. I’ve only seen it once (believe me, once was more than enough), but I found myself rooting for the iceberg all the way through…

Have you ever walked out of a movie at the cinema because it was so bad?

A few of you have been appalled enough by a movie to do so (“I couldn’t bear it any more” says one reader on the subject of a family trip to the cinema to see Look Who’s Talking, and another reader “lasted less then 30 minutes” before she walked out of a particularly bad Danish b-movie in disgust), but many of you say that there have been times when the pub has seemed a lot more appealing than the film you’ve paid to ‘enjoy’ at the cinema, and that you’d be off for a pint in a flash if it wasn’t for the presence of a companion!

Personally, I’ve never actually walked out of the cinema, although that has meant sitting through some pretty dire movies over the years (many of which my memory has, thankfully, suppressed for my own sake!). Like quite a few of you, however, I have also become so annoyed with certain bad films on video or DVD that the remote control has come close to going out of the (closed) window with some force…

Are there some ‘bad films’ that are actually good?

And I don’t mean that in an ‘ironic’ fashion, although one reader protests that there’s no such thing as ‘so bad it’s good’: “to actually sit through ninety minutes plus of crap because it’s somehow funny – that makes no sense to me. Bad is bad”. That’s me told, then.

However, the same reader goes on to comment that he would “forgive a lot – poor acting, plotting, continuity and so on – in a martial arts movie with truly skilled protagonists that I would not necessarily tolerate in a lot of other movies” – which sounds, to me, suspiciously almost like a genre-specific tolerance of the concept of ‘so bad it’s good’! Make of that what you will… ;)

Note: this was originally intended to be just one post, but it got so ridiculously long that I decided to split it into two for ease of reading (and for the sake of my own sanity!) – see the next post for Part 2.



  1. Pingback: Horrible Hollywood: The Bad Movie Debate (Finally) Returns, Part 2 « Another Kind Of Mind
  2. shmoo7275

    What I meant was if the martial arts was good I could forgive what are usually the more important aspects of a movie being poor – not so much so bad it’s good but a bad film redeemed by one particular aspect done well.

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