Sci-Fi films with terrible Rotten Tomatoes scores that you should watch anyway

The website Rotten Tomatoes aggregates movie reviews and uses them to give every movie a percentage rating indicating their agreed-upon quality. So for example, the 2017 smash hit Wonder Woman gets a 92 percent, whereas Adam Sandler's Jack and Jill sits at 3 percent. You get the idea. But just because something has a low rating on Rotten Tomatoes doesn't mean you shouldn't watch it (although don't get me wrong, you definitely shouldn't watch Jack and Jill). This is especially true for genres like science fiction, that tend to get reviewed especially harshly. 

We've put together a list of sci-fi movies that are rated quite low (40 percent or under) on Rotten Tomatoes, but are still worth watching. Some of them are good but misunderstood, and some of them are bad but interesting. Either way, don't let the critics dissuade you from giving these movies a look.

Godzilla: Final Wars (2004)

Godzilla: Final Wars is like Godzilla's greatest hits album. It's all the stuff you loved from the classic movies, crammed into one gonzo story. Admittedly, the plot is too inconsequential to be worth recounting here, but the short version is that some aliens are attacking Earth, and they use Kaiju (giant monsters) as weapons. To save the world, Godzilla must do battle with the Kaiju from previous movies, including Gigan, Ghidorah, Rodan, Hedorah, and a ton more. 

Mothra also gets involved, as does Godzilla's son Minilla. Godzilla even fights—and easily defeats—the inferior American version of Godzilla from the 1998 movie. No one would deny that the writing of Final Wars is convoluted and messy, and this certainly isn't the sort of movie you watch to see people act, so its 40 percent rating isn't that surprising. But if you're a Godzilla fan, or you just like giant monster fights in general, this movie will give you everything you want from it and then some.

Speed Racer (2008)

You've probably heard plenty of defenses of Speed Racer by now. A bomb on its 2008 release with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 40 percent, it's since become a beloved cult classic. Based on the American localization of a Japanese anime, the movie rejected realism (as the Wachowskis so often do) in favor of oversaturated futuristic visuals and characters with looks and names right out of the cartoon. 

But to the surprise of many, there's no parody or cynicism in Speed Racer. The characters are played as real people with emotions and believable motivations, and Speed Racer in particular is a very sincere young man who just wants to be the best at the only thing he's good at, which is driving tricked-out racecars. Even the unforgettable line "Inspector Detector suspected foul play," is delivered with a straight face. The racing scenes in particular are a delightful mix of speed, color, and editing. Speed Racer isn't just a weird movie worth watching, it's a genuinely great film that the public just failed to appreciate on its release.

Hell Comes to Frog Town (1988)

On the other hand, Hell Comes to Frog Town seems considerably overrated at 40 percent, which is almost certainly attributable to the small number of reviews it received. There's no world in which this should be considered a good movie, but as bad movies go, it's pretty interesting. 

To start with, it stars Roddy Piper, who was best known as a professional wrestler but also starred in a legitimate sci-fi classic, They LiveHell Comes to Frog Town came out in 1988, the same year as They Live, but it's more like a low-rent Road Warrior with added mutant frogs. In a post-apocalyptic future where most humans are sterile, Piper plays Sam Hell, a wanderer who has left a trail of pregnant women in his wake. He's captured by a group of militant nurses who want him to impregnate the fertile women under their care, except that those women have been captured by reptilian mutants and taken to their settlement. So it falls to Hell to go to Frog Town and find the captured women.

The script is a joke and the gender politics are terrible, but Piper is always a magnetic presence on screen, and the frogs have some great gross looks, even if their mouths never quite move as well as you want them to. So if you enjoy '80s schlock, or you're just a big Rowdy Roddy Piper fan, definitely give Hell Comes to Frog Town a look.

Last Action Hero (1993)

Arnold Schwarzenegger was a megastar in 1993, and Last Action Hero, directed by action master John McTiernan, was intended to be a huge summer blockbuster, but it became a legendary flop. Critics hated it, resulting in its 37 percent Rotten Tomatoes score, and audiences just didn't have time for it, since it opened the week after Jurassic Park, which wasn't letting go of the #1 slot at the box office. 

What's interesting about Last Action Hero is also what ultimately makes it a failure: it's a parody of over-the-top action films that allows itself to become an over-the-top action film. It satirizes overused tropes and then turns around and uses them with barely a wink. Schwarzenegger plays Jack Slater, the hero of a series of action films who finds his way into the real world, but he also turns up as himself in the "real world" scenes.

The best part of the movie is probably Charles Dance, best known today as Tywin Lannister on Game of Thrones. Dance plays the main villain, a hitman from Slater's world who realizes he can eliminate his nemesis by killing Schwarzenegger. Ian McKellan, years before he was a Hollywood star, plays Death, who steps out of an Ingmar Bergman movie to play a key role in the finale. Last Action Hero doesn't quite hold together, but it's still entertaining, and some excellent performances along with the grand scale of what it's trying to do narratively make it an interesting watch.

​No Such Thing (2001)

An art film that disguised itself as a fantasy/horror film, 2001's No Such Thing disappointed everyone who watched it looking for something it's not. Sarah Polley plays Beatrice, a young journalist who travels to Iceland looking for a legendary monster that may be responsible for the death of her boyfriend. What she finds is an ancient and intelligent creature, played by Robert John Burke, who has lived longer than the human race has existed, and wants nothing more than to die. 

Beatrice's discovery of the monster makes them both celebrities, and they end up in New York City. But the monster is more miserable than ever, drinking and brooding and looking for an end to his existence. Eventually Beatrice helps him find the death he's after, as they're pursued by a paranoid government. Despite its 29 percent rating, No Such Thing is a beautiful and contemplative film. It's just not the sort of thing you except when one of the main characters is a monster with huge horns.

Jupiter Ascending (2015)

Jupiter Ascending is the second Wachowski film on this list, and it won't be at all surprising if it becomes as much of a cult classic as Speed Racer, once a little more time has passed. The major flaw of Jupiter Ascending is that it tries to do too much. It's basically an epic sweeping space opera trilogy in the form of one two-hour movie. 

Mila Kunis stars as Jupiter Jones, a poor girl from Earth who finds out she's next in line for a vast inheritance from outer space. Channing Tatum plays a wolf man from space who's assigned to protect her from the many forces aligned against her. Chief among those forces is Eddie Redmayne, who plays an evil alien who's human in appearance but unmistakably reptilian in demeanor. The movie is an overstuffed roller coaster filled with aliens, animal people, space ships, bounty hunters, treacherous marriage plots, and one whole planet of tedious bureaucrats. 

There are certainly valid criticisms about the movie: the plot is definitely convoluted, and some of the dialogue isn't great. But a lot of the critics that contributed to Jupiter Ascending's 26 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes seem to have a problem with the basics of the space opera subgenre, finding concerns about believability in a story about a galaxy-spanning space dynasty and resenting the amount of money spent on something they viewed as silly. Jupiter Ascending may not be a perfect movie, but time will almost certainly be kind to it.

Event Horizon (1997)

Despite being rated at 24 percent, Event Horizon might be the most frightening outer space horror film that doesn't involve facehuggers or xenomorphs. In fact, there are no aliens in this movie at all, unless you count an unseen and shapeless evil. The Event Horizon was a ship equipped with a new kind of inter-dimensional warp drive, which disappeared on its test flight seven years earlier. Now it has reappeared near Neptune, and another ship is sent to investigate. 

What they find is a ghost ship that seems to have recently returned from Hell itself. One by one, the crew encounters manifestations of their dreams and nightmares, and most of them don't survive. Event Horizon stars Laurence Fishburne as the captain of the rescue ship, and Sam Neill as the scientist who built the Event Horizon's gravity drive, and whose wife died on that ship. This is a grisly and disturbing movie that's definitely not for everyone. But if you like horror, the "haunted house in space" premise is interesting, and the scares are definitely there.

The Green Slime (1968)

Released in 1968, The Green Slime is the oldest movie on this list by a wide margin, so it almost feels rude to point out its 22 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating. And while it's certainly a bad film, it's one of those films that's bad in a fun, entertaining way. 

It's a Japanese/American co-production, shot in Japan with a Japanese crew and an all-white cast. It feels a lot like 1960s Japanese sci-fi of the Godzilla variety, but it's filmed in English and has a strong inflection of Star Trek-era American sci-fi as well. Plus, the monsters that grow from the eponymous slime to terrorize a space station are wonderfully cheesy one-eyed tentacled beasts that were apparently portrayed by Japanese children in rubber suits. The Green Slime was the subject of the original pilot episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000, and while that pilot has never been officially released, you can recreate it by making fun of this movie as you watch it with your friends.

Masters of the Universe (1987)

Masters of the Universe is a big, glorious mess. Adapted from the popular line of toys, it probably earned its 18 percent rating, but it's still pretty fun, especially if you're into that Cannon Films VHS aesthetic. 

Dolph Lundgren, fresh off of Rocky IV, plays He-Man, the barbarian hero who must defeat Skeletor, played here by Frank Langella. Meg Foster plays Evil-Lyn, and a very young Courteney Cox appears as an Earth teen who gets caught up in the Eternian conflict along with her boyfriend. The film contains very little of the mythology from the Masters of the Universe cartoon and comics, but it tells a pretty fun action-oriented story about an eternal war in a sci-fi/fantasy world spilling into 1980s Earth. 

Most of the cast is quite good, particularly Langella and Foster, and Lundgren's physical acting (not to mention his impressive body) is perfect for the character of He-Man, even if you can't always understand what he's saying. Honestly, that kind of sums up the whole movie: it doesn't always makes sense, but you want to keep looking at it.

Howard the Duck (1986)

Howard the Duck stands at 15 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and is remembered as one of the biggest bombs of all time. Based on the Marvel Comic by Steve Gerber, which was a huge hit in the 1970s, it was intended to be an animated film. However, producer George Lucas owed Universal a big summer release, so he decided to just have his special effects people build a duck suit and make the film live action. 

Lea Thompson, her career red hot after Back to the Future, came on to play Howard's human love interest Beverly. Tim Robbins plays a key supporting role, and Jeffrey Jones, best known as Ferris Bueller's principal plays a scientist who becomes possessed by an evil space creature and transforms into the movie's villain. The Duck himself is played by the diminutive Ed Gale, with Broadway actor Chip Zien providing his voice. 

The movie attempts a Ghostbusters-like structure, where it starts as an off-kilter comedy and then escalates into an action film until it climaxes with a battle against a giant monster. Unfortunately, it lacks most of the stuff that makes Ghostbusters so good, like strong writing and a cast of veteran comedians. There's also a sexual element to Howard and Beverly's relationship, which is a strange choice that didn't go over well with audiences. Nevertheless, Howard the Duck is a worth a watch just for how weird it is, and for Jones' scene-stealing performance as a man slowly transforming into an alien overlord. As with all of these films, watching a truly unique failure can often be at least as much fun as watching a by-the-book success.