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33 Hilariously Bad Reviews of Classic Movies

Hindsight really is 20/20.

Movie critics can make or break a new release's potential success. And while picking the duds is easy, what requires more skill is identifying when you're watching what will eventually become a classic. In fact, even the most famous film critics can have a hard time recognizing greatness. Take Stanley Kauffmann of The New Republic, for example. In his review of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, he described the film as "so dull, it even dulls our interest in the technical ingenuity for the sake of which Kubrick has allowed it to become dull." Or how about Joseph McBride, a Variety critic who thought he hit the nail on the head when he dismissed Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas, one of the best gangster movies ever made, as "dramatically unsatisfying." Here are 33 more hilariously bad reviews of what would become beloved, timeless cinematic classics.

The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

at ats from star wars the empire strikes back

"The more one sees the main characters, the less appealing they become. Luke Skywalker is a whiner, Han Solo a sarcastic clod, Princess Leia a nag, and C-3PO just a drone."


The Wizard of Oz (1939)

the wizard of oz
IMDB/1939 Warner Home Video

"It has dwarfs, music, Technicolor, freak characters, and Judy Garland. It can't be expected to have a sense of humor as well, and as for the light touch of fantasy, it weighs like a pound of fruitcake soaking wet."

Otis Ferguson, The New Republic

Ben-Hur (1959)

ben hur
IMDB/Warner Bros.

"If you can keep both eyes open through its whole three-hour length you're a better man than I am."

Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

Jaws (1975)

jaws boat scene - best summer movies
MCA/Universal Home Video

"It's a measure of how the film operates that not once do we feel particular sympathy for any of the shark's victims… It puts good actors to the test. They have to work very hard just to appear alive."

Vincent Canby, The New York Times

The Godfather: Part II (1974)

Al Pacino in The Godfather: Part II
IMDB/Paramount Pictures

"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."

Vincent Canby, The New York Times

A Star Is Born (1976)

a star is born
IMDB/Warner Bros.

"[Barbra] Streisand's notion of acting is to bulldoze her way from one end of a line to the other without regard for anyone or anything; you can literally feel her impatience for the other performer to stop talking so she can take over again."

John Simon, New York Magazine

Apocalypse Now (1979)

apocalypse now
IMDB/Zoetrope Studios

"A dumb movie that could have been made only by an intelligent and talented man."

Richard T. Jameson, The Weekly

Casino Royale (1967)

james bond casino royale
IMDB/Famous Artists Productions

"I can't think of a folk hero in human history with fewer redeeming qualities than James Bond. He's not even a human being, but just a department store dummy going bang-bang… Of course, this reviewer is too wise in the ways of brainwashing to believe that any of his readers will believe him. So see it for yourself, but don't blame me."

Andrew Sarris, Village Voice

Clueless (1995)

Alicia Silverstone and Stacey Dash in Clueless (1995)
IMDB/Paramount Pictures

"Clueless has a meandering plot that has something to do with Cher doing nice things for people—if they're wearing the right clothes, that is… It's like biting into a tamale and finding it filled with Marshmallow Fluff."

Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

Alien (1979)

alien still frame
IMDB/Twentieth Century Fox

"For the most part, things simply jump out and go 'boo!'"

Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

Pretty Woman (1990)

julia roberts in pretty woman
IMDB/Touchstone Pictures

"No one has yet made a romantic comedy in which, say, a toxic-waste dumper falls for a terrorist hijacker. (They meet cute in an airport check-in line, and she's got a bomb in her luggage.) But Pretty Woman comes close to finding the least admirable characters to build a feel-good movie around."

Richard Corliss, Time

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

the shawshank redemption is movie you should watch
IMDB/Castle Rock Entertainment

"I don't mean to be cynical, but isn't prison life supposed to be a little less nostalgic than this?"

Ed Gonzalez, Slant

The Exorcist (1973)

the exorcist still frame
Warner Bros. Pictures

"A chunk of elegant occultist claptrap… The devil, it seems, for all his supposed powers, can't break and enter without sounding like Laurel and Hardy trying to move a piano."

Vincent Canby, The New York Times

Forrest Gump (1994) 

forrest gump tom hanks highest-grossing summer movies
Paramount Pictures

"Judging by the movie's enduring popularity, the message that stupidity is redemption is clearly what a lot of Americans want to hear."

Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Anthony Quinn, Peter O'Toole, and Omar Sharif in Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
IMDB/Horizon Pictures

"Seldom has so little been said in so many words."

Bosley Crowther, The New York Times

Fight Club (1999)

fight club movie scene, movie quotes
IMDB/Fox 2000 Pictures

"Fight Club is a thrill ride masquerading as philosophy—the kind of ride where some people puke and others can't wait to get on again."

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

The Matrix (1999)

the matrix
Warner Bros.

"If anybody ever wanted to see [Keanu] Reeves shaved naked and covered with slime, now is the chance. He plays a computer hacker who stumbles into a vague awareness that this world is but the dim reflection of a controlling cyberworld 'out there'… We know he is puzzled about which reality he currently occupies because he squinches up his eyebrows."

Bob Graham, The San Francisco Chronicle

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

e.t. the extra-terrestrial highest-grossing summer movies
IMDB/Universal Pictures

"Evidently, he (E.T.) is one of those autistic genius types that Hollywood adores—capable of crafting an interstellar communicator out of toys and cutlery, but completely inept at basic social skills."

Don McKellar, Cinema Scope

Gladiator (2000)

IMDB/Universal Pictures

"It employs depression as a substitute for personality, and belief that if the characters are bitter and morose enough, we won't notice how dull they are."

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

Sixth Sense (1999)

the sixth sense haley joel osment bruce willis
IMDB/Buena Vista Pictures

"I was not only surprised by the film's final twist, I wasn't even looking for one. I just thought I was watching a bad movie."

Jack Mathews, New York Daily News

Halloween (1978)

halloween still frame
IMDB/Falcon International Productions

"With the seductive tracking shots and the repetitive music, the film stops and starts so many times before anything happens that the bogeyman's turning up just gets to be a nuisance."

Pauline Kael, The New Yorker

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

reservoir dogs still frame

"Here is the ideal date movie, assuming you're dating a psychopathic sadist with a high tolerance for dillydallying."


Titanic (1997)

titanic still frame
IMDB/Paramount Pictures

"[James] Cameron has never been known for his dialogue, but Titanic carries some stinkers that wouldn't make the final draft of a Days of Our Lives script."

David Edelstein, Slate

Black Swan (2010)

natalie portman in black swan
IMDB/Fox Searchlight Pictures

"Not just any kind of trash, it's high-art trash, a kind of 'When Tutu Goes Psycho' that so prizes hysteria over sanity that it's worth your life to tell when its characters are hallucinating and when they're not."

Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

The Shining (1980)

The Shining

"With everything to work with, director Stanley Kubrick has teamed with jumpy Jack Nicholson to destroy all that was so terrifying about Stephen King's bestseller … The crazier Nicholson gets, the more idiotic he looks."


Psycho (1960)

Janet Leigh in Psycho (1960)
IMDB/Shamley Productions

"The one thing we would note with disappointment is that, among the stuffed birds that adorn the motel office of [Anthony] Perkins, there are no significant bats."

Bosley Crowther, The New York Times

Se7en (1995)

still frame of se7en
IMDB/New Line Cinema

"So chic, studied, and murky it resembles a cross between a Nike commercial and a bad Polish art film… Set in a rainy, portentously unnamed burg (The City of Dread?) where overhead lighting has yet to be invented, Seven seems to believe that if you drop enough references to Dante and Chaucer you have achieved seriousness."

David Ansen, Newsweek

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

fear and loathing in las vegas
IMDB/Universal Pictures

"This movie inspires no fear in me, but loathing? Yes. Oh yes."

Barbara Shulgasser, Examiner

No Country for Old Men (2007)

no country for old men still frame
IMDB/Paramount Vantage

"An exasperating and self-defeating experience, rather like listening to a nymphomaniac extol the virtues of celibacy."

Ryan Gilbey, New Statesman

Vertigo (1958)

James Stewart and Kim Novak in Vertigo (1958)
IMDB/Paramount Pictures

"The old master has turned out another Hitchcock-and-bull story in which the mystery is not so much who done it as who cares."


Inception (2010)

cillian murphy in inception
IMDB/Warner Bros.

"One way to salvage some fun with this blunderbuss would be to fall asleep while watching and dream up a better movie yourself. Try it. You'll avoid a headache."

Kelly Vance, East Bay Express

Twilight (2008)

twlight still frame
IMDB/Summit Entertainment

"I've had mosquito bites that were more passionate than this undead, unrequited, and altogether unfun pseudo-romantic riff on 'Romeo and Juliet'."

Marc Salov, The Austin Chronicle

Blue Velvet (1986)

blue velvet
IMDB/De Laurentiis Entertainment Group

"Blue Velvet is like the guy who drives you nuts by hinting at horrifying news and then saying. 'Never mind.'"

Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

And to learn about some more cinematic blunders, check out these 50 Original Titles for Hit Movies We're So Glad Didn't Happen.

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