Weekend Roundtable: How Did This Movie Get Made?

Have you ever watched a movie trailer that was so jaw-droppingly awful that you couldn’t believe the film got made in the first place? Of course you have. With the releases of ‘Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters’ and ‘Movie 43’, this week brings us two such apparent dogs. For today’s Roundtable, I thought it would be fun to discuss other movies that look or sound so incredibly dumb or awful that it seems inconceivable that they ever made it past a pitch meeting, much less were actually produced and released to theaters.

To be clear about the intent, we’re looking for movies that you made an immediate snap judgment against after hearing their titles or watching their trailers. Your first reaction should have been: “Why was this made? Who would ever pay to see this? This looks like the worst thing in the world.” It is not required that you’ve actually seen the movie. Frankly, the idea is that the movie looked so bad that you decided you never wanted to watch it.

One more criteria: These must be movies that were released to theaters, no direct-to-video or Syfy channel crap. Someone somewhere must have had to purchase a ticket to see it.

Shannon Nutt

I remember that when I first saw the trailer for ‘Mirror Mirror‘, I wondered how anyone could have thought it was a good idea. Did someone at the studio see (steal?) a script for ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ and decide to rush a similar (albeit sillier) version into theaters first? Did Julia Roberts contractually owe a film to someone? Had Armie Hammer decided he was becoming too much of a respected actor? I actually have no idea how good or bad ‘Mirror Mirror’ turned out to be (it had decent global box office returns and mixed reviews), as the trailer turned me off from ever actually wanting to see the movie. I do know that whimsical fairy tale flicks rarely work. Alas, we’ve got another such film headed our way this year with Bryan Singer’s ‘Jack the Giant Slayer’. What’s next, ‘Goldilocks Bears It All’?!

Luke Hickman

When it comes to kids’ movies, I either love ’em or hate ’em. It’s obvious what makes the good ones good, and I can understand why families might even enjoy the bad ones – but there’s absolutely no excuse for ‘Gnomeo & Juliet‘. Unless the executive who greenlit it owned stock in Expedia, I can’t see why any intelligent studio would ever push this piece of colorful ceramic shit. The idea itself is horrible: In ‘Toy Story’ fashion, garden gnomes come to life when no one is looking. Two differently-colored families of gnomes feud exactly like the Montagues and Capulets. Olde English dialogue and dialects ensue. Shakespeare probably rolled in his grave when Disney released it. (The rumor is that Buena Vista acquired the film when purchasing another studio, and part of the takeover agreement required Buena Vista to release it under the Disney banner. Disney got screwed.) The trailers and promotional spots made it look awful, but even they couldn’t convey the despair that one would feel when subjected to actually watching it.

Brian Hoss

When I first heard the concept for ‘Unleashed‘, wherein an orphan has been raised like an attack dog to the point where he becomes an unstoppable killer/henchman controlled by his collar, I laughed at the absurdity that that the movie was ever made public. Mind you, I watched it the day it came out, loved it, and subsequently bought it on both HD DVD and Blu-ray, yet I can’t forget how stupid the concept came off to me originally.

M. Enois Duarte

It won’t open for another couple months, but the latest installment in the utterly idiotic ‘Scary Movie‘ franchise looks terrible and cringe-inducing. The movie is a who’s-who of has-beens and celebrities who really have no business in the industry anymore. If the title isn’t bad enough to scare away any respectable movie lover, then the unbearably painful trailer should do the job. Those two short minutes not only fail to induce a single smile, they make me want to run to the hills and cower in fear of the upcoming apocalypse. It’s a sign that if producers are capable of raising money for this sort of drivle, the end of the world is sure to follow. That’s a guaranteed certainty if the movie succeeds at the box office.

Mike Attebery

When I heard that J. J. Abrams was making a new ‘Star Trek‘ movie, I immediately thought, “Oy, another goofy reboot.” I hadn’t been all that thrilled with his latter day projects. (I’m more of a ‘Regarding Henry’ and ‘Felicity’ man. You heard me. Man.) Then I saw the movie and ate my words. It’s terrific, and just as much fun on each repeat viewing.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

Bleecch! How did dreck on the level of ‘E.T.’ ever get made?

Kidding, kidding. My pick does have kind of an A-list pedigree, though. It stars Gary Oldman, Kate Beckinsale, Matthew McConaughey and Patricia Arquette.

I’ve yet to witness the awe and glory of ‘Tiptoes’, but its trailer is just… there aren’t words. You’ve got Gary Oldman playing the dwarven, apparently-decade-older twin brother of Matthew McConaughey. You’ve got a preggers Kate Beckinsale learning the ins and outs of life in a family of dwarves. It’s hilarious! It’s insightful! It’s life-affirming! It’s… well, judging by the trailer, pretty much unwatchable. Tonally all over the place, slapped together with no consideration for pacing or rhythm, excruciatingly poorly acted no matter how many familiar faces are on the bill… Tiptoes is in the running as the worst trailer I’ve ever seen, and I’ve suffered through a lot.

Josh Zyber

When I saw the seizure-inducing trailer for Baz Luhrmann’s hyper-kinetic musical ‘Moulin Rouge!‘, I thought it looked like the worst thing ever. When the movie made lots of money and garnered award nominations, I thought, “Huh, that’s weird.” By the time I saw the first half-hour of the movie (and a half-hour was as much as I could take), I realized that I was right the first time and it was the worst thing ever. Still can’t figure out what anyone else sees in it.


Tell us about the movies you’ve made snap judgments like these about in the Comments.


  1. Mike

    I think it’s important to point out that the original idea for this round table also said:

    “If you have a story where one of these movies turned out to be surprisingly good despite your snap judgment, all the better.”

    I’m not crazy.

  2. Alex

    I’ve made my snap judgement about “World War Z”. Honestly, the trailer doesn’t look that bad, but it veers so far from the book (which is fantastic, btw) in terms of style, tone, character, and plot that it’s off-putting. I’ll still probably see it, but the trailer has left a very bad taste in my mouth.

    • yea brad pitt destroyed max brooks masterpiece, turning it from an amazing character study chronicling the events of the war in post war time to just another popcorn zombie flick.

      granted ill probably go see it, but i will never think of it at the level of wwz, nor can it be forgiven for destroying the concept of the book.

    • William Henley

      It is certainly in my top 20, if not my top ten, favorite movies of all time. It was unique with out being shocking or volgure (at least, as much as could be considering who the lead characters are). However, I can symphathize with those who did not like it. Everything Josh said was true – I just think that is part of the movies charm. The movie is a shock to the senses (okay, I guess that would make it shocking, in a manner of speaking).

    • It took me a while to get into Moulin Rouge.

      I didn’t see it in the theater, because I had witnessed some of Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet” and I would have rather gouged my own eyes out and rip my ears off than watch/listen to another moment of it, but several of my friends were going to do a “shadowcast” of Moulin Rouge. Think Rocky Horror Picture Show and you get the idea.

      After actually watching it once they had convinced me to join in, I began to come around. Mind you, I really have to be in the right mood to sit through something like that…

      Anyway, the shadowcast event was a success, and I had a blast! I performed the bald conductor during the 20th Century Fox logo opening fanfare(one of the most fun things I’ve ever done in my life) and The Duke. I’d say it was my best theatrical performance of my career! That is to say, of the three plays I’ve done in my life, including the Christmas one in third grade…

      But I completely understand why people would think it was crap solely from seeing the trailer. It’s a love it/hate it type thing.

  3. Brent

    Blood and Chocolate, Extreme Ops, and Torque. If you know them, or have seen the trailers, you’ll understand.

  4. “Goldilocks Bears It All” … actually sounds … like a good idea! Make it, Hollywood!

    30 minutes of ‘Moulin Rouge!’, eh Josh? Funny, I had the same reaction. My eyes needed adjustment after so much visual and aural stimulation. But then something happened. Beyond those first 30 minutes lies a very good movie. Give it a try. You survived ‘INLAND EMPIRE’, you’ll survive M’oulin Rouge!’.

  5. Andrew K

    I have to agree with Scary Movie, and every sequel/spin-off since. I’ll add Jack & Jill to the list, if Josh takes off Moulin Rouge. Anyone I know who doesn’t like it hasn’t made it past the first half hour. Baz has said that he exaggerates the beginning of his movies to pull you out of the real world and into “the movies.” That’s why his first three films (The Red Curtain Trilogy) opened on a stage and a red curtain. I recommend giving it another shot. Make it through the first hour, then you can judge. It is a truly brilliant film and definitely in my all-time top 3.

  6. Eric

    I was forced to subject my senses to the entire Moulin Rouge experience. Don’t believe these guys, Josh! It was the worst two hours of my life, and I’ve seen The Village. Billy Elliot is my choice for trailer that seemed so bad, I would sooner gouge my eyes out than learn about a boy who wanted to dance.

  7. JM

    Epic fail, in terms of density of pain = Wild Wild West, Avatar, & Pink Panter 2.

    How did this get made, in terms of impossible cast = True Romance.

  8. hurin

    The new Silent Hill movie. I am a big fan of the video games, and I was impressed at how good the 2006 movie was. But the new one is one of those where everything is bad, the plot, the acting, the CGI, the sound, it has no redeming features at all.

  9. Alex

    It still boggles me that “Stuck On You” got made. I can’t fathom how no one, in the entire production process, remembered that conjoined twins are always identical. Then, biology aside, it just got worse and worse.

  10. William Henley

    “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”. I did a double and triple take when I heard that name, from the early posters in theaters, before the trailers even came out, and thought “WHAT THE HECK?”. To my surprise, this was a surprisingly good movie. I believe the reviewer here at HDD claimed that it was the best BAD movie he had ever seen, and I think that is a fair enough assesment. It is a stupid concept, yet the script writers, director and actors all approached the movie like it was Gone With The Wind, and the result is a surprisingly good movie

    “Coyote Ugly” is a movie that I like to point out. Do you guys remember the trailers that were shown for this movie? They made it out to be a lewd, crued, trashy movie. At the time, the trailer shocked my roommate and myself so much, we claimed that we would never watch that garbage. However, that summer was extreamly hot, and we tried to save money on cooling, and afternoon matinees were what we did. We saw several movies that summer (I think we saw Pokemon 3 times, The Princess Diaries twice). Finally we gave in, and saw Coyote Ugly, and were just shocked that it was such a good movie. We both got out of the theater, looked at each other, and was like “was that even remotely related to the movie?” “Yeah, for like 20 seconds of the movie”. That movie is now in my top 20 of greatest movies ever made.

    If I hadn’t just returned from living in Central Europe at the time, I would have been shocked by “Heilfe, Ich Bin Ein Junge” (later picked up by Disney, and BADLY dubbed, released domestically as “Help, I’m A Boy”). This is a story, similar to Freaky Friday, except its between an 11 year old boy and girl. While the Disney version is cleaned up (changing quite a few lines of dialogue and cutting a couple of scenes all toghether), the original German could be described as shocking to American audiences. I find it realistic (as realistic as a movie about magicians and body switching can be), with quite a bit of crued language, a few sexual references (which are absolutely hillarious), and a few seconds of full frontal nudity, when the character first walks into the girls’ locker room on his first day as a girl. Great movie, and not at all surprised it didn’t do well in the US – Disney bought the rights, but it just seemed that they had no clue how to market it to American audiences.

    “The Social Network”. What, a movie about Facebook? I think the movie is popular enough that I can say that most of you thought the same thing, and were pleasantly surprised.

    “You’ve Got Mail”. What, a movie about America Online? By the way, that movie is really starting to show its age, but its still a great movie.

    “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”. Still haven’t seen it. The first two movies were so bad, and the trailer for the third one so awful, and then the name….

    “Apollo 18”. The movie was worse than the trailers.

    “The Blair Witch Project”. I gave it a chance. Still don’t know what the draw of that movie was.

    The new Star Trek movie that comes out this year. If I hadn’t seen the last one, and recognized the actors, I don’t know if I would have plalced it at a Star Trek movie. The trailer is AWFUL. (I did LOVE the trailer to the 2009 Star Trek, though).

    Have you guys seen the trailer for “Man of Steel” yet? I thought “WTH, another Batman movie?” Seriously, for about the first 2 minutes of this trailer, that is what I thought it was. It certainly has Christoper Nolen’s fingerprints all over it. Not saying the movie won’t be good – I actually like Nolen (not love, just like), it just shocked me that it was a Superman movie.

    “Dukes of Hazzard”. I was like, seriously? It was actually a fun movie, though. Not great, but fun.

    Any trailer where they show more Audience Reactions than clips of the movie. Is the movie really that bad?

    “Mamma Mia”. This movie had everything wrong against it. A cast of major Hollywood actors who you just cannot imagine singing, thown together in a musical, singing Abba songs, with a first-time director. I took my goddaughter to see it (she was about 12 at the time) and we caught the late night showing of it a couple of weeks after it came out, which was nice because we were cracking up so loudly when Pierce Bronson started to sing, that we were glad there was no one else in the theater. We pretty much provided our own RiffTrack for the movie. It was a FUN movie, but man, it was bad! And I bought it the day it came out on Blu-Ray and have watched it multiple times. Yeah, its bad, but its guilty-pleasure bad!

    The American Girl movies. Was surprised with just how well-made the movies were, considering they were aimed at little girls. I can say the same thing about the Tinkerbell movies. You just have this preconcieved notion of what the movies are going to be like, and are pleasnantly surprised when they turn out being GOOD.

  11. Mirror Mirror ended up being almost about 10x better than Snow White and the Huntsman… as for Gnomeo and Juliet, it’s clear there that Luke didn’t actually end up seeing the actual movie as it did end up being quite a fun movie.

  12. Pyronaut

    I’d have to agree with a previous comments on Jack & Jill and Wild Wild West. I never decided to waste my time on them.

    Also, all the Friedberg/Seltzer parody movies like “Epic Movie”, “Meet the Spartans” etc. Though I guess they made money so it’s understandable that studio execs keep green lighting them.

    And The Zookeeper. I’m sure there are more but I can’t think of them right now.