Financial success is not always a strong indicator of the quality of a film. Moonlight, which won Best Picture at the 2017 Academy Awards, has net a mere $22 million at the box office, while Batman Vs. Superman: The Dawn of Justice, a multiple Razzie award-winning film that was panned by critics, net around $873 million.
Here are some examples of films that grossed $100 million or more during their opening weekends, despite facing massive criticism from film reviewers and audiences alike.
10. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Opening weekend gross – $114,732,820
Brutal critic quote – “The plot is not only hard to follow, there seems to be nothing real at stake. Half the characters are already dead, and half the movie seems to involve swordfights with dead people who can’t be killed with swords,” David Ansen, Newsweek.
The first Pirates of the Caribbean film was something of a miracle, a movie based on a Disney World ride that turned out to be exciting, witty and fun. Then came Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, which struggled to recapture the mix of action and comedy the first had produced, but still managed to be a fairly watchable film.
By this third installment, the franchise had completely lost its way. Relying far too much on audiences’ love for Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow, At World’s End’s confusing and overpacked plot left many wondering what, exactly they had just watched.
The filmmakers’ decision to separate Depp from the other main characters for the majority of the movie left us with two films: one where we followed the boring, unfocused journey Kiera Knightly, Orlando Bloom and Geoffrey Rush and another where Jack Sparrow is spouting his trademark wit with no one there to appreciate it.
Opening weekend gross – $115,718,405
Brutal critic quote – “It’s not whether this prequel can mint money; that’s a given. The questions is: Can the minions carry a movie all by their mischievous mini-selves? ‘Fraid not,” Peter Travers, Rolling Stone.
When Despicable Me premiered, it became one of the most lauded animated films of 2010, no small feat in a year that included Toy Story 3 and Tangled. This was thanks in no small part to the adorable yellow “minions” which are featured as cute sidekicks to the film’s anti-hero, Gru. Fast forward to 2015 and the minions now have their very own film, the goal of which seemed to be solely to cash in on the tremendous popularity of its title creatures.
After 15 minutes the cuteness of the minions wears thin, and it’s not nearly enough to carry a whole movie. There’s nothing wrong with a film trying to make money, but it’s clear that far more effort went into the staggering amount of merchandising connected to Minions than went into making it.
8. Shrek the Third
Opening weekend gross – $121,629,270
Brutal critic quote – “Apart from some modestly amusing princess shtick and a pleasantly slapsticky opening, there’s no real reason for anyone over the age of 11 to see this one,” Bob Mondello, NRP.
The problem with Shrek the Third is not that it’s necessarily a bad movie, the issue is that it’s a decent movie that was predeceased by two excellent ones. The success of the Shrek franchise was based on the fact that the first two films were entertaining for both children and adults because they combined fun animated heroes with smartly constructed plots and dialogue.
While there are traces of these elements in the Shrek the Third, it has by far the weakest plot out of the original three, and Shrek has lost some of his trademark bite. Stick with the first two films, which provide a unique blend of heart and humor that’s usually reserved for Disney and Pixar collaborations.
7. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Opening weekend gross – $100,137,835
Brutal critic quote – “The biggest problem with Crystal Skull is one that’s lately plagued Spielberg in otherwise excellent films like Munich and War Of The Worlds: He fails to stick the landing. And for an entertainment with nothing much on its mind, that hurts,” Scott Tobias, A.V. Club
One thing you can say for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is that while it may have disappointed some fans who were excited for Indy’s return, it was a far cry from the outrage over the Star Wars prequels. This reboot had some decent callbacks to the original films, but for all it’s nostalgia it lacked a coherent story and was filled with confusing plot holes (a refrigerator protecting a man in his 60’s against a nuclear blast?)
The overloaded plot is missing exciting action or charismatic villains and the film’s overreliance on CGI makes it look particularly fake. Plus, aliens. Why did it have to be aliens?
6. Batman Vs. Superman: The Dawn of Justice
Opening weekend gross – $166,007,347
Brutal critic quote – “A movie that beats you into submission and makes you wonder if the sun will ever come out again,” Will Leitch, The New Republic.
One thing all great modern superhero movies have in common is even when they’re trying to be serious, there’s still a hint of self-awareness and fun. Even Christopher Nolan’s often brutal Dark Knight saga had some lighthearted moments where it made sly nods to films that came before it. Batman Vs. Superman drained all the life out of the genre by taking itself far too seriously.
It is a long, lead footed film that that focuses far too much on Ben Affleck’s humorless, aging Batman without taking the time to craft a smooth, coherent storyline. Its big names and flashy trailers were enough to net it a massive opening weekend gross, but not enough to make up for its messy, joyless plot.