Monday, September 19, 2011

10 Tips Writers can Learn from Bad Movies

Today is Alex J Cavanaugh’s Worst Movies Ever Blogfest. Being the rebel that I am, I thought I’d put a spin on it and write up some tips writers can learn from bad movies.

1. Stories must be credible. ‘Unknown’ is a movie which proves this point. The story events stretched believability to the point where I wanted to throw popcorn at the screen.

2. A good ending is just as important as a good beginning. ‘9’ is a beautifully animated movie. The characters are wonderful, the art is visually splendid, and the concept is original. This movie, however, fell into my list of the worst movies of all time because the ending was terribad. It ruined the whole movie for me.

3. Avoid the cheese. Some might say ‘The Blob’ is a classic. I’m not one of them. This horror film comes across as cheesy from start to finish. It is in fact so cheesy that it makes a great comedy, though I don’t think the makers originally intended that.

4. Write outside the formula. ‘I Am Number 4’ is an example of formula gone bad. It is one thing writing inside a genre, another thing writing to formula. It seemed obvious to me that many scenes in this movie were simply included because they were what the makers believed fit into the teen formula. They had no other reason to be there.

5. Kill your darlings. This is a phrase many writers hear because it’s so important to remove any scenes or characters that don’t drive the story forward. In the case of ‘Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace’, the fans dictated the inclusion of characters and scenes to the detriment of the plot. (And don’t get me started about Jar Jar).

6. A good story takes time to write. ‘Your Highness’ gave me the impression not a lot of time went into the story or its humour. It was clear a lot of money went into the making of the film, but money, scenery, and special effects aren’t enough to make a good movie—or a good book.

7. Don’t set up false expectations when marketing. Because I heard ‘The Perfect Storm’ was based on a true story, I had certain expectations when I went to see it. Those expectations shattered when I realised the movie was based almost entirely on guesses. I felt cheated purely because of the way the movie had been marketed.

8. Strong dialogue is crucial. I love dragons and fantasy, but I fell asleep while watching ‘Eragon’. Not only was the acting wooden, but the dialogue was painfully weak. 

9. Pace is just as important as plot. Some might disagree with me on the example I’m going to use for this point, but I wanted to poke my eyes out with a fork while watching ‘Eat Pray Love’. Even though I liked the concept of this movie, it felt painfully slow and self-indulgent because the pace wasn’t right. 

10. Sequels should be consistent to the original. ‘Highlander 2’ is probably the worst movie sequel in all of history. It totally threw away all the ‘rules’ set up in the first movie thereby alienating it’s fan-base.

What would you consider to be the worst movie of all time?


  1. I remember being so excited to watch Unknown and when it was over, I didn't even know what it was about.
    A movie I hate but my boys and husband love is 'Tin Cup.' The protagonist is such a loser it's impossible to cheer for him. Maybe it's a man 'thing' I can't understand. LOL

  2. I like your spin, Lynda! Excellent.
    And I can't argue with any of those points. Recently saw Unknown, so you are spot-on with that assessment. And have you ever read the book, The Perfect Storm? It's excellent!
    And we matched on number ten. Awful movie!
    Thanks for participating in the blogfest.

  3. I love how you related it to writing! Well done. All of those points are important.

  4. You make some really great points Lynda. I get really frustrated with books and Films when they're just not believable. Sure it's fiction, but fiction is also supposed to be realistic! Pace too also drives me crazy. I'm too impatient for slow beginnings or plots that drag out slowly, I like the exciting parts of films and stories to flow in nice quick rhythm (of course with space for breathing) otherwisse I'll fall asleep(literally!) Writing outside the formula is probably the toughest one for me in writing. Thinking outside the box is what I need to do, but can be awfully intimidating because outside of the box, there is an awful lot of everything else...

  5. Great post! I like how you rebelliously twisted this to suit your nefarious purposes. :) Yep, I SO agree about Star Wars Episode 1. I'm sure there are other movies I'd like to throw more than POPCORN at the screen!!

  6. I love this. I love movies, love books, I love writing, and I LOVE this post. :D

  7. I'm not much of a movie watcher, but this is an excellent way to share your tips!

  8. loved your take on worst movies! Esp. kill your darlings...ah, if only Jar Jar had died at the end of that movie - it might have made his being in the movie tolerable. But probably not.

  9. I felt the same way about "I Am Number 4." It was a great idea, but somehow it fell flat. All very good lessons to be learned.

  10. Hi Lynda,
    Be careful not to confuse "based on a true story" with "a true story." The Perfect Storm dramatized some situations which survivors can't know for sure, but the movie's basic truth was that an extraordinary storm did strike, and that fishermen work in one of the most dangerous professions.

    As for Worst Movie, I can't say I've seen a lot of terrible ones. But I remember seeing The Bostonians and telling my wife it was the most boring movie I had ever seen in my life. Generally, if it's too awful I just don't sit through it all.

  11. I enjoyed your spin! Sequels never seem to be as good as the original!

    There is an award for you on my blog.

  12. Great idea for this! I totally agree with your Phantom Menace assessment. In fact, that entire trilogy made my list.

  13. Oh, this was great! I truly enjoyed your take on it :) It's very late, and I honestly can't think of the worst movie right now, but it will come to me!

  14. Susan, lol, I'm not familiar with Tin Cup. It might be a 'man thing' ;)

    Alex, I haven't read the book, The Perfect Storm. I heard it's a good read, though.

    Clarissa, thanks

    Holly, haha yep, I'm the impatient type too (if you hadn't already guessed). And yes, it's harder to write outside the box and takes a certain amount of bravery and practice.

    Carol, muwhahaha. There are too many movies I'd like to throw popcorn at. ;)

    Raz, hehe thanks.

    Pam, yep, I don't have as much time as I used to to watch movies.

  15. mshatch, you made me laugh out loud with your comment about Jar Jar.

    Christine, totally agree it was a great idea... shame it didn't quite reach its potential.

    Bob, perhaps they should have said 'thinly based on a true story'. It was more of the thinness of the connection that got me going. I'm not familiar with The Bostonians.

    K McKendry, thanks so much for the Versatile Blogger award. :)

    Melissa, yeah, I should have added the others too.

    WritingNut, yep, I actually had trouble thinking up 10 movies. I tend to forget bad movies. Hehe.

  16. I can so agree with Eragon, we own it only because my wife loves the books and that's enough for her.

    I think the one thing that bothers me in movies is when they are hard to follow and setup to slowly. My wife and I have a rule, we give a movie 30 minutes, the first act, and if we don't like the characters, or am lost in the plot, then we turn it off. I think we've avoided quite a few bad films with this rule.

  17. I agree with all your points, although I will probably be one of the few Star Wars fans who actually stands by Jar Jar. Yes, he was an idiot. Yes, he probably could have been kicked. But the involvement of the Gungans was necessary to the plot, and he facilitated that. And despite his many shortcoming, I liked him. :)

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  19. Fabulous post. I totally agree about The Perfect Storm!

    Endings are just as important as beginnings - yes yes yes. Nothing worse than being invested in something that starts out strong and then just... deflates.

  20. Titanic ala Kate Winslet and Leo diCapprio! LOL!!!

    Take care

  21. For me, the worst movies are the ones that don't move the story forward and I have no clue why certain scenes or dialogue were included. There's been plenty of them.

  22. Excellent take on this bloghop! Predictability drive me crazy. It may not be the worst film ever but "Burlesque" was so predictable it was boring. And "Avitar" was a huge disappointment. All that wonderful work to set up a fabulous world, only to have it degrade into a cowboys/Indians blood bath.

  23. Great spin! Love it. So many great points. And I'm laughing so hard about your EAT, PRAY, LOVE comment that I can barely type this comment. :)

  24. A thoughtful approach, Lyndy :) As always.
    The worst film of all times for me is DARK KNIGHT and I'M NOT THERE is close in the second place :)

  25. Do not get me started on Unknown, we could be here for some time about all the things wrong with that film!

  26. All good points. And good examples, though I think I've only seen one of those -- Perfect Storm. It has made it on a couple of people's lists.

  27. I love how you related this back to writing. One thing I would add vis a vis endings - they need to give CLOSURE! This is a problem I find when watching many "indie" films (which likely explains why I don't watch all that many) - the ending is often just random and nothing is wrapped up and you're left sitting there going: "Huh?" Sigh.

    Well, I enjoyed EPL (movie version), but yeah, it didn't touch the book. No movie ever does. ;-)

  28. oooh! i love the educational spin! that's my dear lyn! although, my dad (the oceanographer) said that a perfect storm was the closest movie he'd ever seen to recreate what it feels like to be on at sea during a storm- that and white squall... i've only seen white squall though.

  29. I agree, I agree! Especially about the sequel. There's nothing worse than a horrible sequel.

  30. I love this post. Wonderful! I agree, especially about the sequel. UGH. The sequel is always worse, except maybe for the C.S. Lewis books turned movies.

    The book is always better! (Most of the tine.) :-)

  31. Those are awesome bad movies! I totally agree. Who writes crap movies like those?

  32. I like your approach, Lynda. Very clever.
    I'm not familiar with most of the movies on your list, but I'm seeing Highlander 2 on quite a few today.

  33. hahaha I gotta agree that the ending of 9 was shit. I mean I would've been able to take a sad ending, but this has just no purpose.

    I agree about the formula too. Actually, I tend to fall asleep during Pixar-type movies because they all follow the same structure too rigidly.

  34. Cheesy movies make me cringe. I love how you broke down the no-no factor in bad movies! :)


    Can Alex save Winter from the darkness that hunts her?

    YA Paranormal Romance, Darkspell coming fall of 2011!

  35. I agree with all of those! I love your spin on this blogfest too! I really didn't like Eat Pray Love, it was WAAAY too slow!
    I also really liked I Am Number 4 but I agree with you on that one too.

  36. The points you made are all so valid! I always try and write scenes as if I'm watching a movie.

  37. awesome twist on the fest! I love the points you made about dialogue, sequels, marketing, and pace. All good stuff~ :D

  38. what a great way to tell your story, i mean brilliant... i loves me some dragon movies, eragon problem was the kid's teeth were way too white for medieval times.
    i love bad/worst movies, these lists are tough!

  39. Wow, not that is a different take on movies. I like it. :)

  40. I agree with every point on this list - especially the point about Highlander 2.

  41. Love how you explained why, in writing terms, you didn't like the movies. Great!

  42. I love your take on the blogfest! Great points.

    I feel like the only one who didn't think Eragon was horrible. :P

  43. Thanks for sharing your valuable opinion with us, Lynda. I got a kick out of you wanting to throw popcorn at the screen. Haha! I saw the original version of "The Blob" when I was six and had nightmares all night. My mom didn't let me watch scary movies after that, and I never saw the remake. I'm assuming that both versions are cheesy? What a fun post.

  44. Highlander 2 makes me sad :(

    You know, I can't even remember how "9" ended, just that the movie was pretty.

  45. Nice twist on the blogfest! Great tips, I agree. :)

  46. John, your 30min rule is a good rule to follow.

    Jasmine, you like Jar Jar??? GASP! ;)

    Robert, hahaha I actually liked Dances with Wolves.

    Jennifer, yes! exactly!

    Old Kitty, aw, I actually liked Titanic despite the bad acting.

    Laura, far too many of them, I reckon ;)

    Bish, haven't seen Burlesque. Agree with you re Avatar. It felt like an 80s story.

    Liz, lol

    Dezzy, Dark Knight??? Not Batman and Robin? I've not seen 'I'm Not There'. I'll know to avoid it.

    Sarah, seriously!! Totally agree!!!

    Luanne, if it had been a standard movie with no connection to a true story (however loosely) I would have enjoyed it a whole lot more.

  47. Crystal, yes, yes and yes! The ending doesn't have to be happy, but it does need closure.

    Vic, oh yes, visually it was a great movie. I just felt cheated because of the advertising saying it was based on a true story (It was so loosely based that it was hardly worth mentioning).

    Talli, and yet there are so many bad sequels :)

    Robyn, totally agree that the books are always better... except maybe in the case of the Princess Bride. I prefered the movie.

    Carolyn, it makes one wonder, doesn't it.

    Paul, yeah, my advice: don't go see it ;)

    Ben, yes! exactly! 9's ending had absolutely no purpose whatsoever.

    Elizabeth, cheese is bad in more ways than one ;)

    Jess, I Am Number 4 had so much potential. It's a shame.

  48. Pat, yes, it also makes writing the scenes easier too.

    LTM, thanks

    Jeremy, hahaha you are so right. Good teeth are far too anachronistic for medieval times.

    Laila, Isis, Alicia, RaShelle, thanks.

    Golden, my hubby has read the book and said it was great.

    LynNerd, I'm not actually sure which version of the Blob I saw. I'm assuming it was the remake. Maybe I should give the original a go ;)

    Matt, Highlander 2 should never have happened.

    Lydia, thanks.

  49. Great tips! The credibility issue is a big one with me. Certain things drive me batty - and I put the Blob on my list today :)

  50. All time worst that I sat through ... Eyes Wide Shut .. still to this day I don't know why I didn't leave the cinema
    I hated it from the moment we watched Nicole Kidman sit on the toilet - seriously we don't need to see toilet scenes. (yeah.. and thanks for bring that vision back to my mind ...LOL)

  51. Nice approach in providing the whys of badness of these films. And good choices so far as the ones I've seen and what I know about the others. Although I did like The Perfect Storm.

    Tossing It Out

  52. I love cheese -- my version of a beach novel. :D

    I have not seen Eragon. Another vote not to.

    I pretend the 3 Star Wars about Annakin Skywalker don't exist. I'd like to erase the Ewoks, too.

  53. 'In the case of ‘Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace’, the fans dictated the inclusion of characters and scenes to the detriment of the plot. (And don’t get me started about Jar Jar).'

    That was such an awful, awful film. Truly.

  54. I LOVE the way you did this! I won't get you started on Jar Jar because I would have to start first and then we might never end...

  55. My most hated movie is a lot of people's most loved. I groan and moan and suffer more than the protagonist if I sit through The English Patient. BLEH. Probably just not enough zombies :)
    Wagging Tales - Blog for Writers

  56. Lynda - I love the comparison of movies to writing. Great post! I feel the same as you do about 'The Perfect Storm', I felt cheated, too. I heard a lot of great things about the movie 'Bridesmaids' so, I just had to watch it. I kept hoping it would hurry up and end.

  57. I love how you related this to writing. :) I don't know many of these movies.

  58. I love your twist on this blogfest by including tips writers can learn from these movies! I was excited to see Eragon after reading the book, but the movie fell painfully short. I never knew why (though Rachel Weisz as Sapphira's voice just wasn't right), but dialogue probably had a lot to do with it. My all-time worst movie is The Mosquito Coast with Harrison Ford - yawn!

  59. I am enjoying this blogfest. There is so much to learn even from bad movies.

  60. A really very interesting read! I hope you keep updating us with more info!

  61. Jemi, the Blob is so bad it's almost funny.

    Michelle, I've actually avoided seeing Eyes Wide Shut ;)

    Lee, I would have liked it if I didn't know it had been based on a true story.

    Mary, I enjoy cheese when I've had too much sugar, then it's hilarious ;)

    Suze, you could fit another awful in there and still not come close to how awful it was ;)

    Jennie, hahaha I shake my head at Jar Jar

    Charmaine, haven't seen that one. Kinda glad I haven't from the sound of it ;)

    Maeve, I don't think I've seen Bridesmaids. It's bad when we want a movie to hurry up and end.

    Ciara, that's probably a good thing that you don't know many of these movies ;)

    Susan, Yeah, my hubby had read the books and he too was deeply disappointed by the movie.

    Rachna, it's been fun!

  62. Thanks for the analysis. Sometimes I take hints from bad movies, but usually, I'm just too PO-ed at the wasted time.

  63. Nice spin on the fest, Lynda. I think #7 is critical when it comes to movies and books. Market the story as something it isn't and you're just going to piss people off.

  64. Great points!

    As for my most hated movies, I've been searching my mind for them, but I just couldn't. But at long last I've managed to single it down to the follows: Name a 2d animated sequel.

  65. What great tips! I love the way you used movies to illustrate issues in writing. This really made the tips come alive for me. Thanks!

  66. "9" just didn't have enough to make a full movie, at least not to me. I'm also the only person I know who thought Jar Jar was all right. He certainly couldn't be blamed for how bad the following two movies were.

  67. Will, hahaha yeah, I know what you mean. I just have a terrible habit of analysing everything I watch and read ;)

    Lisa, yes! well said! :)

    Misha, lol, yeah, there's not many GOOD sequels around of any kind.

    Cynthia, thanks. Glad it helped :)

    Diane, I think I heard that 9 came from a novella maybe? or a short story? I'm not too clear on that. It's like they ran out of ideas and just tacked on a silly ending.

  68. This is my ideal blog post. It's creative, something I haven't seen quite this way before, and thought provoking. Thank you Lynda!

  69. How did I miss this brilliant post? So clever and true. Thanks to Elizabeth S. Craig for putting in her weekly round-up. Will RT!


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