9 most divisive movies that pitted critics against fans

Suicide Squad, Avatar, Twilight and all the other movies that get as much love as they do hate

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Before we begin, we have a warning for you: don’t read this if you’re in a crowd. The films we’re going to talk about here could cause absolute anarchy. If they catch wind of what you’re reading, half of them will side with the critics who tear these films apart – while the other side will just tear the critics apart.

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Why? Because these are the movies people just can’t agree on; the ones thousands hated and thousands more loved. There is no in between.

Consider this your final warning.

1. Suicide Squad (2016)

The people that hated it really hated it. And the people that loved it joined a 22,000-strong petition to shut down Rotten Tomatoes, the internet’s leading critic aggregator, to protest against Suicide Squad’s poor reviews (despite the site being previously owned by Warner Bros, who produced the film. And the fact that the site itself doesn’t actually review movies).

But Rotten Tomatoes remains online. And the “worst heroes ever” still rank as ‘rotten’ on the Tomatometer, thanks to a team of critics arguing, as Anthony Lane from The New Yorker did, that “to say that the movie loses the plot would not be strictly accurate, for that would imply that there was a plot to lose.” Ouch.

However, the petition could gain traction if critics continue to scorn the DC Extended Universe, bearing in mind they’ll see eight of its films before the end of the decade, starting with Wonder Women in 2017. It’s all on you, Diana Prince.

2. Seven Pounds (2008)

What could possibly be divisive about a film where the former Fresh Prince of Bel Air harvests his own organs to atone for killing six strangers and his fiancée? A jellyfish. Obviously.

Let us explain. Much of the argument swimming around this film stems from its finale where – hilarious spoiler warning – Will Smith’s character shares a bath with a deadly poisonous jellyfish, killing himself in order to donate his heart. However, as critics pointed out, the jellyfish would fill his heart with several neurotoxins, making his ticker unusable for a transplant. Ah.

Did this plothole of plotholes spoil the film? No, said 75% of the Rotten Tomatoes audience. Yes, said 73% of Rotten Tomatoes’ film critics.

Not since Finding Nemo have jellyfish caused so much panic to moviegoers worldwide.

3. Synecdoche, New York (2008)

It’s your classic Hollywood popcorn film: Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays Caden Cotard, a theatre director who buys a warehouse and hires a group of actors to continually capture the pain of everyday life.

The cast (which includes an actor to play Cotard himself) performs within a life-size replica of New York City that’s inside a warehouse in the actual aforementioned city, while all the time Cotard battles with a mysterious disease that causes his body (and the body of the guy playing him) to shut down, much to the delight of a meddling therapist (appearing inside and outside of the warehouse within a warehouse within a city) who’s continually trying to flog her debut book.

Unbelievably, audiences found that confusing. So confusing, that they couldn’t work out if it was any good or not. For example, revered critic Roger Ebert called it his favourite film of the noughties, but American site Observer called it “The worst film ever”.

Even The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw couldn’t decide in his own review if the meta-mega movie was “a masterpiece or a massively dysfunctional act of self-indulgence”.

4. The Twilight films. All of them (2008-2012)

You read that right. Despite, “still a better love story than Twilight” becoming the breakout internet meme of 2011, there are a lot of people out there who can’t get enough of the vampire-romance saga.

No, not just the tweens who forked out a total of $3.3 billion to the box office, but real movie critics. Most (in)famous of whom is Mark Kermode, who claimed Breaking Dawn: Part 2, was better than Star Wars, praise one Twilight fan site returned by calling Kermode a “rare example of a grey-haired weird bloke who gets our movie”.

Despite this slightly barbed compliment, Kermode is a fan of the series and “still a better love story than Twilight” is still in use years after the sparkly vampires left the screens.

5. Avatar (2009)

“Greatest film of all time of all time”, said the people. “Smurfs with Dances”, said the critics. While audiences flocked to Pandora for multiple viewings (a major part of what got Avatar to number one in the all-time box office takings, according to 20th Century Fox), critics claimed to see through the 3D effects into a plot that was, as The Guardian put it, a mix between “eco-waffle” and “blowing s*** up.”

And the winner of this argument? Avatar. No matter how divisive the film is, those blue aliens raked in a fair bit of money ($2.8 billion, to be precise) making it the most successful movie of all time.

6. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Oh, Zack Snyder. You’re the most divisive director in Hollywood, the slow-mo violent Marmite of the film world. And although you’ve made a few movies that could make this list (Watchmen and Man of Steel, we’re looking at you), we’ll pick just one: Batman v Superman, a title obscuring the film’s real battle: Fans v Critics.

Despite it rating low with critics (review roundup site Cinemablend gave BvS a ‘B’ rating, the same score as flops Green Lantern and Catwoman), the film went on to take $872.7 million globally. Yes, the more reviewers scorned it, the more bums hit cinema seats.

And fans were strongly supported by stars of the DC Universe, like Ray Fisher AKA Cyborg, who posted a Batfleck meme defending the film against bad reviews.

Fans>Critics #BORGLIFE #batmanvsuperman #DC

A post shared by Ray Fisher (@rehsifyar) on


We’ll just have to wait until 2020 to see if Fisher will regram the pic after Cyborg’s solo outing.

7. The Phantom of the Opera (2004)

Andrew Lloyd Webber may be the master of stage-cum-direct-to-video-musicals, but film critic favourite he ain’t. Case in point: Phantom of the Opera, the 2004 big screen adaption that only got a thumbs up from 40% of professional reviewers, according to Metacritic. However, the Paris Opera House flick scores a respectable 7.4 score on IMDB from users (a notch above Chicago’s Oscar-winning cinema conversion).

So, why the disagreement? Did reviewers like New Yorker’s Anthony Lane mean it when he said the film stunk of poor vocals and “unpasteurized melodrama”, leading to, as The Philadelphia Inquirer put it, a combination of “fingernails-on-blackboard audio agony with bamboo-under-fingernails physical torture”? Or were critics still angry at director Joel Schumacher for bringing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr Freeze puns to life in Batman and Robin seven years before?

Who knows? All we can be sure of is that thousands of people out there give this film (and it’s singing) a Phantastic ten out of ten, including IMDB user Shaun Williams in this classic review:

“I went to see this film with my best friend yesterday and I asked her what she thought of the film and she said ‘That was the worst film I’ve ever seen’ I turned to her and saw she was blubbing her eyes out (she was being sarcastic).”

Roger Ebert, eat your heart out.

8. The Butterfly Effect (2004)

If you could travel back in time what would you change? Your childhood tragedies, like Ashton Kutcher in The Butterfly Effect? Or would you aim to stop this film from ever seeing the light of day?

That’s the dilemma facing critics and fans with 2004’s biggest thriller. While moviegoers were rather taken by the premise of going back and bettering your past, critics of the present weren’t. Well, 70% of them, according to Metacritic.

The reason: Ashton Kutcher. As Peter Bradshaw pointed out, most reviewers thought “he could not possibly have made a film which it was in any way cool to like.” Yet, audiences at the time stuck by him, handing out an 81% approval ranking, according to Rotten Tomatoes. That’s 51% more than the critics.

And all this controversy is over the cinema version. Directors Eric Bress and J Mackye Gruber originally wanted the film to end with Kutcher going back in time to kill himself in the womb. Actually the critics would probably have liked that bit.

9. National Treasure (2004)

Well, Nic Cage had to be on this list somewhere, didn’t he?

Fans loved this modern Indiana Jones-style adventure enough to warrant a sequel (Book of Treasures). But – you guessed it – critics thought differently. They scorned the movie for pushing its fun-feel escapades into outright absurdity, with Roger Ebert writing it was “so silly that the Monty Python version could use the same screenplay, line for line.”

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According to Rotten Tomatoes, 76% of the audience enjoyed the film, while only 44% of critics filed a positive review (that’s a 32% difference in opinion, maths fans). However, the bad reviews have now been and gone and fans are still hoping for another addition to the franchise. So much so that rumours surrounding the sequel have their own Wikipedia page. If that’s not fandom then we don’t know what is.