Why Story Matters: My Top Ten Most Hated Films

I decided to have some fun on Facebook and took the challenge* of posting my top ten most hated films of all time. This wasn't that hard for me, and I imagine I could've filled up a list of fifty if I really wanted to. And couldn't we all?

I then realized that the reason the films I chose made this list were nearly all the same: THE STORY SUCKED.


Or some shit. (I have been called much worse than a party pooper. MUCH. WORSE.)

*I was not tagged for the challenge. I simply took it upon myself to list my top ten most hated films because I wanted to play. So now you get to read about it. Lucky you!

Look, folks, sometimes you can have a really bad story and it gets made into a great film that happens to hit the right audience at the right time and becomes a hit for generations to come. I find that most of the films on this list fall right smack dab into that category.

However, I hope my rants about these films can help you, dear writer, realize that just because you thought of it doesn't mean it's automatically good. And think about your reasons behind your story.  So here are some quick questions to ask yourself.

1. Haven't I read this somewhere before? If the story you've come up with in your head sounds familiar, that means it just might be. I point out that one of the films in my list is really just a rewritten version of another famous film that had a massive social impact in the 1970s. Or are you telling a story about two lovers who can't be together because they live on opposite sides of the tracks/their families own rival amusement parks/one loves cats and one loves dogs? Come on, folks: that's Romeo and Juliet, and it's been done a million times over.

2. Am I relying on cliches or common story tropes to tell this story? If you have a sidekick to your main character, make sure he's not the token ethnic guy who either dies first or dies saving the main character's ass. Or the trendy blonde who is pretty stupid and somehow her shirt ends up coming off halfway through the film. Or the nerd/geek/dork who has been flat out annoying throughout the whole film but suddenly is given a project that only they can solve to get everyone out of danger. Okay, okay, you know what I mean. Think through what is happening in your story and make sure you haven't seen these same actions or plot points before. You can use this handy list of common story tropes to check your work. Now, sometimes you can use a common trope and cleverly disguise it, or give it a twist. But be sure to have your editor or a beta reader go over it to make sure it actually works.

~ Orlando Jones as Harry Block, Evolution (2001)

(For the record, someone actually figured out some horror films in which the black dude didn't die, or at least he didn't die first. Check this out.)

3. Is this too predictable? Now sometimes you do have a good idea that falls into the above 1 or 2, and you can actually make it fresh and new. The problem we have is we can end up creating a predictable ending that the audience gets frustrated with. Okay, so in Titanic we all know that the ship sinks, but that's not what I mean. Try to take a look at your story objectively, or better yet, use a beta reader or an editor to help you out. If your story is predictable, then think about making the exact opposite happening instead of what you think should happen. That might help you really put a spin on a story and create something that will make your readers think.


In no particular order...

TITANIC, James Cameron, 1997. A long time ago, James Cameron was obsessed with the sinking of the Titanic and decided to make a movie about it. Instead of going the regular route of a documentary, or even as historical fiction, he decided to be money hungry and write a POS story to try to justify his FX spectacular. He wrote this POS story during a time when POS stories were popular in cinema, so it worked. If you look at the story closely, all it is is a rehash of Romeo and Juliet where Juliet lives. Zero quality, zero originality. Beautiful film in how well it depicted the disaster. But that's what it should've been: a nice historical fiction piece where we got to see the people who were on the ship as fully-developed people that we can relate to and realize why it was such a tragedy that we lost them, not hot sex in a car or bewb shots. (Not like I don't like hot sex in a car or bewb shots, but really?)

It's funny because it's true.

PRETTY WOMAN, Garry Marshall, 1990. Good God. Just one of the dumbest stories I've ever seen on camera. It makes no sense that a man with that kind of money has to hire a freaking whore off the street to use as an escort. And I have never liked Julia Roberts as an actress. She is annoying, especially that fucking laugh, and plays the same two roles over and over again. Richard Gere is a good actor, but I also don't have a hard on for him. I loved him in Chicago and Primal Fear, but that's because he's a good actor, not because he's some kind of guy to be ga-ga over.

TOMBSTONE, George P. Cosmatos and Kevin Jarre, 1993. I have never been impressed with Wyatt Earp as a human being. He was a childish crybaby who ran away from his problems. I think he was a coward, and I don't understand why he's lauded as a hero. His story is, frankly, boring, so it made for a boring film. This is one of those times when creative license does not work for me. Val Kilmer was amazing in this film, however, and should've gotten an Oscar. Well, the man has had Oscar-worthy performances for decades... yet he still gets snubbed.

I know, I am. *SIGH*

GET OUT, Jordan Peele, 2017. Folks, look at this film from a story perspective, and all it is is The Stepford Wives rewritten. It has zero originality other than the opening scene, which I loved. The comedy was out of place and ridiculous. Every time the comedy came onto the screen, I was taken completely out of the story. I felt like I was watching two different movies. As far as the guy going to visit his girlfriend's family, after witnessing what he did, why did he not leave? I mean, he's a polite guy, but even someone that polite would find a good excuse to leave. If you want to create a serious film, then be serious about your science. Sure, we can all suspend our disbelief in a movie, but this pushed it too far. Hypnosis is not a magic trick. You cannot hypnotize someone unless they agree to it--that's just common knowledge. If you are able to take the brain out of someone to put into another person's body, why in the world would you leave that part of the brain behind? And how in the hell would they even know what part to leave behind? And why didn't the guy just get eye implants? That is possible nowadays. I honestly hope that future generations will realize what crap this movie really is. Of note: Daniel Kaluuya is a fantastic actor. It's too bad his character was so one-dimensional. But I really enjoy his work.

The Batman v. Superman I actually wanted to see...

BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE, Zach Snyder, 2016. I don't even know where to begin on this film. It just felt like a couple of crybabies fighting in a playground. "My parents are dead!" "My parents are dead too!" <fighting ensues> "Oh yeah? Well my mom's name is Martha!" "So's mine!" <fighting ceases and they are BFFs> The thing is, Henry Cavill is a wonderful actor and is perfect for the role of Sups. But he's been given crap scripts so his Superman falls way flat. I don't think we need to comment on the choice of Ben Affleck as Batman. Jesse Eisenberg is quite possibly one of the most annoying actors out there. He only plays two roles: a fast-talking, bumbling nerd that constantly shrugs and you feel sorry for because he's the underdog, or a fast-talking, self-important nerd who constantly shrugs and that you want to punch in the face. These roles do not fit Lex Luthor, whom I think was best portrayed by both Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey. Overall, this film felt forced and was just an excuse to have two major superheros fight. The only time I paid attention was when Wonder Woman was on the screen. She was the only good part.

THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK, Steven Spielberg, 1997. When this movie was coming out, I had a friend who worked pretty high up in the marketing department at Universal. She told me (and it was later revealed to the press) that all this was was Universal's money grab, and they forced Spielberg and Crichton to do it. So Crichton threw together a book, a script was tossed together, and viola, dino crap. I think we all know why this movie is so bad, but seriously, WTF was up with the daughter? First, they acknowledge that they're like um, he's white and she's black, but never explain where she came from. I guess we're supposed to assume she's adopted? At the time, Spielberg had just adopted a black kid, so apparently that had something to do with it. Never mind that she was not only a useless character, she actually hindered the story line and made it worse. Second, loosing the T-Rex into downtown San Diego? Really? So cliche. So instead of a good dino movie, we got a cheeseball monster film. And yes, I love cheeseball monster films, but not when this one was actually trying to be serious. (But I won't lie...I do still watch the movie because stegosaurus. My fav dino.) Thank Cthulhu for Jurassic Park III.

CATWOMAN, Pitof, 2004. I tried. I honestly tried to give this one a break. But I don't think I could get over how fascinated the writers and director were with Halle Berry shaking her ass while walking on the edge of a building. Does this building ever end? Michelle Pfeiffer had far more sex appeal as Catwoman in Batman Returns, and she didn't even have to try. She just is sexy, and it's why she was hired. Same with Eartha Kitt and Julie Newmar. The fact that this film tired to be full of sexual innuendos with butt and boob shots and a female "cat" fight that were so ridiculously obvious that you could scrape the estrogen off the lens just ruined what could've been something really interesting. Don't get me wrong: Catwoman should be sexy. But not in a PG-13-rated porn way. I'm sure this is great masturbation material for 12-year-old boys, though. I hope someone takes Catwoman seriously someday and creates a really good film about her origins because she is just flat out cool.


HOME ALONE, Chris Columbus, 1990. I know, I know, everyone's favorite Christmas movie. The problem with this film for me? Macaulay Culken. Sorry. Cannot stand the kid. He cannot act and is not cute. All of his siblings are far better actors than he is. So he absolutely ruined the film for me. Plus it was just dumb. Those are some shitty-ass parents if they can't keep track of all those kids. And WTF were their jobs that they could afford that many kids, that gigantic house, and that vacation?

PEARL HARBOR, Michael Bay, 2001: Another movie I tried to give a chance, and I literally turned it off and watched the rest later because I was so bored. Again, another film that could've been a gorgeous historical fiction film, but instead was full of overacting, over-dramatization and a totally predictable plot with one-dimensional characters. Dear Michael Bay, Please stick with cheesy action films and don't try to make a serious historical fiction piece ever again. Thank you. Sincerely, the rest of the world.

BATTLEFIELD EARTH, Roger Christian, 2000: Nuff said. (Also, does anyone else notice how ironic it is that the director's last name is Christian?)

COMING SOON - Some actual posts that will hopefully be relevant to how to improve your writing and your stories. For now, I have my hands in quite a few projects, so I will not be making my self-imposed quota of a blog post twice a week, which clearly I have already not been doing. So I hope you'll still check in now and again, as I will have an author interview soon and I am actually writing blog posts... I just need to hit that "Publish" button...