The Absolute Worst Films of 2014

As the year comes to a close, most critics hover around their keyboards blasting out lists on this or that – Top Tens, Best Performances, Coolest Stunt Involving a Bunny Rabbit – and cutting through all the praise is the purely gleeful opportunity to take aim at the worst of the worst – those films that left us shuttering, that inspired us to reach out to friends and family and warn them off, that wouldn’t just melt away with time but rather forced us to remember their terribleness throughout the entire year. And though many may expect the likes of Haunted House 2, Tammy, Heaven is for Real, Blended, God’s Not Dead, The Identical, The Best of Me, etc. to make an appearance here, they won’t make the list because I didn’t subject myself to their nominal abject horror.

Last year, our Absolute Worst of 2013 List included Getaway, Oz, All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, Movie 43, The Hangover: Part 3, The Fifth Estate, After Earth, The Mortal Instruments, The Canyons and The Host and though this year’s worst weren’t quite as bad as last’s year putrid bunch, they were still some bad, bad mommas. So before we get to the worst of the worst, let’s blast through a quick list of films that were quite thoroughly offputting but not quite enough to crack the top ten. Nonetheless, avoid these trash piles whole-heartedly.

Dishonorable Mentions:

The Foxy Merkins
Ping Pong Summer
Leading Lady
The Purge: Anarchy
Into the Storm
About Last Night
Labor Day
The Better Angels
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
Bad Words
Decoding Annie Parker
300: Rise of an Empire
Stage Fright
Exodus: Gods and Kings


Vanessa Hudgen‘s scrubby mop and her horrendous Jersey accent aren’t really to blame for the emotional wash-out that is Gimme Shelter. Nor is Brendan Fraser and his Brendan Fraser-iness. Director Ron Krauss, on the other hand, is. Coming off a human trafficking billing, Krauss wrings the welts of abused children for every weepy sentiment he can and in doing so makes a despicable and entirely ugly product. Miles from the brilliant Rolling Stones song from which it takes its name, Gimme Shelter paints the wholly wrong picture of child abuse with boorish abandon, mixing ice-cream parlor super-88 montages with a cracked out, stanky skanky Rosario Dawson.


Were it not for the untimely passing of star Paul Walker, I’m convinced Brick Mansions would have been a straight-to-DVD release. It’s a parkour movie that edits out the parkour, an action thriller without any octane, a remake of a French film that keeps its French star inexplicably intact, supplanting him in a racially divided Detroit. There is literally a moment where the two leads simultaneously backflip over the bad guys. This actually happened. In an actual movie. Not to mention the entire plot is one big borrowed MacGuffin from other Walker franchise, the wholly more enjoyable Fast and Furious. The whole thing is frustratingly scrubbed of life and energy, mistakenly betting on the starring power of Walker and a red-pepper-slicin’ RZA.


In terms of chemistry gone wrong, none can top That Awkward Moment. With 3/4 of its cast entirely likable (Miles Teller, Imogen Poots, Michael B. Jordan), this rank “comedy” supports a borderline violent, totalitarian anti-feminist worldview in which woman are doormats to be treated as such. I can’t think of another film this year that so actively tried to disarm womankind and did so with such gross snarkiness. I found the film distasteful to say the least and even borderline damaging for those unfortunate enough to mistake its message for reality. That Awkward Moment presents a backwards zeitgeist that needs to be put in the rear view as a prize to be won. Zac Efron has never stooped so low.  


I make a point of avoiding movies that will too easily make its way onto this year end list of worsts. I don’t see Sandler nut-kicking vehicles. I don’t watch Seltzer-Friedberg spoofs, I don’t bathe in Nicholas Sparks waters. I won’t bother with Christian-pandering flickolas. I go into movies fully expecting some modicum of entertainment and if I know that I’m going to be sighing and watch-checking for a number of hours, I just don’t bother. Then came They Came Together, a well-disguised trap; a nut-twisting landmine that reels you in with promises of satire only to deliver brain-crushing wallops of stupidity. Even the oddball charm of Amy Poehler and Paul Rudd couldn’t wash away the stench of absolute failure in this Larry the Cable Guy-level spoof. The amazing thing is some people actually liked this. Critics recommended it. I don’t know if I watched the film in an alternate universe or if some critics were getting paid off to hand out passes but there was nothing in this movie that made me even think about cracking a smile.


To me there’s a monumental difference between bad movies and lazy movies and my disdain for the later far outweighs the former. Transcendence was a bad movie – it got jumbled up, dotted the T’s and crossed the I’s and went haywire – but at least it tried something. It wasn’t a rehashed conglomerated of old parts mashed together clumsily and without regard. Oujia represents this other side of the spectrum, the side in which nothing new is attempted, where everything reeks of lethargic malaise. Entirely lacking in inertia and completely devoid of novelty, it’s the kind of film that gives horror a bad name, that has the nerve to off its hapless teenagers in the most predicable of ways, that fails to present even one reason for its existence. In a word, it’s shameful.

Disney’s 1997 animated Hercules is a thing of magic. The gospel-fed songs are inspiring and catchy as all hell (“Herc was on a roll”), the hero’s journey is handled with a weighty, classical approach, the animation absolutely soars and Danny Devito was a half-man, half-goat. I love it. Now take Brett Ratner‘s shatner of a flick and try and describe just one thing about it. It stars a man named The Rock. He battles stuff ‘n’ things. He pulls down a pillar at one point. I’m not sure if he was a God or not. It didn’t really matter. 2014’s Hercules is so bad because it’s so nothing. There is not one single memorable thing about it. Too bloodless to revel in and too thoughtless to engage with, it’s a white-washed mash of “Who gives a shit?” I’ll tell you who, not me.


Angelina Jolie‘s inhuman cheekbones stars amidst a wash of CGI in an origin story that takes a meaty dump on the beloved Sleeping Beauty fairytale lore of yore. This revisited Disney saga is a Frankenstein’s monster of blockbuster glitz that batters its audience with allusions to rape and then has trees fighting men. Utterly without a voice and any discernible perspective, Maleficent rests on the starring power of Angelina Jolie, an actress more apt to strike a pose than to, ya know, act and you feel the strain of the film’s weight upon her underfed shoulders. Yucky, grossly dull and entirely fake, Maleficent represents rock bottom for Disney’s live action re-tellings and is an absolute task to endure.


Chloe Grace Moretz is a darling. She is not however dramatically inclined and the wholly incompetent If I Stay is bitter proof of that. The story is tragi-porn city, with a plot that involves a coma, dead parents, a dying brother and, gasp, an on-the-rocks teenage romance. 2014 has been the year of shoehorning calamity into romance – cancer cough, Fault in Our Stars, cancer cough – but none did it worse than If I Stay. Like a battering ram trying to bust down the gateway to our tears, the film wears its cheesy intent on its sleeve and is all the worse for wear for it. There’s a threshold for how much an audience will believably endure before we just begin to snicker and If I Stay crosses that line early on and proceeds to cross it again and again and again.


At 139 minutes, Divergent is the most punishing motion picture of the year – a recklessly lengthy stretch of kids jumping over shit and yelling “dauntless”. Plastered in black pleather and smeared with Jai Courtney grimaces, this popular kids book turned wannabe hit franchise is the worst derivative young adult dystopia of the (growing) lot in many parts because of its utter narrative incompetence. There’s class-based factions, shifting power structures, social uprisings – basically the makings for timely political intrigue – but it’s all handled with the good grace of a date with Bill Cosby. Did I mention Jai Courtney was in this?


Joe Hill’s novel Horns was warmly met by fans and critics, receiving a nomination for the 2010 Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel, a prize that had in the past gone to the likes of Thomas Harris and Steven King. Alexandre Aja, director of The Hills Have Eyes remake, Piranha 3D and last year’s widely panned Maniac takes Hill’s novel and bastardizes its mania into harebrained stupidity. Daniel Radcliffe sports an anaconda boa and horns that make people confess their wildest sins (like wanting to eat a whole box of donuts!), religious allegories saunter into and out of frame and I think the whole thing is supposed to be some wildly miffed commentary on puberty and masturbation. But who the fuck knows. The result feels like a vision distilled down more times than good vodka, losing parts and pieces along the way until it wound up the ugly, pointless, plodding movie it was, one that is aggressively frustrating for its absolute missed potential and even worse for supposing all the while that it does have a point, a heart and a brain.

So there we have it, the worst flicks according to moi. On the way out the door though, we’ll take two more quick pot-shots, this time for the worst performances.

Worst Actress: Cameron Diaz “ANNIE”

The singing. The acting. The faces. I don’t know which was worst. In a movie crammed with a brazen lack of charm, Cameron Diaz added log after log to the awful fire, hamming her way to this man’s Razzie chart-topper. As I noted in my review, there’s a very fine line between satire and mockery and it’s one that Diaz tragically misunderstood in the role. An actor’s journey is to find the humanity in their character – no matter how despicable, cold or inhuman – and from that understanding create a living, breathing human. We buy into the fact that this is not just a celebrity caked in makeup and dressed funny to be captured on camera so long as they ready themselves to convince us. It’s an unspoken contract that actors make with their audiences, one that Diaz violently violates as the ham-fisted Ms. Hannigan, a puppet of a character that’s more Oscar the Grouch than woman.

Worst Actor: Jai Courtney “DIVERGENT”

The latest in “let’s make him a Hollywood “it” boy” (following in the footsteps of the somehow infinitely less dull Sam Worthington) Jai Courtney is the most fruitless actor working today. With a resume that includes franchise bed-pooper A Good Day to Die Hard, I, Frankenstein and Divergent, he’s got very little talent and even less pathos, set with the kind of face that invites a hearty punch. His work may not ever be aggressively bad but it’s always been aggressively careless. Maybe it’s because we got in a tiff before the premiere and I was harboring feelings of distain towards the Aussie actor but I earnestly can’t think of a performance that annoyed me more than his work in the endlessly punishing Divergent.

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Out in Theaters: HERCULES

is the equivalent of hiring a day laborer only to discover them dozing under the cabana 20 minutes later. You weren’t really ever expecting that much, just a tidy little one-and-done job, so you can’t help but flabbergast at the flagrant display of utter laziness. It’s truly an epic tableau of “who gives a fuck?” It’s so imposingly boring, you’d think you walked into a documentary about dust mites. It’s so recklessly rattlebrained that you think the screenplay is the product of ‘Myths by Charlie Kelly’. It’s the Kitten Mittens of sword and sandals movies. Every character and plot line is so mismanaged you’d think Halliburton were producing it.

In such, Hercules is not so much a movie as a movie impersonator. There’s characters and they’re doing stuff, and there’s fight scenes and fire and a CGI lion but when all is said and done, nothing happens. It’s the same story we’ve ignored and forgotten a hundred times before. Plot deviations are as satisfying as zero snickers bar. Surprise “twists” are as curvaceous as Calista Flockheart. It’s so aggressively blah that a cocaine fiend could doze off in the midst of it (because lord knows I did.)

I guess we can cover the “plot”, if for no reason other than to dissuade you from submitting yourself to it. Hercules, you see, isn’t really all he’s cracked up to be. He’s a hulking gun-for-hire; a wig-wearing mercenary. The muscley chump doesn’t even fight solo; that pussy needs a small troop of misfits (whose names we never bother to learn) backing him up at every turn. We’ve all been duped! If you’re gonna give Herc sidekicks, at least toss in Xena Warrior Princess, amiright? And for a guy who’s “half-God”, his bulky shoulders have been all but torn at the seams, with stretch mark highways recoiling against his unnatural mass of “Good God, I didn’t even know those muscle groups existed”.

Speaking of that half-God thing, it’s still unclear by the end of the movie whether “screenwriters” Ryan Condal and Evan Spiliotopoulos (oh ok, so he’s where all these mouth-heavy names are coming from) intended for Hercules to actually be a demi-God or if he’s just rocking the title for namesake purposes. Ian McShane offers something that’s supposed to resemble a stirring speech about Herc taking up the mantle of the name but that just muddies the waters on the matter. But that is characteristic of the whole endeavor. Again, who cares?


And the story goes a little like this: blah blah blah, I only fight for gold, blah blah blah, pretty princess needs help saving kingdom, blah blah blah, villages burned to the ground, blah blah blah, hired for twice his weight in gold, blah blah blah, evil Reeses and his centaur army, blah blah blah, Hercules trains good king’s army, blah blah blah, please make it stop. I mean you name your villain after a candy bar and don’t expect jeers? Come on.

And while we’re on the topic of Reeses (I know his name is actually spelled Rhesus but, again, who cares?), what an abortion of a character he is. I don’t even want to mention where his character goes (spoiler: nowhere.) I quite honestly think they forgot that he existed by the last act.

It’s all well and good to poke fun at Hercules but in all seriousness, it’s an abomination of storytelling, so bereft of skill and care, so mindlessly inconsequential that you will literally (fine, figuratively) be worse for wear having seen. After bearing witness to a completely unnecessary 300 sequel this year, we had hoped that the meat and potatoes warrior action thing had been put to bed for 2014. Brett Ratner manages to dredge it up again and make it improbably more boring than it was there.

But that Ratner guy really does possess an undeniable gift for making movies that lack a soul. Let’s just say he’s swung for the rafters here. So long as you manage to keep your eyes open, he will stun you with his complete and utter lack of storytelling prowess. He will wow you with characters speaking out the “themes” of the movies. He will try to hypnotize you into falling asleep so you won’t remember that you actually paid money to watch this.

If Hercules were a food group, it’d be French Fries. And not those extra crispy, uber-delectable French Fries. We’re talking the limp, soggy, sitting in oil all night French Fries. The “oh god, I’m just gonna throw these away” French Fries. The “did someone re-fry these French Fries?” French Fries. The ‘Rock with a Wig’ French Fries.

But let’s be honest with ourselves here, The Rock is good enough when he’s in something half-decent. Throw him in something with “Fast” or “Furious” in the title and he’s immensely watchable. Hell, I quite enjoyed him in Pain & Gain. Even The Toothfairy pushed the boundaries of…. wait, no, let’s just not go there. But while that formerly mentioned movie is an embarrassment, this is even more of an inglorious let down. I mean every time he’s called on to do something great, it usually involves pushing something huge or pulling on something strong. For both, The Rock sports a face like he’s pitching a legendary deuce.


For a movie all about being fit as shit, he’s only bashing things in the shadows or beating up on CGI. Once more, who cares? It’s a complete and utter waste of what that modern day Andre the Giant has going for him. With Hercules, Dwayne Johnson has hit Rock Bottom.

Driving home from the theater, I passed by a dojo in which a bunch of kids in stark white gis were thrusting their spindly elbows and yelping dramatically. A mom videotaped in the corner. I would rather watch that video than any given five minutes of this movie. It would have more life, energy and nuance than all of Brett Ratner’s Shatner of a film.

Hercules is the movie equivalent of having a pube stuck in your throat, you just want to cough it up and be free of it. Just keep telling yourself it will pass. Its legend will tell of how you’ll never get that 98 minutes back. I went in fully expecting to see a C- movie, too bad it was a full blown….


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