Cinema #21: The Top 5 Potentially Great Movies That Ended in Spectacular Failure

"Well begun is only half done." 
We've all seen them: movies that have you thinking this is the best thing you've ever seen.... and then crash and burn.  Some screw up at the bitter end, others start to fall apart with a full third of the movie left.  Either way, the film could have been awesome, if only they hadn't f***ed it up!

I've compiled a short list of movies that, in my opinion, are the ultimate examples of movies that started out strong, then turned to crap.  This being Retrospace, I tried not include anything made after the 80s.  And please, please, please let me know of your choices of movies that jumped the shark in the final chapters!

1. Gator (1976)

Gator McClusky was a shit kicking badass redneck in White Lightning, and the sequel held out such promise when it opened with a super cool fan-boat chase scene. Then something happened midway through - for some inexplicable reason Gator transformed from someone who kicked peoples asses and looked amazing doing it, to a sniveling wimp.

They generally don't film the scenes in order, so it's unlikely the director suddenly decided to make the change midway through filming.  One minute Gator is beating the hell out of anyone who violates his personal code, the next he's a little girl tiptoeing through the streets holding a pussycat (literally!).  He goes from an invincible stud missile tagging babes at will to (dare I say it?) sensitive and desperate.  At one point he tells Lauren Hutton that he's afraid to close his eyes because, if he opens them again, she might be gone. What happened, Gator?!?

2. The Party (1968)

Two thirds of this movie is pure comic genius.  Peter Sellers barely says two words, the comedy is almost purely physical and situational.  He is at once subtle and sympathetic.  One moment he's losing his shoe in the water sculpture thingy, the next he's engaging in brutally awkward small talk. Incredible.

Unfortunately, all that subtle humor goes in the toilet when the film literally goes insane. In the last fourth of the movie, the party turns into a hippie shindig complete with day-glo painted elephants and wacky shenanigans. It's painfully unfunny and seems to go on forever.  WTF?

3. Stripes (1981)

The first two thirds of the film are what everybody remembers: the boot camp. But hilarity turns to boredom when the film completely changes gears and degenerates into wacky tomfoolery. The laughs turn to yawns when the gang takes the military's secret weapon on the road.

4. Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Speaking of movies that should have stayed at boot camp, this film's first half is so ruthless and hardcore that those who have seen it will never forget it.  Not so the second half.  The film does a 180, shifts to the marines in combat and becomes completely forgettable, predictable and boring.

5. Superman II (1981)

Never has a movie's last 15 minutes ruined so badly everything that came before it.  Superman II was on its way to being a classic - the villains were interesting and original, the story intriguing, and the fight scenes epic.  But then came the final battle at the Fortress of Solitude which was so laughably awful that it undid everything and left audiences asking themselves "WTF just happened?"  Possibly the lamest fight scene in history followed by Lois' amnesia kiss. It was bad.... real bad.


  1. I wouldn't completely write off the last half of Full Metal Jacket, mainly because it gave us the whole "me so ho-ny" bit. Man's accomplishments goes 1) space travel, 2) sliced bread, 3) "me love you long time".

    Superman II was just horrible the whole way through. Those 3 idiots were just annoying, like the movie was made for 5-year olds. The scene of them blowing the people and cars down the street was complete schlock, like it was made by 5-year olds.

    I liked the end of Stripes and The Party just fine.

    The movie that kinda let me down at the end was This Island Earth. They take them to Metaluna, which is completely under attack, we see some spiffy Mutants, aaaaaaaaaand take 'em back to Earth.

  2. The ending of "Superman II" is quite bad, but it's not nearly as awful as the deus ex machina ending of the first "Superman" movie.

  3. For films that make ill-advised left turns I submit "Wrong Is Right" (1982) by Richard Brooks and with Sean Connery in a dark/snarky nuclear/journalism comedy that barely balances the "Deal of the Century" tone until it stops having fun and starts to take itself too seriously one hour in.

    And I'll add to the defense of FMJ - while the 1st half is certainly more memorable (and quotable) the 2nd half counterpoints the first in subtle and thematic ways, making it a whole (if overly formal but what's new with Kubrick?) just without F.Lee Ermey as comic relief.



  4. Here's 2 more I would add to the list:

    Kill Bill 2 - all about having a baby & becomming a mom? Yawn...

    The Runaways - First part fun, second half boring, loses it's focus, could have been great but failed, fell flat on its face. The only truly brilliant moments in the film are every single line uttered by the Kim Foley character-show stealer!

  5. Not really sure you can accuse Kubrik of half-assed incompetence. That's damn near impossible.

  6. The problem with most movies is that they have to have an ending. Some movies have great characters and/or great situations, but then it all has to be wrapped up with some neat little climax. Usually, that's when the script writer either jumps off the deep end with something ludicrous or simply reaches into the cliche barrel for something quick and easy. Either way, the audience is let down.

  7. How can one dare. DARE. describe Full Metal Jacket (whoever shows such contempt for it as to refer to it as an abbreviation rather than be honoured to type out the title in its glory is a dog) as a "spectacular failure" has no right to discuss the cinema. It is to ignore the subtle quiet, CONFIDENT- genius of Kubrick to have our understanding of Vietnam conditioned by the first half. "completely forgettable, predictable and boring"? That was the point!!!!!! You just don't get IT.

  8. Agree with the other reviews however. Pretty sure an Eastwood film from the 70s should join them. Thunderbolt and Lightfoot? Anything with chimpanzees? Basically, as we who actually study the cinema are trained to recognise, one cannot mention Reynolds (or even Bronson) from the 70s without reference to Eastwood.
    And how about every Bond film? They always end in another redundant fight that is as predictable as it is soul-numbing.

  9. Nah, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot's ending was the only ending it should have. And how else would Bond movies end? Bond gets injured and ends up in traction in a hospital bed with the bad guy also in traction right next to him, and the movie goes out when they make fun of the nurse and then they all laugh and hoot in pain as the credits roll?

  10. I agree with Ricky S. about Superman. I recently watched it after having not seen it since the theater, and it was the same cheated feeling I had when I was 11. Otherwise, great movie.

  11. Bah. Second half of Full Metal Jacket sucked.

    My top let-down movies would include:

    Desperado - Best first 15 minutes ever, but the rest of the movie went down like a DC-10.

    Ronin - Awesome for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Then I think John Frankenheimer found the last 15 minutes in the editing room after some other director cut it out of a 1970s Bond flick. Ice skating? Really? That's what you're going with? Okay then...

    Touch of Evil - Orson Welles shot his wad on that killer tracking shot. The rest of the movie is a disaster. I've seen both the original and the recut version based on the 50 pages of notes Welles scrawled outside the editing room door. Neither is very good.

  12. @Keir - "'completely forgettable, predictable and boring'? That was the point!!!!!! You just don't get IT"

    Well, if the point was to be forgettable, predictable and boring, he most definitely succeeded. Bravo, Kubrick, you turned an engaging and profound story into something forgettable, predictable and boring. Well done.

  13. I really can't think of my "let-down" list. Mainly because I I don't remember the movies I didn't like. I get a kick out seeing a movie list where Stripes and Full Met Jack (sorry keir) are on the same list. I liked both of those flicks. But maybe they would be off the list if their bad halves were switched. Full Metal Murry and Stiped Jacket? I'm still looking for the version of Sripes where PJ Soles is topless...Oh it's out there just gotta find it.

  14. I know a lot of his fans will get p***ed off, but I'd say everything by John carpenter between the sheer genius of The Fog and the sheer crapness of Vampires:

    Prince of Darkness
    Shifty Catholic Priest (acted by Donald Pleasance), spooky church, ace synth track, a 'confirmed sexist and proud' hero with porn tache, a crew of academics investigating weird events, Lovecraftian attacks on Euclidian physics.

    Then lots of ridiculous special effects, confused action and tangled plot.

    The Thing
    Haunting Ennio Morricone music, icy wasteland, a chopper with two guys desperately trying to shoot a husky.

    Then lots of ridiculous special effects, confused action and tangled plot.

    They Live
    Weird writing on wall, Reaganite America on the brink of chaos, paramilitary oppression of an apparent secret society.

    Then lots of ridiculous special effects, confused action and tangled plot

    In the Mouth of Madness
    A horror writer might have the power to drive people mad. The civilisation he threatens seems on the brink of collapse anyway. A publishing house run by CHARLETON HESTON. A cool dream sequence.

    Then lots of ridiculous special effects, confused action and tangled plot.

  15. Annie PantiesAugust 18, 2011

    You completely missed the mark with The Party. Incredible film from start to finish. Same for Full Metal Jacket and Stripes. Some folks just don't get it.

  16. I have to agree with all commentary about the horrible endings,except for "The Party". I thought Peter Sellers was fantastic in this film, and I enjoyed the wackiness that ensued towards the end of the film. Totally captured my imagination of what a wild Hollywood party in the 60s would look like...elephants and all!

  17. Forgettable, predictable and boring. You must be talking about your website.

  18. First one I thought of was Robot Jox... :p

  19. Louie DejesusMay 22, 2012

    I guess the term "to each their own" applies more than ever here because you clearly don't get some of these films. The Party and Full Metal Jacket are both masterpieces in their own rights. I love both of those movies and could watch them over and over. Stripes is a great film too. What are you smoking? Full Metal Jacket has some of the best dialogue ever committed to film. For crying out loud, the first half of that movie is a comedy.