Amanda, by IDing my top choice, reminds me that I’m never one to turn down a pointless list, so I might as well get to it. My one condition, which seems implicit, is that the movie have some reputation for quality; otherwise, how are you going to piss people off? Generally, to hate a movie it has to be more than inept. So, a few movies I’ve always hated:
Natural Born Killers Saw it at the opening night of the Monteal Film festival, leading to an intense public argument with friends who considered it a masterpiece. Exemplified what it’s allegedly satirizing. But will be very instructive for those of you who were unaware that tabloids cover the news somewhat differently than the National Journal.
Dances With Wolves I can’t top Pauline Kael: “This film was made by a bland megalomaniac. They should have called him ‘plays with camera.’”
Pretty Woman I admit, this movie is so creepily misogynist it brings out the left-Medvedite even in me. But having said that, from D.H. Lawrence to the Rolling Stones to Phillip Roth to Spike Lee I’ve admired the work of countless artists who have serious issues with women; aesthetic quality makes up for a lot. Needless to say, that’s not an issue here. (Honorable mention: True Lies. Worse than the grossness of the sexism is that is stops the movie dead for a significant period of time to engage in it.)
Dead Poet’s Society Prettily made, and taps into a particular teenage solipsism so ruthlessly, that many seem not to notice that it’s conceived and written on the level of an after-school special, particularly with respect to its one-dimensional morality play; the evil parents and teachers anticipate Sean Hannity’s books about liberals.
Before Sunrise Perhaps not the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but certainly way, way up there on the pretention-to-achievement ratio. Boring as church, too.
Absolute Power There are some people who consider Clint Eastwood the country’s pre-eminent filmmaker. I would like to think that they haven’t seen this.
The Rock There seems to be some impression that Michael Bay is unfairly picked on, because he makes good popcorn movies. But the thing is, he doesn’t. The action sequences are completely inept (and as pretentious as any art-house wanker), edited to draw attention to the technique while not giving you any sense of where people are or what’s happening. Plus, this movie was the one millionth to feature an interminable car chase through the streets of San Fransisco; I expected to see Walter Matthau behind the wheel.
Batman Forever The movie that turned me into the kind of person satirized in The Squid and the Whale; after being dragged to it has become almost impossible to convince me to see “event movie” Hollywood product absent some promise of cash or sexual favors. Like paying 10 bucks to watch a 2-hour McDonald’s commercial. Runner up: Independence Day.
Mallrats/Chasing Amy/Dogma Please don’t make me choose among Kevin Smith movies. Dogma is the most pretentious and dull, while Chasing Amy and Mallrats are where to go for arch misogyny, and also feature Mr. Smith’s exceptionally annoying and untalented significant other.
The Sound of Music That ain’t music; it’s the sound of me puking. Runner-up: West Side Story.
On the other hand, since it shows up on virtually everybody’s list I’m contrarian enough to note that I kinda like The English Patient. Haven’t seen The Talented Mr. Ripley.
…in comments, Matt asks about the source of Bay revisionism. The ur-text is this Slate article, which hauls out every bad argument I’ve ever heard on the subjetct. (Particularly specious is his point that “[i]n fact, patching a bunch of quick cuts together is a massive undertaking in the editing room.” So it is. And then, making a good-looking commercial requires a lot of technical skill too. So what?) Note too that The Island scores a 50 at Metacritic and The Rock a 59, (Ebert is a fan of both, calling the latter “first-rate”) –pretty generous for genre pictures of no aesthetic distinction (scroll down the list on the left and you’ll note that these are certainly not films the critics generally hated.) And note that Pearl Harbor–which in my experience even Bay’s apologists won’t defend–got a fairly large number of respectful notices from major critics, with outright pans a minority. Critics have generally treated him far more generously than he deserved, and his movies are hardly the cultural touchstones that, say, Lucas’ are.