Can One Bad Shot Ruin a Movie?

Is it possible for one terrible shot to ruin a movie? Did Neo flying destroy ‘The Matrix’ for you?  How about when Chance walked on water at the end of ‘Being There?’  Or the first ‘X-Men’ movie, when Halle Berry uttered that awful line “Do you know what happens to a toad when it’s struck by lighting?”

I don’t know if there’s a single shot that can ruin a movie for me, but the one that gets closest is from a flick that’s widely considered to be one of the greatest of all time.

I do my damndest not to use my writing as a place to air my personal gripes, but what the hell.  I’ve got a bone to pick with Mr. Orson Welles.  It pertains to one of his earliest films, and one of his best.  I’m talking about ‘Citizen Kane.’ It’s a classic to be sure, and it’s often hailed as the ‘Citizen Kane’ of films.   But there’s one little imperfection that gets me every time.

I absolutely love ‘Citizen Kane.’  It’s a cliché, I know, but I just plain love that movie.  I think it’s one of the most well scripted, brilliantly shot movies of all time.  I’m amazed by the abilities of Orson Welles as both an actor and a director, but I find the film hard to watch.

There’s a point during the film where Charles Foster Kane tells his legal guardian, Walter Thatcher, that he doesn’t care about the massive inheritance he’s been granted, save a small newspaper business.  It’s a turning point for the character, since this is the business that makes him finally start taking things seriously and finally helps him to amass his fortune.

Thatcher receives the news in the form of a letter, and reads it aloud to the other men in the room.  The letter ends with the line “I think it would be fun to run a newspaper,” which Thatcher repeats after his initial reading.  As he’s saying the line he turns to his compatriots on both the left and the right and then finally looks straight at the camera and lets out a frustrated grunt.

It may not sound too terrible, and if it was any other movie, it might hold up.  It’s the sort of thing you wouldn’t be surprised to see in a Brendan Frasier flick, for example.   But in ‘Citizen Kane’ it sticks out like a sore thumb.  It’s horribly hackneyed film-making and it’s just plain out of place.

For the minute or so leading up to the scene, and the minute or so after it, all I can think about is that awful camera-facing line read.  It takes me completely out of the movie and I’m left feeling just a little bit uncomfortable.

It didn’t wreck the film for me, but I’d completely understand anyone that said it did.  And I’m sure ‘Citizen Kane’ isn’t the only great film that suffers from that one awful shot.

So tell us.  Get it off your chest.  Is there a single shot in a film that managed to wreck the entire thing for you?


  1. Isn’t the bigger issue in Citizen Kane how anyone knew he whispered “Rosebud” as he died in the first place? He was alone in his massive room with the door closed.

    That goofy shot of Legolas swinging the wrong way onto the horse in Two Towers always takes me out of the film, but I can’t say it “ruins” the whole movie.

    Otherwise, any movie that has CGI parachute deployments (or skydiving in general) instead of the real thing. Never seen a remotely convincing fake, and doing it for real looks world’s better. Just look at the opening of Austin Powers in Goldmember for an example.

    • Dick Ward

      Oooh, that’s a good point about the skydiving. I’ve never done it, so it generally looks fine to me. When I see people playing unplugged guitars or keyboards in movies though, it drives me nuts!

      • Animators have yet to reach the level of sophistication to be able to render a proper parachute deployment. Real canopy fabric, capturing the wind, moves organically (and randomly) with infinite points of articulation, and is thus almost infinitely harder to animate than say vehicles or even people. The CGI fakes open too orderly and smoothly, as if the parachute was made of thin metal plates. They also are almost always animated to open to FAST. Real deployments – by design – take a few seconds (slowing the jumper or cargo down smoothly and gradually). The CGI fakes would rip people apart if they were real.

        The problems animating parachutes are a lot like the problems of animating fire and moving water. It is extremely hard to do convincingly, and unlike fire and water, they seldom even put much effort into it.

    • Later in the movie, Kane’s butler tells the reporter that he was in the room and heard Kane say, “Rosebud.” We don’t see him in the opening, but we never get a clear view of the entire room. Presumably, he was the one who called in the nurse, who rushes in right after Kane drops the snow globe.

      Here’s the scene:

  2. Jane Morgan

    Halle Berry’s “toad” line killed x-men for me. I’ve watched x-men 2 like 15 times. #1 I only watched one time. I can’t bring myself to watch it again because of that line. How did that line make it into the movie? Has anyone figured out who to blame…? Did Tom Rothman write it?

    • Motorheadache

      Just mute the “toad” line in X-Men and pretend it doesn’t happen. Bryan Singer actually apologizes for it in the commentary and claims full responsibility for using it and keeping it in the film. But yeah, Joss Whedon wrote the line. I can picture Buffy saying something like that, but it doesn’t fit with Storm.

      • Joss Whedon’s take on that hideous moment is characteristically awesome:

        ‘Everybody remembers that as the worst line ever written, but the thing about that is, it was supposed to be delivered as completely offhand. [Adopts casual, bored tone.] “You know what happens when a toad gets hit by lightning?” Then, after he gets electrocuted, “Ahhh, pretty much the same thing that happens to anything else.” But Halle Berry said it like she was Desdemona. [Strident, ringing voice.] “The same thing that happens to everything eeelse!” That’s the thing that makes you go crazy. At least “You’re a dick” got delivered right.’,13730/

        • Gotta love some Whedon!

          Though I do have to admit, I find the ‘Firefly’ episode ‘Heart of Gold’ hard to watch just because of that ridiculous “Battery Low” shot. 🙂

  3. Nick Joseph

    About the toad line, from what I remember it came from Joss Whedon, who did a touch up on the script. However, he had intended it to be a funny throwaway moment as she walks away and says it to herself, not the overly epic delivery we got in the final film.

  4. I’d say Halle Berry ruined the movie the moment she appeared on screen, but that’s just me. I am not a fan of her post-‘Bulworth’ movies.

    Love the ‘Citizen Kane’ bit. I never really noticed that, but now it will likely bother me everytime I watch the movie.

    I’m with Josh, I think the whole ‘Rosebud’ complaint is iffy.

    Ugh, now I feel the need to dig out the DVD again. That movie can’t hit Blu-ray soon enough!

  5. T

    While it didn’t necessarily ruin the movie for me, I am always a little baffled at Scorsese’s final and obvious shot of the rat on the windowsill at the end of ‘The Departed’.

  6. EM

    It’s not a single shot, but the final sequence of “Dead Calm” destroys the credibility of that film for me. You know the kind: the horror/thriller movie has just wound down, and suddenly the dispatched threat improbably resurfaces, just to give you one last scare before being re-dispatched. (Sorry if I spoiled the ending for anyone…) I keep hoping for a new edition of the film with that last sequence edited out. (I know—I could just stop playback right beforehand, but that’s a little too wrong, in my view…)

  7. Harrylimeuk

    There’s one thing that ruined SHERLOCK HOLMES for me. The 2010 version, to be clear. Downey obviously spent loads of time getting his martial arts and his accent right, and as a Brit I can give him kudos for his vocal work.
    There’s an eating scene early on in the picture and Downey’s holding his cutlery in the American manner, not the specific way we’re taught it here, and REALLY were taught it back in the 19th century.
    Yes, we hold and use our silverware differently on this side of the pond.
    Holmes would never have done that; he’s British, he’s educated and he’s from the higher classes and so the movie lost me there……..
    I know it’s no big deal in the scheme of things, but it goes to character, it goes to research and it goes to detail.
    Someone should have spotted it.

  8. Chazr

    I also have a final sequence that ruined the whole movie for me: Se7en.
    It made no sense to kill an innocent since the killer was supposedly trying to punish those he considered guilty of what he considered to be a crimes. Don’t give me that argument about who he was supposed to be punishing, he still did it by his own crime of killing an innocent .
    It ruined the movie, that up until that contrived twist, was genuinely spooky.

  9. edgie

    I bring to attention the Spiderman landing atop a building with the American Flag behind him from Spiderman 3. That movie was on a downhill slop the entire time, but that shot put it over the edge. Killed it.

  10. Glenn Burbidge

    On a similar subject, the JFK poster shot from ‘Armageddon’ is enough to kill that movie stone dead…even for that film, that’s too cheesy…

  11. BasicBlak

    I got two for ya… First: the bridge scene in Mission Impossible 3. Despite my enjoying this rather entertaining, though HIGHLY outlandish, sequence at the outset, it all comes crashing down for me when the Predator Drone hones in on a car from which Ethan escapes, blowing it to smitherines. And when the explosion sets off, does Ethan (running for dear life TOWARD the camera) get propelled FORWARD like he should as he gets knocked on his ass? Nooooo, he gets knocked to his LEFT and into a conveniently placed disabled car. WTF??? I guess Kurtzman/Orci/Abrams collectively failed any physics classes they may have taken. For me, seeing that is the equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard. And since that shot represented the iconic image for the movie as a whole, it ruins it for me from that point forward. Ridiculous!!

    And lastly: Nearly ANY Michael Bay movie with a highway chase scene, Bad Boys II and The Island being among the chief offenders. Why the hell does this man insist on crashing cars that tumble and flip in the OPPOSITE direction in which they’re actually travelling??? Makes me want to throw a shoe at the screen any time I happen to see it. LAME, LAME, LAME!!!

  12. Jason

    Since there is a lot of X-Men speak here, I have to mention the alley scene in Wolverine. When wolvy starts to shred the latter the graphics look totally like pre-production material. I never checked back into that movie after that scene.

  13. Glenn Burbidge

    I think Vinnie Jones’s immortal line ‘I’m the Juggernaut, b!tch!’ in X3 was possibly the biggest shark-jumping (or toad-frazzling) moment of that series. Aaaaargh….!

    • Oh come now, that was just there for the internet fans. Are you familiar with the source material?

      X3 had so many worse moments than that!