The U.S. Department of Defense has worked with Hollywood for more than a century, supplying hard-to-procure assets for movie studios and offering story input on military-related script matters. While the long-standing relationship between Hollywood and the Pentagon has given the U.S. military significant influence in the entertainment industry and resulted in some of the most successful blockbusters in film history, the collaboration has also led to some notorious flops.
To determine the least popular movies supported by the Pentagon, 24/7 Tempo ranked films that received official DoD support via production assistance or script input based on an index of user ratings on IMDb, an online movie and TV database owned by Amazon, and audience ratings and Tomatometer scores on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator, as of February 2023. Documentation of DoD support for most movies on the list comes from the results of a 2013 FOIA request by Dr. Stephen Underhill and the 2021 study “Superheroes, Movies, and the State: How the U.S. Government Shapes Cinematic Universes” by Tricia Jenkins and Tom Secker.
While the DoD Entertainment Media Office’s official goal is to ensure accurate depiction of military stories and safeguard sensitive information, critics of the military-entertainment complex maintain that the DoD uses blockbuster movies as propaganda to bolster the U.S. military’s recruitment strategy, public relations efforts, and influence overseas. In some cases, the DoD’s agenda may clash with the director’s creative vision and ultimately weaken the strength of the story.
Some of the most critically acclaimed military-themed films – “Apocalypse Now,” “Platoon,” and “Forrest Gump,” for example – have refused DoD script approval, citing concerns over possible censorship. At the same time, many movies that have relied on DoD support – Best Picture nominee “Top Gun: Maverick,” for example – have gone on to major critical and financial success. (See this ranking of the most popular movies you may not have known were backed by the Pentagon.)
Click here to see a ranking of the most hated movies backed by the Pentagon
While the Pentagon has enjoyed significant editorial control over a number of major movies, DoD support is no determinant of cinematic quality, and many of the most unpopular movies with DoD backing are disliked for reasons unrelated to their military elements. The 1988 sci-fi “Mac and Me,” for example, was largely panned for being a bold ripoff of 1982’s “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.” Movies like “Annapolis,” “Battle Los Angeles,” and “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” earned low ratings for their clichéd dialogue and poorly shot action sequences. (In contrast, these are considered the best war movies of all time.)
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