When an action movie really works, there’s nothing quite like it. On the occasion a gifted filmmaker presents us with characters we care about on top of high-octane, technically adroit filmmaking and stunt work, it’s armrest-gripping, heart-pounding stuff in the extreme. There are such superb examples of the filmmaking craft: Mad Max: Fury Road, aliens, speed and even this year’s mega-hitTop Gun: Maverick come to mind as among the finest action movies ever made.
Then there are plenty of so-so shoot’em-ups out there, too, that are totally acceptable or even endearing, “dad movies” that are inoffensive and predictable like The Expendables franchise and other middling fare that seeks to entertain, not break ground, in the same vein as formulaic, comforting chick flicks. As with any genre, there are also some thunderously awful action pictures that fail on every level. According to critics on the Tomatometer, these are the most lamentable and fruitless attempts to raise the pulse in movie history.
10. ‘Simon Sez’ (1999) – 0%
Despite the critical and box-office failure of his Razzie-winning 1997 action picture Double Team alongside Jean-Claude Van Damme and Mickey Rourke, Dennis Rodman returned to the big screen as a would-be action hero in another stinker, about an Interpol agent who must defeat an arms dealer and rescue a kidnap victim in the French Riviera.
Featuring the big screen debut of Dane Cook,Simon Sezois ostensibly an action comedy, though the only really mirthful laughs you’ll find here are unintentional. Simon Sezo grossed just over $250,000 against a $10 million budget. Yikes.
9. ‘Precious Cargo’ (2016) — 0%
It’s important to mention that Bruce Willis‘ status as an action icon is written in stone. No movie is bad enough to change that, not even the awful [mostly] direct-to-video Precious Cargo.
A technical shambles whose $10.5-million reported budget was surely mostly above-the-line, Precious Cargo stars Willis as a murderous crime boss who flexes his influence over rival gangs. A box-office disaster relative even to its modest budget, Precious Cargo is now streaming for free across various digital platforms.
8. ‘Max Steel’ (2016) – 0%
No matter how misguided or poorly constructed, no superhero movie can be as bad as a superhero movie that has no idea what it wants to be. Or how to make sense. According to critics, the ineptitude of Max Steel makes Batman & Robin look like There Will Be Blood. Yes, this is the worst superhero movie ever, according to the Tomatometer.
If there is one element of Max Steel that isn’t atrocious, it is Maria Bello in a supporting role. Still, even an actor of her caliber can’t save this nightmare. If movies like catwoman and Batman & Robin are so bad they’re good, Max Steel is a baffling experience that borders on depressing.
7. ‘A Low Down Dirty Shame’ – 4%
Its sole virtue being a title that represents truth in advertising, lowbrow action comedy A Low Down Dirty Shame is a career low for writer/director/star Keenan Ivory Wayanswho plays a private investigator who jumps into up a cold case against a drug kingpin.
Wayans would go on to better things. The original 2000 Scary Movie (a genuinely funny spoof sometimes overshadowed by wretched sequels and spinoffs) was, for a time, the highest-grossing movie directed by an African-American. He also directed 2004’s critical-proof White Chickswhich is hilarious, and deserves its cult following.
6. ‘Highlander 2: The Quickening’ (1991)
Long recognized for having one of the most laughable movie titles of all time, Highlander 2: The Quickening furthers Highlander‘s sci-fi saga of immortals, wasting a strong cast including Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Virginia Madsen and Michael Ironside amidst some truly atrocious filmmaking. Naming it the worst movie of 1991, Roger Ebert called The Quickening “laughably incomprehensible.”
Highlander 2: The Quickening is one of many Highlander sequels, but there can only be one that stands out as the most infamous. That’s this one.
5. ‘Redline’ (2007)
If you like car chases and races on film to be comprehensible, you’ll take issue with this top-to-bottom disaster about a beautiful aspiring pop star who also races cars illegally and then gets kidnapped. redline‘s most enduring legacy is in journalistic mentions as a prime example of excesses of the pre-crash loan market of the mid-aughts. The mishandling of money (so many crashed cars amounted to zero on-screen excitement) by producer Daniel Sadek is so calamitous it’s worth studying. The producer filed for bankruptcy in 2009.
redline has also garnered a reputation as quite possibly the worst car movie ever. This is the French Connection or inadequate. It makes even the goofiest Fast and Furious movie look like Seven Samurai. To add insult to injury, co-star Eddie Griffin wrecked and totaled a $1.5 million Ferrari Enzo in a promotional stunt gone wrong at a 2007 charity race.
4. ‘Shadow Conspiracy’ (1997) — 3%
Charlie Sheen plays a top White House aide who learns of a deadly conspiracy at the highest level of government. The plot and physics of Shadow Conspiracy aggressively defy plausibility at every turn, and shoddy set pieces are funny by accident. There was a genuine crime committed here: Linda HamiltonSarah Connor herself, is wasted in a supporting role.
Generic and utterly devoid of any surprises (surprises are usually a good thing to have in a thriller) Shadow Conspiracy was trashed by critics and has since been relegated to obscurity.
3. ‘Stratton’ (2017) — 0%
Dominic Cooper covers for Henry Cavill (who exited five days prior to shooting due to “creative differences”) in a British action thriller about an MI6 agent whose team is at war with a madman with chemical weapons. It’s easy to see why the original star had “creative differences,” as pretty much nothing in Stratton works.
Stratton received a beat down across the board from critics, who were stunned that even Connie Nielsen (who’s always reliably brilliant in everything from Wonder Woman to gladiator) delivered a questionable performance in an unnatural accent. When a good actor doesn’t deliver, the fault lies with the enterprise.
2. ‘The Last Days of American Crime’ (2020) – 0%
Interminably long comic-book adaptation briefly trended on Netflix, and that’s exactly where the accomplishments end. Tasks 2 and Tasks 3 director Olivier Megaton‘s nearly three-hour stab at Scarface is abrasive and even kind of pathetic. good actors like Michael Pitt and Edgar Ramirez are given nothing more to do than pose and shout dialogue.
Critics unanimously agreed that crime was a crime against cinema. Its desperate desire to be edgy is laughable. for The Last Days of American Crimeedgy just equals a lot of screaming and self-conscious camera work.
1. ‘Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever’ (2002) — 0%
According to critics via Rotten Tomatoes, this embarrassingly incompetent cyper-espionage dumpster fire is the single worst movie ever made, in any genre. World-class performers Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu are trapped in a box-office disaster that’s technically an action movie, but plays out like it’s intentionally designed to lull us to sleep.
Is Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever worth seeing? Is it so bad it’s good? The answer is, probably not. More than anything, it’s boring. And that’s just a damn shame.
NEXT: 10 Worst Movies of All Time, According to Rotten Tomatoes