22 Movies That Did Not Age Well
When you know better, you do better. That hopefully goes for movies too, because some classic movies were made in times when they just didn’t know any better. It doesn’t mean you have to hate them now, but you can appreciate that hopefully the world has become a slightly better place since then.
[Spoiler Alert: This article includes spoilers for the movies on this list.]
Here are 22 movies that aged poorly, listed in alphabetical order so as not to rank any offense over another one. This is by far not a conclusive list as the history of cinema is fully of many more exfamples. And a Trigger Warning as many of these examples include themes of sexual violence, racism and homophobia.
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective – A pre-trans movie
A big twist of this comedy is that a female character is the suspect having undergone a sex change. It was a parody of The Crying Game but the joke being it grosses Ace (Jim Carrey) out. Carrey reconsidered and acknowledged Ace is the jerk in that movie (although the entire police force joins him in barfing at a trans woman).
American Beauty – An uncomfortable movie
It was never okay that Lester (Kevin Spacey) lusted after a 16-year-old. He makes the right choice in the end, but credible allegations that Spacey assaulted Anthony Rapp and others make it hard to watch him fantasize about a teenager now.
Animal House – One of many movies that makes light of consent
Pinto (Tom Hulce) makes the right choice when Clorette (Sarah Holcomb) passes out. Although he debates it, he does not proceed to have no consensual sex with her. Still, she reveals later she is only 13 so he was dating an underage girl regardless.
Bluto (John Belushi) also peeps on some sorority girls, as do the Porky’s guys (they get their comeuppance though.) Revenge of the Nerds (see below) would do far worse. Let’s hope the Deltas have matured and learned the error of their ways.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s – One of many racialls insensitive movies
Let’s be honest, Mickey Rooney as a Japanese neighbor wasn’t okay in 1961.
Chasing Amy – GLAAD things have changed
Kevin Smith took heat from GLAAD when this movie came out in 1997. Holden (Ben Affleck) falls in love with lesbian Alyssa (Joey Lauren Adams) and convinces her to date him. The gay community knew this was a dangerous suggestion, that a man could turn a gay woman straight or bi. Hopefully even their straight allies know that now.
Dirty Dancing – The wrong kind of dirty
Yes, Jennifer Gray was in her 20s when she made this movie, but Baby was 17. Johnny (Patrick Swayze) was romancing a minor.
Disclosure – A misguided movie
In the early ’90s the idea of a man being sexually harassed seemed novel for a dramatic story. It does happen, but post #MeToo Michael Douglas as the persecuted middle aged man seems tone deaf. Their cutting edge 1994 technology is pretty funny too.
Dumbo – Animated movies aren’t exempt
The crows in the circus were recognized to be such racial stereotypes that the live-action remake omitted the characters altogether.
Forrest Gump – A devious movie agenda
In 1994 this seemed like a sweet romp through history. Looking back, it seems to champion Forrest (Tom Hanks) for playing sports, going to war and investing in stock. Meanwhile, poor Jenny (Robin Wright) joins the hippies, protests the war, experiments with drugs and dies of AIDS for it. That’s not quite so sweet.
Heathers – Real life became worse than satire
This satire of high school violence loses some of its bite after decades of real school shootings. J.D. (Christian Slater) and Veronica (Winona Ryder) murder the cool kids and make it look like suicide, so suicide becomes cool. A TV adaptation was effectively buried because it was so unpalatable in modern times.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – Exploiting stereotypes
Portraying Indians as eating monkey brains and baby snakes or leading death cults was already a damaging stereotype in 1984. It’s not the only problematic Indy movie either.
The Living Daylights/Rambo III – On the wrong side of history
Both Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) and James Bond (Timothy Dalton) aided the mujahideen in their fight against Soviet Russia. They’d already become the bad guys in history by the time Rambo III opened, let alone post 9/11.
Manhattan – More underage characters
Many Woody Allen movies involved romance between an older man and a younger woman. Mariel Hemingway player a 17-year-old in Manhattan and she was barely 18 herself.
Police Academy – Homophobic humor
Like many 80s comedies, the whole Police Academy series uses unfortunately common gay slurs. Even the innocent billl and ted are guilty of it. In Police Academy, Mahoney (Steve Guttenberg) is mistaken for giving Lassard (George Gaynes) oral sex and it’s considered a huge embarrassment not for the sex but for being gay. The whole series uses the Blue Oyster gay bar as a punchline, punishing the heel characters by sending them there.
Raiders of the Lost Ark – Do the math
Indy (Harrison Ford) hasn’t seen Marion (Karen Allen) for 10 years and she’s only in the 20s. When they dated, she’d have been a teenager while Indy was in his 20s. She even says “I was a child.”
Revenge of the Nerds – Don’t celebrate this revenge
Unfortunately their revenge on the sorority was far worse than when the sorority were mean to them. A panty raid is one thing but they install surveillance cameras to spy on the naked sorority girls and even sell naked pictures of Betty (Julia Montgomery). Lewis (Robert Carradine) commits actual rape by impersonating her boyfriend and having sex with her by deception. The movie justifies it by saying she enjoys it.
Saturday Night Fever – A raw movie
Although a classic, Saturday Night Fever is very frank about the violence in the world of 70s New York. Tony (John Travolta) attempts to rape his dance partner Stephanie (Karen Lynn Gorney) and his friends do rape Annette Donna Pescow). There’s also plenty of racist, homophobic and misogynistic language. Paramount even put out a PG version of the film because it was so harsh.
The Searchers – A historical take on history
John Wayne was not known for being politically correct. In this, one of his seminal movies, he’s blatantly anti Native American. His goal is to kill the woman (Natalie Wood) they kidnapped rather than rescue her after she’s been with a Commanche. He also played Genghis Khan once.
Short Circuit – Just no
The Short Circuit movies cast Fisher Stevens as an Indian scientist. Stevens is a Caucasian actor. He did brownface in not one but two movies.
Sixteen Candles – More consent issues
Jake (Michael Schoeffling) offers the Geek (Anthony Michael Hall) his passed out girlfriend Caroline (Haviland Morris). Long Duk Dong (Gedde Watanabe) isn’t exactly an evolved portrayal of Asian immigrants either.
Soul Man – Only in the ’80s
This wasn’t a big hit then but it’s entirely unacceptable now. A white guy (C. Thomas Howell) can’t afford college so he takes pills to darken his skin and apply for financial aid. Isn’t blackface hilarious? Those minorities have it so easy with all their financial aid.
The Toy – Even the star didn’t approve
A rich white boy makes his dad literally buy Richard Pryor. Even Pryor says he only did it for the money, according to an article in the January 1992 issue of Premiere Magazine.
Tropic Thunder – The most recent movie on this list
The blackface was always satire. Simple Jack might not be, and the idea of going the full R word, well, that’s not a word you should use even in comedy.
Many of these examples involved depictions of sexual assault or rape.
How to get help: In the U.S., call the RAINN National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to connect with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.