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Movies & TV

16th May 2022

11 bad movies that actually got good reviews when they were released

Rory Cashin

Time and hindsight has not been kind to these movies.

Released on 16 May, 2002, Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones probably still represents the absolute nadir for all things related to a galaxy far, far away.

However, the movie still made $639 million at the global box office, and was actually decently reviewed by critics at the time.

This got us to thinking: what other now-considered-bad movies were actually reviewed really well at the time? We’ve collected 11 of them, starting with…

Star Wars Episode II – Attack of the Clones

Rotten Tomatoes score: 65%

Review at the time: “George Lucas has reached deep into the trove of his self-generated mythological world to produce a grand entertainment that offers a satisfying balance among the series’ epic, narrative, technological and emotional qualities.” – Variety

Attack of the Clones is worse than The Phantom Menace (which scored a still too high 52%), and worse than Revenge of the Sith (an insanely high 80%), so we’d love to go back two decades and ask the critics at the time just what in the hell they were thinking. Remember when Anakin was flirting with Padme by telling her how he doesn’t like sand? Yeah, great stuff.

The Amazing Spider-Man

Rotten Tomatoes score: 72%

Review at the time: “This is a more thoughtful film, and its action scenes are easier to follow in space and time. If we didn’t really need to be told Spidey’s origin story again, at least it’s done with more detail and provides better reasons for why Peter Parker throws himself into his superhero role.” – Chicago Sun-Times

Not so much amazing, and more like The Forgettable Spider-Man. While there were definitely some entries on the plus column for this movie – Andrew Garfield was a great Peter Parker, and he had some fantastic chemistry with Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy – it was ultimately just way too similar to the Tobey Maguire version that had concluded just five years previous.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Rotten Tomatoes score: 83%

Review at the time: “Those Oompa-Loompas are the beat, and soul, of Burton’s finest movie since Ed Wood: a madhouse kiddie musical with a sweet-and-sour heart.” – Entertainment Weekly

Depp is obviously channeling Michael Jackson for his take on Willy Wonka in Tim Burton’s 2005 adaptation, which… yeah, we don’t have much else to say about that. Also, for the life of us, we still can’t understand a single word anyone is singing during any of the musical numbers.


Rotten Tomatoes score: 74%

Review at the time: “Hyper-articulate and often breathtakingly intelligent and always brazenly alive. I think it’s easily the strongest American film since Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River, though it is not for the fainthearted.” – The New Yorker

The movie that beat Brokeback Mountain for the Best Picture Oscar shouldn’t be disliked for that reason. Well, not solely for that reason. The Academy were clearly so blinded by wanting to give awards to Hot Topic Racist Issue Movie, that they kind of overlooked the fact that the movie was so manipulative, you barely noticed that it seems to exist in an alternative reality, where racism is the only talking point every single person has, all day, every day. Critics gushed because Famous Actors played a Racist, but then they learned a Lesson, and that was A Good Thing. Ugh.

Finding Dory

Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%

Review at the time: “Finding Dory doesn’t feel lazy, cynical, or like a rehash. On the contrary, it does what a sequel should — it’s a compelling argument for why we make them in the first place.” – Indiewire

Admit it, until we mentioned it right here, you’d completely forgotten this movie existed. This shouldn’t even be in the same conversation of quality as Inside Out, Wall-E or, y’know, Finding Nemo. But here we are.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Rotten Tomatoes score: 82%

Review score at the time: “Moves the franchise even closer to Indiana Jones territory, with bloodcurdling action scenes and a passel of climactic computer-generated slime beasties unparalleled in their potential ability to – I’m quoting from both book and film here – ‘rip, tear, rend, kill;.” – The Boston Globe

Fundamentally the worst of the Harry Potter movies, but it has a higher review score than Philosopher’s Stone, Order of the Phoenix, and Deathly Hallows Part One.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Rotten Tomatoes score: 78%

Review at the time: “A slick, fun film that has by no means sacrificed the fast action beats of the first three.” – Empire

Listen, we get it. It was 20 years since the last Indy movie, and we were all very excited to see him back on the big screen. We ignored the Nuke The Fridge moment and the inter-dimensional aliens and Shia LeBeouf-swinging-with-the-monkeys as a pretender to the Indy throne, because Harrison was back with his whip and his hat. Gets a little bit worse with every rewatch.

Iron Man 2

Rotten Tomatoes score: 72%

Review at the time: “Favreau supplies the go-go-go that makes the movie stratospherically entertaining, even without 3-D. But it’s the promiscuously talented Downey who adds the grace notes that make Iron Man 2 something to remember.” – Rolling Stone

What should have been titled A Feature Length Trailer For The MCU’s Future Releases. Marvel would get much, much better at seeding out this kinda stuff, but Iron Man 2 still stands out as the best example of the worst kind of universe building.

The King’s Speech

Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%

Review at the time: “No screen portrait of a king has ever been more stirring-heartbreaking at first, then stirring. That’s partly due to the screenplay, which contains two of the best-written roles in recent memory, and to Mr. Hooper’s superb direction.” – The Wall Street Journal

Another Best Picture winner – this time beating The Social Network, Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, and Toy Story 3 – and another film that absolutely did not deserve to win. Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are good fun in the leading roles, but paralleling King George VI finding his voice and Britain finding its footing in World War II is absolutely laughable. And not in a good way. Director Tom Hooper would go on to direct Cats, which was at least reviewed accurately.


Rotten Tomatoes score: 82%

Review at the time: “This brilliantly executed concept – the title, the casting, the squiggly tornado CGI – was the most delicious chum, and we are creatures of instinct.” – TIME

This is a toughie, because everyone involved – both those making the movie and those watching the movie – knows exactly what kind of movie this is. But knowing it is trying to be a bad movie, does that make it a good movie? Or just successful at being bad? It is a quandary, but it still doesn’t excuse this tornado-made-of-sharks having higher RT scores than some actually good movies.

Red Dragon

Rotten Tomatoes score: 68%

Review at the time: “Is Red Dragon a better film than “Manhunter?” I don’t know. I think it stands on its own, but I wonder how much people who are intimately familiar with “Manhunter” will be shocked by it, although the ending is altogether different and much more realised, I think.” – FilmThreat

I can answer the above question: Red Dragon, from the the director of Rush Hour and featuring Anthony Hopkins doing a bad Anthony Hopkins impression, is NOT better than Manhunter.