This list was inspired partially because I just finished reading Foucault’s Pendulum and partially because I had the misfortune to catch National Treasure on TV the other day.
Everyone loves a good conspiracy. They’re actually quite comforting; conspiracies mean that everything is connected, that there are no random acts of violence, that it all makes sense. Some dumb plots can be pulled off because the film convinces (see The Manchurian Candidate, The Parallax View, and two out of four Mission: Impossibles). But for every Ipcress File or All the President’s Men, there’s … Shyamalan. For every Last Crusade there’s a Crystal Skull. Here are a few that are so stupid that I longed to stick spoons my ears while shoving rusted nails down a garbage disposal just to make the pain stop. OK, maybe not that bad. But still pretty bad.
Needless to say, I’m breaking my own rules and there are spoilers here. But honestly, if you didn’t see it coming, you need to watch more movies.
10. THE BOYS FROM BRAZIL
The only film on my list that is actually a proper classic. But the premise of this – that Hitler’s genetic material went into making a bunch of clones, who the old Nazis want to be all Hitler-y – is so monumentally stupid that only the combined might of Gregory Peck and Laurence Olivier can save it from a camptacular fate. Just barely.
9. THE VILLAGE
While not the most ridiculous M. Night Shyamalan conspiracy movie (see number 5), it’s still pretty dumb. The elders in a 19th Century style colony have made up a myth about scary creatures living in the woods to keep their kids at home; it’s really the 21st Century and the elders are trying to protect their kids from all the evils of the outside world. Thing was, we all knew. From the first ten minutes. Only it seemed like such a dumbass, predictable idea that we actually could not believe that anyone would credit it as the basis for a film. How wrong we were.
Russian sleeper agents trained from childhood infiltrate top government jobs. Great plot, if you’re living in 1962. We’re not afraid of the Russians anymore, kids; they’re actually kinda cute. And breeding agents from childhood to infiltrate top government jobs? What if they fail their entrance exams? What if they want to be pastry chefs? What then? Besides, nowadays, Russian sleeper agents live in Connecticut. Duh.
7. THE OMEN (2006)
A conspiracy? A conspiracy by the FORCES OF DARKNESS! Take your pick: the EU is one of the heralds of the Apocalypse (in the original it’s the Common Market, but the EU is much more hilarious); the Antichrist is a tow-headed little tyke planted by hellhounds, reared by Satan’s Nanny (Mia Farrow, naturally) and ultimately raised by the President. Why is it so difficult to get Satan’s spawn to earth? Why couldn’t he be raised by that Rottweiler? But it’s the EU bit that really gets me.
6. ANGELS AND DEMONS
Someone’s kidnapped the pope ‘cause they totes wanna be pope. There are folks called the Illuminati. Enter Robert Langdon, that great symbologist, to hunt down a bomb that’s supposed to destroy the Vatican. Ewan MacGregor runs around a lot, I assume attempting to find his way out of his contract. Who cares? No one cares. It’s all a conspiracy. A Catholic conspiracy. Those Catholics sure do conspire.
Alien conspiracy! Crop circles mean something dastardly and extra-terrestrial-y and only Mel Gibson can save us! I remember when Mel was an actor and not a crazy-eyed anti-Semite. Those were the days. And then we get the big reveal, that the only way to defeat the aliens is by … water? No. Are these the dumbest goddamn aliens in the known universe? They came to a planet made mostly of water to enslave a species that is 75% water. No. Stop it. M. Night, you don’t get to play anymore.
4. NATIONAL TREASURE: BOOK OF SECRETS
John Wilkes Booth! Mount Rushmore! City of Gold! Area 51! JFK! Statue of Liberty! Ancient hieroglyphs! Nicolas Cage! Helen Mirren?! I know that all these things have something to do with each other, but I’ll be damned if I could figure it out, even after watching the movie AND reading the wikipedia page. No clue.
3. INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL
I expect this from the National Treasure movies, Shyamalan and even Ron Howard. But not from you, Steven. Not from you. Aliens sure do get around nowadays. They built the pyramids, created fire, bestowed knowledge, religion, and Shia Labeouf (or Sherman the Beef, as I like to call him) upon humanity. More Russians for some reason that I can’t remember. Listen to me. Nazis = scary. Russians = not scary. Done. Never again.
2. NATIONAL TREASURE
Map on the back of the Declaration of Independence points to a treasure hidden by the Freemasons during the American Revolution. A man named Benjamin Franklin Gates (DO YOU SEE WHAT WE DID THERE?!) is the only one who can solve this ancient of days mystery. This all has something to do with the Templars (naturally), but I don’t really remember because I fell asleep. Why? ‘Cause it’s fucking stupid.
1. THE DA VINCI CODE.
The tale that made art historians, religious scholars and anyone with a half a brain writhe in agony. Maybe this isn’t fair, because it’s really the book that postulates a dumb conspiracy theory. But the movie makes the already stupid premise – Jesus married Mary Magdalen, moved to France, founded the Merovingian dynasty, invented the baguette — stupider by cutting out all the fun chases and such. That’s right: they made it WORSE. A book by a man who invents adverbs ‘cause adjectives just won’t have the desired impact, she said truculently. It’s at the top of my list because so many people began talking as though this dumb fucking idea were true. I will not repeat myself, so listen: the Mona Lisa is not an anagram invented by Leonardo. There’s no such thing as a ‘symbologist’. That is not a grail symbol between Jesus and Andrew in The Last Supper. There’s no ancient Templar/Opus Dei/Vatican/Freemason/JP Morgan/Royal Society of Plumbers conspiracy that can be solved by Tom Hanks with a bad haircut. Why do I have to explain this? Fuck you, Dan Brown and Ron Howard. Fuck. You.
Remember, we here at Man, I Love Films don’t do definitive lists. We do our favorites and we want to hear yours. So, make sure and tell us about them in the comments section below.