Have you ever seen a movie that you thought was not worth the ubiquitous praise it received from critics and moviegoers alike?  Have you ever seen a film that was nominated and – more often than not – won multiple Oscars, much to your chastising chagrin?  Have you ever felt like you were in the minority for thinking that a movie was…well…just blasé instead of being groundbreaking and influential? 

I am almost certain that you are not alone. 

I have been involved in far, far too many discussions and – to be blunt – needless arguments over the years for over tastes in movies.  Ever more so, I have sat through many an award show telecast and have often been left dumbfounded by the types of films that have been showered with proverbial praise and accolades.  I think that, as a result, this is how this list of my TEN MOST OVER-RATED FILMS got its inception.  There have been films that have been universally adored and admired that I too have shared in the giddy adulation, but they have assuredly been countless others where I wanted to stand up and boisterously shout, “Huh?  This film ain’t that great!” 

This compilation will, no doubt, frustrate some that hold these films very dear to their hearts.  That’s fine.  I am not out to please anyone else but yours truly.  Moreover, I should make a very conscious effort to emphasize that my picks here are based on a few criteria: (a) Films that were critically lauded, but were works that I did not feverishly revere and/or (b) films that seemed collectively precious and respected by filmgoers, but ones that I did not find so awe-inspiring and resoundingly triumphant. 

One more quick point:  Many of these films are not bad films.  Some of these are works by some of the finest directorial talents and some of the films listed would never, ever come close to making any shameful WORST FILMS list.  Far from it.  A lot of these listed films are ones that I too admire, but not just in that sense of them being truly transcending, watershed works.  I would even go on record to note that many of them are films that I have been genuinely very favorable to, but when all is said and done, I just can’t bring myself to qualify them in the very high regard that so many other critics and filmaholics have bestowed upon them.   

In short, these films may be good – some may even be great – but they are all, in my humble estimation, all over-rated. 

Here there are, in random order:

CHICAGO (2002)

Has there ever been an Oscar winner for Best Picture so unmemorable as 2002’s musical, CHICAGO?  This adaptation of the Broadway stage musical and satire of the same name was directed by respectable talent (Rob Marshall) and written by an esteemed writer that I admire (Bill Condon), but the film had lackluster music, song and dance numbers that certainly paled in comparison to the vividness and audio-visual sumptuousness of a far better musical from a year earlier, MOULIN ROUGE, also nominated for Best Picture for its year, but failing to win.  

Yet, as exasperating as it now appears, CHICAGO was nominated for an asinine 13 Oscars and won 6, including Best Picture, Best Art Direction, and, most notably, a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Catherine-Zeta Jones, who was so much better and worthy of an Oscar for her work in 2000’s TRAFFIC.  The film would also be egregiously placed #13 on the AFI’s list of the greatest film musicals.  The fact that CHICAGO also beat out the likes of far better efforts like Martin Scorsese’s GANGS OF NEW YORK and Roman Polanski’s THE PIANIST also feels like, in hindsight, a silly oversight.  CHICAGO certainly does not deserve its respect as one of the cinema’s finest musicals and it is one of the least inspired Best Picture winners of the 2000’s, if not of all-time.


I can talk to a dozen different people every day and I guarantee you that at least three-quarters of them would inevitably label Frank Darabont’s THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION from 1994 as one of their Ten Best Films ever.  

Ever.  Ever.  

This film, an adaptation of Steven King’s 1987 novella, RITA HAYWORTH AND THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (and one of the better King adoptions, I will add) was a box office bomb when released, but the following of SHAWSHANK has grown into zealot-like proportions.  Home video saved this film from obscurity.  It has subsequently become one of the most cherished recent films: It’s #2 on the IMBD’s Top 250 and was nominated for seven Oscars, but lost out (rightfully) to FORREST GUMP.  Empire Magazine recently rated it as the 5th Best Film of All Time.  SHAWSHANK routinely plays on TNN and is watched by millions.  

Now, the film is still Darabont’s best and is an engaging tale of friendship, will, fortitude, and hope and some Christian viewers have ever further extrapolated from it Biblical parables of sin, redemption, salvation, and faith (all which Darabont himself has laughingly labeled as being “fantastic”).  Nevertheless, THE SHAWSHANK REMDPTION is an inspired and memorable film, but it’s ranking of #2 on the IMBD glaringly shows a lack of foresight and broad film viewing habits from most lay filmgoers, all of whom have most likely never seen greater films by masters like Kurosawa, Hitchcock, Kubrick, and Lean…their films all regrettably rate far lower.  A small shame.  


Okay, let the hate mail flood in.  

I am going to cheat a bit and list my next pick as a trilogy of films, namely Peter Jackson’s monumentally valued adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien’s equally cherished LOTR books.  The films were considered, for its time, one of the largest, most expensive, and riskiest movie ventures ever (the three films, 2001’s THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, 2002’s THE TWO TOWERS, and 2003’s THE RETURN OF THE KING, were all filmed simultaneously in Jackson’s native New Zealand with a largely unknown cast and a budget nearly $300 million).  The films, released a year apart near Christmas of their respective years, were gigantic financial successes (they now rank among the highest grossers of all-time), but even more astonishing is the unparalleled praise the critical world bestowed upon the films (in all, the trilogy was nominated for 30 Oscars, winning an unbelievable 17; the final film won every single award for which it was nominated for, a feat never achieved then or since).  2003’s RETURN OF THE KING places #13 on the IMDB Top 250 films of all time, ahead of GOODFELLAS, REAR WINDOW, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, and – God help us – the greatest film of all-time, CITIZEN KANE.   

Truth be told, the LOTR TRILOGY was an astounding achievement from a technical standpoint, equaling the type of wow factor that George Lucas gave to his STAR WARS sextet.  Yet, LOTR suffers from a pervasively solemn tone throughout – it takes itself way too seriously – and forgets to have fun with the proceedings like Lucas’ universe had.  Also, the scripts for all three are so slavishly faithful to the source material that pacing narrative momentum has been usurped (the trilogy has too many characters, too many subplots, and a lot of exposition that could have been left on the cutting room floor).  What we are left with is a film series that is an unqualified technological nirvana that does create a strong out-of-body aura (a prerequisite for fantasies), but the film’s lethargic pacing and severely somber tone left me feeling emotionally distant to the material.  These are good films to be sure, but seriously, does anyone honestly feel that Jackson’s Best Director win for LOTR 3 was more deserving than Fernando Meirelles’s for CITY OF GOD?


Francis Ford Coppola’s 1972 Best Picture winner, THE GODFATHER, is a resounding classic, to be sure…one of the truly finest films of the 1970’s.  But, trust me, it’s the sincere best film of the GODFATHER TRILOGY and a much stronger and more cohesive mob epic than his even more respected THE GODFATHER: PART II from 1974, also a darling of the Oscars.  This second film is commonly regarded – alongside STAR WARS: EPISODE V – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK as the finest sequel ever made and GODFATHER II is the only official direct sequel to ever win Best Picture.  On the IMDB’s Top 250 its rated #3, right behind THE GODFATHER (#1).  The film also won seven of its eleven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director for Coppola.  

Yet, all of the worship that has been poured over this film over the years seems to have blinded people to some of its more obvious and glaring deficiencies, most notably is awkwardly cobbled together storyline, which attempts to tell two stories simultaneously about Corleone Family (after the events of the first film) while also telling a prequel story involving the rise of Don Corleone (played by the legendary Marlon Brando in GODFATHER I, now played by Robert DeNiro as a young up and comer).  Both stories are intoxicating and marvelously told, it’s just the editing of the two and how they coalesce incongruently with one another that is the GODFATHER II’s most glaring deficiency.  This is a very solid film trapped in guise of an immortal classic. 


THE USUAL SUSPECTS was a multiple Academy Award winner (Best Supporting Actor for Kevin Spacey and Best Original Screenplay for Christopher McQuarrie) and has reached the upper echelon of great modern noir thrillers in the hearts and minds of filmgoers and critics alike.  I am not one of them.  The film has a good setup, some fine ensemble performances, but the final reveal of the true identity of the film’s main anarchist, the famously named Keyser Soze, is telegraphed to the point of being rigidly anti-climatic.  The film has a great visual richness and then novice director Bryan Singer infuses the proceedings with a nice eye for developing chemistry with the film’s eclectic rogue gallery of foul-mouthed baddies, but THE USUAL SUSPECTS is wickedly overpraised as a brilliantly written genre film when, deep down, the plot has a twist ending that can be seen from a proverbial mile away, not to mention that the film’s underlining story seems to hold water if you look at it with reasonable scrutiny.  It’s rating of #20 on the IMBD Top 250 seems like the least justifiable ranking of any film high on the list.  


Kubrick was agreeably one of the small handful of masterful directors.  The opening act of his 1987 urban Vietnam War film, FULL METAL JACKET, was some of his finest work in the latter stages of his career.  The film, based on  the novel THE SHORT TIMERS by Gustav Hasford, has an opening act of raw power, showing the legendary R. Lee Emery as the ultimate drill sergeant run his new cadets raw to the bone, especially one outcast, played in a legendary performance by Vincent D'Onofrino.  Along with the great introductory scene, what’s truly astounding about the film is its artifice, which miraculously re-creates the turf of Vietnam in Kubrick’s hometown backyard of England (it remains one of the best examples of practical magic and fakery).  Yet, the remainder of the film is muddled, episodic, and fails to find a resounding cohesive whole to tie everything together.  The latter scenes work well, but they seem curiously separate from the rest.  FULL METAL JACKET is often placed high on lists of the greatest war films.  Despite my deep appreciation for some of it, it wouldn’t crack my top ten for the genre. 

GHOST (1990)

1990’s GHOST is certainly not a God-awful movie, but it certainly is the most God-awful to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture.  It was nominated for five Oscars and would win two, in what has to be the two most undeserving Academy Award give-outs ever.  The film’s “original” screenplay – ripe with perfunctory romance scenes and cornball plot revelations that made me role my eyes – won and – as exasperating as it still is to me – Whoppi Goldberg won for Best Supporting Actress.  Huh?  Does anyone at the Academy actually still think,  in hindsight, that Goldberg’s work here was anywhere near as strong as Lorraine Bracco for GOODFELLAS, Annette Benning for THE GRIFTERS, and Mary McDonnell for DANCES WITH WOLVES?  And that screenplay Oscar?  An embarrassment, especially considering that Bruce Joel Rubin beat out the likes of Woody Allen and Peter Weir.  In a year dominated by vastly superior entertainments, GHOST’s Oscar success and financial prowess (it grossed $500 million worldwide) seems enormously puzzling.  One thing is for sure:  This most likely will be the only film to win multiple Oscars directed by a man that wrote AIRPLANE!, TOP SECRET!, and the Frank Debrin trilogy, THE NAKED GUN.     


This is easily my most hated film of this list (it made my selection as WORST FILM of 2001).   This mystery film was written and directed by the master of ultra weird, dark, and annoyingly offbeat films, David Lynch, and it was originally conceived by him as a TV pilot and a large chunk of the film was kept open-ended for a potential series.  TV executives, having seen part of what the eccentric director shot, rejected (a rare good call by the suits) so Lynch haphazardly developed an ending for the film and turned it into a theatrical feature. 

When it premiered at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival Lynch won the Best Director Award and later received an Oscar nomination for Best Director.  On a positive, the film was instrumental in launching the career of Naomi Watts (who has developed into one of the more solid actresses as of late).  Those Lynch apologists who worship the director’s characteristic style of mixing noir visuals with surrealistic underpinnings and nightmarish soundtracks love MULHOLLAND DRIVE.  On a visual level, MULHOLLAND DRIVE has moments of flash and dynamism, but the story and themes of the film are such a nauseating bag of incoherent psychobabble, the kind that only comes from a cocky artist who thinks he is smarter and wiser than his audience.  Lynch has famously declined to offer up explanations behind the film’s impenetrable story and themes, maybe because, deep down, he does not know what his film is about either.  

A well-read and favorable VILLAGE VOICE review from 2001 affectionately called the film “a poisonous valentine to Hollywood.”  This film is toxic, all right, but not in good ways.  Often seen as the work of an ingenious artist, MULHOLLAND DRIVE is just artsy-fartsy work of incredulous and sanctimonious self-indulgence.

GREASE (1978)

Okay, GREASE is one of the more jovial, fun-filled, and rambunctiously enjoyable film musicals to emerge in the last 30 years.  The film, directed by Randal Kleiser and based on the Broadway musical of the same name by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, can be appreciated as a travelogue picture for showing the emergence and solidification of the then young John Travolta as a silver screen star.  The film was critically appreciated, nominated for several Golden Globes, and it was the highest grossing film of 1978.  The film’s soundtrack was number one in several countries when released.  Yes, the songs are infectiously memorable, the film’s tone is that right balance of bubbly, campy schmaltz and vigorous energy, and seeing Travolta dance, sing, and strut his way to superstardom is still a treat.  Yet, I think that many young filmgoers have claimed this film as the musical to see, those same people that have never seen SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN, CABARET, and AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, true immortal classics of the genre.  I sure have a lot of affection for this 1978 musical…and GREASE is still the word…but just not among the best musicals ever made, though.   And have there ever been less plausible looking teenagers in a movie?  At the time, Stockard Channing was 34, Olivia Newton John was 30, and a handful of the rest of the cast were well into their thirties.  Kind of ruins the effect.


I dislike this film so much that I have coined a deficiency other films suffer from after it: The “Dead Poet’s Syndrome.”  In short, films that suffer from this calamity have routine plots that involve resilient, intrepid, courageous, resourceful, and cunning teachers that overcome all odds by taking on a group of disrespected misfits, instills hope and faith in them, all while battling the highly skeptical and scornful eyes of their parents and teachers.  

This formula, championed by this 1989 Peter Weir film, has seen the light of day in dozens of other similar efforts over the years and it has single-handedly made me dislike DEAD POET’s even more with repeated viewings.  What’s even more damning is that the film pledges that it's challenging and absorbing with its themes, but it pulls such an about face in the final act that is sort of disingenuous to what came before.  The film is often championed in educational circles (my first viewing was in high school English) as being a searing and uplifting work about believing in yourself and standing for what’s right.  The film preaches a non-conformist agenda, but in the final scene – which [S-P-O-I-L-E-R  W-A-R-N-I-N-G] involves a symbolic gesture of the students standing on their desks to show support of their teacher and their disapproval of their school – is ultimately hypocritical and manipulatively emotional.  Many love this film with a passion; I am certainly passionate about how schlocky and underhandedly scheming it really is

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