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Thrillers With Terrible Rotten Tomatoes Scores That Are Still Worth Watching

For every beloved thriller out there—Memento, Gone Girl, The Usual Suspects—there's one that was absolutely savaged by the critics. That's understandable, because plenty of thrillers are straight-up awful. But just because a movie gets a bad rap from the folks paid to review it, that doesn't necessarily mean you shouldn't give it a shot.

Sure, the film might have its flaws, but maybe the acting is awesome. Perhaps the screenplay is decent, or maybe the suspenseful scenes totally work. (Or perhaps the critics just got it plain wrong.) From British gangster flicks to M. Night Shyamalan films that deserve a second chance, a surprising number of thrillers with terrible Rotten Tomatoes scores are well worth watching.

Absolute Power (1997) – 45 percent

Five years after Unforgiven, Clint Eastwood reunited with co-star Gene Hackman for Absolute Power, a film that a lot of critics absolutely didn't care for. But despite its 45 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, this political thriller features several suspenseful set pieces, top notch actors, and a script from the legendary William Goldman (The Princess Bride, Marathon Man, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, to name a few).

Directed by Eastwood, the plot follows a burglar named Luther Whitney (Eastwood again), a veteran thief looking for a big score. Unfortunately, Whitney picks the wrong mansion to rob, and during a jewel heist gone wrong, he watches as the U.S. president (Hackman) violently assaults his mistress (Melora Hardin) before two Secret Service agents (Dennis Haysbert and Scott Glenn) pump her full of lead.

Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Whitney's first instinct is to get out of the country as fast as he can, but when he sees the president covering up the crime, he decides it's time for impeachment, Eastwood style. What follows is a tense game of cat-and-mouse as Whitney evades the feds (who want him dead) and the cops (who suspect him of murder). But instead of playing the part of an immortal action star (like Sylvester Stallone often does), Eastwood totally leans into his elder actor persona, cracking jokes about his age with Ed Harris's detective.

Plus, there's a fantastic scene involving a diamond necklace, an incredibly tense moment involving two snipers trying to kill Eastwood at the same time, and the opening sequence involving a two-way mirror is a genuine nail-biter. So when it comes to the Rotten Tomatoes score, just veto what the critics have to say and give this presidential thriller a pardon.

I'll Sleep When I'm Dead (2003) – 43 percent

When people talk about gangster movies, they generally talk about American gangster movies. But the British also know how to make some killer crime flicks. Take I'll Sleep When I'm Dead, for example: a lot of critics took issue with its slow pace, but really, this 2003 film is a brilliant and brooding character study of a guy racked with guilt, a man who used to be a monster and now finds himself returning to his old ways. It's moody, it's fatalistic, and in true British tradition, it's incredibly cool.

Directed by Mike Hodges (the same guy who made Get Carter), this atmospheric noir follows Will Graham (Clive Owen), an ex-crime boss who used to rule London with a stylish iron fist. But these days, he spends his time isolated in the woods, hoping to atone for a wasted life. Obviously, that doesn't work out. After sensing that something horrible has happened back home, Graham returns to London to find that his younger brother (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) has committed suicide after being raped (by Alex DeLarge, no less).

Despite his attempts to escape his old life, Graham feels duty-bound to avenge his brother, even if his return means sparking a gang war...or becoming a killer again. Naturally, Clive Owen is fantastic as the main character—grieving, haunted, with a lot of anger simmering under the surface. As for the film itself, I'll Sleep When I'm Dead is set almost entirely at night, letting you feel like you're roaming the underbelly of London, with your collar up and head down as you make your way through the mist. Plus, the film features one of the coolest—and most dramatic—scenes involving a haircut, a new suit, and a car wash.

Secret Window (2004) – 46 percent

A lesser version of The Shining—one without the creepy twins, ghostly bartenders, and dudes in dog suits—Secret Window is based on a Stephen King story and finds a shaggy-haired Johnny Depp playing Mort Rainey, an author suffering from a serious case of writer's block. Instead of working on his novel, Mort spends his days eating Doritos, taking naps, talking to himself, and wandering around in a nasty bathrobe.

And that's when Shooter (John Turturro) shows up, a psychotic pilgrim who angrily accuses Mort of stealing his short story. With this crazed dairy farmer lurking around his isolated cabin, Mort is desperate to prove he wrote the story years before Shooter, and his quest forces him to cross paths with his ex-wife (Maria Bello), her new lover (Timothy Hutton), and one unlucky private investigator (Charles S. Dutton). But despite Mort's best efforts to stop Shooter, heads are smashed, pets are stabbed, and corn is definitely eaten.

Admittedly, Secret Window isn't the best King adaptation, but it's far from the worst. With John Turturro's over-the-top Southern accent and Johnny Depp's edgy eccentricities, this bloody thriller is incredibly fun to watch. And then there's the ending, which is actually kind of shocking when you compare it to other mainstream thrillers. Even The Shining doesn't go this far, and that wins Secret Window some pretty big points, despite its 46 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. After all, the only thing that matters is the ending.

The Village (2004) – 43 percent

Before M. Night Shyamalan revitalized his career with The Visit and Split, there was a long period of time when it looked like the writer-director was done, creatively speaking. The man who'd once made The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable was suddenly directing bombs like The Happening and After Earth. And if you were to ask most fans, they'd probably tell you Shyamalan's career started going downhill with The Village.

The story of a 19th-century community hidden in the Pennsylvania woods (and surrounded by monsters, no less), The Village was ripped apart by critics and moviegoers who hated the two big twists. And granted, when it comes to the plotting and the big reveals, The Village is nowhere near up to par with Shyamalan's better films. But while the screenplay structure definitely suffers, the director got almost everything else right. The cinematography by Roger Deakins is gorgeous, the score by James Newton Howard is hauntingly beautiful, and the set design and costumes are just fantastic.

On top of that, the cast is amazing. In addition to touching performances from William Hurt and Sigourney Weaver, Joaquin Phoenix is (as always) brilliant as Lucius, the shy young man who wants to leave the village to find medicine. But Bryce Dallas Howard is the real standout here, possibly doing her best work as Ivy, the courageous blind woman who ventures into the woods when her fiancé is in danger. And this is where The Village really shines. While the twists don't work, Shyamalan has captured a real romance, a love affair that feels genuine and true.

Plus, there are enough thrills early in the film—that scene when Ivy stands with her hand outstretched, waiting for Lucius as the monster nears, is one of Shyamalan's all-time best sequences—to make up for any missteps later on. Honestly, The Village shows all of Shyamalan's strengths as a director, proving it's much better than its awful reputation.

The Brave One (2007) – 43 percent

After The Brave One was released in 2007, quite a few critics were repulsed by the film's take on vigilante justice, calling it "deplorable" and "morally repellent," with others taking aim at the ending. But while Neil Jordan's film does grapple with revenge and retribution, it's a lot more thoughtful than something like Death Wish. Instead of focusing on the bloodshed and a rising body count, The Brave One is more interested in how fear affects everyday people, how victims respond to tragedy, and what happens to someone when they finally pick up a gun and pull the trigger.

The vigilante in question is Erica Bain (Jodie Foster), a New York City radio host who's attacked one night while strolling through Central Park with her fiancé (Naveen Andrews). After waking up from a coma, Erica learns her boyfriend was killed, leaving her shaken and suffering. With a radically new perspective on the world, she buys a pistol and starts hunting down random thugs, trying to regain control and get a little payback. But as she shoots her way across the Big Apple, she also has to deal with Detective Sean Mercer (Terrence Howard), a cop who suspects Erica is far more than just a friendly voice on the radio.

And that relationship between Foster and Howard is one of the best parts of the film. The two are constantly trying to stay one step ahead of each other and constantly asking themselves, "How much does he/she know?" Plus, Foster gives a devastatingly powerful performance as a woman trying to punish the world while wrestling with her conscience. In a genre that's usually just about putting bad guys in the ground, The Brave One is an incredibly deep revenge film.

Cassandra's Dream (2007) – 46 percent on Rotten Tomatoes

Granted, Cassandra's Dream isn't what you'd call a first-tier Woody Allen film, but it doesn't deserve a lousy 46 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, either. Set in London, this little thriller focuses on one of Allen's favorite subjects—murder—and it tells the story of two brothers with very different lifestyles. There's the dreamer and schemer, Ian (Ewan McGregor), who wants to be a real estate tycoon, and then there's Terry (Colin Farrell), a mechanic who just wants to get a decent home for his girlfriend (Sally Hawkins).

Unfortunately, Ian isn't having much success with his big plans, although he is spending a lot of money on his new girlfriend (Hayley Atwell). As for Terry, he's got a bad gambling problem, having just lost a huge chunk of change during a poker game. Desperate, the two brothers turn to their Uncle Howard (Tom Wilkinson) for a loan, and he agrees to help out if they do him a little favor first. And as you might've guessed, this favor involves sending some poor soul to the afterlife.

True, Allen is a bit heavy with the foreshadowing here—we've got references to Bonnie and Clyde, and the titular sailboat is named after a doomsday prophet—but McGregor and Farrell are spot on. Similar to his character in Shallow Grave, McGregor grows viler as the film goes on, and Farrell spins wildly out of control, wracked by worry and guilt. While it's no Crimes and Misdemeanors, Cassandra's Dream is a suspenseful little noir about brotherhood, the struggle of conscience, and the horrible things people will do when there's money on the line.

Lakeview Terrace (2008) – 45 percent

Neil LaBute has had something of a checkered career. On one hand, he's directed little-seen gems like In the Company of Men and Nurse Betty. On the other, he's also responsible for the Wicker Man remake. Fortunately, Lakeview Terrace is a far superior film, and unlike Nicolas Cage, when Samuel L. Jackson starts hollering at the top of his lungs, you don't laugh. You curl into the fetal position and cry.

Jackson has the anger turned up to 11 here, but the man isn't overacting. In fact, this kind of aggression is perfect for the character of Abel Turner, a Los Angeles cop who's none too pleased when an interracial couple moves into his San Fernando neighborhood. The husband (Patrick Wilson) is white, the wife (Kerry Washington) is black, and the moment they start unpacking, Jackson declares war. He shines lights through their windows, he slashes their tires, and soon, things escalate to straight-up violence. The couple does their best to fight back, but their hands are tied because—as one character points out—Abel is the only color that really matters: blue.

This is one of Jackson's best performances, and in an era when stories of police abuse and racial tension dominate the news, Lakeview Terrace has become incredibly relevant. The movie also features the most terrifying property dispute ever filmed, and the scene involving a lost cell phone will have you sitting on the edge of your seat. Plus, if for no other reason, you'll want to watch Lakeview Terrace to see Jackson stalking angrily down the street, gun in hand, as a wildfire rages behind him. It's an image that sums him up perfectly.

Cut Bank (2015) – 32 percent

In the mood for a Coen brother movie but you've seen all their films a million times? Then maybe you should check out Cut Bank, a little thriller featuring beautiful cinematography, fantastic acting from Hollywood veterans, and an unstoppable killer ripped straight from a movie like Barton Fink, Raising Arizona, or No Country for Old Men.

In fact, Cut Bank feels a little too much like a Coen brother film (which makes sense when you realize director Matt Shakman worked on the Fargo TV show), only it lacks the brilliance of their writing and their genius behind the camera. And yeah, Liam Hemsworth is probably miscast, but with John Malkovich as a soft-hearted sheriff and Bruce Dern as the world's crankiest mailman, Cut Bank is a nice little Montana noir about a crime that spirals wildly out of control.

The plot revolves around a young guy named Dwayne (Hemsworth) who dreams of leaving his nowhere town. Then one day, while filming his wannabe beauty queen girlfriend (Teresa Palmer), Dwayne accidentally captures the murder of a mailman (Dern) and realizes he can use the footage to collect a reward from the government. Of course, there's more going on here than meets the eye, and as the local sheriff (Malkovich) investigates, Dwayne's little scheme begins violently falling apart.

Malkovich is fantastic as a desperate lawman shocked and repulsed at the murders going down in his town. However, it's Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show, playing an Ed Gein-style killer who's eagerly awaiting a package. But when the murdered mailman disappears with his mail truck, Stuhlbarg goes on a bloody rampage, butchering everyone in his way to find his p-p-parcel while terrifying moviegoers with his soft-spoken stutter, Coke-bottle glasses, and serial killer stare.

Open Windows (2014) - 41 percent

Nestled between Timecrimes and Colossal, Open Windows is Nacho Vigalonda's fourth feature film, and it feels very much like a 21st-century riff on Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window. It's a little thriller with big ideas about voyeurism, celebrity culture, and the all-seeing eye of modern-day technology. And while it's definitely too unwieldy and completely reliant on one gimmick, the film has more than enough twists and turns to keep you glued to your screen.

The plot follows a young celebrity blogger named Nick Chambers (Elijah Wood) who runs a website dedicated to capturing the life of A-list actress Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey). Naturally, Nick is pretty psyched when he wins a contest to go on a date with the beloved superstar; unfortunately, Jill cancels at the last minute, and that's when things start getting really creepy.

Nick is suddenly contacted by a mysterious hacker named Chord (Neil Maskell), a guy with access to every computer, smartphone, and security camera on the planet. What starts off as a bit of "fun" quickly turns very dangerous, and Nick is blackmailed into stalking Jill online, monitoring her every move and phone call. This sick little game eventually bleeds over into the real world, forcing Nick to ally himself with a bizarre group of French cyber-crooks in order to save his favorite actress.

Interestingly, the entire film takes place on various screens (like Nick's computer), with our hero jumping back and forth between different windows to communicate with various characters. It's a fun spin on the found-footage genre, allowing for some genuinely tense moments. The film goes in some disturbing directions, letting Vigalonda make some messy but valid points about the way we interact with celebrities, especially female celebrities. And as an added bonus, this is the perfect movie to watch on your laptop.

The Girl on the Train (2016) – 44 percent

Based on the novel by Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train tells the story of three women caught in a bizarre mystery involving a lot of booze, sex, and murder. It's a melancholy potboiler, anchored by Emily Blunt with one of her best performances. Even critics who disliked the movie had to admit she was doing some award-worthy stuff here, playing a lonely and obsessed woman who might've committed a terrible crime...but can't remember for sure.

The movie starts with an inebriated Rachel (Blunt) sitting in a train and spying on the world's most amazing couple, Megan (Haley Bennett) and her husband Scott (Luke Evans). Recently divorced from the sleaziest dude on the planet (Justin Theroux), Rachel envies Megan's seemingly perfect life, but she soon discovers things are from ideal. First, she spots Megan getting cozy with another man, and then after waking up covered in blood, Rachel discovers Megan has disappeared.

Naturally, Rachel is pretty freaked out, so she starts investigating Megan's disappearance, all while dealing with her feelings for her ex and his new wife (Rebecca Ferguson). Both Bennett and Ferguson do remarkable work in the film, playing women caught in a web of backstabbing and betrayal, but we can't praise Blunt enough for her performance of a woman in pain, lost and looking for answers. The Girl on the Train might have some pacing issues, but it's an engaging and sexy film featuring some truly impressive acting. Plus, it stars Allison Janney as a homicide detective, and any movie starring Allison Janney is worth your while.