With the release of Star Trek Into Darkness just a week away, we will all once again have to bear Trekkies praising director J.J. Abrams’ undeniable genius.
And while the man behind Lost can certainly claim the title of “genius,” even this veteran has done something undeniably horrid.
However, Abrams shouldn’t feel too bad because even the best of directors have some unfortunate blemishes on their resumes. So, to overshadow Abrams’ failures, here are the ten worst films by amazing filmmakers.
1. J.J. Abrams — Armageddon
A movie so bad even Michael Bay apologized for it. Yet, when discussing this colossal failure — that still managed to earn $553M at the internationally — fans gloss over the fact that one of the screenplay writers was none other than Abrams. And if this blemish wasn’t hard enough to erase on its own, Abrams has also written Gone Fishin’, proving that mediocrity does indeed strike twice.
2. Steven Spielberg — The Legend of Zorro
After becoming a household name with classics such as Jaws, Jurassic Park, and Schindler’s List, Spielberg maintained his throne with modern hits such as Minority Report and Lincoln. However, this is nothing compared to the disaster that was The Legend of Zorro. Antonio Banderas’ acting ability was on complete display in this film, which in itself is a directorial choice worthy of the death sentence. Spielberg has, to his credit, also made an awful sequel to his classic dinosaur-fest, a horrid children’s fairy tale and has even produced Michael Bay’s Transformers. A lot of broken dreams lie here.
3. The Coen Brothers — The Ladykillers
Forget about the ladies; the only group Ethan and Joel Coen managed to kill with this movie was their dedicated audience. When even Tom Hanks’ natural charisma can’t save a film, it’s bad. When the directors behind it are the Oscar-winners behind Fargo, No Country for Old Men, and True Grit, it’s doubly bad. In the words of Richard Roeper, “Most of this stuff isn't worthy of the Farrelly brothers, let alone the Coen brothers.”
4. Ben Affleck — Paycheck
If you’re still reading, that means you accepted a leap of sorts in using J.J. Abrams’ writing career to tarnish his directing. So, it only makes sense to malign Ben Affleck’s respectable status as the director behind Gone Baby Gone, The Town and Argo with his acting failures. Once an Oscar-winner for writing Good Will Hunting, Affleck the actor gave us gems such as Pearl Harbor, the aforementioned Armageddon and He’s Just Not That Into You. However, a special spot is earned by Paycheck, which took a Philip K. Dick classic and, quite simply, took away its soul.
5. Quentin Tarantino — Hell Ride
Yes, Oscar-nominee Quentin Tarantino was behind this disaster. This utterly contemptible film, perhaps meant to be a tribute to a forgotten genre, was more of a justification of why it needed to be forgotten. As the late Roger Ebert said, “The movie was executive produced by Quentin Tarantino. Shame on him. He intends it no doubt as another homage to grindhouse pictures, but I've seen a lot of them, and they were nowhere near this bad.”
6. Clint Eastwood — Firefox
Despite being the amazing actor and/or director behind masterpieces such as Million Dollar Baby, Mystic River, and Dirty Harry, Eastwood was also the director, producer and actor for Firefox, a movie so bad the tie-in video game is actually better. There’s some inane plot about a “mythical super fighter,” but you will not live to see the end. Make your day—don’t watch this movie.
7. Kathryn Bigelow — The Weight of Water
Before she was garnering international acclaim for The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow directed a gem of a mess in The Weight of Water. Sean Penn, Sarah Polley and Catherine McCormack gave it their all but this convoluted adaptation, unlike the Anita Shreve novel it was based on, simply failed to merge it’s two parallel narratives together.
8. Akira Kurosawa — Dreams
Why couldn’t legendary director Akira Kurosawa call it quits after making films like Rashomon, Yojimbo and Seven Samurai? Instead, the famed filmmaker kept going until making melodramatic failures such Rhapsody in August and The Sea is Watching. The lowest pick, however, would be the mystical short-story collection Dreams. It’s didactic, melodramatic and just not worth trying to puzzle out. The term “nightmarish” comes to mind.
9. James Cameron — Rambo: First Blood Part II
As the “genius” behind Titanic and Avatar, James Cameron still has not done enough to redeem his screenplay work in the atrocity that is Rambo: First Blood Part II. As if we needed another muscular frat boy raiding the jungle and killing the ethnics, having to do so with an unbearable plot was just insulting. With an even more absurd story than its predecessor, this film made ruin of a cult-classic. It was even more successful financially, however, but that does not absolve you, Cameron; your movie was bad and you should feel bad.
10. Nora Ephron — Lucky Numbers
The creator of When Harry Met Sally decided to write and direct a film starring John Travolta and Lisa Kudrow?! That would have been a statement of uncontrollable joy for many, were it any other film except this one. A patronizing story involving unappealing characters, Nora Ephron’s attempt at dark comedy was a failure. Then there was also Bewitched, a remake The New York Times called “an unmitigated disaster.” Sorry, Nora, but when it comes to this, we’re just not having what you’re having.
Of course, every great director has done something awful down the line so be sure to share your favorite directorial blemishes in the comments below.