I've seen over 100 films released this year, which means A) I've seen a lot of films and B) I've missed even more films. As such, this is by no means a definitive list of the worst movies released this year, but it is a definitive list of the worst ones I've run across. I've included a few brief thoughts on each, though you can click each title for full reviews. Let's begin...
Michael Mann hits a career low with this high-tech thriller, which casts Chris Hemsworth as a globe-trotting super-hacker. I realize that Mann is (increasingly) a style-over-substance filmmaker, but here he seems to be testing the theory of whether a few cool-looking shots can overcome a confusing script, underwritten characters and a laughable portrait of modern cyberterrorism. Nope.
A bunch of good actors and good vibes in search of a movie. Cameron Crowe's music-fueled sentimentality is still very much intact, but he's seemingly lost his knack for writing compelling, relatable characters and telling a story. The stray moments that work only remind you of how good Crowe used to be.
A decent Jake Gyllenhaal performance isn't enough to redeem this lousy boxing flick, which often feels like a thorough summary of writer Kurt Sutter's worst creative instincts. It's a good thing the film was released before Creed, a boxing drama that exposes just how cheaply manipulative and empty this one is.
12. The Boy Next Door
A gender-flipped version of Fatal Attraction that aims to be dumb fun, but only delivers the “dumb” part of the package. While a few scenes manage to be entertainingly terrible (the “first edition” scene is already infamous), most of the movie is a blandly-directed slog. You get the sense that helmer Rob Cohen (xXx, The Fast and the Furious) really wishes he were blowing stuff up again.
11. Last Knights
A great big medieval mess starring Clive Owen as the world's gloomiest warrior and Morgan Freeman as Wise Old Exposition Man. The story is forgettable, but more importantly, this is the only film on the list that genuinely appears to be unfinished. Did the producers see the footage and decide to cut their losses and skip the usual post-production polish? Whatever the case, the film's handsome, professional sets and costumes don't seem to sync with its Amateur Short Film Festival-worthy editing and visual effects.
David Cross' directorial debut largely resembles the very worst bits of his stand-up: a smug, strident bit of sermonizing offered as “satire.” It's the equivalent of watching someone shoot fish in a barrel for ninety minutes, as Cross eagerly attacks a host of easy targets (liberal hipsters, conservative rednecks, stupid teenagers) without ever finding anything meaningful (or more importantly, anything funny) to say.
Once upon a time, Tarsem Singh was a director with an incredibly striking visual sensibility. Almost all traces of that visionary helmer have vanished in Singh's latest film, which offers a thoroughly predictable tale about the dangers of playing God. It's yet another crummy blockbuster for star Ryan Reynolds, a reasonably talented actor who has become a regular fixture on lists like this one.
8. Terminator: Genisys
In a year filled with sequels to decades-old franchises (Star Wars, Rocky, Jurassic Park), this was the one that felt the least inspired and least necessary. While there's a small amount of pleasure to be had in watching Arnold play his most iconic role again, the rest of the film has the air of a desperate cash grab that no one involved actually wanted to make. Talk James Cameron into coming back or let this franchise die.
7. Kidnapping Mr. Heineken
The true story of Freddy Heineken's kidnapping is stripped of all intrigue by this overcooked thriller, which leans heavily on chaotic editing, trying-too-hard music and irritatingly loud performances in an attempt to wring excitement out of a mediocre script. A prime example of how to turn a forgettably mediocre movie into an actively annoying one.
An ugly, witless, charmless action movie made by people who are clearly head-over-heels in love with Christmas actioners like Die Hard and Lethal Weapon but have no understanding of why those movies work. It's a good source for badass Salma Hayek GIFs, but the actual experience of watching the film is headache-inducing monotony.
5. The Divergent Series: Insurgent
The worst post-apocalyptic YA franchise currently running (there are a surprising number of options!) becomes even more unbearable in this second installment, a thrill-free thriller filled to the brim with bad performances, unimaginative visual effects and nonsensical plotting. And just think: we're only halfway to the finish line.
Jay Roach's dishearteningly terrible Dalton Trumbo biopic makes a strong argument for the notion that Hollywood is incapable of making a good movie about the Hollywood blacklist. Rather than holding the industry accountable for its actions, the film serves up a few prominent boogeymen (Hedda Hopper, John Wayne) and lets everyone else off the hook. Bryan Cranston's hammy performance doesn't help, as the usually-reliable actor turns a fascinating person into a cartoon.
Hey, another bad thriller. This one stars Pierce Brosnan as a shadowy assassin on a mission to assassinate Milla Jovovich. It's yet another weak effort from V for Vendetta helmer James McTeigue, whose work has gotten progressively worse from feature to feature. I suspect the direct-to-video market is his next stop.
2. The Lazarus Effect
A strong cast (Mark Duplass, Olivia Wilde, Donald Glover) is wasted on a lifeless Frankenstein riff. It's the worst of Blumhouse horror in a single package: abrasive-yet-generic sound design, bland visual design, limp storytelling and just enough plot movement to string together a passable trailer.
1. The Cobbler
Adam Sandler has made a lot of awful movies, but he's never made an awful movie as ambitious as this one. It's a modern fairy tale of sorts about a New York cobbler who discovers that he can transform into other people by wearing their shoes. It's meant to be an inspirational tale of warmth and redemption, but instead leads us down a path of ugly racial stereotypes, sexual assault and weirdly incestuous moments. Every moment feels miscalculated, from the way loopy comic scenes are played with somber gravitas to the way the (spectacularly awful) ending makes an unlikable character even more loathsome. All the while, Sandler delivers the most listless performance of his career; a flat-out painful attempt to turn Bill Murray-esque stillness into something interesting. How did the talented Tom McCarthy make this movie? Was somebody blackmailing him? The Cobbler is hands-down the year's worst film.