When it comes to popular culture, there’s often a huge gap between the opinions of the critics and the general public. “Beach read” romance or crime novels seldom win plaudits from The New York Review of Books; schlocky pop music gets few raves in Rolling Stone. And as for movies, well, screens are full of cinematic masterpieces that flop at the box office and overblown epics that rake in the bucks but earn critical scorn. (Here’s a representative list of movies audiences love but critics hate.)
To determine the highest grossing movies with the lowest ratings, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on worldwide box office data from The Numbers, an online movie database owned by Nash Information Services, and audience and critic ratings from IMDb, an online movie and TV database owned by Amazon, and Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator. The 350 movies with the highest global box office, adjusted for inflation using historical ticket prices from the National Association for Theatre Owners, were ranked based on a composite index consisting of IMDb user rating, Rotten Tomatoes audience score, and Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score. All index measures were rated equally. Data is current as of September 2022.
Here’s something that should come as no surprise: Nearly all of the highest-grossing films with the worst ratings are franchise installments. While a few exceptions emerge, the overwhelming majority of these blockbusters opened to built-in followings, hence their impressive box office hauls. Examples such as “Beverly Hills Cop II” and “Minions” may have their staunch defenders, but most of these titles are misfires from the perspective of quality viewing. (Here’s a look at the worst movie from every major franchise.)
One could easily get jaded reading through the list of movies that earned big bucks in spite of their many shortcomings. It reinforces the notion that Hollywood tends to milk a cash cow for all it’s worth, even when the well of creativity has run dry. Then again, why should a studio put forth the extra effort when it already knows that audiences will flock to see the new “Transformers” movie or the latest adaptation of a popular book like “Twilight” or “Fifty Shades of Grey?” And don’t even get us started on all those live-action Disney remakes.
The truth is that most franchise installments are bound to fall short in one way or the other. It’s difficult to capture lightning in a bottle over and over again or come up with a fresh approach to the same general material. One might even suggest that the sequels and reboots that live up to the hype are the true anomalies. But does the possibility of getting it right justify the smorgasbord of sub-standard fare thrust upon audiences from one year to the next? Read the following list and then decide for yourself.
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