The Absolute Worst Movies of 2013

With all the talk of great movies out of the way, the task of singling out and ridiculing the slate of absolutely garbage that somehow managed to limp into theaters this year has come. Now every year inevitably sees a slew of flunkies hit the big screen like a batch of rotten tomatoes but I found 2013 in general to be a torpid offender in the “worst of” category. Maybe I ought to chalk up the number of bad movies this year to the fact that I watched over 150 films but then again, I did actively skip a lot of movies that seemed objectively “bad.”

You won’t find the likes of Scary Movie 5, Grown Ups 2, Safe Haven, or Madea’s Christmas on this list because there was no way I was going to see those films. At least the ones I’ve included below had a shot at being decent. Whether or not that makes them even more offensively bad is certainly a topic worth debating, but all that really matters is that they stunk to high heavens and deserve to be watched by no one.

Before I launch into the absolute bottom of this trash bag of entertainment, I do need to recognize some crud that managed to stay off the list just because their terribleness was one-upped. But don’t confuse their absence from the coveted top ten as me patting them on the head and letting off the hook. Think of it more like a police officer letting you off for grand theft auto because someone just set fire to a hospital full of cancer babies. Obviously they’re going to go after the baby arsonist. Here, I have my sights on the baby arsonists of cinema.

Dishonorable Mentions:

Prince Avalanche
The Last Exorcism: Part 2
The Lone Ranger
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Now You See Me
Pacific Rim
A Good Day to Die Hard



A remarkably dull endeavor that (worse than anything) turned Ethan Hawke‘s otherwise considerable year on its head, Getaway uses close quarter tactics to unwittingly beat us into a state of exhaustion and apathy. More believably a hack than a hacker, Selena Gomez offers some of the worse acting of the entire year so poor Hawke didn’t stand much of a chance. Watching them interact is like having a Skype conversation with a five second delay. There’s just absolutely no life to it. There is one definitive scene towards the end of the film that showcases how the film could have been approached successfully but, unfortunately, filmmaker Courtney Solomon decided to go the easy, cliché action route and blasted out this dud of a thrill ride that’s absent on thrills and, at the end of the day, makes absolutely no sense.



What a plastic, cold effort from otherwise rafter-swinging Sam Raimi. In addition to being a massive disappointment, Oz: The Great and Powerful is easily one of the worst of the year. It all just seems like one big joke. The cocksure and smarmy performance from James Franco is certainly gag-worthy but it’s somehow outshone by the spam of a performance from Mila Kunis as the poorly makeup-ed Wicked Witch. Even the usually consistent Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz are flat and ineffective. For a movie with so much talent, promise, and resources, Oz is a far cry from great and not even remotely powerful.



I hate to bury Adam Levine‘s 2006 horror movie that finally saw the light of day this year but it really deserved to stay in its coffin. Existing on a purely meta level, this genre film dares us to see past the faux-irony that is having everything we expect to happen happen. Or maybe the whole thing was supposed to be a shock and I just saw through it like the 35-cent jello mold that it was. Although a small fan base slobbered this one up, it unequivocally offered nothing new in terms of surprises, effects, or execution and was as wholly flat as the Texas plains where it takes place. All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is a glowing representation of the horror of lazy horror.

7. MOVIE 43


You know this list is bad when you find Movie 43 all the way up in seventh place. Steaming pile of garbage though it was, I didn’t actively hate Movie 43 the way I did many of the others on this list. Sure, it’s lazy, dumb, obnoxious, tasteless, offensive, and desperate for laughs but at least we didn’t go in to this expecting it to be a real movie. And for the many, many misses, there were a few sketches that worked my funny bone and I gotta dish out some credit where it’s due. Still, nothing this year clawed at my nerves like the Beezel the cat sketch. That was just in a league of its own.



An ugly and unnecessary conclusion to a series that should have ended when it began, The Hangover: Part 3 has no idea what it’s doing. Instead of rehashing the events of the first one like the Bangkok-set Hangover 2 did, this second sequel turns fatally dark and all but drops the comedy angle. There’s not a laugh to be found in its 100-minute runtime. And maybe it’s the disappointment that the series has fallen so far or maybe it’s the fact that this movie is just undeniably bad to the bone but The Hangover: Part 3 is the perfect example of sequels sullying the good name of the original. The decision to carry on the franchise even though they were clearly out of ideas is only exacerbated by bringing Ken Jeong‘s cringe-worthy Chow character to the forefront. What a steaming mess this flick is from cover-to-cover.



A purely pathetic effort no matter which way you look at it, The Fifth Estate is the Billy Madison of biopics. And with its agenda so clearly honed in on degrading Julian Assange, I’m surprised they didn’t just have Adam Sandler play the part. Shockingly enough, it seems to have no idea how terrible it is. There are no character revelations, no sense of arc, no focus, and no real reason for this film to exist at all. Beyond the cinematic no-no that is trying to make coding cool, Bill Condon goes so far as to craft a series of scenes that take place in “the coding world.” Part bumbling Matrix-style mind game, part collective brain fart, these recklessly awful sequences provided some of the most laughable moments of the entire year. The true shame is that within The Fifth Estate is an important story but it was approached with the finesse of a drunk chimp and made for entirely daffy drama.



Look no further than Jaden Smith‘s earth-shatteringly horrendous performance to see the failings of M. Night Whoever‘s latest box-office turd. It was a miracle that anyone agreed to finance another Shyamalan film after steady and progressively worse receptions of his films but, considering the sizable budget on this one and the seeming star power in the Smiths, hope was in the air that maybe After Earth would be a redemption of sorts of the faltering director. But when it crashed landed, it couldn’t have been further from a revival. Defunct on all levels, After Earth is one of the dumbest films to see the light of day in 2013 and fails on just about every level that a film could fail at. However if there was one film this year proved to us the effectiveness of acting through pouting your lips, After Earth proudly stands on the puffiness of Jaden’s punim.



Long, unnecessary title aside, plot threads dangle throughout The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones like cobwebs in a tomb. Though convention has taught us to expect resolutions by a movie’s end, it’s almost as if the people in charge here forget how many nonsensical plot holes were left gaping by the time the lights went up. The best, and worst, example of which includes the central teenage pair who fall for each other even though they’re informed that, you know, they’re brother and sister. But, I mean, whatevz right? Backed by awful, hammed up performances across the board, this flunkie failed to make even the devout YA fans care. The saving grace is that after such a disappointing financial cull, production was halted on the follow-up that was already in progress, so it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see a sequel.  



As ugly as it is repugnant and pseudo-intellectual, The Canyons is gross and unnecessary on all fronts. Imagine a movie so bad that Lindsay Lohan looks endlessly talented when compared to her co-stars and the solitary selling point is its close resemble to soft core porn and you have the ingredients that make The Canyons. From the very first tracking shot that just screams amateur filmmaker, I knew this film was going to be awful but nothing could have prepared me for just how hideous and empty it really was. The Canyons goes about trying to indite LA trust fund babies for being vacuous and unable to relate by being vacuous and unable to relate. Like that guy who wears neon t-shirts down to his kneecaps and leaves the sticker on his b-ball cap and think he’s the cock of the walk, the whole cast and crew in The Canyons just don’t seem to realize that we’re laughing at them, not with them.



An amazing feat of filmmaking as implosion, The Host, when it isn’t awful, is busy boring you to tears. Even for a teen franchise, The Host is dramatically inept and utterly incapable of making you care about anything or anyone. As if that’s not enough already, it lacks even one moment of genuine excitement. Even the love quadrangle will leave tweens checking their watches. The Host transforms the boredom of watching the paint dry with waiting for the wheat to grow. Seriously, there are multiple scenes where the characters are literally waiting in a cave for wheat to grow. How did anyone expect this movie would appeal to anyone?! I haven’t even mentioned the intolerable voice-over inner-monologues a la teeny-bopper arguments which serve as the brown icing smeared on this shit cake. The Host is so actively bad that it seems like the kind of thing that would play on repeat in hell while your eyes are shuttered open Clockwork Orange style.


So there it is, the worst of the worst of 2013. As a consolation prize for everyone who made it all the way to the end, here are my (brief) awards for worst actor and actress.

Worst Actor: Johnny Depp “The Lone Ranger”/Jaden Smith “After Earth”


I had to make this category a tie because both performances are truly awful, but for their own unique, special reasons. While Jaden seems to be suffering from a case of not knowing any better, Depp has no such excuse. So a tie between Johnny “I don’t want ever watch the movies I’m in”/”I’m 1/64 native American so me playing Tonto isn’t offensive” Depp and Jayden “I literally can’t act”/”But Daddy says I can” Smith seems like a fore-drawn conclusion in the worst actor of 2013 showdown. When it comes down to the wire though, I don’t think I could be forced to choose which of their performances is more actively awful. Coin toss anyone?

Worst Actress: Selena Gomez “Getaway”/”Spring Breakers”


If there’s one thing Selena Gomez has proved trying to break away from her Disney image it’s that she shouldn’t have tried to break away from her Disney image. Her wildly ineffectively chemistry with just about anyone who happens to be unlucky enough to share a scene with her is written on the walls with permanent marker. Between her pitiful performances in both Getaway and Spring Breakers, Gomez only has herself to compete against herself to be named the Prom Queen of grade-F acting.

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Out in Theaters: THE FIFTH ESTATE

“The Fifth Estate”
Directed by Bill Condon
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Daniel Brühl, Jamie Blackley, Anthony Mackie, Laura Linney, Stanley Tucci
Biography, Drama
128 Mins

The best part about The Fifth Estate was the cheeseburger I ate before the movie. The bun was nicely toasted, hugging two juicy patties each pressed with a layer of cheese, topped with caramelized onions and the gentle spice of jalapeños. It was superb. The movie though was the antithesis of that burger. It was crap. Utter, unadulterated, “pee-a-little-in-your-pants because you’re laughing so hard in its face” crap.

The dead horse-beating script is the easiest clunker to point fingers at for its “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” tactile approach, but that quick analysis fails to recognize the full scope of how truly horrendous every element of this movie is. The consistently confused directing, entirely bumbling, borderline hack acting, and total lack of vision – all backed by one of the worst scores I’ve heard in ages – each land with a thud on the lowest tier of story-telling prowess.  The Fifth Estate‘s saving grace is that it has a good shot at winning the excuse, “It’s so bad, it’s good” from more forgiving moviegoers.

Whether the intent of the movie is to herald the importance of Julian Assange and his brainchild Wikilieaks or condemn him is unclear throughout. Even by the film’s conclusion, it’s hard to decipher if those in charge support Julian’s cause or just can’t stand him – an amazing feat for a movie that stretches well over two-hours. The intention may have been to land in some kind of moral gray zone but somewhere along the line moral complication got mixed up with poor storytelling, and the result is The Fifth Estate.

Wikileak’s contributions to revolutionizing how information is shared was groundbreaking – the way in which that story here is told is anything but. For a film that celebrates innovation, it’s amazing how stale its telling is. Montages set to thumping electronic beats detail Julian typing on a computer, driving in a car, walking down the street, typing even more on his laptop, and opening doors as if it were breathless entertainment. At times, it seems as if Bill Condon bumped his head and woke up thinking he was making a Bourne-style thriller.

Condon also hasn’t quite shaken out of his vampire gloves coming out of the ring of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part One and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part Two as the Assange onscreen is a lot like Bella. Brooding and touchy, he’s a one-note nincompoop with the depth of skinny jean’s pockets…girl’s skinny jean’s pockets. Having a conversation with Assange results in hearing about one of his many accomplishments or an oddly timed confession about the challenges peppering his life.

As if the character written on the page doesn’t already show it in bright stripes, Assange feels that its necessary to inform co-conspirator Daniel Berg (Daniel Brühl) that he’s on the autism spectrum. It’s painful for all the wrong reasons. However little humanity the script affords these characters, the performance is still horrid to watch unfold.

As my friend pointed out, Benedict Cumberbatch does a great SNL impression of Julian Assange, and he really does. But don’t expect to see more than a lazy, played for laughs impression of Assange, as Benedict puts in one of the worst performances of the entire year. His dopey take on Assange is a far cry from a definitive look at a complex character (even if it does wind up being the only one). This is a man you never once feel sympathy for. He’s strange, jealous, and abusive to all those around him. The icing on the cake comes in a completely unnecessary scene in which he dances by himself in a strobe-lit club like a lanky gibbon jumped up on Adderall. Both Josh Singer’s script and Cumberbatch settle with saying, “Look at how weird he is!”

Shame on Cumberbatch for breaking the golden rule of acting. As an actor, you are not to judge your character. You seek understanding. You find what makes the audience connect to your character, not disengage from them. You’re like a lawyer preparing a case for trial. We, the audience, are the judge and the jury, not you. Otherwise, we wind up watching a paper-thin characterization, produced by someone who can’t stand the person they’re embodying. Cumberbatch’s take as Assange seeps this kind of cheap impersonation.

Like a student rushing to finish a research project, recklessly jamming every last bit of information they can on the page, hoping it will make them look more informed than they are, the choice of what to include in the film is simply dumbfounding. Important character information is blasted into the audience without context, relationships start and end hollow, and the actual accomplishments of Wikileaks become buried under a mile of silt. Instead of allowing the story beats room to breath, they fly out in our face, spring-loaded and irrelevant.

With all these scattered bits flying in from nowhere, this is filmmaking as drag-and-drop. Case and point: a romantic angle is shoehorned in. There’s no basis for it, it’s just there, because other movies do it. When the shirts pop off in the obligatory sex scene, you’ll bat your eyes, watching the congress of two stick figures with the sex appeal of listening to your parents talk dirty to each other.

Even from a technical perspective, the film is awful. The score by Carter Burwell works with the surgical precision of a sledgehammer, informing you, “This part’s exciting! This bit’s sad! Drama! Oh, it’s exciting again!” The set design is similarly off-putting as the locations these guys hang out at look inspired by the stark neon sets of Batman and Robin.

Since the 80s, filmmakers have felt that it is their duty to turn “hacking” into an exciting thing. It’s common knowledge that watching someone fire away at their keyboard doesn’t make for the best viewing experience, so they tend towards using visual metaphors to represent the pallid electrical repetition. The Fifth Estate‘s visual metaphor takes us to a giant warehouse, filled with rows upon rows of desktop computers, a metaphysical flair the producers must have thought very cool. However imaginative the sequence may have seemed at one point, the final execution is inexcusably lame, providing for some of the heartiest laughs of this straight-faced film.

With Cumberbatch and The Fifth Estates‘ once promising Oscar odds now shot to pieces, a flicker of hope remains for meat-headed political junkies, pseudo-intellectuals, and those who relish movies that are “so bad, they’re good”. Don’t get me wrong, I actually had a good time watching this, but it was all for the wrong reasons. Nevertheless, The Fifth Estate is, without a doubt, one of the worst movies of 2013.


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