I need to say up front that 2017 was a bangin’ year for film. Maybe the box office totals were down and maybe there aren’t many (or any) truly great, transcendent films. But overall, 2017 consistently delivered movies both big and small that were at worst decent and at best very, very good. As such, I think I handed out “failing” grades to fewer films this year than I have in any other year in recent memory. When I sat down to make this list, I had only a dozen movies or so I felt truly deserved mention here, a far cry from years past when at times I think I had more bad films to sort through than good (looking at you, 2016). Some other blockbusters disappointed, some indie movies fell flat but in the grand scheme of things, most of the sins committed by the movies not included here were forgivable (or at least forgettable). That said, you can’t see 80-odd movies in a year without taking in some that are truly awful and so, here we are.
Power Rangers (Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, Elizabeth Banks)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 44%
In March, I wouldn’t have dreamed there was any possibility of Power Rangers finishing outside the worst 10 of the year but here we are. You did it, 2017! Way to go! I missed the Power Rangers bandwagon by a couple years as a kid so there is no built-in nostalgia for me here. As a result, all I can see is Elizabeth Banks cashing ‘dem checks and a multitude of cheese-laden action scenes that all-too-well resemble the cringe-y-ness of the TV show. Also, I think one of the Power Rangers gets killed by being dropped in water for maybe six seconds? *Shrug*
All Eyez On Me (Demetrius Shipp Jr., Hill Harper)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 17%
I’m no friend of the biopic but I get the need for this treatment regarding Tupac. Even a halfway decent Tupac movie would’ve felt worthwhile, I think. Unfortunately, this isn’t halfway decent or a quarterway decent. It seems like the main goal of director Benny Boom was to find someone who basically looked like Tupac and just let the rest figure itself out. If you’re curious, this is NOT the preferred approach to filmmaking taught in most film schools.
10. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 49%
I imagine the pitch for Valerian went something like, “Did you enjoy The Fifth Element 20 years ago? What if we made it 30 percent worse and replaced Gary Oldman and Bruce Willis for Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne?” French investors heard that dynamite sales pitch and threw TRUCKLOADS of money at Luc Besson who delivered to them exactly what they were promised: an awful, unnecessary “epic” bolted to the ground by brutal acting and Besson’s ADHD-riddled approach to screenwriting. As it turned out, literally no one in the world wanted this movie except for Besson and his investors.
9. Justice League (Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, Henry Cavill)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 40%
Look, on the one hand, a movie featuring Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman (at the height of her power) should never find itself on a “worst of the year” list. That should be impossible. So, that’s not great and once again, Warner Brothers has demonstrated their complete inability to understand the market in which they operate. On the other hand, Justice League is infinitely better than Batman V Superman so…congratulations?
8. The Book of Henry (Naomi Watts, Jaeden Lieberher, Dean Norris)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 21%
I honestly don’t even know how to describe this movie. There isn’t a single three-minute stretch within Book of Henry where I didn’t find myself looking cock-eyed at the screen, saying, “Wait, what?” to myself. Here’s my best analogy: You know on Friends when Rachel is in charge of the Thanksgiving dessert and she makes a traditional English trifle but the pages are stuck together so she accidentally makes half of an English trifle and half of a meat pie? Book of Henry feels is that Trifle Pie. For 45 minutes, Colin Treverrow was making a little family drama about a genius kid who dies tragically. And then someone slipped in the wrong script and the rest of the movie is an espionage thriller wherein (and you cannot make this up) the dead child, from beyond the grave, walks his very dumb (this is noted VERY HEAVILY) mother through the murder of a neighbor. It’s just as terrible as it sounds but I would definitely watch a 30 for 30 on how in the world this got made if anyone wants to make that film for me, thanks.
7. Geostorm (Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abby Cornish)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 13%
I legitimately forgot Geostorm came out in 2017 which is fitting considering it’s been in “development” for about a decade. There were some signs as to how bad this movie would be. Number one, Roland Emmerich wouldn’t direct Dean Devlin’s script so Dean did the movie himself. If Roland Emmerich is like, “Nah, this doesn’t sound so good” you should probably cut bait. Number two, Gerard Butler agreed to star. If Gerard Butler believes your movie fits his filmography, you should probably cut bait. Number three, once Gerard Butler was cast, he was surrounded by the most “Bad Disaster Movie” cast ever. If I was TRYING to make a bad Gerard Butler movie (redundant), Jim Sturgess, Abby Cornish, and Andy Garcia would be my first three calls. Also, it should be noted that the titular geostorm doesn’t happen until maybe 90 minutes into the movie. Great calls all around.
6. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (Charlie Hunnam, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Jude Law)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 29%
Why is it so hard to make a good King Arthur movie? We’ve had motion pictures for something like 120 years and Arthurian legend has leaked its way into every corner of pop culture and yet, still, there isn’t a single Arthur film worth watching that isn’t a cartoon (Sword in the Stone) or a comedy (Monty Python and the Holy Grail). This doesn’t seem too difficult and yet, here we are. Guy Ritchie’s take is muddled and messy in all the wrong ways and doesn’t even have the decency to feel like a Guy Ritchie movie. Instead of the quick-paced action and vaguely quip-y dialogue that make Ritchie movies interesting even when they’re not good, we got this epically stupid and lifeless rendition which hinges ENTIRELY on the presence of a giant snake. Because, as you know, the best part of every Arthurian legend is when the giant snake shows up to be his buddy.
5. Baywatch (Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Alexandra Daddario)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 18%
I admit, I had limited expectations for most of the movies on this list. The bar was low and somehow, these properties brought it lower. But Baywatch should have worked. Maybe that sounds crazy but in a post-21 Jump Street world, a movie starring The Rock and Zac Efron playing on the inherent idiocy of the source material should’ve been a blast. Alas, Seth Gordon and his team of writers forgot the most important ingredient in this recipe: humor. If your send-up comedy doesn’t have any inherent comedy, you wind up with something like Baywatch that bombed hard with critics and audiences alike.
4. Mother! (Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 69%
There were worse movies in 2017, to be sure, and in fact, I’ve seen Mother! on far more “Best” lists than “Worst” lists. I have tried to see the virtues of this film and can vaguely wrap my head around a few of the positives the film’s disciples have espoused. But I hate this movie. I hate this movie more than any other I saw this year. I hate this movie so much that I’m risking a rage stroke even writing about it now, four months after my first (and only, with ANY luck) viewing. I hate this movie so much that if I could’ve found a way to list it at number one on this list without giving off the appearance of clickbait, I would have done so. How this movie got anything resembling a wide release is one of the year’s greatest mysteries. Mother! is a steaming pile of self-indulgent nonsense cobbled together into something resembling a Christ allegory but without the slightest hint of subtlety. When deciding whether or not a movie is good, I always ask myself, “Was a baby eaten by an insane mob that shows up out of nowhere at any point in this movie?” And if the answer is yes, then the movie is not good. It is very not good. Congratulations to Darren Aronofsky on creating the first movie to ever answer that question with a resounding, “Yes! Yes, this movie DOES involve a baby getting eaten by an insane mob that shows up out of nowhere!” My heart is now filled with hate once more and I appreciate your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.
3. The Emoji Movie (TJ Miller, James Corden, Anna Faris)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 9%
This one has to take the prize for, “Most Unnecessary Movie of the Year.” But that’s kind of expected, you know? Worst case scenario, I should’ve walked out of Emoji saying, “Well that was completely dumb and unnecessary but harmless.” But no! The team behind this one took it a step further to ensure that not only is this movie dumb and unnecessary, it is also unblinkingly cynical and grim. Sure, it ends with a faux-happy little bow but the in the process of getting there, it takes your kids on one of the most depressing, needlessly dark rides imaginable in a throw-away animated movie. BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT WE ALL WANT FROM A MOVIE ABOUT SMILEY FACES!
2. The Circle (Emma Watson, John Boyega, Tom Hanks)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 16%
Woo, boy. I read The Circle a few years ago and thought it was an interesting-if-underwhelming book that would make a great movie. I was, uh…I was very wrong. This is one of those movies where I knew probably three minutes in that I was in for something special. The opening scene is cringe-worthy and it is perhaps the best scene of the movie. The script is bad, the pacing is worse, and the bulk of the film depends entirely on Emma Watson who just isn’t up for the challenge. At a certain point, it appears that everyone involved realized they had a stinker on their hands and simply gave up. I can’t blame them.
1. Transformers: The Last Knight (Mark Wahlberg, Anthony Hopkins, Josh Duhamel)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 16%
Now, listen, I understand that at this point, no one should have ANY expectations for a Transformers movie beyond “terrible.” Michael Bay has now proven, time and again, that he doesn’t care about anything but explosions and racially insensitive characterizations and thus, we pretty much know what we’re going to get before heading in. Even still, even with an expectation that borders on, “Literally nothing. Literally just, can you make a movie that won’t leave me looking for a hotline to call?” EVEN UNDER THOSE CIRCUMSTANCES, Transformers: The Last Knight is the stuff of Bad Movie Legend. It is a 150-minute assault on the viewer that posits such important questions as, “What if the Transformers killed Hitler?” and, “What if Merlin was a drunk who summoned the Transformers to help King Arthur?” and, “What if we semi-sexualize a 12-year-old girl?” Transformers: The Last Knight is an historically awful movie that is more aggressive in its stupidity than almost any other movie I have ever seen in my life.