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In a recent poll of Uncle Scoopy's Fun House readers, we went looking for...
The Most Overrated Movie

Commentary written by Scoop:

A poll like this is interesting because it is such a beautiful mirror image of the voters' deepest passions. When we choose the most overrated, we are recalling a time in our lives when we were told that somebody's cult favorite was the shiznit, and we consequently set aside a good amount of time and/or money in anticipation of a great experience that never materialized. Or perhaps we are thinking of a mediocre movie which beat out our favorite for an Oscar. Or perhaps there was a great gap between the critical perception of a movie and the public's view. Or perhaps there was a monstrous box office smash that everyone seemed to love but us. Or perhaps there is one of those generation-specific films that people of that generation love, but nobody else can understand why.

The paragraph above represents many different possibilities, yet we simplistically asked our readers and voters to lump them all together into a single phrase, "most overrated."

The inherent nature of the very term "overrated" implies a lack of specificity. Who is doing the rating that we think is too high? The critics? The ticket buyers? The Academy? The consensus of history? Are we talking about the film with the highest undeserved box office? Are we asking people to name the single weak film with the most universal critical approbation? Are we talking about the film with the greatest difference between the IMDb score and what the IMDb score ought to be? Are we talking about the film which at one time received the greatest unmerited hype? The answer is "any and all of the above."

We should note that this is not a list of poor films. In fact, with few exceptions, the films on this list range from good to superior. But they all have one thing in common. Each of them gets a lot of people pissed off  when other people start to talk about how good it is.

10. (Tie) "Sideways"

Critics loved this movie. Why not? It is essentially a movie about a critic - not a movie critic, of course, but nonetheless a person whose raison d'etre is pronouncing judgments. Given that there is a natural tendency for critics to identify with the main character, perhaps that explains some of their passion for this movie.

This is the film I voted for as the most overrated ever. Here is my reasoning. How much would you enjoy listening to some fantasy geeks discuss Dungeons and Dragons for two hours? About zero on a scale of one to ten, right? (Unless you love Dungeons and Dragons - then ten!)  Well, that is how much I like listening to wine geeks discuss grapes for two hours. This is a film that might seem like a ten if you're into wine, but was nearly an unbearable exercise in tedium for me.

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10. (Tie) "Lord of the Rings Trilogy"

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy won 17 Academy Awards, with the finale winning 11 - 100% of its nominations. This is arguably the best trilogy ever created, and one of the supreme achievements in film history. So why is it on this list?

Let's face it, people just go so ga-ga over it that other people are sick of hearing about it.

Click here for the Scoopy.com review of "Fellowship of the Ring"
Click here for the Scoopy.com review of "The Two Towers"
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10. (Tie) "Chariots of Fire"

Frankly, I don't know if this movie is any good, because I've never been able to stay awake during it. I'm not kidding. That is literally true. I know that it is considered a top movie ( Best Picture in its year), so I've tried to watch it four times, and have fallen asleep every time. And this from the man recognized by Guinness as the only human who ever managed to stay awake all the way through both versions of Solaris.

Anyway, it has merit. It contains some nice music, people like to listen to soothing music while they sleep, and a movie rental is cheaper than an bottle of Sominex.

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8. (Tie) "Dances with Wolves"

This film isn't bad at all. Its IMDb score of 7.8 may be a tad high, but is about what it deserves, in my opinion. It tends to show up on lists like this because it received the Academy Award as the Best Picture of 1990, and many people felt that award should have gone to Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas.

Plus, looking back after having seen several other Kevin Costner movies, many people now realize that he just wasn't all he was hyped to be at the time.

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8. (Tie) "Lost In Translation"

It's definitely a slow film, and it relies on the identification of the viewer with the characters in the film for it to make much sense. If it strikes a chord with a point in your life it's wonderful, otherwise you just feel like you're wandering blind through unfamiliar territory.

It certainly qualifies for this list in one respect. Most people cannot, for the life of them, figure out how other people could vote it into the Top 250 of all time.

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7. "The English Patient"

The 1996 films were not especially outstanding, and believe it or not The English Patient was actually a legitimate candidate for Best Picture. The other nominees were Shine, Secrets and Lies, Fargo and Jerry Maguire. The top un-nominated films were Trainspotting, Sling Blade, Larry Flynt, and Breaking the Waves. I don't feel that English Patient was out of its league in that company. I would certainly not have voted for it, but I can understand that people did so with the certainty of their convictions.  I think it is beautifully photographed and it obviously touches a lot of hearts, but is maybe not the kind of film that should have been winning "best picture" after the 1950's. I suppose our voters had similar thoughts.

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5. (Tie) "Eyes Wide Shut"

Poor Stanley Kubrick. What a legacy. Has there ever been a case where so much skill and genius were used so poorly?

To me the saddest thing about this movie is that Kubrick had always been the best filmmaker in the world with difficult literary adaptations. Lolita and Barry Lyndon are virtually unfilmable, but Kubrick managed to turn them both into terrific movies. A Clockwork Orange seems almost impossible to capture on film. It's written entirely in a non-existent language! Yet Kubrick turned it into an iconic work of genius. And then there was Eyes Wide Shut, in which everything worthwhile about the film was already in the source novel, while everything Kubrick changed resulted in a disaster.

I don't know if it is fair to say that this film is overrated, however, because the last time I checked it was the lowest rated major film in history among Apollo voters, scoring 16/100 on their scale. If you look at it that way, it might even be underrated!


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5. (Tie) "Napoleon Dynamite"

Napoleon falls into the same general category as Donny Darko and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. There are really not that many people who like it, but those who do like it are so enthusiastic that they irritate the majority of filmgoers. A poll like this, of average mainstream moviegoers, will always show that cult films are "overrated" - after all, the fact that mainstream audiences don't like them is what makes them cult films and not blockbusters!

Personally, I compare Napoleon Dynamite to The Big Lebowski in that I didn't much care for either movie the first time I watched them, but now they are both among my ten favorite comedies. Uncle Rico abides!

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4. "The Passion of the Christ"

Some claim that as many as  600 million people in the world have seen this movie about the excruciating level of pain that a man went through in his final days. Obviously the reason why the number is so high is that the specific man in question is considered by many to be the Son of God. Make the exact same Aramaic movie about the suffering of your local Middle Eastern chef, and few people would go to see it . Those who do see it will not be that impressed.

It is therefore easy to see why those people who do not think Jesus was divine feel that the movie's box office was undeserved, and why even many thoughtful Christians refer to it as the Jesus Chainsaw Massacre.

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3. "Blair Witch Project"

I mentioned above that most of the films on this list are actually quite good, but there are exceptions. Here's the Prime Exception, a typical drive-in second feature with virtually no merit - yet a film that somehow became a must-see movie on hype alone.

It was certainly overrated at one time, but what about the judgment of history?  It is not rated high at IMDb - a wishy-washy 6.1 - about like a two and a half star rating out of four. That is still too high, but probably not  high enough to deserve this lofty perch on our list. Its strong finish in our poll must be based on people's memories of the ratio between its hype and its payoff.

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2. "Fahrenheit 9/11"

Michael Moore made a smug but generally unimpressive little political satire and propaganda film posing as a documentary. It provokes a few laughs and a few tears, but let's face it, when people view this film in fifty years, they will not have the first clue as to why anyone ever thought it was good.

It made a mountain of money and is currently rated 7.9 at IMDb, which certainly qualifies it to be in the lofty position it occupies on this list.

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1. "Titanic"

Here is the film that best illustrates the ambiguous nature of the very term "most overrated." As of today, Titanic is not overrated by much, if at all. It is not rated among the top twenty films of its year at IMDb. It is rated 6.9 on that site, despite the fact that it is a film which in many ways presents some kick-ass filmmaking. It is certainly as good as other films with similar IMDb scores. Based on that score, it is fair to say that it is not overrated at all by history.

So why was it our runaway winner for "most overrated"? Because in its time it won nearly a dozen Academy Awards, and is still, to this day, the highest grossing film of all time. It is a big, sweeping romantic film that might be worth a 6.9, but at one time seemed to be held up as the perfect ten. Looking back on the 1997 frenzy over this film, our voters can only scratch their heads and say, "How could that really have happened?" 

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