On the surface, Ridley Scott's The Martian, released later this month, has the makings of a hit. It is based on a genuine online-to-self-published-ebook-to-must-read-bestseller literary phenomenon. It comes from the directorial hand of the genre genius behind Alien and Blade Runner and it reunites stars Matt Damon with the isolated on a distant planet plot of the $600 million earning critical hit Interstellar.
It's Robinson Crusoe on Mars pitch is clever and original, or it would be if Robinson Crusoe On Mars hadn't already been made in 1964 and promptly flopped at the box office. And this leads us to the issue at hand. The biggest challenge for Damon's interplanetary castaway isn't going to be sciencing the sh*t out of growing some potatoes, it's going to be combating the legacy of virtually every Mars set film that has come before and proved a critical and commercial disaster.
In fact, by now it could be said that the chances of anything decent coming from Mars are a million to one. It's got so bad that even the remake of virtually the only good Mars movie, Total Recall, was too timid even to get its ass to Mars.
For those that did, it was not a successful move. Here are ten times filmmakers tried to turn the fourth rock from the sun into cinematic gold and failed.
10. Santa Claus Conquers The Martians
Rotten Tomatoes score: 25%
Box Office: Not available ($200,000 budget)
Objectively, Santa Claus Conquers The Martians is terrible. Its plot, in which Martian children can only get Earth TV so the Martians kidnap Santa Claus (and a couple of Earth children to recognise the real Santa) and force him to make toys, is nonsensical. Its production values are incredibly shoddy. However, it is so bad in such an oddball way that its Ed Wood-ish qualities take it all the way back round to entertaining again.
Despite, or perhaps because of, appearing on a number of critics 'Worst Films of All Time' lists, Santa Claus Conquers The Martians has enjoyed a cult following and a renaissance in popularity in the last couple of decades, helped by its public domain status and appearances on Mystery Science Theatre 3000 and Elvira's Movie Macabre.
The movie's still dreadful, but kind of charmingly so, which means it doesn't make it any higher on this list.