5. War of the Worlds (2005)
Steven Spielberg’s 2005 remake of War of the Worlds easily ranks among the most underrated films of his career. Instead of being a cheesy, family friendly action romp, the remake looked at the devastating consequences that a worldwide invasion would have on humanity, depicting the collapse of social order that would occur. Although the aliens instigate the conflict, its seeing humanity turn on itself is truly terrifying, and the film is smart in that it focuses on one family that bears witness to this unfolding catastrophe.
At the center of this crisis is Ray Ferrier (Tom Cruise), a divorced dock worker who has always struggled to connect with his children. It’s a performance unlike much of Cruise’s other work, as instead of relying on his inherent charisma, it asks Cruise to be emotionally vulnerable and play a flawed individual who is forced to embrace a darker side of his personality in order to protect his family. It’s a compelling performance that helps to ground the action with emotional stakes, but Cruise, an easy target at the time, received a Razzie nomination for Worst Actor nonetheless.
4. Batman Begins
Batman Begins is without a doubt one of the most important superhero films ever made. The Batman franchise had been a laughing stock after the failure of Batman & Robin, but Chrsitopher Nolan revitalized the series by taking a more grounded approach that imagined Gotham City as a modern urban hub facing infrastructure problems. The film perfectly embodies the pathos of Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey as it follows the journey of Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) as he witnesses his parents’ death, joins the League of Shadows, and dons a cape and cowl in order to fight crime.
Bale brought a dramatic heft to the role that hadn’t been seen in previous incarnations, and the film makes use of its great ensemble, featuring standout roles from Michael Caine as the butler Alfred Pennyworth, Gary Oldman as Police Commissioner Jim Gordon, Morgan Freeman as the innovator Lucius Fox, and Cillian Murphy as the sinister Doctor Crane/ Scarecrow. The performance that was most often criticized was Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes; while Holmes struggles to match the high caliber performances of the rest of the cast, she does help in humanizing Bruce as he struggles to recollect his childhood. Nevertheless, Holmes received a Razzie nomination for Worst Supporting Actress.
3. Wall Street
Wall Street holds a unique honor; it is the only film in cinematic history to win both an Oscar and a Razzie. Michael Douglas received the Academy Award for Best Actor for his iconic portrayal of the legendary Wall Street corporate raider Gordon Gecko, a character that would rank among the most iconic of the 1980s thanks to his now famous monologue about how “greed is good.” Not all parts of the film were as well received, as Daryl Hannah won the Razzie for Worst Supporting Actress.
The love story between Hannah and Charlie Sheen’s character Bud Fox is undeniably one of the weaker aspects of the film, but it didn’t prevent Wall Street from becoming a full on classic. The film was able disseminate the topics of stock manipulation and corporate excess in a palpable manner, and used Stone’s signature humor to satirize the state of the American economy. Wall Street ranks among Stone’s very best, and the film would go on to spawn the underrated sequel Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.
Brian De Palma is often a filmmaker who has provoked extreme responses from audiences and critics, as the shocking nature of his films often gets more attention than his brilliant craftsmanship. The film that suffered from this the most was Scarface, De Palma’s epic crime film told the story of Tony Montana (Al Pacino), a Cuban drug lord who travels to Florida and starts an empire. The film received largely negative reviews during its initial release in 1983, with some accusing De Palma of glorifying the gangster lifestyle with his excessive graphic violence, language, and drug content.
However, the following years were much kinder to Scarface, as crime movie fans began to appreciate the film for its interesting characters and attention to detail when it came to depicting the world of criminals. Pacino’s performance would go on to become iconic, and the film would go on to be referenced in pop culture years after its release. Scarface is one of the rare cult films that can now be considered a legitimate classic, making Brian De Palma’s Razzie nomination for Worst Director feel even sillier in retrospect.
1. The Shining
A timeless masterpiece from the legendary Stanley Kubrick, The Shining is often cited as the greatest horror film ever made. Jack Torrance’s slow descent into madness is brilliantly envisioned by Kubrick, whose intricate set design and visual details are still examined by film analysts to this day. Jack Nicholson’s performance is often cited as one of the most terrifying ever to grace the scene, and it’s the rare horror film that has stood the test of time and remains just as shocking to this day.
However, The Shining’s genius was not initially evident to audiences and critics, with some criticizing the slow pace, surrealist elements, and differences with Stephen King’s novel. The initial wave of negative responses would eventually pass, as The Shining would prove to be one of Kubrick’s most analyzed films. In its first year of existence, the Razzies nominated Kubrick for Worst Director and Shelly Duvall for Worst Actress, nominations that are now laughable given The Shining’s persistence in film culture.