by Jacob Thomas Jones
Making movies is hard. It’s one of the hardest things to pull off successfully, if one manages to pull it off at all with how few of them actually end up getting made. This is partly why so many film critics and pundits opt out of making “Worst” lists entirely. The creation of art is something to be celebrated in itself, and no one wants to tear down people who work incredibly hard to make their movies a reality. The Friendly Film Fan recognizes this wholeheartedly and wishes nothing but the best for anyone attempting to mount a miracle task such as filmmaking.
Unfortunately, not every movie can be good, even with a lot of effort; in fact, there were any number of disappointments from the cinematic year of 2023 (you can view that list here), from superhero movies at least temporarily going bust to a lack of vision from some tried-and-true animation studios to brilliant concepts wasted on poor execution. And yet, inevitably, there were also films that were so bad, so poorly conceived and executed, that they managed to be even worse. Our picks for these lists are not direct reflections on the filmmakers themselves or the people who work tirelessly to make these things happen. They are entirely chosen based on the quality of the films themselves as singular art pieces. Here are our picks for the ten worst movies of 2023.
10. Silent Night
John Woo is back in the action space with a film whose conceptual beginnings are full of potential but whose execution left a significant amount to be desired. An entire action movie devoid of dialogue is a cool concept, and with the right care, could have been one of 2023’s most underrated gems. Unfortunately, a lack of character development, poor editing choices, and some woefully underwritten stereotypes of villains rendered Silent Night not only one of the year’s largest wastes of potential, but also of audience’s time (even with a decent one-er action sequence thrown in for good measure).
The crux of 65’s premise – that Adam Driver and Ariana Greenblatt are actually members of an alien species that crash landed on earth 65 million years before humanity came to be – is a brilliant one; it’s so brilliant, in fact, that the reveal of this twist in the marketing for the film stings all that much more. Nevertheless, there really could have been something great here, had the script been in any way developed into something resembling an actual story. As it is, 65 is just two hours of these characters being in the same place at the same time while we know as much about them at the end as we did at the beginning. To take a premise like this and not only ruin the twist but then make it boring anyway is a recipe for one of 2023’s most sincere disappointments.
8. The Exorcist: Believer
William Freidkin’s The Exorcist is one of the greatest films ever made, full-stop (and might be the greatest horror film ever made if you consider Silence of the Lambs more of a thriller type). So when it was revealed that David Gordon Green, the man behind the Halloween reboot trilogy – of which the last two films were some of the worst of their respective years – would be helming a direct sequel to the 1973 classic, I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy. That said, the trailer was full of all the legacy sequel hallmarks every legacy sequel trailer has: a remixed version of the theme, a return of beloved characters, and a reworked tagline harkening back to the original film. Unfortunately, like the Halloween trilogy before it, Believer not only misunderstands why the original material works, its need for shock value and nostalgia bait crowd cheer moments ends up outright disrespecting the material itself. Ellen Burstyn is utterly wasted in this movie for all the marketing played up her return, and the film’s surprise ending cameo felt cheap and manipulative. The other two films in this new Exorcist trilogy are contractually obligated to be made, unfortunately, so this nightmare won’t be over for a while.
How do you do Speed in 2023? If you’re Retribution, the answer is that you steal the premise and forget all the key moments and plot points that made Speed make sense. Liam Neeson’s non-retirement from action franchises continues to be a thorn in not only his career’s side post-Taken, but all of our sides as well since they keep making just enough money that he keeps making more of them. And yet, somehow, they just keep getting worse…and worse…and worse. I really hope that his claim of retiring from action filmmaking and getting back to his dramatic roots comes to fruition soon, cause there’s not much more of this I can take.
6. Love Again
This is a bad movie in so many of the ways movies like it are bad movies, so that’s why it’s not as high on the list as some of the others, but if wasted potential wasn’t such a potent problem in this calendar year, it would most certainly be higher. A Celine Dion vanity project to advertise her new song, poorly disguised as a terribly executed story about love and grief, Love Again was sincerely one of the worst movies I saw this year, and if it wasn’t the most interesting character in the whole movie dying in its first five minutes cluing me in to that fact, the insane Skittles advertisements in the middle of otherwise rudimentary scenes would have. I really hope Priyanka Chopra Jonas’ agent starts believing more in her potential as an actress, because between this and Citadel, the year’s entertainment media has not been kind to her.
With the rise of A.I. in the film world, and especially in the wake of this summer’s WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, it seems unfairly insulting to insinuate that Ghosted could have been written by ChatGPT, but when the final product is this generic and seemingly driven by algorithms, it’s difficult not to feel that way despite oneself. Pitching itself as a sort of spy thriller rom-com, this film not only wastes the talents of Ana de Armas and Chris Evans but sucks any chemistry they otherwise might have had right out of the room (and that’s saying something, cause they have chemistry in Knives Out). Truth be told, I don’t even actually remember what the plot of the movie is; I just know I don’t wanna watch it again.
4. Spinning Gold
The story of Casablanca records, the label who signed Kiss and some other prominent acts, could have been an interesting one if it wasn’t so obsessed with itself to the point of parody. But like any over-indulged musical act, it just keeps going well past the point of comfort, all the while thinking that the real problem with its performance is the audience being subjected to it. Irreversibly miscast, cheap-looking, and filled with high school community stage-theater level dialogue, it embodies the exact opposite of the “show, don’t tell” rule of filmmaking, and I hated every minute of it. Jeremy Jordan, you deserve so much better.
If Spinning Gold is overindulgent towards record execs, Sweetwater takes that concept and applies it to the white guys who made sure Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton became a huge NBA star. White savior movies are still all the rage in cinema if you know where to look, but this one isn’t even well-made from a technical standpoint, and the writing verges on parody levels of that kind of storytelling. It constantly goes out of its way to demonstrate how the white coaches and owners of the teams went above and beyond to make Sweetwater the first Black star of basketball, but never once indulges the audience with a show of skill from the titular star himself or seeks to get to know him in any sincere way. I sincerely hope this is the beginning of the end for the white savior narrative biopic, because if they’re this poorly rendered all the time (and keep losing money), they’ll stop.
What looked like it could have been an interesting – if somewhat rote – film (is this guy insane or possessed?) quickly turned into lazy right-wing propaganda and evangelical posturing the moment the topic of abortion was brought up in the second act. Up to then, the film wasn’t exactly terrible, but it wasn’t attention-grabbing either. Afterwards, it actually goes so far as to insinuate its protagonist was going to murder someone due to possession, but the performances and direction are so poor that it would be obvious to anyone who could spot a grifter that the protagonist just picked up a weapon under the guise of possession so he could go on a fake Glenn Beck talk show a year later, turn his “experience” into a book, and profit. (This is all notwithstanding the fact that the supposed demon’s name is actually just “Nefarious.”) For a moment there, it seemed as if this film was actually trying something interesting; how sad that any intrigue was squashed so quickly.
1. Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey
Even worse than lazy right-wing propaganda, even more annoying than movies that are over-obsessed with themselves, and even more miserable an experience than movies that misunderstand their source material while trying to take advantage of it in the same genre space…are movies like Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey. Full disclosure: I wasn’t against the idea of this movie when it was first revealed; after all, any concept can be made into a great film, regardless of how odd the premise is initially – you just need the right story, craftsmanship, and care put into the making of it. Even when the trailers began dropping for it, the idea of Blood and Honey being so bad it’s good, as a sort of unintentional comedy, got me excited to sit in a room with a bunch of people to laugh and cheer at how dumb it was going to be. What a shame then, that the movie isn’t even so bad, it’s good. It’s just a miserably bad, lazily-crafted experience with poor characters, poor dialogue, some truly terrible effects, overlong sequences that go nowhere, stupid characters that are only stupid so the plot can happen, terrible production design, worse costuming, poor makeup, and not even one minute of enjoyable slasher absurdism. Unfortunately, it made money, so it looks like we’re getting a sequel. God help us all.
And those are our picks for the Top 10 Worst Movies of 2023! What were some 2023 movies you saw and hated? Let us know in the comments section below, and thanks for reading!
- The Friendly Film Fan