We start the Top 7. You finish the Top 10.
Somehow, the end of the world has become a form of entertainment. Instead of being scared out of our wits of apocalyptic thoughts, we enjoy plunking down $10 to watch them become realized by big budget blockbusters. Hollywood serves it up, however: whole cities are destroyed, hundreds of thousands of people die, the fate of mankind is brought into question, and sometimes, Randy Quaid becomes our savior.
Which brings us to a certain theme that has been continued through a legacy of doomsday movies – they’re funny as hell. More unintentional than not, these movies are loaded with goofy movie milestones that make the blockbusters seem like gargantuan scaled jokes, with their characters, dialogue, and special moments serving as a type of punch line. Many disaster movies seem to be plagued by an air of idiocy that moves from one big budget movie to the next, like the plant farts in The Happening, a movie that has earned number uno on this list.
In honor of 2012, the latest movie from hack director Roland Emmerich (who pulls a hat trick here), The Scorecard Review has attempted to compile a list of apocalyptic movies that can be viewed in any way but serious, despite their alarming nature. To gage such goofiness, we needed to go back only so far as 1994, and with the exception of Zombieland we can only expect that their original intent wasn’t to make us die from laughter.
Oh, and no, the apocalypse isn’t coming in three years. Thanks, NASA!
7. 2012 (2009)
Recap: The world is about to end. Turns out the Mayans were right. A select few people are in on the ground work of saving the human race, while others, like Jackson Curtis (Cusack), are trying to desperately save their families from the mass destruction of the entire planet.
Reason: This film doesn’t even allow you to turn off your brain. Just like 10,000 BC and The Day After Tomorrow there are enough head-scratching moments, if you want to laugh at the film. But If all you live for is special effects, I can’t stop you.
Train wreck. Car wreck. Plane wreck. Boat wreck. Please tell me you’ve picked up on the common theme here people. It’s a wreck. The odds of Jackson Curtis and his family surviving the way that they did is about 0.001 percent. But since they keep surviving, there’s nothing nerve racking about these situations. Yet somehow instead of just watching people try to survive, we are dealt moral dilemmas like survival of the fittest (richest) and what exactly is cruelty. It’s sloppy. To top it off, the running time should have been cut in half. 2012 is a disaster, just not the kind it is hoping for.
(Written by Jeff Bayer, read his review of 2012 HERE).
6. Zombieland (2009)
Recap: In case you haven’t seen one of the best films of 2009 yet, here’s the plot: An old burger at a Gas n’ Gulp gradually turns the entire world population into either zombies or zombie chow. Meet the only four survivors to this gruesome apocalypse: Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Wichita (Emma Stone), and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin).
Reason: I know this is a bit of a wild card, but let’s face it. Zombieland may not be as monumental as the other cinematic classics on this list, but this recent movie is worth a shout out because it does fulfill the objective of this top 7, and intentionally. Plus, the idea of fighting off doomsday has rarely been shown to be look like such a good time (see: Doomsday. Actually, don’t.) Apparently, when the world ends, that’s when the fun is just beginning. Woody Harrelson kicks total zombie a** in this movie, and then some. Joined by three others, they turn z-monster killing into its own type of art form, and also have some hilarious moments that turn the entire nation of Zombieland into a type of amusement park. There’s also a cameo from Bill Murray that has a gut-busting end (referring to his last words, not the action that brings this about).
5. Independence Day (1996)
Recap: A race of squid aliens with excellent flying skills and a giant mother ship terrorize major cities and blow up the White House. Will Smith punches one in the face, and Randy Quaid gives the most underrated performance of his career. Yee-haw!
Reason: Finally, finally a race of hostile aliens have invaded earth. None of that “we come in peace,” BS. This here is an “extermination,” and it’s timing couldn’t be any better. Like some sick joke set up by the President’s PR campaign, the aliens fly into town on July 2nd, and let America and CO. kick a** on July 4th. They obliterate a bunch of skyscrapers with their giant blue light, another disaster movie event that sends cars flying through the air in a giant spectacle of a firestorm. But then Randy Quaid leads the charge to kill them all, and it’s over. Nice try, dudes.
Wait. Randy Quaid?! National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation’s Cousin Eddie?! Yes, either director Roland Emmerich has a sick sense of humor or maybe he’s just an idiot, but somehow the other Quaid is given the job of symbolizing the bravery of America, and becomes a martyr in the process. (One could argue he’s kind of like the second coming of Slim Pickens). Though they aren’t his final words, one can only hope that “In the words of my generation – UP YOOOURS!” is etched into his giant memorial, which I can only hope will make some sort of cameo in the two sequels meant to follow the original ID4.
Will Smith, ever the hero of blockbuster fare, needs to learn a lesson intergalactic relations. After being forced to parachute after an intense dogfight, he stumbles over to the loser alien ship, says “Welcome to Earth!” and then decks the thing in the face. First of all, wow. Second, Will Smith has the strength to knock out a space creature with just his fist? That’s crazy talk.
Which is where Jeff Goldblum comes in, making his point in history as one of the best non-sense scientists in movie history. (His logic is later parodied brilliant by an episode of “South Park.”) Goldblum and Smith share a truly historic moment in cinema when they reach the mothership, an event that causes Will Smith to shout, “I have GOT to get me ONE OF THESE!”
Unwarranted destruction by an alien race is a serious problem, but not to Independence Day. This is one of the swifter bad-good movies, but it is loaded with goofy characters, dumb dialogue, action scenes that are so much of a stretch that they almost snap, and yes, a big speech by an American president that let’s us know that at the end of the day, everything is going to be alright. Or super silly, whichever.
4. The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
Recap: Another disaster movie from Roland Emmerich, this one about global warming. Disasters like tornadoes and typhoons happen all out once , and then it all freezes over.
Reason: More so than Independence day, The Day After Tomorrow throws everything it can afford at its audience, like the giant billboard that bumbles down a highway and wipes a news reporter back to the 50’s in said film. And yes, the audience’s feelings are the same – it’s a painfully bad movie, but is redeemed by the many laughs that comes at the expense of absurd big budget slapstick. Watching the Capitol Records building get torn to shreds? Haw haw. Seeing Dennis Quaid drop one of his buddies to a PG-13 death through the ceiling of a mall completely enveloped in snow? HA HA!
One of the best segments of silly stupidity in The Day After Tomorrow involves a tidal wave and New York City. Here’s the scenario: a giant tidal wave is crashing through NYC, leaving everyone scrambling for some type of shelter that isn’t going to turn into an aquarium instantaneously. For starters, NYC might run fast, but it seems to be full of slow thinkers – there are numerous shots of dumbfounded faces not able to compute the equation of water + running = safety. You’d think people would also hear a whole body of water come crashing down the street, blocks away. The piece de resistance comes soon after, when Emmy Rossum’s character is lagging behind the rest of the group, who are hiding in a library. She’s slacking because wants to help a foreign family get their passports. Whilst retrieving such documents mighty relevant to the end of the world, she’s completely oblivious to the tidal wave of cars, people, and overall pain that hurdles towards her. She takes her time, and it’s only until Jake Gyllennhaal’s slightly smarter character comes to retrieve her that does she know what’s going on.
It’s a cheap thrill of dumbness, and probably one of the times The Day After Tomorrow is more frustrating than it is laughable. But don’t be too discouraged – there are plenty of Emmerich-quality Quaid moments to go around.
3. Waterworld (1995)
Recap: The year is around 2500, and all form of land has been covered by water that used to be the polar ice caps. A mutant named Mariner (Kevin Costner) is in search of dry land, and he may have a map to such a location with the help of a little girl’s tattoo. While cruising the ocean blue he must fight off a group of “smokers” (pirates, basically) led by Dennis Hopper. This movie cost $231.6 million to make.
Reason: Okay, so technically the world doesn’t end in this movie. It’s more of a gigantic water park, but with more jet-ski fights and other bric a brac that would usually only be seen in an engineer’s wet dream or a set designer’s nightmare. An opening scene of Kevin Costner urinating into a bottle may or may not explain how the big budget handles such complicated technologies. But there is certainly no justification for the unintentionally silly nature of this movie, which unknowingly drowns its audience in not water but cheese, with moments that one-by-one help make this a flop especially worthy of placement on this list.
This movie is full of ridiculous, so bad it’s good, elements. Field of Dreams dude Costner is what Derek Zoolander would call him a merman, as opposed to a mermaid – he’s got gills and webbed feet. At the same time he’s got the look of a rock star washed up from playing Nickelback covers, and not from actual water. But his appearance is nothing on the rest of Waterworld inhabitants, who can best be described as really dirty Vikings with dreadlocks. A swift stake through the film’s own heart is then done by Dennis Hopper’s appearance, who is complimented by a crew of clumsy pirate thugs. His shining moment in all of cinema, Hopper gets his eyeball blown apart due to friendly fire, and in the next scene takes off a patch only to say, “We got to keep an eye out.” The character has the presence and intimidation of a villain on “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers,” but somehow the film believes in him as the ultimate bad guy. Don’t cross him – he’ll unload a sh*tty one liner on you!
There are other moments in Waterworld that sink the movie’s hopes of being taken seriously, like when a spear gun impales a plane flying high above the air, or when numerous jet-skis crash into the walls of a water colony and explode with the sensitivity of Pinto. Not to mention the numerous times Costner is shown slapping his female companions, and in one time, giving them the ol’ paddle knockout.
With such a budget and infamous legacy, Waterworld is a special movie, but not in a good way. It’s unique in that it’s rare for a movie of such extravagance to be upstaged by its stunt show spin off, currently fulfilling Waterworld’s original intent of entertaining at Universal Studios California.
2. Armageddon (1998)
Recap: A meteor the size of Texas is hurtling towards the Earth, and NASA calls upon a group of blue-collar oil drillers to implant a bomb in said space rock before it ends mankind and “even bacteria.” In other words: USA! USA! USA!
Reason: Transformers: Revenge of Michael Bay’s Ego may have replaced this movie as the director’s ultimate crap-sterpiece, but Armageddon will always warm the hearts of people who love bad movies that think death and destruction is pure entertainment. Hollywood’s vendetta with destroying New York City is fulfilled again when the city’s skyscrapers are impaled by meteors the size of basketballs, (to which a cab driver shouts, “Saddam Hussein is bombing us!”) Cars that are secretly trampolines with bombs attached are launched into the air and suddenly, it’s raining taxicabs, meteors, and the Chrysler Building needle.
In order to save the world, NASA calls upon “The Wrong Stuff” to wise crack their way through space training, and then sets them on a brain-meltingly stupid mission that is about as logical as a race of space robots. I am not kidding when I say that NASA uses the film for its management-training program – it asks prospects to find as many scientific inaccuracies as possible. This is funny by itself – watching it in action, with the pained faces of the actors that bring it to life, is even better. Just listen to Billy Bob Thornton; he couldn’t be madder at himself for partaking in such a movie.
Cheese earns a whole new flavor when Ben Affleck turns animal crackers into pillow talk, followed up soon by an overly cutesy impromptu rendition of “Leavin’ On A Jetplane.” He then has his biggest wussbag moment at the end of the film, in which he proclaims his true love for Bruce Willis’ character: “Waaaah, Harry I love you!” If that moment doesn’t make you laugh, you must be Ben Affleck; or Jennifer Garner, attempting to be very supportive.
Michael Bay is the ultimate winner, however. His movie may be a 2 hr 30 minute joke in the doomsday subgenre, but his movie earned four Oscar nominations, had a popular soundtrack, and was very successful at the worldwide box office. Plus, the arthouse Blu-ray + DVD packaging company Criterion Collection has even released a special version of Armageddon, forcing the film into a spot on the shelf at Barnes and Noble with more artistic and intelligent fare. Now that’s funny.
1. The Happening (2008)
Recap: Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyamalan proved he had none when he dropped this big one on a supposedly plant hating world. Coming fresh off the previous debacle of Lady In The Water, Shyamalan crafted his next movie, which was going to be about the environment supposedly. A super-exciting title was given, “The Happening,” and another twist from the director was promised. Then, the movie got an R-rating, which had the advertising basically calling this movie “M. Night Shyamalan’s First R-Rated Movie!” And what did we get? A movie that couldn’t have been goofier if the theme for “What’s Happening!” was played on repeat.
Reason: Where to start? Hmm. First off, you have Departed tough guy Marky Mark playing a science teacher, one who can get tough talking about bees but then gets upset when he hears that his wife (Zooey Deschanel) once had desert with a co-worker behind his back. His friend, Mr. Math Teacher (John Leguizamo and a super plaqued-out front tooth) tries to make things better by getting the two to talk, with which Wahlberg replies, “I don’t want your help. Duh!”
Oh, right. The carnage.
The Happening really sets itself above other disaster movies because it has a villain that most films aren’t that dumb to consider – plants. Plants are releasing a toxin into the wind that causes human beings to shut down and then kill themselves, which I suppose is harsh punishment for throwing that Coke in the trash can instead of the recycling bin. Said toxins are forcing people to stab themselves with hairpins, shoot themselves in the head, and even lie down in front of lawnmowers. Oh, and one dude at a zoo gets ripped apart by tigers. Ouch!
How does it all affect our hero, Mr. Scientist? While figuring this out, he loses his mind, and at the same time, our respect. Wahlberg talks to a plant for about thirty seconds before realizing he’s plastic, and then sings “Black Water” by the Doobie Brothers to prove to some strangers that he’s normal. At least he didn’t resort to rapping his own murdering of Lou Reed’s “Walk On The Wild Side.”
There are other moments of pure stupidity, whose fault can lie on no one other than Shyamalan. A key moment of dumbness is whenever there is an “attack,” there is always someone unharmed at the beginning, so that they can make a confused face and watch in horror as people die. Second place for Shyamalan stupid might be how boring he makes Zooey Deschanel to be. There’s a twenty second scene where the 500 Days of Summer star has a dramatic stare down – with a vibrating phone. But perhaps Shyamalan is onto something – living in a world where she is so plain wouldn’t be worth it anyway.