Much like 2016, 2017 wasn’t a year chocked to the brim with bad movies. Most films that weren’t good were just generic or failing to live up to expectations, and plenty of those movies have ended up on this list. However, there is still plenty of crap to recap too. Franchises that began or continued to disappoint, adaptations and revivals that began on completely the wrong foot, and new ideas ill-conceived from the very beginning. So pinch your nose and have a glass of water ready for swilling, because we are about to recount the very worst movies I saw that stank up cinemas (or in some cases, streaming services) this year.
20. Death Note
One of the two big manga adaptations of the year, Death Note gets a lot more right than most previous attempts at bringing the Japanese form to the west but still ultimately falls flat. The film has some fun Final Destination-style deaths and Willem Dafoe’s casting as Ryuk is genius, but the film’s muddled characterisation and rushed narrative ruin an adaptation that had a lot of potential. Director Adam Wingard has made some great stuff before and he clearly had the right eye for the material, but he simply didn’t have enough time to tell this story; maybe a miniseries would have been a better fit.
19. Kingsman: The Golden Circle
Talk about a disappointing follow-up to a promising franchise. The Golden Circle isn’t an awful movie and has some really great standout moments, but compared to the first film it is an utterly pedestrian sequel. What isn’t just rehashed from the original falls flat, there’s no real character development for either the new or returning characters, and the attempts at social commentary feel confused and unfocused. No sequel since Men in Black II has failed to move a franchise forward more than this film.
18. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales/Salazar’s Revenge
This series ran out of steam about ten years ago, but that hasn’t stopped Disney from raking a few more dollars in from franchise nostalgia and Johnny Depp’s quickly waning stardom. Though it wins points for dropping the needlessly complex plotting of the other sequels, this fifth instalment instead decides to explain nothing and is just a string of bizarre set pieces haphazardly stitched together, and it ruins what should have been a decent conclusion to the franchise with promises of yet more rehashing to come.
17. The Dark Tower
This adaptation of Stephen King’s beloved metafiction fantasy franchise has been stuck in development hell for ages, and it ultimately wasn’t worth the wait. Though stars Idris Elba and Matthew McConaheughy try their hardest, they can’t fight against a stupendously generic screenplay and a crushingly brief runtime that kicks the movie out the door before it even has time to explain its mythos properly. This was supposed to be the start of some great multimedia franchise, but instead we’ll probably have to wait another ten years or so for someone to take another shot at this property.
16. Monster Trucks
A concept so bizarre it sounds like it was created by a child (and, as it turns out, literally was), Monster Trucks is a movie that was destined to fail from the word go. Though it has its earnest moments that call back to the great kids’ movies of the 80s and 90s, the hackneyed plot and barebones characters overshadow the film’s wacky premise completely. If this movie wanted to succeed, it needed to go full-on bonkers, but as is it just falls flat into mediocrity.
15. Murder on the Orient Express
Kenneth Branagh is an extremely hit-or-miss director, and with this adaptation of the Agatha Christie classic he has swung hard and missed completely. The entire experience feels like Branagh’s ego trip as he takes over the film entirely with his ridiculous performance and an extreme sense of artifice. He makes one of the most famous whodunits feel like a farce, and the film’s impressive supporting cast ends up either wasted or embarrassed.
It seems like David Ayer learned nothing from Suicide Squad and has delivered us yet another genre mash-up with rushed pacing, inconsistent characterisation and jarring tonal shifts. The film is trying to be a combo of Training Day and Lord of the Rings, but all it ends up being is Alien Nation with fantasy tropes in place of sci-fi; it’s just window dressing to a generic cop thriller. The world building is undercooked at best, the social commentary is obvious and borders on offensive, and the story suddenly ends just as its getting started for a lame sequel hook. Honestly, just watch Zootopia again instead; it’s much more entertaining and surprisingly more adult in how it deals with similar subject matter.
13. Alien: Covenant
Prometheus was a pretty divisive movie, but with this sequel Ridley Scott has pretty much sabotaged his own franchise. What starts as an unremarkable but competently executed throwback to the original Alien quickly turns into a pretentious and ridiculous experience that jettisons years of series mythology for the sake of a horrible new status quo and Scott’s pretentious fascination with god complexes. This film easily beats out the Star Wars prequels in how it ruins and misunderstands the point of a franchise, and I can only hope this film’s failure has killed the series before it can harm itself anymore.
12. Ghost in the Shell
This live-action adaptation of the classic manga is a mere shell of its original self, removing all the subtlety and nuance of the original and boiling it down to a bland action movie. The film may be visually stunning, but it’s a hollow experience underneath that is too dumb for intellectuals but too boring for thrillseekers. And on top of that, the film’s attempt to temper whitewashing accusations sidesteps the banana peel only to trip into an open manhole. Seriously, were they trying to piss us off?
11. The Book of Henry
No movie on this list is more bizarrely conceived than this utterly perplexing mashup of genres and tones. Colin Trevorrow and his cast are certainly trying, but nothing can overcome how utterly confusing and mawkish this premise is; there’s a reason this screenplay has been sitting on a shelf for two decades. I don’t think even the most skilled director could have pulled off what this movie is trying to do, and Trevorrow has all but ruined his own reputation with this preposterous bomb of a movie.
10. Fist Fight
Both Charlie Day and Ice Cube can be very funny in the right roles, but here they are left with nothing to work with but their worst assets. Fist Fight is an incoherent, mean-spirited mess of a comedy where Day only ends up looking like a good guy because everyone else are cartoonish assholes. The film is at least noble for trying to highlight the problems in an underfunded school system, but it too often clashes with the aggressive and ill-judged tone it otherwise goes with. Not even the titular fist fight is worth sitting through this garbage fire for.
Baywatch tries to do exactly what 21 Jump Street did when it adapted a goofy TV show to the big screen, but from a lazy and cynical perspective rather than one brimming with irony and wit. When the film isn’t just lampshading its own shortcomings by pointing out the flaws in its own plot, the gags amount to nothing more than bad sex jokes; did we really need a five minute scene of a character getting his junk stuck in a deckchair? Not even Dwayne Johnson’s infectious charisma could save this floundering wreck from drowning at the box office.
8. The Great Wall
China is becoming an ever-increasing audience for cinema, but this attempt to bridge the gap between east and west only brought out the worst in both cultures. The plot is ridiculous and underdeveloped, the characters lack enough definition to care about one way or the other, and the beautiful design work is constantly undermined by lacklustre CGI. Zhang Yimou has made much better films in the past and I’m sure he’ll make more, but this project did him no favours.
7. The Mummy
This film will forever serve as the perfect example of how not to start a cinematic universe, but even on its own merits The Mummy is just an awful film. The story is nothing but a flurry of exposition dumps, the action set pieces fail to be either thrilling or scary, and the entire production feels like it was torn apart to stroke Tom Cruise’s ego. Universal has been trying so hard to get this Dark Universe project to work, but maybe they should put this baby to bed before it does any more damage.
6. The Circle
The Circle is just a shambles from top to bottom. What should have been the perfect cautionary tale for the social media age is instead presented here like the half-remembered fever dream of a concerned mother who doesn’t quite understand how the Internet works. The star-studded cast feels entirely wasted, the visual aesthetic is drab and obvious, and the film completely fumbles the landing of its not-really-a-message.
5. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter
Fifteen years and six movies on, and this franchise still hasn’t figured out what would make even a decent Resident Evil movie. This film feels even more separated from its video games roots than its predecessors, and only further complicates the already strange and inconsistent mythology of the franchise. The action scenes are atrociously put together, characters both old and new have a complete lack of personality, and despite being the ostensible final instalment it still doesn’t fully screw the cap on the series. Please, just let this be the end already.
4. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Guy Ritchie and Arthurian legend? It doesn’t seem like an obvious combination for a Hollywood blockbuster, and in practice you can see why. Legend of the Sword adds nothing interesting to the story of King Arthur except more chosen one clichés, and Ritchie’s quirky style only confuses things even more; it’s like if A Knight’s Tale took itself completely seriously. This was supposed to be the start of some epic new franchise, but instead it’s a misshapen mess that makes the 2004 Antoine Fuqua version seem respectable by comparison.
3. Fifty Shades Darker
I’m not sure whether Fifty Shades Darker is better or worse than Fifty Shades of Grey, but whichever way it’s not by much. The film is basically just the most dull and shallow romance fantasy ever conceived, interrupted roughly every twenty minutes for a softcore porno scene. The story is non-existent, the actors clearly don’t want to be there, and yet people still flock in the thousands to watch this utterly bland drivel. If you’re going to make filth, at least make it entertaining filth.
2. Transformers: The Last Knight
Five films in, and the Transformers franchise is showing no signs of recovery even after abandoning most of the cast and finally getting some new writers on board. But the main symptom that is Michael Bay still persists, and he is more incoherent and adrenaline-riddled here than ever before. The Last Knight barely even resembles the first film at this point, let alone the innocent source material that inspired it. Only this year’s upcoming Bumblebee spin-off will prove if this series can recover in Bay’s absence, but considering this fifth film’s utter failure at the box office compared to its billion-dollar predecessors, here’s hoping the man finally moves away from the robots in disguise.
1. The Assignment/Tomboy
Picking a straight-to-VOD movie as the worst film of the year seems like a cheap move, but this flick isn’t made by untalented hacks. It’s directed by Walter Hill, the man behind 48 Hours, The Warriors and personal cheeseball favourite Streets of Fire. It boasts a cast including Michelle Rodriguez and Sigourney Weaver. It’s been a passion project of Hill’s since his golden years of directing, and now he’s finally been able to bring his vision to the screen…and it is absolute dogshit. Putting aside the god-awful writing, the utterly abysmal performances and the lazy direction, this film is offensive right from the basic premise. As a trans person, I cannot condone the film’s inaccurate and scaremongering portrayal of the trans community that makes Dressed to Kill look like an advocacy film; the fact this script was originally written in the 70s is blatantly obvious. Hill has tried to defend the film as a tribute to old-school B movies, but that’s not good enough. You can still be lurid and lowbrow whilst not being derogatory, and this is exactly the type of film that keeps the trans community down. So fuck this movie back to the drawer where this script has been sitting for forty years and where it should have stayed!