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The Nine Worst Ensemble Movies of All Time

From 'Rat Race' to 'Movie 43' and beyond.

by River Donaghey
Jul 22 2019, 6:44pm

images via trailers

When Quentin Tarantino started announcing the stars of his upcoming ninth movie, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, it was easy to get excited. Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio as Western TV stars? Margot Robbie playing Sharon Tate? Dakota Fanning as the Manson girl who tried to kill Gerald Ford? But then the cast just kept growing. And growing. And growing.

Now, everybody from Al Pacino to Bruce Dern to Kurt Russell to the late Luke Perry will apparently make appearances in the film. Even Lena Dunham is in the movie, somehow. And, sure, it's a stacked cast list, but at this point, it's almost dangerously loaded.

Tarantino has promised that the movie is a patchwork of interconnected stories like Pulp Fiction, set in late-60s Los Angeles, but with so many people attached, the whole thing could easily just become a Where's Waldo of celebrities instead of a coherent movie. Sprawling narrative or no, it still needs to be a movie instead of 150 minutes of winking cameos.

Thankfully, according to the reviews after the film's Cannes premiere, Tarantino was able to pull off the unwieldy cast list and make a long, meandering, and extremely Tarantino-y masterpiece, but the whole thing begs a question—namely, what makes a bad ensemble cast movie? And what are the worst ensemble movies out there? It turns out, there are a lot. But we here at VICE have valiantly suffered through all of them to put together a definitive list of the worst movies featuring big, ensemble casts, from Rat Race to Movie 43.

Are you ready? Let's get started!

The Counselor

There is a certain magic about terrible works of art made by brilliant artists. The Counselor is one of the worst. It's directed by Ridley Scott; based on a script by one of the world's greatest living novelists, Cormac McCarthy; and stars everyone from Michael Fassbender to Brad Pitt to Penelope Cruz to Javier Bardem to Cameron Diaz—and it is a complete and utter wreck. The cartel thriller's dense, impenetrable plot feels penned by Elmore Leonard on mescaline and the thing so self-consciously dark that it comes off like camp. Oh, and there's also a scene where Cameron Diaz humps the windshield of a car. The Blood Meridian guy wrote this movie. It is truly baffling.

The Great Gatsby (2013)

Baz Luhrmann has been trying to recreate the success of Romeo + Juliet for the past two decades, and each subsequent attempt is more gratuitous and brain-bleedingly extravagant than the last. His Great Gatsby adaptation is the worst of the bunch. The movie squanders its A-list cast with awkward, purple dialogue that would've made even Fitzgerald himself puke in his mouth a little bit, and hides their acting chops inside overstuffed, busy sets. Plus, the soundtrack is maddeningly bad. Right now, Luhrmann has set his sights on an Elvis biopic as his next film. For the love of all that is holy, please, stop this man.

Dreamcatcher

Dreamcatcher was directed by all-time great Lawrence Kasdan. It was written by Kasdan and another all-time movie master, William Goldman. It was based on a book by Stephen King. The whole setup sounds like an easy slam dunk, except for one thing: This is the Stephen King book about diarrhea aliens. Or, sorry, "shit-weasels." Sorry, everyone. Dreamcatcher is a strange pastiche of his better works—Firestarter, It, Tommyknockers—about a group of friends who wind up in the crosshairs of a malicious entity called Mr. Gray. Except in this King story, the evil creature spreads his seed by planting worms inside of humans which they then fart out grotesquely, like a bad Alien parody. Morgan Freeman somehow read this script and signed on to star.

Rat Race

Rat Race is an early 2000s attempt at aping It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, but it has none of the charm or laughs of the original. The movie stars Whoopi Goldberg, John Cleese, Mr. Bean, and Breckin Meyer (this was 2001, after all) and a giant cast of supporting characters on a cross-country race to get a few million dollars from New Mexico or something. Hijinks ensue, which mostly just involve a bus full of Lucille Ball impersonators and Mr. Bean really, really appreciating the beauty of a room.

The Greatest Story Ever Told

This New Testament epic from 1965 is so long and boring that those short, simple words barely do it justice. The Greatest Story Ever Told needs a long, German loan-word to accurately describe just how interminable the whole thing is. This movie plays out like the Wikipedia entry for Jesus of Nazareth, slowly plodding through each of his miracles, one by one, as every familiar face from mid-century Hollywood pops in for a distracting cameo until you wish that the hand of God would reach down from the Heavens and smite the smiles off Charlton Heston's face.

O.C. and Stiggs

It doesn't need to be said, but let's say it anyway: Robert Altman is the undisputed king of ensemble films. There's a reason that P.T. Anderson just completely ripped Altman off for Magnolia. The guy has cranked out a ton of sprawling masterpieces, from Nashville to MASH to Shortcuts. But his raunchy 1980s comedy, O.C. and Stiggs, is not one of them.

This movie is based on a series of National Lampoon stories, and follows the wacky misadventures of a teenage duo who drive around and pull pranks and whatever. It is the film equivalent of writing "BOOBIES" on a calculator. The thing feels like it's Altman's self-aware attempt to parody the 80s teen sex comedy, but it's just so overwhelmingly cringe-y that it winds up being one of the worst of the genre regardless, which is saying something when up against movies like Porky's.

Rock of Ages

Who watched Top Gun and decided it would be a good idea to let Tom Cruise sing? Rock of Ages is a bad movie based on a bad musical, featuring all the worst hits from that radio station your dad played in his car circa 1997. No. No. No. No.

Every Gerry Marshall Movie Named After a Holiday

There's Valentine's Day, and New Year's Eve, and Mother's Day, and they're all exactly the same flavor of bland romantic dreck. Director Gerry Marshall, the guy who once made Pretty Woman, somehow hit on a formula during the past decade and has decided to spend his twilight years cranking out these Love Actually-lite movies at a steady clip. They may be terrible, but their massive casts still manages to pull some weight at the box office, and so Marshall will probably keep them coming until the end of time. Get ready for the inevitable tree-planting romantic epic, Arbor Day, coming whatever day Arbor Day is. In springtime or something?

Movie 43

What is Movie 43? Why does it exist? Even after watching it, you don't know. It's a terrible, unfunny gross-out comedy that inexplicably stars every single actor you can think of. It is an unending sting of cameos, each one increasingly more awkward and shoehorned in, filled with sketches that play like someone's lame attempt at an "Aristocrats" joke. The only conceivable reason that this movie exists is some kind of elaborate money laundering scheme for the Hollywood elite. At least that would explain why Hugh Jackman has balls on his neck. No, nothing would explain that one.

This article originally appeared on VICE US.