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20 Bad Movies Made By Great Directors

07 February 2014 | Features, Film Lists | by Michael Edwards

bad movies great directors

We all love to discuss the successes of the great directors. But even the best stumble every once in a while. Looking at the failures of great craftsman of cinema can be just as fun of a conversation. We found a few titles that reminded us that no great director is always on his game.


20. Scoop – Dir. Woody Allen


Woody Allen has made his fair share of questionable titles. But this murder mystery caper involving journalists from beyond the grave was far from his usual level of decent quality stories. A criminally underused Ian McShane plays a dead writer who tries to scoop the journalism student played Scarlett Johansson, and she ends up falling for her subject who might be a killer. Allen seemed to phone in this less-than-captivating entry to a very prolific catalogue.

Redemption Film: Midnight in Paris

The highly regarded return-to-form for Allen reminded us that he still has the quick magical wit we fell in love with.


19. Charlie Wilson’s War – Dir. Mike Nichols

Charlie Wilson’s War

If you don’t know Mike Nichols by now, it would do you good to start at the beginning. Which happens to be the seminal classic “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”. An actor’s director, Nichols firmly planted himself as a man who could get the most out of his actors. The bizarrely boring Charlie Wilson’s War was a stumble not in craft but of material. A script not even the great Nichols could overcome.

Redemption Film: Unfortunately none.

This was the last thing to come from the late Nichols. 


18. Random Hearts – Dir. Sydney Pollack

Random Hearts

Sydney Pollack is usually the king of political and personal intrigue when it comes to his dramas. His films such as “Tootsie”, “Three Days of the Condor” and “The Firm” are all classics of their times. But this boring film turned out to be nothing for audiences even with the star power of Harrison Ford and Kristen Scott Thomas.

Probably mostly due to the lack of chemistry between the leads, and a somewhat preposterous story of two widowers who discover their deceased spouses were having an affair and in their discovery of this end up falling in love.

Redemption Film: The Interpreter

This was unfortunately the last film from Sydney Pollack before his tragic death. While not perfect, it was a much stronger effort with some great performances from Sean Penn and Nicole Kidman.


17. The Bonfire of The Vanities – Dir. Brian DePalma

The Bonfire of The Vanities

The famous book adaptation disaster by the seemingly always-troubled career of the great Brian DePalma. His passion project to adapt this famous literary work seemed like a doomed proposition. A novel commonly thought to be un-filmable turned out to be just that. We recommend looking up the original reviews for this tone-deaf comedy, some are more entertaining than watching the movie.

Redemption Film: Carlito’s Way & Mission: Impossible

DePalma came back strong with the one – two punch of his gangster classic and what became the biggest movie of the summer. Al Pacino and the Sean Penn (in an Oscar nominated performance) deliver a story that could be seen as an unofficial “Scarface” sequel (had he lived that is). There is some complain of the over-complicated Mission: Impossible, but DePalma delivered a well crafted and beautifully shot suspense action thriller that spawned three sequels.


16. Duplex – Dir. Danny DeVito


We honestly had completely forgotten DeVito directed this comedy misfire. Where Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore contemplate murder in order to get a NYC apt. DeVito as a director always goes for off kilter dark comedies with classics like “War of the Roses” and “Death to Smoochy”. But this somehow missed its mark and died in the wasteland of in between hits for Stiller.

Redemption Film: St. Sebastian

Hopefully this new thriller scheduled for later this year will be a welcomed addition to DeVito’s dark twisted comedy resume.


15. Intolerable Cruelty – Dir. The Coen Bros.

Intolerable Cruelty

The Coen Bros have a close-to-immaculate record for films. But post “O’ Brother Where Art Though” (and even that wasn’t immediately well received) there was a lull with these strange comedies that didn’t always land on their feet. The one with the least balance was this take on divorce and a gold digging George Clooney. A film with a somewhat similar structure to the also poorly received “Life Aquatic”, where halfway through the tone shift is so drastic it takes you right out of the zone.

Redemption Film: No Country for Old Men

After another faulty comedy with “The Ladykillers”, Coens came back strong with the dark and direct tragedy drama. Finally earning them a much deserved award sweep. But rather than some more political Oscar wins (*cough cough The Departed *cough cough) this film well deserved its golden statues.



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  • Red Lagoon

    Not sure if I can agree with this list!

  • Mark Chiddicks

    Family Plot? Bizarre choice or Hitchcock, who also made the far far worse Topaz and Under Capricorn.

    • Charles Barnes

      Would also nominate Lifeboat

    • Igor Marques

      Marnie is the worst of all Hitchcock’s 🙂

    • Klaus Dannick

      Family Plot, not prime Hitchcock, but definitely not a bad film at all.

  • Madeline

    I really enjoyed “Girl 6” however I can why some people might not like it. Instead of this movie, I would have put “S.O.S” for Lee. It was so, so terrible! “Bamboozled” barely redeemed that one!

  • Jim Beaver

    Danny DeVito is a “great” director? Nothing against him, but Ford, Kurosawa, Renoir, Fellini,….DeVito?

    • Klaus Dannick

      Couldn’t agree more.

  • Nivaz

    OMG, Terminal a bad film!!!!

    you got some serious problem dude 🙁

  • DNAsplitter

    You pick G.I. Jane over 1492 for Ridley Scott? Really? A film that was both a financial and critical disaster but instead you choose G.I. Jane. Or instead of Terminal why not 1941 for Speilberg as that’s another critical and financial bust that almost sent Speilberg questioning his directing skills as it was his follow up to Close Encounters.

    • F S

      You just seem to hate numbers as titles, don’t you? I don’t like 2001 very much, to be honest – and 1984 couldn’t do the novel justice.

      I liked the second half of “7 Samurai” at least…

  • Shubhendu Singh

    Okay i am gonna defend these movies to death..,
    Death Proof & Terminal are good movies. Especially The Terminal.

    • Klaus Dannick

      I happen to dig Death Proof heartily.

      • Xanian

        Me too. That lapdance sequence is one of my favorite scenes in a Tarantino film.

    • Stäkman

      Death Proof is fuckin’ rad!

  • bookon

    I hated this list. Hated hated hated hated hated this list. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant reader-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the readers by its belief that anyone would be entertained or informed by it.

    Also North should have been on this list…

  • johnjohnphenom

    deathproof is fuckin awesome. also ridley, allen & burton have made shitier movies. oh coppala…did you forget Jack? not bad after that

  • william jerome sperber

    I completely disagree with most entries here. Pirates is as sardonic as Fearless Vampire killers is, and Frantic is embarrassing in every sense of the word. Also Family plot is a clever, tricky film, when Topaz was a most obvious choice…

  • CaptSensible

    ANY praise for the child rapist Roman Polanski is nauseating.

    • F S

      You seem to be American – but nevertheless his work is one of the greatest achievements of cinema.

      • CaptSensible

        He drugged and raped a thirteen year old girl. Yes, we frown on that in America. Evil men who can produce art are still evil men. Polanski should return to America and claim some of his awards. Child rapists are treated very kindly in American prisons.

        • F S

          American mentality is all about punishment – never about justice. For you, there isn’t even a distinction.
          And you think in Black-and-White.

          Also, the victim long announced that she has forgiven him while the terror media and media-controlled society have made her feel is unforgivable.
          Additionally, Polanski hasn’t done anyone any harm since then. He seems to be as dangerous as everyone else.

          • CaptSensible

            Damn right black and white. Child rape is black, heavily, unforgivably black. F**k you for the rest of your child-raping life black. He KNEW she was thirteen.

            Very, very few things to me are unforgivable but child rape is one of those things. Top of the short list. Rot in hell Polanski.

            Was that clear enough?

          • F S

            You seem to think punishing him makes the victim get unraped.
            Your point-of-view has been clear from the start on.

          • CaptSensible

            Well THAT is certainly an interesting bit of logic you have there. Is it okay with you if we punish murderers? I mean it won’t bring their victims back…

            And don’t be an internet jackass by saying I “think punishing him makes the victim get unraped”. That’s just weak. It’s like if I said “You seem to think raping children is okay”.

            Taking it to strawman extremes is just tedious. Please feel free to reply but I am done here.

            Have a happy new year.

          • F S

            Punishment should never be done for punishment’s sake. Only for change. Making a person suffer for the rest of his life will not make the world a better place.

          • CaptSensible

            Annnnd with that I’m out.

          • F S

            But why? I understand that you critisize my point in the precedeing comment (or don’t even see it as a point) – maybe you are right about that.

            I’d like to discuss it more. We seem to have very differing views but that’s what makes it interesting. I am honestly not trying to insult or be non-constructive but I think that where all people agree, progress is impossible.

            I am interested in your opinion and the reasons you have for it, maybe they are right and able to convince me.

    • Iva

      And I assume you think the same of Michael Jackson?

  • CaptSensible

    Death Proof probably WAS Tarantino’s worst film but I still enjoyed the hell out of it.

  • wikig1itch

    Death Proof is definitely Tarantino’s weakest film when stacked up to his near perfect filmography, but it’s still an excellent movie overall.
    Similar to Korean master filmmaker Boon Joon-Ho, his 2009 thriller “Mother” was considered his weakest film yet, but it’s a brilliant film either way.

  • williamsommerwerck

    “Family Plot” is hardly a “bad” film — simply a disappointing one.
    Obviously you have never seen “Kiss Me, Stupid”, Billy Wilder’s filthy farce.

  • renynzea .

    I have to argue against The Color of Money, GI Jane, and The Planet of the Apes. Enjoyed all of those films.

  • tntdaddy

    THAT’S the Scorsese movie he needed to be redeemed from?! Not the FAMOUSLY crappy musical “New York, New York”, which he followed with freaking “RAGING BULL”?!!! You don’t like “Color of Money”? Fine. It was pretty by-the-numbers. But it’s “Citizen Kane” next to “New York, New York.”

  • En Pi III


  • jamesmerendino

    I must have bad taste but I like all of these movies. Some of them are among my favorites.

  • Tito Piccolo

    Death Proof is QT’s most original film, I don’t consider it a bad movie compared to his new ones

  • Scott Siegel

    HEY! Lots of people like Grindhouse

  • Quark

    The Terminal isn’t a bad movie.
    How on earth you write it off as bad? Not fair.

  • Chris Card

    Whoever made this list needs to be kicked in the face, because “The Polar Express” is a great movie. Zemeckis’ other two motion capture flicks are weak, though. “Beowulf” and “A Christmas Carol”. Also, while I wasn’t a fan of “The Terminal”, I wouldn’t call it Speilberg’s worst. That title goes to “1941”.

  • Xanian

    Death Proof is one of my favorite Tarantino movies. This is the one movie where the dialogue is as good as, if not better than it was in Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction. I do admit that it is not a great film, but Inglorious Basterds was a poorer effort than Death Proof. Apart from Walken and Brad Pitt, and the amazing opening scene, there was not really much of note in the film.

  • Roman Polanski is not our greatest living director. What the heck are you smoking?

    • rahul tiwari

      i second u on that bro was waiting for someone to question that claim.

  • I will have to disagree with Death Proof. Because it wasn’t bad per se, it didn’t have high hat ambitions but it was hella fun!

  • Gary Hart

    The last movie Kubrik made was his worst. “Eyes Wide Shut” gave me a migraine, and I only made it halfway through it.

    • F S

      And you still judge it although you haven’t watched it ’till the end?

      • It’s an unfinished movie anyways…

        • F S

          I don’t think so. It seems to be the movie, he wanted to make all his life. There his love of Ophüls and Schnitzler really shines through.
          Its pace is much slower but it doesn’t lack the qualities of his other films. The sequence in the mansion is pure magic IMO.

          And I don’t think, he would have changed much.

  • Dimitrije Stojanovic

    It seems that author of the list thinks that comedies are simply bad – “after this comedy he came back with really dark tragedy…”, etc. And Family Plot is better movie than Topaz, or Torn Curtain, for example.

  • Samantha J Jungers

    I’ve probably seen the Polar Express three or four times, back when I was much younger. I really liked it, and I’ve never noticed the eyes being “creepy”.

  • F S

    Again, a list made by an American made up of American films without even considering European or Asian true masters of cinema.

  • dhruv

    “terminal” seriously ? i wonder on what basis have you judged this particular movie as “bad movie” ?

    polar express is debateable but definitely not terminal.

  • meladiction

    Death Proof is probably my favorite “badass chick” movie … right up there with Romeo Is Bleeding and Natural Born Killers!

    I guess this means that a truly great director’s worst film is still pretty damn good~

  • Ricardo Filipe Matos

    This list may win the first place in “The 10 online list with the most narrowest view about cinema.”

  • Facundo

    I think its pretty bad to put Fear And Desire from Stanley Kubrick in this list. Cmon! is his first movie, nobody expect a masterpiece of somebody that never made a movie. And fear and desire isnt that bad

  • Ray Ricardo

    roman’s oliver twist is far worst than pirates, just see it!

  • I disagree with The Terminal, Death Proof and Polar Express.

    This is a bad list overall, it doesn’t make good points.

  • This is amazing, because I want to write an article called ‘Great Movies Made By Bad Directors’! The list includes “Tombstone” by George Cosmatos and “A Christmas Story” by Bob Clark. Are you guys up for it?!?

  • A third of these could be considered ‘disposable’, but not ‘BAD’!

  • Imaad Shahrukh

    What about The Dark Knight Rises? That is the worst movie by Christopher Nolan.

  • Chaosbender

    hmm, right… and still I love Jabberwocky and Cotton Club and Pret – a – Porter and Pirates ^^

  • Bill Cook

    Surely Tim Burton’s redemption movie was Big Fish, just before dropping the ball immediately again with … well, everything since.

  • Julia

    Death Proof >>>>>>>>>> Inglourious Basterds

  • Dave

    Peggy Sue Got Married is a comedy classic? Seriously? Cotton Club is by no means a great movie, but it’s pretty watchable. I’d rate it better than Peggy Sue Got Married. Jack is probably Coppola’s worst film.

  • Klaus Dannick

    Some of these, I wouldn’t call “bad” films, just not as good as the directors’ other films; and I think it’s a stretch to call a few of these directors “great”.

  • Igor Marques

    I really like Family Plot and Death Proof. And The Colour Of Money isn’t that bad.

  • Stephus

    Disagree completely, some shouldn’t be here specially death proof.
    Fear and Desire-kubricks’s first feature, and after it looks more like an experiment the situation has some suspense and reflects war in a good way
    Scoop- I do agree it’s not woody Allen’s best but it’s a very funny movie with a lot of ironies, it shouldn’t be here.
    The Color of Money-Can’t be considered a bad movie, it has good performances, good cinematography and maybe people thing is a little boring but I think it reflects perfectly well what is happening with Paul Newman’s character which is the main character of the movie.
    Death Proof- if the term grindhouse is understood here this movie had nothing to do in this list. It’s a great slasher movie and very original, a guy killing women with his car it’s great. The old look on the first part to make an old atmosphere reminding the old grindhouse movies and the chasing scene at the end it’s great. I’d put here Django Unchained instead, but that’s another subject.

  • João Camacho

    Well I usually like this lists, because I disagre with 1/2 or 3 movies
    to be in or out. However for this I disagree of several, and…Alexander
    for example, you say «less than historical». I understand the meaning
    but in point of view of the written records is one of bests!
    Jabberwocky…were you expecting a Monthy Python movie without 3 of his

  • Ernesto Perez


  • Iva

    The Cotton Club, The Terminal, Death Proof and The Color of Money are wonderful films. They might not be their respective directors’ opus magnum, but they are by no means “bad”.


    Add TOMORROWLAND to this list.
    Brad Bird was on an epic roll until this stinker…

  • Fyren

    Ridiculous list.
    How about:

    North – Rob Reiner
    The Wiz – Sidney Lumet
    How the Grinch Stole Christmas – Ron Howard
    Baby Geniuses – Bob Clark
    Dracula 3D – Dario Argento
    Swept Away – Guy Ritchie
    Full Frontal – Steven Soderberg
    Accidental Love – David O Russell

    • Jules F. Melo Borges

      Rob Reiner is not “Great”. Same for Ritchie and O. Russell.

  • Richard McLin

    Loved “Death Proof”, and have to disagree with “The Departed” being a political win.

  • SoiledDoughnut

    I personally love The Terminal but there are other Spielberg movies I would put in its place. *cough* War of the Worlds *cough*

  • Kilie Seale

    but…I adored Deathproof…I love it!

  • David

    I’ve only seen 2 out of all of these. Terminal and Death Proof. BOTH of which I love. So, I’m still giving the others a shot.

  • Robáird Mac An TSaoir

    Match Point is Allen’s worst film.

  • Abhishek

    The Terminal was better than Munich

  • The Color of Money had four Oscar nominations and one win. It’s rated 90% on I’m not sure how you could consider it a “bad movie”.

  • Abhishek

    Are you guys high? Death Proof, Family Plot, The color of Money, The Terminal , The Polar express, Intolerable Cruelty are not bad films at all. And yes, Spike lee does not need redemption, he is just plain stupid!

  • Stephus

    Death Proof?? It’s the last good movie Tarantino made before hateful eight. Inglorious bastetrds and Django are very bad movies showing only Tarantino full of himself without going nowhere, inglorious bastards is the movie should be on this list

  • Igor Leoni

    Sorry, I don’t think there’s anything bad about Death Proof.

  • fantail31

    Disagree with Charlie Wilsons War. and Family Plot. What about – ‘Jack’ – Francis Ford Coppola?

  • Jules F. Melo Borges

    Robert Zemeckis is a master of mediocrity. No “Greatness” in his work (Back to the Future included).
    And i have to say, ‘Jabberwocky’ may be weird and look cheap, but still great fun!

  • Milica Jovanovic

    The Color of Money and Death Proof? Seriously? 🙂

  • Carl Edgar Consiglio

    I prefer QTs Death Proof to Jackie brown or even Kill Bill for that matter.