Great Movies Given Negative Reviews

“The only remarkable thing about Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, Part II is the insistent manner in which it recalls how much better his original film was…”

by Josh Kurp   |   Jul 15, 2010

Great Movies Given Negative Reviews

Leo and Ellen aren’t very happy about that negative review (Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures)

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Currently on Rotten Tomatoes, Inception has a 76% rating among “Top Critics.” Wait, not 100%? Encore saw the movie last night, and although we have a minor complaints, Inception is still one of the greatest movies in years, and certainly of 2010. To recap: 13 Fresh, 4 Rotten. The mischievous rebels are none other than New York’s David Edelstein, Village Voice‘s Nick Pinkerton, Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Steven Rea and the New York Obersver‘s Rex Reed. How dare they be the dissenting voices to a film others have called “a devilishly complicated, fiendishly enjoyable sci-fi voyage across a dreamscape that is thoroughly compelling” and “one of the year’s best films, one that will surely get even better upon repeated viewings.”

Here are 11 other undeniably great movies given poor reviews by “Top Critics” (and lots of hate from Time and the New York Times):

The climax of Casablanca concerns the efforts of Laszlo and his wife to leave Morocco. Rick has two letters of transit, which would make that easy. Reluctant to help, Mr. Bogart at last does the manly thing and Mr. Rains saves him from the consequences. Nothing short of an invasion could add much to Casablanca.

Time, November 1942

The nightmare that follows is expertly gothic, but the nausea never disappears. Little should be said of [Psycho's] plot—Hitchcock enjoins all viewers to be silent—except that Anthony Perkins, who plays an amateur taxidermist, is sickeningly involved, and that a blow is dealt to mother love from which that sentiment may not recover. Director Hitchcock bears down too heavily in this one, and the delicate illusion of reality necessary for a creak-and-shriek movie becomes, instead, a spectacle of stomach-churning horror.

Time, June 1960

[Lawrence of Arabia] is, in the last analysis, just a huge, thundering camel-opera that tends to run down rather badly as it rolls on into its third hour and gets involved with sullen disillusion and political deceit.

—Bosley Crowther, New York Times, December 1962

[Taxi Driver] goes most disastrously wrong when it tries to turn slice-of-life realism into full-scale melodrama. At first it is interesting, and funny, when Travis becomes obsessed with a cool socialite (Cybill Shepherd) who is a campaign worker for a too slick, too vacuous presidential candidate. Their relationship begins with his following her around at a distance, proceeds to his awkward efforts to date her, ends when he takes her to a skin flick. It makes a nice little essay in the confusions of cross-cultural courtship. However, Travis’ failure as presented is more farcical than tragic, and it never adequately explains his becoming a killer. He acquires a small arsenal of guns and starts stalking his lady’s candidate.

—Richard Schickel, Time, February 1976

More hardware and less whimsy, with a cliff-hanging climax every 10 or 20 minutes and not much relief. If Star Wars was the exposition, [The Empire Strikes Back] should be the development, but mainly it’s marking time: the characters take a definite backseat to the special effects, and much of the action seems gratuitous, leading nowhere. Irvin Kershner directed the actors this time around, and without the benefit of Lucas’s personal affection they seem stiffer, more clenched.

—Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader, Date Unknown

Meanwhile, however, what’s most bothersome about Pulp Fiction is its success. This is not to be mean-spirited about Tarantino himself; may he harvest all the available millions. But the way that this picture has been so widely ravened up and drooled over verges on the disgusting. Pulp Fiction nourishes, abets, cultural slumming.

—Stanley Kauffmann, New Republic, November 1994

[The Wild Bunch is] at 145 minutes is far over-length, and should be tightened extensively, particularly in first half. After a bang-up and exciting opening, it appears that scripters lost sight of their narrative to drag in Mexican songs, dancing and way of life, plus an overage of dialog, to the detriment of action. Cuss-words crop up so often that frequently they drown out normal dialog, but they’re all in character and probably will get by despite some pretty salty language.

—Whitney Williams, Variety, June 1968

The fault for this lies in a script that would rather ingratiate than abrade, in direction that is content to realize, in documentary fashion, the ugly surfaces of asylum life. One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest is an earnest attempt to make a serious film. But in the end, the movie backs away from both the human reality and the cloudy but potent symbolism that Ken Kesey found in the asylum.

—Richard Schickel, Time, December 1975

If E.T. is indeed a higher intelligence, as Elliott insists, what does he have to teach? Evidently he is one of those autistic genius types that Hollywood adores—capable of crafting an interstellar communicator out of toys and cutlery, but completely inept at basic social skills. Despite his ability to learn English in a couple of hours, what does E.T. have to say? The boy learns about tolerance, loyalty, his capacity for love. Well, that’s all fine, but it’s nothing you can’t learn from an earth dog.

—Don McKellar, Village Voice, March 2002

[The Deer Hunter is] a disgusting account of what the evil Vietnamese did to poor, innocent Americans stands at the center of this Oscar-laden weepie about macho buddies from a small industrial town (Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, John Savage, and John Cazale, wasted in his last screen performance).

—Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader, Date Unknown

The only remarkable thing about Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather, Part II is the insistent manner in which it recalls how much better his original film was…Part II, also written by Mr. Coppola and Mario Puzo, is not a sequel in any engaging way. It’s not really much of anything that can be easily defined.

—Vincent Canby, New York Times, December 1974

Of course everyone is entitled to their opinion…but a bad review for The Godfather: Part II?!?