Unfortunately, an Academy Award win for Best Director doesn’t mean that that directors are impervious to failure. Honestly, it just puts more pressure on them to succeed. Filmmakers are human. They can’t make the next Citizen Kane year after year.
That brings us to this list. Below, you’ll find a list of cinematic flops that came after Oscar wins. The movies don’t need to come immediately after the wins, but there won’t be a gargantuan gap in time either. Because of this criteria, certain late-career mishaps have been excluded.
The entries listed below aren’t necessarily a reflection of talent. Plenty of the directors either rebounded or still have a chance to rebound. The purpose of the list is as simple as the title. The goal is to name some less-than-stellar films that came from frequently stellar directors.
1. Cats – Tom Hooper
Cats is the worst mainstream cinematic release of the 2010s. This is a bold statement, so some elaboration is probably in order, but it seemed appropriate immediately to lay the cards on the table so nobody thinks we’re pulling punches. It’s worse than anything Michael Bay, Tyler Perry, or Jonathan Liebesman could’ve conjured up. This isn’t some hyperbolic statement. It’s the cold hard truth.
At least, it’s the cold hard truth according to one Taste of Cinema writer. As stated, there are some caveats. “Mainstream cinematic release” implies that the competition earned some sort of theatrical release. This means that Foodfight, Verotika, and Atlantic Rim aren’t in the discussion. Then again, Cats might even give them a run for their money. It’s about as fun as eating an entire bag of kitty litter, but it’s not fair to simply leave it at that.
There needs to be some actual critical discussion, and luckily, there’s a lot to discuss. The horrendous visuals are the first thing a typical viewer will notice. The decision to create cat-human hybrids remains baffling. The rushed production even resulted in several visual errors that had to be revised following the official release. These kinds of amateurish mistakes might be commonplace in a SyFy original movie, but it’s practically unheard of when it comes to big-budget releases.
If it were just ugly visuals, Cats may have been able to find an audience, but it’s so much more. The impressive cast is wasted, the script is incomprehensible, and any charm from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s original production is absent.
Honestly, the aforementioned issues could have been given their own paragraphs, but there’s only so much time in the day to bully this monstrosity. Given the abundance of hilarious reviews, it’s safe to say that most readers have heard all of this before. Still, the lack of quality needs to be announced at any given opportunity. Cats is vile, unwatchable, filth.
2. Alexander – Oliver Stone
Sixteen years later, Alexander remains a punchline in cinephile discussions. Billed as an grandiose historical epic, it never even begins to live up to its promise.
Stone has done everything to try to save his baby, and it’s hard to blame him given the massive budget. While the numerous rereleases have shown improvement, Alexander just can’t be fixed. There are too many problems that go beyond poor editing decisions.
Throwing in new scenes and taking out old ones can certainly enhance a lousy film, but that’s about it. The writing is still sloppy. The performances are still inconsistent. The production design is still lavish to a fault. This is still a
Even if Stone managed to release the definitive version of Alexander, it wouldn’t matter. It’s already the laughing stock of the film community, and it’s already (deservedly) sitting at number two on this list. On the bright side, he hasn’t made anything half as bad since then.
3. The Da Vinci Code – Ron Howard
Ron Howard went zero for three with his Robert Langdon trilogy, but The Da Vinci Code may have been the worst of the bunch. First off, it started this trio of convoluted mystery movies, but more importantly, it’s dull beyond belief.
Make fun of National Treasure all you want, but at least it has some semblance of charm. The Da Vinci Code is the cinematic equivalent of a wet Noodle. Ron Howard has never been known for his unique style, but this one feels particularly stale. We don’t need something as stylish as The Grand Budapest Hotel, but please give us something that doesn’t feel like it was produced by robots.
Unlike a lot of entries on this list, The Da Vinci Code found an audience. It earned plenty of money at the box office, and as we’ve already pointed out, it earned two sequels. However, as we’ve seen from the Michael Bay Transformers movies, box office success means very little when it comes to quality. The Da Vinci Code could’ve been the highest grossing movie of all time, but that wouldn’t make it good.
4. Envy – Barry Levinson
Back in the early noughties, the director of Rain Man graciously gifted the world a 99-minute poop joke starring Jack Black, Ben Stiller, Rachel Weisz, and Amy Poehler. It was called Envy, and it was a critical disaster. The 8% Rotten Tomatoes score makes it the lowest rated entry on this list, but a number isn’t enough to explain why it flopped so hard.
The central premise is the major culprit. Envy revolves around a man (Jack Black) who invents a spray that makes dog poop disappear, much to the chagrin of his neighbor (Ben Stiller), who initially scoffed at the idea. From there, viewers must watch Jack Black try to be nice while Ben Stiller plays an insufferable crybaby. There’s very little to the movie beyond that.
That’s probably the reason why everyone involved seems so bored. Back in 2004, a cast like this should’ve been unstoppable. Ben Stiller and Jack Black were at the top of their games, but they can’t do much when the script is so weak. It’s unfunny, uninteresting, and unremarkable. No wonder it bombed at the box office.
5. The 15:17 to Paris – Clint Eastwood
Clint Eastwood isn’t a perfect director by any means, but given his pedigree, one might expect something a little better than The 15:17 to Paris, an exploitative snooze-fest about a trio of American heroes who prevented the 2015 Thalys train attack. Truthfully, this is the type of project made for Clint Eastwood, but there are too many amateurish missteps that end up stifling the quality of the final product.
The 15:17 to Paris is a good movie for fifteen minutes. Beyond that, it’s a poorly constructed exposition-fest with amateur actors who simply can’t compete with trained performers. See, a majority of the runtime revolves around getting to know the three protagonists. That’s a problem for two reasons: the protagonists are played by their real-life counterparts and their stories aren’t particularly interesting.
While the three cast members aren’t bad actors, they hardly seem comfortable alongside costars Judy Greer and Jenna Fischer. This could be because a majority of their dialogue consists of bantering while impatient viewers await the hyped-up climax. With this much tedium, you can’t blame the guys for looking a little sleepy.
All stories need exposition. Sully, another Clint Eastwood project, also spent a good amount of time building things up before the most exciting moment. There’s a difference between those two stories though. A majority of the exposition in Sully had some type of impact on the overall vision. Meanwhile, everything here just seems like a waste of time.
The 15:17 to Paris is only 97-minutes long, but it feels like an eternity. There’s not enough story to justify a feature-length motion picture. If there is more of a story, the screenplay chooses to ignore it in favor of dull build-up disguised as excessive patriotism.