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The 50 Worst Decisions in Movie History

Racist casting, big-budget bombs, directorial hubris, and more epic feats of stupidity

50 worst decisions in movie history


AS ANYONE WHO has been to a multiplex in the past few years knows quite well, a large percentage of movies simply aren’t very good. There are significant exceptions like Oppenheimer and Barbie, but films like Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Fast X, and Meg 2: The Trench are much more common. And these are just movies from the past few months. If you broaden the scope to the entire history of Hollywood, you realize that for every Citizen Kane and Casablanca you have 500 disasters like Beyond the Poseidon Adventure, Fire Maidens from Outer Space, and Monster a Go-Go!

The one thing all awful movies have in common is that somewhere along the line, somebody made at least one critically bad decision. In the past few months we’ve given you the 50 Worst Decisions in Music History and the 50 Worst Decisions in TV History. Now, it’s time for the 50 Worst Decisions in Movie History.

Taking into account the century-plus history of Hollywood meant that we had to make a bunch of tough decisions ourselves. We didn’t want to stuff the list with too many bad sequels since there’s so many to pick from. (The world really needed four Terminatormovies after James Cameron walked away from the series?) We also didn’t want to fixate too much on bad casting choices or examples of blatant, shocking racism (Long Duk Dong anyone?) since those would also take up every slot on the list.

Many of the picks we came up with reflected horrible choices made at the corporate level, since clueless executives have been mucking around in Tinseltown since the days of Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin. These are the people that thought John Wayne would make a fine Genghis Khan, Ernest should head to Africa for a zany adventure, and wild, untamed lions should appear alongside Melanie Griffith and Tippi Hedren in Roar. 

Remember, this list could easily be 500 entries long. If you disagree with the choices in this top 50, share your own suggestions by using the hashtag #BadMovieDecisions on the social media site formerly known as Twitter. (If we ever get around to making a “worst decisions in the history of the internet list,” Elon Musk renaming Twitter will certainly be very high up.)

From Rolling Stone US


Blockbuster Gets an Offer to Buy Netflix for $50 Million in 2000, Blockbuster Turns it Down

In 1997, Harvard professor Clayton Christensen published the groundbreaking book The Innovator’s Dilemma. It explained that hugely successful companies often fail in the long run because plucky, disruptive firms with little to lose have an easier time implementing new systems that can revolutionize a business. At the time it was written, Blockbuster was at the peak of its powers. Their video rental stores dotted suburban landscapes and were as ubiquitous as Starbucks or McDonalds. And when Netflix came around and began mailing DVDs straight to consumers, eliminating late fees and the need to leave your house, Blockbuster didn’t see a threat or any need to change their practices. In 2000, Blockbuster was given the opportunity to buy Netflix for $50 million. They turned it down. “Well, shit,” co-founder Marc Randolph recalled saying after the meeting. “Blockbuster doesn’t want us. So it’s obvious what we have to do now … It looks like now we’re going to have to kick their ass.” Flash forward 23 years and Netflix is valued at nearly $200 billion. Blockbuster doesn’t exist for all intents and purposes except for a single store in Bend, Oregon. There were over 9,000 at the chain’s peak. Had they made a different move back in 2000, Blockbuster Netflix could be the biggest name in streaming.


Burt Reynolds Turns Down ‘James Bond,’ ‘The Godfather,’ ‘Star Wars,’ ‘Pretty Woman,’ and ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’

If you were making a big movie in the Seventies or early Eighties and needed a leading man, odds were pretty decent you’d offer the role to Burt Reynolds. The man was a titan of Hollywood throughout the era that pounded out hit movies like Deliverance, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, The Longest Yard, Smokey and the Bandit, and Cannonball Run. But he also had a remarkable talent for turning down movies. The streak of colossal bad decisions began when he refused a chance to play James Bond after Sean Connery stepped aside because he felt Americans wouldn’t accept an American Bond. It continued when he said no to the Michael Corleone part in The Godfather, Jack Nicholson’s part in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and peaked when he rejected an overture to play Han Solo in Star Wars. Years later, he even declined an opportunity to play Richard Gere’s part in Pretty Woman. Al Pacino, Roger Moore, Harrison Ford, Jack Nicholson and Richard Gere are forever grateful for these judgment calls, but Reynolds regretted nearly all of them. Hey, at least he agreed to make Cop and a Half, Smokey and the Bandit Part 3, Not Another Not Another Movie.


Racist Movie ‘The Conqueror’ Gives Its Cast Cancer, Probably Definitely Kills John Wayne

The 1956 historical epic The Conquerer was awash in bad decisions before they even started shooting the damn thing. The lead role of Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan was originally written for noted non-Asian actor Marlon Brando, which would have been absolutely ridiculous. When he dropped out, they didn’t move onto an actual Asian thespian that could play the role with credibility. They went for John “I believe in white supremacy” Wayne. Did they slather his face with makeup and use rubber bands to pull back his eyes? They sure did. If that wasn’t insane enough, they decided to shoot the movie at nuclear testing sites around Utah. It’s impossible to prove cause and effect, but 41% of the crew developed cancer in the decades that followed, and 21% died from it. That 21% includes John Wayne himself. These people didn’t even die for a good movie. The Conquerer is absolutely horrible. “Wayne portrays the great conqueror as a sort of cross between a square-shootin’ sheriff and a Mongolian idiot,” Time wrote in a scathing review. “The idea is good for a couple of snickers, but after that it never Waynes but it bores.”