The only thing better than the feeling of walking out of the cinema completely satisfied with your viewing experience, eager to see what the auteur of the spectacle you’ve just watched will do next, is the satisfaction of finally getting to see their follow up and it turn out brilliant. Think of Duncan Jones’ Moon, followed by the even better Source Code. Or of anything by Christopher Nolan.
Sometimes you’ll be disappointed; for a period, David Fincher appeared to be alternating great films (Seven, Fight Club, Zodiac), with remarkably average fare (The Game, Panic Room, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). A lot of amazing directors have poor films on their resume and likewise, there’s plenty of bad ones (I could say Michael Bay, but that might be a little too obvious a choice), who are yet to come close to critical praise. Then there are the poor directors who at one point or another appeared to have got it right, but it turned out to be a pure accident. These are the directors who consistently lead viewers on; to this day they are heralded as great, but once you strip away the praise there exists only one bright spot on a very poor back catalogue.
So here are five of the worst, ones who are still riding the success their one good film after numerous disappointments. If I’ve learnt one thing compiling this list, it’s that if you had your first big hit back in 1999, you may have been best finding a different career.
Spoilers for all films on the list, but mainly in the third entry.
Honourable Mention: Tim Burton
Tim Burton has not made what could be called a good film in well over a decade and yet every new movie gets the pre-release plaudits of a great. Possibly the most overrated director of all time, some of Burton’s so called classics are anything but; Edward Scissorhands is incredibly twee, rather than gothic and in the wake of Nolan’s trilogy his Batman looks as crazily camp as Adam West’s.
However, he has had some success. Beetlejuice, Ed Wood and a couple of others are good films and are the reason he doesn’t quite make the list; he isn’t just a one-hit wonder, at least in the literal sense. What he is, is a director who had a career that began with a signature style and worked to some degree, but then, through refusal to change, it became stale and his films became boring. He’s worthy of a mention because his success came at a short period of the late eighties and early nineties and as time has gone by it has been revealed his amazing filmmaking prowess is as false as Sweeny Todd’s shaving skills.
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