Rotten Tomatoes has become the notorious poster child for lack of nuanced and diverse discourse, with its "is it good or is it bad?" percentage rating system killing any attempts to use criticism as a form of discussion. This means that a loooooot of movies on the site are way better than you might be led to believe they are by just looking at whether they are "fresh" or "rotten."
Continuing an age-old Thrillist tradition, I've picked eight of these movies that were critically derided in their time, or unfairly tanked with fans, or just simply deserve a second (or third, or tenth) chance. Feel free to heartily agree with me, and also check out our lists of the Best Movies of 2019 and the Best Bad-Good Movies Ever.
'Last Week Tonight' Writer Josh Gondelman Takes Shots, Talks About Working For John Oliver
Release date: July 1, 1998
Director: Michael Bay
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 38%
Why it's better than that: Sometimes it's hard to feel truly patriotic these days, what with the state of [*gestures broadly at everything*] but watching Armageddon makes me want to run around outside waving the biggest, brightest Old Glory I can find. In these uncertain times, maybe all we need is a balls-to-the-wall bizarre movie about a motley crew of home-grown American blue-collar heroes who, with, like, days of training, take a rocket into space and park it on a meteor that's about to crash into Earth and bring humanity's extinction -- and they do this to drill into it and blow it up with a bomb? Rag on the Transformers series all you like, but you can't deny here that Michael Bay really is a gifted, beautiful filmmaker, with soaring shots of spacecraft and heroic close-ups on Ben Affleck and a really fascinating, wholly inaccurate depiction of what the surface of a space rock might look like. It's emotional, it's exciting, and Steve Buscemi's character's entire personality is "horny."
Release date: May 26, 1995
Director: Robert Longo
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 13%
Why it's better than that: You might think 1999 was the first time Keanu Reeves entered the Matrix, but he actually conquered the digital world 4 years earlier. Look, Johnny Mnemonic is far from Keanu Reeves' best performance ever, but 13%?? That's just mean! This movie has so much bizarre stuff and introduces so many fascinating concepts and visions of the future, it's no wonder that maybe it was a little ahead of its time. In a dystopian future ruled by megacorporations, Johnny acts as a "courier," paid to upload information into his brain that's too sensitive to transport through the internet. Things, naturally, go wrong just as he agrees to complete a sensitive job, and he finds himself hunted by the Yakuza while his brain slowly boils with the strain of the massive data upload. Maybe it was the weird digital effects, maybe it was the talking cyborg dolphin, but critics did NOT like this one, despite the fact that Ice-T plays a renegade anti-establishment hacker with giant goggles and cool face tattoos. Joke's on them, because Johnny Mnemonic pioneered a futuristic neon-lit hacker aesthetic that dominated the nineties.
Release date: August 15, 1997
Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 27%
Why it's better than that: If there's a movie on this list that is genuinely great -- not just good, but great -- despite its Rotten Tomatoes rating, it's this one. A claustrophobic, chilling spaceship horror with a world-class deranged performance by Sam Neill, Event Horizon deserves a spot in the pantheon of great sci-fi movies, especially those that feature satanic rituals, black holes that are portals to other dimensions, and people gouging out their eyes. In the far future, the crew of the Lewis and Clark are dispatched on a rescue mission to recover the experimental spaceship Event Horizon after receiving a distress call, but when they get there, they find out that some calls are much better left unanswered. Not since Possession has Sam Neill been so creepy, and outer space has never seemed so eldritch.
Release date: December 16, 1983
Director: Michael Mann
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 40%
Why it's better than that: Remember when Scott Glenn was hilariously buff and Ian McKellen didn't look like Gandalf all the time? No? Well, it sounds like you never saw The Keep, Michael Mann's outta this world cult horror movie about a group of Nazi soldiers who awaken an ancient power imprisoned inside a massive fortress deep in the Carpathian mountains. There's a lot in here about humanity driven to extremes, our desire and skill at committing evil and what you'd give up to save who you love, but what's great about this movie are the incredible underground sets and the haunting Tangerine Dream soundtrack.
Release date: March 9, 2012
Directors: Andrew Stanton, Mark Atkins
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 52%
Why it's better than that: If only audiences had been kinder to Disney's early-2010s risks, then maybe we wouldn't have a giant studio juggernaut inflicting three to four superhero movies upon us every year. That's right, I said it: John Carter could have saved Hollywood. He's already saved Mars! Disney's last big-budget total failure stars Taylor Kitsch as an ex-soldier who gets fwoomped all the way to the red planet after stumbling into the wrong cave. Able to jump ten times higher than the planets' humanoid (and, of course, very hot) inhabitants, John becomes a hero, saving Martian civilization in the face of all-out war. The effects look amazing, and Kitsch is genuinely charming as the titular hero, growing into a swashbuckling dude that would fit right in with the likes of Indiana Jones and Rick O'Connell.
Release date: January 9, 2008
Director: Anne Fletcher
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 40%
Why it's better than that: I am shocked. I am appalled. I am incensed at how low this movie is rated, but, if you can believe it, there was a time when the world was not too kind to the humble rom-com. People expected a lot from Aline Brosh McKenna, fresh from writing the sharp, acidic The Devil Wears Prada, and seemed perturbed that she'd "sunk" to a simple wedding-themed romantic comedy. It is literally about a woman who's always the bridesmaid, never the bride, after all. But Katherine Heigl and James Marsden have an electric chemistry that immediately takes over once the two share their legendary drunken bar sing-along duet to "Bennie and the Jets" -- which I solely credit with giving me unrealistic expectations for what going out to bars would be like in my 20s.
Release date: June 7, 2013
Director: James DeMonaco
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 39%
Why it's better than that: The Purge's extremely low rating is genuinely surprising considering how respected the series has become amongst horror fans. A ripping social commentary, The Purge takes place in a near-future America on "Purge Night," a 12-hour period during which any and all crime is completely legal. The story follows a wealthy family who plan to wait out the event in their house barricaded by a new security system, but when they save a target from a bunch of psychotic "purgers" they ignite their ire, causing them to break past the security system and invade their house. It's not until the end that The Purge turns the social commentary dial up to 11, with a genuine twist that's as fun as it is unsettling.
Release date: June 16, 1995
Director: Joel Schumacher
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 38%
Why it's better than that: Batman Forever is probably the most hated Batman movie, aside from Batman v Superman maybe, and it certainly doesn't come close to the Tim Burton masterpiece that launched this unofficial series. It is, however, a lot more fun than superhero movies have become nowadays, Jim Carrey's Riddler prancing around Tommy Lee Jones in nearly neon Two-Face makeup is almost mesmerizing to watch, as Batman Forever recalls an era of Batman comics that were a lot weirder and sillier. It's a definite departure from Burton's dimmer, more stylized works, but it also has not one, but two hit singles by none other than U2 and Seal. What more could you want?
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