The Worst 5 ‘Name’ Directors Working in Hollywood Today

How do you define “bad” when it comes to movies?

Tastes are so subjective. Some people dig Now, Voyager (1942). I loathe it. Some folks believe Woody Allen is a great filmmaker. Not me.

So then why in the name of all that is celluloid would you trust the personal opinions behind what is purportedly a list of the worst five big-name directors working in Hollywood today?

Well, the truth is, you don’t have to. These are my choices and mine alone. Yet in broadcasting them, I hope to garner a kind of commiseration vis-à-vis at least some of the picks … an understanding that although these may not be universal selections, their appearance on this catalog speaks to a dubious recognition that could incite more than a few head nods, as well as a proportionate number of knowing smirks. For while taste may not be homogenous, talent is certainly measurable, and if the gradations of likes and dislikes may vary, then the overall perceptions of a work of art’s worth may be objective. I did note that I loathe Now, Voyager. But I didn’t’ say it wasn’t beautifully made.

In that light, I must present my litany of directors whose efforts I’ve touched with the proverbial 10-foot-pole and have caused me no small amount of regret for doing so. These helmsmen have all worked on significant studio productions and have generated fame and fortune … along with, in some cases, notoriety for their styles or political sensibilities. This list, which is not in any particular order, focuses on their styles and what makes them, in my opinion, the worst “name” filmmakers working in Hollywood today.

Let the griping begin.

300Zack Snyder

I can’t think of any director whose movies fill me with more dread than Zack Snyder. From the unbearably posturing and exploitative 300 (2006) to the pretentious, tiresome Watchmen (2009) and all of his unnecessary superhero movies beyond, his films smack of a misguided attempt to instill meaning in pop-culture mainstays while aiming to satisfy viewers’ baser needs for bloody onscreen battles and macho baloney. Yet the biggest problem in his flicks is pacing, and all the slow-motion “action” in his pictures cannot save them from crawling along like cinematic sloths. He’ll continue to get projects as long as the results of his initiatives reap financial rewards. But boy, do they stink.

transformersMichael Bay

Famed for his pictures’ reliance on silver-screen explosions and flashily edited movie mayhem, Michael Bay has continually supplied the world with lowest-common-denominator pictures—including Transformers (2007) and all of its lamentable sequels—while offering further proof that one doesn’t necessarily have to be talented to be popular. I’ve always felt strongly that productions derived from lines of toys have little cinematic merit, and my belief has been corroborated by Bay’s robots-in-disguise oeuvre. Add to that manipulative flicks ranging from Armageddon (1998) to Pearl Harbor (2001), and you have a distressingly mundane (though, of course, quite financially successful) career of workmanlike proportions. Ugh.


It’s true that Oliver Stone’s oft-bizarre political theories sometimes overshadow his filmmaking endeavors, and that’s a shame, because at one time, this director—with films such as Salvador (1986) and Platoon (1986) under his belt—was one to watch. Unfortunately, subsequent efforts have shown him to be less interested in substance than style, a helmsman given to disruptive, zippy edits, absurd thespian asides and interminable durations … qualities that made flicks such as Natural Born Killers (1994), Nixon (1995) and Alexander (2004) almost unwatchable. The performances he coaxes are more often than not overdone; the scripts under his watch are generally muddled, and the music he picks doesn’t fit with the activities onscreen. Too bad; at one point, I thought he had some interesting things to say. I don’t feel that way any longer.

Batman and RobinJoel Schumacher

OK, so he hasn’t been directing any major projects since 2013, when he took the lead on two episodes of House of Cards. Still, Joel Schumacher makes this list because of the overall abhorrent quality of his body of work, ranging from the horrid St. Elmo’s Fire (1985) to the reprehensible Batman Forever (1995) and the just-as-inane Batman & Robin (1997). Oh, and let’s not forget The Phantom of the Opera (2004), one of the most ham-handed productions ever made of any awful Broadway musical. Is there any other cinematic resume that says “junk” more than this one? I’m not sure there’s much competition.


Moulin RougeBaz Luhrmann

Moulin Rouge! (2001) may be the worst movie of the century. Yes, I’m saying that with dismay. This anachronistic, grating movie—which shockingly was up for a Best Picture Oscar in its day—features too many awful songs warbled by unconvincing performers, plus an attention to period detail and dependence on quick cuts that can only be described as “Aagh, my eyes!” Do not forget, however, that the director of this atrocity, Baz Luhrmann, also helmed the modestly entertaining flick Strictly Ballroom (1992) before embarking on unappealing projects such as Romeo + Juliet (1996) and The Great Gatsby (2013), so there was potential at some point. Just not anymore. Sigh.


Simon Hardy Butler is a writer and editor living in New York City. He has written for publications ranging from Zagat to Adweek and operates a restaurant-focused blog called Critical Mousse ( that showcases his opinions on the culinary arena. He also blogs about anti-Semitism for the Times of Israel. His views and opinions are his own.

11 thoughts on “The Worst 5 ‘Name’ Directors Working in Hollywood Today

  1. I’ll say this and this alone in defence of Michael Bay: The Rock.
    Oh, okay – The Island, too. One of my guilty pleasures.
    Apart from that, your list gets no arguments from me.

  2. I used to not like Oliver Stone during that period you speak of. Then I gave up on him in the 2000s, just skipping his movies. But I’m curious what he will do with Snowden.

  3. I can go with your selections too, Simon. Well almost, as I did like like ‘Platoon’, and ‘JFK’.
    (And I found ‘Watchmen’ to be watchable, for various reasons.) Luhrmann has to be one of the most overrated directors ever. And ‘Moulin Rouge’ one of the most overrated films too. I hated it. And still do. ‘Alexander’ was so dire, I found it hard to believe that Stone had directed the mess. Worse still, I bought it on DVD, (I hadn’t seen it at the cinema) expecting it to be good. Makes a good coffee-cup coaster.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  4. And here I thought I was the only one who thought Natural Born Killers was an utter, unwatchable, sickening mess of a film. I do a lot of movie reviews, and I very rarely give anything an ‘F’ (There’s usually some aspect that can redeem it enough to stay in the D- range), but Natural Born Killers was one of those movies. (As was Knock-Off, the deplorable 1998 POS with Jean-Claude Van Damme and Rob Schneider. Okay, rant over. More to the point, I can’t agree with everything on this list, but the majority (especially Zack Snyder), I’m right there with you.

  5. Interesting list, and I see a common thread. The quirky visual style that made these directors’ early work fun and interesting (well, maybe not Michael Bay) is the same thing that makes their later work so hard to watch. It’s like a cook saying, “Hey, people are always telling me how much they like the french fries–let’s make an entire meal of nothing but french fries!”

    And I would add Tim Burton to this list for the same reason.

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