There is no shortage of movies with truly awful dialogue—ridiculously wooden, overbearingly pedantic or just plain stupid. But then, these movies often suck in a multitude of ways. For example, in Road House, Patrick Swayze' character says "pain don't hurt," but that line is no more ridiculous than the acting, the production value or the part where Swayze rips some dude' throat out of his neck. Sometimes, however, there is an otherwise decent flick that, in its effort to be profound, drops a line of dialogue so offensively bad that it completely taints the overall experience of the film. Here are the five worst offenders.
It' pretty obvious that Zach Braff wrote Garden State's screenplay for two purposes: (1) as an excuse to roll around with Natalie Portman; and (2) to prove to Hollywood that a chinless fug-beast can play roles other than Rain Man.
Braff makes really only one mistake: believing his audience has suffered a crippling head injury before watching the movie. Y'ee, this is a movie about a young man feeling lost and trying to find his way in the world. But, how does a [we invite you, the reader, to insert your own witty cut-down descriptor of Braff here] express that on a symbolic level?
The answer is obvious: invent a bizarre pseudo-scientific plot device that we can't even fully articulate. Let' see… um, hmm… remember when Zach and company went to that giant New Jersey crater that was being "explored" by a scientist couple? Yeah, no one slipped peyote into your Junior Mints; that really happened. Well, just in case you missed it, that' what folks in the biz call symbolism. Of course, we're not sure how you could have missed it when Braff shoved this turd into your ear:
(channeling Gilbert Grape)
Good luck exploring the infinite abyss.
Thank you. Hey! You, too.
Get it? "You too!"
But wait, Braff isn't a crater scientist? What could this mean? OH! It' LIFE! Life is like an infinite abyss! Because it' big and rocky and unknown and has two scientists living in it. You can picture Braff sitting alone in his kitchen, laptop out and pants off, smiling to himself with self-satisfied delight after penning that one (before cruising over to Celebrity Sleuth to find some Natalie Portman whacking fodder).
Finding the worst line of Lucas dialogue is no small feat. There are more crappy lines of dialogue in the Star Wars movies than there are Ewoks on Endor. Still, one exchange rises to the top. In Revenge of the Sith, we witness Anakin Skywalker become a full-blown baddy. He' doing the Emperor' bidding, he' turned on his friends and he' even slaughtered an entire temple of little Jedi children. Tough stuff.
In this scene, Lucas as screenwriter needs to find an effective why to convey three elements:
- Padme is very surprised by the new evil Anakin;
- Anakin has changed; and
- Padme is heartbroken.
Let' see what delicate writing Lucas employs to convey these thoughts and feelings without being too obvious:
Don't you see, we don't have to run away anymore. I am more powerful than the Chancellor. I can overthrow him, and together you and I can rule the galaxy.
I don't believe what I'm hearing... Obi-Wan was right. You've changed.
I don't want to hear any more about Obi-Wan. The Jedi turned against me. Don't you turn against me.
I don't know you anymore. Anakin, you're breaking my heart.
In Lucas' defense, at the end of Revenge of the Sith, Padme-as diagnosed by a technologically retarded robot-does in fact die from a "broken heart." Lucas just couldn't afford to be too subtle in his wording.
Oliver Stone has a long track record of believing audiences are comprised of neurologically impaired pre-schoolers, but his offenses are usually visual. For example, in Platoon, the good guy, Sergeant Elias dies. How? In a Jesus Christ pose, of course! How else would you know he was a martyr? And in Nixon, Anthony Hopkins decides to issue the orders for the bombing of Cambodia while eating a rather rare steak. He looks down to see... what' this? Good Lord, there' blood on his hands! What could that mean?
Wall Street, however, forgoes visual bludgeoning for a verbal shellacking. You see, Charlie Sheen (Bud) can't figure out if he' a good-hearted working man like his pop, Martin Sheen, or a greedy, self-centered businessman like his boss, Michael Douglas. (Because, really, are there any other choices?)
But how to display that conflict? Now remember, this is New York City so, unfortunately, there aren't any giant New Jersey-style craters to explore. How to let the audience in on Charlie' internal conflict? Oh! Here' an idea! Maybe Charlie could look out over the New York City skyline and ask the audience-I mean, ask himself-"Who am I?" Check out the script:
EXT. BUD'S CONDO - TERRACE - NIGHT
Bud walks out alone in his blue bathrobe on his parapet overlooking Central Park. The wind stirs his hair. The East and West sides of the park wrap the city in a diamond necklace of brilliant light.
Bud stares down at the world. He has it all now. The money. The girl. The magic palace apartment. What more is there? Something...because Bud suddenly throws a wrenching dislocated look into himself that makes us wonder as he brushes his hand across his face and mutters to himself.
Who am I?
You can almost picture Oliver Stone sitting on the edge of your bed, explaining this scene to you in the smallest words possible.
Yeah, that' right, you heard us: Mystic River. Oh, but how could that be? It' won awards and stuff! Of course it' won awards. When' the last time they gave Oscars to a movie that wasn't understood by everyone?
Don't get us wrong. It' not that it' a terrible movie. Actually, it' pretty good story that follows the lives of three boyhood friends and examines the ramifications of child molestation. In the opening scene, a pedophile posing as a police officer tricks one of the friends, Dave, into his car. After being abused, Dave escapes, but the damage is done. Dave never recovers emotionally, Jimmy becomes a mobster and Sean becomes a cop with attachment issues. Do you know how we know? Because we watched the movie. But luckily, Director Clint Eastwood wanted people to understand the whole flick even if they walked in during the last three minutes. Perhaps Oliver Stone was in the audience. Take it away, Sean:
Y'know, sometimes I think all three of us got in that car. And all this is just a dream, y'know?
In reality, we're still 11-year-old boys locked in a cellar imagining what our lives would be if we'd escaped.
Maybe you're right. Who the fuck knows?
Who knows? Everyone. Everyone gets it. Mission accomplished. Hello, Oscar!
This one needs a little proviso because all of this movie' terrible dialogue is confined to the narration, and director Ridley Scott removed all that narration from his director' cut. Still, it' so bad you can still hear it taunting you-refusing to let Blade Runner be the otherwise great flick it is. Nevertheless, this entry goes to the top of the list because it' more than pedantic and wooden and silly; it' just wrong. This might be the only time in movie history when the narration made the movie less clear. When whoever wrote the dialogue just didn't appear to be paying attention to the rest of the movie.
If you recall, Blade Runner is about superhuman robots, or replicants, who are angry about their finite life expectancies. Harrison Ford (Deckard) has been tasked with bringing the rogue replicants to justice. In the movie' climax, Deckard is involved in a fight to the death with replicant Rutger Hauer (Roy). Quite unexpectedly, Roy saves Deckard' life in a transcendently memorable scene:
Really quite something. One of our favorite scenes of all time, really. Then comes the narration (in some versions of the film. In others it's mercifully absent):
I don't know why he saved my life. Maybe in those last moments he loved life more than he ever had before. Not just his life, anybody's life, my life. All he'd wanted were the same answers the rest of us want. Where did I come from? Where am I going? How long have I got? All I could do was sit there and watch him die.
Uh, excuse me, Deckard? Wrong! Roy didn't suddenly become a good guy and realize that all life is precious. Were you even listening? Are you telling us Roy spilled his dying words to the wrong jackass? Listen up. Roy saved your life so you could remember him. He feared what everyone fears about mortality: being forgotten. He saved your life so he could share a bit of his favorite memories before dying. So he could live on in a way. And he told you this. And guess what? You totally fucked it up. Totally.
Man, he should have killed you.