6. Quentin Tarantino – Death Proof (2007)
Quentin is one of the modern masters. He immediately came into the game and just laid it down like a pro. From “Reservoir Dogs” to “Kill Bill,” he just kept getting better. But then he teamed up with Robert Rodriguez for an experimental double feature meant to evoke the olden days of dank ass grindhouse theaters that marked easily the lowest point in his canon. His half of the bill, “Death Proof,” is just a marked regression for him in most regards.
It’s a short movie but it feels way too long, featuring a gaggle of women too annoying to be mourned in their gloriously gory vehicular murders. Then it shifts to another group of women who are much more enjoyable than the last by leaps and bounds, but it’s almost too little too late.
The movie is rightly praised for Kurt Russell’s glorious turn as the villainous Stuntman Mike and the practical stunt filled extended car chase at the end. But those elements would be so much more iconic if we gave a shit at all during the run time of this movie. If there was more of that trademark Tarantino female supremacy in his writing, we’d care more.
This is the only movie of his where the women are really all just horribly done. It’s a wild misstep for the man. This is the weakest movie in the career of a storied filmmaker, but it’s the only one on this list that could still be considered watchable. That just goes to show that a movie most filmmakers would kill to have on their filmography could stand as the worst movie in a great auteur’s work.
7. Stanley Kubrick – Lolita (1962)
Kubrick. To many he is the grand poobah of filmmakers. He is sacred land in the world of filmmakers. There are some who may not agree with the hyperbolic praise he gets, but there’s no doubt he is a titan. And no matter what side of the argument you land on, there is one movie upon which everyone can agree: “Lolita” is really bad.
Ignoring the fact that the movie is based on a book that would be impossible to adapt today, let alone in the prudish 1960s. Ignoring the fact that the movie just fails to grasp the themes and narrative of the book on a deeply fundamental level. The movie is just bad. The movie just drags its damn heels so it feels much longer than it really is. Peter Sellers is a damn hazard to this movie’s health, as his improv schtick is just way out of place.
In a movie about a middle-aged man trying to rail out a child, Sellers’ comedy routine just feels out of place. The narrative itself is also really muddled, as the prudishness of the times makes it damn near impossible for the movie to make clear what Humbert’s intentions are, let alone that they are icky as all hell. So there’s a certain point in the movie where it just casually mentions that they are in a relationship, and it’s whiplash inducing. And even at that point, it isn’t necessarily clear to what extent.
For the usually obnoxious perfectionism Kubrick would show, he was messy with this movie. And then to boot, as mentioned before, it doesn’t get the story at all. The movie never portrays Humbert as a creep and a lecherous pit stain of a man. It never gets into the psychological elements of it all and how horrible the whole situation is. It’s just a very weird failure from a filmmaker who usually is at least able to make a movie worth watching, even if he fails the source material.
8. Wes Craven – Deadly Friend (1986)
Wes Craven was a man who was able to craft a horror landscape-changing classic for 30 years, but who was able to fill those gaps with some immensely amateurish messes.
The man was never lazy or seeking easy wins, always at least trying for something bigger each time out. Yet no movie of his has ever been as bafflingly misjudged and horrible executed as “Deadly Friend.” A movie about a nerd falling for the hot girl, but he also has a robot, and then the girl dies and he turns her into a robot, and it’s kinda like a Frankenstein movie. But it’s trying to be a YA version of such a tale, yet there’s some pretty gruesome murders in it. It’s so bad and sounds so off the wall that it sounds like it would be fun to watch but it isn’t. It’s just plain ol’ boring and incompetent.
This is two years after “Nightmare on Elm Street,” a movie that was damn near perfect on every level. That he would go and make something as rough and unwatchable as this is just baffling. That was the way his career worked, though. You honestly never knew what Wes you would get at any given time. This only beats out “The Hills Have Eyes 2” because that movie was not even a complete movie that was released without Wes’ consent so it doesn’t really count, but even then, it is more trainwreck watchable than this monstrosity.
9. Spike Lee – Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014)
What the hell even happened here? Spike Lee isn’t a man with a nonstop streak of winners on his hands. But even still, this is mind-bogglingly inept. Is it because it was crowdfunded and he had really little to work with? Probably not, since he was drunk off his ass when he made the pitch video for it. So his passion probably wasn’t there.
Was it because it was a remake? Didn’t really work out for him with “Oldboy,” but at least that was technically well done. Whatever the hell it was, it’s astounding to sit down and see a Spike Lee directed remake of a blaxploitation horror movie and just be left astounded at how a student film was credited to a legendary director. Shot like crap and given no visual dynamism at all, odd coming from such a talented visual director like Lee.
The story is nonsense and barely makes any damn sense, with no propulsion at all to the story. There are no interesting characters to care about so it doesn’t even work in a mood piece or a tone poem way. It’s just the most limp piece of crap to be seen from such a talented filmmaker in quite some time. That he would immediately follow this up with “Chi-Raq” is astonishing, as that is one of the best he’s ever done.
This, most certainly, is his worst. And considering he’s got “She Hate Me,” “Summer of Sam,” and “Miracle at St. Anna” on his CV, that’s a goddamn accomplishment in its own right.
10. Steven Spielberg – Hook (1991)
Spielberg is a titan. To most, he is the titan of cinema. There is such an ease with the art of cinema that it’s almost annoying. He just knows what to do and has known so from the very beginning. He has never made a movie that could be described as technically unappealing. That is, aside from this horrid piece of crap. There is nothing about this movie that works. Only 90’s babies defend this movie and showcase their nostalgia-based weaknesses when they do so. This movie is grating and just plain bad.
The story is a nonstarter, a not bad idea executed interminably. It takes forever to get going, and when it does, it’s over. The design of Neverland is cheap and chintzy, never something evoking the magic of the narrative. The kids are annoying as hell. It play more like a cheap knockoff of an Amblin movie that just never gets the balance right, which is weird that Spielberg is at the helm.
Maybe he was too focused on the one-two punch he was about to land with “Schindler’s List” and “Jurassic Park” not too soon afterwards, but either way, this is bad. Like, offensively and aggressively bad. This is not the case of being the worst by process of elimination. This is truly just a horrible movie. No amount of nostalgia based arguments can make it look good.