Ten Critically-Acclaimed Films I Just Don’t Like

It might sound like a bad thing, but truly, you just can’t like every movie, regardless of its popularity with critics, film buffs, or even your casual viewers. While there are positive things I could say about each of these movies (and I will!), I just didn’t care for them, and I don’t imagine I’ll revisit any of them in the future. I got this idea after reading Abbi’s post about Ten Movies People Seem to Love That [She] Just Didn’t Get, over at her site Where the Wild Things Are. She got the idea from Film Nerd Blog. I thought it was a great idea, and just turned it into a list of films most critics (and many viewers) loved (that I didn’t dig).

Here are ten critically-acclaimed films I just don’t like:

Almost Made the List . . .

The Town (2010)

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Metascore: 74/100

The Town nearly misses the list, even considering it’s the only movie in the list I turned off in the middle of viewing. I loved the cast, excluding Blake Lively. I think Ben Affleck has established himself as a director not to be toyed with. My issue with the film was the overabundant drug use and language. It’s not that I’m not interested in seeing a town, a group of people, realistically displayed. It just took over the film for me, overshadowing the story.


 10) Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

Rotten Tomatoes: 87% RT
Metascore: 76/100

The fashion is stunning. It’s Audrey Hepburn, how could it not be stunning? I know I just reviewed Roman Holiday (1953) and loved it! There’s no doubt there are some great elements in this film that make it the memorable movie it is today. For me, however, I just didn’t feel like there was a great story there, and I couldn’t get into it. Sorry, Holly Golighty.

9) The Graduate (1967)

Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Metascore: 77/100

The Graduate – another classic I just didn’t care for. It’s one of the first coming-of-age stories that explores a territory not yet tackled in film. Dustin Hoffman gets famous off of The Graduate. The music is great, and the end scene is emotional. But for me, watching it decades later, I just didn’t connect with the film at all.

8) 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Metascore: 86/100

Considered a must-see by anyone who considers him/herself a film buff, I know some heads are shaking as they see this one on my list. It’s a highly influential science fiction film crafted by Stanley Kubrick. I should like this. I should want to watch this, include it on my top ten lists, boast of its greatness. But I missed it . . . even knowing that this film is a work of art, I don’t care for it.

7) The Exorcist (1973)

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Metascore: 82/100

Now we enter the horror genre. A movie that I watched in high school, The Exorcist scared the crap out of me. It’s a mark on the horror film genre, and I can understand why. But I don’t feel apologetic for disliking this movie. It’s not that I think it’s bad; I just don’t like movies that deal with devil/demon possession. It’s not a fun movie for this film fan.

6) Pulp Fiction (1994)

Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Metascore: 94/100

Perhaps one of the most controversial films on my list, Quentin Tarantino’s film Pulp Fiction wasn’t a fun ride for me. I won’t say there weren’t moments when I laughed, or thought I had witnessed something very cool in the film. It’s certainly a well-made piece of cinema; I, however, struggled to enjoy it amidst the overt sexual scenes and language, even knowing it was a Tarantino film.

5) Lost in Translation (2003)

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Metascore: 89/100

Yet another one of the more controversial films on this list, Lost in Translation is a deep film that does succeed to tell its story. I’m not arguing that. It’s just one of those movies I watched and was done with. It includes one of Scarlet Johansson’s best performances, and the movie shows how you can strike up a friendship with the unlikeliest of people. But this movie depressed me to the degree that I have no need to see it again.

4) Avatar (2009)

Rotten Tomatoes: 83%
Metascore: 83/100

James Cameron brought us Titanic (1997), and of course, he had to bring another enormous budget, technologically ground-breaking film called Avatar. It’s not that I don’t respect the art, the technology, the scope of the film. It’s a feat in movie history. But for all of the special effects and millions of dollars poured into the project, I felt like maybe they could have had a shake down in the writers room and come up with a more original, engaging story. According to my Intro to Film teacher, Avatar was just a rip-off of Dances with Wolves (1990). I haven’t seen it, so I couldn’t tell you. But the movie never stayed with me, no matter how many sequels Cameron’s team has promised.

3) The Tree of Life (2011)

Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Metascore: 85/100

Jessica Chastain was in four movies in 2011, and this was the only one I really didn’t like. It wasn’t that the cinematography wasn’t gorgeous, because it was. I can’t think of a movie in this decade that is more beautiful to watch unfold on screen. But the idea of being metaphorical doesn’t hold up for me in this movie. I know The Tree of Life aimed to be deep, but Terrance Malick’s film didn’t win me over. To this day, I still don’t understand the appeal. Perhaps I just wasn’t meant to understand.

2) Melancholia (2011)

Rotten Tomatoes: 78%
Metascore: 80/100

Perhaps the must unmemorable movie on this list for me, Melancholia bored me to no end. I distinctly remember forcing myself to sit through this film just so I could watch all of the Oscar-nominated films that year. Like The Tree of Life, it offers some of the most beautiful scenes to watch. But I missed out on watching an actual story. I just remember Kirsten Dunst getting angry, and Kiefer Sutherland popping up in a movie after his 24 (2001-2010) run.

1) Prisoners (2013)

Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Metascore: 74/100

It’s difficult for me to find words for how much I disliked Prisoners, especially considering how big a fan I was of the cast. Jake Gyllenhaal, Wolverine, and Viola Davis – it’s got to be good, right? The plot is interesting: someone’s kidnapped children. But it was painful for me to watch Hugh Jackman torture Paul Dano. From start to finish, it was disturbing for me to watch, and I have no desire to revisit it ever again, regardless of its critical success.

It’s your turn now. What critically-acclaimed movies do you not dig? Which ones on my list do you think I need to watch again to consider otherwise? Please join the discussion below, because I would love to know your thoughts.

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Guest Post — Accomplished Directors and Their Film Debuts

My friend, Matt, has gladly agreed to guest post once again for me so I can have a little break from blogging. Last month, he did multiple Q/A blog post sessions on the Oscars with me. He’s an excellent writer and he continues to build his film knowledge with research, discussion, and film viewing. Be sure to check out his bio at the bottom of the page to get more acquainted with who he is and what he’s been up to.

–Kristin

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By Matthew Roth

Ever heard of Firelight, The Bellboy and the Playgirls, or The Pleasure Garden? How about Piranha Part 2: The Spawning? What if I told you those were the debut features of the men who brought us Schindler’s List, The Godfather, Rear Window, and Avatar? Everybody has to start somewhere. It’s enjoyable to see a filmmaker’s creative process from first feature to Lifetime Achievement Award. Some filmmakers seem like they were born to make movies; others really have to work to become great.

Film should be studied the way we study any other art. In most cases, we can’t look at movies on an individual basis; the study of film should always come back to the author of the picture, perhaps a producer or writer, but usually a director. Just as you wouldn’t study The Great Gatsby without learning about F. Scott Fitzgerald, so you shouldn’t view a film without, at some point, doing a little research about the director and his body of work.

Someone recently made a statement online saying that the director spends his life trying to make the perfect version of the same movie. Obviously, that oversimplifies things; however, there still is a good deal of truth in that statement.

When studying film, it’s good to go back to a director’s first feature. What genres, techniques, visual styles, and themes inspired the author to start making pictures to begin with? Often you will find the things a director explores in his first film show up in many that follow; with each subsequent film, he tweaks characterization, plot, themes, and visuals in an attempt to create a perfect version of that first film.

Not every director is like this. Nevertheless, I thought it would be interesting to look at the first features of some of the directors I admire, and how their debut film relates to their work today.

The Coen Brothers: Blood Simple

Usually, it’s difficult to pinpoint just what genre of film a Coen Brothers’ movie is. They include elements of the crime, comedy, drama, and thriller genres. Their films are a unique blend of those elements; in reality, the Coens have created their own genre. Ironically, Blood Simple is the only film by the Coen Brothers I’ve seen that is not instantly recognizable as a Coen Brothers’ movie. That’s not to say, however, that this film fails to match their future brilliance. As their movies tend to be, Blood Simple is extremely entertaining. It also contains elements that are prevalent in many Coen Brothers movies: an abrasive but memorable character; a wealthy, powerful man the audience loves to hate; an ordinary protagonist thrust into an extraordinary and dangerous situation; oh yeah–and loads of violence. Visually, the film’s style foreshadows their later work, even though the brothers were yet to team up with the fabulous Roger Deakins. Highly recommended.

Christopher Nolan: Following

Nolan’s first film is a thriller about a writer who follows people in order to acquire material for characters in his stories. As far as content, Nolan’s films have been fairly diverse. The constant of his work seems to be the non-linear structure in which he molds his stories. Following is cut up into several pieces randomly strewn about, its scenes jumping forward and backward on the story’s timeline. Often this would disorient an audience; with Nolan’s film, it sets the the audience on edge. Because of the vast, unexplained changes in the main character’s appearance (a black eye, a new haircut, different style of clothing), we become curious about the events we obviously have missed. Suspense is created through missing pieces. We pay closer attention because we want to find out just what we have missed. Nolan’s first feature seems like a dress rehearsal for Memento, a film in which the non-linear storytelling serves a justified purpose. Nolan uses a non-linear storytelling device once again in The Prestige. He masters this device in Inception, where he jumps between the past, and the many layers of the dream world’s present. Following is a wonderful debut film, proof that Nolan doesn’t need $185 Million to make a great movie. Great things can be done with as little as $6,000.

Terrence Malick: Badlands

Malick’s movies have been called many things. Polarizing things, really. Few directors simultaneousy carry the title “brilliant” and “pretentious.” Perhaps this is because Malick stretches the conventions of film in all of his movies. For those who find Malick more pretentious then brilliant, Badlands may be just the film for you. This film does contain both a plot AND a linear structure. While it is without a doubt his most accessible film, Malick’s debut feature is by no means conventional. You can find one of my favorite film blogger’s video review of  Badlands here.

In his first film Malick introduces us to the detached narrator, a device he would use to an even greater extent in his following feature, Days of Heaven. Narration can be a tricky business. To me, it usually seems like the easy way out in storytelling. Malick’s narration in Badlands proves how useful the device can be. Rather than using the narrator as a crutch, Malick’s narrator allows us to actually learn something about that character, not only in the things she does say, but also in the things she doesn’t. With great cinematography, acting, and a haunting score, Badlands may possibly be my favorite Malick film.

Alfred Hitchcock: Blackmail

So you probably know that this isn’t actually Hitchcock’s first film. The “Master of Suspense” did not always make thrillers; he worked his way up, sweating and toiling on–you’ll never guess it–romance pictures. The Pleasure Garden and Fear o’ God were both commercially unsuccessful. It wasn’t until Hitch started making the type of pictures for which we know him that he became a commercial success. The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog was the first of his films we would label Hitchcockian. The Lodger is a film that tries to crack one of the most perplexing crimes of all time: the murder of Jack the Ripper. Now, I know I should have watched The Lodger; however, it was about 2 last night when I finally started watching. The online copy was horrible, so I opted to watch Hitch’s second thriller, and one of the first talkies in Britain, Blackmail. The first thing I noticed was Hitch’s use of the Kuleshov Effect, a now standard but once groundbreaking editing technique that Hitchcock popularized. The story is about a young girl who finds herself in a difficult situation after killing a man in an act of self defense. Many of Hitch’s movies involve normal people being thrust into dangerous situations due to their curiosity or foolishness. This film follows that pattern to the letter. Other sequences made me think of both Psycho and Vertigo. While it is a flawed film, I found it definitely worth my time. If you do view the film, you will find little snippets that foreshadow the greatness that was to come. You can view it on Hulu here.

For those of you not familiar with the Kuleshov Effect, the first two minutes of this video explain it a lot better than I could by writing about it.

What are some of your favorite debut films, and how do they (or don’t they) point to that director’s future work?

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Matthew Roth is an aspiring filmmaker from the Madison, WI area. While his passion is narrative film, he currently shoots and edits promotional and event videos at Inframe. In his free time, Matt enjoys researching and discussing film over a cup of coffee or meeting up with fellow film junkies through Craigslist. Be sure to check out his most recent short film Memoria.