Like it or not, Valentine’s Day is coming along with the cold inevitability of death to remind us all about that “love” thing that they talk about all the time in moving pictures. Look, I might be a raging cynic, but I recognize that there are a variety of truly wonderful big-screen love stories that are all romantic and crap. However, when it comes to genre movies, love stories tend to grind narratives to a halt and spoil all the fun. Countless great action movies, sci-fi spectacles, fantasies, and horror flicks have been ground to the ground by a pathetic wooden love story tacked on to expand running times and attract wider audiences who never came. In celebration of that big day of love, greeting cards, chocolate, and tears that’s coming up, we thought we’d take a look back at some of the absolute worst love stories in genre movie history. There’s no joy or romance to be found in these stupid subplots (or in some cases, main plots). So if you’re looking for something to stream or spin on a magic movie disc with your beloved this weekend, here are seven options to avoid.
7) Cloverfield (2008)
JJ Abrams, Matt Reeves, and Drew Goddard’s super-secret blockbuster project was a pretty spectacular achievement in 2008. At the time, the concept of mounting a found footage production on a blockbuster scale was unheard of and giant monster movies had virtually vanished from American screens for decades. So, this found footage monster movie carried with it a shock of the new and delivered some truly stunning set pieces and scares laced with a bitter after taste of 9/11 allegory. It’s a pretty fantastic little genre picture. Unfortunately, for the sake of dramatic stakes, a love story was shoved in even though the constant rush of the narrative left it completely undeveloped. All we know is that our hero and his girlfriend (neither of whom is worth naming since they aren’t close to real people) had a super happy day before this whole monster attack started and that they are meant to be together because they are both conventionally attractive in the same way and like to say the word “love” a bunch. Other than that, there’s no semblance of a real human relationship here and even though death-defying activities are enacted to bring the star-crossed lovers together, it’s hard to care. In fact, it’s downright irritating whenever the group of plucky characters at the center of Cloverfield constantly have to make things worse for themselves to reunite a couple that no one cares about. It’s a shame that love story even had to be in the movie because it certainly never felt like the filmmakers cared much about it.
6) Spider-Man 3 (2007)
The Gwen Stacy/Peter Parker story is arguably the most tragic and moving romance in the history of superhero comics. So when it was announced that Gwen would be appearing in Spider-Man 3 to complicate the already troubled Peter Parker/Mary Jane Watson romance that had been simmering for two movies, it was cause for excitement for comic fans. Unfortunately, it was but one of many plot threads that were jammed into the overwrought Spider-Man 3 screenplay to please a vast array of competing voices in one of the ultimate examples of two many cooks in a blockbuster kitchen. So, instead of the pained tragedy of the original story, we got Bryce Dallas Howard playing damsel in distress in a few scenes just to make Mary Jane jealous. She had no character. She was essentially a prop with boobs to provide some motivation to split up Mary Jane and Peter one more time and set up a third act reconciliation. It was a complete mess. To be fair, it’s hardly the biggest problem in a movie filled with them, but for long-time Spider-Man fans this was a desecration of one of the most important story arcs in the history of the character. Thankfully the franchise was promptly rebooted with Gwen Stacy at the center and those heartbroken webheads finally got what they wanted with the Amazing Spider-Man movies. Hmmm? What’s that? No, I haven’t seen those movies. I’m just assuming that it was done much better since Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are so great and there’s no way that they could ruin the same wonderful story twice. Huh? They did what?! Goddamn it…never mind.
5) The Hobbit Trilogy (2012-2014)
Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy looks a heck of a lot better now that it’s complete than it did after the seemingly endless first chapter. Sure, this should have been one movie or maybe two and things were dragged out way too long, but at least there were numerous highlights along the long and tedious way. However, there was one completely invented plotline shoved in to pad out the running time that was absolutely horrible. Jackson and his co-writer invented the new elf warrior Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly). On her own, she wasn’t a terrible addition as she brought the welcome presence of an ass-kicking heroine to Tolkien’s vaguely misogynist universe of bearded men. However, she also engaged in an interspecies love story with the dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner) that was completely and deeply unnecessary. First off, it’s just creepy. Sure there’s the whole warring factions, star-crossed lovers angle. But we’re also talking about to races that are physically incompatible in an icky way. Beyond that, the love story was explored with some of the cheesiest dialogue imaginable, ending with Tauriel delivering an unforgivable monologue about how she wished that she’d never even learned what love was. This subplot derailed an already overlong trilogy whenever it appeared and should have been cut. If you have yet to see The Hobbit movies and would like to, I suggest acting as your own editor and pressing the fast-forward button any time the two characters appear on screen together. You won’t regret it.
4) Avatar (2009)
James Cameron is a truly gifted filmmaker who clearly has a special talent for creating remarkable special effects spectacle and crafting simple stories that can appeal to all cultures and across all language barriers. His skill with universally appealing film technique is unmatched. Since 1991, every movie that he’s made has been the most expensive ever mounted and has pioneered new effects technology. The last two were also the two highest grossing films of all time. So clearly the man has talent. Unfortunately, that talent does not extend to dialogue or believable characterization. In Avatar not only were audiences treated to a vaguely racist fantasy through the Na’vi of Pandora, but one of the most childishly simplistic and cornball love stories ever played in a movie theater. This embarrassing combination of greeting card sentimentality and dime store romance plotting/dialogue should never have made it to screens. Yet somehow it did and even worse: people fell for it. I guess Cameron felt empowered by delivering similarly corny Titanic to screens with massive success. Or maybe on the whole, people are just stupid enough to fall for this swill. Either way, this is technically the most profitable and popular love story ever made. You should all be ashamed of yourselves.
3) Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom (1984)
Don’t get me wrong, I have tremendous fondness for Temple Of Doom. The nostalgic appeal is palpable, the adrenaline rush of the movie is undeniable and it has some of the most impressive and effective set pieces that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas ever imagined (with those two guys, that’s really saying something). However, Willie Scott just might be the most useless, sexist, excuse for a female character ever committed to film. Both Spielberg and Lucas were coming off of fresh divorces from unhappy marriages when they dreamed up Temple Of Doom together. They clearly put all of their ill feelings into the whiney, dimwitted, squealing, bimbo of a character and the results are offensive. Somehow, Indiana Jones and Willie fall in love over the course of the movie even though there’s no reason for that to possibly happen other than their compatible genitalia. It’s not unusual for an action movie to feature a useless tacked on love interest (the James Bond movies somehow made it an honored tradition), but Willie just might be the worst of them all and I’m disappointed with Indiana Jones for falling for her. On the plus side, she was played by the delightful Kate Capshaw who actually fell in love with Spielberg in real life while making the movie. So at least some sort of positive representation of love came out of this movie because it certainly didn’t happen on screen.
2) Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
Just watch the clip. I don’t need to write a damn thing. It’s even worse than you remember.
1) The Twilight Saga (2008-2012)
Finally, there’s only one possible choice to top this list. Sure, it might be a stretch (and an insult) to call any Twilight crapfest a horror movie, but they do have werewolves and vampires and blood in them, so they are genre movies whether we like them or not. It’s really hard to pinpoint exactly what’s wrong with Twilight because the answer is technically, “everything.” It’s a stilted, stupid, lazy, cardboard, cornball romance that only appeals to the least mature possible audience whose concept of love is limited to the representations available in drug store novels and Nickelback albums (fortunately for the producers, that audience is very undiscerning and has plenty of disposable income). Bella is one of the least active or interesting protagonists in the history of fiction. She’s a “worried expression” masquerading as a human being who spends her time struggling to decide which shirtless beefcake with magic powers and no personality she wants to waste her time with. Any girl or woman who wishes she was Bella clearly doesn’t understand what it means to be a functioning human being.
Beyond that, the Twlight saga offers some deeply troubling subtext in its depiction of love. First up, the franchise made a fortune selling sex to young girls, yet preaches the message that those same girls should wait till marriage before boning or being turned into a vampire. That’s a very icky dichotomy to preach. Plus, the Mormon Stephanie Meyer also slipped in a few other forms of religious indoctrination into the franchise via the big happy polygamous vampire family at the center. So, this isn’t just the worst genre movie love story of all time, it’s also secretly religious propaganda. There are so many exciting ways to hate Twilight! I hope you get a chance to enjoy them all, but for the good of your brain and heart do so without actually poisoning your eyes with the movies or giving one additional dollar to those responsible for making them.