The past ten or so years have given us some iconic movies. From The Social Network to Moonlight, it’s easy to look back on the 2010’s fondly. This decade deserves praise because of the sheer quantity of beloved films. Even so, we need to look back reflectively and understand the fact that not everything was perfect.
That brings us to this list. This list isn’t going to outline the worst films of the decade. Rather, the point is to look at the most disappointing. The films listed below seemed to have so much potential, but at the end of the day, the couldn’t live up to the hype.
For a movie to be considered for this list, it needed to show actual promise prior to its release. This means that rushed adaptations won’t always make the cut, no matter how beloved the source material happens to be. Aside from that, the criteria is pretty straightforward.
10. The Monuments Men
Having proven himself with Good Night, and Good Luck and The Ides of March, one might have assumed that George Clooney had a knack for directing solid award contenders. The Monuments Men seemed like the type of flick this director could really nail. The loose adaptation of a non-fiction work book showed plenty of potential. Clooney’s director credit stood out, but so did the excellent cast.
Unfortunately, it didn’t really work out. Objectively speaking, The Monuments Men may be the best movie on the list, especially from a filmmaking standpoint. It definitely feels like a prestige drama. The problem is that it doesn’t play out like a prestige drama.
This is perhaps due to the fact that everything feels inauthentic and forced. Clooney’s film takes cues from so many other biographical dramas, but he never tries to hide his influences. On the contrary, the tropes are so painfully evident that the whole “based on a true story” facade becomes clear from the start.
Separating the film from reality unfortunately doesn’t excuse the fact that everything seems so routine. The Monuments Men could’ve been churned out in a factory and nobody would’ve noticed the difference. This is an all too familiar war drama without enough personality to justify the clichés. It may not be bad, but it’s painfully mediocre.
9. The Tourist
Following the release of the Oscar-winning The Lives of Others, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck decided to direct a romantic thriller featuring two of the biggest stars in the world. The studio trusted him enough to hand him a $100 million budget, and why wouldn’t they? The Tourist had all the right ingredients. It should’ve been a smash hit given the pedigree surrounding it, but it wasn’t.
Okay, maybe it was to some degree. It did well enough at the box office, and it somehow managed to pick up a Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture: Musical or Comedy. At the same time, it should probably be noted that this was one of the most controversial decisions in Golden Globe history. The Tourist was a critical disaster, but star power and category fraud allowed it to sneak into awards season.
The Globes made a bad call here. Unfortunately, this is just as bad as everyone says. It’s a convoluted mess of a movie with awkward dialogue and stilted performances coming from two people who should, in theory, know better. Everybody is phoning it in here, which ultimately means that viewers have no reason to care about what’s happening on screen.
It would be an understatement to claim that The Tourist is simply disappointing. No, this is a bad movie through and through. There’s not a single element that works. Given the star power, one would assume that there’s something worthwhile, but it seems as though the mighty have truly fallen this time around.
As we learned from A Wrinkle in Time, Disney’s live-action outputs have been inconsistent at best and flat-out bad at worst, but this wasn’t quite as obvious in 2015. After all, this was slightly before Disney decided to remake every animated movie in their catalog. They hadn’t yet developed this negative reputation they now have surrounding live-action movies. Sure, Alice in Wonderland and John Carter were both busts, but Tomorrowland had so much promise surrounding it.
With a strong director and a fascinating premise, Tomorrowland should’ve been a hit. A cast of charismatic actors could’ve at least helped improve any noteworthy flaws, right? Wrong. Tomorrowland is hopeless. There are countless promising pieces that could elevate things, but it’s hard to elevate something so mediocre.
Yes, the best way to describe this film is “mediocre.” It’s hardly a bad movie. As stated, it has a lot going for it. It’s just a shame that none of these things actually end up redeeming the final product. See, Tomorrowland isn’t incompetent. It’s just hopelessly boring.
Boring people is one of cinema’s greatest sins. People still adore things like The Room, Troll 2, and Mac & Me. Sure, they’re abysmal, but they’re gleefully abysmal. Tomorrowland is just a dull collection of been-there-done-that moments. It’s not unwatchable, but it sure as hell is forgettable.
7. Alien: Covenant
Prometheus was somewhat disappointing for its own reasons, but that’s a discussion for another time. It’s definitely not a top 10 level disappointment, but its sequel sure is. Prometheus at least brought enough new ideas to the table to separate itself from the Alien franchise. It functioned as a pseudo-prequel that could have stood on its own regardless of the Alien property’s existence. Covenant is a weird mixture of both worlds that doesn’t work.
Most people who hated Covenant hated it solely because it didn’t feel like an Alien movie. That’s valid criticism, but it’s not the only problem. The big issue is that it can’t commit to one idea. The story goes a mile a minute and it doesn’t seem to care if the audience can keep up. It’s not necessarily confusing, but it is bloated and dull.
“Dull” is something that should never be associated with a series like this. The pieces borrowed from the first two entries in the series are overly familiar, while the pieces from Prometheus are just convoluted enough to cause viewers to check out. It can, at times, offer brief thrills, but those moments are few and far between.
Scott’s Prometheus saga is ambitious to a fault. It has far too many ideas, and a lot of these ideas are questionable at best. Covenant doesn’t necessarily tarnish the franchise’s legacy, but it may be considered a weak link.
6. J. Edgar
Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar features a great lead performance courtesy of Leonardo DiCaprio, but that doesn’t save the entire package. Eastwood has never been the most consistent director, but after a string of hits, why wouldn’t you expect another strong outing? You could argue that Hereafter was a type of warning sign, especially when you consider its middling reception, but it was a different type of movie. This was Eastwood going back to basics, but alas, that didn’t mean much in the long run.
Eastwood is at his best when he directs meaty dramas. Million Dollar Baby and Letters from Iwo Jima are considered standouts because they allow us to see a talented director in his element. In theory, J. Edgar was another movie where Eastwood should’ve been at his best. It featured everything one might expect from a movie like this, but none of it clicked the way it should have.
The sloppy storytelling seems to be the biggest issue. It’s simultaneously generic and convoluted, which results in an experience that’s frustrating to put things lightly. If that were the only issue, maybe critics would’ve been more lenient, but there are a surprising number of small flaws that stack on top of one another. The makeup looks cheap, the cinematography is bland, and meaningful character development is more or less absent.
There are a couple of good performances, but they don’t outweigh the frustrating issues. These kinds of mistakes shouldn’t have come from a talented director. J. Edgar lands on this list because of the pedigree surrounding it. If it came from a no-name director and featured a cast of B-listers, it wouldn’t have been so hotly anticipated, but frankly, everyone involved could have done better.