I’m reading a book that outlines each of the films of Steven Spielberg (through the year 2012), and I'm shocked when I hear the author offer a negative opinion of some of the Spielberg movies that I watched religiously growing up. It shows that while a movie may be made for one particular audience, it can resonate more with another. Below are five examples of movies that I grew up loving only to find out that they got terrible reviews, didn’t hold up, or are only beloved by my generation.
Note: It goes without saying that these opinions are based on my own taste versus the reactions I have seen or heard by an older demographic (those born before 1980). Not everyone my age loves these movies, and not every adult hates them. We all get something different out of a film. Here is what I got out of the following.
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
Rotten Tomatoes: 85% Audience Score: 81%
IMDB Users: 7.6/10
Roger Ebert: 4 stars
This movie tends to be tied with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as audiences' least favorite Indiana Jones movie. Even Spielberg has said that this is personally not his favorite in the series. It’s dark, missing the love-to-hate Nazis, and has two annoying sidekicks in the form of a whiny lounge singer and a stereotypically cute Asian kid. It does not resemble the tone that Raiders set in the franchise, and that disappointed a lot of Indy fans in the 80’s.
I admit, I wasn’t around when the first two Indiana Jones films were released, but it didn’t take me long to find them. I used to tell people that I was going to be an archaeologist when I grew up, and I used to pretend that I was Indiana Jones when I played in my backyard. So, I was confused when I started to hear that people didn't like this movie. Some even despise it. This is the one that I watched the most as a kid, and the family dynamic and simple story made it easy to understand. The voodoo didn’t scare me because I didn’t understand what there was to be afraid of. It was just a movie, after all. I thought it was made up. I thought Willy Scott and Short Round were funny, not annoying, and I love the mine chase and toppling bridge ending. I love all of the movies in the series, but this one will always be my favorite.
Ghostbusters II (1989)
Rotten Tomatoes: 51% Audience Score: 61%
IMDB Users: 6.5/10
Roger Ebert: 2 ½ stars
Ghostbusters is one of the greatest comedies of all time. That’s pretty much a unanimous opinion. In fact, I’ve never met someone who didn’t like the original film. The sequel, however, not so much. It was considered sentimental, lackluster, and just not the same as its predecessor. Even Bill Murray refused to make a sequel all those years for fear that it would turn out the same as Ghostbusters 2. It recycles elements from the first movie, such as Dana Barrett (and now her baby, Oscar), being haunted (and temporarily possessed) by an ancient ghost, the team having to reassemble to go back into business after a five year hiatus, and a giant, iconic figure walking the streets of New York in the final battle, this time the Statue of Liberty in place of Mr. Stay Puft.
Again, as a child in the 80’s I saw Ghostbusters 2 before I saw the original. It was released in 1989 when I became of movie watching age. So, it must have been on TV a lot in the 90’s. This movie introduced me to the team, had funny jokes that even a child could understand, and a baby in danger is always identifying to a kid. It’s also not too scary. The ghosts are more Muppetty than horrific, and the music keeps the tone light. I’m not saying that I prefer the sequel to the original, but I like it just as much.
Rotten Tomatoes: 30% Audience Score: 76%
IMDB Users: 6.7/10
Roger Ebert: 2 ½ stars
Steven Spielberg’s continuation of the classic Peter Pan story was a movie that we happened across at the video store one evening while looking for something to rent way back in the day. I hadn’t heard of it before it came out on home video so when we watched and loved it, I felt like we had struck VHS gold. It was colorful, fun, and funny. It had memorable quotes and thrilling action sequences, and when Robin Williams, who is wound tight for the first two acts, is finally cut loose, we finally get the Peter Pan we’ve been waiting for.
I found out later that the movie received many bad reviews. Adults thought it was long and boring. They didn’t like what had been done to the classic character, and they found it silly, sentimental, and over-produced. Even Spielberg has professed that it didn't come out the way he envisioned and is a bit over-the-top. What he didn’t realize is that going big is exactly what draws in younger viewers. The movie balances humor with seriousness without getting too dark or too silly. It employs that 90’s tendency to have workaholic dads who need to go through exaggerated circumstances in order to reconnect with their kids (ex. Liar Liar, The Santa Clause, Jingle All the Way, etc.). When Peter's kids are kidnapped, it takes an army of kids, in the form of modern day Lost Boys, to help Pan save them, something that is both inspiring and awesome to a child viewer. Williams goes from stiff adult to a fun loving kid, showing that growing up doesn't mean that you have to lose your childhood self as you know it. It's a good message for cynical adults and a relief to kids who are afraid of becoming one.
Forrest Gump (1994)
Rotten Tomatoes: 72% Audience Score: 95%
IMDB Users: 8.8/10
Roger Ebert: 4 stars
How can a movie that won Best Picture at the Academy Awards become so hated? Easy, you put it on cable five times a day for 20 years and then see if that southern drawl doesn’t sound like nails on a chalkboard to you. This movie has no villain, just a dropper full of plot, and is overly sentimental say some. Eventually, any credibility it had is lost, floating away with the feather that bookends the feature, leaving Forrest behind in his far-fetched attempt to run across the country multiple times with one pair of shoes and no supplies.
Forrest Gump, despite its heavier elements, is an easy to swallow movie, ideal for any time of year, day, or mood. Its cinematography is easy on the eyes, the story is simple, and the hero is lovable. It sent me through the previous few decades that I'll never know, and as a kid, its tendency to shift tones from inspiring, frightening, funny, action-packed, and sad kept it from getting too heavy or overwhelming, making it easier to understand its adult themes.
Forrest skips along through each scene in a confused but enthusiastic way that resonates with a younger audience. I never get tired of the Vietnam sequence, his sprinkled encounters with his beloved Jenny, and the innocent and funny narration. It feels like you have lived a lifetime after watching this movie, a lifetime that exists just before I did. I haven’t reached my limit on the number of times I’ve watched it. I’ll let the critics know when I have.
Batman Forever (1995)
Rotten Tomatoes: 40% Audience Score: 33%
IMDB Users: 5.4/10
Roger Ebert 2 ½ stars
Though this is the third installment in the Batman franchise that began with the '89 movie, it starts fresh with a new director and cast, and it truly is a different brand. It’s overwhelmingly colorful, sometimes campy, and intentionally lighter than the previous films. This did not sit well with audiences in the 90’s, particularly for fans looking for a gruesome Two Face, a clever Riddler, and a Batman performance as equally admired as Keaton’s. This film did not deliver those things. Instead, they got a neon-infused, Jim Carrey movie that gets lumped in with the even more reviled Batman and Robin as the sequel that made Batman take eight years off from movies, before he took eight years off in the Nolan films of course.
It’s fair to say that this was not a movie that catered to adults, but look at it from a nine-year-old’s point of view in 1995. This was the movie of the summer for kids. We weren’t dissecting the plot like a film critic or comic book enthusiast. We were too busy rooting for Robin, laughing at The Riddler, and watching scenes from Batman: The Animated Series re-enacted in live action form. Kilmer was not Keaton, but you could have put Adam West back in the tuxedo, and we would have bought it. Once the mask goes on, we’re mostly watching stunt men punch and kick their way through the film. We got to see the Batmobile, Bat Boat, and Batwing show up in one movie. We saw two arch villains infiltrate Wayne Manor and the Batcave, and we saw Dick Grayson’s origin story unfold before our eyes, not in flashback but in a way that was crucial to the plot. Do I see the flaws in the work now? Absolutely. Am I ashamed to say that I still like the movie? Absolutely not.
Every movie has its time and its audience. Liking a movie that others don’t does not give you bad taste or a sentimental attitude. It means that you personally get something out of it that others don’t. Hold on to whatever causes you to like a movie for what it is. Don’t take it personally when others don’t see what you see. A movie is a piece of art, and art is seen differently by everyone who views it.
What are some movies that you watched as a kid that you found to be hated by adults? Leave your responses in the comments below.
AC Wright from New York City on November 13, 2019:
100% accurate! Haha Especially about Batman Forever. That Seal song is pure gold!