Every movie fan knows what it feels like to waste time and money on an awful film, but there is such a thing as being too cautious. While review aggregators like Rotten Tomatoes have done their part to help spare us from the worst offenders, they do, on occasion, send an innocent movie to the cinematic gallows. With that in mind, we picked out some of our favorites from cinema past that get a bad rap. Don’t let their “rotten” reputations fool you — these bad movies are better than the all-important critics’ consensus suggests. If you are looking for genuinely great films, check out our picks for the best of Netflix, Hulu, HBO, or Amazon.
(Critical opinions pulled from Rotten Tomatoes’ Critics Consensus.)
Rotten Tomatoes: 58 percent
Reviewers say: “It’s difficult to make a persuasive argument for The Mummy as any kind of meaningful cinematic achievement, but it’s undeniably fun to watch.”
We say: The critics got it half right! Yes, The Mummy may not be high art, but it was never trying to be. Like Raiders of the Lost Ark, it is a throwback to the pulp adventure stories of the 1930s, with a sardonic, charming hero, funny dialogue, and exciting set pieces. If you like tales of treasure hunters and ancient curses — and don’t mind the colonialist undertones — The Mummy is a fun, competently made film.
Rotten Tomatoes: 37 percent
Reviewers say: “Eye-popping driving sequences coupled with a limp story and flat performances make this Drift an adequate follow-up to the previous Fast and Furious installments. Strictly for the racing crowd and fans of the first two films.”
We say: The Fast and the Furious is one of cinema’s most inexplicably enduring franchises, with eight films already and more on the way. That is a lot, especially given the first film was a serviceable crime drama about street racing. Tokyo Drift was where the franchise really started to spread its wings, introducing a new cast and moving the action to the neon-drenched streets of Tokyo. The script is dumb, sure, but the movie captures the speed and finesse of street racing.
Rotten Tomatoes: 50 percent
Reviewers say: “It doesn’t lack for ambition, but The Secret Life of Walter Mitty fails to back up its grand designs with enough substance to anchor the spectacle.”
We say: In the early going, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty can come off a bit listless, but it builds up momentum as Walter himself transforms from a self-effacing, risk-averse bore to a shark-wrangling, mountain-climbing, bad a__. With its moody-yet-epic soundtrack and spectacular scenery, this is a solid addition to the “road film” genre and should be enough to inspire anyone touched by wanderlust.
Rotten Tomatoes: 44 percent
Reviewers say: “To Rome with Love sees Woody Allen cobbling together an Italian postcard of farce, fantasy, and comedy with only middling success.”
We say: While Midnight in Paris and Vicky Cristina Barcelona were seen as charming love letters to romantic European locales, To Rome with Love is dismissed as a kitschy postcard. In reality, however, Woody Allen didn’t do anything all that different with this film, the critics just got tired of the formula. Is it a touch self-indulgent? Sure. But it has more than enough smart humor and hijinks to make up for it. Roberto Benigni’s turn as the suddenly and inexplicably famous Leopoldo Pisanello alone makes this one worth the watch.
Rotten Tomatoes: 44 percent
Reviewers say: “Gross-out humor overwhelms the easy chemistry between Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, who bring some energy and yucks to this tale of a girl with short-term memory loss and the guy who tries to get her to love him.”
We say: In 50 First Dates, Henry Roth (Adam Sandler) has a series of flings with women on vacation in his native Hawaii, and seduces them by leveraging the romantic fairy tale of meeting someone in a far off land and falling in love. Ironically, the film itself ropes you in in much the same way. As soon as you see the palm trees and hear the ukuleles, you won’t much care that the experience is shallow, you’ll just be looking for a good time. Silly and full of plot holes though it may be, it’s also full of heart and — if you let it — it will charm your pants off.
Rotten Tomatoes: 46 percent
Reviewers say: “A trip worth taking if one’s not offended by gratuitous nudity and bad taste.”
We say: It has plenty of gratuitous nudity and bad taste, sure, but it’s also a lot of fun — and a lot smarter than you might expect. Whether it’s the over-the-top soccer hooligans that the trippers befriend or Matt Damon’s show-stealing cameo as a sex-crazed rock star, if you’re in the mood to laugh, this one will do the trick. It will also have you singing the surprisingly catchy Scotty Doesn’t Know for the next few weeks.
Rotten Tomatoes: 59 percent
Reviewers say: “Although this action-romance suffers from weak writing and one too many explosions, the chemistry generated by onscreen couple Pitt and Jolie is palpable enough to make this a thoroughly enjoyable summer action flick.”
We say: This film is acutely self-aware and pokes fun at itself constantly. Given Hollywood’s tendency to be obliviously over-the-top, it’s easy to miss the winks, but the action, sexual tension, and humor in Mr. & Mrs. Smith are all exaggerated for effect. It’s deliberate camp and it only works if you’re willing to embrace it. Still, if all else fails, this film is worth watching in a purely anthropological sense, as a document of two historically beautiful people at the height of their star power and sex appeal.