Ranked: The Worst Film Directors of the 21st Century (So Far)

  • Publish Date: October 13, 2011
  • Comments: ↓ 17 user comments

Update: Our revised worst directors list (as of July 2017) can be found here.

The worst directors since 2000

Yesterday, we revealed the best movie directors of the past dozen years; today, it is time for the flip side of that equation. Listed below are the worst directors since 2000, ranked by lowest average Metascore. Note that:

  • Only directors with at least four films released in the U.S. since January 1, 2000 were considered. (All release years listed below are U.S. dates.)
  • A film must have at least seven reviews from critics to be eligible.
  • Documentaries, direct-to-video titles, and multi-director anthologies are excluded from consideration.
  • The director scores are averages of their individual film Metascores prior to rounding.

1. Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer
Average Score: 13.8 for 5 films

Upset alert: There's somebody worse than Uwe Boll. Make that two somebodies. After getting their feet wet in the film parody game by co-writing the screenplays for Spy Hard 25 and Scary Movie 48, the Razzie-winning duo of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer added directing to their duties with 2006's Date Movie. And they have managed to churn out an average of one additional "satire" a year since, despite convincing and persistent evidence of a lack of talent. (An amusing "biography" of the pair at Uncyclopedia ends tellingly enough in "See also: Unfunny.") Friedberg and Seltzer, however, are laughing all the way to the bank; they've been hired yet again, this time to helm the Avatar spoof The Biggest Movie of All Time 3D, due in 2012.

"There's no nice way to say this, so I'll just say it: Writer/directors Friedberg and Seltzer are a scourge."

—Josh Rosenblatt, Austin Chronicle
Writing about Disaster Movie

11 Date Movie (2006)
17 Epic Movie (2007)
9 Meet the Spartans (2008)
15 Disaster Movie (2008)
18 Vampires Suck (2010)

2. Uwe Boll
Average Score: 18.2 for 6 films

Okay, so you knew he had to be on here somewhere. The century's most legendary bad filmmaker (but only because Tommy Wiseau has just one narrative feature film to his name so far), Germany's Uwe Boll managed to escape a #1 ranking thanks to the relative not-entirely-horribleness of his early thriller Blackwoods (which did get the briefest of theatrical screenings in May of 2002) and the fact that many of his releases are direct-to-video and, thus, unscored on Metacritic. Over the past decade, publications such as the New York Times have acknowledged Boll as the world's worst director, but the publicity-loving, self-proclaimed "genius" filmmaker doesn't seem to mind, literally taking some of his critics into the ring to fight at one point. Can he be stopped? Sadly, only 366,238 movie fans have signed a petition asking Boll to retire, well short of the million needed to end his career. As a result, we'll continue to get works like the recent Auschwitz (in which Boll himself plays a Nazi concentration camp guard) and the upcoming, Dolph Lundgren-starring In the Name of the King: Two Worlds.

"Boll is the best at what he does, and what he does is make truly terrible films."

—Elizabeth Weitzman, NY Daily News
Writing about BloodRayne

30 Blackwoods (2002)
15 House of the Dead (2003)
9 Alone in the Dark (2005)
18 BloodRayne (2006)
15 In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (2008)
22 Postal (2008)

3. Kunihiko Yuyama
Average Score: 25.6 for 4 films

What Kunihiko Yuyama does is make Pokemon movies, frequently with the help of a co-director or two. While there's nothing wrong with that—obviously, there's a market for it, though it skews a bit younger than the age of your typical film critic—if that's the career you choose, you are going to wind up on lists like this.

"The retro-Euro design of Altomare, as well as several passages in the musical score, seems meant to evoke the world of Japan's greatest animator, Hayao Miyazaki. But 'Pokémon Heroes' is flat, charmless and crudely executed ... Inviting a comparison to Mr. Miyazaki in this context is not a sign of good judgment. "

—Dave Kehr, The New York Times
Writing about Pokémon Heroes

28 Pokémon: The Movie 2000 (2000)
22 Pokémon 3: The Movie (2001)
25 Pokémon 4: The Movie (2002)
27 Pokémon Heroes (2003)

4. Brian Levant
Average Score: 27.6 for 4 films

Well, he's consistent; we'll give him that. After a successful career in television writing for such shows as The Jeffersons, Happy Days, and Mork & Mindy, Brian Levant moved into feature film directing with 1991's Problem Child 2 (which under no circumstances should be confused with a good movie). Since then, Levant has specialized in family-friendly comedies (Beethoven, a pair of Flintstones films, etc.) with little appeal to grown-ups or people with a more refined sense of humor.

"It's unclear whether Brian Levant was even on set when he directed."

—Elizabeth Weitzman, NY Daily News
Writing about The Spy Next Door

27 The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (2000)
29 Snow Dogs (2002)
27 Are We There Yet? (2005)
27 The Spy Next Door (2010)

5. Renny Harlin
Average Score: 30.0 for 6 films

Renny Harlin has been doing this for 25 years. And by "this" we mean turning budgets large and small into critically derided films. The Finnish director has notched quite a few "achievements" since landing on the world stage in the late 1980s, from the 1990 Andrew Dice Clay flop The Adventures of Ford Fairlaine to 1995's Cutthroat Island (which set records at the time as the biggest box office flop in movie history), though he did manage some box office hits, including the second-worst Die Hard film to date (1990's Die Hard 2). Box office success has been elusive for Harlin in the past decade, however, and the director has been reduced to smaller scale (but still critically panned) projects like the Die Hard 3 rip-off 12 Rounds and 5 Days of War, which deals with the recent Russia-Georgia conflict.

"Surely nothing Hollywood did in its darkest, most debauched hour could possibly justify the penance we're paying that allows Harlin to continue directing movies."

—Josh Rosenblatt, Austin Chronicle
Writing about The Covenant

29 Driven (2001)
30 Exorcist: The Beginning (2004)
33 Mindhunters (2005)
19 The Covenant (2006)
38 12 Rounds (2009)
31 5 Days of War (2011)

6. John Whitesell
Average Score: 30.2 for 5 films

It took eight years for John Whitesell to follow up his debut film, the little-seen 1993 Jason Priestley vehicle Calendar Girl, but the director has worked more frequently over the past decade despite failing to make a splash at the box office or even a memorable film. (It can't be a good sign that his "best" film, Malibu's Most Wanted, stars Jamie Kennedy.) Next up for the director is the family comedy Switch, a creatively-titled, basketball-themed take on the Freaky Friday body-switching formula that will star Kevin Durant as himself. (Now you have at least one entry for your 2012 Razzie Awards pool).

"Whitesell has no sense of comic timing."

—James Berardinelli, ReelViews
Writing about Deck the Halls

24 See Spot Run (2001)
43 Malibu's Most Wanted (2003)
34 Big Momma's House 2 (2006)
28 Deck the Halls (2006)
22 Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son (2011)

7. Dominic Sena
Average Score: 30.7 for 4 films

Last year, when we surveyed music video directors who later went on to film careers, Dominic Sena (best known for his Janet Jackson videos) finished dead last among his peers, despite a decent first effort (1993's Kalifornia 48). That film is just a distant memory now, however, and Sena's work over the past dozen years has exhibited a downward trend, with recent work like the Nicolas Cage supernatural thriller Season of the Witch not even bad enough to be entertaining.

"Sena has no particular gift for either action or suspense."

—Andrew O'Hehir, Salon
Writing about Season of the Witch

35 Gone in Sixty Seconds (2000)
32 Swordfish (2001)
28 Whiteout (2009)
28 Season of the Witch (2011)

8. Steven Brill
Average Score: 33.0 for 4 films

If you direct a lot of Adam Sandler films, you're going to wind up on this list. And while Steven Brill has directed only two such movies (in addition to the fat camp comedy Heavyweights and writing the scripts for three Mighty Ducks films), they are two of the worst. Labeled a "comedy hack" by the Washington Post's Stephen Hunter, Brill demonstrated some modest critical improvement with his most recent film, Drillbit Taylor (which was based on a story idea by the late John Hughes), though it failed at the box office. And he didn't do himself any favors by insulting fans during a controversy surrounding his needless reshoots for Kyle Newman's film Fanboys. Next up for the director is a segment in next spring's comedy anthology Movie 43.

"[The] direction of Steven Brill is devoid of grace, style, rhythm and consistent tone. "

—Todd McCarthy, Variety
Writing about Mr. Deeds

38 Little Nicky (2000)
24 Mr. Deeds (2002)
29 Without a Paddle (2004)
41 Drillbit Taylor (2008)

9. Dennis Dugan
Average Score: 33.2 for 7 films

We've said it before, and we'll say it again: if you direct a lot of Adam Sandler films, you're going to wind up on this list. And nobody has directed more Sandler films than Dennis Dugan, the former actor who made his directorial debut with the first Problem Child film in 1990. (That leads us to another rule of thumb: If you direct a Problem Child film, you are going to wind up on this list.) And while the sadly prolific Dugan has given us some of Sandler's best films (well, Happy Gilmore), and his films have combined to gross well over $1 billion worldwide, his resume is littered with comedies that just aren't funny. In a few weeks, the latest example arrives: Jack and Jill, which features a double dose of Sandler (including one in drag!).

"Dugan doesn't know how to time a joke or set up a plot twist."

—Kyle Smith, NY Post
Writing about Chuck & Larry

22 Saving Silverman (2001)
31 National Security (2003)
25 The Benchwarmers (2006)
37 I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry (2007)
54 You Don't Mess with the Zohan (2008)
30 Grown Ups (2010)
33 Just Go with It (2011)

10. Marcus Nispel
Average Score: 34.3 for 4 films

Award-winning German music video and commercial director Marcus Nispel has made a career in film by remaking other people's classic genre movies, though the only awards his films are in danger of earning are Razzies. Yes, every one of his films have been remakes and/or reboots; even Pathfinder was originally a (much better, Oscar-nominated) Norwegian film. But that pattern may finally end in 2012; Nispel's next expected project is an original horror story, awkwardly titled Backmask.

"Nispel seems lost when trying to film a simple swordfight, much less the full-on battles."

—Keith Phipps, A.V. Club
Writing about Conan the Barbarian

38 The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2003)
29 Pathfinder (2007)
34 Friday the 13th (2009)
36 Conan the Barbarian (2011)


More Worst Directors Since 2000
  Director # Films Average Worst Film
11 Roger Kumble 4 34.5 Furry Vengeance (2010) 23
12 Raja Gosnell 6 35.2 The Smurfs (2011) 30
13 Paul W.S. Anderson 4 35.4 AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004) 29
14 Andrzej Bartkowiak 5 35.5 Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (2009) 17
15 Keenen Ivory Wayans 4 36.0 Little Man (2006) 26
16 Brian Robbins 6 36.4 Ready to Rumble (2000) 23
17 Donald Petrie 5 36.7 Just My Luck (2006) 29
18 James Wong 4 36.9 The One (2001) 25
19 Stephen Herek 4 38.2 Life or Something Like It (2002) 31
20 Garry Marshall 5 38.3 Georgia Rule (2007) 25
21 Rob Reiner 4 38.6 Alex & Emma (2003) 32
  Andy Tennant 4 38.6 The Bounty Hunter (2010) 22
23 Darren Lynn Bousman 4 38.9 Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008) 32
24 Rob Cohen 5 39.1 The Skulls (2000) 24
25 Tim Hill 4 39.2 Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties (2006) 37
  John Schultz 4 39.2 The Honeymooners (2005) 31

What do you think?

Who are your least favorite directors working today? Do you wish to defend anyone listed above? Let us know in the comments section below.

Comments (17)

  • 4evrnyt  

    This article is nearly 5 years old.

  • EloquentPeasant  

    Good list, but, as some people have mentioned, Michael Bay and M. Night. Shyamalan are musts. Honestly, I don't know why he isn't on here. The Happening, the Lady in the Water, Signs, and After Earth were horrible. And of course there was the Last Airbender, possibly in contention for the Worst Movie of All Time Award.

  • lukechristiansc  

    obviously Micheal Bay should be on this list but he has made some really great movies in the past like The Rock , Bad Boys , armageddon , Transformemers. he is not exactly the perfect director he is way to secure about himself as a director and a producer also his camera style let's not forget shall we his casting for his films the girls are not sexy their here because he has a boner when ever he sees him in his movies ha ha ha ( Pain & Gain). everyone has mixed feelings for Bay he is the master of explosions he is the " Ok " director on my list of film makers not to admire but he has a skill his cinematography also lett's not forget shall we he uses way to many stereotypes could he be a misogynist ? ......... Yes clearly Bay watches way to many 1950 and 1920's movies that the guy saves the girl and her stupid girly acts. Why isn't Tyler Perry one this list that peice of **** cares about is comedy , he sucks at acting , directing , writing. also dennis dugan this guy doesn't care about directing he cares about way to much comedy with Adam Sandler.

  • artmantx  

    Why does Robert Rodriguez get a free ride? His Spy Kids movies are a needle in the eye of moviemaking and Machette was horribly written and cheesy. The only decent movies he's made are when he's partnered up or producing.

  • JAM123  

    WHERE'S BAY!!!!!!!!

  • awbergs  

    Michael Bay actually has a score of 45.8 as a director (sadly it's that high). The Metacritic score for him also takes into account producer credits.

  • davidcraig  

    Where's Michael Bay??

  • CRL  

    I know he only made two films, but there needs to be an exception for Tom Six. He belongs at the top of this list.

  • Kadeemluvmusic  

    Whatever happened to M. Night Shamalan. He did worst in the Last airbender. But Some directors are very well like Raja Gosnell, Paul W.S. Anderson, and Renny Harlin. Those directors shouldn't be on that list. The only directors that got bad movies was Uwe Boil and the "... Movie" jerks.

  • dlamarc  

    i can't believe brett ratner is not on this list. if there was ever a purveyor of polished turds, he's one.

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