I know it seems cruel to even write a worst of the year list for 2021. It’s been a terrible year for everyone. But I’ve seen some deeply terrible films last year, and some that just annoyed me. This is a public service. This list exists because I care about you and your time. Don’t waste it on these movies.
Karen – If I could kill a movie, I’d kill this movie. A film based on a meme, Karen does not have any insight about racism in America, or even the entitled racist white woman archetype at the center. I can’t believe a human being actually wrote this movie, and a studio thought it was a good enough idea to make it. This is profoundly awful stuff.
Ghostbusters: Afterlife – I can’t remember the last time I left such a harmless movie feeling so angry. Ghostbusters: Afterlife is two hours of Jason Reitman nudging you from the seat next to you, and saying ‘look! There’s a thing you know! Do you understand my references?!’ It’s the shallowest fan service imaginable with no characters that grabbed me, nothing that held my interest and a thing they do in the third act that should put Reitman in director jail forever, and yet nobody seems to be angry about this. How are you all not infuriated?! This is so tasteless and so ghoulish I can’t even describe it.
Diana: The Musical – a travesty in every imaginable way. The music is baffling, the lyrics are on the nose and terrible in every possible way, every single actor is miscast. The vocals and the dancing are ridiculously bad. Even the costumes and set design feel cheap and beneath what you expect from a Broadway production. Also, this show trivializes every big moment in Princess Diana’s life, turns everything into soap opera in the campiest, most tasteless way imaginable. It has no insight on the person she was, and what she brought to England or the world at large. This is one big ol’ no thank you after another.
Spiral – a 90 minute long that feels like an eternity. The Saw movies have never been any good. They always kind of look like crap and have no real story, just a lot of torture porn set pieces. But there’s usually some kind of fun in the onscreen agony of the people unfortunate enough to fall into Jigsaw’s traps. And apparently Chris Rock begged to get this made. Yiiiikes. Spiral adds an incredibly dull police procedural story and takes the nasty fun away from the grotesque violence onscreen. It also tries to add some kind of social commentary about police violence in America that completely falls flat on its ass and would also have fallen flat a year ago when this was supposed to release. The message is so muddled and murky I’m not even sure what it was trying to say.
Profile – One thing we don’t need right now is the ingénue falls in love with a terrorist rom-com.
Queen Bees – A film that made me long for the sweet release of death. Queen Bees makes the awful 2018 Diane Keaton vehicle Poms look like a competently made film. I can’t believe you could gather Ellen Burstyn, Loretta Devine, Jane Curtin and Ann Margaret, not to mention James Caan and Christopher Lloyd and this is the best you could give them to do. Donald Martin’s atrocious, smarmy, sitcommy script leaves these four legends without a single decent joke and without a halfway decent character arc among them. Old people deserve better movies than this.
The King’s Man – It’s fun for awhile, but it makes a series of baffling mistakes in the second half that led me to not really care what happened to anybody. Ralph Fiennes is no Colin Firth and Harris Dickinson is super charming and does a great job, but the movie does him dirty. The film sets up a sequel with a ridiculously stupid post-credits scene and I hope to god we don’t get one.
Thunder Force – Melissa McCarthy’s fifth movie with her husband Ben Falcone proves they’ve learned nothing about working with each other and Falcone still has no idea why his wife is such a respected comedic actress. These movies are destroying McCarthy’s career and Ben Falcone must be stopped. I haven’t rooted this much for a Hollywood divorce in years.
Old – M Night Shyamalan’s latest manages to find very few ways into its very fascinating concept that could be emotionally devastating for me – the fact that we will all eventually die. Instead, Old is a collection of weirdly uninvolving moments populated by characters that don’t really feel like people at all and throws its terrific cast to the wolves, dialogue that feels unnervingly unrealistic, so much so that even moments that are supposed to pack a big emotional punch never hit like they’re supposed to. Everything feels frustratingly flat, but you do feel like you’ve aged about 60 years by the time it ends.
Reminiscence – Feels like we had a million meetings about world building and storyboarding and like one round of script rewrites, and someone at Warner Bros. just said, ok, film it like it is, the internet’s dudebros will think it’s profound, just like Interstellar.
The French Dispatch –Not a popular opinion on Letterboxd, but there is no American filmmaker more up his own ass than Wes Anderson. If you’re a fan, you probably love this film, but I couldn’t get it out of my mind that he’s made the same movie countless times at this point and yet we applaud him every time. Anderson is hit or miss for me. Some of his films really work and some don’t. This just reminded me of the art student my friend was dating back in college who thought he was heaven’s gift to cinema. And I hated him and I hated this movie.
Cherry –Buried in a very worthwhile story about how America fails veterans, we have a tonally incoherent, rambling, emotionally manipulative and altogether forgettable piece of moldy cheese about how you can do everything wrong and still find redemption, I guess? I wish Tom Holland the best, and the failure of Cherry isn’t totally his fault, he’s giving his all, but there are plenty of scenes in this Oscar bait-y sludge that demand more of him than he can offer. Maybe he’s just slacked with some terrible scene direction, but a truly powerful emotional moment is often followed by something laughably performed.
Joe Bell – You ever see a movie that is clearly well intentioned and has its heart in the right place that is just the most infuriating viewing experience ever? Joe Bell is shallow, mawkish and overly sentimental and rings false in every way. Call me a cynic but I don’t think the awful macho father figure who drives his gay son to kill himself deserves a redemption story. At least Mark Wahlberg knows a thing or two about hate crimes.
Space Jam: A New Legacy – Somehow even worse than the original and I had very low hopes for this going in. Thought it might surprise me and be kind of fun. And instead I felt the light inside me slowly die for TWO FULL HOURS.
Belfast – Kenneth Branagh’s autobiographical love letter to his own childhood, the meaning of family, the power of cinema and most importantly, his love letter to himself, feels completely dull, self-indulgent, twee and unremarkable. This is a deeply uninvolving film. The annoying child actors and the adult performers who aren’t called upon to do anything interesting all contribute to the dull atmosphere present throughout. It’s a total bore and I’m sure it will win best picture.
Don’t Breathe 2 – A horror sequel that reminded me a lot of The Greatest Showman, oddly enough in a lot of ways. Why not just tell a new story about anyone else? Why choose this character with all this unlikable baggage to center your movie around, hoping audiences will forgive and forget his crimes? I just didn’t care about anyone or anything going on here, the tension that carried the first movie is gone and so much of it is unintentionally hilarious. If they even talk about making another one of these, that will be the thing that finally kills cinema. Sorry, Martin Scorsese.
Snake Eyes – There’s a million problems with Snake Eyes but I’ll focus on the main one. Whoever’s decision it was to give Henry Golding an American accent should be euthanized.