Digital Polyphony

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Top 25: Movie Turkeys

Doing a film like this made me realize one thing: there's no shortage of awful movies. Just making a "worst movie" list or "biggest box office bomb" list is pretty standard, so in the spirit of Thanksgiving I decided to kind of blend the two into a list of twenty five turkeys.

So what constitutes a "Turkey?" (other than merely being a bad movie?)

1) A big budget or star-studded film that SHOULD have been a huge hit yet was panned by critics and flopped at the box office.

2) A movie that is utterly awful yet inexplicably was a huge success. In other words, this isn't a list just about box-office bombs.

3) A film from an established director that was highly anticipated yet ended up a bad piece film. (Sometimes even the "worst" film from a great director is still better than the best some have to offer, so a film under this criteria has to be bad in the sense that it fails as a capable film).

This is one of those lists you could make endless. Feel free to add your own personal turkeys because there's countless of them on the farm that is Hollywood.

25: Vampires Suck

Ah, starting off with the film that inspired this little list. Vampires Suck comes from a long line of bad parody movies, starting with the Scary Movie films, moving into Epic Movie, Date Movie and of course Meet the Spartans. Those all perform about as expected: quick BO success and then fall of completely. Meet the Spartans might have been number one its first weekend, but it fell off in about a week.

Vampires Suck was in the Top 10 for three weeks and grossed over 80 million dollars. What's worse, the Twilight films or a bad film trying to make fun of Twilight?

Final Note: These parody turkeys are bleeding us dry.


24: Treasure Planet

A big-budget Disney adaptation of Treasure Island with a star-studded cast and beautiful animation. The fact it flopped isn't what really killed it. Disney has had plenty of flops yet the movies were quite good. It's just a bad movie.

 It's hard for me to show a sense of loathing of it. The animation is superb and visually its stunning. But a problematic film is just that, and busting at the box office on top of it all is just the tip of the iceberg considering this big-budget animated feature had a lot put on its shoulders to make Disney relevant again. 

Final Note: A turkey is a turkey no matter how nice it looks.



23: 10,000 BC

Roland Emmerich is the king of Turkeys.  Though not entirely his biggest turkey, it's damn close as 10,000 BC is a great example of a pointless film. Why did it need to be made? You could say that about a good number of Emmerich's films but this one, this specific one, was absolutely idiotic.

Honestly, I could have put any of Emmerich films on here and they would qualify easily, Godzilla being the other strong candidate I considered. 10,000 BC was just inexplicable. Truth is,'s expected from him, so maybe that's why this isn't placed higher on this list. But it doesn't matter, all the films on here are deserving in some way.

Final Note: Just one of many turkey's from Farmer Roland's farm.


22: Final Fantasy The Spirits Within

By the early 2000s, videogame developer Squaresoft was at an all time high. The helmer of Square's biggest franchise Final Fantasy, somehow got the company to ok funding a multi-million dollar, fully computer animated feature budgeted around 140 million dollars. After a slew of script rewrites and the filmmakers completely unfamiliar with the workstations and technology, that's double the initial budget.

You can't be too surprised with this one, though. It's a videogame developer making a feature length film simply because they had the money. Due to its disastrous performance, the company had more difficulties than ever staying afloat, they simply didn't have the money a film studio would normally have should a disaster like this take place, even putting into doubts of a potential merer they were to have with publisher Enix for videogames (Enix had considered backing out after the massive failure of the film). Since then, Sakaguchi left the company, many citing this failed venture as a result, and Square has been unable to have the financial videogame success since.

Final Note: Turkey is bad no matter what country it's from.

21: Death Proof

Ah, our first turkey for a filmmaker. Everyone under the sun was anticipating something special here. Afterall, this was Quentin Tarantino's follow up to the much-loved Kill Bill saga. Even when watching the Grindhouse film, and observing the fun brilliance of Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror and its b-movie glory, anticipation rose as you came closer to seeing the second feature of the bill: Death Proof.Then it started. Then it didn't go anywhere. Then Kurt Russel shows up and a severed leg hits the ground. Then there's an awesome car chase. Credits.

For a movie meant to be classic b-movie, grindhouse fare, it completely misses the mark as it takes itself way too seriously and moves far too slowly. As a Tarantino film, it again missed the mark because his characters and panache for dialogue is pretty much non-existent. It's a short about a car chase with awesome stunts but about an hour of padding.

Final Note: This Turkey is over priced and undercooked.

20: The 13th Warrior

If you saw this Antonio Banderas starrer, you'd swear it was made for two-nickles and a toothpick. Instead, it cost 85 million to make and directed by John McTeirnan (who has another movie on this list). The 13th Warrior was supposed to be in the vein of Conan the Barbarian (or at the very least Kull the Conquerer) yet this bore of a flick was just an absolute mess and failed at the box office.

Keep in mind Banderas was riding high (pun intended) off the Zorro fame. This was to be his next big action starrer...and it squashed it completely, put Banderas in hiding doing small indie movies until re-emerging in Spy Kids a couple years later...then squandering it again with Ecks vs. Server. Whoever his agents were at the time hopefully aren't anymore, they absolutely put the man in the wrong movies and nearly killed his career...starting with this one.

Final Note: This Turkey needed more seasoning.

19: Ishtar

With two Oscar winners and a couple nominated (including the director) under the title, surely you'll have a great picture, right?


What the hell happened with Ishtar? Hmmm, that should be a book title, because the film is inexplicably bad and a complete mess from beginning to end. It was like Spies Like Us but someone forgot to hire comedians to star in it. All fingers point to writer/director/producer/composer Elaine May who herself was previously (twice) Oscar nominated and worked with both Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman in years prior. She hasn't gotten behind the camera since. I suppose its failure wouldn't have been so notorious if it didn't cost a fortune to make in the first place.

Final Note: This Turkey is too dry and soulless.

18: Wild Wild West

Will Smith has his share of turkeys out there. This one, though, was as misguided missile without...guidance....

Really, though, if you know the story behind the making of the film, know the production problems, the budget issues, the script rewrites, this turkey is a no-brainer. Oh, it eventually made its money back as the weeks went on, but at what cost? Can't we think about the children here? Most of the problems of WWW is put on the shoulders of producer Jon Peters and the picture is a great example of having too many cooks in the kitchen but also a producer with too much control. You know what's sad, though? It's take of steampunk into its world would have been amazing if it had one ounce of a plot and story to go with it. Complete wasted potential.

Final Note: A turkey that thinks its a prize...but is just a flavorless hunk of meat.

17: Lost Horizon

Nothing says ineptitude like releasing a musical in a time when the musical was pretty much dead due to over-saturation. That and taking a classic Frank Capra film, that wasn't a musical mind you, throwing millions at it and getting a nice debt from it as a result. It's also smart to cast non-singing actors in singing roles and then re-dubbing them...badly.

It was star-studded and had a praised director at the helm. Then it all went horribly wrong as Lost Horizon flopped and has now vanished from existence as the studio refuses to release it on video (and has now for decades) and acknowledge its existence. Where did all those millions go? (If you want a reference, this turkey cost 12million to make, other movies of 1973 cost the following: The Sting - 5 million. Jesus Christ Superstar (an actual successful musical nominated for Oscars based on a Broadway hit) cost 13 million and the James Bond flick Live and Let Die cost merely 7 million. A lost "gem" if there ever was one.

Final Note: This Turkey will always be MIA.

16: 1941

You can see, somewhere in the film, that there's a lot of ideas working that on their own, might have been funny. This was to be a massive hit. It had some of the biggest stars of the time and was Spielberg was dubbed the "golden child" by Hollywood. It was supposed to be It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, and we instead get a young director that just isn't sure how to do comedy just yet and scenes that are painfully unfunny, out of place and disconnected.

In other words, it's a mess of a movie that is damn near unwatchable outside of being interested to see all the problems one movie can have. Despite that, it managed a few Oscar nods for its technical aspect, but it never earned an ounce of respect from audiences and critics. Hell, at least Hook had a sense of fun about it. 1941 doesn't know what the hell it is.

Final Note: This Turkey is eaten after the sides, and even then you don't feel like touching it.

15: The Greatest Show on Earth

It's DeMille. It won Oscars including Best Picture. It had massive stars. It was a huge hit at the box office...yet anyone who knows Hollywood history knows that much of what was lauded to the film is in question. The other films nominated that year: High Noon, The Quiet Man and Singing in the Rain. One of these is not like the other, and the reason why many feel The Greatest Show on Earth all stems to blacklists and questionable ethics (Variety, for example, gave it a good review, yet put it on a list of worst films of the year...). It's not a bad movie, dated and hard to watch today perhaps but not bad. It's the entire idea that greater films lost to it - films you will learn about and watch in college or have in your collection.

DeMille's The Greatest Show on Earth is one you probably forgot even existed.

Final Note: This Turkey smells funny.

14: Lady in the Water

"Diminishing returns" is M. Night Shyamalan in a nut shell. This pretentious, self-serving film might have been fine if it weren't handled with such amateurish style. The conceit is there, yet is completely mismanaged thanks to a convoluted script and a director who wrote himself into the film as the "savior of the world." If it wasn't for THAT aspect of it, then I might give Lady in the Water a pass and let it be, ala the Happening. Instead, I wouldn't dare reward Shyamalan with anything less than a big middle finger to his own ego on celluloid.

You might think I should put "Avatar: The Last Airbender" on here, but that at least had some imagination, vision and made a shitton of money. Lady in the Water is a completely needless mess of a movie from a director that didn't know what to do with his own ideas because he was too determined to showcase his own importance. It's a vanity project, but you need to earn your vanity projects.

Final Note: This Turkey keeps staring at its own reflection.

13: Year One

A huge cast of stars and a proven writer/director. This was the comedic counterpart to the likes of The Ten Commandments or King of Kings. Well, it was supposed to be that, but it's hard to tell exactly where it went wrong. Somewhere between the excessive bit parts and dull slapstick, I'm sure.

Perhaps its throwing so many ingredients into the pot that you realize the main ingredient, consistent and funny comedy, gets completely diluted by all the other different flavors. I think a lot of it has more to do with the ambition of it and that Ramis's usually style is just not a fit for something of this scope.

Final Note: This Turkey is a runt served for too many people.



 12: Shark Tale

There are a lot of mediocre animated features these days, Shark Tale alone probably set Dreamworks back a good decade behind Pixar to where they're only now starting to find an artistic and creative vision that rivals them. One of their earliest efforts, despite the star-studded cast, was really just an awful film from beginning to end.

Yet Shark Tale was a massive, huge hit...and one of the worst animated films in the past ten years. Because of its success, Dreamworks stayed with the formula that created it for all of its features until Kung Fu Panda changed it enough, and How to Train Your Dragon actually got it. Mediocrity at its best, and a huge hit for a completely forgettable film.

Final Note: This Turkey drowned a company's creativity for years, but they'll take the money, I'm sure. That might even be worse then.

11: Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Did you know this little gem is one of the biggest money-makers of all time? Yeah, and even before it was released there was already bad word of mouth of this completely sad effort from Ron Howard offering us one of his biggest misfires of an otherwise solid career.

The spirit of the Seuss classic was shamed the day this came out, and for some reason people fed it millions of dollars - not because they thought it might be good, but because it was a clever trick to take something so many people loved in its original book and cartoon form and reshape it into...whatever this is, then release it around the Holidays.  This thing was #1 at the box office for over a month, in the Top Ten even longer than that, and for what?

Final Note: This Turkey is old leftovers...and its cook should have known better.


10: Hudson Hawk

A failed idea if there ever was one, Hudson Hawk was to be Bruce Willis's next big star vehicle. It had all the elements to make it work and all the elements to be fun adventure...well on paper at least. Hudson Hawk is a pretty notorious turkey by now, but it's one that probably should never have been cooked in the first place. A mismanaged tone, unfunny comedy and Willis at some of his worst, it's a showcase of star with too much control and nowhere to go with it.

Though Willis has (obviously) bounced back, up until Pulp Fiction was he really seen as relevant again. Nobody wanted to touch the guy after this fiasco...though I think we all can be thankful it eventually worked out. Still, it's an example of something that, simply, never should have happened and is now disavowed by every person involved.

Final Note: This Turkey is still out on the farm searching for its head.


9: The Alamo

Sometimes a film needs to show restraint. It needs to be fine-tuned and with a lighter hand to handle drama, especially a period piece that's meant to focus on characters. Instead we get, what is best described, as the Micahel Bay approach. Only this isn't MIchael Bay. What Bay did to a horrendous Pearl Harbor picture, John Lee Hancock and the casting department at Touchstone did for The Alamo. That's really what it boiled down to: a trite display of boring action, melodramatic writing and bad acting making it all a joke.

Had it been in the hands of a more capable filmmaker and better cast,  The Alamo would have been a compelling drama and study of man's will. Instead of Ron Howard directing and Russel Crowe starring, as was meant to be, we have John Lee Hancock of My Dog Skip directing and Dennis Quad as Sam Houston.

Final Note: This Turkey is over-stuffed.

8: Norbit

Ahem....this...thing....100 million at the box office. You think Transformers 2 or Shark Tale were insulting and bad, someone needs to explain how this utterly horrible Eddie Murphy vehicle could have been such a hit.

Transformers 2 had its first film and just went awry, Shark Tale was from a company that didn't quite know how to work the animation world. Norbit...Norbit just came out of nowhere like a meteor that landed in a pile of shit. It's confounding to this day and I have no explanation as to how or why.

I mean, I don't even know what to write here. Nobody liked it, the critics hated it, yet it made a ton of money. A turkey if I ever saw one that makes the insane success of the Big Momma's Hose movies look acceptable.

Final Note: This Turkey was found on a curb and served at dinner.

7: Last Action Hero

The biggest action star of all time, and at the time, couldn't save Last Action Hero. How could something with so much going for it end up so bad? It had capable directors, writers, producers, a modest and tight budget for a pic like this and stars the biggest star in the world. It managed a profit, barely, but is now considered one of the worst flicks ever made.

Schwarzenegger had made bad movies before, but they were still entertaining, had direction and a story; they can be dubbed "guilty pleasures" for the most part. This one was just everywhere, wanted to do everything, be funny and it just couldn't manage anything at all. It's not a parody of action movies, which was what it was supposed to be, it's a parody of capable filmmaking.

Final Note: This Turkey was served too raw.

6) Pearl Harbor

I think you could take a number of Michael Bay films and place them along this list, but one in particular needs to really be acknowledged. The Box Office hit Pearl Harbor, a film with all the worst intentions combined with the worst execution of those intentions. This is history through the eyes of a man with ADD, and we all suffer from it as a result.

With questionable casting on top of the trite directing and stilted script, Pearl Harbor was panned by everyone under the sun. That didn't keep audiences away. This was Bay's follow up to Armageddon and had Ben Affleck back in the saddle. People went in droves. It's also a good counter-balance to another Bay turkey that just missed the list: The Island (aka Parts the Clonus Horror remake). At least people kind of wised up and didn't really go to that one. Pearl Harbor was so undeserving of its success that I would go as so far to call it insulting to the people that were actually there. If we all start looking at history through the eyes of Michael Bay, God help us....but he's done worse....

Final Note: Say your prayers before eating this turkey, it's tough to swallow.

5) Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

I can be lenient on a bad movie making a big Box Office splash. Lots have done it and it's popcorn entertainment for the sake of popcorn entertainment. But Revenge of the Fallen is utterly insulting. It's unabashedly racist, full of toilet humor and...well you might as well have had the Wanye's Brothers write it because that's about the level it has. Keep in mind when you see our little monkey-looking, Ebonics-speaking robots - the film was written by white people, directed by a white man and those guys are voiced by white men as well. How did anyone OK that one?

The first film, for what it was, worked. It was popcorn entertainment done right (well, right being relative to this movie at least). Then it got too big and crammed with too much that you can't make heads or tails of it. Yet, this film was an absolute monster hit because people loved the first one so much and will go to see it no matter what. It's called being "review proof" and is the poster child for it. An abysmal failure of cinema, even for popcorn-movie cinema. There's no excuse for how bad it ended up being and no excuse for the public giving it a billion dollars.

Final Note: This Turkey is too fat for its own good (and probably in blackface)

4) Cutthroat Island

The fact is this: Cutthroat Island killed an entire studio. They were banking on everything to have it be a hit. The path to failure for this film is legendary, starting with director Renny Harlin, a bankable director with hits, casting his girlfriend as the lead and shoving attached Michael Douglas aside (who promptly left the project). It then went through rewrites to give Davis more screentime, eventually giving her the actual lead role - the male counterpart was no longer relevant and they settled for Matthew Modine. 

It budgeted itself for around 90 million, reportedly costing around 110. It made about ten percent of that money back during its theatrical run. The result? The production company completely going bankrupt and Davis's career hasn't recovered since.

Incidentally Davis and Harlin reunited for the follow-up turkey, The Long Kiss Goodnight.

Final Note: This Turkey is scrawny

3) The Postman

Losing nearly 60 million dollars, nary a critic giving it decent review and everyone in the partially-full theaters debating if they should walk out makes The Postman a nice, fat Turkey for us to enjoy. A lot of people want to point to Waterworld, but believe or not, at least Waterworld had some imagination to it, and not only that at least it turned a profit (barely) and even received an Oscar nomination. The Postman is just a bland film that was based on a successful novel and was Costner's "grand" directorial followup to Dances with Wolves.

Expectations were huge and we found nothing worthwhile. Due to this being directly after Waterworld, Costner's career has never recovered and most people can no longer bring up the man without mentioning his back-to-back disasters.

Final Note: This Turkey is over-broiled.

2) Heaven's Gate

It was 1981. Director John Camino 's previous film, The Deer Hunter, took in a ton of Awards and to this day is considered one of the greatest films ever. His follow up? A film that managed to do the following:

1) Completely kill his career and put the career of its stars a step back (at least)

2) Was considered the biggest flop in film history at the time (and still one of the biggest) losing the studio 40 million dollars thanks to it being over-budget and over long on initial cut (five and a half hours)

3) Completely bankrupt the studio and it ended up being sold to MGM for a fraction of what it was probably worth a few years prior (this studio gave us Rocky, Annie Hall, The Pink Panther and the James Bond franchise to name a few)

How? Well, if you're going to build an entire town to shoot in and cost millions to make, you better make sure your film is big enough to get people in the seats to make some of that money back. Instead we got western rollerskaters.

1) Sahara

The thing cost 240 million dollars to make.

Let me retype that:

This thing cost 240 million dollars to make and it looks like it cost half that (of course, that's being nice. Half would be the budget of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie).

That is just inexplicable. How on earth could anyone over at Paramount OK anything with that type of budget, especially starring Matthew McConaughey who has never been a "huge star" in big-budget pictures like this? Or for that matter, put so much stock in an unproven director Breck Eisner who only directed one film before and it utterly flopped too!? This one is entirely on the studio. They had legal issues, budget issues, all sorts of issues and whoever "OK'd" that budget should be ashamed of themselves.

240 million on a completely unproven "name." Let me put that into perspective with other BO hits of the past ten years: The first Iron Man movie cost 140 with also an unproven action star and director. The third Pirates movie cost 300 but already had established itself as a franchise and made nearly a billion back. The combined budget of all three Lord of the Rings films is about 280 million and Transformers 2, another Turkey on this list, was around 200M (again with proven director/name recognition). Go figure.

Final Note: This Turkey should have been left on the farm.

Honorable Mention: The Adventures of Pluto Nash

Though this isn't just about Box Office bombs, I have to give mention to the biggest one of all time. Now, honestly, I don't think anyone expected anything "good" from the film, which is why it's only getting an Honorable Mention, but I can't say anyone anticipated it to end up as utterly awful and as big of a flop as it ended up being.

Others for the list:
One From the Heart, any Wayne's Brothers film, Godzilla, Staying Alive, Dune (would have made it, but cult status is a plus in my book),  Nothing But Trouble, Stealth, The Star Wars prequels, Evan Almighty, Hulk, Planet of the Apes, Mission to Mars, The Black Dahlia, Patch Adams, A Sound of Thunder, Bananas, Hannibal, Torn Curtain, Jack, The Lovely Bones, Batman and Robin (the franchise was dead well before this one, so it was true to form). Town and Country, Alexander



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