The 12 worst films ever made
For every movie that enjoys critical and commercial success, there’s a total stinker that flops at the box office and gets savaged by critics.
There have been thousands of terrible movies released down the years — some of which can be quite enjoyable in the right setting.
While some movies fall into the ‘so-bad-they’re-good’ category and end up as cult favourites, some are simply downright unwatchable.
From vanity projects to sordid horror movies, these are the worst films ever made.
Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000
Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000 is John Travolta‘s infamously terrible passion project, released back in 2000. Based on the novel from Scientology founder L Hubbard, the movie follows the journey of a human slave fighting back against the alien overlords who have enslaved earth. The movie features laughable dialogue, ridiculous prosthetics and special effects and it was no surprise that the film took home eight Golden Raspberry Awards at the time. The movie also stars the usually-dependable Forest Whitaker and Barry Pepper, who are largely wasted in their roles. “Battlefield Earth is bad enough to make audiences ashamed to be part of the same species as the people who made it,” said the AV Club. Not that Travolta was swayed by the critical drubbing; back in 2014 he defended the project, calling it “a beautiful film”.
Filmmakers and trash-peddlers Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer have been responsible for some of the most pointless, lazy and unforgivable movies of the past decade and frankly, they need to be stopped. Disaster Movie, 300 spoof Meet the Spartans and awful Hunger Games mickey-take The Starving Games could easily have made this list, but Epic Movie might be the worst of the lot. It offers the most uninspired, unfunny film pastiches imaginable, sometimes repeating entire sections of dialogue verbatim from the movies they’re supposedly satirising, which include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter and X-Men. Proving there is no God, Friedberg and Seltzer have been allowed to team up again for upcoming spoof Star Worlds Episode XXXIVE=MC2, which is something we can all look forward to.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
1964’s Santa Claus Conquers the Martians follows the people of Mars who decide to kidnap Santa Claus when their children develop a fascination with him. The result is a festive flop with laughable special effects and a notable lack of Christmas cheer, widely recognised as one of the very worst films ever made. “The plot, such as it is, proves it is possible to insult the intelligence of a three-year-old,” the BBC said in a review, while Time Out called it a “hilariously bad stab at sci-fi”. This is one festive film to forget.
FIFA vanity project United Passions told the story of football’s governing body through the most rose-tinted of glasses. The film was bankrolled by the body and presented little more than propaganda, coinciding with the corruption case launched against FIFA in 2015. Remarkable timing. The movie’s surprisingly illustrious cast list (Sam Neill, Tim Roth, Gerard Depardieu) phone it in with looks of mild and entirely justified embarrassment. While some of the movies on this list ended up making huge amounts of money, United Passions grossed just $918 during its opening weekend in the US. The film receiving a string of scathing reviews in the process too, with the New York Times calling it “one of the most unwatchable films in recent memory, a dishonest bit of corporate-suite sanitising that’s no good even for laughs.”
Tommy Wiseau’s The Room was Immortalised by James Franco’s The Disaster Artist in 2017, but it’s been a cult favourite ‘so bad it’s good’ movie for years. The strange, nonsensical story line, stilted dialogue and baffling subplots make it a bizarre watch.
“To make a movie that’s so bad it’s good you need vision, drive, luck and obsessive vanity,” the Guardian said in their review. “Fortuitously, Tommy Wiseau appears to possess all of these qualities, combined with a total lack of acting talent.” The movie’s backstory is just as intriguing as the film itself though. Wiseau self-funded the project and while the actor and director once stated he came up with some of the money by importing leather jackets from Korea, the source of the $6m budget remains a mystery.
Howard the Duck
Marvel might have the superhero blockbuster market cornered these days but that was far from the case back in the mid 80s. Implausibly, Howard the Duck became the first Marvel character to get the big screen treatment since Captain America way back in 1944 and the results were mixed to say the least. From the preposterous suit to the weird human/duck love interest at the heart of the film and the thoroughly naff guitar playing scenes, it was as far removed from the slick Marvel movies we know today as possible.
“As you watch Howard the Duck you get the vivid sensation that you’re watching not a movie, but a pile of money being poured down the drain,” the Washington Post said, and it’s true that the film flopped emphatically — taking $15m in the US against its $30m budget. However, the film, like so many notoriously bad films down the years, has become something of a cult favourite though and celebrated critic Mark Kermode even counts himself among the film’s fans.
Saved By The Bell’s Elizabeth Berkley was attempting to shed her squeaky-clean image when she signed up to star in French-American erotic thriller Showgirls in 1996. Instead, the movie ended up becoming one of the most notorious films of the decade for all the wrong reasons, doing irreparable damage to Berkley’s career. The Paul Verhoeven-directed movie, which also starred Kyle McLachlan of Twin Peaks fame, is one of the worst-acted films of the 90s and one of the most terrible films ever made. Verhoeven and Berkley both won Razzies for their part in it and the movie tanked at the box office, making $37.8m back on a budget of $45m.
“A film of thunderous oafishness that gives adult subject matter the kind of bad name it does not need or deserve,” was how the Los Angeles Times described it at the time.
The Exorcist II: The Heretic
William Friedkin’s first Exorcist movie is an all-time classic and arguably the greatest horror film ever made. The third instalment in the series is also excellent and features one of the most iconic jump scares in movies. However, Exorcist II: The Heretic proved a real misstep in 1977, replacing all the compelling tension and unsettling horror of the original with a meandering and totally unconvincing plot. Linda Blair returned as Regan MacNeil, while Richard Burton is truly awful as Father Philip Lamont. Moviehole called it a “shameless, awful follow-up to one of horror’s greatest moments,” and it’s certainly hard to disagree.
Jack and Jill
Adam Sandler reached the lowest point of his career in 2011, playing both of the insufferable title characters in Jack and Jill. The movie relied almost exclusively on lowest common denominator toilet humour and suffered from a palpable lack of laughs. It was surprising too, given that the film came just a year after Funny People — one of the strongest Sandler films to date. Jack and Jill claimed a total of 10 razzie awards, with Sandler being awarded both the worst actor prize and the worst actress gongs for his dual roles. Sandler dragged Al Pacino into proceedings too and seeing the once-great actor lower himself to those kind of levels was enough to leave any movie fan with a heavy heart at the time. Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian said “it could easily have been a single-joke poster shot in a deleted scene from Funny People. Only it is less funny and less interesting,” while the Philadelphia Times described it as “the worst Adam Sandler picture yet, which is saying something.” Incredibly though, Jack and Jill made $149m against a $79m budget.
The baffling Movie 43 featured one of the biggest ensemble casts of recent years, with Gerard Butler, Hugh Jackman, Richard Gere, Halle Berry, Kate Winslet, Emma Stone and Uma Thurman all appearing in the 2013 film. The movie patches together a series of increasingly unfunny sketches, which rely on crass and gross-out humour and come together to create one of the most irritating viewing experiences of the last 10 years. When star of the film Richard Gere was asked about the movie he said: ”Other than apparently it’s a piece of s**? Nothing. I haven’t seen it.” Meanwhile, Entertainment Weekly said the film was “utterly disgusting throughout”, while the Chicago Sun-Times beautifully described it as the “Citizen Kane of awful”.
Ruggero Deodato’s 1980 film Cannibal Holocaust has been given the title of most controversial film ever down the years and it’s easy to see why. The found footage movie focuses on events which supposedly took place in the Amazon rainforest, with a camera crew disappearing after investigating a tribe of cannibals. Many people believed the film’s shocking events to be real and it was banned in 40 countries (it was only released officially in the UK in 2001). The movie features unbelievably graphic depictions of extreme violence and rape, with a young woman being impaled upon a wooden spike in the climactic section of the film. Arguably the film’s biggest offence, though, is the shocking animal cruelty which took place for real on set and was captured on film, including a turtle and a monkey being beheaded with a machete. It remains as depraved as ever nearly 40 years on.
The Human Centipede III
Director Tom Six’s body horror franchise Human Centipede saw a vile concept stretched out over three sordid movies, each more unappealing than the other. While grotesque intrigue drew some to the first film, any sense of shock or originality had dissipated by the third and the filmmakers grimly poured on the misery. It’s utterly repugnant and devoid of any artistic value, making even the abhorrent A Serbian Film look like a rewarding work of cinema in comparison. Unsurprisingly, critical reception was less than enthusiastic, with Variety saying: “Tom Six’s latest, largest-scaled and most lamentable entry yet in the gross-out horror series manages to be completely obnoxious even before the gross stuff kicks in.”