The Most Polarizing Movies of the Past 10 Years
There are some movies that just about everyone seems to love; if you don’t like them, you’re in the minority. Then there are movies that just about everyone seems to hate; if you don’t hate them, you’re in the minority.
But there’s also a third category: movies that split audiences right down the middle. Opinions on these films are so unbelievably varied that some argue that they are total masterpieces while others think they are complete and utter trash.
Since 2008, we’ve seen tons of movies like that, many of which still spark debate when they’re brought up. Here’s a look at the absolute most polarizing movies released in the past 10 years, ranked up to the No. 1 most divisive film.
15. Ghostbusters (2016)
Few 2016 movies provoked more intense reactions than the reboot of Ghostbusters. In this case, it started long before the film itself was even released. There were a variety of reasons for this. Some felt strongly that there should be no Ghostbusters without the original cast, and this was just another unnecessary reboot.
Unfortunately, there were also others who were against the very idea of women taking over in the lead roles. That sexism was pervasive all throughout the lead-up to the film. As a result, its trailer became the most disliked of all time, with over one million thumbs down on YouTube.
When the movie finally came out, a lot of people really enjoyed it as a hilarious comedy that did its own thing and didn’t attempt to fully recreate the magic of the original. But others felt it was a far cry from the 1984 classic. And still others simply refused to see it on principle, blindly rating it one star on IMDB.
Next: This adaptation of a popular graphic novel received mixed reactions.
The Watchmen graphic novel was for decades considered to be unfilmable. But Zack Snyder gave it a shot with his 2009 film. Reactions to Watchmen were mixed, and it received a 64% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Many felt it was visually stunning but failed to capture the depth of the graphic novel. On the other hand, a lot of fans of the source material praised it as being the best adaptation possible.
Over the years, Watchmen began to receive more praise from some viewers, who now argue it’s an underrated masterpiece. Still, others stick to their guns that it’s little more than a mediocre Snyder-directed music video.
Next: Fans of a popular franchise had varying reactions to this reboot.
13. Jurassic World
After nearly 15 years of anticipation, the Jurassic Park franchise returned in 2015 with Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World, which divided critics and fans.
A lot of fanatics of the series agreed that this was by far the best Jurassic Park since the original, and it was a truly worthy sequel and franchise reinvigoration. On the other hand, the movie had plenty of detractors, who complained about everything from Claire running in high heels to the over-the-top death of Zara Young.
The movie was beloved by enough people that it became the highest-grossing film of the summer. But it was hated enough by others that when Trevorrow was hired back for Jurassic World 3, critics seemed to collectively roll their eyes.
Next: This movie was hated by many people in part because of the marketing.
12. Spring Breakers
Sometimes, a movie can be polarizing largely because viewers have false expectations of what it’s going to be. With Spring Breakers, the film seemed like it would be a shallow teen comedy starring Selena Gomez and Ashley Benson.
But the movie ended up being much more of an art film than you’d anticipate; it’s actually sort of a satire of the type of movie you would have expected it to be, and a dark commentary on the vapid lives of its protagonists.
Even among those who got what was it was trying to do, though, it was still polarizing, with some feeling like it just wasn’t enough story to sustain even the short 90-minute running time. Depending on who you ask, Spring Breakers is either a misunderstood gem or one of the worst movies of 2013.
Next: This horror movie received a lot of hype, and not everyone felt it deserved it.
11. Paranormal Activity
Horror movies can often be polarizing, especially when they’re heralded as the genre’s next big thing. That was definitely the case with Oren Peli’s Paranormal Activity, which received an absolutely absurd amount of hype leading up to its 2009 release.
Some who were told that Paranormal Activity would be one of the scariest movies of all time were disappointed with just how restrained it was. The found-footage movie is creepy in subtle ways, but never is there much spectacle or the type of in-your-face scares you might expect from a mainstream horror release.
With Paranormal Activity, there are those who argue it’s one of the greatest horror movies ever made, while others just find it to be boring. It all depends on what you personally find frightening.
Next: This Disney movie has a score of 51% on Rotten Tomatoes.
10. Tron: Legacy
Tron: Legacy is almost the exact definition of polarizing, as it has a score of 51% on Rotten Tomatoes. This long-anticipated Disney sequel received mixed reactions from critics, many of whom praised the visuals and the soundtrack but others of whom felt the story and character development were subpar.
The lackluster reviews probably contributed to the film’s relatively disappointing box office performance.Over the years, though, Tron: Legacy has gained something of a cult following, with many now arguing that it’s underrated and others feeling like critics correctly rated it all along.
Next: Some felt this final part of a trilogy was disappointing.
9. The Dark Knight Rises
Christopher Nolan had quite a lot to live up to with The Dark Knight Rises. After all, he was following up a movie that was widely regarded as one of the greatest superhero films of all time. The sequel, it seemed, could only be a disappointment.
Indeed, many felt that The Dark Knight Rises was a huge letdown, and an example of a trilogy ending with a whimper. Fans complained about everything from poor writing to disappointing action. But on the other hand, critics tended to give the movie positive reviews, and there were many who embraced it as a fantastic conclusion to the series.
The movie is polarizing enough that on IMDB, the most popular user review is a 10 out 10, and the second-most popular review is a 1 out of 10.
Next: Another DC film that proved to be highly polarizing.
8. Man of Steel
After The Dark Knight Rises, the very next DC film was also pretty polarizing: Man of Steel. This was the first Superman film in seven years, and it was also the launch of DC’s new cinematic universe.
So expectations were high, and fans weren’t sure how to feel about the result. Some praised it as a bold new vision for Superman, while others felt the Synder’s grim outlook wasn’t in keeping with the character. Critics were divided, and the film received a Rotten Tomatoes score of 56%.
From here on out, reactions to the DC movies outside of Wonder Woman would tend to be quite negative. But Man of Steel remains a polarizing film with plenty of apologists, especially because Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice makes it look so good in comparison.
Next: Another entry into a popular franchise that was either love it or hate it.
Another entry into a popular movie series that sparked highly polarized reactions was Prometheus, Ridley Scott’s long-awaited return to the Alien saga. What was initially thought of as a fairly traditional Alien prequel ended up being something else entirely. Already, that disappointed certain fans.
But there was also the criticism that the movie is overly enigmatic to the point of laziness, having some mysterious black goo that’s never fully explained drive the whole plot. There were also widespread complaints about the crew acting stupidly and, for example, running in a straight line away from a falling ship. Additionally, some felt that this was an example of Scott going back and explaining things that didn’t need explaining.
But many Alien fans absolutely adored Prometheus, praising it as a return to form for Scott and a bold new direction for the series. Those who loved the movie and those who hated it both tended to feel fairly passionately, and that debate would continue all the way until the 2017 sequel, Alien: Covenant.
Next: This was definitely the most polarizing movie of 2017.
6. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
When the reviews for Star Wars: The Last Jedi first went online, there were actually no signs that it was going to be polarizing. Critics adored it, and the film earned a score of 91% on Rotten Tomatoes.
But a vocal chunk of the Star Wars fanbase ended up hating the movie, arguing that it was the worst film in the entire series and that Rian Johnson had ruined the franchise forever. On Rotten Tomatoes, the audience score is a shockingly low 47%, down from 88% for The Force Awakens.
At the same time, there are just as many Star Wars fans who feel that The Last Jedi is one of the best movies in the entire series and is just as good as The Empire Strikes Back. There have been polarizing Star Wars movies before, but no entry left audiences divided quite like this one.
Next: This movie has a fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes but an ‘F’ CinemaScore.
With the exception of Noah, Darren Aronofsky had been on a roll since 2008 producing movies that critics almost universally adored, from The Wrestler to Black Swan and The Fighter. But mother! received a more lukewarm response.
On the one hand, some critics praised it as a genius Biblical allegory and/or look into the self-destructive tendencies of artists. On the other hand, other critics panned it as a ridiculously over-the-top, pretentious mess that shoves its themes into your face with absolutely no subtly. One particularly shocking moment near the end drove those who were on the fence into full-on hatred.
The film received a 69% on Rotten Tomatoes, but the audience score was split right down the middle: 50%.
Next: This 2009 movie earned a Rotten Tomatoes score of 51%.
Another example of a film where many felt a respected director took things way too far was Lars von Trier’s Antichrist, in which a grieving couple (Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg) retreat to a cabin in the woods.
Some critics praised the film as a beautifully haunting look at grief. But others felt that von Trier simply took things over the line in trying to shock us, creating an ugly, mean film that is unintentionally hilarious in how ridiculously self-indulgent it is.
Critics were split right down the middle, as the movie received a Rotten Tomatoes score of 51%. It was one of those films you could find popping up on some critics’ lists of best of movies of the year, and also on other critics’ lists of worst movies of the year.
Next: Depending on your point of view, this film is either an underrated masterpiece or an ambitious failure.
3. Cloud Atlas
Outside of the first Matrix movie, most of what the Wachowskis produce ends up being fairly polarizing, especially their 2012 sci-fi film Cloud Atlas. This near three-hour epic was undeniably ambitious, but opinions on it were all over the map.
Depending on your point of view, it was either one of the finest pieces of cinema of the year, or an overlong, nonsensical, narrative mess. There were critics who gave it five stars, and there were critics who gave it one star.
To this day, there are many who praise Cloud Atlas as a masterpiece, while others still argue that it was, at best, a noble failure.
Next: This movie was described as brilliant by some and pretentious by others.
2. The Tree of Life
Many critics have named The Tree of Life one of the best films of the 21st century, calling it a masterpiece if ever there was one. At the same time, the movie was also booed when it premiered at Cannes.
Watching the film, it’s not hard to see why. Terrence Malick throws all rules about narrative out the window; watching The Tree of Life is more like looking at a painting than seeing a movie. At one point, Malick randomly spends several minutes showing us the birth of the universe.
Initially, most reviews were positive, though there were those who felt it was overrated. When the public got their look at the film, though, it became incredibly polarizing. There are few movies that some will describe as one of the greatest films of all time and an equal number of people will describe as one of the worst, but The Tree of Life is one of them.
Next: This is definitely the most polarizing movie of the past 10 years.
When the subject of Avatar comes up in conversation these days, just about everyone has a strong opinion on it. It helps that it’s a movie that virtually everyone on the planet has seen. But the fact that it’s the No. 1 highest-grossing movie of all time places a lot of pressure on it.
Even at the time, Avatar was polarizing. Many critics praised it as being as revolutionary a blockbuster as Star Wars. Others felt it was highly derivative and little more than a special effects showcase. As it rocketed higher and higher at the box office, opinions only intensified, and those who hated it only became more bitter because of its wild success.
To this day, there’s still an ongoing debate about the merits of Avatar, whether it actually left an impact on pop culture, and whether it deserved all the praise it received at the time. With the long-awaited sequel Avatar 2 on the way, those conversations likely won’t be going away anytime soon.
Read more: The Best Worst Movies of All Time
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