By George Bate & Josh Reilly B.
Rotten Tomatoes is the gold-standard, go-to resource when looking for movie or show recommendation. The website tracks critics’ reviews of films and shows to arrive upon an approval rating of “fresh” or “rotten.” A project is considered “fresh” if 60% or more of the reviews are positive and is considered “rotten” if positive reviews make up less than 60% of the total count. For the most part, Rotten Tomatoes scores tend to map onto general moviegoers’ perceptions of film, but there are a few notable exceptions. Here are some movies with bewildering Rotten Tomatoes scores.
Hocus Pocus – 38%
Hocus Pocus is a Halloween classic and yet over 60% of critics gave the film a negative review. The critics consensus reads as follows: “Harmlessly hokey yet never much more than mediocre, Hocus Pocus is a muddled family-friendly effort that fails to live up to the talents of its impressive cast.”
Saw – 50%
James Wan’s directorial debut is easily one of the most iconic movies of the 21st century and kicked off a successful series of terrifying horror flicks. While the series definitely generated diminishing returns, the first Saw is a classic. Leaning more into psychological thriller territory than horror at times, Saw is intense and captivating from its opening shot onward. And, to this day, the film features one of the best movie plot twists of all time. The Rotten Tomatoes critics consensus is as follows: “Saw ensnares audiences with a deceptively clever plot and a myriad of memorable, nasty set pieces, but its lofty ambitions are undercut by a nihilistic streak that feels more mean than profound.”
Space Jam – 43%
Space Jam remains a beloved classic for so many who grew up with the film. It surprisingly holds up well after over two decades and effectively blends its different sources of comedy. The visual effects are spectacular, Michael Jordan is hilarious, and the whole film is really engaging. However, the critics consensus on Rotten Tomatoes reads as follows: “While it’s no slam dunk, Space Jam’s silly, Looney Toons-laden slapstick and vivid animation will leave younger viewers satisfied — though accompanying adults may be more annoyed than entertained.”
Step Brothers – 55%
Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly starred in one of the most memorable and quotable comedies of all time. Step Brothers is anchored by a hilarious premise and two legendary comedic performances, with Ferrell and Reilly’s characters trading blows (both physical and metaphorical) throughout. Step Brothers is a hell of a good time. The Rotten Tomatoes critics consensus reads as follows: “Step Brothers indulges in a cheerfully relentless immaturity that will quickly turn off viewers unamused by Ferrell and Reilly — and delight those who find their antics hilarious.”
Hook – 29%
Steven Spielberg’s spin on the classic Peter Pan tale is magical in more ways than one. Robin Williams is spectacular in a film that sentimentally explores youth and the passage of time. The Rotten Tomatoes critics consensus reads as follows: “The look of Hook is lively indeed but Steven Spielberg directs on autopilot here, giving in too quickly to his sentimental, syrupy qualities.”
Man of Steel – 56%
Zack Snyder’s brooding Superman origin story was met with criticisms for being too dark and tonally unlike the Christopher Reeve films that came before. But, Man of Steel is a meticulously crafted masterpiece of the superhero genre. Every shot is so carefully constructed by Snyder, while the film’s rich themes of grief, loss, and alienation affect profoundly. The Rotten Tomatoes critics consensus reads as follows: “Man of Steel’s exhilarating action and spectacle can’t fully overcome its detours into generic blockbuster territory.”
Top Gun – 58%
The movie that put Tom Cruise on the map is arguably the most surprising inclusion on this list. Tony Scott’s testosterone-filled drama features so many iconic moments and is wonderfully camp all these years later. While not as impressive as its excellent sequel Top Gun: Maverick, Top Gun is still a dazzler. The Rotten Tomatoes critics summary reads as follows: “Though it features some of the most memorable and electrifying aerial footage shot with an expert eye for action, Top Gun offers too little for non-adolescent viewers to chew on when its characters aren’t in the air.
Bad Boys – 43%
Sure, Bad Boys is a little dated and perhaps too over-the-top. Nonetheless, Michael Bay’s buddy cop action comedy is an incredibly rewatchable, high-energy thrill ride. The Rotten Tomatoes critics consensus is as follows: “Bad Boys stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence have enjoyable chemistry; unfortunately, director Michael Bay too often drowns it out with set pieces and explosions in place of an actual story.”
Taken – 59%
The film that relaunched Liam Neeson’s career as a badass action movie star, Taken also received surprisingly mixed reviews. The Rotten Tomatoes critics consensus is as follows: “Taken is undeniably fun with slick action, but is largely a brainless exercise.”
National Treasure – 46%
Fans have been clamoring for a third entry in the Nicolas Cage meets Indiana Jones series from Disney, such is the strength of the original 2004 action movie. The Rotten Tomatoes critics consensus is as follows: “National Treasure is no treasure, but it’s a fun ride for those who can forgive its highly improbable plot.”