The 20 Worst Classic Films of 2014
You’ve read about the best movies I saw all year yesterday and with the sweet comes the sour. The films here all received 2 Ronnies or lower upon first inspection, and could be lowered half a Ronnie if I felt time’s only made them worse. All the movies selected had to be first time views for me, and they’re categorized by Ronnie rating first with my personal preferences second. If you missed my original review just click the title and you’ll be able to go back to when it originally ran. Feel free to leave me a comment about films I should have included or that I was too harsh on.
Dishonorable Mentions: South Pacific, The Preacher’s Wife, Forever Amber, The Barretts of Wimpole Street, A Song is Born
20. Up in Arms – 2 Ronnies
It’s might be unfair placing Danny Kaye’s film debut as number twenty on this list, but after the manic highs of The Court Jester – which made its way into my Best Of – you can’t help but feel disappointed by a movie where Kaye resorts to gibberish and twitching. A few other Kaye vehicles almost made the list, but this just disappointed me after enjoying The Court Jester so much, not the best follow-up feature.
19. The Leopard Man – 2 Ronnies
Val Lewton’s “killer cat” franchise continues, but after the amazing one-two punch of the Cat People series, The Leopard Man sticks out for lacking any of the psychological significance, talent, or script coherence. Despite one great moment with a young girl and a small pool of blood the movie isn’t sure whether to play things as a mystery or a horror/thriller so the mystery isn’t compelling or intelligible and the horror/thriller elements are off-screen. The actual reveal of the “leopard man” goes nowhere and plays like the script ran out of steam.
18. The Constant Nymph – 2 Ronnies
A 26-year-old Joan Fontaine playing a teenager didn’t sink the ship entirely on The Constant Nymph. Instead it’s the melodramatic competition between her and Alexis Smith that ruins things because, since Fontaine is still meant to be significantly younger than Smith, they look the same age and thus the “nymph” subtext is removed. On top of that the movie isn’t interesting; Charles Boyer isn’t worth all the fuss (to me, at least) and his character treats both women like crap. A highly unromantic love story.
17. The King and I – 2 Ronnies
Before placing this on the list I tried hard to recall any songs other than “Getting to Know You” and I failed. The King and I is all foundation for The Sound of Music, as well as being a length series of middle scenes with no ending or resolution for the actual King. The movie is all “I,” I being Anna Leonowens (Deborah Kerr). The white savior elements notwithstanding Brynner is far too stiff and uninteresting, while the rest of the movie is just about the backward Orient. Rodgers and Hammerstein didn’t fare well with me this year.
16. Dante’s Inferno – 2 Ronnies
In spite of a rather terrifying reenactment of the actual “Inferno” from the titled novel, this is a bizarre and bland movie about carnival politics where Spencer Tracy plays a Jimmy Cagney figure trying to have it all and that means engaging in negligent homicide. Tracy himself is horribly miscast as a man hellbent on perfection, yet scenes of his homelife are seemingly perfect.
15. A Cry in the Night – 2 Ronnies
A Cry in the Night is prototypical 1950s schlock; a cautionary tale where a good girl (an unnecessary Natalie Wood) ends up in a Lover’s Lane and is kidnapped by a psychopathic man-child. The actual cop drama works out okay, but the dialogue here is hilariously bad. If you’re going to watch this, I recommend having some “goofballs” handy, apparently 1950s cops feared those more than anything!
14. The Clairvoyant – 1.5 Ronnies
Part of the reason this is on the list is my own anger at not realizing this wasn’t a horror film sooner. The other reason is it’s a painfully boring and creaky melodrama.
13. My Wicked, Wicked Ways: The Legend of Errol Flynn – 1.5 Ronnies
What a misogynistic fantasy of male celebrity excess. Despite using the title of Errol Flynn’s book, this TV movie doesn’t credit it as a script source, so I’m unclear whether to blame the script or Flynn’s recollections themselves. Remember how Goodbye, Norma Jean was just 90-minutes of Marilyn being raped by everyone she ever met? Errol Flynn apparently made every woman he ever met pass out or turn into a 16-year-old girl, right down to being acquitted for rape and surviving a war because of his good looks. This is far from the worst biopic I watched this year, and I’m sure it would have made Flynn proud to be thought of so highly.
12. Star Dust – 1.5 Ronnies
Poor Linda Darnell. For all the stardust she possessed I remember absolutely nothing about this movie. Maybe that means I should place it higher, but I can recall worse elements of other films.
11. The Sign of the Cross – 1.5 Ronnies
The self-righteous sanctimony of The Sign of the Cross is what irked me the most, coupled with the fact that our quasi-Joan of Arc, Mercia (Elissa Landi), feels completely one-dimensional. She’s the girl that’s popular because she’s the only one with any meat to her character, and that’s it! Fredric March, similarly one-note, falls in love with Mercia and what’s the best way to show a girl you care (according to this movie), why rape her, of course! The only reason to watch this is Claudette Colbert’s infamous milk bath.
10. Phone Call From a Stranger – 1.5 Ronnies
Dear Lord is this movie filled with nothing but plot contrivances?! Gary Merrill plays a man who leaves his wife due to her presumed infidelity, ends up in a crashed plane, and then goes on a quest to restore the images of those who died. That’s all well and good but he never practices what he preaches, redeeming one minute and castigating the dead the next. And don’t forget that he accuses his wife of cheating on him in the final frame…and the movie ends!
9. Mary of Scotland – 1.5 Ronnies
I know the backstory of Mary of Scotland too well, so part of my hatred for this movie stems from its flagrant historical inaccuracy. John Ford had no business directing a historical Tudor drama, nor did Katharine “The calla lilies are in Scotland” Hepburn have the right to star. In theory, Hepburn’s strong feminist ideals would have worked, but the script has this strong ruler lose her head for ruling for a guy. I’m still surprised the script didn’t settle for a knock-down, drag-out catfight between Elizabeth I and Mary for the crown of England.
8. Valentino – 1.5 Ronnies
“The movie feels like one big non-sequitur.” I stand by that statement, and yet since reviewing this title I’ve recommended it to a bunch of people for the sheer opulence and excess Ken Russell works with. If I have half as much fun scratching my head while watching The Devils as I did watching this…well, I’m not sure what that makes me but I’ll do it anyway!
7. The Dunwich Horror – 1 Ronnie
Gidget shows her boobs in this, that’s about all you need to know about this Rosemary’s Baby rip-off! Oh, and apparently smart women will fall for any creepy dude with 1970s pornstache, so long as he’s got a nice house. Ladies, if a guy wants to read your only copy of the Book of the Dead REALLY badly…best travel with a friend.
6. Bud and Lou – 1 Ronnie
“Comedy is no laughing matter.” Truer words were never spoken! The life story of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello implies a partnership, but really this biopic should be retitled “The Lou Costello Story” because Abbott barely registers. Buddy Hackett, as Costello, complicates matters further by being utterly insufferable, mouth agape and screaming every line. If you want your audience howling in the aisles, make sure your main character isn’t howling over them!
5. The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone – 1 Ronnie
My review really says it all and has some of my funniest lines of the year (if I do say so myself). Everything about this movie is inept; the director REALLY should have known there was no way to make Warren Beatty convincing as an Italian gigolo nor that Leigh’s search for a “roman spring” doesn’t work if everyone starts monologuing about loneliness. Shouldn’t we be following her loneliness? I didn’t know this was “The Roman Spring of Everyone in Rome.” Bad, bad, bad all around!
4. Carousel – 1 Ronnie
NO, NO, NO! Oklahoma! was so amazing, so why have that film’s leads follow it up with an insufferable movie about a total jerk who falls in love with a naive girl, beats her, dies, and comes back to hit his daughter! Okay, a bunch of other boring stuff happens but the film just straight-up pissed me off when Jones’ character explains to her daughter that sometimes a guy can hit you and it doesn’t hurt at all if he really loves you. And remember, this guy she talks about loving her says it’s okay to hit your wife, but not okay to beat her. Thanks for the life lesson Rodgers and Hammerstein!
3. Desire Me – 1 Ronnie
This wasn’t the best year for romances between Carousel and this film. Hollywood has believed in the magic of abusers and stalkers since the golden era apparently. Despite being the only pairing between Greer Garson and Robert Mitchum there’s more than enough reason to understand why this was labeled the worst film MGM made during the 1940s. Yes, the entire decade! The concept of a woman falling in love with her stalker notwithstanding, the script is so pedestrian, with call-and-response conversations that play like they’re out of order. Mitchum’s good, but even he has the good sense to die halfway through the picture (he comes back but only because he’s obligated to).
2. Bachelor Flat – 1 Ronnie
1960s sexist humor abounds in this lifeless comedy: rape jokes, girls being walking sets of boobs (if they have them, and poor Tuesday Weld is reminded that she lacks them), and an extended sequence about a dachshund pushing a giant bone around. If I wanted to watch a dog and a rare bone I’ll watch Bringing Up Baby! Did I mention Richard Beymer makes a “joke” about assaulting an underage girl? Oh, sorry, it was just so funny the first time!
1. Superdad – .5 Ronni
Superdad? How about Superbad (and I’m not implying the movie with Jonah Hill either!). Disney tries to tackle the generation gap by getting the voice of normality and conservatism himself, Bob Crane, in the role of an Average dad who loves his daughter. I hope you noted the sarcasm in that preceding sentence. The movie wanders around looking for a plot, when it’s not showing kids as rejects from Beach Blanket Bingo. The third act literally involves a character paying tribute to Charles Manson before it just ends with happily ever after. This has to be the worst movie any studio, not just Disney, could have mad.
Kristen Lopez View All
A freelance film critic whose work fuels the Rotten Tomatoes meter. I've been published on The Hollywood Reporter, Remezcla, and The Daily Beast. I've been featured in the L.A. Times. I currently run two podcasts, Citizen Dame and Ticklish Business.
SOUTH PACIFIC was easily the worst movie I’ve seen in a long time (I think I watched it last year) – what did you think of it? If you haven’t watched it yet, don’t bother.
It was bad enough to warrant a “dishonorable mention” right at the top if you want to click the title and read my original review. It’s bad lol.
I’ve never seen the movie version of “The King And I,” but doesn’t the stage musical also include “We Kiss In A Shadow,” “I Have Dreamed” and “Hello, Young Lovers”? (Frank Sinatra recorded all three during his career.) All are excellent songs, and if you don’t recall them from the film, either they were omitted (a faux pas) or were staged in a particularly unmemorable manner.
“I Have Dreamed” was recorded but not included in the film. I can’t recall the other two songs, but they are in there. I think Frank might have done them better.
In the case of “We Kiss In A Shadow,” he certainly did — one of his most beautiful late-era Columbia sides: http://youtu.be/6FASjlICpAA
I agree with you on almost all of these, with the exception of “Stardust.” I have a soft spot for anything featuring a young and adorable Linda Darnell – and John Payne, to boot. The story was nothing much, though; I’ll agree with you there. And I am firmly behind you regarding “The Constant Nymph.” I remember when TCM aired this a couple of years ago, supposedly for the “first time on TV,” and you would have thought it was the second coming of Christ. I watched, breathlessly – and then it was over. I just didn’t get it. And Fontaine was completely unbelievable as a teenager.
It was a taste unfair of me to put Stardust where I did considering I barely remember it. I’m so glad someone else doesn’t swoon over The Constant Nymph. Fontaine tries, and I was okay with her for a bit, but boy that second act ruins it all.
Some real turkeys here. I have an antipathy towards Yul Brynner, so I can understand how “The King and I,” which I otherwise like, made your list. The other two Rodgers & Hammerstein movies were true disappointments–probably great as stage plays but just didn’t work for me as movies despite the lovely music. “The Leopard Man” and “The Ghost Ship” are easily the weakest entries in the Val Lewton horror canon. “The Constant Nymph” was another dud despite the glowing review by Leonard Maltin & the Oscar nomination for Joan Fontaine.
Thanks for the agreement. I’m taking a beating on Facebook over the R&H films, with a few Leopard Man and Constant Nymph supporters out there.
I see you have Forever Amber on the runners up list. It’s a mere patch on the book because of the production code true but it’s still a fun watch. Having read the book, a highly addictive page turner, first I was disappointed in the enormous amount that had to be cut but the production design is sumptuous, the costumes amazing, Linda feisty and ravishing, George Sanders highly amusing as Charles II and it provides a peek at a young Jessica Tandy all in eye popping Technicolor! I can think of many films that offer a great deal less.
The one thing I will admit is that Preminger was the wrong director for such a florid tale, his pacing is too deliberate, the story needed someone like Michael Curtiz or Woody Van Dyke who felt pictures should MOVE!
I could definitely see Curtiz or Van Dyke directing this! Despite the beautiful costumes, and Linda Darnell, the movie just felt so slow and static for me.