Here are movies we respect, but can’t say we enjoy watching.

The Jazz Singer (1927)


From the perspective of a century later, we despise Al Jolson’s minstrel routine in this movie, but can’t deny the film’s cinematic importance as the first talkie. (Or at least, partial talkie.)

The Jazz Singer was the first feature-length motion picture to use synchronized recorded music and lip-synchronous singing and speech, and paved the way for every single movie that came later.

We certainly agree with the National Film Registry, which announced it would preserve the film, in 1996, as “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”

It’s one of those old movies we respect but would never throw on some Friday night.

Death Wish (1972)


We find the movie’s pro-vigilantism message uncool, but have to respect how well the movie convinces us that bleeding-heart liberal Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) could turn into a one-man judge, jury and executioner.

The deck is stacked and the portrayal of crime is cartoonish, but somehow director Michael Winner and screenwriter Wendall Mayes – working very loosely from Brian Garfield’s novel — get us to root for Bronson.

We like the 2018 Eli Roth remake more, maybe because Bruce Willis is so likable and the film feels a little looser and less heavy-handed, while retaining the grimy thrills of the original.

Last House on the Left (1972)


Riding the same crime-wave fear as Death Wish, Last House on the Left is one of the most unpleasant movies we’ve ever watched, but we think about it almost every day.

Its portrayal of casual, pointless cruelty is incredibly despairing, and Mari’s death — walking into a lake, just wanting it all to be over — is endlessly haunting.

All the acting is outstanding, especially by Sandra Peabody (above, left) and Lucy Grantham (right). And writer-director Wes Craven has an obvious skill for scaring the hell out of us, as we would continue to do for the next four decades with films including the Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream franchises.

It’s one of those horror movies we respect but will never watch again.

Hardcore (1979)


Paul Schrader is one of the greatest screenwriters — best known for Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Bringing Out the Dead, all directed by Martin Scorsese — and a magnificent writer-director, righty celebrated for American Gigolo and the recent First Reformed and The Card Counter. He’s made a long list of movies we respect and love, but Hardcore isn’t quite there.

Hardcore has an excellent concept, some brilliant acting, and many, many smart moments, but the film, now available on the Criterion Channel, doesn’t come together. (Schrader himself has plenty of critiques of it.) Hardcore is about a Calvinist dad (Schrader was raised in a strict Calvinist household) whose daughter disappears – and later turns up in an adult movie. The dad (George C. Scott) has to infiltrate the underground film industry to find her, with help from sex worker Niki (Season Hubley).

Scott’s transition from uptight Midwesterner to a street-smart slick operator feels abrupt, and the film takes a quick, darkly cartoonish descent into the film underworld that feels forced. Still, we respect Hardcore for its matter-of-fact depiction of how the adult industry works.

It’s also fun that Hardcore has so many references to Star Wars, which brings us to the next movie on our list.

Seven (1995)


Seven director David Fincher is one of the all-time best, and the acting by Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey and Gwyneth Paltrow is excellent. Seven is a totally engrossing movie about a serial killer (John Doe) who punishes practitioners of the seven deadly sins.

The atmosphere and tension-building are mostly unassailable, but the film might have benefitted from being a little less gross. We like being scared, and shocked, but some of John Doe’s methods — notably for the sin of lust — feel a little calculatedly shocking, and broke our trance. The movie didn’t keep us as rapt as Silence of the Lambs, for example, which deals with similarly rough stuff but always feels intensely grounded. It shocks us, but underplays the shocks.

So we respect Seven — especially its willingness to be bleak — but found it a little too manipulative.

The Phantom Menace (1999)


We don’t think there was any reason to make the Star Wars prequels: All the backstory turns out to be unnecessary, often dull, and better left to the imagination.

That said, we have to respect George Lucas for having the audacity to not only revisit his beloved franchise, but also to write and direct all three prequels — something he hadn’t done since the original 1977 Star Wars.We also admire the film’s adventurous approach in terms of technology:  It used high definition digital video to composite computer-generated effects.

We aren’t big fans of those effects, mind you, but we admire the effort. We also like Ewan MacGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Natalie Portman as Queen Amidala, and Jake Lloyd as young Anakin Skywalker. Darth Maul is a great villain, too. Despite all this, the movie is boring and a tonal mess, and frequently looks very fake.

We almost walked out in the first five minutes, despite our reverence for the original trilogy. Not every Star Wars movie is among the movies we respect, but we respect the boldness of The Phantom Menace.

The Cell (2000)


The whole movie is tonally weird, shifting from an FBI procedural in the Silence of the Lambs vein to a Hellraiser-style nightmarescape. All the grotesquerie feels contrived — particularly serial killer Carl Rudolph Stargher’s ridiculous method of killing his victims — but you have to respect director Tarsem Singh’s unapologetic commitment to his vision.

You also have to respect Jennifer Lopez for agreeing to star in something so dark and strange. She’s surrounded by a cast stacked with great actors including Vincent D’Onofrio, Vince Vaughn, Dylan Baker, Peter Sarsgaard and Dean Norris.

It’s one of those movies we respect for the cast alone — but also the vision.

Funny Games (1997, 2007)


Writer-director Michael Haneke’s 1997 Austrian home-invasion movie — and his 2007 English-language remake — break all the usual pacts with the audience. All the comforting things that usually happen in the movie are upended, especially in a very deliberate, brutally heavy-handed sequence in which justice is unserved.

It’s very effective, and we respect Haneke’s uncompromising, unrelenting audacity — but the movie is so good at carrying out its cruel intentions that it’s a very unpleasant watch. It’s one of those movies we respect, but can only watch through splayed fingers.

The Human Centipede (2009)


This whole movie is repulsive and wincing to watch, and only gets more torturous as it goes on. We would dismiss it as exploitative trash… if it weren’t so very well done.

If you’re expecting a series of relentless gross outs, you won’t get them: Writer-director Tom Six skillfully, slowly escalates the terror, painstakingly setting up his very dark, very disgusting final sequence. We hated watching this movie, but couldn’t look away.

NOPE (2022)


We love Key & Peele and Jordan Peele’s first two movies, Get Out and Us, but this one was a little slow and cerebral for our tastes.

The movie-ranch setting is cool, and actors Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer and Steven Yeun are very good, but things just felt too. We wanted more chills and thrills, because we’re dopes, I guess. We’re confident Jordan Peele has an important message — something about our addiction to spectacle – but it just didn’t land for us.

The one thing we did love was the chimpanzee attack sequence on the set of Gordy’s Home, which provided a sensational jolt. And look, Jordan Peele is brilliant, and we aren’t going to like everything anyone does. All of his movies are movies we respect.

Avatar: The Way of Water (2022)


We understand that lots of people like these movies — Avatar: The Way of Water is the third-highest grossing movie ever, after all — but we don’t enjoy the creepy, watery, phony sight of the Na’vi or care a lick about the painfully earnest mythology James Cameron has created around them.

Still: There’s no arguing with the technical achievements of the film, or the boldness of James Cameron’s vision, which just happens to not be to our taste. It’s one of those blockbuster movies we respect but just find kind of exhausting.

For some reason, we preferred the original Avatar – maybe because the move into Pandora and CGI land felt more gradual. Anyway, respect.

Like This List of Movies We Respect But Don’t Like?

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You might also like this list of 13 Movies That Made 100 Times Their Budget at the Box Office.

Main image: Naomi Watts in the 2007 version of Funny Games.

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