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Movies With Terrible Rotten Tomatoes Scores That Are Actually Awesome

For many cinephiles, Rotten Tomatoes is the first stop on the way to deciding what to watch, and the film industry has taken notice. New releases tout their high "Tomatometer" scores in promotional material. "Review bombing" releases has become such an issue, the site has had to institute new policies to combat aggressive campaigns for or against certain films. Fans refresh the site obsessively as anticipated films draw nearer to their release date, eager to see where the score will land. Love it or hate it, Rotten Tomatoes is an inescapable fixture of film criticism, and it doesn't show signs of lessening in importance any time soon.

That said, Rotten Tomatoes isn't always perfect. Sometimes, critics gets it wrong. Maybe the source material is obscure. Maybe the film is ahead of its time. Maybe its release is overshadowed by scandal. Whatever the reason, certain movies end up tarred with a terrible Tomatometer score they do not deserve.

We're here to celebrate those critically derided films. Each of these entries bears the bright green splat of a low Tomatometer, yet every single one is worth watching. Some are inventive fantasy sagas, laid low by weird effects. Some are pulpy thrillers, aimed at a market too niche to be widely understood. Some are daring dramas, years ahead of their time. All of them are awesome, no matter what Rotten Tomatoes has to say.

Underworld

It isn't hard to see why Underworld wasn't a huge hit with critics: It's an unashamedly pulpy ode to vampires, werewolves, and billowing black leather. Characters have names like Kraven and Selene, dual-wielding pistols is de rigeur, and characters say things like "Differences will be set aside, allegiances will be made, and soon, I will become the hunted." Reviewers found it goofy, po-faced, and dumb.

Removed from the period it came out, however, Underworld reveals itself as a hell of a lot of fun. Kate Beckinsale is wonderfully steely as Selene, a vampiric assassin known as a "Death Dealer," driven by a centuries-old grudge. The supporting cast is absolutely stacked with talent: Bill Nighy, Michael Sheen, and Erwin Leder give their all as a wide variety of creatures going bump in the night. Underworld has become a franchise since the first film's 2003 debut, comprising five films, comic books, video games, and an animated feature. It's exactly as silly, sexy, and violent as you might imagine — and that's why it endures. 

The Chronicles of Riddick

2000's Pitch Black is an impressive bit of sci-fi horror that gave the world Richard B. Riddick, one of Vin Diesel's first major roles. It did quite well on a relatively low budget of $23 million, earning a $53 million gross and a solid fanbase. Diesel is a particular highlight of the film: As Riddick, a notorious criminal with sci-fi super-vision, he's a charismatic anti-hero whose martial skill is matched only by his ironclad determination. Pitch Black turned a profit, Diesel wowed audiences, and thus, a sequel was ensured: 2004's The Chronicles of Riddick.

Chronicles' budget grew by leaps and bounds, ultimately landing at $105 million — a far cry from Pitch Black's modest spending. This turned out to be a grave mistake. Critics savaged the film as a limp disappointment, all the more lackluster for following Pitch Black's surprising success. In the end, Chronicles' brought in only $115 million. How, then, did the series garner a third installment in 2013's Riddick, a direct-to-DVD animated feature, and a couple of video games?

In short, it's because Chronicles is wildly misunderstood. Unlike Pitch Black, the focus here is entirely on Riddick, who explores a setting that leans far more towards science fiction than horror. It's sweeping, strange, and an enormous amount of fun, once one takes it on its own merits. Plus, it was on this set that Vin Diesel taught Judi Dench how to play Dungeons & Dragons.

Kung Pow! Enter the Fist

It's baffling why some of the movies on this list have low critical scores. Kung Pow! Enter the Fist is not one of those movies: Its reviews are terrible, and it's not hard to see why. But for the purposes of this list, we're talking about awesome movies, and awesomeness is not bound by mainstream standards of quality. Kung Pow! might not be good, but it sure as hell is awesome.

Steve Oedekerk wrote, directed and stars in this comedy, which mixes footage from the 1976 Hong Kong action movie Tiger & Crane Fists with original material. Together, these two disparate halves combine to tell the ridiculous story of The Chosen One and his search for the man who killed his family, known only as Master Pain, AKA Betty.

The Chosen One fights a terrible CGI cow who is also a karate master. French aliens make a surprise appearance. There are faces where they shouldn't be. The Lion King is parodied. You'll know within fifteen minutes of turning this on whether or not you'll like it. If you do, you'll almost certainly end up laughing to the point of tears by the movie's end. Kung Pow! is a parody overflowing with love for the martial arts cinema it mocks, and a comedy unafraid of getting utterly, absolutely weird. It's odd, it's silly, it's a little bit dumb, and that's what makes it awesome.

Godzilla: King of the Monsters

Godzilla: King of the Monsters' dismal reception isn't a mystery — it's not a film interested in conventional storytelling. If you want to care about characters (especially human ones) with nuanced struggles and conflicting choices, this ain't the movie for you. If, on the other hand, you want to see Godzilla, Mothra, Rodan, King Ghidorah and about 300 other classic kaiju duke it out across the planet? Then you've come to the right place. This is the big-budget Godzilla movie you've always wanted to see, full of action, superpowers, and utterly wanton destruction.

Now, in fairness, the story does fall apart if you look at it for too long. There are plenty of strong actors working to keep it together: Ken Watanabe, Millie Bobby Brown, and Bradley Whitford are all here, doing their best with a threadbare plot. But be honest: You come to Godzilla for Godzilla, not "Godzilla's friend who is a human," and King of the Monsters delivers on that front. Sit back, relax, and enjoy watching giant monsters duke it out.

Wet Hot American Summer

There's just no reasonable explanation for Wet Hot American Summer's bleak critical reception. Maybe it was simply ahead of its time? Maybe critics expected a different kind of comedy from the promotional material? Whatever the reason, critics weren't into the cult classic that, 14 years later, garnered its own Netflix series.

Admittedly, the premise is nothing original. It's the last day of summer camp, and everyone is trying to get laid. Wet Hot American Summer is a satire of the most absurd sort, full of goofy talent show skits,  1980s Cold War anxiety, and a whole lot of awkward smooching. What truly makes it sing is its cast — and oh, what a cast it is.

Wet Hot American Summer stars — deep breath — Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Elizabeth Banks, Michael Ian Black, Joe Lo Truglio, Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Michael Showalter, Molly Shannon, H. Jon Benjamin, and Judah Friedlander. Yeah, that's right: Wet Hot American Summer has all of them. There are plenty of bad movies with good casts, but an irreverent, ensemble comedy featuring this bunch can't help but end up being more hit than miss. It's a star-studded constellation of talent having an absolute blast. It's impossible not to have a good time in their company, and absolutely no surprise that over a decade later, fans still wanted more.

Hocus Pocus

It's hard to believe that Hocus Pocus got trashed so badly by critics, considering how beloved it has become. Part of it is the nostalgia factor. A lot of people who champion Hocus Pocus today probably watched it as kids, and have fond memories of it as a result. Kids don't have the most critical eye in the world, and by the time you're grown up, ripping apart the things that brought you joy isn't exactly a high priority. One revisits a movie like Hocus Pocus as a stroll down memory lane, not as an opportunity for film criticism.

But still, Hocus Pocus-fever isn't all nostalgia: It's a genuinely delightful movie, and a showcase for its trio of powerhouse actresses. I mean, you put Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy in a movie, and you're going to end up entertained. The main reason we think this movie did so poorly among critics is because of when it released: July 1993. What the heck was Hocus Pocus doing in the middle of summer? A family-friendly movie with a great cast and gentle thrills could have cleaned up around Halloween. Instead, it had to compete with Jurassic Park. Do yourself a favor: Save this one for October.

Warcraft

Remember when the video game adaptations we got were movies like Super Mario Bros. and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation? Hollywood has finally figured out that embracing the immersive worlds that games create is the key to a successful adaptation. Warcraft is almost a great example of that: It might not have the most interesting characters, but it successfully brings the world of Azeroth to life with impressive visuals and sweeping cinematography. Critics, however, were not impressed.

Warcraft brought in esteemed director Duncan Jones to run the show, and his talent and appreciation of the source material shows — almost to a fault. Most of the shortcomings of this film come from its allegiance to the Warcraft games: It assumes the viewer is already pretty familiar with Azeroth and its denizens. If you're in the know, you're going to find a ton to enjoy here. If you don't ... well, then you might agree with the critics. Still, for those already devoted to the world of Warcraft, it's a fine movie that absolutely brims with love for the original game.

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift

Tokyo Drift is the ugly duckling of the Fast and the Furious franchise. It's caught somewhere between the series' grounded beginnings, and the total insanity that has powered more recent entries. What is unquestionable, however, is how entertaining it is — and how it opened the franchise up to international audiences, who ensured the success of later movies.

Tokyo Drift is quite the departure from the first two films. There's no Paul Walker or Vin Diesel in sight (well, until the final shot), and we leave the American muscle car scene behind for the neon-drenched glitz of Tokyo. Tokyo Drift has some of the coolest driving sequences in the entire franchise, and also marks a distinct shift towards a more self-aware tone. Ultimately, that change was for the best, as it has allowed The Fast and the Furious to become about something more than the relatively niche world of underground street racing. There is also a wonderful simplicity to Tokyo Drift: It's cool, it's fast, and it's not too hung up on plot. It aims to impress, and in sleek Tokyo fashion, it does.

Drop Dead Fred

Phoebe Cates is often remembered as the eye candy of Fast Times at Ridgemont High. This is a severe misstep — she's a wonderful actress with serious range. There's no better demonstration of her comedic chops than Drop Dead Fred, an oft-forgotten 1991 comedy. Sure, the reviews are terrible — but that's only because critics walked in with the wrong expectations.

In Drop Dead Fred, Cates plays Elizabeth, a woman dealing with a life in which everything has gone wrong. She moves back in with her mother as her marriage falls apart, where she is reunited with her imaginary childhood friend, Drop Dead Fred, played by the phenomenal Rik Mayall. Fred sets out to try to fix Elizabeth's relationships and, obviously, makes things even worse.

Drop Dead Fred is an extremely dark comedy, which threw audiences for a loop. The studio was reportedly not happy with how dark it turned out, and tried to unload it after production wrapped. But to anyone who watches it with the correct expectations, it's a biting, surprisingly heartfelt story of adulthood gone wrong. As TriStar head Mike Medvoy put it at the time, it's "a children's movie on drugs" — and that's what fans love about it.

Legend

It's tough to match Legend's pedigree: It's a Ridley Scott-directed dark fantasy, starring a fresh-faced Tom Cruise as the Robin Hood-esque Jack and Tim Curry, decked out in devilish makeup, as the Lord of Darkness. Legend might be eclipsed by contemporaries like Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal, but it's a remarkably well-made film with some serious darkness at its heart.

Legend is an unquestionably beautiful watch, absolutely brimming with elegantly realized worlds, costumes, and creatures. Tom Cruise can be polarizing now, but few actors commanded the screen quite like he did throughout the 1980s. Tim Curry is always a joy, especially when he gets to lap up the scenery as a villain like the Lord of Darkness. Mia Sara, best known as Sloane Peterson from Ferris Bueller's Day Off, is wonderful as the impetuous, good-hearted Princess Lili. Add in Legend's intriguingly dark tone, and you've got an absolute classic of a movie. Whether you're a starry-eyed kid or a savvy adult, Legend's fairy tale is one you can believe in.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie

Yes, 1990's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie is a goofy low point in the franchise's history. However, a lot of the most cringeworthy stuff you think you remember from this film is actually from the sequel. Vanilla Ice and the "Ninja Rap?" That's Secret of the Ooze. Feeding Tokka and Rahzar the doughnuts? That too. There's still some silly stuff in the first film, but it's a lot more endearing and a lot less embarrassing than you might remember.

Take the action sequences. Sure, they're a bit stiff, but the choreography is genuinely thrilling. Moreover, the story this movie tells is more mature than you might expect, and there are some genuinely good performances to enjoy. James Saito is great as Shredder, and don't miss Sam Rockwell in his first role in a major film as a street thug.

The real reason Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie is still so good, however, is because of the impressive, Jim Henson-designed costumes. Sure, they lack the sleek perfection modern CGI brings to the franchise, but their real-world heft has a charm all its own. Take a walk down memory lane with the Turtles, and recall why you were once obsessed with their sewer-bound adventures. No "Ninja Rap" required.

Boondock Saints

The Boondock Saints is certainly a product of its time. Released in 1999, it won't take you long to figure out what influences director Troy Duffy was operating under in making this movie. Tarantino, Guy Ritchie, Martin Scorsese and Hong Kong action movies like Hard Target — they're all present in Boondock Saints at their absolute bloodiest. It's lurid, violent, and extreme, just as the critics said. But its action scenes are genuinely innovative, and for all its blood, it's a whole lot more fun than it's ever given credit for.

The Boondock Saints follows brothers Connor and Murphy MacManus who, after getting in a bar fight, are targeted by mobsters. They are soon caught up in a series of violent gunfights, culminating in an assault on the heart of the Russian mob. It's a less self-aware John Wick, essentially.

What really makes Boondock Saints work is its impressive cast: Willem Dafoe, Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus, and Billy Connolly all feature here at their absolute best. It's an indulgent, violent fantasy, sure — but it's a good one. There's also a sequel but ... the less said about that one, the better.

Belly

Belly is one is one of the most polarizing films on this list, with, as of this writing, a whopping 72% difference between its critical and audience score. This isn't surprising: Belly is a fascinatingly unique movie. The plot isn't anything to write home about, but it has so much style and talent involved that it's impossible to ignore. Complex has even suggested that Belly was so far ahead of its time, it reshaped hip hop and Hollywood in ways that are only now becoming clear.

Belly is the feature film debut of legendary music video director Hype Williams. It stars an absolute wealth of rap, hip hop and R&B luminaries, including Nas, DMX, Method Man, and Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins. Its leading men, Sincere and Tommy "Buns" Brown, played by Nas and DMX respectively, try to free themselves from their lives of crime after escaping from the run-down Queens neighborhood of their youth. It's a deeply-felt odyssey of music, compromise, and life at the bottom. Sure, it's a little messy, but the sheer talent, verve, and vision of the film radiates from every frame. Many critics saw Belly's atmospheric approach as Hype Williams' history in music videos dragging him down. Modern viewers know better — that sleek, style-forward approach makes Belly an unforgettable watch.

Grandma's Boy

Critics hated Grandma's Boy, while audiences loved it: That's what happens when a dumb stoner comedy hits the silver screen. Why the gulf in opinion? Well, for one thing, Grandma's Boy is a Happy Madison Productions film, the company that gave us Paul Blart and You Don't Mess With the Zohan. Yet Grandma's Boy is, unlike those films, actually sort of good. For fans of crass stoner comedy, it brings some genuinely fresh humor, plus acting of a quality far superior to what you would expect.

Grandma's Boy is about a video game tester, played by frequent Adam Sandler collaborator, Allen Covert. He is working on his own game after getting home from his day job, and ... well, let's just say that hijinks ensue. It's essentially a sketch comedy held together by a thin plot and a prayer, but the cast is game for its silly raunchiness, and it all somehow works. It helps that the cast is truly talented, boasting the likes of Linda Cardellini, Doris Roberts, Shirley Knight, and Jonah Hill. With clever writing, charming performances, and a willingness to get weird, Grandma's Boy is a stoner comedy even the soberest person can enjoy.

Bad Boys II

There aren't many big, dumb action movies better than the much-maligned Bad Boys II. It's Michael Bay at his Michael Bay-est, and if you're not down with that, you'll hate it. But if that kind of sounds like your thing? Well, then it's a dream come true. Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are out in full force from the first scene to to last. They walk away from explosions. They always find the time for a perfect quip. Rotten Tomatoes' Critics Consensus calls Bad Boys II "two and a half hours of explosions and witless banter." To that, we say: It's absolutely wit-full, and being two and a half hours full of explosions is the point.

Haven't seen the first film? Doesn't matter – Bad Boys II catches you up in a flash. Smith and Lawrence play Detectives Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett, tasked with investigating Miami's ecstasy trade. They soon uncover a massive gang war for control of the city's drug shipments, and their personal relationship is put at stake when Lowrey starts crushing on Burnett's sister, played by Gabrielle Union.

But really, all this plot is just an excuse for bigger and better explosions. That's 100% fine. Go watch Bad Boys II if you haven't. Go watch it again if you have. You'll thank us later.

Final Destination

Teen horror doesn't tend to hit home with critics. It's a genre that prioritizes pretty faces and high body counts over skillful execution, often employing questionable logic to get its stars to their bloody ends. Some of them deserve better than the "teen slasher" label they are assigned, however, chief among them the critically derided Final Destination.

The first film in the five film series (with a sixth reportedly on the way), Final Destination has a killer premise: Once Death has chosen you, there is no escape. A high school student named Alex boards a plane with several classmates, then foresees the plane exploding, killing everyone on board. After several people exit the plane, including Alex, his premonition comes true. Soon, all those who got off the plane start dying in a series of elaborate ways, and the survivors determine that they did not cheat Death — they only delayed it.

Final Destination features some truly creative death sequences, making good on its attention-grabbing premise. It's definitely not arthouse horror, but it's impossible to watch it and not be entertained. Save Midsommar and The Witch for when you're feeling highbrow, and watch Final Destination with good friends, a few drinks, and a laid-back attitude.

Empire Records

Empire Records is an insanely quotable coming-of-age comedy from 1995. It's both a throwback to similar films from the previous decade and an attempt to be the voice of the indie music-loving children of the 1990s. Teen comedies are usually pretty hit or miss with critics, and Empire Records missed with most of them. As the audience score shows, however, it didn't miss with its target viewers.

Empire Records doesn't tell a terribly original story: A group of quirky weirdos who work in a record store have to do everything they can to stop a takeover from a major chain. They're all plucky underdogs, they learn about each other, they posture over who has the best music taste. It's exactly what you'd expect in the best possible sense, and it's pulled off thanks to a truly spectacular cast. Liv Tyler, Renee Zellweger, Robin Tunney, Anthony LaPaglia and Rory Cochrane are all part of this show, and all in fine form. The story goes that Michael Nathanson, President of Regency Pictures, greenlit this film the day before he heard the pitch for Clueless. He turned it down, as he "already had a teen movie" in Empire Records. Clueless became a massive hit and Empire Records bombed — but in the end, Nathanson ended up having created an era-defining cult classic. Happy Rex Manning Day indeed.

Saw

For a few years, the Saw franchise ran like clockwork. You could expect a new film every year, each complete with intricately designed traps and fiendish plot twists. The series definitely went downhill after the first two movies, but they continued to entertain even as the quality degraded. 

The first film, 2004's Saw, continues to reign supreme as the progenitor of the series and its best outing. Saw is the film that got director James Wan and writer Leigh Whannell started, as the pair wrote the movie after meeting in film school. Nowadays, they're involved in everything from the Conjuring series to 2020's The Invisible ManSaw made over $100 million on a tiny budget of just $1.2 million. It's no wonder the film spawned so many sequels, despite critics' tepid response. 

Saw is about a serial killer who traps his victims inside elaborate puzzles, in an effort to test their will to live. There are a few great kills and a jaw-dropping twist, all brought to life by the likes of Cary Elwes, Ken Leung, and Danny Glover. It's bloody, disgusting, and twisted — and that's why fans love it.

Ravenous

It isn't hard to figure out why Ravenous didn't have a great critical reception — there is a ton going on within this bizarre film. Is it a western? A horror movie? A satire? It has elements of everything, and films that attempt that sort of genre collage frequently get a bad rap from critics. But if you accept Ravenous for the whacked-out horror it is, it's hard not to fall in love with its oddball mixture of history, murder, and pitch-black comedy.

Guy Pearce leads the cast as  Second Lieutenant John Boyd, an American soldier fighting in the Mexican-American War. The myth of the Wendigo is blended with the story of the Donner Party, set off by a particularly twisted interpretation of Manifest Destiny. It is, as you might have already guessed, bonkers. But that's the point: Ravenous is an insane overload of American myth-making, from its bloody origins to its shining ideals. Sure, there's cannibalism, tuberculosis, and whole cave's worth of skeletons. But Ravenous does nothing without reason, and as a result, becomes one of the strangest and most satisfying horror movies of the 1990s.

Fallen

Fallen has a great cast, an awesome premise and a plot that keeps you guessing. It's combines psychological horror with a police procedural plot, and manages to pull off a wonderful, impactful ending. We aren't really sure why the critical reception to this one was as bad as it was, but boy, were the critics unimpressed.

The premise of Fallen seems simple: Police catch a serial killer, then have to deal with a copycat. Things start going sideways when demonic imagery starts to appear, suggesting that there is a lot more going on with the original killer than what the police initially thought.

Fallen is anchored by an awesome cast: Denzel Washington, John Goodman, and Donald Sutherland star, all at their steely best. It's a testament to their skill that they pull Fallen's story off, which combines street-level action with forces of literally Biblical proportion. Fallen might have seemed flat to critics, but revisited today, one is struck by the film's confidence. It is unique, self-assured, and just the tiniest bit weird — a difficult combination, pulled off with aplomb.