It’s easy to name movies that waste a good concept. There are dozens of lists dedicated to covering movies that wasted their potential. In Time, Transcendence, The Purge, and countless other movies did next to nothing with a potentially brilliant concept. Since it’s easy to hop online and find lists dedicated those kinds of movies, we’ve decided to look at movies that do the opposite.
Listed below are ten movies that shouldn’t have worked. Rather than wasting good concepts, these movies somehow managed to be good in spite of their ridiculous premises. These are the types of movies that are easy to dismiss at first glance because they seem destined to fail. Then, against all odds, a movie about a psychic tire turns out to be pretty damn clever.
Honestly, there aren’t a whole lot of movies like this. Most movies that seem bad turn out to be bad. Because of that, not every movie listed earns a glowing recommendation. They do, however, earn soft recommendations at the very least. Basically, the movies are all worth watching even if some are better than others. They defied the odds, and that’s what matters.
1. The Lobster
The Lobster is an interesting choice because plenty of people will argue that the premise is actually pretty brilliant. It’s certainly creative. Basically, single people have 45 days to find a mate. If they don’t succeed, they turn into an animal. It’s included on this list because, while it’s definitely creative, it’s a little too outlandish. It sounds better as a short story than a full length movie. How could a two-hour movie tell a story like this?
There’s a lesson to be learned here: never underestimate Yorgos Lanthimos. He had already shown that he can take strange concepts and turn them into magic. Dogtooth was critically acclaimed and it was also gleefully strange. His movies tend to seem like bad ideas on paper. Miraculously, he always finds ways to make them work.
The Lobster is no exception. It sounds absurd, but Lanthimos knew what he was doing. Like most movies on this list, it’s not for everyone. People will definitely find it too strange for its own good. That being said, it’s definitely a better movie than it has any right to be. Hell, it’s one of the best dystopian movies of the decade. You need to see it to believe it.
2. Swiss Army Man
Swiss Army Man is quite possibly one of the weirdest movies to come around in a long time. It’s damn near indescribable, but us film critics have to do our best, so here goes nothing.
Long story short, Paul Dano is trapped on an island where a corpse washes up. This corpse is played by Daniel Radcliffe, and it’s somewhere between dead and alive. Yes, corpses are dead by definition, but this thing is pretty damn far from being a living, breathing human. More importantly, this particular corpse functions as a “swiss army man” because of its numerous capabilities which often stem from flatulence and erections.
Following the introduction of this character, the film mostly revolves around Dano’s attempted escape. Along the way, he bonds with the swiss army man and learns lessons about love, loneliness, and friendship. It’s all rather touching in spite of the fact that Radcliffe is constantly farting, shooting things out of his mouth, and using his penis in creative ways. The trailer makes it seem like a giant fart joke, but there’s more to it than meets the eye.
Then again, there are definitely fart jokes to spare, but at least they’re creative? This is the only movie about a farting corpse that also functions as a compass. As a result, it’s also the best movie about a farting corpse that also functions as a compass. Even if a competitor arrives, it’s honestly hard to imagine this one being topped.
3. Edge of Tomorrow
It’s starting to seem like the Groundhog Day setup works pretty consistently outside of Bill Murray’s movie, but that wasn’t always a sure thing. Before Happy Death Day, Russian Doll, and Before I Fall, there was a sci-fi movie starring Tom Cruise, and it sounded risky. Most people were unsure of the “repeating days premise” featuring invincible aliens, and it’s not hard to see why. It seemed a little too silly for a serious science fiction movie from the dude who directed The Bourne Identity.
Luckily, everyone involved knew what they were doing. On the one hand, the movie took a more serious approach than one may have expected. On the other hand, it never forgot to keep things exhilarating. Edge of Tomorrow is a thrilling time travel movie that features the perfect combination of intelligence and fun. The Groundhog Day-inspired premise never feels meaningless. It serves a purpose to advance the surprisingly intelligent plot.
All of that quality didn’t lead to an entirely successful box office haul, especially when it comes to North America. The movie underperformed during its theatrical run, but it has since recovered. It’s a beloved sci-fi movie that should be getting a sequel in the near future. With the bar set so high, it’s hard to imagine a movie topping the surprisingly excellent original.
4. The Voices
In The Voices, Ryan Reynolds plays a character who looks to be upbeat and cheerful, but in reality he’s facing several life crises as a result of his mental illness. He has no social skills, he experiences hallucinations, and he hears voices.
This is all because he refuses to take his meds. He chooses to live in his own fantasy world, even if his own fantasy world is alarming. It’s not a spoiler to say that this lifestyle eventually leads to him beheading some people and keeping them in his refrigerator. These (dead) people also talk to him because, well, this movie is bonkers.
To some people, the premise might sound reasonable. There are weirder movies out there. The execution, on the other hand, seemed a bit more troublesome. The Voices definitely felt like a movie that could have had troublesome tonal inconsistencies. This is clearly a movie that wants to make people laugh regardless of the dark subject matter. Prior to its release, the big question was whether or not it could achieve that goal.
In most respects, The Voices carefully balances tones, and this results in a hell of an entertaining movie. Some may have issues with the way mental illness is treated, but the script never tries to make grand statements about mental health. It’s just trying to have a good time with its characters. Like a lot of movies on this list, the concept works solely because the movie never takes itself too seriously.
Technically this movie’s premise isn’t all that ridiculous. It’s just a murder mystery with a comedic twist. That had been done before, and it’d been done well. The kicker come from the fact that this movie happens to be based off a board game.
It was, more or less, the first big movie based on a board game, so of course people were worried. Board games typically don’t have elaborate stories. Sure, Clue had a bit more of a story than something like Battleship, but it hardly seemed suited for a feature length movie.
Then it came out, and the results were better than expected. Critical reception was slightly above lukewarm, but its status as a cult film is undeniable. Not everybody loves Clue, but there are plenty of people who hold it near and dear to their heart. It’s an incredibly fun movie with some interesting twists and turns. It’s not Rear Window or Chinatown, but it doesn’t need to be. It’s pure fun from beginning to end.