Even if you’re the most talented person in the world, chances are you’re going to have a misstep here and there. These five directors might be among my favorites of all time, but it’s worth recognizing that in their careers, they’ve made at least one glaring error that mars their film catalog.
I tried to pick directors that really only had a singular giant hole in their portfolio, and tried to pick movies that were really, truly bad. Some directors I wanted to include just didn’t have any awful movies in their lineup. I couldn’t really fault icons like James Cameron, Martin Scorsese or Christopher Nolan as ever making a serious mistake with a film. Sure, not everything they make is a classic, but they’ve never made a truly terrible film.
Here are five great directors and their one glaring error.
David Fincher – Panic Room
This was the film that actually inspired this list. Now that David Fincher is one of the top directors in Hollywood, I thought I should go back and rewatch a film I was surprised to learn he directed, Panic Room. I remembered not liking it at the time, but perhaps in my youth I missed something, I thought.
But no, this is a truly awful film in every way, and it seems strange to think Fincher had anything to do with it, much less directed it. Tomboy pre-Twilight tween Kristen Stewart is surprisingly the least of the reasons the film sucks. It’s a film that has more “why would anyone DO that?” moments than any film I’ve ever seen, and it’s a complete mess from start to finish.
Guy Ritchie – Rocknrolla
Guy Ritchie is known for his signature fast-paced crime films like Snatch and Lock Stock. The plot usually revolves around a valuable missing objects (a diamond, some guns) and a colorful cast of characters all trying to get it back.
It’s not a bad formula, but the third time around in Rocknrolla, it almost seems like a parody of a Guy Ritchie movie. The characters (despite a great cast of Gerard Butler, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong and Idris Elba) and the film’s entire plotline are wholly unmemorable, and none of the cleverness that populates his other features is present here at all. It’s like he tried to do the same thing one more time in the hopes that it would be great, but when it failed, he decided it was time to go commercial. Might sound like selling out, but I thought Sherlock Holmes was grand, and I’m glad he branched out.
The Coen Brothers – Burn After Reading
The Coen Brothers are almost always Oscar contenders with whatever film they release in a given year, and even though I’m not necessarily a fan of their comedy (I’m not as nuts for Lebowski as everyone) I respect that quality of their films. Well, almost all of their films.
Burn After Reading had a very funny trailer that involved Brad Pitt dancing and a bunch of serious actors being goofy. The actual film was probably one of the singular dumbest comedies I’ve ever seen, as the film just danced around a plot where no one knew what was going on, and wrapped up in such an abrupt way, you had no idea what you just witnessed. Really out of character for the duo, and I think it’s their lowest point.
Steven Spielberg – War of the Worlds
You thought I was going to say Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, didn’t you? For as flawed as that movie may be, I always went against the grain and said that fundamentally I enjoyed it, which is NOT the case with War of the Worlds
We all know that Spielberg loves his sci-fi, and normally that it turns out great. But War of the Worlds is far more like a Michael Bay movie than it is a Spielberg feature, as explosions and Tom Cruise sprinting around populate half the film. The other half? A young Dakota Fanning screaming her lungs out in almost every single scene she’s in, making me not only hate the film, but hate her as an actress for years after that,because that scream has been etched into my mind ever since.
Zack Snyder – Sucker Punch
Perhaps you disagree with me that Zack Snyder is a “great” director, but I love 300 and Watchmen and even his Dawn of the Dead remake, which is why when Sucker Punch was as much of an abomination as it was, I was truly stunned.
There are no words to describe how truly awful Sucker Punch is, and it was far and away the worst film of last year in my opinion. It’s some sort of weird cosplay fetish dream, which you would think I’d appreciate, but the inane plot, horrible dialogue and CGI ravaged fight sequences made the film almost unwatchable. I was incredibly close to leaving the theater entirely, but was fascinated like I was driving by a 27 car pile-up on the freeway. I think the lesson here is to let him direct, but give him source material that’s already proven itself to begin with.