Oscars: Read Some of the Worst Reviews of This Year's Best Picture Nominees

7:30 AM 2/24/2017

by Lexy Perez

Critics share harsh words about the nine films nominated for the film industry's biggest honor.

From left: 'La La Land,' 'Moonlight' and 'Manchester by the Sea'
From left: 'La La Land,' 'Moonlight' and 'Manchester by the Sea'
Courtesy of Lionsgate; A24; Roadside Attractions

Nine films are competing to win the coveted gold statue for best picture at Sunday's Oscars. This year’s nominees are Arrival, Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, Hidden Figures, La La Land, Lion, Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight. But not everyone is a fan of the movies. Below, read some of the worst reviews of this year's best picture nominees (along with what The Hollywood Reporter's critics had to say about each).

  • Arrival

    Paramount Pictures

    Some of the worst reviews:

    Arrival is a weird flick, slow and tedious, too metaphysical for Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone and most likely to appeal to people who like to play video games and solve puzzles.”- Rex Reed, New York Observer

    Arrival is the sort of superficially profound movie that initially seems deep and weighty but stops making sense the moment you put down the bong.”- Rene Rodriguez, Miami Herald

    “Octopuses from outer space can't begin to compete with Klaatu or ET.”- Louis Poryect, rec.arts.movies.reviews

    What THR says:

    Arrival boldly snubs the standard alien-invasion vernacular of contemporary movies to explore a mood and language of its own. It may be a touch too subdued for the mainstream, but the movie has brains and originality, qualities these days too seldom valued in the genre.”- David Rooney

  • Fences

    Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

    Some of the worst reviews:

    “Feels entirely stage-bound and artificial, with set design and performances that might make sense for live theater, but which feel stilted and ineffective onscreen.”- Josh Bell, Las Vegas Weekly

    “It's not cinematic enough to make you forget you're watching something conceived for another, more spatially constricted medium, but it's too cinematic to capture the intensity, the concentration, of a great theatrical event.”- David Edelstein, New York Magazine/Vulture

    “Like many plays brought to the screen, Fences still feels like a play. Sure, you can get closer to the performances, but it still feels like a live reading.”- Fred Topel, We Live Entertainment

    What THR says:

    Fences is as faithful, impeccably acted and honestly felt a film adaptation of August Wilson's celebrated play as the late author could have possibly wished for. But whether a pristine representation of all the dramatic beats and emotional surges of a stage production actually makes for a riveting film in and of itself is another matter.”- Todd McCarthy

  • Hacksaw Ridge

    Summit Entertainment

    Some of the worst reviews: 

    “I respectfully, conscientiously object to the way Desmond Doss has been simplified and sanctified in the movie.” – Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

    “Man, I thought most of this film was a load of hooey -- right down to Garfield's tremulous, moist-eyed performance and that sing-songy cornpoke accent of his.”- Max Weiss, Baltimore Magazine

    “This is a work of defiantly simplistic, classically structured Hollywood storytelling, and Mel Gibson takes to its hokey plot points with some gusto.”- Christopher Gray, Slant Magazine

    What THR says:

    “Gibson's forceful comeback is a violent drama about pacifism that succeeds in combining horror with grace. Garfield's fiercely driven performance through this extended passage makes this a deeply moving portrait of fearless, selfless heroism.”- David Rooney

  • Hell or High Water

    Courtesy of CBS Films

    Some of the worst reviews:

    “The action is as schematic and artificial as a chess game, and the characters have as much identity as its pieces.”- Richard Brody, New Yorker

    “It's frustrating that Hell or High Water contains so many good things that just don't coalesce into a fully satisfying moviegoing experience.”- Peter Sobczynski, RogerEbert.com

    “While there's some good action while the brothers are holding up the banks, this film is mostly conversation between Pine and Foster, on the one hand, and Bridges and Birmingham, on the other. Compelling is not the word for which I would be groping.”- Tony Medley, Toulcan Times

    What THR says:

    “A soulful outlaw tale with a socioeconomic perspective and a rich sense of place. As much as all four men are familiar types, the director, writer and actors imbue them with humanity, steering their arcs through tense action — including a nice throwback Western shootout on rocky terrain — to a quietly moving conclusion.”- David Rooney

  • Hidden Figures

    Courtesy of Hopper Stone

    Some of the worst reviews:

    “A movie about great people is not the same thing as a great movie.”- Josh Bell, Las Vegas Weekly

    “It is in essence a feature-length version of an inspiring social media image macro, or perhaps a Google Doodle.”- Dan Schindel, The Film Stage

    “It's the kind of movie where you compliment the performances and then trail off because there's nothing much left to say that won't make you sound like a jerk.”- Walter Chaw, Film Freak Central

    What THR says:

    “For all its energy and joy, when the inevitable images of the real-life hidden figures appear during the movie’s closing credits, it's hard not to wish that you’d been watching a deeply delving documentary about them — or that somebody will make one soon.”- Sheri Linden

  • La La Land


    Some of the worst reviews: 

    “The one thing that Chazelle seems to have little interest in is life. He turns Mia into an absolute cipher, giving her nothing whatsoever to talk about.”- Richard Brody, New Yorker

    “I wish La La Land felt more like Chazelle's personal vision - that he tap-danced his own path - instead of this eager-to-please mash-up, the movie equivalent of samba tapas.”- Amy Nicholson, MTV

    “It's too long, the music isn't great, and I can't stand all the brightly colored twirling skirts.”- Molly Laich, Missoula Independent

    What THR says:

    “Not perfect, but dazzling and distinctive all the same.  If you're going to fall hard for Damien Chazelle's daring and beautiful La La Land, itwill probably be at first sight.” – Todd McCarthy

  • Lion

    The Weinstein Company

    Some of the worst reviews: 

    Lion goes again and again where you expect it to, delivering little more than the awards-season equivalent of Homeward Bound.”- Forrest Wickman, Slate

    “Drab and predictable.”- Camilla Long, Sunday Times (UK)

    Lion ... becomes ordinary, even as it moves toward a climax that's moving for all the predictable reasons.”- Stephanie Zacharek, TIME Magazine

    What THR says:

    "As enthralling as it is emotional. A tremendously moving performance from Dev Patel is the resilient soul of Lion." - David Rooney

  • Manchester by the Sea

    Courtesy of K Period Media

    Some of the worst reviews: 

    “Lonergan's static pace and over-obvious compositions attempt fake "realism," but each scene looks like an acting-class exercise.”- Armond White, National Review

    “Approach Manchester by the Sea with caution.”- Kelly Vance, East Bay Express

    “Too often here you feel the fingers of the writer, typing the story into existence, crafting it to its desired ends.”- Noah Gittell, Washington City Paper

    What THR says:

    “Although Manchester never feels stagy and is deeply enriched by the mostly coastal communities in which it is set, this is clearly the work of a writer who knows his way around creating characters and emotional dynamics in a manner more evident in works for the stage than for screens big or small.” – Todd McCarthy

  • Moonlight

    Courtesy of A24

    Some of the worst reviews:

    “Bullying, poverty, closeted sexuality, drug abuse, and racial strife combine to form an overworked agenda of cultural woes that's more concerned with rubber-stamping issues than telling an original story.”- Scott Marks, San Diego Reader

    “What begins as an arresting blend of lyrical storytelling and bad-neighbourhood harshness gradually ferments into a relentlessly melancholic dirge in dire need of somewhere to go...an early contender for the most overrated film of the year.”- Jim Schembri, 3 AW

    “The acting elevates the clichés of Barry Jenkins's script into something approaching lived truth.”- Jake Cole, Slant Magazine

    What THR says:

    "Barry Jenkins' Moonlight pulls you into its introspective protagonist's world from the start and transfixes throughout as it observes, with uncommon poignancy and emotional perceptiveness, his roughly two-decade path to find a definitive answer to the question, "Who am I?" While the fundamental nature of that central question gives this exquisite character study universality, the film also brings infinite nuance and laser-like specificity to its portrait of African-American gay male experience, which resonates powerfully in the era of Black Lives Matter."- David Rooney