Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
Balance is an evergreen theme. At the end of each year, we take stock of the bad just as much as the good. Despite the recent outcry railing against it, this is why I’ve always done a separate “Worst Movies of The Year” list – and why I won’t stop doing it. Forgetting about the mistakes of the past leads to history repeating itself. That’s not a good approach for society.
Listen, no one ever intends to make a bad movie. It’s a miracle anything ever gets made. If anyone realized how much blood, sweat and tears goes into making any movie, let alone a bad one, then maybe the world would benefit from even the trashiest offering. And guess what? It can! This is where film critics come in, shining the light on the blights so that these mistakes will never be made again. That is if the studio executives – and creative talent saddled with them – will take the feedback.
There are MANY opportunities along the way where films can fall apart over creative differences. I’ve curated a list below of films that should’ve been dismantled when problems arose. Some of them were given ample warning early enough for change – yet that change never came. The red flags were flying, and now the results inject a harmful ideology into the zeitgeist. So it’s necessary to discuss the wrong-headed sentiments.
I’ve also hotlinked my full reviews, so you can read more on why these became this year’s worst of the worst.
10. THE SNOWMAN: Mister Police. Thank you for bequeathing us with one of the greatest memes of all time, but you should’ve finished shooting the script before wrapping production. Their “we’ll fix it in post” mentality didn’t help matters either. Aside from its rushed production schedule, the filmmakers’ narrative is troublesome as it punishes all the women for exercising any sort of agency. We’re there to service the male arcs – from the killer’s, to the flawed protagonist, to the mis-handled flashback involving a tertiary character.
9. SUBURBICON: A script by the Coen Brothers sat on the shelves collecting dust for years before George Clooney got a hold of it. And once he did, yikes! He fashioned it into a woke mess. Its narrative is two tales in one, which would be great had the filmmakers integrated the storylines efficiently and with heap loads more grace. It’s unbearable that black people are used as props in their own true-life story. The commentary they choose to make doesn’t exactly help their cause either.
8. THE MUMMY: Yet again, Universal’s “Dark Universe” failed to take off – mostly because of what a mess this turned out to be. After riding an empowering high from the release of WONDER WOMAN, THE MUMMY set out to suck the life out of us – females in the audience in particular. I didn’t rate it low enough at the time, but since, I’ve dwelled on its horrific portrayals of women (something I did highlight in my review). When I was at the press screening of THE MUMMY, the older male blowhard seated behind me ranted for a solid five minutes about how he felt WONDER WOMAN was “not that special.” After THE MUMMY ended, I overheard him say to his colleague how much he enjoyed this. A lump formed in my throat. To be forced to regress to seeing women on screen reduced to sloppy Madonna/ whore tropes was legitimately painful.
7. RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER: This alleged last chapter is unwatchable. Not only is the material bad, but the direction is worse. Littered with shaky cam that forces you to look away whenever humanly possible, Paul W.S. Anderson’s final chapter does his leading woman (his wife in real-life) a complete disservice. She’s a badass having carryied a franchise for so long, yet we can’t even get a competently edited, coherently shot action sequence to save our lives. We live in a post JOHN WICK world, for Pete’s sake. She’s athletic and nimble yet she’s absolutely crippled by her director’s poor aesthetic choices. Characters outside of her aren’t interesting, so when they get picked off, no one cares except the composer whose strings are left swelling.
6. PITCH PERFECT 3: This does far more harm to feminism than the good it barely musters to put out there to its young female target audience. It’s dangerously regressive in its views on female empowerment. Daddy issues! Love interests! Tarting it up! It hates all its characters – and you’ll end up hating them too.
5. UNFORGETTABLE: How have I still not forgotten this movie after seeing it?! When it comes down to it, this 90’s-genre wannabe is about two women fighting over one guileless dolt of a man. Dangerous rhetoric when it comes to gender politics is infused throughout – so much so, I spent almost the entirety of the film “tsk-ing” what it was espousing to the audience. Not only that, it’s also terribly flat from a narrative standpoint. All this does is depress.
4. CHIPS: I can’t even with this movie.
3. MONSTER TRUCKS: Here’s a film that was pitched to a studio executive by a 4-year-old. Yes, I’m serious. Problematic from the first scene, the narrative has 27-year-old actors, playing 16-year-old teens, who astoundingly behave like a pack of 6-year-olds. This is mind-numbingly misguided on all fronts. As I said to a colleague of mine at the time of release, this film’s motto seems to be “Ew! Girls!” Male characters consistently condescend to female characters, who in turn, only love the men more. There are micro aggressions galore. This shouldn’t be shown to anyone – let alone impressionable children.
2. BAYWATCH: Between the worst special effects seen outside of the Syfy channel, the stale “dick-getting-caught-in-things jokes,” and the villain being feminism incarnate, this action-raunch-com is water-logged.
1. RINGS: The most terrifying thing about this third in a progressively worsening horror franchise is that female protagonist’s sole interest is her relationship to her boyfriend. It’s her main focus and what sends her on her quest. There are a myriad things the filmmakers should’ve done with this series that they chose to ignore. We could’ve seen Samara rise again as a viral sensation, or an IT FOLLOWS-inspired incarnation. For what could’ve been a cutting commentary on society’s stupidity, the film leaves many avenues left unexplored, and loads more questions left unanswered.