Top 20 Worst Non-2015 Films I First Watched in 2015

Posted: January 3, 2016 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in Lists

I’ve been keeping record of my movie watching since I was a teenager and in recent years have taken to commemorating the best and worst in list form. This year is no exception. It’s important to note going in I am specifically avoiding films actually released in 2015 (there will be a series of awards posts honouring last year specifically), and I also won’t be catching 2014 films I caught up with theatrically in early 2015. These lists are all about older films I saw for the first time in 2015 that I might not get a chance to write about otherwise. First things first, the worst films I saw all year.

It should be noted that I don’t make a habit of seeking out truly awful films, nor do I watch a lot of “so bad they’re good” movies. As a result, the list skews more towards the obscure or forgotten than it does the hilariously awful.

20. The Ten Commandments (1923) (Watched June 14th)ten commandments

I actually feel a little guilty listing this one since the first half of the film is actually pretty impressive, at least on a technical level. These are the moments which actually depict the biblical story of Moses freeing the Hebrew slaves in Egypt. The story is very rushed, but there’s some really awesome production and cutting edge special effects. Then the film jumps forward to contemporary America and tells a story of how breaking the Ten Commandments will lead to punishment and suffering. It’s a corny message that the film tells in the silliest and most blunt way possible. In 1956, Cecil B. DeMille would learn from his mistakes and remake the film, this time focusing on the spectacle and the story of Moses. See that film and skip this preachy slog.

19. House of Dracula (Watched October 21st)house of dracula

This was the second to last film in the Dracula/Frankenstein/Wolf Man series of Universal Monster movies and you can tell the characters were running out of steam. The film is just a repackaging of ideas presented in earlier films (particularly the preceding and also lackluster House of Frankenstein) and the execution is far lesser than it was in the earlier films. Overall, the film is a mess of a bunch of half-baked storylines that don’t really pay-off and the monsters themselves are pretty dull.

18. There’s No Business Like Show Business (Watched November 16th)There's_No_Business_Like_Show_Business_movie_poster

This is an all but forgotten musical that was a critical and commercial failure in 1956 and is only now seen thanks to being including in various Marilyn Monroe DVD sets. The film itself is a boring and bloated musical with almost no plot. The few strands of conflict which are introduced are mostly ignored before being resolved immediately and entirely. It’s a film that sidesteps drama. To the film’s credit, the musical numbers aren’t really bad, but they also aren’t good enough to make this thing memorable.

17. The Farmer’s Wife (Watched September 30th)28385-the-farmer-s-wife-0-230-0-345-crop

We currently live in an era directors can break out with an incredibly assured and solid film there first time out of the gate. This isn’t without historical precedence, but in a time before film school, film criticism, music videos, and other venues for aspiring filmmakers to learn/cut their teeth, directors learned through a lot of trial and error. This is highly observable in the early work of one Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock would, of course, grow into being one of the greatest directors of all time, but his early work is really hit or miss. The Farmer’s Wife is a film from Hitchcock’s silent period, a comedy about a farmer seeking a new wife after marrying off his daughter. It’s unfunny and overlong film with little story that’s only worth watching for Hitchcock completionists. That said, it’s a hard film to really be angry at. It’s disposable, but not offensive, and when you consider what a legend Hitchcock would become, it’s hard to be upset.

16. Life is Beautiful (Watched January 18th)lifeisnbeauti

It’s rare that I find myself truly offended by a movie, but Life is Beautiful accomplished this that. The film follows a father who tries to protect his son from the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp through his humour and clown like antics. For some, the film is an inspiring tale of the human spirit enduring in the face of evil. This is not what I see. Instead, I see a buffoon acting silly and over-the-top amidst a backdrop of genuine human suffering. It’s a sight that left me tangibly uncomfortable for the majority of the film and in truth I just wanted the film to be over as soon as the characters enter the concentration camp. The production value is good and I think Roberto Benigni’s intentions are pure, but watching the film was a very unsettling experience.

15. 2 Fast 2 Furious (Watched March 28th)2_Fast_2_Furious_Poster-07

It’s pretty amazing to think the Fast and the Furious movies are now a billion dollar franchise given how quickly they accepted irrelevancy after the first film. The very title of 2 Fast 2 Furious just announces this as some stupid schlock and the film itself follows suit. The semi-gritty crime feel from the original is almost totally gone, in its place are silly antics which seem more at home in a kids cartoon. The over-the-top nature might have been fun, but John Singleton is never able to make any of this feel the least bit cool. The story and characters are also completely boring and the overblown action scenes are too reliant on lame special effects to make the film any better. I will say the final chase is kind of fun, if nothing else for the sheer amount of cars on screen, but the movie still sucks.

14. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (Watched March 29th)Poster_-_Fast_and_Furious_Tokyo_Drift

Tokyo Drift is every bit as stupid as its predecessor and it doesn’t even end on a semi-competent chase scene. This film is actually even lamer than 2 Fast 2 Furious, focusing not on cops and criminals, but a bunch of high school students and their coming of age and in no way connects to the previous films (save for a shoehorned cameo and some retconning after the fact). This is not at all the type of story I want to see in an action chase film and the writing is definitely not right for this kind of story. However the film’s greatest sin is the casting of Lucas Black in the lead role. This series will never be one for great thespians, but holy fuck does Black hit new lows for acting in this franchise. The fact that Justin Lin would later be the director to save this franchise is fascinating to me.

13. Every Which Way But Loose (Watched September 23rd)every-which-way-but-loose-movie-poster-1978-1010551819

I may come off as a snobby asshole for hating on this film, but I must stress that it isn’t the premise that doesn’t work here, it’s the execution. The basic premise of a blue-collar guy and his road trip adventures with a pet ape can make for some goofy fun, but a Clint Eastwood production is not the place for this kind of comedy. Eastwood films are defined by a very straightforward and serious approach to storytelling, and as such the film lacks the manic or zany energy necessary for a comedy like this. As a result, most of the comedy is just kind of awkward, though that one shot of Ruth Gordon with a shotgun is pretty funny.

12. Cimarron (Watched February 11th)cimarron

There are good things in Cimarron. The opening land grab sequence is a pretty strong set-piece, the film has a decent shoot-out, and the notion of telling a story through many generations is certainly ambitious. The fact that Cimarron has such a firm placement in my list in spite of those positives speaks to just how bad the rest of the movie is. The story is all over the place and the characters arc feel lacking. It doesn’t help that most of the main characters are really unlikeable, particularly Richard Dix who gives an abysmal lead performance. The film is also racially troubling in its depiction of both blacks and natives and the whole thing is just boring.

11. Anthony Adverse (Watched December 26th)anthony adverse

Anthony Adverse was one of the last films I saw in 2015 and it certainly earned its spot in this list. The film is supposed to follow one man’s adventures as he grows and matures over the years, but the film is lacking in both adventure and growth. There isn’t really any sense of excitement and we also never got to see the character change. Instead, there are just a few title cards which basically say, “And then this happens to Anthony Adverse” and the character acts differently than before. That evolution is never actually seen, merely told. All of the acting is subpar (despite some damn good actors) and the film also casually turns its hero into a slave owner for a while, so fuck that.

10. The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (Watched May 1st)Private_Life_of_Sherlock_Holmes_1970

A comedic Sherlock Holmes movie directed and co-written by Billy Wilder should have been awesome, but instead The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes sucks. The central problem is that it feels like the film doesn’t know what it wants to be. Some scenes play like satire of the Holmes mythology, others like total farce, and then there are some moments which play has a straight mystery. All of these elements fail. The satire isn’t clever, the comedy isn’t funny, and the mystery is not at all engaging. The film also makes a complete waste of Christopher Lee and visually looks more like a made-for-TV special than a legitimate film, let alone a prestige effort from one of classic Hollywood’s best directors. The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes was cut heavily by the studio, so it is possible that this could have been better, but given how bad each individual scene is, I can’t imagine more content improving this thing.

9. Going My Way (Watched May 11th)GoingmywayBing

This almost feels like a propaganda film for the Catholic Church, where a cool priest who’s hip with the kids and is able to introduce them to a rad dude named Jesus. The film isn’t that overt, but there is a corniness which permeates through and the whole thing always feels false. However I could have had fun with the goofiness had the film at least been entertaining, but the whole thing is just boring. The direction is stiff and lifeless, the performances bland, and the plot just totally uninteresting. How this won Best Picture over the immortal Double Indemnity is a mystery to me.

8. Broadway Melody of 1936 (Watched September 7th)225px-PosterBroadwayMelody1936_01

The Broadway Melody films were a series of musicals released from 1928 to 1940 and the first two were Best Picture nominees, hence why I watched them. Broadway Melody of 1936 was the second film of the series (though the stories to all four are unrelated) and it’s pretty awful. Even when judged strictly for the musical numbers, this thing is a failure. There are only two big musical numbers in the whole film; a dream sequence and a forced climax. Between that, the film has a boring story, forced romance, and awkward comedy. The presence of one Jack Benny does lighten things up a bit, but the film just has no personality or really anything memorable. In the realm of 1930s musicals, the collaborations of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire blow this out of the water.

7. The Broadway Melody (Watched February 10th)The-Broadway-Melody-1929-MGM-theatrical-release-poster-302x400

It wasn’t really a surprise to me that Broadway Melody of 1936 be awful given its roots lay in its terrible Best Picture winning predecessor. To some extent, The Broadway Melody is a victim of its era. This was made very early in the sound period where filmmakers were only just figuring out how to use the new technology. Much of the film is built around conversations, not so much for the details of the dialogue, but just for the novelty of hearing people speak. The musical numbers are also presented in as visually boring a way as possible because, hey, just hearing sound is enough. Even beyond that, the story really is dull and ends up becoming pretty condescending to women. I am giving the film something of a handicap in the list given the time it was made, but it really is a terrible film which is only something I’d recommend to hardcore musical fans (the kind that need to see all of the majors) or anyone interested in Best Picture winners and nominees (a group I fall into).

6. Love is a Many-Splendored Thing (Watched March 24th)love splendored

For the most part, Love is a Many-Splendored Thing is just a boring melodrama/romance from the 1950s with some lackluster colour cinematography, a dull story, and an uninteresting lead performance from an actor of William Holden’s character. What locked it a spot in my top ten worst first time viewings of 2015 is the racial politics. You see, the whole tension of the central romance is that the white soldier is dating a Chinese doctor. Seems pretty bold for a less tolerant 1950s, problem is a white actress was cast in the role. Okay, technically the character is “Eurasian” and not 100% Chinese, but the fact that the entire character’s personality (and really the plot on the whole) hinges on her race makes the casting a pretty substantial problem.

5. Bus Stop (Watched November 27th)bus stop 2

Marilyn Monroe is a cultural icon, but many did she star in some bullshit. Bus Stop in particular is a really frustrating and rather unpleasant watch. Even looking past the unfunny comedy and subpar direction, the fact the plot follows a young rancher who basically kidnaps a woman and tries to force her to love him is really creepy and fucked up, particularly how the film tries to pass this off as light fun. The film does seemingly condemn the dude for his actions, but of course (spoiler alert), the two do fall in love in the end. Stupid and disturbing.

4. Rocky V (Watched April 5th)Rocky_v_poster

Some of the Rocky sequels may have been stupid, but at least they were a self-aware stupid that had fun with the goofy elements. Rocky V is perhaps the stupidest of all Rocky films, but also thinks it’s a serious examination of the character and world. It isn’t. The script is just too riddled with holes to be taken seriously new characters like Tommy Gunn and Richard Grant are thinly drawn and just awful. Rocky himself lacks all of the charm that makes the man so endearing and Adrian is given nothing to do beyond cry. Just an awful film which takes almost every wrong turn it could have.

3. Buried Alive (Watched October 31st)buried-alive-movie-poster-1990-1010482888

The only reason I even watched this schlock was because it was a drunken Halloween themed, Riffrax style viewing. In that context, the film was fun, but there’s no denying that the direction is amateurish and the acting is uniformly horrible. Objectively speaking, this is probably the worst thing I saw all year, but given the low-budget and the lack of any real professionals, it gets a bit of a boost.

2. Texas Chainsaw 3D (Watched October 31st)Texas-Chainsaw-3D-Thai-Poster

Immediately following Buried Alive, my friends and I popped in this turd for more Halloween schlock. Texas Chainsaw 3D is meant to be a direct sequel to Tobe Hooper’s original classic, but the connections are pretty poor. Case in point, the film is meant to be set twenty years after the original (which would make it 1994) yet the film clearly takes place in the 2010s. A simple rewrite could have fixed this problem entirely, but no action was taken. Given how little the filmmakers seem to care about their world or story, why should any audience? Anyway, the film is a blatant example of a cash grab based on name recognition and the film offers little outside of watching a few teenagers get killed. I’m not necessarily above slasher movie thrills, but there really isn’t any creativity here and the film doesn’t come anywhere close to the outright horror of the original film. The third act of the film becomes especially stupid.

1. Fanny (Watched February 20th)Fanny_(1961)

Fanny is adapted from a Broadway musical but the film removes all of the songs. So what’s left is a film with the thin story and characterizations that often plague terrible musicals, but it doesn’t even have the songs to keep things going. And yet, in spite of the lack of content, the film still runs an incredibly painful two hours and fifteen minutes. I’m not usually one to bitch about runtime, but there is nothing going on here. The film is very poorly directed and is just a chore to sit through. The other films in my top five are all terrible, but at least they’re interesting in there awfulness. Fanny lacks anything of interest and is just a bore.

  1. Dixie Burge says:

    “…but at least there interesting in their awfulness.” My God, will you PLEASE learn how to use your they’re/their/there words? You can say all you want to that it isn’t important, but you’re the one looking ignorant to readers.

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