As a capitalist, it’s tempting to say that box-office receipts are a better judge of a movie’s worth than Hollywood award ceremonies. However, that ignores the sad reality that Americans sure do love some crummy movies. We’re not even talking “good crummy” either, like a fun zombie or chop socky flick; we’re talking “bad crummy.” Big-budget, high-powered, star-filled atrocities that bank hundreds of millions of dollars despite being average at best and mediocre at worst. Like, for example….
2010: Adjusted Domestic Gross — $295,152,300
Admittedly, in a theme that you’ll see repeated multiple times on this list, the movie looks great. It’s really cool to watch city blocks folding over on each other like a crisp dollar bill. The problem is that’s the only thing that makes the movie worth watching. Yes, it’s pretty… but it’s barely watchable, pretty garbage. The plot is dumb, the characters aren’t likable, the movie is full of overly forced action, and the rules the filmmakers come up with for their invented world are nonsensical. It’s almost like the CGI version of what’s going through someone’s head right after he takes bath salts, but right before he starts to eat people.
1999: Adjusted Domestic Gross: $461,784,600
This movie has Bruce Willis and a line, “I see dead people,” that has stuck around for over a decade. That’s the plus side of the ledger. On the other hand, the big problem with this movie is that it all hinges on one of M. Night Shyamalan’s famous twists which most people in the audience will figure out 15 minutes into the movie. So, you sit through an hour and a half of the movie going, “What I think is going to happen better not be it. If it is, I’m going to be totally disappointed.” In other words, this is a run-of-the-mill horror flick that made more than 450 million dollars. How that happened is actually more of a mystery than how Shyamalan’s horrific The Happening, which featured ordinary trees and grass as the villains, managed to get green-lighted.
2011: Worldwide Gross — $1,066,200,000
Despite the fact that the Pirates of the Caribbean series is based on a Disney ride (yes, really), the first movie was pretty good. Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow was a unique, entertaining, memorable character. The problem is that like the Matrix series, every movie in the Pirates series gets worse than the film that came before. The 4th movie in the series, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, was like something your dog threw up after getting into the trash. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley weren’t in the film, the plot was a plane crash, and the film was a jumbled, forced mess from beginning to end. Despite the fact that this is the single worst film on this entire list, this festering crap pile of a movie has the 9th highest worldwide gross of all-time.
2008: Worldwide Gross — $392,616,625
Believe it or not, Twilight is the story of an incredibly boring, yet SPARKLY, 100-year-old vampire who starts dating a high school girl, creepily obsesses over her, and goes back and forth between wanting to date her and murder her. In other words, not only do they have an incredibly unhealthy relationship that’s portrayed as good and normal by the film, but the movie actually manages to make vampires dull. Who wants to be a vampire who plays baseball, doesn’t drink blood, and spends 80 years doing geometry homework over and over again? How tedious! Combine that with the fact that the “acting” in this slow-moving film mostly consists of Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson making wooden brooding expressions at each other and you have a worldwide phenomenon that was launched on a romance novel that’s so unsophisticated that it’s two steps away from being a coloring book.
2009 Adjusted Domestic Gross: $354,972,300
Surprisingly for a movie based on a toy line that had no memorable dialogue, the film ran one hour and fifty-four minutes. In retrospect, it’s hard to understand how the movie went that long. After all, you can sum up the whole movie very easily.
Vroom! Vroom! Robots fighting with robots! Explosion! Megan Fox! Wait, which robot is hitting which robot? Car chase! Special effects! Explosion! Megan Fox! Vroom! Vroom! Wait, is that the good robot hitting the bad robot or….Repeat! Repeat again! Vroom! Vroom!
This wasn’t even a movie so much as robot-explosion porn with a little dialogue tossed in. The problem is that the old cartoon series could have done it all just as well, albeit with less special effects, in 30 minutes.
1997 Adjusted Domestic Gross: $1,087,949,000
The Titanic was never a great topic for a movie because before you ever start watching the movie, you know how it’s going to end. What you don’t know is that you’re going to waste an hour and a half of your life waiting for the iceberg to hit the ship so the quasi-interesting but still way too long part of the movie can begin. It’s also rather notable that women seem to consider the famous ending scene, where Leonardo Dicaprio gets Rose to safety, freezes to death, and sinks below the waves as Rose says “I’ll never let go! I promise!” to be a romantic and sad scene. Meanwhile, men are thinking, “Thanks for hogging the whole section of wall, Rose! I’m sure Leo really appreciates the sweet sentiment about how you’ll ‘never let go.’ Oh wait, what’s that, Leo? Bloop, bloop, bloop.”
2009 Adjusted Gross: $779,987,300
Avatar was a gorgeous movie. A gorgeous, illogical movie with a trite, recycled plot that could be fully summed up with “Trees good! Natives good! Military bad!” It’s also a little annoying that, like Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai, it needs someone to show up and “out-native the natives.” The giant blue Smurfs in the movie lived that way for thousands of years, but some run-of-the-mill white guy shows up and in no time he’s doing things the best men they have couldn’t pull off in their wildest dreams.
Incidentally, an Avatar 2 where the humans return, blow the Na’vi to hell from orbit, cut down all their trees, and take all their unobtanium (yes, really. The movies calls a valuable, hard-to-get, made-up mineral “unobtanium”) would make for a great film. After all, when humans are fighting aliens, ultimately we should be rooting for our own species.