Everyone has their own list of the worst films they have ever seen. I’ve always found this question a bit challenging, especially because there are some factors that should be taken into consideration. First, is the film at least entertaining? If a film is so awful that it is funny, does it still remain one of the worst? If so, why? Second, what makes the film so bad? Is it something like “Showgirls”, where the cinematography and editing are fine and the content is disgraceful, or is it one of those B-movies where even the sound mixing is a disaster? Well, this list will fall more along the lines of that latter thought.
All of these films are of the worst caliber in the history of cinema, but we are going to focus on the people that made these clunkers. We will examine the poor directing within these 10 films. This will include poor decisions that were made, tones that made little to no sense, and just the overall fact that nothing added up to a cohesive (or pleasant) film experience. Yes, virtually everything in these films can be called appalling, but these were all decisions that were given the go-ahead by the people in charge. All 10 of these films are considerably directionless. Here are 10 of the worst cases of directing in film history.
10. Howard the Duck
Like the majority of the films on this list, “Howard the Duck” is a cult favourite for reasons that were not originally intended. The jokes that are planted throughout the film are laughed at ironically (are you ready for a plethora of duck puns? If not, you’re entirely ducked). The thrilling moments are mostly cringe-worthy (unfortunately, the alien tongue scene Jeffrey Jones is in is no longer the most uncomfortable thing about him, but it’s still a gross scene). There is nothing slick about this flick, despite its best efforts at being both enticing and humorous.
Then, you have the odd decision that, well, leaves the word “odd” as both a term with multiple meanings and an understatement. Exhibit A: Including bare duck breasts at the beginning of the film, as there is a humanoid duck that is in the bath. If that wasn’t gross enough, what do you make of the sexual tension between Lea Thompson and the titular duck (more like some kind of awful)?
Yes, “Howard the Duck” is popular for all of the wrong reasons. Even executive producer George Lucas has tried to defend the film and insist that it’s being observed maliciously. Well, to that I have to ask: Whose idea was it to have such a mean-spirited film with an anthropomorphic bird fighting aliens and being battered around by horrible humans? This is the work of director William Huyck, who clearly didn’t know what tone to give this clunker. In all fairness, how in the hell do you make a film about Howard the bloody Duck good in the first place?
9. The Last Airbender
Question: What’s harder than watching most of M. Night Shyamalan’s films? Answer: Picking which of his films is legitimately his worst. When it comes to directing, one can find many faults with “The Last Airbender”. First, the green screen is so obvious that it makes the animated source material look a thousand times more real. Second, the movie is burdened by so many forms of exposition, whether it be the text at the start of the film, voiceovers, or the clumsy dialogue from the characters. That wouldn’t be nearly as bad if the exposition the movie is squashed by was 1) descriptive and thorough, and 2) cohesive and made complete sense.
Now, this would be useful for someone like me who hasn’t seen the Avatar show at all, but even a non-fan like myself can pinpoint the many problems it has as an adaptation. Six people are needed to lift up a tiny rock, and we are supposed to be intimidated? Also, we could go into the culture washing of the characters, but let’s not beat that dead horse again.
In conclusion, “The Last Airbender” feels like a fan’s creation to show admiration for a show without letting anyone else in. A director’s job is to piece together a film so it makes sense to its audience, especially if it is based on something else. “The Last Airbender” makes little sense and barely entertains, and it truly is the last “Last Airbender” film.
8. The Babe Ruth Story
It’s perfectly fine to exaggerate the capabilities of your idols if you do it in small doses and in the right settings. We all root for our heroes enough to want to believe in mythologies that surround them (the world certainly felt different when David Bowie and Prince passed on; I’d like to think they held the world together). However, making a biopic that spits in the faces of those that watch it and even in the face of the person it is depicting is unforgivable.
“The Babe Ruth Story” is just that: a story about Babe Ruth. Roy Del Ruth’s love letter to the baseball legend is a heaping pile of B.S. that makes any TV movie and Hallmark feature feel grounded. The film features triumphant sports moments that are gargantuan enough to make “Chariots of Fire” seem humble. Then you have a moment where Babe Ruth waves at a child that is paraplegic, and the boy miraculously stands up, much to his father’s amazement.
In case that wasn’t insulting enough, the film pulls the same nonsense again later on. Babe Ruth promises another child (this time the child is battling cancer) he will hit a home run. Looks like his baseball skills can also cure cancer, as the child begins to recover after the game. The two and a half hour length is torturous to endure with the amount of times the movie professes love towards Babe Ruth and itself.
The score isn’t even bad, but it’s so whimsical and is used so often that you’ll swear you’ve lost all of your teeth from sweetness. “The Babe Ruth Story” is too unrealistic, and it psychotically worships its source material as though it were based on religious texts. I don’t sound so silly with what I said about Bowie and Prince anymore, right?
7. Batman & Robin
Never make a film that will solely depend on the return from the toys that go along with it. You’ll get “Batman & Robin” if you do. Joel Schumacher has publicly apologized for this film a number of times. I don’t blame him, since it was considered one of the films to almost kill superhero movies for good.
What ingredients are required to pull off such an audacity? Add a basis of as many cheesy one-liners as you can (bonus points are included for the amount of cold-related jokes Mr. Freeze makes). Next, make the sets gothic and brightly coloured (which is enough of a contrast on its own, let alone with the goofiness on top of it). Include awful green screen shots, many plot holes, and toilet humour to boot.
We’re still missing something here. What about a few things to completely drill Batman’s dignity into the ground? Yes, let’s have nipple and cod pieces on the superheroes. Let’s also make Robin a lazy foil by having him whine every second. Oh, why not give Batman his own credit card that he can whip out while he attends public events in full costume and not as Bruce Wayne? Schumacher’s vision seemed as though it was meant to make Batman into an untouchable Adonis while referring back to the Adam West days; instead, Schumacher completely emasculated Batman to the point that even the toys weren’t worth it.
6. Glen or Glenda
There are so many Ed Wood “classics” that it is actually difficult to pick just one. Two names are often brought up when it comes to the worst of the worst: “Glen or Glenda”, and “Plan 9 from Outer Space”. Based on the sheer fact that “Plan 9” is a much more hilarious watch, we will focus on “Glen or Glenda” instead.
In fact, “Glen or Glenda” is a more obvious pick to begin with, since it has a more experimental approach to it. This was meant to be a candid letter to the world based on director Ed Wood’s own personal confessions. It is now common knowledge that Wood battled with the judgmental comments that were directed towards him because of his cross-dressing ways. Wood bravely dealt with the times by publicly documenting his case. This is why it is hard to write negatively about Ed Wood; sure, he was easily one of the worst directors ever, but everything he did had heart and earnest intentions.
Unfortunately, “Glen or Glenda” was a confused mess. The personal moments do not carry a punch whatsoever. You have the infamous moments where Bela Lugosi yells (at whomever) to “pull the string!” while stock footage of buffalos roaming is placed on top. The narrating is befuddled and plagued by wonky writing. “Glen or Glenda” may be a disaster, but keep in mind that it is one of the more honest entries on this list (despite its countless problems).