The 55 worst movies made by iconic directors — from Spielberg to Scorsese

TriStar PicturesSteven Spielberg’s ‘Hook.’

Most of the greatest film directors in history have swung and missed on occasion.

Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, and numerous other critically acclaimed directors have directed at least one movie that critics tore apart.

For this list, we chose 55 directors who have largely been praised by critics as masters of their craft, and we turned to the reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes to find out which of the films they have directed was the most critically panned.

We excluded a number of great directors who did not have a film in their catalogue with a critic score under 70%. (Stanley Kubrick, for instance, is not on this list, as his “worst” film, “Eyes Wide Shut,” has a 74% “Fresh” rating on the site.)

Here are the 55 worst movies made by iconic directors, ordered from the (relative) best to worst, according to their critic scores:

Alejandro G. Iñárritu — “Biutiful” (2010)

Roadside Attractions

Critic score: 65%

What critics said: “It’s the kind of film that congratulates the viewer on her tolerance for the spectacle of unrelieved misery.” – Slate

Guillermo del Toro — “Blade II” (2002)

New Line

Critic score: 57%

What critics said: “The only dread it inspires is in the possibility that its director prefers turning human flesh into CGI-enhanced mush over exploring genuinely frightening material.” – The Village Voice

Sergio Leone — “The Colossus of Rhodes” (1961)


Critic score: 57%

What critics said: “This ludicrous costume epic complete with hambone acting is interesting to film buffs because it is an early work by the king of the spaghetti Westerns, director Sergio Leone.” – TV Guide

David Lynch — “Dune” (1984)

MCA Universal

Critic score: 56%

What critics said: “This movie is a real mess, an incomprehensible, ugly, unstructured, pointless excursion into the murkier realms of one of the most confusing screenplays of all time.” – Chicago Sun-Times

Wes Anderson — “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” (2004)

Touchstone Pictures

Critic score: 56%

What critics said: “If there’s anything more tiresome in film today than hip irony, it is forced irony, and here comes a boatload.” – New York Daily News

Sofia Coppola — “Marie Antoinette” (2006)

screenshot/ ‘Marie Antoinette’

Critic score: 56%

What critics said: “Although it is purposely devoid of substance, it is still devoid of substance.” – Detroit Free Press

George Lucas — “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” (1999)


Critic score: 55%

What critics said: “Too busy and talky by half, overpopulated by a baffling array of aliens and robot ‘droids,’ ‘The Phantom Menace’ fails to engage the audience in its mythic quest ‘to restore balance to the Force.'” – Toronto Star

Robert Zemeckis — “The Polar Express” (2004)

Warner Bros.

Critic score: 55%

What critics said: “A train wreck of mind-numbing proportions.” – Wall Street Journal

Joel and Ethan Coen — “The Ladykillers” (2004)


Critic score: 55%

What critics said: “Most of this stuff isn’t worthy of the Farrelly brothers, let alone the Coen brothers.” – Ebert & Roeper

Werner Herzog — “Invincible” (2002)

Fine Line Features

Critic score: 54%

What critics said: “Feels less like a change in [Herzog’s] personal policy than a half-hearted fluke.” – Boston Globe

Alexander Payne — “Downsizing” (2017)


Critic score: 51%

What critics said: “The film, having launched a sprightly comic conceit, lets it glide away.” – The New Yorker

John Ford — “What Price Glory?” (1952)

20th Century Fox

Critics score: 50%

What critics said: “Anti-war film unfortunately never gels, drastically rewriting classic play, but does offer some caustic views of armies training young men to die in war.” – Classic Film and Television

Jean-Luc Goddard — “Sympathy for the Devil” (1968)

Cupid Productions

Critic score: 50%

What critics said: “The politics are as muddled as the art is (deliberately?) amateurish.” –TV Guide

Howard Hawks — “A Song is Born” (1948)

RKO Radio Pictures

Critic score: 50%

What critics said: “The whole picture, which is done in colour (we don’t know why), reflects the tedium resulting from the restriction of Mr. Kaye.” – The New York Times

Richard Linklater — “Bad News Bears” (2005)

Paramount Pictures

Critic score: 48%

What critics said: “More irksome is the ordained focus on plot undulation and simplistic motivation, as if nobody remembered that the first film was a social satire.” – Village Voice

Martin Scorsese — “Boxcar Bertha” (1972)


Critic score: 48%

What critics said: “‘Promising juvenilia’ is about the most one can say for it.” – Chicago Reader

David Fincher — “Alien 3” (1992)

20th Century Fox

Critic score: 46%

What critics said: “Good acting has salvaged many a poor script in the past, but not here.” – Time Out

Terrence Malick — “Knight of Cups” (2016)

Broad Green Pictures

Critic score: 45%

What critics said: “Light on story line, ‘Knight of Cups’ offers images closer to the visual tableaux of coffee table photography books than typical drama.” – Minneapolis Star Tribune

Ang Lee — “Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk” (2016)


Critic score: 45%

What critics said: “A gifted director ruining a good book by literalizing what a writer made us visualise for ourselves.” – Boston Globe

David Cronenberg — “M. Butterfly” (1993)

Warner Home Video

Critic score: 45%

What critics said: “When John Lone parades around in mascara and speaks in an asexual monotone, the film audience discovers itself staring at John Lone’s whiskers underneath his makeup.” –

Federico Fellini — “La Casanova de Fellini” (1976)

Produzioni Europee Association

Critic score: 43%

What critics said: “An ordeal rather than a pleasure, a spectacle that cries out to be endured rather than enjoyed, ‘Casanova,’ may be the perfect consummation of the distasteful conception Fellini had in mind.” – The Washington Post

John Huston — “Sinful Davey” (1969)

United Artists

Critic score: 43%

What critics said: “A bland, lethargic period comedy.” – Variety

Mike Nichols — “What Planet Are You From?” (2000)

Columbia Pictures

Critic score: 42%

What critics said: “Actual abduction may be preferable to the movie of the same name, but only if your kidnappers don’t torture you by forcing you to watch it.” – New York Post

Ava DuVernay — “A Wrinkle In Time” (2018)


Critic score: 40%

What critics said: “Disney’s version of the Madeleine L’Engle young-adult novel is a magical mystery tour minus the magic and mystery, and a great disappointment, since there were so many reasons to root for the film’s success.” – Wall Street Journal

Alfonso Cuarón — “Great Expectations” (1998)

20th Century Fox

Critic score: 38%

What critics said: “A meandering, stilted movie.” – San Francisco Chronicle

Tim Burton — “Dark Shadows” (2012)

Warner Bros.

Critic score: 37%

What critics said: “This is not so much a coherent movie as it is a long, expensive joke in search of a purpose.” – The New Yorker

Kathryn Bigelow — “The Weight of Water” (2001)


Critic score: 35%

What critics said: “A boring, pretentious muddle that uses a sensational, real-life 19th-Century crime as a metaphor for — well, I’m not exactly sure what — and has all the dramatic weight of a raindrop.” – Detroit Free Press

Jonathan Demme — “Last Embrace” (1979)

United Artists

Critic score: 33%

What critics said: “Belabored imitation Hitchcock.” – Las Vegas Review Journal

Steven Soderbergh — “The Good German” (2007)

Warner Bros.

Critic score: 32%

What critics said: “There’s a line between homage and mimicry, and Soderbergh has crossed it.” – Houston Chronicle

Woody Allen — “Wonder Wheel” (2017)

Amazon Studios

Critic score: 31%

What critics said: “‘Wonder Wheel’ will strike fans as an embarrassment and doubters as further evidence of decline – proof of Allen’s lack of interest or engagement in a world beyond his shrinking artistic comfort zone.” –Boston Globe

Peter Jackson — “The Lovely Bones” (2009)


Critic score: 31%

What critics said: “Jackson seems more at home in the afterlife than in this one, rendering this off-kilter project creepy and pretentious.” –CNN

Miloš Forman — “Goya’s Ghost” (2007)

Samuel Goldwyn Films

Critic score: 30%

What critics said: “Think of it as an ‘Amadeus’ that doesn’t work.” – Orlando Sentinel

Steven Spielberg — “Hook” (1991)

TriStar Pictures

Critic score: 29%

What critics said: “The exposition is so underlined and re-underlined, you could teach yourself to fly waiting for something to happen.” – The Washington Post

Alfred Hitchcock — “Juno and the Paycock” (1930)

British International Pictures

Critic score: 27%

What critics said: “A fairly deadly case of canned theatre that’s pretty close to what Hitchcock many years later would refer to as ‘photographs of people talking.'” – Chicago Reader

Robert Redford — “Lion for Lambs” (2007)


Critic score: 26%

What critics said: “There is much talk of paralysis in Robert Redford’s what’s-wrong-with-America movie ‘Lions for Lambs,’ and there is a whole lot of the same in the movie itself.” – Toronto Star

Ridley Scott — “A Good Year” (2006)

20th Century Fox

Critic score: 25%

What critics said: “Russell Crowe has many talents, but a gift for light comedy is not one of them.” – Rolling Stone

Robert Altman — “Ready to Wear” (1994)


Critic score: 25%

What critics said: “This sluggish, overlong, halfhearted satire feels like a movie that wanted to go somewhere but never got there.” –ReelViews

Clint Eastwood — “The 15:17 to Paris” (2018)

Warner Bros.

Critic score: 25%

What critics said: “A single act of heroism can truly transform a life, but that action does not necessarily make for a transformative motion picture.” – Los Angeles Times

Ron Howard — “Inferno” (2016)

Sony Pictures

Critic score: 22%

What critics said: “Ron Howard’s mostly lame adaptation of Dan Brown’s wholly lame novel.” – Vulture

Roman Polanski — “Diary of Forbidden Dreams” (1973)

Carlo Ponti Productions

Critic score: 22%

What critics said: “I wonder how much Carlo Ponti gave Roman Polanski to make ‘Diary of Forbidden Dreams.’ Ten cents would have been excessive.” –Chicago Sun-Times

Danny Boyle — “The Beach” (2000)

20th Century Fox

Critic score: 20%

What critics said: “‘The Beach’ is the kind of literary rubbish that makes you trace the patterns in the carpet while you’re supposed to be watching the screen.” – Observer

Spike Lee — “She Hate Me” (2004)

Sony Pictures Classic

Critic score: 19%

What critics said: “Succeeds in finding something to offend almost everybody.” – Orlando Sentinel

Ingmar Bergman — “All These Women” (1964)

Criterion Collection

Critic score: 17%

What critics said: “Ingmar Bergman, who has tackled religion, sin, sex, music and muddled mores in elliptical but artistically distinguished film style, appears to be confused by comedy and colour.” – The New York Times

Sidney Lumet — “Gloria” (1999)

Sony Pictures

Critic score: 17%

What critics said: “Sidney Lumet-directed dud that sprung from the singularly bad idea of remaking John Cassavetes’ oddball 1980 character study.” –Entertainment Weekly

Francis Ford Coppola — “Jack” (1996)

Hollywood Pictures

Critic score: 16%

What critics said: “Someone deserves a timeout for letting this mawkish misfire get to the screen.” – USA Today

Sydney Pollack — “Random Hearts” (1999)

Columbia Pictures

Critic score: 15%

What critics said: “Pollack appears to have taken lessons from Martin Brest about how to irritate and bore viewers with endless pauses in conversations.” – ReelViews

Oliver Stone — “The Hand” (1981)

Warner Bros.

Critic score: 14%

What critics said: “Inescapably cheesy.” –

Quentin Tarantino — “Four Rooms” (1995)


Critic score: 14%

What critics said: “The result is a batch of shrill, self-indulgent sketches that turn so wretched in spots you start to wonder if the filmmakers wanted them to be bad.” – San Francisco Chronicle

James Ivory — “Slaves of New York” (1989)

Sony Pictures

Critic score: 13%

What critics said: “The first thing I feel is a genuine dislike for the people in this film.” – Chicago Sun-Times

Elia Kazan — “The Arrangement” (1969)

Warner Bros.

Critic score: 13%

What critics said: “Kazan seems to have turned his search for identity into a callous soap opera, unworthy of a man of Kazan’s true talent.” – The New York Times

Mel Brooks — “Dracula – Dead and Loving It” (1995)

Warner Bros.

Critic score: 11%

What critics said: “Either this is the lamest Mel Brooks comedy ever or it’s too close to other contenders to make much difference.” – Chicago Reader

Harold Ramis — “Club Paradise” (1986)

Warner Home Video

Critic score: 11%

What critics said: “A frenetically unfunny and charmless movie.” – Los Angeles Times

Barry Levinson — “Rock the Kasbah” (2015)

Open Road Films

Critic score: 8%

What critics said: “An acclaimed film director, a legendary comic actor, lots of fun rock and pop songs, and a noble story at its core can’t save ‘Rock the Kasbah’ from being one hugely misguided dud.” – Los Angeles Times

John Singleton — “Abduction” (2011)


Critic score: 4%

What critics said: “Actual abduction may be preferable to the movie of the same name, but only if your kidnappers don’t torture you by forcing you to watch it.” – New York Post

Wiliam Friedkin — “Good Times” (1967)

Columbia Pictures

Critic score: 0%

What critics said: “The movie’s incredibly thin storyline seems to exist for the sole purpose of allowing Sonny and Cher to sing a lot of silly pop songs and appear in cheesy sketches.” – Reel Film Reviews

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