No filmmaker alive sets out to create a bad film. I believe that every writer, producer, and director try their damnedest to make something good.
Not every film works. Some films are just that, a swing and a miss. Some films work for a while but lose steam. Some films have bad beginnings and decent endings or start strong and are done in by badly designed finales that negate anything good that came before. Other films are so mangled it might seem the filmmakers didn’t try and gave up somewhere along the way.
As a critic, I enjoy sharing what I feel to be the best films of their given year. Making a list of the films that brought me cinematic joy is a pleasure to create and share. Perhaps people were on the fence about seeing something and a critic can give them reasons why they should, or maybe we can light the spark for a reevaluation of a certain film. Many times, a critic’s review can lead someone to a film they hadn’t heard of. These lists are created for such reasons.
The hard truth is, where there are good films, inevitably, there are bad films.
Making a “worst of” list is never fun. I am not one of those writers who enjoys tearing down someone’s work. While I can be occasionally vicious in a negative review of a film that angered me for one reason or another, I take no joy in it. Quite simply, it is no fun to sit through a bad movie.
Pauline Kael (right or wrong) could tear down a film with style and would sometimes seem as if she hated the very people who created it. This was not the case. Kael loved Cinema and was bothered greatly when something didn’t work for her or when a film went so wrong that it made her angry. I understand that feeling.
Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert both did “worst of” lists and shows for their entire careers (as did/do many major publications), but they made it entertaining.
Gene Siskel told me how it could be “a cleansing” for a critic to release those bad memories and move on with hope for a new year in film.
I believe listing my worst films of the year is indeed cathartic and as important for me as a “best of”. Good or bad, any critic’s lists certainly have the chance to open up discussions.
I choose not to pick on the obvious. It would be too easy to see random straight-to-video cheapies or goofy Rom-Coms to make my list. This would be low hanging fruit.
My list is filled with the films that could have/should have been something special but failed greatly in one way or another.
My displeasure with 2022 being the worst year for films since I have been alive stands. While I was able to squeak out a list of good films, last year saw more truly bad major films than ever before, which made it a strenuous task to enter a theater.
The year was full of big budget misfires where one could see the enormous budgets on the screen but couldn’t find a story if you tried. There were attempts at being artful that drowned in hubris and excess, bad musicals, offensively awful “reimagining” of classics, a slew of unfunny comedies, bad youth-oriented fare, and tired comic book films that seemed to all but give up on being fun.
The following ten films are pictures I found to completely (or almost completely) fail for various reasons. These are works that either dared to be different to the point of cinematic and artistic alienation or seemed to not even try to be something special.
And what a terrible year for one-word titles!
The 10 Worst Films of 2022-
BABYLON (Damien Chazelle)
The films are listed alphabetically, but it just so happens that Chazelle’s film is my choice for the worst film of the year and perhaps the entire decade.
Rarely has a major filmmaker made something so incredibly awful that it makes one wonder how he ever made a great film (Whiplash) in the first place.
A massive miscalculation on how to direct a film about the early days of motion pictures, Chazelle fails at everything.
This picture is incompetently edited (the continuity mistakes are astonishing in number), badly written (the screenplay reaches for the moon but never leaves the ground) and directed as if Chazelle had no clue as to what he wanted to achieve.
The “humor” is on the level of the Jackass films, the characters are cartoonishly stupid, and the retrospection is amateurish.
I fully believe that Damian Chazelle loves Cinema and has an affection for the progress the art form has made since the Silent Film era gave way to the “talkies”, but his ridiculous and lunkheaded “examination” of that time is one of the sloppiest and insultingly awful movies from a major filmmaker I have ever had the displeasure to witness.
A mountain of ineptitude and a towering failure.
BLONDE (Andrew Dominik)
Yes, I am smart enough to know what the film was trying to do. Unfortunately, it was a wretched and exploitative mess.
A cruel film disguised as Art, Dominik’s picture is an ugly cinematic rape of Marilyn Monroe’s legacy and an aggressively disrespectful fetishization of the beloved icon.
CLERKS III (Kevin Smith)
The first “Clerks” was smart and funny and while “Clerks II” certainly wasn’t Shakespeare, this third and thankfully final film of an unneeded trilogy is a head-scratching smorgasbord of bad ideas, unfunny comedy, and dreadful attempts at being profound.
Every joke fails, the performers look lost, and the screenplay tries unsuccessfully to balance pop culture humor and a treatise on life and death. Read that last sentence again. I can’t believe it either.
ELVIS (Baz Luhrmann)
I almost didn’t include this one, as I think Austin Butler did Oscar caliber work as Elvis Presley and the final 10 minutes find a power and emotion that could have been.
Sadly, the rest of the film is a gaudy, over-directed, mess that does offensive disservice to the singer’s legacy. Luhrmann wants this to be a love letter to his subject, but the film is disjointed, badly edited, and drowns in the director’s cartoonish pretentiousness.
Luhrmann’s film also holds the dishonor of presenting audiences with Tom Hanks’ worst performance. The actor is miscast and embarrassingly goofy in the role of Col. Tom Parker and was the cause of much uncontrollable laughter.
FIRESTARTER (Keith Thomas)
Strike two for film adaptations of Stephen King’s great novel, the first being Mark L. Lester’s 1984 travesty.
Thomas’s lackluster direction robs King’s unique work of character, excitement, tension, and above all, interest.
This one is dull in content and presentation, ending up completely flatline.
JURASSIC WORLD: DOMINION (Colin Trevorrow)
This is an almost 3-hour film with lots of dinosaurs and endless scenes of people running and driving and riding motorcycles. The film is non-stop action, but nothing is the least bit memorable.
Every second goes by like being in the eye of a hurricane. There was madness around me, but I couldn’t make heads or tails of it.
Trevorrow shoots this one more manic than anything in a Michael Bay film. Every shot is useless and a waste of its huge budget.
So much is going on all the time, yet nothing much is happening.
Instantly forgettable and an insult to the legacy of Steven Spielberg’s 1993 original.
MORBIUS (Daniel Espinosa)
This one was dreadful on every level. In screenplay and direction and acting the film is one giant bore; one of the movies where it feels the filmmakers were completely disinterested in the material.
Espinosa seems to have been on a mission to drain every bit of originality and fun out of this one.
PINOCCHIO (Robert Zemeckis)
Complete with scatological jokes and another giddily awful performance from Tom Hanks, this is a cinematic perversion of the beloved classic.
An ugly, joyless, and dreadful film that is a full-on disgrace to its source material.
Zemeckis’s worst yet.
SEE HOW THEY RUN (Tom George)
A bad idea in every second that plays out like an episode from a Disney Channel children’s show doing a skit of old style British mysteries.
The usually great Sam Rockwell looks pained to be there, and his terrible performance is the heartbreaking result.
Maddeningly unfunny and constantly in your face with its ineptitude, this is one sloppy, stupid, mess.
THEY/THEM (John Logan)
Message Horror films are always a good thing… unless your message gets lost in an inept screenplay and schizophrenic tonal shifts.
The usually reliable screenwriter John Logan (“Gladiator”, “The Aviator”, “Skyfall”) fails at both writing and directing this time, giving audiences a film that fumbles its message of inclusion and one that has no clue of how to properly use its social issues to craft a Horror film.
Despite good work from Kevin Bacon and an interesting supporting cast, this is a bad movie that eventually spirals into complete garbage.