I don’t usually resort to lists like this. Worst of the year lists tend to be pretty mean spirited…but here we are. If I had to sit through these movies I might as well make it worth something. While 2019 brought us many cinematic gems it also brought us some truly terrible movies that failed to reach their potential or were just plain awful in general for countless reasons. To start off the new year I explored twenty of the best that 2019 had to offer and now, a week exactly into the new decade, I’m taking a look at a handful of terrible options that hit the big screen over the last twelve months and giving them their due credit as the most unwatchable, boring or just plain bad films that stained cinema over the last year. These are my picks for the Top 10 Worst Films of 2019.
For this list I looked at all the movies I personally watched in 2019 and graded at two stars or lower on Cinema Spotlight. I chose the ones that I felt were among the worst of the year either because of their generic or forgettable plots, horrible execution, or other factors that earned them notoriety as terrible products even if they were box office successes. These are not necessarily films I truly hated. In fact several of them I enjoyed, but for all the wrong reasons.
These are obviously based on my personal taste and opinion so it’s likely that you may actually have enjoyed some of these films. If you did…well more power to you, but for me these movies made me glad I have rewards points for free movie tickets at my local theater to make up for the money wasted. Let me know if you agree with my picks in the comments and please feel free to share your least favorite movie, or even your favorite bad movie, from 2019. Let’s get to it.
Oh and one more thing I will be discussing plot points that play into why these movies are so bad to a SPOILER ALERT has been issued…
While a lot of people hated “Cats” I consider it one of my favorite bad movies of the year. Still, it’s plenty bad enough to make this list. The music is fun in its own way and the atmosphere is just so odd that I couldn’t help but be invested in the experience. But that doesn’t change that it is, indeed, a horrible movie. The CGI is horrendous, the story is convoluted and rushed, and much of the acting wooden or uninteresting even from the best performers in its cast. Honestly it’s a movie I long to view again if for no other reason than just to experience how bizarre it is for a second time, but as a work of cinema only a handful of its concepts and idea pay off. The bulk of the movie serves as the latest evidence of the difficulty of adapting a stage play to the big screen properly.
A film that has become one of my all time favorite bad movies, “Serenity” is infamous for containing one of the most random and poorly executed twists of the year and maybe in all of cinema. Even if you haven’t seen this movie you probably know the result: the entire film, which revolves around a fisherman who reconnects with his estranged ex wife only for her to pay him to kill her abusive husband, is actually all a video game made by the couple’s son who programmed his father into the game after he died in the military. Yeah, it’s a pretty out of left field revelation that undermines any of the complexity of the story. This once promising high-concept mystery thriller ended up being too bold for its own good…and the bland acting and uneven script certainly don’t help especially considering its credible cast.
8. “Gemini Man”
Speaking of high concept, “Gemini Man” is an ambitious sci-fi action thriller that sat in development hell for years prior to Ang Lee taking over and Will Smith signing on to star. The power of those two combined should have made this a great flick and the plot about a man whose younger clone has been hired to terminate him had real blockbuster potential. Too bad the film completely wastes its core idea and settles for more generic storytelling by the final act. Despite Smith presenting two decent performances as the assassin and his clone, it’s not enough to make “Gemini Man” a passable picture while the increased frame rate and other artsy filming techniques by Lee feel wasted and ineffective in a film that could have used a little more ambition all around.
7. “Men in Black: International”
The “Men in Black” franchise was a staple of the late 90s and early 2000s but received two new films in the 2010s. “Men in Black 3” became arguably the second best film in the franchise behind the original but 2019’s “Men in Black: International” became the series’ worst by far. Lacking the star power of Will Smith, “International” looked like it might be a fun spin off with the likes of Liam Neeson and the proven duo of Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson in the cast, but even these big names can’t overpower a generic and cliché plot any or one of the most egregious filler side-quests in modern film. In the end it never feels like a true “Men in Black” movie but more like a knockoff that tries, and epically fails, to recapture the charm of its predecessors.
6. “The Lion King”
I wanted to put this higher on the list…I really did because God, I hated this movie. I know it made over a billion dollars but it’s really a shame that this film turned out to be so popular. It was an unneeded mess and accomplished the worst thing a remake or sequel could by forcing me to rethink if the original was any good because of how bad this movie was. Thankfully the original holds up, but this remake lacks the emotional punch or charm of the animated classic even cutting out iconic scenes while somehow having a longer run time. It feels like a watered-down version of the 90s classic. What irritated me most about this movie’s success though was that people liked it because it reminded them of the original movie. Then why waste your money on it when the original is so much better and easily accessible? To me this is no doubt the worst Disney “live-action” retread and it finally pushed me to team anti-remake.
This, for me, was the worst animated movie I saw all year. Way past its time with the toys it was based on pretty much irrelevant by its release and featuring a gimmicky cast and forgettable songs, “UglyDolls” might share some important messages of self-worth and positive self-image but it does little else to stand out from the crowd. The story is generic and oversimplified, the tone and music overly cheery and there’s little to no complexity to how the film chooses to tackle its worthy message. I get that it’s a kid’s movie and all, but animated films have come a long way over the last decade and we just expect so much more than this. The fact that the toys that inspired the film were out of date by the time the movie hit theaters was just the icing on this sugarcoated example of blandness.
4. “Rambo: Last Blood”
Let’s face it, the “Rambo” movies were never really meant to be cinematic art, but for what they are most of the entries serve as harmless action epics with fun plots and lots of bloody deaths. While we certainly got the latter with the supposed final entry, we did not get anything close to a fun or original story here. Who would have ever thought the last “Rambo” film would simply dump our titular soldier into such a cliche scenario as a personal war with a Mexican drug cartel? With a hero as badass as this, it felt like a tragically generic direction to take this film. While I get the idea, that even in his normal life Rambo can’t escape violence, it doesn’t translate well thanks to a poor screenplay and cliché ideas. It’s just a mess capped off by one of the worst movie moments of 2019, Rambo literally ripping a man’s heart out. Even for this franchise that’s some literal and figurative overkill.
3. “Miss Bala”
Sometimes a movie comes around that’s so generic you forget it even happened. Enter “Miss Bala” which has a lot of the same problems as “Rambo: Last Blood” but without the blood. Based on a Mexican film from 2011 that nearly earned an Oscar nomination, the American version of this story of a Latino woman captured by drug lords as she tries to rescue her friend from the grip of the cartel feels like a true American knockoff with little substance and even less effective action. Clearly meant to serve as a vehicle to help Gina Rodriquez become a movie star and sporting an extensive Latino cast, which served as a big part of its marketing, “Miss Bala” ended up be incredibly boring, lifeless and almost insulting to Latinos by embracing stereotypes rather than subverting them. While I commend the film for trying to break barriers, that’s all it really TRIES to do. Otherwise it’s simply uninspired and just plain boring.
The first two “Hellboy” movies, directed by Guillermo Del Toro, made up one of the best duologies in movie history. Instead of the fan-demanded third film however, the franchise was rebooted with a grittier R-rating and more amped-up violence while the story, dialogue, effects and atmosphere were all downgraded. The “Hellboy” reboot screams studio intervention with shoddy CGI, an overabundance of swears clearly meant to earn the R-rating rather than create good dialogue and a narrative that, while comic book accurate, tries to make the legend of King Arthur a relevant idea in an era where so many movies have tried and failed to incorporate the concept before. What made the filmmakers think “Hellboy” would do any better? Whether you compare it to its predecessors or hold it on its own merit this film is just a bad movie that proves why we really needed a Del Toro-led “Hellboy 3”, not a gritty rehash.
1. “Captive State”
There are very few movies that make me want my money back, but in 2019 one film literally made me want to walk out of the theater. That film was “Captive State”, a very appropriate name as that’s exactly how it felt for me to sit through this slog. The trailers promised an epic sci-fi anarchist narrative about humans attempting an uprising against alien overlords. What we got was a muddled slow burn that thinks it’s more important than it really ends up being. It’s not really saying anything profound or new and what it does try to say is lost in an unfocused plot filled with forgettable characters and pretentious ideas that go nowhere. The sad thing is I really wanted to see this movie. The trailers intrigued me, but the final product left me more underwhelmed and disappointed than any film in 2020. It’s a dull, lifeless, unfocused mess that is better forgotten, which shouldn’t be hard considering it was righteously a major box office bomb.