Regrettable Viewing Experiences? I’ve Had a Few!


I follow a lot of people on Twitter and one of the most active and notable is Will McKinley who runs the excellent Cinematically Insane blog. Will has been a guest on TCM as well as TCM’s Official Podcast and he often shares interesting links on Twitter. This week Will led me to The Hitless Wonder Blog run by Dan Day who asked his readers a somewhat loaded question: “What are the worst films you have seen in a theater?” I rarely waste time talking about films I dislike but occasionally it’s fun to blow off some steam so I decided to answer Dan’s question at the Movie Morlocks today. What follows is a list of some of my worst movie viewing experiences. But beware! My post is bound to offend a few readers.



Embarrassing! They not only got none of the physics right about falling into a black hole, had they gotten it right it would have been a vastly more interesting movie.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson

THE BLACK HOLE earns the dubious distinction of being the first film I can remember disliking so much that it almost drove me out of the theater. I was just a kid at the time and obsessed with all things associated with space so my expectations were high going in. To make matters worse, a few months earlier I had seen Ridley Scott’s ALIEN (1979) in the same theater and that film had left an incredible impression on me so I was hoping for a similar experience with THE BLACK HOLE. Instead I got a bad STAR WARS knockoff with dull characters and an inane plot. For the first time in my life I was bored by a movie and I became progressively more restless and annoyed as it unraveled on screen. Its worst sin? It didn’t scare me at all and I had become terrified by the concept of black holes so I was looking forward to a good scare or two. Instead of being scared the film scarred me and I left the theater wondering how a movie could possibly be so bad? I tried to revisit Disney’s first PG-rated science fiction film recently because the cast looks really good on paper but I couldn’t get through it.


2010 (1984)

Flash: There is intelligent life in outer space. More, anyway, than in this amiable footnote of a movie.” – Time Magazine

The first film I walked out on was this well cast but deeply misguided sequel to Kubrick’s 2001 (1967). 2001 is one of my favorite films so Peter Hyams’ follow-up was undoubtedly marred by my high expectations going into it but I found the whole enterprise so incredibly lifeless that I was compelled to leave the theater midway through. Maybe it was the misplaced humor? The lackluster special effects? Whatever the reason, I ended up sneaking into the John Milius’ red-baiting war fantasy RED DAWN (1984), which I found moderately entertaining despite its ridiculous premise and laugh out loud dialogue. 2010 would go on to earn multiple Oscar nominations while RED DAWN earned scathing reviews from critics. My dubious taste in movies is well-documented so my preference for RED DAWN over 2010 shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.



This movie has to be seen to be believed. On the other hand, maybe that’s too high a price to pay.” – Roger Ebert

I’m fond of Russell Mulcahy’s original HIGHLANDER (1986) so I went into this sequel with some expectations but nothing could have prepared me for the incomprehensible mess of a movie that is Mulcahy’s HIGHLANDER II: THE QUICKENING. This poorly constructed and utterly inane film shares nothing in common with its predecessor besides a few cast members (Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery) and one has to wonder how it ever got released? I sat through most of the film with my mouth agape being astonished by its badness but after the first unbelievable hour passed my shock turned to disappointment and disgust. I couldn’t stomach anymore so with only 20 or so minutes remaining until the credits rolled I abandoned my seat and my viewing companions and headed to the lobby where I blew off some steam playing video games. I’ve never regretted my decision. It rates as my worst movie theater experience, bar none.


CAPE FEAR (1991)

Who in their right mind would watch a legendary film like CAPE FEAR and think, oh yeah, I like this film, and I’m doing nothing this Wednesday, LET’S REMAKE THIS MUTHER!! No. No. No……….No.” – oliviachell, random commentator on

I like a lot of Martin Scorsese’s films but not this one. The original CAPE FEAR (1962) directed by J. Lee Thompson is a dark, eerie, unnerving and genuinely creepy noir-like thriller. It stars Robert Mitchum in a fear inducing performance as a sleazy ax-wielding ex-con named Max Cady who terrorizes a righteous but somewhat timid attorney (Gregory Peck) and his family. Scorsese’s film is a glossy and bloated Hollywood reinvention that replaces Mitchum with Robert De Niro who gives a cartoonish performance as Cady and we’re asked to except the thuggish Nick Nolte in Gregory Peck’s gentle role. Not only is the casting questionable but the remake is devoid of the sublime subtlety on display in the 1962 film and I found myself laughing out loud at its bombastic use of Bernard Herrmann’s original score. Its ham-fisted and overwrought approach to the material failed to engage me seriously but somehow I managed to stay until the credits rolled. Maybe I just wanted to finish my popcorn? As is often the case, the film received rave reviews from critics and numerous Oscar nominations that left me scratching my head in confusion.


DAMAGE (1992)

God bless Juliette Binoche and Jeremy Irons. We’ve never seen a movie where either one of them does less than go for broke. Unfortunately, in Damage, ‘go for broke’ seems to mean share a nice, romantic . . . seizure.” – Peter Smith

Louis Malle’s DAMAGE is a passionless tale of adultery between a father (Jeremy Irons) and his son’s fiancée (Juliette Binoche). I never understood for a moment what drove these two incredibly dull characters together and I didn’t care. I appreciate a good erotic film aimed at adults but there was no eroticism to be found in DAMAGE. The numerous sexual encounters between Irons and Binoche (two actors I usually enjoy watching) are devoid of genuine chemistry and become increasingly clumsy, awkward, uninteresting and flat out comical. I was forced to stifle my laughter in the theater on numerous occasions but thankfully my companion found it all as amusing as I did. The one bright spot in this relentlessly dreary and unintentionally funny film is Miranda Richardson, who manages to rise above the tedious nature of DAMAGE and delivers an astonishingly heartfelt and powerful performance as Irons’ neglected wife. She’s the reason I stuck around until it ended even though I wanted to bolt towards the exit door many times.

This is a just a shortlist of some regrettable viewing experiences. There are other films I could include but now I’m going to toss this question to our readers. In the words of Dan Day, “What are the worst films you have seen in a theater?” Feel free to share your disappointments below!

32 Responses Regrettable Viewing Experiences? I’ve Had a Few!
Posted By Dan Day, Jr. : February 26, 2015 9:13 pm

Thanks for mentioning me and my blog–it is an honor to appear on TCM’s Movie Morlocks.

Posted By Kimberly Lindbergs : February 26, 2015 9:17 pm

My pleasure, Dan and thank you for inspiring me to think about my own worst movie theater experiences!

Posted By Autist : February 26, 2015 9:36 pm

Three words: “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”.

Posted By LD : February 26, 2015 9:40 pm

The first regrettable film that came to mind for me was A.I ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE. Kubrick’s project directed by Spielberg, it certainly had a pedigree but nothing could make me like that film. Thank you Kimberly for this post and therefore the opportunity to express my feelings. At the time it was in theaters I think I was the only person I knew who went to see it so no way to vent. Of course, I’m certain it will be somebody’s favorite film. Oh, well.

Posted By Gene : February 26, 2015 9:58 pm

Never saw Damage but I do recall it’s release was the first time I saw Binoche. In an interview she was asked how she dealt with all the nude scenes. Her response was to say the likes of “…Oh was I naked? We got into our roles so much I was not aware….”. I never could get the pretense of that out of my head. She redeemed herself, in my mind, in The English Patient but for a long time I could not take her seriously at all and would never want to see the film.

Posted By AL : February 26, 2015 10:24 pm

Excellent choices!!! add ZARDOZ for me.

Posted By Marjorie Birch : February 26, 2015 10:39 pm

Henry & June. How to make sex… pompous.

Posted By Qalice : February 26, 2015 10:58 pm

Yes to everything, comments included. Except that I didn’t think Scorcese’s “Cape Fear” was so bad because I hadn’t seen the original. Now that I have, I would never bother to see the remake. My addition to this list is The Lone Ranger with Johnny Depp. I saw it for free and was still tempted to walk out!

Posted By Danny Reid : February 26, 2015 11:32 pm

One of the first films I ever saw without parental supervision was the 96 Godzilla. That was the film that taught me to hate.

Another bad experience: seeing Terminator 3 after a shift at the same movie theater only for a ceiling tile to dislodge and hit a customer, so I had to skip the movie to go get management. The customer really just wanted us to leave him alone and let him finish the movie, too.

Posted By M.T. Fisher : February 27, 2015 2:09 am

Muppet Treasure Island.

Posted By Sharon : February 27, 2015 2:54 am

I don’t know oliviachel but I wish to repeat her comment, word for word and shot for shot, and apply it to the remake of PSYCHO. It would have been less insulting to colorize the original, if that was the only thing keeping the under-thirties from watching it.

Posted By Gamera2000 : February 27, 2015 2:59 am

The first movie I remember going to see at the shows that I really hated wss Saturn 3. And I can usually find something redeeming in most films.

Posted By Brian : February 27, 2015 5:23 am

Expected to dislike Interview With A Vampire and enjoyed it. So I had high hopes for Queen Of The Damned. I tried to tough it out but halfway through I realized life is too short.

Posted By Jenni : February 27, 2015 1:46 pm

Conan the Barbarian. Husband, who was boyfriend at the time, really wanted to see it and as it was Thanksgiving break, got his whole family to go too. The rest of us had a hard time not laughing outloud at some of the scenes. To this day, Husband is the only person who thought it a good movie!

Posted By Marty : February 27, 2015 2:08 pm

Here’s a stinky list:
. Whiffs
. Spys Like Us
. Deal of the Century
. Starship Invaders
. The Big Fix
. Neighbors

Shall I continue?

Posted By David Bird : February 27, 2015 3:14 pm

Being taken to see St. Elmos’Fire by two female friends. It was utterly dire drivel, but I stoically said nothing. Then, to my delighted surprise, around forty minutes in, they asked me would I mind if we left, as they were bored. Miracles do happen!

Posted By Emgee : February 27, 2015 8:58 pm

Cape Fear Scorsese style gave me a headache about ten minutes in because of the “inventive” camera work and garish colors. Worst. Remake.Ever.

“rave reviews from critics and numerous Oscar nominations that left me scratching my head in confusion.”
I had that with There Will Be Blood; spending 3 (!) hours with the most bland and obnoxious people imaginable. Not a good night out.

Posted By Pamela Porter : February 27, 2015 9:08 pm

I left at the kitchen table sex scene (yawn) of the remake of “The Postman Always Rings Twice”.

And I got in *free*

Posted By george : February 27, 2015 9:33 pm

Taking a date to see CRUMB (great documentary, but maybe the worst date movie ever) was a regrettable experience. Ditto for DePalma’s SCARFACE, another bad date movie.

My most regrettable viewing experience in the last year was HORRIBLE BOSSES 2, one of the worst movies I’ve ever paid to see in a theater.

Posted By John : February 27, 2015 9:58 pm

Joy in the Morning. Still trips the ol’ gag reflex.

Posted By GuyD : February 28, 2015 2:15 pm

(The first regrettable film that came to mind for me was A.I ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE … At the time it was in theaters I think I was the only person I knew who went to see it so no way to vent. Of course, I’m certain it will be somebody’s favorite film. Oh, well.) – Hello!

Posted By LD : February 28, 2015 2:27 pm

GuyD-Just assume I have no taste. LLAP

Posted By Rose : February 28, 2015 6:50 pm

Out of Africa which one best picture was one of the worst movies I ever saw in a theater. I thought it was going to end three or four times before it actually did. I did not like the characters much even though they were real-life people. It underused the African landscape, it seemed to me. Robert Redford was laughable. Blixen seemed patronizing. What was the point of this film? Maybe I missed something.

Posted By george : February 28, 2015 9:08 pm

It sometimes helps to lower your expectations before you enter a theater. If you expect a flawless masterpiece, you’ll almost always be disappointed. Masterpieces don’t come along that often.

I remember going to drive-ins as a teenager expecting junk, and being pleasantly surprised by the likes of ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, DEATH RACE 2000

I lowered my expectations for HORRIBLE BOSSES 2, but not low enough.

Posted By george : February 28, 2015 9:14 pm

Oops, hit send too soon. Continuing second graf:

I remember going to drive-ins as a teenager expecting junk, and being pleasantly surprised by the likes of ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, DEATH RACE 2000, RABID, SUSPIRIA, etc.

Heck, even schlock like THE POM POM GIRLS and SATAN’S CHEERLEADERS could be entertaining, if approached in the right frame of mind. And a double bill of INFRA MAN and GODZILLA VS. MEGALON left me in pain … from laughing so hard.

Of the movies mentioned here, I thought CAPE FEAR, CONAN THE BARBARIAN and A.I. were good movies. I’d love to see THE BIG FIX again, if Universal ever releases it on DVD.

Posted By jim` : February 28, 2015 10:30 pm

_Deathwatch_, with none other than Leonard Nimoy.

I walked out on that.

Posted By george : March 1, 2015 1:08 am

If you want to talk about truly painful movie experiences, how about 1978′s MOMENT BY MOMENT, with John Travolta and Lily Tomlin? It was virtually unwatchable.

Strangely enough, Universal has never released this film on home video — not on VHS or DVD. Rumor has it that Travolta and Tomlin are paying the studio to keep it locked in the vault. Of course, I’m sure that’s only a rumor …

Posted By Jody Morgan : March 1, 2015 1:25 am

I don’t go to the theater very often, so I do my best to make sure it’s a movie I won’t feel I’ve wasted my time on. Friends dragged me out to Lost in Space, The Waterboy, and Armageddon, none of which I liked though none of them quite reached the point that I hated them. Of the movies I chose on my own to go see, Cars 2 and Ice Age: Continental Drift avoided falling below “mediocre” and into “genuinely bad” only because I really liked the animation in both of them.

Posted By oystercrakker : March 1, 2015 2:56 am

I’ve walked out a zillion times — often irritating & alienating the friends I was with even though I always tried to show up at exit time to meet them in the theatre … But sometimes when a movie starts getting on my nerves, I just C-A-N-T T-A-K-E I-T!!!

That even happened when I was with a hot girl in the case of “Frankenhooker” … (But she already had two boyfriends at once so I knew it was going to stay platonic with us anyhow, so …)

By the way, I think the Scorsese Cape Fear is a lot of fun if you view it as camp … Especially the infamous improvised scene, which if memory serves goes something like this –

JL: “You’re … you’re not my drama teacher, are you? .. You’re that man who poisoned my dog … But, um, I’m kind of liking the whole thumb-in-my-mouth vibe … So, yeah, keep that going please

RdN: “Those ridiculously slutty, slack vowel sounds make your silly accent almost as preposterous and unnatural as mine in this cheesy flick .. But uh, hey, let me tell you about Henry Miller … I’ll drop off a copy of Sexus at your house soon for your perusal — right after I finish beating your dad’s mistress into a bloody pulp”

Well you get the idea …

Posted By george : March 1, 2015 3:42 am

I only walk out of a movie if it bores me, like THE GIVER did last year, despite Jeff Bridges and Meryl Streep. I don’t walk out if it offends me, because at least it’s engaging me on some emotional level. But if I’m nodding off to sleep, I’ll probably walk out.

Posted By Javier : March 1, 2015 6:40 pm

For me it was indeed ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, I remember going out of the theater angry! … and off the top of my head:


and many many more…

Posted By george : March 1, 2015 9:11 pm

A lot of people went to A.I. thinking it would be another E.T., another feel-good sci-fi movie about a boy, but Spielberg had moved beyond that. I think it’s probably the most underrated movie of his career.

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