There is nothing more pretentious than claiming something is “overrated.” Art is subjective, which makes the act of declaring one thing less deserving of acclaim over another thing, futile and silly. People like what they like and if enough people like a certain thing, it becomes popular. Simple as that.
The point of this list isn’t to attack films that are unworthy of awards (Argo, Crash, Forrest Gump, Avatar, Dances with Wolves or Chicago) or to shit on fan favorites (Star Wars, Frozen, Interstellar or Black Panther) because as overrated as those films are, I still understand why they’re so beloved. Films built around nostalgia, involve cute animals or kids and/or have great songs included don’t baffle me. These twenty films however, do. These are the films that made me ask “why the fuck is this so popular?”
You can find the previous entry here.
10. Traffic (2000)
Directed By: Steven Soderbergh
IMDB Score: 7.6
Awards: 4 Oscars/1 Nomination
Plot Synopsis: A conservative judge is appointed by the President to spearhead America’s escalating war against drugs, only to discover that his teenage daughter is a crack addict. Two DEA agents protect an informant. A jailed drug baron’s wife attempts to carry on the family business.
100 dollars to anyone that can name a single thing that happens in this film without reading its Wikipedia page or watching the trailer. Crash (2004) gets regularly shit on for its overly simplistic views on race, with most detractors boiling the film down to “racism is bad, mmmkay?” but you can easily apply that same criticism to Traffic. To prove my point, I don’t even know what to point to as an example of this films overratedness because I, like you, don’t remember a single thing about this film other than the fact that this, not 21 Grams (2003), Sicario (2015) or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998) was the film that Benicio Del Toro finally won an Oscar for. And I can’t even claim it’s undeserved because seriously, this film is so bland, not a single thing about it has stuck with anyone since it came out. It is the cinematic equivalent of flavorless flan.
Is Traffic a bad film? Who knows. Is it completely forgettable? Abso-fucking-lutely.
09. Chariots Of Fire (1981)
Directed By: Hugh Hudson
IMDB Score: 7.2
Awards: 4 Oscars/3 Nominations
Plot Synopsis: Two British track athletes, one a determined Jew, and the other a devout Christian, compete in the 1924 Olympics.
For those of you who have seen this movie, close your eyes and try and replay the events of this film in your mind. You don’t need to reenact the entire film, just the broad strokes. Every single one of you pictured a group of guys running on the beach in slow motion while the iconic Vangelis score plays in the background and then stopped. Congratulations, you just pictured the first five minutes of the movie. Which isn’t even necessary in the first place. The scene is completely irrelevant to the plot but because it’s set to that goddamn song, you can’t help but to commit it to memory. The movie however, not so much.
08. Almost Famous (2000)
Directed By: Cameron Crowe
IMDB Score: 7.9
Awards: 1 Oscar/3 nominations
Plot Synopsis: A high-school boy is given the chance to write a story for Rolling Stone Magazine about an up-and-coming rock band as he accompanies them on their concert tour.
All of the greatest directors have visual flourishes and/or trademarks that separate them from everyone else. Some are mathematically obsessed with symmetry, some prefer a distinct color palette, while others have a preference for certain shots. Everyone has their “thing.” Cameron Crowe‘s thing is, and has always been–great soundtrack and/or cute kid. If this doesn’t apply to one of his movies, it’s not a movie anyone on planet Earth gives any amount of fucks about: Vanilla Sky (2001), Elizabethtown (2005), and Aloha (2015). And even the ones that do follow the formula, none are better than average. Not even Almost Famous. I guarantee the majority of its fans haven’t seen it since it came out because outside of a few likable characters and an amazing soundtrack, the film is completely forgettable. It’s not at all a coincidence that the two best films in Crowe‘s filmography, are the two he didn’t direct.
07. The Pink Panther (1963)
Directed By: Blake Edwards
IMDB Score: 7.2
Awards: 1 Oscar Nomination
Plot Synopsis: The bumbling Inspector Clouseau travels to Rome to catch a notorious jewel thief known as “The Phantom” before he conducts his most daring heist yet: a princess’ priceless diamond with one slight imperfection, known as “The Pink Panther”.
Peter Sellers is a comedic genius. There’s also a strong argument to be made that he’s the funniest actor to grace the silver screen. He could do physical comedy as well as the best and had a mastery over accents that few actors have come close to touching. Some of his best work is with his frequent collaborator Blake Edwards on the Pink Panther series but you would never know it based on this film. You know those two cliched comedy scenes you’ll find in many old tv shows and cartoons, where a character is hiding someone in their room from someone else and they have to keep moving them around or else they’ll get caught and the mirror gag where one person pretends to be another’s reflection? Now take those two scenes, stretch them both to 40 minutes and that’s this film. It’s mind boggling that this film spawned a franchise, let alone a sequel.
06. Amélie (2001)
Directed By: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
IMDB Score: 8.3
Awards: 5 Oscar Nominations
Plot Synopsis: Amélie is an innocent and naive girl in Paris with her own sense of justice. She decides to help those around her and, along the way, discovers love.
Here’s a thought experiment, try and imagine this film but with a man in the lead. Keep everything the exact same, just change the sex of the main character. Now, do you think Amélie, as a character, is still likable and charming or do you consider her an insufferable stalker that breaks into peoples apartments whenever she wants and is clearly a psychopath? If you thought John Krasinski‘s constant mugging on the show The Office was obnoxious, Amélie might drive you to suicide.
Remember the infamous boat ride in the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), wherein the famous chocolateer basically kidnaps his passengers for 5 minutes while he subjects them to a candy colored hellscape involving nightmare inducing images, whilst singing a bizarre tune? Replace the weird ass song with dancing and constant fourth wall breaking looks at the camera and that’s Amélie. Except it’s not 5 minutes, it’s 122.
05. Up (2009)
Directed By: Pete Doctor/ Bob Peterson
IMDB Score: 8.3
Awards: 2 Oscars/ 3 Nominations
Plot Synopsis: Seventy-eight year old Carl Fredricksen travels to Paradise Falls in his home equipped with balloons, inadvertently taking a young stowaway.
In the early days of Pixar, after the successful shorts and the release of Toy Story (1995), five animators came together to spitball ideas for new movies. In that one meeting, they came up with the basis for every movie up to and including Wall-E (2008). Some argue that their output has never been nor will ever be as strong as those first nine movies. Some think it’s due to the death of one of the animators and others blame Disney but I have my own theory: cocaine.
Now, I have absolutely no proof that what I’m about to say is true but just hear me out because it’s the only logical explanation I can think of to explain the absolutely terrible writing of Up, Cars 2 (2011) and Brave (2012). Much like the original meeting between the five animators, the current heads of Pixar would have annual meetings where everyone would pitch ideas and there was one (hypothetical but probably totally real) guy that came up with three amazing pitches. One about an old man who deals with the death of his wife by tying a shit ton of balloons to his house to finally visit the place they always talked about, one about a strong willed princess that decides to beat all of her suitors so she doesn’t have to wed any of them and the other is a retelling of The Man Who Knew Too Much but as an action packed spy film.
But then, after giving them the greatest pitches the studio had seen in over a decade, he goes to the bathroom to do a profound amount of cocaine. I’m talking Scarface levels of blow. He then returns, completely forgetting what the fuck he was doing and proceeds to pitch two completely different films. One about an old man, a kid and a talking dog looking for giant bird and one about a teenager being angry at her family and accidentally makes a wish that magically turns them all into bears. I guess they just turned that spy movie into a Cars sequel. Everyone in the room was confused but decided to go with it because this guy talked fast and had confidence, so they assumed everything he said was a good idea.
Hoodwinked by cocaine, they attempted to salvage the film by creating the greatest montage in film history and shoe-horning in a talking dog because people like talking dogs and y’all bought it.
Or they just ripped off the French short Above then Beyond (2006).
Cocaine or thievery. Pick one.
04. Donnie Darko (2001)
Directed By: Richard Kelly
IMDB Score: 8.1
Awards: N/A (Unless you count the hearts of pretentious nerds an award)
Plot Synopsis: A troubled teenager is plagued by visions of a man in a large rabbit suit who manipulates him to commit a series of crimes, after he narrowly escapes a bizarre accident.
It’s been nearly two decades since this film came out and I still get irrationally angry every time someone refers to it as “deep” or “profound” or tries to analyze it to reveal some deeper intellectual meaning. Donnie Darko is It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) but with a weird bunny man instead of an angel. That’s it. Just because it includes baby’s first introduction to quantum mechanics, doesn’t mean its smart or well written. The film introduced the world to the Gyllenhaal‘s, has one of Patrick Swayze‘s best performances and Gary Jules’ rendition of Mad World is an all timer but everything around those three things is either annoyingly pretentious, unnecessarily convoluted or forgettable.
03. The Thin Red Line (1998)
Directed By: Terrence Malick
IMDB Score: 7.6
Awards: 7 Oscar Nominations
Plot Synopsis: Adaptation of James Jones’ autobiographical 1962 novel, focusing on the conflict at Guadalcanal during the second World War.
Editing can literally save a film. There are a ton of examples of films being vastly improved through new edits (Once upon a Time in America (1984), Kingdom of Heaven (2005)] or being nothing but footage that didn’t work until it was given shape by the director and editor (Ghostbusters (1984), Caddyshack (1980), The Hurt Locker (2008)]. A good editor can make or break a film but they’re still bound by the footage at their disposal. Editors having to deal with a lack of coverage happens all the time but the great ones improvise with what they have. The problem with Malick isn’t that he doesn’t shoot enough material, its that he shoots five movies worth and then spends years forcing an editor to try and turn his lack of vision into something resembling art.
You don’t cast Bill Pullman, Gary Oldman, Lukas Haas, Viggo Mortensen, Martin Sheen, Jason Patric, Mickey Rourke and Billy Bob Thorton and then cut them out of the film if you have a clear vision.
You don’t edit down the lead characters (Adrien Brody) part so drastically, that he ends up being little more than a cameo in his own film, if you have a clear vision.
It’s apparent in everything Malick does, that he has no vision. His films have as much coherence and emotional weight as a perfume ad and the Thin Red Line is no exception.
02. Breakfast At Tiffany’s (1961)
Directed By: Blake Edwards
IMDB Score: 7.7
Awards: 2 Oscars/ 3 Nominations
Plot Synopsis: A young New York socialite becomes interested in a young man who has moved into her apartment building, but her past threatens to get in the way.
Let’s get this out of the way immediately: Audrey Hepburn, while good in the role, is severely miscast as Holly Golightly. It was written for Marilyn Monroe and although Hepburn is a much better actress, she could never tap into the darkness that Monroe had to fight to keep back. Having said that, it isn’t her performance that makes this film overrated, nor is it the terribly offensive Mickey Rooney in yellow face. No, it’s the love story that the film is built around. In that, it doesn’t work. For the women in the audience, they’re wondering what Holly sees in the the walking talking wet blanket named Paul (George Peppard) and the men, and anyone else with functioning eyes, is yelling at him to get the fuck out of dodge. Holly is a severely unlikable character and I would go so far as to say, she’s one of the most unlikable characters ever created and if you look up to or identify with her, you might be fucking crazy.
Breakfast At Tiffany‘s is the female version of Fight Club (1999); if you meet a woman and she has this films poster hanging on her wall, you immediately know everything you need to know about her. Which is to run away.
01. Easy Rider (1969)
Directed By: Dennis Hopper
IMDB Score: 7.4
Awards: 2 Oscar Nominations
Plot Synopsis: Through the open country and desert lands, two bikers head from L.A to New Orleans, and along the way, meet a man who bridges a counter-culture gap they are unaware of.
A landmark of cinema. A film that defined a generation and is undeniably one of the most important films of the 60’s. Its success was instrumental in ushering in a new wave of independent film. It changed movies forever but even though it’s a significant piece of art that deserves its place in film history, it’s also a boring, unwatchable piece of shit. Every time Nicholson is on screen, the film actually works. Unlike his co-stars, who were high throughout the production, he actually showed up to work and delivered. But the problem is, he’s only in a few scenes. The rest of the film is barely a step above porn in terms of production, with half the film feeling like a self indulgent music video that goes on longer than the 60’s themselves. And don’t get me started on that ridiculous cornball ending that’s so ham fisted, I’m surprised this film didn’t get banned in the Middle East.
Easy Rider is unquestionably The Most Overrated Film Of All Time.