10 Bad Movies That Siskel and Ebert Famously Annihilated

Few movie critics are more respected than Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. Originally working for separate Chigago-based newspapers, they were paired up in 1975 to host numerous television series reviewing movies. Thanks to their intelligent whit, frequent professional debates, and signature “thumbs up” rating style, they became a mainstay of American culture.

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While most remember Siskel and Ebert’s debates about their favorite pictures, their criticism of bad movies could be just as entertaining. They were passionate about film, so hearing them rant about a particularly awful film is as hilarious as insightful.

10 ‘Sheena’ (1984)

Sheena - 1984
Image via Columbia Pictures

While an obscure character by today’s standards, Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, is the first female character to be the star of her own comic. After a short-lived television series in the 1950s, a film was produced starring Tanya Roberts. Though it boasts impressive on-sight filming, the script and acting left much to be desired.

RELATED: 15 Great Underrated Movies Recommended by Roger Ebert

Siskel and Ebert’s main criticism was that it was too ridiculous to be considered a fun, dumb film. In their television review, they focused on their favorite worst moments. Ebert chose how Sheena’s love interest, reporter Vic Casey (Ted Wass), was more interested in taking her to New York than learning how she can speak to animals, while Siskel chose Sheena’s use of flamingos to destroy a helicopter.

9 ‘Red Sonja’ (1985)

red-sonja-pic
Image via MGM/UA Entertainment Company

The 1980s were great for fantasy films. One of the earliest successes of the decade was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Conan The Barbarian, which led to the creation of other sword and sorcery projects. This included Red Sonja, another character from Conan creator Robert E. Howard, which failed to live up to its predecessor.

The film’s poor quality had Siskel and Ebert in stitches during their review. Though they try to maintain their professionalism, they can’t help but laugh at the clunky dialogue, terrible effects, and awkward stance of a Buddha statue. Ebert also admitted that he was almost willing to give the film the benefit of the doubt had it been a satire of the sword and sorcery genre.

8 ‘Jaws: The Revenge’ (1987)

Banana Boat Shark Attack Scene in Jaws- The Revenge
Image Via Universal Studios

Jaws is one of the all-time greatest thrillers, overcoming a troubled production to kickstart the modern summer blockbuster. This makes it all the more unfortunate that its sequels got progressively worse. The fourth film reaches new levels of bad, with the shark having a vendetta against the Brody family.

RELATED: 10 of Roger Ebert’s Most Hated Zero-Star Reviews

Siskel and Ebert had a ball tearing apart this film, from its terrible effects and writing to awful editing. Siskel, in particular, was very matriculated in his criticisms, questioning why the Brody family didn’t just move away from the water and how Hoagie’s (Michael Caine) shirt is dry despite being submerged in water. He was especially enraged that the film opened on such a cheap dream sequence.

7 ‘Little Indian, Big City’ (1994)

 Mimi-Siku from Little Indian Big City

This French film follows Stéphane Marchadot (Thierry Lhermitte), who travels to the Amazon Rainforest to get his estranged wife to sign divorce papers and learns he has a teenage son named Mimi-Siku (Ludwig Briand). He takes Mimi-Siku back to Paris, where all sorts of hijinks ensue. The film was the second-highest-grossing movie in France behind The Lion King and eventually made its way to North America.

While Siskel and Ebert found the plot pretty weak, they hated the terrible American dubbing most. Ebert described the dub as English translated from French via a third language unknown to either side. When they saw the film, one of the reels was missing, which led to Siskel’s comment, “If it were the legendary missing footage from The Magnificent Ambersons, this movie would still suck.”

6 ‘Mad Dog Time’ (1996)

Gabriel Byrne standing at the mic in Mad Dog Time
Image via MGM 

Notorious crime boss Vic (Richard Dreyfuss) is released from a psychiatric facility and plans to reclaim his underworld empire. Two of his enforcers, Ben (Gabriel Byrne) and Mickey (Jeff Goldblum), have been running things in his absence. However, Ben wants to take over the organization, and Mickey has been sleeping with Vic’s girlfriend and her sister.

RELATED: 15 Critically Acclaimed Movies That Roger Ebert Disliked

Siskel and Ebert couldn’t follow the film’s shallow plot or get invested in its forgettable characters. Ebert described the movie as “not preferable to an hour and forty-five minutes of looking at a blank wall,” as characters just talk tough before getting gunned down. Siskel argued that Dreyfuss should get most of the blame since he co-produced the film and thus had a hand in the creative process.

5 ‘She’s Out of Control’ (1989)

Ami Dolenz in a pretty pink dress in the movie She's Out of Control
Image via Columbia Pictures

1989 saw two teenage coming-of-age films released back to back. One of those was Say Anything…, often considered among the all-time greatest romantic comedies. The other was She’s Out of Control, which nearly got Gene Siskel to retire as a professional film critic. It follows a father’s struggle to accept his daughter is growing up.

Siskel described it as “a depressing film, neither lifelike nor an effective fantasy.” Ebert called the film a crime because it robs audiences of two hours of their lives. This led to a humorous exchange regarding the better things audiences could do with their time rather than sitting through the rest of the film.

4 ‘Frozen Assets’ (1992)

Dr. Grace Murdock and Zach Shepard with a baby

An obscure comedy even by 1990s standards, Frozen Assets sees bank executive Zach Shepard (Corbin Bernsen) take a new job in Oregon. Unfortunately, he learns that the bank he applied to is a sperm bank, and his plan to host a contest to increase donations angers the local brothels. Coupled with its juvenile attempts at comedy, it’s little wonder it bombed at the box office.

RELATED: Siskel and Ebert Voiced Themselves (and Sang!) in This Cartoon

During their television review, Siskel and Ebert said Frozen Assets was perhaps the most depressing experience in their careers as film critics. So abysmal that Ebert declared sitting through the movie should earn them compensation in the next life in the form of honey, nectar, and zephyr breeze, prompting Siskel to laugh. They would later pick the film as the worst of 1992.

3 ‘Leonard Part 6’ (1986)

Leonard Parker

Disgraced comedian Bill Cosby was one of the biggest names on television. He also starred in several successful films in the 1970s, but in 1987, he wrote and produced the spy comedy Leonard Part 6, which he quickly denounced once it was evident it would be a disaster.

Fortunately, Siskel and Ebert’s review has enough comedy to make up for the film’s lack thereof. Ebert’s deadpanned description of the film’s comedy and hatred of Cosby reducing himself to a Coca-Cola advertisement had Siskel snickering until it was his turn. Alongside all of Ebert’s points, Siskel also brought up how this film was a disappointment to Cosby’s fans, a statement that rings truer today.

2 ‘Staying Alive’ (1983)

John Travolta surrounded by dancers

Like many critics and audience members, Siskel and Ebert were big fans of Saturday Night Fever. They loved John Travolta’s portrayal of the main character, Tony Manero, its now-iconic soundtrack, and the story’s relatability reliability. The same praise didn’t translate for its Sylvester Stallone-directed sequel.

Gene Siskel was particularly disappointed with the sequel. When going over the worst films of 1983, he said, “So what if Staying Alive made a lot of money? I didn’t get to see Tony Manero grow up in this movie. I saw John Travolta walking through a fairytale”. Ebert shared similar thoughts, lamenting how, after everything Tony went through, his life turned into a backstage musical.

1 ‘North’ (1994)

NORTH, Elijah Wood as North, sung to by Dan Akroyd and Reba McEntire
Image via Columbia Pictures

Rob Reiner is a pretty well-respected director behind many iconic films, including Stand By Me, A Few Good Men, When Harry Met Sally…, and The Princess Bride. So it was quite a shock that, in 1994, his name was attached to North, a confusing film about a child prodigy who divorces his parents. His quest to find new ones takes him from one offensive stereotype to another while guided by a guardian angel played by Bruce Willis.

Siskel and Ebert did not hold back with this one, and both chose it as their worst film of 1994. Siskel said of the film, “The ethnic stereotyping is appalling, it’s embarrassing, you feel unclean while you’re sitting there. It’s junk. First-class junk.” Ebert was much harsher and, in his written review, included a rant that begins with, “I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie”.

NEXT: 12 Underrated Movies Recommended by Gene Siskel


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