We're in the midst of awards season, which means that audiences are being treated to the very best Hollywood has to offer. The past few weeks have seen the release of Oscar hopefuls like Inside Llewyn Davis and Out of the Furnace, with plenty of buzzy films like American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Her still on the horizon.
If only Hollywood's box-office lineup were always this good. It's been a strong year for movies, but as always, a few truly awful movies have managed to slip into wide release. Here's a look back at the 10 worst-reviewed movies to hit theaters in 2013, based on their Rotten Tomatoes scores:
10. After Earth (11 percent)
Budget: $130 million
Gross: $60.5 million
In a summer that saw a string of high-profile action flops like The Lone Ranger and R.I.P.D., After Earth turned out to be the most scathingly received of all. The sci-fi blockbuster was widely derided as a thinly veiled vanity project for the Smith family, in which Will Smith — one of the most bankable and charismatic actors on the planet — tried and failed to launch a similar career for his 15-year-old son, Jaden. Audiences didn't bite, despite top-notch special effects and an ad campaign that went out of its way to disguise the presence of director M. Night Shyamalan. "Is After Earth the worst movie ever made?" asked Joe Morgenstern at the Wall Street Journal. "Maybe not; there's always Battlefield Earth to remind us how low the bar can go."
9. A Haunted House (10 percent)
Budget: $2.5 million
Gross: $40 million
This year got off to a particular inauspicious start with A Haunted House, a dismal spoof of the Paranormal Activity franchise that was rushed into theaters ahead of the latest Scary Movie, with Marlon Wayans (who starred in the first two Scary Movie movies) serving as producer, writer, and star. Critics dogged A Haunted House for its sexist and homophobic "jokes," and for being an unfunny movie in general. "If the opening gag in your R-rated movie is an extended flatulence joke, you should reconsider whether you're qualified to make such a movie," wrote Neil Genzlinger at The New York Times. Audiences turned up anyway, to the tune of a cool $40 million, and A Haunted House 2 was fast-tracked into production. It hits theaters in March 2014.
8. The Host (8 percent)
Budget: $40 million
Gross: $26.6 million
Despite being tepidly received by critics, the film adaptations of Stephenie Meyers' Twilight series tore up the box office with a story of a vampire, a werewolf, and the bland girl they're inexplicably fighting over. So it's no great surprise that Meyers' other YA novel, The Host, was deemed a hot property for the big screen. But lightning failed to strike twice; The Host, a post-apocalyptic romance about a girl whose body is inhabited by an alien life force, earned even worse reviews than the Twilight franchise, and failed to attract even a fraction of its audience. "A sci-fi writer like Philip K. Dick might have used this premise to explore notions of memory and identity," said Rafer Guzman at Newsday. "Meyer uses it to create a teen soap opera."
7. Grown Ups 2 (7 percent)
Budget: $80 million
Gross: $133.7 million
Grown Ups overcame scathing reviews in 2010 to gross a whopping $162 million domestically, which paved the way for this summer's Grown Ups 2 — a film that somehow managed to garner even worse reviews than the original. Grown Ups 2 reunited Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Chris Rock, and David Spade for a bottom-scraping comedy that opens with an extended sequence in which a deer urinates all over Sandler's face. "It honestly seems as if Sandler and his team descended on a random suburb, halfheartedly improvising and moving on when they got bored," said Sara Stewart at the New York Post. Maybe audiences were tired of Sandler's antics, too; Grown Ups 2 earned almost $30 million less than its predecessor at the domestic box office.
6. The Big Wedding (7 percent)
Budget: $35 million
Gross: $21.8 million
It's been a particularly bleak time at the box office for romantic comedies, and movies like The Big Wedding are doing nothing to stanch the bleeding. The film wastes the talents of a stellar ensemble cast — including Diane Keaton, Robert De Niro, Susan Sarandon, Topher Grace, Amanda Seyfried, and Robin Williams — with a broad, dumb, painfully contrived story about misadventures at a wedding. "Many Hollywood films are founded on privilege, but few are as open and nasty about their racism, misogyny, and homophobia," said Calum Marsh at the Village Voice. "It's a feel-good movie for people who only comfortable around people who look and act just like them."
5. Battle of the Year (4 percent)
Budget: $20 million
Gross: $8.9 million
Over the past decade, the success of the Step Up franchise has led to a host of dance film imitators like Honey and You Got Served. But even by the lowered standards of the genre, Battle of the Year — which follows an underdog American dance team at an international competition — was a flop. The presence of cultural lightning rod Chris Brown didn't do much to boost Battle of the Year's chances at the box office, though Toronto Star critic Linda Bernard's negative review did include this silver lining: "Chris Brown gets punched in the face, so it's not a total wash."
4. Scary Movie 5 (4 percent)
Budget: $20 million
Gross: $32 million
Who could have guessed that A Haunted House wouldn't be the worst-reviewed Paranormal Actvity parody of the year? Scary Movie 5 is by far the stupidest in the franchise, which has never exactly been a critical darling anyway. The list of not particularly timely targets for satire also included Insidious, The Cabin in the Woods, and Mama, plus a few non-horror movies like Inception and 127 Hours. And despite heavy press coverage, Scary Movie 5's "big get" — a brutally unfunny scene in which Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan play themselves during a one-night stand — didn't exactly pull in audiences. "A film composed almost entirely of jokes that were much funnier when you read them on Twitter years ago," said Darren Franich at Entertainment Weekly.
3. Movie 43 (4 percent)
Budget: $6 million
Gross: $8.8 million
Whatever else you can say about Movie 43, you have to give its producers credit for ingenuity. First, they convinced a staggering array of big-name actors — including Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Emma Stone, Halle Berry, Gerard Butler, Uma Thuman, and dozens more — to appear in a series of brief, unrelated sketches. Next, they strung those sketches together with a flimsy framing device and slapped on the meaningless title Movie 43. Finally, they used all those famous names to try and trick audiences into thinking that the movie was actually good. Fortunately, audiences were too smart to fall for it. "As a film critic, I've seen nearly 4,000 movies over the last 15 years," said Elizabeth Weitzman at the New York Daily News. "Right now, I can't think of one worse than Movie 43."
2. Paranoia (4 percent)
Budget: $35 million
Gross: $7.4 million
In a different era, a thriller starring Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, and Richard Dreyfuss might have been slotted for a major release date in the middle of summer. But the bland Paranoia turned out to be little more than a failed vehicle for Liam Hemsworth. It was dumped into the cinematic doldrums of mid-August: The sweet spot between summer blockbuster season and the fall awards season that's generally reserved for terrible movies. Filled with corporate espionage both predictable and dull, Paranoia proved as generic and forgettable as its title. "What it lacks is even an iota of originality," complained Steven Rea at the Philadelphia Inquirer.
1. Getaway (2 percent)
Budget: $18 million
Gross: $10.5 million
Joining Paranoia in the cinematic dumping ground of August was Getaway, a non-thrilling thriller directed by the producer behind such gems as Dungeons & Dragons and The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations. Getaway follows Brent Magna, a retired race car driver played by Ethan Hawke who is forced to complete a series of tasks for the mysterious man who kidnapped his wife. Playing like an off-brand blend of Saw and Speed, Getaway didn't even bother to give its other characters names, referring to Selena Gomez's supporting character as "The Kid" and Jon Voight's villain as "The Voice." "You've probably seen this movie before, watching a child play with his toy Hot Wheels cars after eating multiple bowls of sugary breakfast cereal," said Peter Hartlaub at the San Francisco Chronicle.
But don't feel too bad for Hawke, who also starred in Before Midnight — one of the best-reviewed movies of 2013. Which means there's a consolation for any filmmaker, writer, or actor who wound up on 2013's worst-reviewed movie list: There's always next year.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- Why you should stop believing in evolution
- Your literary playlist: A guide to the music of Haruki Murakami
- After Ferguson, we don't need another dialogue on race
- The government is getting into the fact-checking business. Be very, very afraid.
- Russia's new air force is a mystery
- How I became a borderline hoarder
- The secret to handling pressure like astronauts, Navy SEALs, and samurai
- 11 scientific studies that will restore your faith in humanity
Subscribe to the Week