Paul N., Here…
I am not claiming that all of the following movies are cinematic works of art. Some of these films might be considered mediocre at best. However, they do all have one thing in common; all of them suffer from having that one scene that takes audiences out of the moment and makes them groan in disbelief. This list includes movies that were meant to be taken seriously. So over-the-top comedies and machismo action flicks will not be found as they are created with the intent of being ridiculous.
Each of the following scenes were included by their respective directors to add a certain something to the film. However, they completely missed the mark and instead risked ruining the scene and even the movie itself due to this lack of judgment. It should be noted that these scenes are not necessarily the fault of the actor. This is not a list of bad acting performances. These are all erroneous decisions by the director themselves. This means no Wicker Man, Sly Stallone, Transformer genitals, or Bat-Credit Cards will be included. Those are for another list on another day. WARNING – SPOILERS AHEAD!!!
10. Emotional Spock (Star Trek into Darkness) – First on the list is an otherwise decent action movie. If you ignore the scientific impossibilities and glaring plot holes, you might find yourself enjoying this remake of Wrath of Khan. The action is fun and the story is rather enjoyable. However, no film is immune to cheesy scenes. When the Shatner out performs your film’s main characters, you have problems. In the original Wrath of Khan, Shatner shouts the now-famous “KHAAAAAAN” as he is forced to watch his best friend die. In the remake, the tables are turned (oooh, edgy) and it’s Spock who now has to utter the famous line. Unfortunately, the audience already knew it was coming. Because of this, the sudden outburst of emotion lost its shock value, and therefore, its emotional impact. It comes across as forced and wooden, either because it was poorly delivered, or because it was expected. Either way, what should have been an emotionally riveting scene feels completely flat.
9. Superman’s Broody Sibling (The Matrix) – The Matrix seems to be experiencing renewed criticism on the internet as critics have apparently decided it wasn’t nearly as good as they once thought. Fortunately, this list doesn’t care about such base matters. What this list does care about is the horrible CGI Superman knock-off at the conclusion of the film. After Neo hangs up on the machines, he exits the phone booth and flies off to places unknown. The film should have ended at the hanging up of the phone, but the Wachowski siblings just couldn’t end it without one more blatant demonstration of Neo’s power. The result is a horribly bad CGI scene (even by the standards of the time) as a stoic Neo flies through the air, arms at his sides and body rigid. He looked like he was standing still as the background whisked by him. Know why Superman always flies with his fists outstretched? I’ll give you a hint, it isn’t due to wind or aerodynamics. It’s because his creators learned that a man flying through the air with his arms at his sides looks ridiculous! Now, obviously they didn’t want to copy Superman, but there were other options they could have tried.
8. The Slo-Mo “No” (Tombstone) – Let’s face it, Tombstone is one of the best westerns ever created, thanks in large part to the acting of the lead characters. With wonderful acting, great action, and quotable one-liners aplenty, it is safe to say that many things were going right for this film. However, at the film’s apex, the director made a crucial error. Kurt Russell’s ‘stache was majestic enough to warrant its own award, but when you shoot a close up of his face, and then inexplicably slow it down while he yells, the result is a mixture of weird that just doesn’t flow with the rest of the film. This is especially true when you consider how out of place this editing trick seemed. Up to that point in the film, it hadn’t been used. Why insert it now? It brings absolutely nothing to the scene. Plus, it distorts the audio to laughable proportions that distract from the severity of the moment on film.
7. Surfboards in the Deep (The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers) – Peter Jackson went to jaw-dropping lengths to make audiences believe they were really in Middle Earth. To his credit, he succeeded. The level of detail woven into each of the Lord of the Rings films is truly staggering. Individual designs were woven into capes, sigils were carved into weapons and armor, creatures had individually unique prosthetics. Why mention all this? Because when a director goes through the trouble to make the film come to life like that, it is inconceivable that he could make such a ridiculous blunder in judgment. Right in the middle of battle, Legolas (who clearly wasn’t enough of a badass for Jackson) decides to surf down some stairs on a shield, cutting through enemies like a hot knife through butter. Granted, teenagers and younger probably thought it was the coolest thing ever, but the rest of us were violently and unwillingly ripped from the dramatic realism the rest of the film had fought so hard to create.
6. Flipping off Lucifer (Constantine) – Has one finger ever elicited such a wide variety of emotional responses as the middle finger? In what was initially seen as a throw-away action flick, Constantine has enjoyed a bit of a fan revival, unlike Keanu’s other endeavor on this list. However, this film has in its climax, a most unfortunately placed finger gesture. Constantine, after inadvertently gaining the upper hand against Lucifer himself, decides the best way to celebrate his newfound holy redemption is by casually flipping the bird to his enemy. I guess he missed the part in Sunday School about turning the other cheek and all that. Either way, it was a horribly cheesy decision that ended up looking more childish than badass. Imagine if John McClane had instead flipped off Hans as he fell, or if the Terminator had just flipped off the T-1000 instead after freezing him. Sound stupid? Now you’re catching on!
5. The Nuked Fridge (Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) – I had my reservations when I found that 800 year old Harrison Ford would revisit the role of everyone’s favorite archeologist. However, I figured I would give this film the benefit of the doubt considering who was at the helm of the film. After horrible CGI, monster ants, geriatric action sequences, and aliens (are you freaking kidding me?!), I began to seriously question my life choices. Most fans of Indy have collectively (read “wisely”) decided this film doesn’t actually exist. Can you blame them? One scene in particular made an entire theater full of hopeful fans stop and say “ok – seriously?!” When the geriatric-yet-plucky hero finds himself in a bomb test site, he has to think fast, or be liquefied. Granted, hiding in a lead-lined fridge isn’t the worst idea given his options, but watching the fridge literally catapult across the fake town and land safely without so much as a scratch to our hero inside it was suspension of disbelief at a level of Michael Bay proportions. The only thing I can figure is that the fridge was made by Nokia.
4. Famous Last Words (Independence Day) – Imagine you are humanity’s last hope for survival. Yet, in order to complete your mission you must sacrifice your life for the sake of the world. Your children are put on the radio so that you can say one last mournful goodbye. Everyone is saddened, yet humbled at your completely selfless act of heroism. Now that everyone is collectively holding their breath and watching your final act of bravery through teary eyes, what parting image should you leave for everyone to remember you by? If you answered “tell the aliens ‘up yours’ and reference your sketchy abduction’” then you might have what it takes to direct the sequel.
3. The Extended Leg Kick (The Matrix) – The Wachowski siblings could write novels on how to completely kill one’s own franchise in three easy steps, and the sad thing is that we were subtly warned about this towards the end of the first film. When Neo finally realizes his potential, he squares off against the agents in kick-ass fashion. I was so exited at the time, I remember gleefully shouting at the movie screen. But then Neo decided to demonstrate his ballet lessons (“I know ballet”?) and the shine faded a bit on my expectations. As Neo easily dispatches the once-dominate Agent Smith, he ends the fight decisively with a powerful kick that sends the agent hurtling through the hallway. The camera cuts back to Neo and we find him standing there with an oh-so-serious look upon his face…and his leg still extended. Now, you might think I’m nitpicking, that he just hadn’t had time to put his leg back down, but then he continues to stand there, leg extended, for what seems like forever. If that weren’t weird enough, he then casually puts his leg down by swinging it widely out while keeping it fully extended! Who does that?! Every time I see this movie, I can’t take this scene seriously. And it infuriates me because it is right in the middle of one of the best scenes of the entire film!
2. The Extended “No” (Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith) – When the Star Wars prequels were first introduced, expectations were set to astronomical proportions. You can’t elevate the collective hopes of the legions of fans out there like that and hope to come away unscathed. That said, poor George had really no chance of making everyone happy. I understood that even back then, and I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt before viewing the film. But then he gave us Jar Jar Binks, horrible dialogue, and some of the most wooden acting ever put on film. Despite all this, the fans (myself included) showed up in droves for each subsequent film – each of us secretly hoping the next film would top the last and somehow validate this new trilogy. Sadly the coup-de-grace occurred at the end of the final film. We were finally treated to the Vader we all knew and loved. He put on the mask, a final piece to his decent into the dark side while we watched, our spines tingling. We felt his pain, his suffering, and his anguish at all he had done to reach this point. We held our collective breath as he looked up at the heavens…and delivered the absolute worst pained “no” ever uttered on film. Seriously?! I’ve expressed more pained anguish after stubbing my toe! That’s the best he could come up with after murdering his wife, his friends, and completely turning away from everything he’s ever loved or held dear?!
1. Sonny’s Phantom Punch (The Godfather) – I know what you’re thinking, “How could I put such a seminal film on such a list?” The answer is simple. It’s because The Godfather is such a fabulous piece of work that it ends up at the top of my list. Any little mistake in a film of this caliber would be scrutinized. And when the mistake is as atrocious as this, it becomes that much more magnified in such a film. Here we have Sonny, rightfully avenging the honor and safety of his sister against her abusive man. The scene should be one of righteous fury realized. The audience should be left with a sense of justice. We’ve been wanting Sonny, or someone to help her for most of the film. However, thanks to a filming mistake akin to a first year film student, the scene goes from righteous to ridiculous in seconds. The mystique is so broken that the remainder of the film is at risk for ruin. Sonny, in the middle of the fight, reaches back and delivers a punch that…misses it’s mark by a good foot! What’s worse is that everyone went along with it as if the punch had landed! Why didn’t the director call cut? Why didn’t the DP say something? Why didn’t the editor say something? Bueller? Bueller?
Dishonorable Mentions: The Pepsi One Plug (The Thomas Crowne Affair), The handshake on Horseback (Tombstone), Trunk Surfing (Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King).
– Paul Nimon