“Harry Potter” and “Lord of the Rings” were both fruitful and met by adoring audiences. However, the truth is, when the film’s release date has come and gone, we generally concur, “The book was better.” Here are the worst adaptations the film industry has dished out in the last several decades.
The Golden Compass
“The Golden Compass” is a fantasy novel in Phillip Pullman’s trilogy, “His Dark Materials.” It’s about a little girl who embarks on a magical journey. Pullman’s story has been celebrated for his treatment of religion.
The film version dropped the story’s religious elements in a way that made the plot to murder God offend everyone. The book is a complex look at Catholicism. It's about a girl saving children from having their souls ripped out, but the movie didn’t really get to that. Trying not to be controversial, “The Golden Compass” flopped, missing on the chance to become a lucrative fantasy franchise.
George Orwell’s seminal novel “Animal Farm” was made into an animated movie by Disney in the 50s. What could go wrong?
Reddit claims the CIA helped finance a pro-American telling, and “The Guardian” confirms. According to the British publication, the CIA was using tax-payer money to spread anti-communist propaganda. It ruined the movie by mutilating Orwell’s message, which is that everyone is corrupt. The Guardian wrote that to satisfy the CIA’s objectives; the ending was changed to show that only the pigs had become corrupt.
The Time Traveler's Wife
Based on the book of the same title by Audrey Niffenegger, this film was a disappointment. It's about a man named Henry who travels back and forth through time, which causes problems when he falls in love with Clare and sporadically disappears.
It is not easy to portray all that happens in the book. Much of the main characters’ back story is left out, as is their depth and complexity. Also, the film is confusing in its efforts to show time travel.
The Perfect Catch
“The Perfect Catch” is an adaptation of British author Nick Hornby’s “Fever Pitch,” a 1992 memoir about his lifelong obsession with London’s Arsenal soccer team. Since soccer would not register with American moviegoers, “The Perfect Catch” is about one man’s (Jimmy Fallon) obsession with the Red Sox.
Relocating the story from London to Boston worked for viewers on this side of the pond, but UK fans of “Fever Pitch” didn’t connect with the Farrelly Brothers’ rom-com. The always adorable Drew Barrymore as (Fallon’s) love interest helped, but her performance lacked pizzazz. It also felt like the couple had no chemistry.
House Of The Dead
“House of the Dead” is a college movie meets blood-feasting zombies movie. It’s supposed to be terrifying and fun, just like “House of the Dead,” one of the most popular video games of all time.
Time magazine listed “House of the Dead” on their “Top Ten Worst Video Game Movies of All-Time,” which is hard to achieve because most of them are truly terrible. It was just another B-movie with a run-of-the-mill storyline. And, finally, it registered only 3% on the Tomatometer.
Superman 4: The Quest For Peace
The fifth film installment of DC Comics’ Superman falls flat. Starring Christopher Reeve and Gene Hackman, expectations were naturally high.
Outside the standard sequel burnout-factor, “Superman 4: The Quest for Peace” leaves us hanging without a strong plot, and once provided, is riddled with holes. Special effects were lacking. Neither fans nor critics liked it, and many of them were just bored with it. It has been named the worst film ever made.
Captain Corelli's Mandolin
“Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” Was a 1994 novel by Louis de Bernières with themes of love and war before it was adapted into a 2001 movie. Nicolas Cage and Penelope Cruz starred.
What were they thinking? Nicolas Cage must have been the only big-name star director John Madden could find, or else how can we expect to believe he is an Italian soldier? There is nothing Italian about him, and it shows. It’s a beautiful story, but it was, unfortunately, destroyed.
Lost in Space
“Lost in Space” was a 1960s television series that ran for three seasons before it was turned into an action flick with Joey Tribbiani in the main role. The original show was like “The Swiss Family Robinson” meets sci-fi space pioneers.
The film failed because of bad directing. It lacked any of the original TV show’s fun parts. “Lost in Space” is lost in history. The moviemakers boasted its CGI effects, the most of any film in 1998. But more isn’t always better, and the effects looked fake and overdone.
Batman & Robin
“Batman & Robin” was a circus with clowns like the snarky Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger) peppering us with pathetic puns. George Clooney, as the Dark Knight, fell flat, and he said it himself.
Clooney said that he was playing Batman, but he wasn’t good at it and that the film wasn't good either. The actor apologized to Comicon fans; he apologized to regular fans; he even apologized to Adam West. He was terrible, and he admitted it. The Verge is called “Batman & Robin,” the Titanic of superhero movies. Others cringed over the Bat costume nipples. It was corny, and it offended bat fans.
Max Payne is an edgy NYC detective on a quest for vengeance after his wife and baby were brutally murdered. “Max Payne” is based on a video game by Rockstar Games and Remedy Entertainment.
What went wrong? Film adaptations of video games rarely work. Seemingly, cross-marketing is worth the effort. “Max Payne” made a profit at the box office, but it was universally scrutinized. Critics couldn’t find a plot. And the only reason Mark Wahlberg did not win the worst actor Razzie is that Mike Myers starred in “The Love Guru” that year.
This sci-fi space adventure starring Freddie Prinze, Jr., is based on the “Wing Commander” video game. It’s another example of that crossover failing miserably.
“Wing Commander” was made on a modest budget of $30 million, but the box office saw only $11.6 million in ticket sales. Critics were vicious. Variety noted it was unintentionally laughable. Even Prinze hates it and has refused to watch any of it. He also said the script was a piece of junk.
“The Beach” is proof that not every Leonardo DiCaprio film is blockbuster material. Based on a novel by Alex Garland, it’s about a hiker’s quest to find a pristine beach, paradise untouched.
Critics didn’t like it. The rom-com turned action-suspense movie didn’t jive with the audience as well. The “Tomatometer” splattered it with a 20% rating. The scenic photography was praised by all, but it would have been better if director Danny Boyle stuck to the book.
“The Punisher” is a Marvel Comics Italian-American antihero named Frank “Castle” Castiglione. His wife and two children were the targets of a mob hit while he survived. He became a vengeful vigilante.
“The Punisher” is one of the infamous Marvel reboot disappointments. The tagline for the movie, “Justice with a vengeance,” succinctly wraps it up. There is not much else going on. Frank Castle is a merciless vigilante assassin and NYC’s most wanted man. Many think the movie leaves out too much of the Marvel story. The trademark skull is absent, and the character’s Italian origin.
Super Mario Bros
It goes without saying, “Super Mario Bros: The Movie” is based on the Nintendo arcade game. It’s a Disney film distributed by Buena Vista. Adapting, specifically, the 1990 “Super Mario World” game, the story is about Mario saving the princess and their land.
“Super Mario Bros” failed at the box office and critically. It had a paper-thin plot and flimsy writing. In 2007, Bob Hoskins (Mario) said it was the worst project he has ever worked on. To its credit, the visual effects in this Disney flick are predictably decent. It received an Oscar nod for visual effects.
Memoirs Of A Geisha
“Memoirs of a Geisha” was a best-selling novel by Arthur Golden. Filmmaker Rob Marshall, director of Oscar-winning “Chicago,” took on remaking it into a film.
Filmed in California, the movie was criticized for being inauthentic. “Memoirs of a Geisha” won three Academy Awards, but it received mixed reviews and was scrutinized for using Chinese actresses to portray Japanese women. Both the Chinese and the Japanese were offended. But even the book was controversial, as the geisha who inspired the author sued him for breach of their contract of anonymity.
The 2004 “Catwoman” movie is one of the worst comic superhero movies ever made. It’s a pity, too, because Catwoman is a thrilling feline femme fatale, and she deserved a better film.
So, what went wrong? Pretty much everything. The script, the story, and its insistence to keep only a vague resemblance to the DC Comics original drags. “Catwoman” down. It’s not Halle Berry’s fault. She is stunning in an otherwise dull superhero movie.
“Inspector Gadget” was a clever and entertaining 1983 animated television series. And then, Disney decided to do a remake starring Matthew Broderick.
The biggest problem was that while Matthew Broderick delivers the zaniness of the Inspector, he overdoes it. The movie is tedious and shrill. The plot is simple and predictable. The gadgetry, which at first was charming and fun, became increasingly dull.
Howard the Duck
“Howard the Duck” is based on Marvel Comics’ bird-superhero. It already sounds bad, but it was miracle franchise maker George Lucas who was the executive producer.
Alas, “Howard the Duck” would not come close to either “Star Wars” or “Indiana Jones.” Instead, it won four Razzie Awards and was nominated for seven. It flopped at the box office and was panned resoundingly. The performances and the humor were raunchy, as well as Howard’s appearance. Originally it was to be an animated film; they should’ve stuck with that.
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
Angelina Jolie is action hero Lara Croft, an archeologist and wealthy heiress on a mission. FYI: “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” is a video game remake.
Why was it predictably botched? It has a convoluted plot that painstakingly unwinds into an unimpressive ending. There is a cheesy shower scene, and there are action sequences that fail to thrill, entertain, or otherwise elicit an emotional response. To be fair, Jolie’s star power turned this movie into a hit, but it was still bad.
Based on the Marvel Comics character, “Ghost Rider,” the movie starred Nicolas Cage and was about a teenage boy who sells his soul to a demon in a failed effort to save his father. Transformed to Ghost Rider, his quest becomes saving hell from becoming a worse hell.
Why did it wrong? Many criticized the writing and disliked all the cheesy dialogue. Nicolas Cage said “Ghost Rider” failed because it didn’t have an R-rating. He said it could not be scary and edgy with a PG-13 rating. We think it would have flopped wither way.
The director of “Mrs. Doubtfire” brought us “Bicentennial Man.” Similar in a way, but instead of dressing up like a nanny, Robin Williams dresses up as a robot named Andrew. Andrew is technically a household appliance. The film is an adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s 1976 short novel, so the project sounded good on paper.
Why did it disappoint? The book is a fascinating look into the complexities of humanity. Morality, slavery, prejudice, eternal life, freedom, and love are all explored, but the screenplay leaves us wanting more. The movie has a lot of potentials but is over sentimentalized with a yawner of a script.
Sean Connery and Uma Thurman star in this remake of the long-running British spy series based on Marvel’s comic books. Both are titled “The Avengers.” One was epic; the other has been called the worst movie ever.
The movie registered a 5% on the Tomatometer. “The Avengers” tanked royally. It did not even clear its $60 million budget. At Rotten Tomatoes, it was called “inept” and a “woefully miscast disaster.” This summer release was a summer bummer. With nine Golden Raspberry nominations, it won “Worst Remake or Sequel” as well as “Worst Resurrection of a TV Show.”
The Dukes Of Hazzard
It’s not clear if there was a real need to adapt the mindless 1970s television series “The Dukes of Hazzard” into a movie. But it happened.
Some people liked its low-brow humor combined with Jessica Simpson’s objectified Daisy, but others complained it didn’t stick to the original. Also, stretching it into a movie created a lot of slow scenes, with many parts dragging on. Roger Ebert called it “lame-brained.” Even 70s fans of “The Dukes of Hazzard” were not impressed.
The Da Vinci Code
Dan Brown’s mystery-suspense thriller was on the New York Times bestseller list for an eternity, and it has sold well over 80 million copies. So, of course, Columbia got the rights for “The Da Vinci Code” and made it into a movie.
What happened? How could a massive hit book adaptation directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks go wrong? “The Da Vinci Code” is a complex story with complicated plot lines, any effort to screen it is going to strive, but not portray, the full narrative. The movie ended up being a disappointment.
Before we start, “Street Fighter” is a video game. Stay with us. The game featured martial-arts-style street combat; it came out in 1987. The movie of the same name stars Jean-Claude Van Damme, and it was a box office success grossing well over double its budget.
But critics didn't like it. “Street Fighter” was panned across the board. It was called a bomb and boring. The martial arts segments were badly edited, and the film lacked engaging characters and sustained action. It was both campy and uninspired.
Land Of The Lost
Loosely based on the very popular 1974 Saturday morning low-tech kid show, “Land of the Lost” lost out to the original. The movie was made with a $100 million budget in a world of CGI, but it only proved that money and technology couldn't prevent a flop.
“Land of the Lost” garnered seven Golden Razzies, including one for the worst remake. What was supposed to be a parody of the original turned out to be a farce of epic proportions. The actors didn’t even try to act, and the adult humor made the former kid show unfit for kids. Will Farrell clinched Worst Actor, and Brad Silberling took Worst Director.
Steel is a DC Comics character, an alter-ego of Henry Irons, who is a vigilante genius superhero. “Steel” stars Shaquille O’Neal as the superhero. How Warner Bros. and Kenneth Johnson (“The Bionic Woman” and “The Incredible Hulk”) thought this film would fly is beyond confusing.
Numbers don’t lie. Shaq’s performance netted a minuscule $1.7 million at the box office. The budget for “Steel” was about $16 million, so that is over $14 million they won’t get back. Even a kid knows that Shaq can’t act, but he did do all his own stunts as a 7’-plus stuntman was nowhere to be found.
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation
Based on the massively popular "Mortal Kombat" video game title (sigh), “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation” is a fantasy martial arts movie, the second in the franchise.
What makes it terrible is that it doesn’t have much of a plot. Special effects look low budget, glaring in an action-packed movie. So, it’s not a surprise that Rotten Tomatoes gave it an abysmal 2%. Even the creators hated it. In 2012, Ed Boon and John Tobias, co-creator of the "Mortal Kombat" game, admitted that this film is the worst product of their game’s tie-ins.
Howling IV: The Original Nightmare
The direct-to-video movie “Howling IV: The Original Nightmare” is yet another adaptation of the 1977 horror novel by Gary Brandner. “The Original Nightmare” is the fourth movie based on the book.
The werewolf monster story is so bad it’s funny. Why was it so bad? “Howling IV” is sloppily and cheaply made. It was dubbed in post-production without any apparent attempt to disguise the dubs. The film also took itself way too seriously, a fact that only produced laughter in the audience.
The Bonfire of the Vanities
Tom Wolfe’s searing satire, “The Bonfire of the Vanities,” a 1987 novel, was adapted to film by Warner Bros. Tom Hanks, Melanie Griffith, and Bruce Willis starred. It is 126 minutes you will never get back.
What went wrong? Woolf’s skills of storytelling and complexity of character are woefully absent. If you hadn’t read the book, you might be somewhat entertained. But as an adaptation, it failed in presentation and at the box office. It cost $47 million to make and took in just $15 million.
“Thunderbirds” is an acclaimed 1960s sci-fi TV series about interplanetary space travel and saving the world. It was done with marionette puppets, a then-revolutionary film technique. But then, Jonathon Scott Frakes (“Star Trek”) and Universal got their hands on it.
Why was “Thunderbirds” a flop? People who were most dissatisfied with this movie were fans of the 1960s TV show. Box office results were nowhere near the $57 million budget. It is not that easy bringing a 50-plus years old show to the big screen—the original exuded awe regarding technology, which can't be said about the poor remake.
“Yogi Bear” stars Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake as Yogi and Boo Boo. The two furry rascals are determined to get their paws on the park visitor’s food.
Yogi Bear is so adorable it is difficult to accept the 2011 bomb. Warner Bros heartlessly misrepresented Hanna Barbera’s classic Saturday morning cartoon duo. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the screenplay was truly mediocre. It grossed liked a blockbuster, number two at the box office, but honestly, that’s because of Yogi’s lasting popularity. “Yogi Bear” was deemed dumber than the average kid's flick.
The Time Machine
Hollywood sets its sights on H.G. Wells's sci-fi classic “The Time Machine.” (Dread setting in). The 18th-century novel takes place during that period, but also in the distant future, the year 802,701.
It’s a dire dystopian tale of the fallout of unrestrained capitalism. DreamWorks’ remake is based on the 1960s film version as well. Director Simon Wells is a direct descendent of H.G. Wells. One would think this bodes well. One would be wrong. Disparaging capitalism is not something big studios care to tackle. In this case, the movie tries to enhance the original but only succeeds in leaving plot holes.
The Great Gatsby
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” is a classic American story read by every high school kid in English class. In 1974, Paramount made a version starring Robert Redford as the Gatsby. Well, what went wrong?
This version offered flat characters with very little depth. Francis Ford Coppola’s script quoted the book directly and reproduced it literally, but lines were delivered with none of the original story’s finesse. Redford was disappointing, but so was Mia Farrow as Daisy and Sam Waterston as Nick.
“Bewitched” was one of the 70s best TV shows, holding a nostalgia factor akin to “The Brady Bunch.” The 2005 remake, boasting an A-lister cast, seemed promising.
Starring Nicole Kidman, Will Farrell, Steve Carell, and Shirley MacLaine, and directed by Nora Ephron with Penny Marshall on the production team, one expected an upgrade to the old 70s sitcom. But the film failed to be funny, and it lacked the magic of the original. The New York Times called it an “unmitigated disaster.” Nominated for worst actor, worst director, and worst remake, it earned five Razzies altogether.
The suspense thriller “Resident Evil” is the first part of the film franchise. Five sequels follow. The story comes from a successful video game of the same name.
"The Resident Evil" storyline dates back to a 1996 PlayStation game. But the movie doesn’t stick to the game, and gamers say it’s not as good as the original. Roger Ebert gave it an obligatory 1 star. He points out that “Resident Evil” is basically an unlicensed rip-off of “Dawn of the Dead.” We were let down by yet another sappy survival horror story.
Another movie with corny lines is “Double Dragon.” It’s a remake of (wait for it) a 1994 martial arts video game about a Californian apocalypse. A massive earthquake levels Los Angeles in the movie, and a trio of Chinese brothers try to survive in the streets of New Angeles, the post-apocalyptic mob-infiltrated city.
Yes, it’s bad. “Double Dragon” did not clear its budget, coming in at least $3 million short. Critics laughed at it. Gamers complained that the movie had no connection to the original game and that its name was used purely for marketing. It was just truly trite.
Alone in the Dark
Christian Slater stars as a supernatural detective tracking down evil creatures from an ancient civilization. The action-horror film “Alone in the Dark” is yet another shot at bringing the excitement of a hot video game title to the big screen, this one developed by Atari in 1992.
What does it take to register a 1% at Rotten Tomatoes? The word they used was “inept.” The overarching consensus was a sense of incredulousness that a movie could be that bad. Over at Entertainment Weekly, they gave “Alone in the Dark” an F grade. CinemaScore felt the same, another F.
The third movie of the Pokémon movie franchise, “Pokémon 3,” is based on the animation created by Japanese video game designer Satoshi Tajiri. In 1995 he created the cartoon characters for Nintendo, Game Freak, and Creatures.
But what went wrong? Critics disliked “Pokémon 3, the Spell of the Unown.” It got a 21% on the Tomatometer at Rotten Tomatoes. The animation and the story were lacking, but true Pokémon fans still, for some reason, appreciated the movie.
“Dreamcatcher” is about four best buddies on an annual hunting trip. It turns out they all have telepathic powers. The problem is that an alien is contaminating people with a strain of stomach-churning bio-warfare, a pulpy organism that eats people from the inside out.
The movie stays true to Stephen King’s original sci-fi story, but his plot is so intricate that the movie gets confusing. King, himself, is the first to say he did not like “Dreamcatcher” much because he had to write it, longhand while recovering from a terrible accident.
Alvin and the Chipmunks
Alvin, Simon, and Theodore are a trio of squeaky-voiced chipmunks who originated as an animated musical act in the late 50s. In 2007, the mischievous squeakers were animated in the live-action movie “Alvin and the Chipmunks.”
What could have possibly gone wrong? A better question would be, what didn’t go wrong? The directing is terrible, the acting by the chipmunk’s caretaker, played by Jason Lee, is bad, jokes are inappropriate and crass, and there is too much adult humor.
“Scooby-Doo” was one of the greatest cartoons on television. Produced by Hanna-Barbera animation studios, Scooby and Shaggy, Fred, Daphne, and Velma, solve a mystery every Saturday morning.
Why did the adaptation miss? This remake disappoints across the board. Trading cartoon animation for a live-action movie was an unfortunate move. It is awkward and unfunny, and the charm of the original gang was sacrificed. Freddie Prinze, Jr. was nominated for a Razzie.
“Far Cry” is one of Uwe Boll’s best movies. Having said that, Boll has a reputation for directing and self-financing bad movies. Flopping soundly at the box office, this one is about a boatman who used to be a special ops soldier.
“Far Cry” failed on every level. It’s yet another video game adaptation that alienates both moviegoers and video game fans. The central character, Jack Carver (Til Schweiger), lets us down, but at least, out of the entire cast, this actor demonstrated a solid command of English. We can't really say that for any of the other actors.
It’s not every day you see a Dwayne Johnson movie tank, but “Doom” did. To be fair, it was one of his first forays into the silver screen after a professional wrestling career. Arnold Schwarzenegger starred too. Yet, “Doom” flopped to sour reviews.
Why did it flop? Adapting a film from a video game has its share of pitfalls. Add to that bad acting, convoluted action sequences, and violence overkill. Not even the big names attached could redeem the aptly titled “Doom.”
Marvel’s Fantastic Four features prominently in remakes. “Fantastic Four,” the 2005 film version, is 20th Century Fox’s less-than-fantastic undertaking.
“Fantastic Four” was a box office winner. But movie experts such as Screenrant said it was an aggressively mediocre superhero movie. Screenrant agreed with Rotten Tomatoes’ assessment. The movie review site summed it up by saying the acting was subpar and the storytelling was bland. This movie bungled a chance to bring Marvel’s classic hero team to the big screen.
The 2003 film was the first live-action portrayal of Marvel Comics’ "Daredevil." So, it was a pity that it missed so badly. But, what happened?
Some like to blame Ben Affleck’s uninspired portrayal, but many other elements contributed. Like all of the movie's characters. Bullseye didn’t fit, Elektra seemed like some other female character we never knew, and Wilson Fisk was boring. Ironically, this adaptation tried to keep it as close as possible to its comic book origin, but that just didn't work.
The Chronicles Of Narnia: Prince Caspian
“Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia” is the second of C.S. Lewis’ seven-novel fantasy, and it is the subject of Disney’s children’s movie, “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.”
On the upside, “Prince Caspian” delivered spectacular visuals overall, though some scenes exuded lazy CGI editing. Glaringly absent, according to Roger Ebert, were some of the best-loved creatures from the first Narnia movie. Mr. Tumnus the Faun and Mrs. Beaver do not return. And the movie is confusing; it doesn’t make clear who the Narnians are. Another complaint is that the siblings were overly violent.
The Cat in the Hat
Whenever Hollywood decides to recreate the work of children’s author Dr. Seuss, we hold our collective breath. “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” turned out okay, “The Cat in the Hat” did not.
Splat! “The Cat in the Hat” got a 9% Tomatometer rating, so it’s pretty clear that we can expect a full-fledged cringe-fest. And it is. As Austin Powers or SNL’s Wayne on “Wayne’s World,” Mike Meyers does a great job. Putting him in a catsuit to hang out with children who are home alone is predictably creepy.
The Scarlet Letter
“The Scarlet Letter” has been adapted to the screen many times. But only this production has earned seven Golden Razzies nominations, including “Worst Remake or Sequel,” which it won.
This film veers too far from Nathanial Hawthorne’s 1850 novel about a 1660 Puritan colony. The 1995 movie comes off as ignorant. It was greeted with the dreaded movie critique, “unintentionally funny.” During this era, Demi Moore’s name on the marquee was like a jinx. In short, her portrayal of Hester Prynne proved accidentally humorous.
Val Kilmer plays an international spy and super thief named Simon Templar. Nicknamed “The Saint,” like the title of the movie, he runs into some roadblocks pulling off a heist for a Russian billionaire. The original British TV spy series with the same name is said to have inspired the James Bond character.
What went wrong? Kilmer was too human, too prone to emotion, to be a super spy. His accent was jarring. It isn’t an accent as much as it is just an alteration of his normal voice. He undoubtedly deserved his worst actor Razzie Award nomination.