The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Review | buzz picks the worst films of 2023

Photo courtesy of IMDb
Harrison Ford and Phoebe Waller-Bridge in “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.”

Although 2023 was a phenomenal year for film with box office hits such as “Barbie,” “Oppenheimer,” “Killers of the Flower Moon” and more, there were some movies that inevitably disappointed. 

From bland action movies to disappointing attempts at new horror classics, this year saw disappointments of all varieties. As CGI and technical aspects in film are growing more advanced than ever, scriptwriting and storytelling may be having a hard time keeping up.

With the end of the year in sight, here are our top choices for films that failed to impress.


“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny”

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The 2020s have been marked by a seemingly endless stream of reboots and revivals. Among these often-thankless pursuits of box office dynamite, this year’s resurrection of Indiana Jones may be the most disappointing. 

A meandering screenplay is dressed up with tired expedition scenes, generically lifeless action and bizarre CGI choices. Any charm from the pulpy thrill of the original films is replaced with an aesthetically barren modern sheen. 

A committed and charismatic performance from Harrison Ford does help elevate the film to some degree, but it does not measure up to the Indiana Jones standard. Even viewing this film independently of the expectations associated with the Indiana Jones franchise, it commits the cardinal sin of any kind of adventure storytelling — being unbearably dull. 


“The Flash”

“The Flash” serves as a symbol of everything wrong with modern superhero storytelling and the continued collapse of this once-bankable industry. 

An overreliance on underbaked visual effects alongside an already tired multiverse premise makes “The Flash” feel familiar and emotionally unengaging. 

Michael Keaton’s return as Batman had promise, but never manifested into anything at all meaningful with all of Tim Burton’s Gothic imagery seemingly gone.

If intermittently entertaining, “The Flash” makes a bizarre decision at almost every turn with the final act feeling like a series of stitched together segments that barely cohere within themselves, let alone with each other. 

Tack on the shameful resurrection of dead actors using CGI for nothing more than a meaningless cameo and “The Flash” morphs from a bad comic-book movie to an example of corporate sleaze gone unchecked. This superhero film feels closer to an executive presentation than to cinema.


If there is one word to describe Nitesh Tiwari’s “Bawaal,” it would be misguided. Tiwari, having directed what remains the highest-grossing Indian film internationally with “Dangal,” seeks out to tell a love story between an image-obsessed teacher and the intellectually driven girl he married but keeps forcibly grounded due to her epilepsy. 

The film expects the audience to sympathize with Ajay (Varun Dhawan) and reconcile his abusive tendencies towards his wife Nisha (Jahnvi Kapoor) as he seemingly learns to be a better person throughout the film, though it makes little effort to argue why. 

The film’s central metaphor, juxtaposing the couple’s visits to historic World War II sites with their tumultuous relationship, is half-baked and diminutive, culminating in sequences that ultimately trivialize the war and the Holocaust in an effort to derive some form of thematic resolution on this abusive relationship. 

With no real craft or heart to back any of it up, “Bawaal” ends up a shockingly inept failure. 


“Fast X”

The Fast and the Furious franchise always had a penchant for taking inherently ridiculous ideas and making them entertaining through sheer will. “Fast X” is only able to take ridiculous concepts and strip away anything that may be entertaining about them. 

Suffering from the loss of longtime franchise director Justin Lin, the film feels aimless and overdone. An initially entertaining performance from Jason Momoa devolves into unbearably annoying in its insistent flippancy. 

Any sense of goodwill from the film erodes until there is nothing left, culminating in what may be the most baffling cliffhanger in any piece of media this year.



“Animal,” the latest film from Indian director Sandeep Reddy Vanga, wants you to be offended by it. Much like his previous films “Arjun Reddy” and “Kabir Singh,” “Animal” forces the audience on a bereft odyssey alongside a prickly and unsympathetic male figure and then scoffs in your face when you leave the film predictably unsympathetic. 

At a monumental three hours and 21 minutes long, the film’s ambitions lie near “The Godfather” and “Goodfellas,” but sloppy execution renders all these ambitions null. 

The editing never justifies this staggering running time, with scenes often feeling drawn out, blunt and lacking any sense of escalation. Paired with some of the ugliest lighting, color grading and compositions I have seen all year, “Animal” fails as even a piece of technical craft. 

Actors Ranbir Kapoor, Anil Kapoor and Rashmika Mandanna are talented and compelling on-screen, though they feel lost at sea by a script that seems more interested in bragging about its complexity than any sense of cohesion. The end result is a numbing, infuriatingly smug movie that mistakes its childish sense of provocation as something twistedly meaningful. 


“The Exorcist: Believer”

Staining the legacy of the first Exorcist film, “The Exorcist: Believer” is devoid of life, relying on its name and the things that made 1973’s “The Exorcist” a huge success. 

It’s almost as if someone challenged director David Gordon Green to copy the original in the worst way possible, with Green accepting and overachieving in making “The Exorcist: Believer” a horrible empty shell of the horror classic. It’s hard to separate this movie’s content as the majority of it is nothing but sequel bait and callbacks to a better movie. 

The story is almost nonsensical and misses the point of the first movie — a questioning of belief and its power. “The Exorcist: Believer” is expected to have two sequels, which only begs the question — why?


“Five Nights at Freddy’s”

In terms of a film and the components that make up a film, “Five Nights at Freddy’s” is a disjointed mess that feels like a far-fetched version of the game it is adapting. 

Fans of the video game series are more likely to turn a blind eye to the errors of this movie as they might have heard a sound ripped from one of the games in the series, but fan service can’t save this film. 

Despite its clear attempts to be, the movie is not scary or funny and has some of the worst-written characters this year. Without any sort of sensible explanation, certain characters will go from knowing absolutely nothing to acting as an encyclopedia of the world around them with shocking inconsistency.

Perhaps the only saving grace for the film is the animatronic suits, which look as though they came straight from the game with their design and movement. However, the detail isn’t enough to save the film from a spot on this list.


“The Super Mario Bros. Movie”

It’s a shame that “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” is on this list, as there was a lot of potential in store for this film. The end result is a kids’ movie that is very basic and uninteresting, which was surprising for such an iconic video game series. 

It would be expected that a fun and creative movie would be in order, especially considering the popularity of the Mario Bros. video game franchise, but “The Super Mario Bros Movie” was not that. For the average 10-year-old kid, this movie will more likely than not keep them entertained; however, for the long-time fans of the games, there’s not much to be excited or interested in aside from a couple of references. 

In the running for the film’s biggest miss was the use of trendy, poppy music as opposed to the incredibly recognizable music from the original game. The movie’s soundtrack feels out of place for an adaptation of a video game to the big screen and adds to its failures.


“The Creator”

There’s no amount of fancy CGI that can save the slow-paced and uninteresting script of “The Creator.”

The film is plagued with the problem of having a bland storyline, and though the actors of the movie evidently did their best with the questionable script, there aren’t many redeeming qualities to be found in the finished product.

There really isn’t much else to say about “The Creator,” as there was nothing that the movie brought forth that stood out. However, to give credit where credit is due, the designs for the robots seen throughout the movie look great — if only the rest of the film could rise to their standard.


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