10 Smart Movies Which Are Secretly Dumb

It's time to admit that Inception is way stupider than it looks.

Inception Leonardo DiCaprio
Warner Bros.

While most film fans love watching the occasional sliver of dumb, escapist schlock, there's nothing quite like a film that makes you revel in its intelligence. So exquisitely, thoughtfully written it is that you're left still thinking about it days or even months later.

But it's all about balance, and writing a smart film for the masses is much harder than it looks - you need to massage those clever ideas into something that's broad and accessible if you want box office glory in addition to critical raves.

Yet sometimes filmmakers just don't get the balance right, and in an attempt to broaden their story might deliver a film that's actually slyly stupid.

These 10 films, from Oscar-winning dramas to well-crafted blockbusters, were all framed and mounted as Smart Movies for the thinking person to seek out, but if you dig into the particulars of the script - namely, the story, characters, and dialogue - they just doesn't hold water.

This isn't to say that these films aren't smart to a point, because they absolutely are, but beneath that over-layer of intelligence is a strata of secret stupidity, as perhaps only fully reveals itself on repeat viewings...

10. American Hustle

Inception Leonardo DiCaprio
Columbia Pictures

There's perhaps no single movie in the last decade that's been put on a pedestal as undeservedly as American Hustle.

David O. Russell's slick, superficially smart crime comedy centers around the FBI Abscam sting operation of the late 1970s and early 1980s, but the real scam worth investigating is how Russell performed a psy-op that convinced the Academy to give this thing 10 (!) Oscar nominations - of which it won zero.

The film has a bit of a smug, self-satisfied air to it which clearly relishes toying with audiences as they attempt to figure out exactly what's true and what isn't.

But when you get down to it, American Hustle is really just dude-bro Scorsese: a well-crafted and brilliantly acted imitation of Goodfellas that doesn't really have any original ideas of its own.

And that's totally fine - American Hustle is a perfectly enjoyable movie within that context, yet how aggressively it was championed by the Academy as a serious work of Cinema that's just plain smarter than its audience did its long-term reputation no favours at all.


Stay at home dad who spends as much time teaching his kids the merits of Martin Scorsese as possible (against the missus' wishes). General video game, TV and film nut. Occasional sports fan. Full time loon.