Top 10 Worst Films of 2023
December 29, 2023
One of my big goals for 2023 was to watch fewer bad movies, specifically movies that were both bad and uninteresting. I’m fine with watching bad movies that attempted something interesting, or at least were marketed to look like they would. Even stuff like Morbius and much of the MCU still interest me, although it’s become less about how the studios will pull it off and more about how they’ll muck it up. But stuff like Fast X, Heart of Stone, and Five Nights at Freddy’s do nothing for me, making them just not worth the investment of my time and effort. I’ve followed the crowd too many times in the past, and it seemed to bite me in the ass more times than it didn’t.
Because of this strategy, there are fewer outright terrible movies on this list. Don’t get me wrong, I still regret spending my time watching each of these and plan to never think about them again. And there are still some downright awful movies that stole hours of my life that I’ll never get back. For that, I deserve retribution, which I will exact in the form of this list.
Saoirse Ronan and Paul Mescal do everything they can to keep things interesting, a job they can do with ease. They run the entire emotional gamut with their performances, but none of it registers due to Davis’ detachment from the material. Each of them is forced to overact once the third-act twists come into play. Everything feels so forced by then that it’s almost comical. But it’s not a total trainwreck, so it’s just rather tediously bad.
Son of Saul cinematographer Mátyás Erdély captures the landscape beautifully, showcasing the mystifying wonder that keeps people like Hen and Junior tethered to this patch of dirt. If only Davis could have done the same with his direction and script, as most of his decisions steer away from that intrigue and end up being as interesting as dirt itself. Full Review
9. Blue Beetle
There’s also not much fun to be had with Blue Beetle’s competence, as every story element and character decision is pulled directly from the “How to Make a Superhero Origin Story For Dummies” textbook. It’s also hard to nail down where it lands in this whole DC shakeup, not only because of the wishy-washy answers from head honcho James Gunn but also because it feels so much like a product of the old regime. If it’s meant to cap off this decade-long run that started with Man of Steel, I guess we could have gone out with something worse. If this is the start of something new, then there’s not much to get excited about. Same shit, different day. Full Review
8. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania
So, whose idea was it to make Ant-Man less fun? This is a franchise that had its sights set on delivering size-shifting hijinks within a low-stakes environment. This strategy worked pretty well thanks to the positioning of the first and second entries immediately after Avengers-level events. Now with Quantumania, those humorously tinged roots have been upended and mangled into one of the most overly serious and ugliest films within the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe.
It was both required reading material and simply not fun, which essentially makes it homework. This has been the antithesis of Marvel during Phases 4 and 5, where the effort needed to keep up is not being properly compensated, both on the small-scale levels of individual films and the large-scale shared narrative. Full Review
7. Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom
It’s hard to care about the incredibly uneventful Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom, the last gasp from the bloated, rotten corpse that is the DCEU. It’s a soaking wet mess, not from H2O, but from the sweat of editor Kirk M. Morri as he tried to stitch this Frankenstein’s monster of a production together into a tolerably cohesive “cinematic experience.” The reports of multiple reshoots, reedits, reconfigurations of timelines, and just overall studio meddling are apparent at every moment, with the final product sharing the same amount of creative energy as a used Toyota Corolla.
Kidman and Abdul-Mateen II are too good to be doing this kind of thing (again), with Willem Dafoe being the lone lucky one who was able to get out of his contractual obligations. It should have been telling that no major additions were made to this cast, with only talks of departures and backdoor firings. That’s pretty much been the DC way these past ten years: don’t try much of anything new and endlessly fight with each other. Full Review
6. Rebel Moon - Part One: A Child of Fire
If you loved the “This is Katana” speech from 2016’s Suicide Squad, then you will have a field day with Zack Snyder’s Rebel Moon - Part One: A Child of Fire. Snyder and his two credited co-writers, Shay Hatten and Kurt Johnstad, steal from every source they can, so much so from Star Wars and Seven Samurai that George Lucas and the estate of Akira Kurosawa would be in their legal right to sue for credit, although they shouldn’t because that would tangentially connect them to this abominable script for the rest of time. But the con doesn’t stop on the page, as nearly every image is so steeped in the iconography of what’s come before that it’s impossible to see it for anything more than a cheap knockoff.
I don’t know where the story goes next in the soon-to-come sequel The Scargiver; not because Snyder ended it on an interesting note, but because I’m still baffled about everything that happened and what it all means going forward. Honestly, it takes true talent to cheat this intensely and still fail so hard. Full Review
5. The Flash
The Flash takes its multiverse concept and gives way to its worst impulses. The opportunity for endless possibilities is mostly spent on jingling car keys in front of your face in the form of cameos, line readings, and music stings that you recognize, many of which dramatically undercut the physical and emotional stakes of the situation. This is The Rise of Skywalker all over again, so desperate in its attempt for you to like it by flashing as many pleasure-inducing sights as possible that you don’t have time to think about what’s going on behind the scenes.
It's the straw (a heavy one nonetheless) that breaks the camel’s back when it comes to multiverses in blockbuster franchises. Instead of using its unlimited potential to deliver something unique, it sinks to the lowest form of pandering by just waving around what you already know. What’s the point of boasting about the oceanfront view if you’re only ever going to swim in the kiddie pool? Full Review
Marlowe is as cheap and dull as its title would suggest. Tiringly groan-worthy moments make Neil Jordan's adaptation feel lost in time, as it has one foot planted in the creaky old charms of the past and the other in the present sensibilities. The cheap sets and costumes make everything feel closer to an SNL parody than a true dive into the genre. There's also a clear lack of pacing by Jordan and co-writer William Monahan (The Departed), with events progressing in such a lethargic manner that any excitement has to be fully supplied by the audience, who don’t have a good chance at fighting their increasingly heavy eyelids.
It's a great shame, but it seems that Jordan is the newest member of the group of once-respected directors who just don't have "it" anymore. Fellow Irishman Jim Sheridan and somewhat Werner Herzog have been steady patrons of the club, where the promise is still semi-there on paper, but the continually shoddy execution results in crushing disappointment. Full Review
3. Shazam! Fury of the Gods
It’s hard for me to feel sympathy for Fury of the Gods (and the entire now-defunct DCU regime) when it doesn’t provide any compelling reasons for its own existence. It’s an ultra-corporate tentpole telling a been-there-done-that story, with the only thing it excels at doing is being annoying.
It’s hilarious that Dwayne Johnson didn’t want anything to do with Shazam when he was building his Black Adam movie, despite the two characters having a decades-long relationship in the comics. Now with both that film and Fury of the Gods being beacons of generic studio fodder, it seems only right for the two of them to finally get together and make something that finally kills the DCU. I wouldn’t mind if their power were also strong enough to suspend the MCU for a while, because the slope toward the gutter is getting increasingly slippier with each new entry. Full Review
2. Big George Foreman
The term “leave your brain at the door” has often been used to describe horror movies and other blockbusters that are just trying to make a quick buck on spectacle and entertainment. Big George Foreman doesn’t require, expect, or want any of its audience members to be capable of critical thinking. Frank Baldwin and director George Tillman Jr. are incapable of placing any variables into their estate-approved script, sticking so closely to the tired clichés within the biopic formula that it sometimes borders on self-parody. Every choice and personality trait for Foreman is spelled out like it was competing at the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
The biopic genre may be one of my favorites, but that doesn’t mean I’m blind to see that many of them just copy each other. Big George Foreman doesn’t even have enough competency to properly cheat off its predecessors. Its subject matter may be about a heavyweight champion, but this story doesn’t even deserve to fight for scraps on the street. Full Review
1. You People
You People is essentially an unofficial remake of 1967’s Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, except with none of the seriousness and intention to actually make a difference. The story, while believable in concept, is delivered with such simplicity that it might as well be titled You People Have Got to be Kidding Me?!?!?
This film tries way too hard to do way too little, becoming a “film for everyone” that no one will enjoy. Co-writer/director Kenya Barris abruptly exited his $100 million multi-year deal with Netflix in 2021 for another lucrative pact over at Paramount. Somewhere in a Hollywood bar right now there are two executives, one from Netflix and the other from Paramount drinking together, except one is downing shots much happier than the other. Full Review