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 Jerry Maguire) 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?”
20. Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday (1953)
Directed By: Jacques Tati
IMDB Score: 7.6
Awards: 1 Oscar Nomination
Plot Synopsis: Monsieur Hulot comes to a beachside hotel for a vacation, where he accidentally (but good-naturedly) causes havoc.
Being good at physical comedy is a gift few actors are blessed with. The ability to craft visuals to have a set up and a payoff, is a very rare talent. Many film aficionados believe Tati is the last of the great old school clowns and I, for one, respectfully disagree. Not that he was the last great one (I’m not a fan of Jerry Lewis, who modeled himself after Tati) but that he was ever great to begin with. He can clearly take a bump to the head and he’s not afraid to do some good ol’ fashioned pratfalls but his comedic sensibilities are so subtle, you won’t even notice a joke is happening until the payoff. And then there are scenes that are nothing but set ups but then he forgets to pay them off. You could easily chop this film up into a dozen or so short films, which would not only work better for his style but would make them infinitely easier to consume.
19. The Intouchables (2011)
Directed by: Olivier Nakache/Éric Toledano
IMDB Score: 8.5
Awards: 1 Golden Globe Nomination
Plot Synopsis: After he becomes a quadriplegic from a paragliding accident, an aristocrat hires a young man from the projects to be his caregiver.
Easily the most obscure movie on this list, The Intouchables (a film you have never heard of) is inexplicably ranked number 38 in the IMDB top 100. Now, the IMDB is hardly the metric in which to measure a films popularity or quality but it’s still baffling that a film that was only popular around award season eight years ago, is still rated higher than some of the greatest films ever made. Every year or so, there’s a feel good film that garners enough critical and commercial attention, that it gets some Oscar buzz and some even win Oscars (Shakespeare in Love (1998), The Artist (2011), Lady Bird (2017)] but The Intouchables didn’t win nor was it even nominated, so why the fuck is it still so popular? It’s the inferior version of Driving Miss Daisy (1989) and that film isn’t that great to begin with.
18. Suspiria (1977)
Directed By: Dario Argento
IMDB Score: 7.6
Plot Synopsis: An American newcomer to a prestigious German ballet academy comes to realize that the school is a front for something sinister amid a series of grisly murders.
It’s hard to call any foreign horror film overrated, since neither genre is exactly mainstream but this one’s for the horror fans. I’m not only declaring Suspiria overrated, I’m proclaiming Dario Argento‘s entire body of work to be little more than style over substance. Every film he made (Suspiria included) is extremely stylish, with lush colors and beautifully photographed kills but –and this is very important– each film is painfully dull. There’s nothing wrong with surrealism or dream logic but you still need a strong enough rope to pull me along. His films are held together by string.
17. The Blind Side (2009)
Directed By: John Lee Hancock
IMDB Score: 7.6
Awards: 1 Oscar/ 1 Nomination
Plot Synopsis: The story of Michael Oher, a homeless and traumatized boy who became an All American football player and first round NFL draft pick with the help of a caring woman and her family.
Biopics are hard. Writers have to form a narrative around a famous person’s life but true life isn’t always exciting. Sometimes you gotta punch up the story with a little dramatic license. I guess the filmmakers of The Blind Side thought Michael Oher’s story wasn’t dramatic enough because instead of being an inspirational tale of a homeless kid who eventually joins the NFL, it’s an overwrought sap story that only exists to get Sandra Bullock an Oscar. Which she didn’t even deserve but that’s neither here nor there. The Blind Side is barely more dramatic than a Hallmark movie and for a movie about a football player, it’s surprisingly light on actual football.
16. Grey Gardens (1975)
Directed By: Albert Maysles–David Mayles–Ellen Movde–Muffie Meyer
IMDB Score: 7.7
Plot Synopsis: An old mother and her middle-aged daughter, the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy live their eccentric lives in a filthy, decaying mansion in East Hampton.
There’s a fine line between documentary and exploitation and this film skates right up to the line. Less a documentary and more a horror movie about a house haunted by two of the most insufferable ghosts imaginable, Grey Gardens chronicles the last days of Jacqueline Kennedy’s eccentric family. I deliberately used the word eccentric to describe them because, to quote Dennis Hopper in Speed (1994), “poor people are crazy Jack, I’m eccentric.” They may look destitute but they obviously come from money. Where that money is and what they’re doing with it is anyone’s guess. Another great mystery is how anyone could stand to be around them long enough to film a documentary. If you’ve ever been caught in a conversation with a homeless nutjob that rambled on and on about his life and problems to the point that all you could think about was either committing suicide or killing him to finally end the conversation, you’ve already seen this movie.
17. How To Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)
Directed By: Dean DeBlois
IMDB Score: 7.8
Awards: 1 Oscar Nomination
Plot Synopsis: When Hiccup and Toothless discover an ice cave that is home to hundreds of new wild dragons and the mysterious Dragon Rider, the two friends find themselves at the center of a battle to protect the peace.
This entry will include spoilers. Read at your own risk.
Once you find out that the mother was always supposed to be the main antagonist, you realize the writers changed that at the last minute because comparisons to the Empire Strikes Back (1980) would be unavoidable. So instead of scrapping the story and starting over, they decided to just take the character they built they entire film around and just copy and pasted them onto another character. The mother and the bad guy both have the same backstory, the same powers and both somehow have an army of dragons complete with a huge ass alpha dragon. Being a ripoff of Empire is one thing but being too lazy to fix your hack writing is simply insulting.
14. Bridesmaids (2011)
Directed By: Paul Feig
IMDB Score: 6.8
Awards: 2 Oscar Nominations
Plot Synopsis: Competition between the maid of honor and a bridesmaid, over who is the bride’s best friend, threatens to upend the life of an out-of-work pastry chef.
If you ever wanted to know the difference between American comedy and British comedy, all you would need to do is watch both versions of the show The Office. Same exact set up with similar jokes but the execution is wildly different. Americans have no problem playing the fool, while the British lean into uncomfortable cringe inducing humor. It’s a broad generalization but you get my point. Bridesmaids tries to marry the two with extremely uneven results. There are gross out gags, improv riffing that goes on forever, uncomfortable scenes that make your eyes recoil from your body, a tonally inconsistent attempt at addressing mental health issues and repugnant characters that only exist for a quick visual joke and to top it all off, it has one of the least likable protagonists in film. If Melissa McCarthy is your films saving grace, your film is broken.
13. My Dinner With Andre (1981)
Directed By: Louis Malle
IMDB Score: 7.8
Plot Synopsis: Two old friends meet for dinner; as one tells anecdotes detailing his experiences, the other notices their differing worldviews.
Wallace Shawn (the guy in Princess Bride that says “inconceivable”) and Andre Gregory (the other guy in this movie) have dinner and talk. And talk. And talk some more. They talk about the plays they’ve done. The plays they didn’t do. The pros and cons of selling out. They pontificate over the meaning of life and discuss the possibility of an afterlife. They talk about a lot of things and every word that comes out of their mouths makes me want to stab them to death and then hang myself. Comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon have a series of travelogues called the Trip, in which they go to different countries and do impressions. Now, take those films, remove the comedy and the entertaining stories about show business and leave in all the bad bits and then add even more bad bits and that’s My Dinner With Andre.
12. The Seventh Seal (1957)
Directed By: Ingmar Bergman
IMDB Score: 8.2
Plot Synopsis: A man seeks answers about life, death, and the existence of God as he plays chess against the Grim Reaper during the Black Plague.
Remember when I complained about My Dinner With Andre being nothing but two hours of yakety yak bullshit? The exact opposite is the problem with The Seventh Seal. The film sells itself as a chess game between a disillusioned knight (Max von Sydow) and death (Bengt Ekerot) for the fate of every soul lost during the crusades but the film intentionally gives you the blue balls. Every time they start to play, something interrupts them. They don’t just get interrupted, their narrative completely stops to follow the people who interrupted them and their stories are far less interesting than a game of chess. Which speaks volumes.
11. Au Hasard Balthazar (1966)
Directed By: Robert Bresson
IMDB Score: 7.9
Plot Synopsis: The story of a mistreated donkey and the people around him. A study on saintliness and a sister piece to Bresson’s Mouchette.
The easiest way to pitch this film is, “A retelling of the story of Jesus but this time…Jesus is a donkey!” While that certainly sounds like a fucked up Rob Schneider comedy, it actually works dramatically. That is, when the film is about the donkey. Which it only is about 1/3rd the time. The other 75% of the film (don’t question the math) is about a girl named Marie (Anne Wiazemsky), who also goes through a shitty fucking time. A little girl going through bullshit and donkey Jesus getting treated like garbage quickly turns this prestigious film into misery porn. Whenever a piece of pop culture satirizes a foreign film, this is the film they’re poking fun at. Its slow, it’s pretentious and it’s only beloved because donkey Jesus is cute.