My Incredible, Agonizing Quest to Find the Worst Movie on Netflix
It's easy to find bad movies on Netflix, but truly, exquisitely terrible films are trickier.
Screencaps via Netflix
I love terrible movies. Partly, this is a matter of convenience: Most movies aren't great, and this is especially true of movies on Netflix. As I write this, there are ten movies recommended to me in the Netflix "trending now" section. Of those, only three (Deadpool, Ghostbusters, and Maggie's Plan) have "certified fresh" ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. But while I could easily while away a couple hours watching a movie I don't care about, this seems like a waste. Why watch something mediocre when you can watch something bad enough to be entertaining?
But it's still tricky to find those truly terrible turds in the giant punchbowl of mediocrity that is Netflix. We've run list after list of "good" movies available for streaming—from documentaries to films to bone to—but where are our lists of absolutely dreadful failures?
To help rectify that inequity, I decided to spend an entire day, from waking to sleeping, exploring the depths of Netflix in an effort to find the worst movie on the service. Here's how that went.
Before We Go
I started my day with Before We Go, which had been suggested by a coworker when I asked for bad movie ideas in our office group chat.
Directed by and starring (always a red flag) Chris Evans, the movie tells the story of an interior designer and a trumpet player who fall in love over the course of a night in New York. It is somehow less interesting than that description makes it sound.
The two leads are more uncharismatic than I knew it was possible for people to be. They are whirling black holes of charisma who, once in range of each other’s gravitational pull, form a binary black hole, sucking all charisma out of the surrounding galaxies and sending out powerful waves of non-charisma to radiate across the universe for billions of years.
According to IMDb, Evans wanted to learn to play the trumpet for this movie, but stopped when he learned how difficult it was. Which is a perfect metaphor for this entire thing. It feels like it was made by people who had an idea, then immediately lost all interest once they realized there'd be effort involved.
But, unfortunately, it exists in that extremely unfortunate spot between “good” and “bad enough to be interesting.” It was definitely not a serious contender for worst movie on Netflix, so I turned it off about 40 minutes in.
I decided to have a google around to see what the internet thinks the worst movie on Netflix is, which took me to a subreddit called the Worst of Netflix. I went with a movie called The Bomb, as it was at the top of the page. The person who posted it described it as “an hour long of imagery of [sic] nuclear devices set to shitty music.”
The movie is an art film made up of archival footage relating to nuclear weapons set to ambient music. About 15 minutes in, after watching footage of the Earth from space, North Korean soldiers goose-stepping, and missiles being launched, I realized I was kinda into it.
As there are only so many hours in the day and I had a mission, I turned it off and went back to the Worst of Netflix subreddit.
But my quest hit a snag. Though there were many truly awful sounding movies listed, every single thing I looked up seemed to have been removed from Netflix.
InAPPropriate Comedy, a sketch comedy show directed by the Shamwow Guy that was widely accused of being racist? Gone. Avalanche Sharks, a horror film about, well, what it sounds like it’s about? Also gone.
I was beginning to worry that, due to the constant reduction in the number of movies on Netflix, all the real garbage had been purged. Was the worst movie on Netflix really just a tedious Chris Evans movie, rather than anything earth-shatteringly awful?
But then a miracle came along.
Leo the Lion
Via the Worst of Netlix, I found Leo the Lion, an Italian animated movie that was distributed in the US by the Weinstein Company. Despite looking like it was animated using a Myspace layout editor, the movie amazingly came out in 2013.
It appears to be a piece of propaganda relating to vegetarianism, but I’m not sure what side of the issue it comes down on. Leo, the movie’s main character, is a vegetarian lion. And I think we’re meant to like Leo. But Leo also appears to be extremely malnourished, with ribs that poke out and a mane that’s scragglier than the other lions.
The basic plot is that Leo embarks on a journey to find something called the Heart of the Jungle, which his mother told him to find right before she was swept over a waterfall to her death. Along the way, there are time jumps that make no sense. Scenes and characters lifted directly from the Lion King. A zebra that breastfeeds several of the movie's non-zebra main characters. A subplot involving tangled elephant tails that is resolved without ever being introduced. Somewhat problematically, there are monkeys wearing Rastafarian beanies. At several points, characters speak in rhyming couplets for no reason. In one part, as you can see in the embedded video below, Leo sings a song about vegetarianism while riding a mine cart through space.
Towards the end of the movie, Leo finds the Heart of the Jungle. But I’m not entirely sure what the Heart of the Jungle is. At first Leo yells, “I’m not afraid anymore! The heart is within. The heart is within!” Which suggests the Heart of the Jungle was actually inside of him all along. But then he adds “Come on, everyone, get on the rainbow! We all have the Heart of the Jungle inside of us!” and the whole gang boards a rainbow to enter a completely unremarkable cavern that he also refers to as the Heart of the Jungle. So which is it, Leo? Is the Heart of the Jungle in all of us? Or is it a cavern? Is it both?
The movie ends with Leo fathering some elephant/lion hybrid babies with an elephant (!!!).
According to the end credits, the film was made with the assistance of the Italian Minister of Culture. Which suggests this movie was partially funded by Italian taxpayers? If that is the case, thank you for this gift, people of Italy.
Make sure you stick around until the end. There’s a short post-credits sequence that shows two monkeys running from Leo in fear. Leo then looks at the camera and says “shh” before it fades to black. The only possible interpretation I can think of is that Leo isn’t actually a vegetarian, and was about to eat his monkey friends. Chilling.
Bitcoin Heist is a Vietnamese movie that is, unsurprisingly, about a heist of Bitcoins. I started watching it because it sounded silly from the title.
But, somehow, the filmmakers achieved the impossible task of making Bitcoin transactions interesting to watch. About 20 minutes (and several gunfights) in, I decided this movie was actually kind of fine, and moved on to shittier things.
After clicking around Netflix's menus for a few minutes, I ended up on Hot Bot.
I haven't fact-checked this, but I am 100 percent certain the movie was written by a very horny, very annoying teenage boy who time-traveled from the mid 80s. There is no way an adult of normal horniness levels in the 2010s could have generated a movie as far removed from the zeitgeist as this one.
There are three main female characters in the movie: A hot sex robot that wants to fuck the male lead, a shrill Christian mother who wants to stop the male lead from having sex, and a hot teenage girl who is obsessed with Star Trek and wants to fuck the male lead.
The majority of the jokes in the movie aren't really jokes per se, as much as acknowledgements that things like dildos, merkins, and anal cavity searches exist.
There's also a little girl in the movie, and it's mentioned that she likes Care Bears and Rainbow Brite—references nobody would make if they'd been alive in the last 30 years. A true mystery.
I watched Outcast because it showed up on a couple of “worst movies on Netflix” lists, and it stars Nicolas Cage. As Cage is a kind of beloved mascot of bad cinema, I figured I should watch at least one of his films so I could put him in the thumbnail of this article.
The movie stars Cage and Hayden Christensen, of “I don’t like sand” fame. It’s set in ancient China, where, for some reason, everyone speaks English. It’s not clear if they’re meant to actually be speaking English or if they’re speaking a different language and it’s just presented as English for the benefit of the viewer, like on Rugrats.
Anyway. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what is bad about this movie. The acting was fine. The production design and sets were fine. The script was fine. Minus a couple of extremely questionable lace fronts, the costumes were fine.
But for some reason, it didn’t work. It was unremarkable in every conceivable way. I could feel my brain deleting it from my memory as I was watching. Without the notes I made while watching, I wouldn’t be able to begin to describe what the plot is. I might have even forgotten I watched it.
There’s a scene towards the end of the movie where Nicolas Cage launches into full-on Nicolas Cage mode, and hammily screams lines like “Blackguards are as thick as flies on a farting goat’s arse because of you!” while wearing an eyepatch and rubbing a snake against his face. That has some camp value. But it’s not worth sitting through the whole movie just to get to that.
I clicked on Check Point because its description—"Check Point exposes real life terrorism and the sleeper cells they represent in America”—sounded promising.
It took me to a part of Netflix I had no idea existed. A genre of films with identical thumbnails and near identical plots. I can only describe it as “aspirational masc.”
The movie was, thankfully, bad enough to be fun. It tells the story of a group of terrorists attempting to take over the US via a small North Carolina town, and appears to have been shot for about $100. The acting is terrible. Everything looks like shit. The exposition is some of the laziest ever committed to film—one scene starts with a character saying, “Roy has been my best friend for years and tonight we’re celebrating his going-away party.”
It's relentlessly and hilariously manly. The soundtrack consists of Lynyrd Skynyrd, and cheaper bands that sound like Lynyrd Skynyrd. Men call each other "brother" like the Rock and ride Harleys. For reasons that are never specified, the female lead strips down to her underwear to assemble her rifle before the movie’s final battle. Goldberg is in it. There are lengthy, wistful speeches about the honor of Marines and the soldiers who fought in the Civil War. In the special thanks section of the end credits, “God almighty” and “all the men and women in uniform” are thanked. It is a feature-length adaptation of the phrase “no homo.”
I also found it almost impossible to follow, because the filmmakers made the very bizarre choice of casting multiple people who look almost identical. At several points, it gave the illusion that characters were fighting their clones:
In one of the most incredible sequences in cinematic history, the movie ends with a terrorist shooting down an American flag with a bazooka, which the good guys hoist back up before the screen fades to a Ronald Reagan quote. Perfection.
Contract to Kill
Continuing with the laughable manliness, I moved on to Contract to Kill, a movie produced by and starring Steven Seagal.
The movie starts with Seagal in a bar in Juárez, Mexico. The bar, which is seedy, is literally called Seedy Bar. Seagal, as always, looks like an erection with Dracula drawn on it. Seagal’s character has a conversation with some guy from the US government, who explains the evil scheme that he needs Seagal’s assistance in stopping. Which is… a lot of things. There are many, many, many different elements involved. The government guy says things like “As you know, the CIA, in concert with the DEA and the FBI, have been after these animals. Each belong to different groups, though, split between Al-Nusra Front and Hezbollah.” And he keeps expanding it to include more people. The DoJ is thrown in there. And al Qaeda. And ISIS. And Native American trackers. And ICE. And the Sonora Cartel. And only Steven Seagal can stop the very convoluted thing they’re trying to do.
Despite being set in a variety of locations around the world, the movie was shot in Romania. No expense was spared in recreating the film’s exotic locations, though. For instance, in a scene set in Istanbul, there are little signs on the doors that say “Istanbul” and framed photos of Istanbul landmarks on the walls.
Perhaps the least believable thing about this movie is the way it treats Seagal. His character is never shown as having anything even resembling a flaw. He’s perfect. Every character is in awe of him and/or wants to fuck him. Throughout the film, he’s shown dispatching goon after goon, rarely moving anything other than his arms, and never being hit himself. Despite his lack of movement, you can feel the exhaustion radiating off him through the screen. At one point, there’s a scene of him running that I’m pretty sure was shot with him standing still in front of a green screen.
I say this is unbelievable because outside of the confines of Steven Seagal movies, Steven Seagal truly fucking sucks. He’s known as a frequent liar. He’s been accused of physically assaulting his co-stars. He was once accused of killing a puppy and a bunch of chickens with a tank. He was involved with an alleged pyramid scheme. He makes dancehall music where he unironically uses the word “punani.” He hangs out with Alexander Lukashenko, Ramzan Kadyrov, and Vladamir Putin. He’s a shill for an arms company. And, most importantly, he’s been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple parties.
I know movies are meant to be an escape from reality. As a viewing public, we’re normally able to suspend our disbelief to watch dinosaurs come back to life and alien races battle in space. But expecting a viewer to look at Seagal and see anything other than a bulletproof kimono-wrapped pile of shit is probably too much for the medium.
The Ridiculous Six
I went with this one because I figured this list wouldn’t be complete without Adam Sandler, and this has the lowest Rotten Tomatoes score of the Sandler movies on Netflix (0 percent).
I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear that watching The Ridiculous Six was an extremely unenjoyable experience. But calling it a bad movie feels unfair, because I don’t think any of the people involved were trying to make a movie. They were trying to make an Adam Sandler movie. Judging this thing by the usual standards you’d judge a movie by would be like writing a video game review about a McFlurry. And I’m not sure I’m qualified to judge whether this is a good Adam Sandler movie or a bad Adam Sandler movie, because I’m not who Adam Sandler movies are made for.
I would rate it a strong ??? out of 10.
I came across Superfast! while poking through Netflix categories. When I learned that it’s a parody of the Fast and Furious franchise from the directors of Date Movie, Epic Movie, and Disaster Movie, I knew it would be fucking awful. I also knew that by this point in my day, it was last thing in the world I wanted to watch.
I was grumpy and tired and had cabin fever. Thanks to the stuff I was watching, every minute felt like it lasted ten. And I knew Superfast! wasn’t going to be bad enough to be funny or inadvertently entertaining. I knew it would just be bad bad bad bad bad.
I attempted to form an argument to myself that, as a parody, it didn’t qualify for this article. I also considered pretending I hadn’t noticed its existence. But. In the interest of journalism, I knew I had to watch. And I was right. The movie is bad bad bad bad bad.
Almost all of the humour in the movie comes from men doing things that are not traditionally thought of as being masculine. There are jokes where male characters talk about skincare, refer to their ballet training, complain about pillow softness, and listen to Justin Bieber. The rest of the movie's jokes are jarringly obvious pop cultural references. There are two scenes where a character dances the Robot.
This was the first movie that actually made me angry with its shittiness. My fists clenched into balls several times. I could physically feel the movie on top of me, like a weighted blanket.
Toward the end of the movie, my boyfriend got home from work and made several enquiries as to whether I was mad at him. “Are you sure?” he asked. “You just seem kinda off.”
This is the movie that pushed me over the edge.
It's a Kevin Smith movie about two girls who work in a Canadian convenience store and have to save Canada from Nazi bratwursts that kill people by crawling up their asses. I hope that description doesn’t make it seem like it’s some kind of wacky romp. Despite a lot of effort to make it exactly that, the end result is a painful, austere slog.
The movie apparently stemmed from someone jokingly saying the term “yoga hosers” on Kevin Smith’s podcast while talking about a Canadian yoga studio. Smith apparently found this so funny, he used millions of dollars and the time of thousands of people to adapt it into an entire movie.
If you don't find the previous paragraph to be hilarious, this movie is not for you. People saying “yoga hosers” is as funny as the movie gets. The term is said over and over again. Each time it is meant to be funny. Each time it is not.
The money and time was all I could think about while watching it. It would be one thing if you’d made something shitty and everyone was happy with it because it made them a ton of money, but this movie cost $5 million and made back less than half of that.
I couldn't stop thinking about how it would feel to be Kevin Smith. So much is tied up in you, as the creator of a movie. You’re responsible for the time and energies of everyone involved. And then you make something like this. And everyone involved in it sees it. And everyone reads the reviews. And everyone sees the box office numbers. And all of these people—the prop designers, the foley mixer, the extras, the production accountants, Haley Joel Osment—are all tied to your failure and the money and time you wasted.
I genuinely don’t think I could take it. I’ve had meltdowns when thinking about the money I was wasting when I’ve over ordered at fast food restaurants.
Had I made this movie, I would find it impossible not to think about the other ways the money and time could have been spent. The homeless who could’ve been fed, the refugees rehomed, the sick animals treated, the young filmmakers funded, the literally anything but an unfunny movie about Nazi bratwursts.
The faces of the impoverished people of the world would haunt my dreams until my dying breath.
But, luckily for Kevin Smith, it seems his ego is as big as his jorts. Towards the end of the movie, it’s revealed that the whole thing is a shot at his critics. It ends with a monster being unleashed upon the world to kill critics because, as Johnny Depp’s character explains, “Haters have to hate; douches have to douche.” Smith seems to genuinely believe that critics are responsible for the negative reviews his films receive, rather than the films themselves.
Which is a good energy to go through life with, I guess.
By the time I started Killing Season, a 2013 film about a Serbian war criminal starring John Travolta and Robert De Niro, I was desperate to throw in the towel and turn off Netflix. But I felt like I needed something enjoyably bad to end my day on, rather than the anxiety-inducing nightmare of Yoga Hosers.
Thankfully, Travolta made the unusual choice of going with the world's weirdest beard for this movie. It immediately lifted my spirits. It's wonderful. It looks like he fell asleep at a party and someone drew it on him with a Sharpie.
The film opens with Travolta speaking in what the subtitles identifies as Foreign Language. I missed most of the exposition that sets up the plot because I couldn't stop staring at Travolta, who looks like a Wooly Willy owned by a neat freak.
We’re introduced to De Niro’s character at the cabin he lives at in the woods of rural America. While out for a drive, he encounters Travolta, whose beard looks like the chin strap for a wrestling helmet.
Some stuff happens, and Travolta starts trying to hunt De Niro with a bow and arrow. Throughout this process, he looks like that mugshot of the guy who got arrested for huffing spray paint.
The movie is unbelievably and hilariously violent. There’s an amazingly grisly scene where De Niro gets shot through the leg with an arrow, and is then forced to thread twine through the wound before being suspended from the ceiling by the hole in his leg by Travolta, who looks like Playmobil.
In another unintentionally hilarious act of violence, De Niro shoots Travolta through the face with an arrow, then ties him to a table and waterboards him with a mixture of lemon juice and salt. His face is covered on account of the waterboarding, so you can’t see his beard. But it’s safe to assume he looks like his eyepatch slipped down.
Then a bunch of non-beard related stuff happened, and the movie ended.
By this point, I had been watching awful movies for over 18 hours. I was annoyed, delirious, and beginning to lose faith in both art and humanity.
I was also not any closer to finding the worst movie on Netflix. How can you rank these movies against each other when they're all awful in their own unique ways? Is it fair to judge something starring Oscar winners that cost millions of dollars by the same standards as a no-budget film about North Carolinan terrorists?
I guess what I'm trying to say is, perhaps the Heart of the Jungle was inside of us all along. (And is also possibly a cave or something?)
Follow Jamie Lee Curtis Taete on Instagram.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.