There are a number of “best movies” lists. The most famous is probably the American Film Institute’s “100 Years–100 Movies”. The online movie and TV review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes has a “100 Best,” too. IMDb, the online movie database owned by Amazon, ups the ante with a “250 Best.”
The concept of espionage – gathering secret or confidential information for the benefit of a government or organization – is inherently dramatic. Following spies around while they do their thing has formed the foundation of some of the very best movies ever made.
Some critics like the other side of the coin. Awards for worst movies are given out each year by a parody awards show called the Golden Raspberry Awards, or Razzies”, a parody of the Oscars. We’ve identified the worst movie of all time ourselves, and it’s The Avengers (1998).
A spy movie can go off the rails for a whole host of reasons. If it’s a comedy, it might simply be unfunny. If it’s for kids, anyone over the age of 10 might find it dull. If it’s an action film, it might be overburdened with badly-edited chase sequences and unburdened by any coherent plot. And if it’s just trying to be a smart spy thriller, it can easily fall into the trap of being formulaic, generic, and forgettable.
To determine the worst spy film of all time, 24/7 Tempo developed an index using average ratings on IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon, and a combination of audience scores and Tomatometer scores on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator, as of February 2022, weighting all ratings equally. We considered only movies with at least 25,000 audience votes on either IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes. Only films that center on a spy or clandestine intelligence officer protagonist or deal with the theme of espionage were included. Data on cast is from IMDb.
The worst movie is The Avengers (1998). Here are the details:
> IMDb user rating: 3.8/10 (43,139 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 15% (42,972 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 5% (83 reviews)
> Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman, Sean Connery, Patrick Macnee
No, this isn’t the Marvel blockbuster; it’s the 1998 movie based on the ’60s British TV show of the same name, and the worst spy film of all time. The storyline is largely indecipherable, but we’ll give it a go: When an evil genius named Sir August de Wynter (Sean Connery) discovers a way to control the weather, two British Ministry agents named John Steed and Emma Peel (Ralph Feinnes and Uma Thurman, the later a meteorologist) are sent to stop him. But they’re stymied by (among other things) dead men in teddy bear suits, mechanical bees, hypnotism, poison gas, and an abandoned plotline involving clones of Peel. A hot air balloon also makes an appearance at one point, but we’re not sure why. Inscrutable, painfully dull, awkwardly edited, badly written, woefully miscast, and painfully overwrought, “The Avengers” isn’t just bad, it’s downright awful; critics gave it a thorough drubbing at the time, and to this day it’s still regarded as one of the very worst films ever made.
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