What does it take to make a good film? For the directors on this list, a lot. Most of their films tend to tank, whether it’s financially or critically or both. They’ve all made some of the worst excuses for movies of all time (like Batman and Robin).
However, for all their flaws, they have still made one or more films that don’t suck (unlike directors like Uwe Boll, who only ever seem to make nausea-inducing movies). Some of these directors, in fact, have even made some great cult hits. So here are their best films, from the okay to the excellent.
10. Sixty Six – Paul Weiland
In Sixty Six, a London boy’s bar mitzvah seems geared for disaster when it coincides with the final of the 1966 World Cup and his family increase their focus on their diminishing business. The film is funny, charming and even a little sad. What helps it to work is that it’s loosely based on Weiland’s own experiences. Sadly, this is his only good film.
Weiland is responsible for some of the most reprehensible films of all time, like Made of Honor, City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold (which essentially dashed Slicker’s chances of turning into a trilogy or more) and Leonard Part 6 (a despicable comedy that even made the star, Bill Cosby, warn people against spending their hard-earned money on it).
9. Cocaine Cowboys – Ulli Lommel
The director has a lengthy career, from acting in ‘60s indie films and being part of Andy Warhol’s ‘The Factory’. However, his career as a director is filled with a few okay films and a lot of bad ones, most of them chaotic horror movies that feel fan-made.
His worst films include Zombie Nation (a film that, despite the ‘Nation’ in the title, only has about five zombies), Curse of the Zodiac (shaky camera simulator), Daniel – Der Zauberer (an experimental film so awful that the musician it’s based on, Daniel Küblböck, called it the worst movie of all time).
Lommel’s saving grace in his less-than-stellar career is Cocaine Cowboys, a documentary about Colombian drug lords in Miami during the early ‘80s and the resulting Miami drug war. The documentary uses interviews with most of the people involved, from drug smugglers to law enforcement, and tells a gritty tale of how Miami turned into a hotbed of violence in this period.
8. Die Hard 2 – Renny Harlin
Renny Harlin’s filmography is littered with fantastically bad films. There’s Driven (one of the worst car films of all time), Exorcist: The Beginning (based on characters by William Peter Blatty, who was humiliated after watching it), The Legend of Hercules (among the worst film adaptations of the mythical hero) and Cutthroat Island.
This last was a special kind of failure, as critics disliked it and audiences loathed it; it only made $10 million from its $98 million budget, giving it the Guinness World Record for the biggest box-office flop of all time. It also contributed to the tanking of its production company, Carolco, and ruined the careers of the two leads, Geena Davis and Matthew Modine.
But Harlin has made a few films that aren’t all bad. There’s A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, Cliffhanger, The Long Kiss Goodnight and Die Hard 2: Die Harder. Of these, Die Hard 2 is arguably the best, though not by much. As most sequels to acclaimed films come, this is bigger, has more action and is more over-the-top than the original. But despite its excesses and plot holes, the film is still entertaining and Bruce Willis gave a great performance.
7. Red Dragon – Brett Ratner
Brett Ratner is a divisive director. To some, he made Rush Hour (not counting the muddled sequel and the appalling third film). To others, he’s the guy who ruined Bryan Singer’s fantastic X-Men films with a messy and underwhelming third entry. He’s also taken part in the critically panned anthology films New York, I Love You and Movie 43 (probably the worst anthology film of all time).
Ratner’s saving grace is Red Dragon. When it comes to adaptations of Thomas Harris’s cannibal serial killer novels, nothing comes close to The Silence of the Lambs. And Ratner’s film isn’t even the best adaptation of the source novel; that honor goes to Michael Mann’s superb Manhunter. That said, Red Dragon is still a fine movie. The pacing is okay, the direction is good and Anthony Hopkins gives another stellar performance as Hannibal Lecter.
6. The Man from Snowy River – George T. Miller
Not to be confused with the Mad Max creator, George T. Miller is a director who started out okay, then descended into mediocrity and critical obscurity.
His first full-length film, The Man from Snowy River, is also his best. In the award-winning family film, Jim Craig goes to work at the Harrison cattle ranch before he can inherit his father’s station. What follows is a heartwarming coming-of-age tale with beautiful scenery and a great score.
After this movie, Miller went on to make some of the worst creations in the history of cinema. There’s The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter, Frozen Assets (which Roger Ebert claimed was so bad that just calling it the worst movie of the year would be a kindness), Les Patterson Saves the World (one of the worst Australian movies) and more.