Back to IndieWire

You Can’t Please Everyone: Negative Reviews Of Some Of The Best Loved Films In Cinema History

You Can't Please Everyone: Negative Reviews Of Some Of The Best Loved Films In Cinema History

As you may have noticed, the review embargo on “The Dark Knight Rises” broke yesterday, and the word, including that from our own Todd Gilchrist, is mostly good. We say mostly, because as with most films, there are objections from a few reviews — Christy Lemire from the Associated Press, Marshall Fine at Hollywood & Fine, Christopher Tookey at the Daily Mail, Devin Faraci at Bad Ass Digest — coming in on the negative side of the fence. And as has become increasingly common in the last few years — particularly with Christopher Nolan‘s films, Pixar movies, and even “The Avengers” — the fans are in uproar at the sheer concept that reviewers dare give a negative notice to “The Dark Knight Rises” (regardless of the fact that these fans haven’t yet seen the film for themselves).

Comment sections have been deluged with idiot children Bat-fans, not just angry about negative reviews, but merely “good” ones — Playlist contributor James Rocchi has attracted ire for his 3/5 take on the film over at Movies.com. With chatter around ‘Rises’ only to increase in the next few days, we thought it seemed like a good time to remind everyone: everything gets a bad review at some point.

Some films are more divisive than others, and there were a few films — “Singin’ In The Rain,” “Seven Samurai,” “North By Northwest,” “The Godfather” — that we couldn’t find bad reviews from serious critics for. But generally speaking, there’s an always an outlier, and we’ve collected reviews from the releases of ten of the most beloved and acclaimed releases in history to prove our point. That’s not to say that the reviews below are wrong — most make their points well, and some are positively insightful. The fanboy trend of being unable to let any criticism pass is an insidious one: you should seek to challenge your views on a film, not shout down people for pointing out any possible flaws.

But for those who say they don’t listen to critics, we’ve also grabbed some excerpts of user reviews from the IMDB boards, to again show that opinion isn’t a black and white thing. And also because they’re funny. Read on for more, and feel free to speak up in the comments section and let us know what movies have set you against the critical grain.

“Citizen Kane”
“The picture is very exciting to anyone who gets excited about how things are done in the movies… and in these things there is no doubt the picture is dramatic. But what goes on between the dramatic high points, the story? No. What goes on is talk and more talk. And while the stage may stand for this, the movies don’t.” – Otis Ferguson, The New Republic

“I watch movies constantly, an i rarely see movies that i have troubles watching all the way through. For one of my classes at school, i needed to watch afi’s top 10 movies. This movie was ranked at number one and I have no idea why. This movie was so boring I had to watch it several times because i kept falling asleep and missing certain parts. Fine, it was clever having Rosebud, and the importance of youth, but i felt that this is an example of a movie, that could be told in about 5 minutes, rather than stretching it out into one of the longest and most boring movies that i have ever seen. Now, i was also shocked at the acting. i generally find that acting supports a relatively weak script, however in this movie’s case, i felt that the relatively weak script was supporting the awful acting. i personally was not very impressed with the acting strictly because the reactions felt very forced and everything was very overdone. all in all i was not impressed at all with this film, regardless of past ratings.” – tennisislife67, IMDB

“The Godfather Part II”
‘The Godfather, Part II’… is not very far along before one realizes that it hasn’t anything more to say. Everything of any interest was thoroughly covered in the original film, but like many people who have nothing to say, ‘Part II’ won’t shut up… Even if ‘Part II’ were a lot more cohesive, revealing and exciting than it is, it probably would have run the risk of appearing to be the self-parody it now seems. Looking very expensive but spiritually desperate, ‘Part II’ has the air of a very long, very elaborate revue sketch. Nothing is sacred… Mr. Pacino, so fine the first time out, goes through the film looking glum, sighing wearily as he orders the execution of an old associate or a brother, winding up very lonely and powerful, which is just about the way he wound up before. Mr. De Niro, one of our best young actors, is interesting as the young Vito until, toward the end of his section of the film, he starts giving a nightclub imitation of Mr. Brando’s elderly Vito.” – Vincent Canby, New York Times

I really don’t understand the obsession with the Godfather trilogy, brought up with society around me proclaiming it to be a classic I rented the first and found it just bearable! Determined on my task of watching all three I rented the second, I barely made it through, i found the storyline confusing and didn’t see any of the quotes used in ‘You’ve got Mail’! Please don’t think that the only films I watch are chick flicks, I do like more serious, older films but … oh dear… maybe I just can’t relate to Italian mafia families, I must have wiped this film from my mind as I can hardly remember the storyline! I do not which to be stereotypical but maybe this really is a film for men! Please tell me there are other people out there who feel this way about these films! I can’t understand how they always get to the top of ‘Great film Lists’! If asked by a friend whether to watch this film I would say no, unless I wanted to punish them!
P.S I still haven’t watched number three!!  – laura5578, IMDB

“The love story that takes us from time to time into the past is horribly wooden, and clichés everywhere lower the tension.” — William Whitebait, The New Statesman

“So I finally got around to watching Casablanca, one of the greatest movies ever made, or so I’ve always heard. Does it live up to its hype? In a word, no. It was maudlin and melodramatic; Ingrid Bergman was homely, no matter how many softening effects were used in the close-ups of her face (did a rodent gnaw off the sides of her nose? To say nothing of that masculine jawbone and those underdeveloped lips…); Humphrey Bogart was about as slick and charismatic as the Hunchback of Notre-Dame; and the story was undisguised war propaganda. One would have to have the mental age of 5 to think this movie was in any way great. Watchable, yes, but not great, and certainly not deserving of being on the IMDb top 250.
The movie was fast-paced, which was both good and bad: good because it would’ve been unbearable to watch otherwise, and bad because it didn’t give the viewer time to get attached to any of the characters (which is just as well, since as I’ve said, it was war propaganda and so the less effective, the better). – le_chiffre-1 , IMDB

“Raging Bull”
“Robert De Niro is one of the most repugnant and unlikeable screen protagonists in some time… the director excels at whipping up an emotional storm, but seems unaware that there is any need for quieter, more introspective scenes in drama… the scenes it does choose to show are almost perversely chosen to alienate the audience – Joseph McBride, Variety

Oh my is this film terrible. I really wanted to like this film, honest; in fact, I bought it before actually seeing it. Seriously though, this film is grossly pregnant; there is nothing there; it’s fluff; get it? Forgebodit!! Boxing movies are stupid enough as is, next to football flicks of course. However, I thought, “Well it’s a Scorsese flick, he’ll do something meaningful.” Nope!!! Just a bunch of swearing, violent, irrational, testosterone-junkie wops walking around beating their women saying forgebodit. Peachy, let me tell ya; in fact, I want my time back, dig. This film is boring, redundant, annoying, and meaningless. The cinematography is somewhat sharp, but then again, somewhat sharp is just dull. One last thing, just because a film is black/white does not make it art…K?…K. – Kevin Cordia, IMDB

“Lawrence Of Arabia”
“It is such a laboriously large conveyance of eye-filling outdoor spectacle—such as brilliant display of endless desert and camels and Arabs and sheiks and skirmishes with Turks and explosions and arguments with British military men—that the possibly human, moving T. E. Lawrence is lost in it. We know little more about this strange man when it is over than we did when it begins… The fault seems to lie, first in the concept of telling the story of this self-tortured man against a background of action that has the characteristic of a mammoth Western film. The nature of Lawrence cannot be captured in grand Super-Panavision shots of sunrise on the desert or in scenes of him arguing with a shrewd old British general in a massive Moorish hall… The fault is also in the lengthy but surprisingly lusterless dialogue of Robert Bolt’s over-written screenplay. Seldom has so little been said in so many words… sadly, this bold Sam Spiegel picture lacks the personal magnetism, the haunting strain of mysticism and poetry that we’ve been thinking all these years would be dominant when a film about Lawrence the mystic and the poet was made. It reduces a legendary figure to conventional movie-hero size amidst magnificent and exotic scenery but a conventional lot of action-film cliches. – Bosley Crowther, The New York Times

The first thing I’m looking for in a movie is “historical accuracy”.Since the movie takes its name from the leading character Lawrence let me ask you a question to those who casted a top-ten vote for this movie?Do you really know how Lawrence looked like?Six foot two inch Peter O’Toole differed strikingly with the real Lawrence, who was almost nine inches shorter.Lawrence was not a gung-ho drama queen who lead a nation to freedom.Most scenes such as the attack on Aqaba were heavily fictionalized from the writings of Lawrence.You can easily question how much he is reliable.Lawrence mentions in his Seven Pillars of Wisdom that he was raped by the Turkish Bey which was called into question by the historians.(Check out the article : Lawrence of Arabia ‘made up’ sex attack by Turk troops By Elizabeth Day) Not only most scenes are heavily fictionalized but some characters are a bunch of fiction too like Sheriff Ali,Mr. Dryden and Colonel Brighton. The movie neither tells you anything from the Turkish point point of view nor does it tell anything about the real Arab points. Yes it’s a well-know truth that the Arabs were tricked into fighting against the Turks by the British and they have been paying the price by being belittled by the westerners for centuries.But the movie shows us only a bunch of Bedouin tribes which are desert dwelling nomadic people. Not every Arab is (and was)a Bedouin. The historians say that the real Lawrence actually shunned the limelight, as evidenced by his attempts after the war to hide under various assumed names but the British officers certainly did not the find the attack outrageous since the Great(!) British Empire can finally be positioned at a table with the French to take care of the rest of the Turkish empire.And according to Wikipedia the film’s portrayal of General Allenby as a cynical, manipulative superior to Lawrence is not entirely accurate either. Allenby and Lawrence respected and liked each other, and Lawrence once said of Allenby that he was “an admiration of mine”… There are people who claim that such fictionalization was necessary to dramatize the great Lawrence character but I say “watch out! The devil lurks in the little details” – shutterbug_iconium, IMDB

“The Searchers”
“The Searchers” is somewhat disappointing. There is a feeling that it could have been so much more. Overlong and repetitious at 119 minutes, there are subtleties in the basically simple story that are not adequately explained… Wayne is a bitter, taciturn individual throughout and the reasons for his attitude are left to the imagination of the viewer… The John Ford directorial stamp is unmistakable. It concentrates on the characters and establishes a definite mood. It’s not sufficient, however, to overcome many of the weaknesses of the story.” – Ronald Holloway, Variety

I was bored, it’s Sunday and sat down really looking forward to this supposedly great western to fill the evening void. Maybe I’m not qualified to comment fully as I didn’t make it past half an hour. I figure if a film hasn’t grabbed me by then it probably won’t get any better. Usually a rubbish film will grab you then go downhill but this………. well, first off I’m English and even I know that those funny things sticking out the earth don’t come from Texas they’re somewhere in Utah. That’s the first insult. It may be great scenery but great scenery a great film it doth not make. And there’s nothing glorious about glorious Technicolor either. It’s like being hit on the head with a sledgehammer. Then, oh I dunno just that dumb acting from that time, those stupid children full of beans and cockadoodle dandy acting just irritate the hell out of me as if lots of energy will make up for real acting. Embarrassing. The story just plods along and doesn’t build any tension whatsoever with a lot of hammy acting by our stars more fit for a TV show. Then it’s just cliché after cliché and the end result is wishing the maker of this film would stop insulting my intelligence and pi** off. I disliked John Wayne as a small boy because I thought he was boring. I think he’s boring now. If you wanna watch a good Western with interest and real characters, story development, tension and drama that sucks you in watch Unforgiven. I’ll never forgive this pile of dross. – jackbenimble, IMDB

“2001: A Space Odyssey”
“A major achievement in cinematography and special effects, “2001” lacks dramatic appeal to a large degree and only conveys suspense after the halfway mark…. The plot, so-called, uses up almost two hours in exposition of scientific advances in space travel and communications, before anything happens, [including] the surprisingly dull prolog… Film ends on a confused note, never really tackling the ‘other life’ situation and evidently leaving interpretation up to the individual viewer. To many this will smack of indecision or hasty scripting.” — Robert B. Frederick, Variety

“This is certainly one of the most boring and meaningless films I have ever seen in my life. I love science and science fiction both. They are in fact 2 of my main interests in life. This movie still bored me beyond description! The accolades being heaped upon this hunk of garbage is hilarious. The most amusing tendency among the fans of this movie is ridiculing those who think it is boring and meaningless as stupid, ignorant or both. I am a professional in the computer design and engineering business. I am not stupid. And guess what? This movie is still boring and meaningless… It’s a collection of very long, very boring scenes that never seem to end… For those who will attempt to dismiss my comment along with the other people they have dismissed let me be perfectly clear. I understood everything in the film. It is simply a terrible film. This pseudo-intellectual drivel is a director who thinks he’s quite brilliant in his high school level presentation and vision of the journey of man. Of course he is very wrong indeed!… It’s disjointed. It lacks cohesiveness. It adds elements of science fiction, horror, fantasy, and pre-teen created entertainment. It also fails to deliver in any of these categories. Stop attacking those who do not like this film. They aren’t nearly as stupid as is implied here… There is nothing brilliant about meaningless film that must be “interpreted” by the few viewers who claim they have the answer. Thats just incompetent lazy film making.” – tom_jones, IMDB

“The most acclaimed private-eye saga since ‘The Big Sleep’ has the torpor of a wake… Evans and Polankski are masters of Hollywood ‘dramatic organization.’ They ram home what they see as major points… ‘Chinatown’ brings to question not only their lack of subtlety, but their hypocrisy… Polanski never favors compassion over carnage. He has none of Towne’s emotional stakes in the film… Polanski smothers Towne’s script. He never lets in any air… Polanski revels in artifice. Every shot in ‘Chinatown’ locks into a larger puzzle, and each character’s smirk hides a secret.” – Michael Sragow, New York Magazine

“Got two hours of your life to waste? Want to wonder watch the same actor who scared you in the Shining bore you to death? Want to wish you had not already cleaned out the cat’s litter? I have the film for you. Two hours of the most excruciating boredom watching male chauvinistic pigs who think there is nothing wrong in raping, beating or in general any other form of abusing women, sprinkle in some under-age sex with your own daughter (how ironic that three years later the film’s director will be charged with such an offence – was he planning his own future? Oh, sorry I forget 15 is too old for him) and add a cherry on top for being absolutely pointless and you have Chinatown. If anyone can tell me what Chinatown has to do with the film’s plot I will give you the cherry myself. And before you all start jumping on me I do understand the ‘rape’ refers to the water supply controversies of the early 1910’s. However, please, seriously, do not tell me that you enjoyed this film. I am only saying what everyone else is too scared to say – it really is not that good a film.” – b-jhoree, IMDB

“Die Hard”
“On a technical level, there’s a lot to be said for ‘Die Hard.’ It’s when we get to some of the unnecessary adornments of the script that the movie shoots itself in the foot… the filmmakers introduce a gratuitous and unnecessary additional character: the deputy police chief (Paul Gleason), who doubts that the guy on the other end of the radio is really a New York cop at all. As nearly as I can tell, the deputy chief is in the movie for only one purpose: to be consistently wrong at every step of the way and to provide a phony counterpoint to Willis’ progress. The character is so willfully useless, so dumb, so much a product of the Idiot Plot Syndrome, that all by himself he successfully undermines the last half of the movie. Thrillers like this need to be well-oiled machines, with not a single wasted moment. Inappropriate and wrongheaded interruptions reveal the fragile nature of the plot and prevent it from working. Without the deputy chief and all that he represents, “Die Hard” would have been a more than passable thriller. With him, it’s a mess… you can’t go wrong if all of the characters in your movie are at least as intelligent as most of the characters in your audience.” – Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

This film has almost everything that I despise. I do like the action, explosions, and Alan Rickman since he stars as Severus Snape in the seven Harry Potter flicks. Rickman is excellent at playing the bad guy. Bruce Willis thinks he is so cool; however, but nothing but a fool. So the two stars are for Rickman and the action. The subtraction of eight stars is for the ballooning votes that this movie has been given, the violence, the nudity, the vulgarity, Bruce Willis, the mindless acting by the majority, the length of the film, and finally not giving Rickman more lines. Yes, it’s a slight obsession with Rickman as it seems, but I had to think of eight reasons and ran out of ideas. So if you like or love this imbecilic claptrap, you will most likely disagree with me and jump to conclusions while forming stereotypes. I don’t blame you. I only wish Hollywood wouldn’t contribute to the degenerating of our civilization where people don’t care about humans they don’t know – jamesolio, IMDB

“Raiders Of The Lost Ark”
“But “Raiders” is a machine-tooled adventure in the pulp-esoterica spirit of Edgar Rice Burroughs; it appears that Lucas and Spielberg think just like the marketing division… But Spielberg’s technique may be too much for the genre: the opening sequence, set in South America, with Indy Jones entering a forbidden temple and fending off traps, snares, poisoned darts, tarantulas, stone doors with metal teeth, and the biggest damn boulder you’ve ever seen, is so thrill-packed you don’t have time to breathe—or to enjoy yourself much, either… you know that Spielberg, having gone sky-high at the start, must have at least seventeen other climaxes to come, and that the movie isn’t going to be an adventure but a competition… there’s no exhilaration in this dumb, motor excitement… Yet, with the manicured wide-screen images and the scale of this production, klunkiness sticks out in a way that it didn’t in the serials, which were usually all of a piece… It’s a shocker when the big-time directors provide a rationale for the marketing division—when they say, as Spielberg does, that “the real movie-lovers are still children.” And there’s no doubt he means that in a congratulatory sense. The whole collapsing industry is being inspired by old Saturday-afternoon serials, and the three biggest American moviemakers are hooked on technological playthings and techniques.” Pauline Kael, The New Yorker

I’ve been avoiding Indiana Jones like the plague until tonight when I decided to see what it’s all about. And boy was I in for a treat! I was laughing so hard at every action scene! The music was so laughable, Harrison Ford played worse than Paris Hilton sings and every cliché imaginable was there. The plot is virtually non-existent during the first half of the movie and when the real action finally kicks in, you see Dr. Jones escaping from difficult situations with unbelievable ease, the ridiculous music score serving as another way of applauding his actions. Those were the best bits. Because then you have the totally random ending that turns your laughter into a WTF expression. The characters are paper-thin – not to mention Spielberg’s obsession with the Germans (or anyone non-American or non-Jewish) who have to be depicted as either superevil or superstupid. Unintentionally funny, totally predictable and a waste of money and film. How anyone with an average IQ can enjoy this is beyond me. – grybop, IMDB

Sign Up: Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Features and tagged ,

Get The Latest IndieWire Alerts And Newsletters Delivered Directly To Your Inbox