So what defines a blockbuster? Simple: money.
Whether they make a lot of money, or cost a lot of money to make, blockbusters are the event movies that studios, theatres and even us, the hapless film journalists, organise our years around.
The problem with blockbusters is that by the time you've spent a couple of hundred million making the film, many months and millions more promoting the damn thing and released every concievable bit of tie-in tat onto the market, too often the films themselves aren't much good.
Then, dear readers, there are the blockbusters which really lower the bar...
Join us as we take a look at the most painful viewing experiences in the history of event movies, the films that went bust at the box-office, bankrupted the studio, broke our hearts...
30. Dick Tracy (1990)
Hats! Tommy Guns! Songs! What could possibly go wrong?
Warren Beatty produced, directed and starred in this adaptation of Chester Gould’s strip, using primary colours, miniatures and paintings to recreate the comic book look.
Is it for kids or adults? A comedy or a homage? A musical or an action pic? Beatty lobs in a bit of everything, with inedible results.
Worst Moment: Each and every single ponderous, plot-halting painful song.
29. The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997)
An island paradise, cloned dinosaurs, money-hungry corporations... Spielberg was spoiled with ideas when he decided to counter the Jaws 2 syndrome by directing this sequel himself.
It could have been a thrilling smorgasbord of delights. Instead, he strained out TheLost World.
May he hang his head in shame for the next 65 million years.
Worst Moment: When the T-Rex mum tippy-toes into the camp and sticks her head into a tent without anyone noticing her.
28. Last Action Hero (1993)
Even if the world had been ready for a self-referential Arnie movie (and it wasn’t), the idea was always stronger than the script, resulting in mediocrity with rare flashes of brilliance.
Before this, Arnie was an action god. After it, he made Eraser and Jingle All The Way.
Worst Moment: Low-brow comedy meanderings at the funeral of mob boss Leo the Fart, whose corpse is rigged with poisonous gas. And Arnie’s subsequent mirthless quip: “Silent but deadly”.
Next: Alien: Resurrection[page-break]
27. Alien: Resurrection (1997)
If David Fincher’s ill-fated Alien³ put Fox’s lucrative franchise in a coma, then the ironically titled Alien: Resurrection turned off the life support.
Joss Whedon barely keeps the characters moving as Sigourney Weaver struggles to generate any sympathy for her new Ripley incarnation – re-cloned with alien DNA. As stand-alone sci-fi, it’s poor. As an Alien sequel, it’s heretical.
Worst Moment: Ripley’s attempt to bond in a mother/offspring sort of way with pale alien/human hybrid puppet, ‘the Newborn’.
26. Hudson Hawk (1991)
Few surprises that the most notorious turkey of the ‘90s should feature here. Tarred by the industry as “TriStar’s Ishtar”, this oddity is a multi-million dollar folly, alright – but is it really that bad?
If you hate it, then it’s a banal, smug, hyperactive ego-riot. If you’ve got revisionist love for it then it’s a before-its-time event pic wheezing with then-unfashionable irony and an excessive conviction in its own stupidity.
Worst Moment: Andie MacDowell committing comedy suicide with a horribly misjudged attempt at impersonating a squealing dolphin.
25. Rocky V (1990)
Fouteen years after the Oscar glory of the original, America’s favourite pugilistic underdog was looking decidedly punch-drunk.
The fifth instalment was an attempt to capture the streetwise grittiness of the original. But after two hours of clichéd word and fist play, the audience was left much like the leads – glassy-eyed and dribbling.
Stallone capped the over-extended story on a satisfyingly downbeat note with Rocky Balboa but we'd still like to airbrush this one out of the franchise.
Worst Moment: Tommy recounts his suffering at the hands of an abusive father. “The first guy I ever knocked out was my father.” Never one to be out-done, the Rockster sneers, “At least you had a father to knock out.”
Next: Forrest Gump[page-break]
24. Forrest Gump (1994)
One of the plopbuster’s many love-or-hate movies. Gump snagged six Oscars and begat Gumpmania, with fans buying books full of such ultra-trite life-affirming homilies as “Stupid is as stupid does.”
Sure, some scenes carry a certain goofy charm but, ultimately Forrest Gump was like a box of chocolates – digest the whole thing in one sittingand you’ll probably puke.
Worst Moment: Two-time Oscar winner Sally Field as Mrs Forrest.
23. Independence Day (1996)
A $75 million B-movie designed to resurrect the Cold War sci-fiers of the ‘50s, ID4 pitted us against pesky ETs intent on blowing our world to shit.
Only the gobsmacking explosions make it watchable, as the White House, Empire State Building and other landmarks are reduced to smouldering rubble.
Worst Moment: A fireball incinerates hundreds of people, but we’re encouraged to cheer because a dog survives.
22. Lost In Space (1998)
So many people in so far over their heads. A cast of acting lightweights bolstered by William Hurt and Gary Oldman and a director struggling with the logistical nightmare of too much CGI.
The ending makes no sense (even the director admitted it) but left sequel potential, although the mercifully weak box-office returns spared us the horror.
Worst Moment: Blooping, squeaking CGI monkey-thing 'Blarp', who shows how state-of-the-art effects can be every bit as horrible as shoddy old-school puppetry.
21. Twister (1996)
The trailer was all about suggestion – a storm cellar’s trapdoor straining against the hinges as an ungodly howling tore up the world. The movie couldn’t have been more different.
One of the first blockbusters to believe that special effects alone would satisfy audiences, it featured characters stumbling from one tornado to the next, watching agape as houses, oil tankers and even cows spun through the air.
Worst Moment: A drive-in theatre is screening The Shining before it’s swallowed whole by a ferocious twister. Fine, only Kubrick’s movie jumps forward an hour in a matter of seconds. Pedantic, yeah, but still - grrrrrnnnnnnnnnnn!
20. Far And Away (1992)
The posters for Ron Howard’s proto-Titanic declared, “They needed a country that was as big as their dreams.” And this sprawling epic was every bit as vast and empty as the uncolonised America of the 1850s.
Worst Moment: When Cruise proclaims, “You’re a corker, Shannon. What a corker you are.” Begorrah!
19. Hook (1991)
He may be the Most Successful Director Ever but Steven Spielberg hasn’t half made a fistful of rubbish films.
Hook wobbled into production with packs of novice kids and an emotionally fried Julia “Tinkerbell” Roberts, then Spielberg ran 40 days over a 76-day schedule.
Result? The world’s most expensive panto.
Worst Moment: Robin relearns the secret of flying using wires.
Next: Highlander 2: The Quickening[page-break]
18. Highlander 2: The Quickening (1991)
Highlander 2 has no fans. Having created a rip-roaring, full-formed movie myth with the original, The Quickening promptly destroyed it, revealing that the feuding immortals were actually aliens, and, oh, we’re sorry, didn’t we mention that in the first film?
“I felt that the story lacked,” admitted director Russell Mulcahy, and we nodded until our necks ached.
Worst Moment: Connery’s smirking “Go on without me” farewell line.
17. Superman 4: The Quest For Peace (1987)
Ominously boasting a writing credit for Reeve himself, this is the one where Superman steals everyone’s missiles, only to be nearly destroyed by Nuclear Man, some sort of clone and/or android created by Lex Luthor from a lock of Superman’s hair.
Hardly the most fitting tribute to the once-great Man of Steel.
Worst Moment: When Supes puts all the world’s nukes into a big string space sack and hefts them into the sun. Symbolic, or just bad optical mattes?
16. Armageddon (1998)
When critics gathered at Cannes for the world premiere of Armageddon, it wasn’t actually finished. Instead, they got 50 minutes of scenes tacked together that featured a tearful father/daughter farewell scene between Liv Tyler and Bruce Willis.
The critics roared with laughter and a pissed off Bruce Willis later snarled at them, “I’m glad you all found the end of the world so funny.”
Worst Moment: When Ben Affleck uses a box of chocolate-covered Animal Crackers to seduce Liv Tyler... Wail in horror at how such a good looking lady falls for such cheesy direlogue, then sob again as they reuse it in the Aerosmith pop promo.
15. Ishtar (1987)
Warren Beatty only deigned to make two movies in the ‘80s: Ishtar gives us good reason to thank the Lord he wasn’t more prolific.
The aging Hollywood playboy starred with Dustin Hoffman as two hugely talentless lounge singers who (don’t ask how) get mixed up in international espionage.
They certainly enjoyed wasting the studio’s money. Beatty had his gym flown out to the Sahara, while Hoffman chartered a plane to fetch his kid’s toys from New York.
Worst Moment: Casting suave charming ladykiller Beatty as a geeky loser-in-love, and traditionally geeky loser-in-love Hoffman as a suave, charming ladykiller.
14. Popeye (1980)
Robin “Mork” Williams made his big screen debut as the spinach-chewin’ sailor with a thing for skinny chicks.
With hugely inflated latex forearms and pipe, Williams looks and sounds the part, but can’t make up for the turgid script and dreary songs.
Worst Moment: All appearances of Shelly Duvall’s lanky, screeching Olive Oyl.
13. Howard The Duck (1986)
Think George Lucas. Think Star Wars. Think Indiana Jones. Think billion-dollar movie franchises and coffers swelling with massive box-office and merchandising receipts.
Think George Lucas. Think, er, Willow. Radioland Murders. Howard The Duck. All of which prove that George isn’t always on the money.
Worst Moment: When Howard and Thompson do the dirty for the first time in silhouette, behind a discreetly placed screen.
While you can hardly blame Howard for wanting the carnal connection, bestiality in a PG-rated movie wasn’t what the kids, much less their parents, wanted.
12. Waterworld (1995)
The production was an unqualified nightmare. A hurricane sank one of the key sets, Costner almost died when he became stuck up a mast during a savage wind-storm, and the studio began demanding cuts to keep the budget from spiralling out of control.
Audiences were baffled by how it cost so much to buy a thin, plot hole-ridden movie (why is everyone so muddy when they’re surrounded by water? And where do the bad guys get their cigarettes when there’s no land to grow tobacco on?).
Worst Moment: The opening scene, where Costner pisses into a vial, puts it through his filtration contraption, and then drinks it. A sign of things to come.
11. The Postman (1997)
Stretched over a seemingly endless 177 minutes, this pompous, nonsensical film posits director and star Kevin Costner as one of the few remaining fertile men on the planet, with women clamouring for his sperm and massaging his giant ego with such queasy one-liners as “You hand out hope like it was candy in your pocket.”
Worst Moment: The postman gallops past a small boy clutching a letter, but some strange sixth sense causes him to stop and turn. He races back and snatches the letter form the tyke’s hand, all in heroic slow-motion…
10. Godzilla (1997)
After a deeply irritating glimpse-blitz campaign, audiences felt cheated and deflated when the multi-storey monstoid was revealed to be a Jurassic farce of astoundingly characterless proportions.
As for the movie, it’s nothing more than a dour, plotless bug-hunt, a rerun of The Lost World’s climax co-starring not Matthew Broderick, but the pissing-sheets weather from David Fincher’s Se7en.
Worst Moment: Pursued through Manhatten’s urban canyons by a fleet of choppers, the absolutely immense Godzilla just disappears. Quite possibly up its own arsehole.
Next: Cutthroat Island[page-break]
9. Cutthroat Island (1996)
With a cast of hundreds, tons of explosives and two 80-foot long pirate ships, Die Hard 2 director Renny Harlin soon sent the budget spiralling above $100 million. Carolco Pictures declared bankruptcy a month before Cutthroat Island wallowed into cinemas.
Its final US taking of $11 million bagged Cutthroat Island a place in the Guinness Book Of Records as the biggest money loser ever for any film company.
Worst Moment: Frank Langella is an evil pirate named Dawg Brown. When Geena Davis blasts him out of a cannon she utters the unforgettable bon mot: “Bad Dawg!”
A thousand Carolco employees weep bitterly into their P45s.
8. Titanic (1997)
Considering it won 11 Oscars and made in excess of $1.5 billion, Cameron's world-ruler has an awful lot of critics.
Those who have taken the time to ponder this mystery have come up with a simple argument: If you think it’s a period romance with an impressively frisky ending, then it blows other Merchant Ivory-type movies out the water.
But if you think it’s an action movie that wastes the first 90 minutes with some dreary, unlikely love story, then it blows chunks.
Worst Moment: Either the spitting scene, or when Celine Dion’s end-credit strangled cat warble snuffs out whatever emotions you may have experienced over the last three hours.
7. Wild Wild West (1999)
To say anything good about this movie, you have to look at the opening credit sequence – a cleverly subverted steampunk Warner Brothers logo fading into a rip-roarin’ montage that paid homage to the late ‘70s TV show, set to a Big Country-style theme tune.
Past that and it’s a trainwreck of stupid costumes, bad ideas, genre confusion and mashed-up camp/serious acting.
Worst Moment: The phenomenal number of times Smith and Kline dress up as women – to absolutely no comedic effect.
Next: Pearl Harbour[page-break]
6. Pearl Harbor (2001)
Trade paper Variety called it “A film that will live in infamy.”
The movie cost $152 million (considerably more than the real attack) and required sizable chunks of Hawaii to be re-blown up, yet it still features none-to-little artistic merit and, like most of the films on this list, goes on for approximately two hours too long.
A desperate UK poster campaign blubbed that those mean old critics were simply wrong, reducing a confident summer blockbuster into a whimpering crybaby.
Worst Moment: The constipated look of pain and confusion on Ben Affleck’s face when he returns from being MIA to find that his girlfriend and best buddy have hooked up. The humanity!
5. Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (1999)
Great characters (ie Darth Maul) fight for screen time, while hopeless characters have bloody hours of it.
Of course, it always comes back to floppy frogman Binks. In the surprisingly frank Making Of documentary on the DVD, Lucas explains, “Jar Jar is the key to all of this – he’s the funniest character we’ve had in any of the movies.”
Worst Moment: Laps two and three of the pod race. In which we see all the same scenery and crashes of the first lap. Twice.
4. Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997)
When you call a movie Speed 2, it's probably a good idea to keep the action motoring at a brisk old pace.
Sadly, Speed 2's producers set the events on a bloody cruise ship, and so the action forges ahead with all the momentum of a wounded snail.
Add a script dredged up from the ocean’s floor and plodding, clumsy direction and you’re, well, sunk.
Worst Moment: When we’re told that Willem Defoe’s nutjob has some weird blood disease which requires him to apply leeches at regular intervals. Someone actually got paid to write this stuff.
Next: Battlefield Earth[page-break]
3. Battlefield Earth (2000)
Convinced we needed an adaptation of L Ron Hubbard’s phone-book thick scientology-fi opus, Travolta spent 15 years getting studio doors slammed in his face before forcing it through as a pet project.
Cynics expected scientology dogma to feature heavily. They got the apocalypse through the eyes of Ed Wood.
So much to mock... Barry Pepper’s Neanderthal mullet. The nonsensical attempts of scripter Corey Mandell to cram 1,050 pages of pulp into a two-hour movie. Director Roger Christian’s fetish for framing every shot at a jaunty angle…
Worst Moment: After five minutes on a flight simulator, thick-as-shit hero Jonnie Goodboy defeats the Psychlos by piloting a 1000-year-old fighter jet. Swallow that!
2. The Avengers (1998)
Ralph Fiennes strolls through the film with an imaginary dog turd under his nose, “looking”, as Starburst Magazine so memorably put it, “like he’s wearing his dad’s clothes.”
Uma Thurman certainly wore Emma Peel’s leather catsuit well, and worked hard at polishing up a cut-glass English accent, but in all the excitement the poor girl quite forgot about the acting.
Originally clocking in at a buttock-clenching two-and-a-half hours, The Avengers was reportedly hacked down to just 89 minutes following a disastrous test screening.
Worst Moment: The woeful scene in which Uma Thurman’s Emma Peel fights a clone of herself in a hot-air balloon floating above a London landscape that looks like something out of The Wombles.
Next: The Worst Blockbuster Of All-Time...[page-break]
1. Batman & Robin (1997)
It should have worked.
Hugely popular fresh-from-ER George Clooney was cast as the caped crusader.
His nemesis, Mr Freeze, would be played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, the biggest box-office draw of the past 20 years. What could go wrong? Everything.
Is it any wonder that a disgruntled viewer shouted, “Death to Joel Schumacher!” at a test screening?
It's famously, appallingly, astonishingly bad - for many, many reasons, but mostly because of Arnie's frigid Mr Freeze dialogue...
Worst Moments: Arnie’s Quips…
Upon entering a room: “The Iceman cometh.”
To a cop begging for a reprieve: “I’m afraid that my condition has left me cold to your pleas of mercy.”
To Batman: “You’re not sending me to the cooler!”
To anyone who cares: “Cool Party!”
To a roomful of potential victims: “Allow me to break the ice. My name is Freeze. It is the chilling sound of your doom.”
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