The following was pitched to, and commissioned by, Flickering Myth
Henry Bevan isn’t a fan of those “worst films of the year” lists…
In December, your social media lights up with lots of people listing their best films of the year. The flipside, is you also get lots of critics saying what the worst films of the year are.
The latter is a horrible thing and something I, as a critic, refuse to take part in. So, here are three reasons “worst of” lists should be banished:
1) It’s poor criticism
The role of a critic is to tell their audience what movies they should watch. It is fun to criticise a bad film, and you get to use those metaphors you’ve been storing away for a couple of months. But writing a scathing review still fulfils the fundamental role of criticism.
All reviews are subjective. A review should show the critic’s opinion but not make it categorical. If a film is bad, the critic needs to lay out the film’s faults and their reasoning, but they should let the reader have the final decision. The copy should be honest and have space for the reader to engage with the reviewed text. Zoolander 2 may have stupid jokes but someone will like those stupid jokes and want to watch them.
With “worst of” listicles, critics often abandon this space and forget reasoning. These lists are categorical. They fail as criticism because they do not allow the reader to engage with the original film and they don’t show why a joke falls flat or why a pivotal plot point jams. The need to be negative makes a critic forget their purpose. It reduces their criticism to a bunch of adjectives and pained metaphors.
It’s okay to hate a movie or feel let down by one. Personally, my most disappointing movie of 2016 rhymes with swimming pool. It was too smug, narratively boring and didn’t fulfil its promise to skewer the genre it was meant to lambasting.
Hopefully, you see the problem with that mini-review.
2) Critics are out of touch
I just made a dig at the highest grossing R-movie, ever. Critics are often accused of being out of touch with the general audience and “worst of” lists show it.
You can guess what films feature on these lists: Suicide Squad, Warcraft: The Beginning, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. These lists scream of contrarian views. Many popular films feature on these lists just because they are popular. BvS and SS are incoherent messes, but they feature mainly because they are popular. There were worse movies released in 2016 people forgot about because they didn’t make much money.
They say popularity breeds contempt and critics often like to bash something that is flawed and popular.
3) They only exist as click bait
If anything, these lists are annoying because they are click bait. They exist not to expand the cultural conversation but to rile you up, to make you angry a film you enjoyed is on their list. “Worst of” listicles act to give critics a self-desired critical edge. They are designed to let critics feel superior, feel like an expert. These lists are designed to promote website traffic and not criticism. A “worst of” list is a smug, self-congratulatory article disguised as something important. It is a way to make a critic feel important.
A lot of the above can be applied to “best of” lists as well — who’s looking forward to watching Toni Erdmann? But, those lists celebrate film,and there is a joy to writing and reading them. They may suffer from too many adjectives, but they encourage people to watch films they might have missed. To me, “worst of” lists do no such thing and should be ignored.
What are your opinion of “worst of” lists? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…