The 10 worst movies of 2019

Photo: Everett Collection
Dark Phoenix, Cats and Hellboy (Photo: Everett Collection)

First the good news: It was a lot easier to come up with a list of the 25 movies best movies of 2019 than decide on 10 clunkers for its lowly counterpart. So that's always a good sign that it was generally a good year at the cineplex.

Inevitably, though, there will be those turkeys that make you regret two hours of time spent, and there were some pretty high-profile ones this year, including two superhero movies, prestige dramas gunning for Oscars and an old battle vet who really should've stayed home this time.

Here are our picks for the worst movies of 2019:

10. Charlie's Angels

First things first: Kristen Stewart is having a grand old time in her first big-budget studio production since the Twilight saga drew its last blood. As Sabina — the rock ‘em sock ‘em member of the newest Angels trio — the actress swaggers through the frame with attitude and good humor to burn. (She’s also clearly the first lesbian Angel, even though the script shies away from fully confirming it.) Too bad the film around her is such a generic action movie muddle. Handed the opportunity to boldly reinvent a badly out of fashion franchise for a new audience, writer/director Elizabeth Banks instead settles for a disposable imitation of Bourne, Bond and Melissa McCarthy’s far superior Spy. It’s no secret that studios continue to dust off old IP in the hopes of finding the next big Jurassic or Jumanji-style franchise re-launch, but the commercial fizzle of Charlie’s Angels — along with DOA reboots like Terminator: Dark Fate, Shaft and Men in Black International — suggests that moviegoers are increasingly resistant to being sold old stuff in new packages if they sense what’s inside said package is already stale. Like the song goes, maybe it’s time to let the old ways die. — Ethan Alter

9. Serenity

There are bad movies, and then there’s Steven Knight’s singularly bonkers drama, which has already achieved “so bad it’s amazing” status. (Hey, we don’t make the rules! That’s this guy’s job.) The truth is that no one can be told what Serenity is: You have to experience it for yourself. But we can tell you that if you choose to dive into these convoluted waters, you’ll be rewarded with Matthew McConaughey at his most McConaughey-ist, a more elusive fish than the shark in Jaws, Anne Hathaway channeling Kathleen Turner in Body Heat and a big reveal that inspires a cascade of fresh mysteries, all of them baffling. (How baffling? Even Knight seemed caught off guard when Yahoo Entertainment quizzed him about some of the implications of the plot twist.) We may be including this on our “Worst” list, but rest assured: Serenity’s future as a bad movie classic is cemented. — E.A.

8. Rambo: Last Blood

Much like the Rocky franchise, the fifth time isn’t the charm for Sylvester Stallone’s other five-letter alter ego. Returning for one last rodeo 11 years after 2008’s hilariously ultraviolent Rambo, the Vietnam veteran is instantly bogged down in a grim, unpleasant story built around a kidnapping by a brutal Mexican cartel. Pointedly offensive in its depiction of our neighbors to the south, Last Blood builds to a goofy Home Alone-like finale where Rambo booby traps his Arizona homestead to ensure maximum carnage. (Although, we’ll be honest: The moment where he tears a bad guy’s heart out of his chest is a classic bit of ‘80s excess.) At 73, Stallone is long past being a dynamic action hero, and his attempts to convince us otherwise are negated by his noticeably stiff movements and director Adrian Grunberg’s habit of cutting around his leading man whenever the fighting breaks out. The worst thing about Last Blood is that it leaves the door open for yet another sequel — hasn’t Rambo bled enough? — E.A.

7. Last Christmas

We never imagined that Emma Thompson, of all people, would co-write a Christmastime rom-com that takes the lyrics of a classic George Michael tune literally… but here we are. In the spirit of the season, we can tell you that Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding are absolutely charming as an absurdly attractive pair of Londoners who meet cute during the holiday season and seem destined for a grand love affair. Considerably less charming are the movie’s clumsy attempts at social commentary — including an ill-conceived subplot about a homeless shelter, and another involving Brexit-inspired anti-immigrant sentiment — and a climactic plot twist that’s cheesier than any ‘80s Christmas ballad. Last Christmas tries to give us some heart for the holidays, but you’ll be eager to give it away. — E.A.

6. UglyDolls

It's tough to trash movies like UglyDolls. They're made primarily for the innocent and wide eyes of our children, and we'd be lying if we said our children weren't entertained (at the same time, let's admit it, they're entertained by pretty much anything that's colorful and furry and talks). On the other hand, it's our living rooms these movies getting screened in, too, so we have an opinion in the matter — especially when we've got all those Pixar movies in the collection, too. There's also the fact that UglyDolls, essentially anti-Pixarian in its utter lack of wit, charm and surprise, feels like an attempt at a cash grab for a toy line desperately looking to expand its IP. Sometimes those plays actually work out shockingly well (see 2016's delightful Trolls). Here it definitely did not. – Kevin Polowy

5. Lucy in the Sky

Neither a biopic about The Beatles nor astronaut Lisa Nowak (it's very, very loosely based on her romantic involvement with a fellow space adventurer and subsequent arrest), Fargo creator Noah Hawley's over-stylized directorial debut takes off strongly enough, then goes completely off the rails (flight patterns?) somewhere around the end of the second act. The film's crash, oddly enough, coincides with the mental breakdown we witness Lucy Cola (Natalie Portman) endure in this inconsistently toned story. Its intentions are good — to show not only the PTSD that astronauts must deal with post-mission, but particularly the hardships of NASA women in a male-dominated space, but its execution is utterly confounding. — K.P.

4. The Goldfinch

Overly long and all over the map (literally and figuratively), this stylish yet tedious adaptation of Donna Tartt's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel didn't have to suffer too much, at least. The film — about a young New Yorker who becomes an antiques dealer (Ansel Elgort) years after witnessing his mother die in a terrorism attack at the Met — premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, where hardly anyone noticed the harsh pans it received in the thick of all that Oscar buzz for other movies. What makes the failure and flopping of The Goldfinch all the more surprising is that it was directed by John Crowley, who helmed one of the past decade's very best films in the 2015 romantic drama Brooklyn. — K.P.

3. Hellboy

Whew boy. Given how difficult it would seem to bring a red, horned, demonic superhero from the pages of a comic book to the big screen, in hindsight it's almost shocking how good those two Hellboy movies were in 2004 and 2008. Then again, they were directed by master craftsman Guillermo del Toro. We watched in horror this year what happens when the property falls in lesser hands: The result being this fiery abomination of a film that turns nearly unwatchable within its first 15 minutes. Not even the charm of David Harbour, who himself threw a bit of shade at the non-franchise starter when he hosted Saturday Night Live in October, could save this slice of hell. — K.P.

2. Dark Phoenix

This is how Fox’s X-Men franchise ends: with multiple CGI-generated bangs and a whimper of a story. Stepping behind the camera for the first time (officially anyway), longtime X-Verse overseer, Simon Kinberg, attempted to right some of the wrongs perpetrated on poor Jean Grey (previously played by Famke Janssen, and now portrayed by Sophie Turner) in 2006’s widely-disliked The Last Stand. While Kinberg’s intentions might have been good, his execution is notably lacking; the returning cast members seem exhausted, while the behind-the-scenes difficulties (including the completely re-shot third act) are all too apparent in the choppy storytelling. Limping into theaters a month after Avengers: Endgame brought the Infinity Saga to a rousing finish, Dark Phoenix is a case study in how not to end a long-running superhero series. — E.A

1. Cats

Appurrently 2019 saved the very worst for last. (And trust us, that terrible pun is right on brand with the dialogue.) Of course, we had a bad feeling about Tom Hooper's ambitious adaptation of the long-running Broadway musical when the first trailer hit in July — and its nightmare-fueling CGI Cat People made more sense accompanied by the Us soundtrack than Andrew Lloyd Weber. The finished product is just as hairible as we feared, and critics have rightfully sharpened their claws and dug in with merciless glee, though some will gladly admit the absurdly bizarreness of this one enters "so bad it's actually good" territory. Between this hot mess and 2003's The Cat in the Hat — another one of the millennium's worst films — can we agree to never do Cat People again, please? — K.P.

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