The best movies create worlds with seemingly effortless magic. When a movie works, the audience doesn’t notice the elements that construct a coherent sense of time and space. They’re not thinking about lighting, camera movements, or the set because they’re immersed in the onscreen world. Continuity is invisible. A character opens a door, and the next cut shows a continuous action as the door opens in the next space with the character’s hair and costume identical even if the two shots were filmed months apart. Good movies don’t draw attention to their production.
In contrast, the hallmarks of truly terrible films include all the ways they make their seams visible and obvious. They conspicuously draw attention to their production, and especially all the mistakes, inconsistencies, and gaffes that get in the way of continuity. Continuity gaffes include obvious mistakes in editing. Drinks at a bar are full in one shot, in the next empty, then full again. Production equipment like boom mics, camera shadows, and safety wires appear on-screen. Obvious changes in wardrobe and makeup occur from shot-to-shot. Locations don’t match and weather changes. The worst movies draw attention to the fact that they’re movies—shots of staged scenes edited together, while the best movies allow the audience to immerse themselves in a world where they forget that a camera was ever-present.
To illustrate this point, Stacker gathered data on IMDb’s 100 worst movies as of September 2019 and ranked them according to IMDb user votes with ties broken by vote count, #1 carrying the title for worst. Only feature, English-language films with more than 10,000 user votes were considered. For each of the worst movies in this gallery, we’ve highlighted a mistake (or several) ranging from minor to major slips.
The worst films are usually sequels, third or fourth or even seventh installments, remakes, video game adaptations, spoofs, and parodies, or offshoots of a franchise that refuses to die. Because these movies implicitly refer to the original film, they’re already up against impossible odds as they try to recapture and re-create what worked the first time. These types of films often have inferior budgets and star D-list or unknown actors. The obvious fact that these films follow a template or formula contributes to their inferiority. The audience arrives with preloaded expectations. They’re aware of patterns, templates, formulas, and clichés—so plots, stock characters, and set-ups come across as obviously constructed. Good movies encourage suspended belief, while the bad ones let it fall and splatter.
Some bad films, like Ed Wood’s “Plan Nine From Outer Space” or Tommy Wiseau’s “The Room,” possess a delectable charm that comes from the unintended exposure of their flaws. However, the good-bad film is a rare treasure. Most of the ones here on our list are just plain, and painfully, awful.
This article was first published on theStacker.com
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