Ah, the overrated chant. If you’ve been to a major sporting event where an underdog upsets a favorite, you’ve probably heard it. But when it comes to movies, how does one know if a title is overrated? You don’t have that chant when the credits come up, so how does one know? The reputation comes over time. As the hype wears off, one gains perspective on its actual merit. The movies on this list are excellent examples of when the bandwagon careens out of control. And just like any other list, we’d like to preface by saying that COED does not think these movies are bad, but that you might want to pump the brakes, slow your roll, and check yourself when evaluating them among the classics.
Blade Runner (1982)
The original release had voice-over narration from Ford and it basically tanked at the box office. Then the director’s cut is released without said voice-over and worlds change. The American Film Institute and The Guardian both ranked it as one of the top 10 Sci-Fi Films of All-Time. There have been rumors about sequels and prequels. A pair of video games were released in addition to a comic book adaptation. It won a handful of BAFTA Film Awards and was nominated for a bunch more, notably a Golden Globe and a pair of categories at the Oscars. The film’s detractors say the pacing was too slow. Proponents hail its complexity, special effects, and art direction. The film was definitely ahead of its time, but can induce a nap if you skipped your morning coffee / eight ball / 5 Hour Energy.
The English Patient (1996)
Winner of nine Oscars, this Best Picture is based on a 1992 novel of the same name. The story follows a burn victim who slowly reveals his past to his becoming nurse through flashbacks. Though the critics that matter trumpeted its score, editing, and cinematography, hoards of moviegoers that don’t have a voice found themselves California dreamin’.
Won 8 Oscars in a ceremony that featured a winner announcing the other nominees before the presenter due to the onset of amnesia. Rock bands have written and dedicated songs to it, numerous TV shows have parodied it, and 1993’s Last Action Hero referenced it. But, if you’re not a classical music fan or big on period pieces, you could struggle with it. And…that laugh. It haunts my dreams.
No Country for Old Men (2007)
I have issue with investing my time and money into a story that has such a weak payoff. Nowadays, it seems filmmakers and aficionados actually prefer the anti-climax ending, citing it as a welcome change of pace. Others feel the directors are robbing the viewer of their “just desserts.” Personally, all I wanted was the final face-off, so they could finish what they started and instead I get Llewelyn letting his guard down so he could flirt then Anton getting randomly sideswiped. Was Tommy Lee Jones even necessary?
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Road trip movies could very well be the most played out genre other than bank heist flicks, but this one took a different approach. It won the Best Original Screenplay and Alan Arkin won Best Supporting Actor at the Oscars. AFI selected it as “Movie of the Year” and it took home awards from the Screen Actors Guild, Producers Guild, and Writers Guild. I watched it once. There’s something to be said about that. Some movies you can only physically watch once, like “Requiem For A Dream” (because you’d kill yourself if you watched it again), but I got everything I needed out of “Little Miss Sunshine” with ONE viewing.
The Usual Suspects (1995)
If it doesn’t have the shocking twist ending, do we really consider this to be one of the top movies of all-time? Can one scene legitimize or make up for the movie as a whole?
There’s cute and then there’s disgustingly cute. She brings happiness to others but can’t grow a sack when it comes to going after what would make her happy. At the time, I had no idea she was 23. 23 and she’s “spurned romantic relationships” because of a “few disappointing efforts”. Lovable quirky or annoying quirky? Get out there and get some strange ass.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Memorable soundtrack, incredible special effects, and surrealist imagery make this epic sci-fi film one of the best. Won an Oscar for visual effects and was a major influence for master directors, Spielberg, Lucas, and Scott. There’s still a contingency who feel it is plodding, pretentious, and too abstract. Those people might have a point, but that’s what drugs are for.
The Coens. They sure do make great films with unique characters. Your view of this film might be swayed by the simplicity of its storyline and the characters’ accents. Murder story with comedic elements hits on a range of emotional chords… for some. Some feel the plot labors while William H. Macy and Frances McDormand’s characters are emotionally one-dimensional cartoons defined by their rural Midwestern eccentricities.
I know what you’re thinking – what’s with the Haterade for movies with locations in the title? Though my hatred for the Midwest and Southeast is unparalleled (jk), the lack of love for this one isn’t based on regional dialect. This one…this one is simply a chore to get through. It’s kind of all over the place, frenetic, and builds to a point where you honestly just want it to end so you can watch “The Hangover” for the fiftieth time.
The Big Chill (1983)
Many people feel this is a statement film about an entire generation. Many skeptics believe that statement could be, “To Be Continued” or “Scene Missing”. Yet another title with multiple character arcs and loose ends that never get a deserving payoff. These college friends reunite after their friend’s suicide and are all dealing with their own issues. One critic called it a “very accomplished, serious comedy”. Serious. Comedy. Ok, so am I allowed to laugh? There’s something off putting about a film that takes itself too seriously especially when it’s battling general malaise (look it up, scholar).
Lost in Translation (2003)
“Lost in Translation” suffers from the same downfall as other critically acclaimed “visual masterpieces” – the quiet and poignant shots can become emotionally taxing. The audience feels the weight of the two main characters’ attraction to one another and ultimately becomes exasperated with the stagnant and unmoving nature of their relationship. It was a departure for Murray who’s most comparable roles would have to be those in 1996’s “Rushmore” and 2001’s “The Royal Tenenbaums”, which could be in large part why his performance was greatly lauded. Scarlett was the object of his desire, but there was that overwhelming sense that it would never pan out. The quiet, small mannerisms can eat you alive.
So painfully hip and cool. Yeah, it presented the unplanned teen pregnancy with a fresh spin, a take that contradicts the Fast Times at Ridgemont Highs of the world but some may argue it handles the subject matter with such levity that it borders on losing the gravitas needed for the audience to continue caring. Again, a good movie that portrays teen girls in a new light, just one that might be a bit exaggerated and overly ambitious.
Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
I still recite quotes from this family friendly comedy, but where will it stack up in 5 more years? 10 years? From my rather intense character study courses, I can tell you quirks and eccentricities keep an audience on their toes and provide that fine sugar coating which gives characters their distinct personalities, however, when your character is ALL Q&E’s, you lose substance and identity. Depth of character can propel story lines, and that’s been cited as one of Napoleon’s greatest weaknesses.
A healthy portion of this film’s lore lies in its budget. The fact Kevin Smith made it on a dime speaks volumes, but when eliminated from the conversation, how does “Clerks” as a movie rate? Sure, it spawned an animated TV series, a sequel, and managed to capitalize on the ‘show about nothing’ approach established by Seinfeld and replicated by many indie movies to follow. Overqualified, underachieving slackers floating through life – lovable to this day. Quick, sharp, and in your face. A cult classic to the end. Smith hasn’t been able to capture the same lightning in a bottle and some may say is forever defined by this movie.
First musical to win Best Picture since 1968’s Oliver. Part of me thinks this production benefited from a poor release schedule, a down year. It never reached #1 or #2 at the box office but still raked in more than $300 million worldwide. I don’t get it. I don’t get how anyone can take musicals seriously.
Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
If you know me, you know I don’t get how America continues to support this franchise. It’s basically an excuse for a bunch of Hollywood buddies to get together and F around for a couple months. Carefree caper flick that replaces comedy with handsome smirks? It’s beloved by bromance enthusiasts and women who can’t control their vaginas.
Erin Brockovich (2000)
Vain and phony are not words you want associated with your film especially when it’s based on a true story.
hard to argue with the highest grossing film of all-time (which many argue due to inflation, etc.) and the most visually stunning film of all-time, maybe because it was the first to market with the technology to achieve those visuals. But after being in development for more than 15 years, there’s really no way in Pandora that it could ever fully reach expectations and overcome the hype. Its technical achievements far outpaced the story, ironic since Cameron delayed the production of the film because technology wasn’t advanced enough to fully capture his vision. In the end, did the effects diminish and overshadow his vision? Was the vision more about the aesthetic beauty of the planet and its residents or the beauty of the story? Lucid, vivid, extraordinary, but will it ever be remembered for its characters, plot, themes or message, which many have said reeks of anti-American, anti-military overtones?
Dead Poets Society (1989)
O Captain. There’s crazy, coked up Robin Williams, then there’s snarky, passive aggressive, put you in your place Robin Williams who teaches lessons with the raise of an eyebrow. The latter was on full display for the first time in this coming of age drama that makes absolutely ZERO pre-teen boys want to attend an all-boys prep school. You feel sympathy for the pressures placed on these young men by conservative parents and the conservative school, but to what extent? Well written and well acted, but still a bit self-involved.
Top Gun (1986)
Gay. Gay. Gay. Gay. Gay. Gay. Gay. Gay. Gay. Gay. Gay. Gay. Gay. Gay. Gay. Gay.
I mean, like, homo-eroticism EVERYWHERE and yet some of the manliest men to man up mankind fail to see it. Or maybe they do and that’s why they embrace it so much. It’s a subconscious way to accept their own homosexuality. Even more mind-boggling is the women who either A) love this movie or B) love the men who love this movie. I know I’ll catch a lot of sh*t for this one, what with every naval officer ever commissioned citing it as personal inspiration and it being a fountain of quote-worthiness, but I can’t get behind it. And I hope it never gets behind me.
Easy Rider (1969)
At the time, it was a significant, groundbreaking film, one that was a megaphone on top of a soapbox proudly and unabashedly proclaiming the power of the counterculture hippie movement (in its own ultra chill way). Many believe it paved the way for the renaissance of the 70s. Just because it’s the first doesn’t make it the best. See Avatar above.
Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
Man, I saw this during training camp before my junior season of high school football. Going in, I’d heard a lot about its cult status. No one really bothered to go into much detail about why it was so deeply embraced by niche groups of avid followers. I ended up breaking my wrist in the first preseason game. I blame Rocky Horror Picture Show for putting me into such a stupor that I couldn’t avoid a late hit and brace myself. I like weird as much as the next guy but when it completely overshadows the story, I gotta throw in the towel.
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress in a Lead Role, and Best Actor in a Supporting Role at the Oscars, picked up a pair of Golden Globes (not Ms. Swank’s), a pair of SAG awards, and was even nominated for an ESPY. But, is there a more depressing “classic” than this one? The ending has been criticized and parodied up and down for its severity, unlikelihood, and incredibly tragic nature. At least, you got the shot of a lifetime. Tough to stay positive amidst that kind of heartbreak. Tough to admire a film for going there. Some people praise it for taking that bold a step (as many other films on this list have done), but is that what high ratings are about? Being bold or being good?
This is universally and unanimously accepted as the most overrated film of all-time. I personally embrace the film for its rags to riches, underdog to top dog storyline that perpetuates the belief money, power, and respect will get you the chick. I mean, seriously, Michelle Pfeiffer had zero intention of ever hooking up with Tony then she’s his girlfriend even after that weird quasi-rape at the car. Those who appreciate the film either rap or enjoy watching accidents in slow motion.
So, there you have it. Maybe not the most comprehensive list of overrated films, but a good representation of what we at COED like to call “The Snowball Effect” – one heady critic, a handful of movers and shakers blow wind in a movie’s sails and it’s memorialized forever no questions asked. Don’t believe the hype, kids!