Thursday, December 1, 2022

Movie Churches' Bottom Ten Worst Films

As you read this, remember that any list of worst films doesn't really list the worst films. The worst film ever made was probably a community college film class project in Staten Island or Terre Haute or Fresno. They didn't have any money to make the film, and it was made only to fulfill a general ed requirement. Fortunately, most of us won't ever see the film (unless we happen to be in the same class -- and then we'd have the satisfaction that at least our film wasn't that bad). 

But it’s one thing to make a bad film with little talent and few resources. It's really painful for an audience to watch a bad film made by a studio with millions of dollars and an experienced cast and crew.

It’s also worth noting that some bad films are very entertaining. For instance, Ed Wood’s Plan Nine from Outer Space is often listed as one of the worst films of all time, but it’s quite funny with its wooden performances and cardboard tombstones -- and I’d rather watch it again than many Best Picture Nominees.

There are two things likely to earn a film a place on this list. First, being boring. I’d much rather watch an outrageous film that is poorly acted and written than a “well-made” film in which nothing happens. (I’m not talking about a film like My Dinner with Andre. Sure, all that “happens” in that film is two men having dinner, but so much “happens” in their conversation, and it is quite entertaining.)

The other thing that earns a film a place on this list is the film’s message. Since ultimately this is a blog about faith, there are films that present lies as the truth and hope that is really despair. Those are the worst films in my opinion. 

Anyway, here are films I really couldn't stand -- the worst ten:

10) The Redeemed aka Act of Contrition (2019) 
It seems like I reviewed this film just last week. Because it was just last week I reviewed this film. It was the last film I watched for this blog and one of the worst. Global Genesis Group, producers of many low-budget films, brought us this mess about a member of a mob family trying to reconcile with his family before he dies. Or something like that. It was such a mess of wooden acting, lecturing dialogue, flashbacks, and voice-overs that I couldn’t properly follow the plot. And I didn’t care about the plot. And the clergy in the film were awful.

9) God’s Club (2015)
I’ve watched many Christian films for this blog, and as a rule, they're bad. Frankly, I have some sympathy for the filmmakers. I’ve written a lot of skits and Christmas programs for churches, and it's tough to balance the message with entertainment with realism. Propaganda isn’t necessarily bad, but it is very difficult to do well. If the message is “love your neighbor as yourself,” that’s swell -- but if the message comes out preachy, few will be reached with it. 

The worst are Christian films that don’t even get the message right. God's Club is one of those stories of good Christians versus bad unbelievers. A town that doesn't seem to have a single church, but does have a pretty good sized high school (I don't believe such a town exists in the United States). There's a Christian club at that high school that the bad secularists are trying to destroy. 

Worst of all, the film includes bad theology: according to it, any suicide leads to the lakes of hell. That's not supported by Scripture, and it's damaging to people suffering from mental illness (and their loved ones).

And be wary if Stephen Baldwin is in the cast. If Corbin Bernsen and Lorenzo Lamas are in the cast as well, really, there's no hope.

8) Van Helsing (2004) 
I admit it, I have a fondness for horror films, even poorly made ones. But this big-budget film starring Hugh Jackman has no excuse for being so bad. Universal has a rich heritage with their films about Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, and the Wolf Man, but this film is a sorry hash. Worst of all (for us here at Movie Churches, anyway) is the character who drinks, curses, and sleeps around but explains, “I’m a friar, not a monk.”

7) The Confessor aka The Good Shepherd (2004) 
Christian Slater made some pretty good films in the 20th century -- we even looked at a couple of them here in Movie Churches (Heathers and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves). But in the 21st century, his films have been, as a rule, direct-to-DVD or streaming and awful. We’ve featured some of his bad films as well as the good ones: The Way of the Wicked, Sacrifice, and worst of all, The Confessor.

In this film, confessions at a Catholic church are tape-recorded and used for blackmail. Of course, there’s murder and fundraising, most of the worst stuff found in the Roman Catholic Church but not, you know, presented in an interesting manner.

6) Robin Hood (2018) 
I just mentioned a Robin Hood film, and we'll look at another version in Movie Churches’ best films. This film, though, tosses the traditions of the character away and makes the film fit the mold of any other modern action film. Plus it goes out of its way to make the church as abhorrent as possible.

5) The Sandpiper (1965) 
Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor made eleven films together, and some of those films were excellent, like The Taming of the Shrew and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? They also made some bad ones. Cleopatra was such a bomb it nearly bankrupted a studio. The Sandpiper was one of the bad ones.

Burton plays an Episcopal priest who runs a parochial school. He’s also married to Eva Marie Saint. But when he meets the beautiful mother of one of his students, he considers leaving his ministry and marriage for the woman. Is there a more difficult question in ministry than blonde or brunette?

4) Shanghai Surprise (1986)
No doubt much of the marketing for Burton and Taylor films was based on their offscreen romance. That was also the marketing hook for this film starring newlyweds Madonna and Sean Penn. It's the only film they made together -- no one wanted another after that. It does make one wonder who thought, “Do you know who would make a great missionary? Madonna!”

3) God’s Not Dead (2014) 
This was the film that let studios know that Christian films could make money. Sure The Passion of the Christ had made millions a decade before, but that was a Mel Gibson film. This film showed that a well-marketed Christian film could make money with no more star power than Duck Dynasty. This might have been fine, but in the cheesy world of Christian film, this piles the cheddar even higher.

There are many things I dislike about the film, but among them is that it sparked getting into an argument with a stranger in the theater. One of the plot lines in the film is about a Muslim father and daughter who are torn apart when the daughter becomes a Christian. As we watched this film in a discount theater, a man nearby scoffed, "That would never happen!"  I responded, "Yes it does." It doesn’t take much googling to find stories about honor killings in the western world, but this movie presents the situation in such a melodramatic way, I could understand the scoffing.

The worst part of the film comes at the end when two pastors pray with a man, who receives Christ as his savior just before he dies from injuries due to an auto accident. After he dies, the pastors celebrate, virtually high-fiving each other for their evangelistic victory. It's one of the more tasteless displays of religiosity I have ever seen.

2) Love Actually (2003) 
Yes, I know many people love this film. It’s a Christmas staple for many. But this film has no idea about what Christmas is all about. I really hate this celebration of debauchery.

1) License to Wed (2007) 
I met Robin Williams one time. I liked him very much. He did a number of great films. This was not one of those films.

The film is about a pastor of a church in an undeterminable denomination who becomes a psychopath in premarital counseling. Watching this film would make any normal person want to stay far, far away from any church or clergy. The whole point of this blog is to demonstrate that the world could use more good churches and good clergy.

And yes, I am ranking William’s Reverend Frank below pastors who were thieves and murderers. This was a miserable film.

For the sake of this blog, I watched these bad films all the way through. Sometimes twice. This blog now is almost done, and I can quit miserable films like that a few minutes in. So can you.

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