Here it is: the 10 worst films of 2017. It’s often difficult to judge what’s truly “good” or “bad” about film: after all, even universally disliked films have their fans. Instead, this list was put together based on expectation, budget, and the talent involved. While some films weren’t made for much money (and it often shows), and a low budget is no excuse for making a shoddy film, the worst films of the year go to high-budget, wide-release box office disasters.
In the cases of these titles, no amount of marketing or re-editing could fix productions whose budgets run between $40 to $300 million. What makes them so terrible—the worst of the year, in fact—is that they weren’t amateur or indie productions that simply missed the mark they were aiming for a little: they went so decidedly awry from execution to delivery that even after big-name star turns, months of shooting, a year of editing, and untold tens of millions went into marketing, they died on the vine upon release, playing to half-empty theaters and losing their production companies gigantic amounts of money.
Of course, their massive failures are our gain since tearing into big-budget film atrocities is just good fun. With that in mind, here are the 10 worst films of 2017.
10. The Boss Baby
An imaginative young boy named Tim is upset when his parents bring another child into the house–literally, since their new baby arrives in a taxi. He’s especially annoyed since they now give the newborn all of the attention he was accustomed to receiving from them exclusively.
But Tim finds out his new baby brother (voiced by Alec Baldwin) talks like a character from Glengarry Glen Ross, wears suits, and is actually part of an organization called Baby Corp., and–hold on, there’s more setup involved–he drinks a formula that makes him intelligent and has infiltrated Tim’s family because his parents work for a company called Puppy Co. that are releasing a new version of a “Forever Puppy” that will be more popular than babies, which this new baby has to stop so babies can continue to hold the market share(?) of being loveable. Got all that? Together, Tim and his new boss baby must stop from these new puppies being released into the world, thereby…jeopardizing babies?
And wow, for such a convoluted setup this a mindless movie. Insulting the intelligence of children and babies alike, The Boss Baby is a sloppily written, has headache-inducing CGI, and features an unlikeable main character in Baldwin’s “boss baby.”
Alternately too juvenile for adults but with a premise far too sophisticated for children, this has inexplicably become one of highest-grossing films of the year, which can only be accounted for by being released during a season where there were few family-friendly films in theaters. History will most likely not be kind to this movie. Like a baby, it’s a rare film that lacks a sense of object permanence. Instead, the viewer begins to forget The Boss Baby almost immediately after it ends.
9. The Snowman
A serial killer is on the loose, and it’s up to Harry Hole (Michael Fassbender) to unlock the puzzling he leaves behind as his calling card. Unfortunately, his calling card are snowmen. But he has to solve this crazy mystery somehow, so with a new recruit Hole works the case—especially since The Snowman is now taunting the police with clues on how to save his next victim.
Adapted from a best-selling novel and with top-notch talent both behind and in front of the camera, The Snowman should have been the next Zodiac. Instead, it’s a poorly mashed-together serial killer crime drama that never quite adds up to a satisfying whole. What makes it one of the worst films of the year is how it took great source material, a fine ensemble cast, and director Tomas Alfredson—who had previously made the brilliant Let the Right One In and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy—and completely fucked up every single good aspect it had going.
The “snowman motif’—a criminally underused phrase—ended up being more comical than menacing, while the protagonist is an unlikeable loser and the entire plot is jumbled and leaves the viewer not caring what happens in the end. Barely making its money back at the box office and receiving universally scathing reviews after a fair amount of hype in the media, The Snowman ends up being hands-down one of the worst films of the year.
8. Fifty Shades Darker
While the runaway literary success of the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy puzzled everyone (except for the hordes who bought it), that could be excused: if people want to read poorly written erotica, then at least it’s nice that people are reading again.
The general public scoffed when they heard it was going to be made into a movie: after all, such a notoriously graphic book couldn’t be anything other than straight-out porn, right? But it was cleaned up for the theaters to secure an R rating in 2015. Critics hated it because it was ostensibly the same kind of crap the book was, but it turned a healthy profit and it was announced they’d just keep on making the movies until the trilogy’s conclusion.
Now in 2017 we have Fifty Shades Darker, which continues the Mary Sue erotic adventures of Anastasia Steele and her totally believable devoted billionaire sadomasochist lover Christian Grey. This time around they’re on the outs with each other, with Grey trying to win her back. She begins doing some detective work and uncovers Grey’s abusive past while also finding rivals in Grey’s former girlfriend/submissive Leila and former dominant Elena. And she gets a big promotion at work and Grey asks her to marry him because despite the BDSM cover it’s still pretty much just a chick flick.
Aside from terrible direction, writing, and performances, the film is shallow garbage. Then again, so were the books, so this should be expected. As mentioned, Fifty Shades of Grey is really just a wish fulfillment fantasy aimed at the 25-and-older female quadrant with a little “taboo” sex thrown in for extra spice. Despite its glaring, obvious weaknesses as a film, it made quite a bit of money at the box office, so expect sometime next year the (hopefully) concluding film Fifty Shades Freed. See you next year when it lands on the same kind of list as this one.
7. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Guy Ritchie seems to have experienced a career of diminished returns: while his first two features, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, are instant classics in the crime-comedy genre, after that his filmography took a drastic nosedive. Following up his first two male-oriented buddy-crime comedies with the abysmal Swept Away, starring his then-wife Madonna, Ritchie put out middling films that either gently retained some of his strengths or else were naked commercial cash-ins like Sherlock Holmes.
Following up his interesting but commercially unsuccessful adaptation of the TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Richie chose a project that seemed far outside his wheelhouse: an epic fantasy film that takes place in the middle ages about the legend of King Arthur. This became King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. And it was terrible.
Released this year to little fanfare, this $175 million boondoggle has Ritchie’s fingerprints all over it—which is unfortunate, as the slick, ultra-modern stylistics of Ritchie’s vision does not meld well with a centuries-old story about knights and kings. Instead, King Arthur is portrayed as a warrior-king who has one foot in the 13th century and the other in the 21st.
The action sequences are jarring since they are to have taken place long ago but are depicted as part of a modern action movie. Besides this, the film itself is somewhat incoherent in its attempt at revisionist history and adapting a story that has been done so many times there’s little left to uncover that’s new no matter how flashy the cinematography and editing.
Perhaps Ritchie will again find his stride, or at least apply his talents to a story that’s more in-line with his kinetic style. But since this big-budget film crashed so badly upon release—recouping only $141 million of its production budget—it’s unlikely Ritchie will be helming such a large production any time soon (which is probably for the best).
6. Ghost in the Shell
1995’s Ghost in the Shell is considered one of the best animated films of all time. This hard-R cyberpunk sci-fi film set in 2029 New Port City, Japan, follows the efforts of an assault team lead by synthetic cybernetic human Motoko Kusanagi to track down a hacker named Puppet Master who is “ghost-hacking” people for his own political ends. Meanwhile, Motoko is haunted by her own ghost, which may hold the key to who she was before being rebuilt into the cybernetic being she is today.
Radically original and visually stunning, Ghost in the Shell was a high watermark for anime, becoming a breakthrough hit in the Western world and introducing a generation to Japan’s animation output. Now considered one of the best films of all time, there was no reason to remake it–but because people like money and hate to come up with original ideas, 2017 saw the release of the live-action Ghost in the Shell.
Forget some of the more obvious and well-trodden criticisms of the film’s whitewashing of its main characters: why was this film made in the first place? It cost an unbelievable amount of money to make ($110 million, not including promotional costs), and while it looks spectacular, what did it accomplish that the first film didn’t? In fact, it accomplished less since even CGI and MPAA rating-conscious studios couldn’t capture the ultra-graphic stylistics of the first film. Key elements couldn’t even be reproduced, such as Motoko’s somewhat androgynous nature and copious–but symbolically important–nudity.
A live-action (and whitewashed) adaptation wouldn’t please fans in its home country of origin, and while Ghost in the Shell is a much-loved anime, for the most part it’s also relatively obscure to mainstream Western audiences. Besides all that, those that do love the original film hated the idea of it being adapted and would refuse to see it. But at least Scarlett Johannson knows how to play an unemotional character.
Having only grossed $169 against a total $250 million budget (with promotion included), the live-action Ghost in the Shell is considered a gigantic box-office bomb at this point, which hopefully will signal to studios that there are some things that don’t need to be adapted or remade.