This year-end episode of Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert’s Sneak Previews popped up in my YouTube feed so obviously, I clicked on it. The films of 1980 are so notoriously awful that they inspired the 1st annual Golden Raspberry Awards, held in publicist John J. B. Wilson’s living room on March 31, 1981 – the night of the 53rd Academy Awards.
Obviously, there were some terrific movies released that year, including Raging Bull, The Empire Strikes Back, Fame, Melvin and Howard, Coal Miner’s Daughter, and Ordinary People, all of which won at least one Oscar. But Wilson knew those films would get their due at other awards ceremonies. Inspired by a double feature of Can’t Stop the Music and Xanadu, Wilson – a publicist whose work included film marketing – decided to use his Oscar night gathering of about thirty friends to host an impromptu celebration of the year’s worst, and the Golden Raspberry Awards were born. Among the films honored that night, Can’t Stop the Music led the pack with seven nominations; it won Worst Picture and Worst Screenplay (Xanadu received six nominations but went home empty-handed).
The following year, the attendance at Wilson’s Oscar party doubled, and the 2nd annual Razzies celebrated the worst of 1981 (Mommie Dearest was the night’s big “winner”, with five awards). In 1983, attendance doubled again; in 1984, Wilson had to move the event to a public location and CNN was on hand to provide coverage.
The Golden Raspberries are now in their 43rd year; the 2022 nominations were announced this morning (there’s a link at the bottom of the post). In honor of the occasion, here are some of the Razzies’ most memorable moments.
- The Shining receives two nominations and Brooke Shields wins the first Worst Actress Razzie (1980)
Do the Razzies always get it right? No, they don’t. In fact, sometimes they get it very, very wrong; such was the case at the inaugural event. Inexplicably, The Shining received two nods at the first Razzies ceremony, for Worst Director (Stanley Kubrick) and Worst Actress (Shelley Duvall). In 2022, after allegations resurfaced of Kubrick’s deplorable on-set torment of Duvall, that last nomination was rescinded (I won’t go into the potentially triggering details, but you can Google that shit if you want).
One of my biggest complaints about the Razzies is the nomination of children, who often have little or no say in their career choices. Brooke Shields, who was sexualized from a young age and who at the very least didn’t have anyone looking out for her best interests, was fourteen years old when she made The Blue Lagoon. Yes, the movie is capital-T terrible, but giving Shields this award felt exploitative and mean-spirited. By the way, not everything about The Blue Lagoon was awful; the film was actually nominated for a Best Cinematography Oscar (it lost that one to Roman Polanski’s Tess).
- James Coco receives Oscar and Razzie nominations for the same role (1981)
James Coco, who played Marsha Mason’s gay neighbor in the Neil Simon adaptation Only When I Laugh, was the first of only three performers to be nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Raspberry for the same performance (the second was Amy Irving for 1983’s Yentl and the third was Glenn Close for 2020’s Hillbilly Elegy).
- Flashdance is the first Oscar winner to be nominated for a Razzie (1983)
I can love a movie with all my heart while also acknowledging how bad it is. So it is with Flashdance, a 96-minute-long music video rightfully nominated for a Worst Screenplay Razzie (it lost to The Lonely Lady, which was based on a Harold Robbins novel and starred Pia Zadora). The following evening, at the 56th Academy Awards, Giorgio Moroder, Irene Cara, and Keith Forsey shared the Oscar for Best Original Song for “Flashdance… What a Feeling”; Flashdance received three additional nominations, for Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography, and Best Original Song (for “Maniac” by Michael Sembello).
- Metropolis earns two Razzie nominations (1984)
In 1984, the 1927 German silent film Metropolis was restored and reissued with a new score by Giorgio Moroder, who also co-wrote (with Freddie Mercury!) a theme song for the film. Both the score and the song were nominated for Golden Raspberries and while I personally think “Love Kills” is fantastic, it does seem incongruous with the expressionistic sci-fi classic.
- The first Worst Picture tie (1986)
The 7th Golden Raspberries saw the first-ever tie for Worst Picture between Howard the Duck and Under the Cherry Moon, both worthy choices. Prince is one of my favorite musical artists, but he did not have a gift for filmmaking.
THIS SOUNDTRACK THOUGH:
- Wall Street wins a Best Actor Oscar and a Worst Supporting Actress Razzie (1987)
Daryl Hannah was unhappy with the part and director Oliver Stone later admitted he knew Hannah wasn’t right for the role. Was Hannah actually the worst supporting actress that year? Probably not. But Wall Street remains the only film to win both an Oscar and a Razzie.
- Mac and Me (1988)
Mac and Me is best known these days for its part in one of the funniest long-term gags ever, but it wasn’t even the worst movie of 1988, at least according to the Razzies. The Worst Picture winner that year? Cocktail.
- Alan Menken wins an Oscar and a Razzie in the same year (1992)
At the 13th Golden Raspberries, famed composer Alan Menken won a Worst Original Song award for Newsies‘ “High Times, Hard Times”. The following evening, he won his fifth and sixth Oscars for Aladdin. He is one of only three people to earn an Oscar and a Razzie in the same year; Brian Helgeland became the second in 1997 when he won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for L.A. Confidential and the Worst Screenplay Razzie for The Postman (I’ll get to the third one in a bit).
- Paul Verhoeven is the first Razzie “winner” to accept their award in person (1997)
The less said about Showgirls, the better, but I give props to Verhoeven for graciously accepting his Razzie in person.
- An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn is the most meta winner ever (1998)
If you’re not familiar with the Alan Smithee legend, here’s the nutshell: Smithee is a pseudonym the Director’s Guild allowed filmmakers to use if they wished to disavow the finished product. An Arthur Hiller-directed mockumentary, with Eric Idle playing a director whose real name is Alan Smithee, was so bad that Hiller requested his name be taken off the film; with that, Burn Hollywood Burn became a literal Alan Smithee film – and the most meta Razzies winner ever.
- Battlefield Earth makes a clean sweep (2000)
This legendarily terrible sci-fi film, based on a book by L. Ron Hubbard, stars longtime Scientologist John Travolta. Quentin Tarantino, who had worked with Travolta on 1994’s Pulp Fiction, was the first choice to direct; when Tarantino turned it down, the job went to Roger Christian, a production designer and set decorator who’d won an Oscar for Star Wars. Battlefield Earth was nominated for eight Razzies in seven categories – and took home a prize in every single one.
Fun fact: Roger Christian also directed a couple of music videos back in the 1980s, including “Election Day” by Duran Duran side project Arcadia.
- George W. Bush, Condoleeza Rice, and Donald Rumsfeld receive Razzies for their “performances” in a Palme d’Or-winning documentary feature (2004)
Somewhat controversially – because Fahrenheit 9/11 was a widely acclaimed film – the Razzies nominated Bush, Rice, and Rumsfeld for their “roles” in this Michael Moore doc.
- Sandra Bullock accepts her Razzie in person the night before winning the Best Actress Oscar (2009)
When you think of Sandra Bullock winning an award for a 2009 film, you probably think of The Blind Side (which earned Bullock an Oscar and a Golden Globe) or maybe The Proposal (which also garnered her a Golden Globe nomination). But Bullock made a third movie that year, the critical flop All About Steve, which has a 6% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Like the good sport she is, Bullock showed up to accept her Razzie with a DVD copy for everyone in the room. The following evening, she took home her Academy Award.
- Ben Affleck wins the inaugural Razzie Redeemer Award (2013)
After the one-two punch of the Oscar-winning Argo and the critical darling Gone Girl, Ben Affleck won the first Razzie Redeemer Award, eleven years after his Worst Actor Razzie for Gigli.
- Worst Performance by Bruce Willis in a 2021 Movie (2021)
Since 2019, Bruce Willis has starred in twenty-six direct-to-video movies. Eight of those movies – Cosmic Sin, American Siege, Apex, Deadlock, Fortress, Midnight in the Switchgrass, Out of Death, and Survive the Game – came out in 2021, prompting the Razzies to institute a new, one-time-only category. I’ve seen exactly zero of these flicks (in fact, I’d never heard of most of them until today), but I’m sure they’re all varying degrees of awful and probably would have been awful without Willis’s participation. But in 2022, we all learned some new information that prompted the Razzies to retract the category: Willis was retiring from acting after receiving a diagnosis of aphasia.
- Oh, look, they’re still nominating children (2022) 😠😡🤬
Among the nominees this year is twelve-year-old Ryan Kiera Armstrong, who plays Charlie in the Firestarter remake no one asked for – but can we please not punish a literal child for the fact that no one asked for it?