The Top 5 Worst M. Night Shyamalan Movies May29

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The Top 5 Worst M. Night Shyamalan Movies

imageOnly the staunchest Shyamalanian apologist can deny that the quality of M. Night’s work has dropped into the Marianas Trench.

His name used to be a quick selling point. “From Director M. Night Shyamalan” guaranteed instant audience interest.

Throw in a popular leading man, say a Mel Gibson or a Bruce Willis, and the studio knew they had a hit.


The Sixth Sense is a quality entertainment through and through.

Sure you can nitpick the plot holes in the [Spoiler Alert – but get bent if this still applies to you] “he was dead the whole time” gimmick but it totally works because the characters and story are so solidly written you could throw it out and still have a fantastic movie.

I’m not in love with Unbreakable because it feels like the first half of a better movie, but I willingly recognize it’s my own opinion as opposed to genuine criticism.

It’s slower than a turtle with gout but it’s a build that, from a craft perspective, totally works.

I’ll defend these films any given day but when it comes to the five on this list, I’m at a loss to offer even the most modest of defenses.

My theory is that M. Night stopped developing his scripts and rushed to shoot them as concepts before they were fleshed out and realized.

The Sixth Sense went through multiple drafts until it was perfect. That Bruce Willis’ character was actually dead the whole time wasn’t even a part of the story until halfway into revisions.

imageBasically, he started smelling his own celluloid farts. If you’re not careful, the enormous success of your earlier work has the tendency to blow your ego into a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade float-sized version of its former self.

Add that to the fact that no one who wants a job with the emperor is going to point out the nudity of his script and you’ve got a recipe for the five stinkers below.

Also, I should preface this by admitting that I’m not including Wide Awake and Praying With Anger as they were made prior to M. Night being M. Night. I know you could say that about The Sixth Sense but that’s the movie that launched the persona we all grew to love – and then hate.



imageActually, I take it back. I will defend Signs despite having the single dumbest villain weakness in the history of cinema.

“Look guys, I know water kills us but I say we invade a planet made up almost entirely of H20 – and don’t worry about water vapor either, we’re not trying that hard.” Oh and the whole “swing away” thing is a good old fashioned eye roller.

The thing is, Signs tells an effective story without the narrative chicanery. I’m including it here as #5 because it was the first entry in the M. Night oeuvre where the burden of having a plot twist started to weigh heavily on the film itself.

The aliens were such a ridiculous add-on that it was clear Shyamalan got to the end and said, “screw it, it’s freakin’ water.” That’s where another draft would’ve come in useful. Had he taken the time to include the invaders as an integrated element instead of a gimmick, Signs would be an inarguable victory.

As it stands, when discussing it, you’re forced to qualify your affection with “but the aliens totally sucked.”


4. Lady In The Water

imageI know people who like this movie and though I don’t share their sentiment, I can at least agree that, for what it’s worth, Lady in the Water is internally consistent. That being said, boy is this dumb.

Based on a bed time story that should’ve stayed in his ass, Lady in the Water tells an absurd story that’s not only hard to follow, but exceedingly difficult to care about. The whole thing feels like an excuse for M. Night to return fire at critics.

On the highly unlikely chance that he reads this, I expect to see an overweight, pants-shittingly grotesque blogger crapping on After Earth on his iPad while watching Chopped.

Two points for accuracy.

However, before I’m memorialized, I’d like to point out that the sting of one’s satire is dulled by casting oneself as a world-changing writer.

One might consider that the height of hubris. One would if one one hadn’t taken the project to Warner Bros after Disney execs rightfully rejected it.

I’m not going to ridicule anyone for taking a passion project to another studio, just don’t proclaim your unrivaled brilliance by inserting yourself into your own movie as the savior of the world.

Wherein the next movie on this list is the perfect example of concept-before-story, Lady in the Water exemplifies Shyamalan’s propensity for masturbatory conceit.


3. The Happening

imageBilled as the first M. Night flick with an R-rating for some reason, The Happening is an idea for a movie in search of a movie.

The central concept, plants causing humans to kill themselves as retribution for destroying the Earth sounds like a movie Roger Corman passed on, but one could conceivably make a good movie out of it.

Unfortunately, it’s Shyamalan we’re talking about, so instead of sitting with the material and developing it into a functioning story, The Happening sprinted to production with the violence jacked up a tad as an added selling point.

Even the title is lazy and uninterested. The Happening? Might as well be The Occurrence or The Incident or The Circumstance or Some Shit – the latter being the most accurate.

Mark Wahlberg isn’t the most accomplished thespian around but he’s certainly capable of carrying a picture. This garbage gave him so little to do, he came off like an Andy Samberg impression of himself.


2. The Village

imageArgh. This tour-de-force in audience contempt exists for the sole purpose of a plot twist. M. Night meanders through a tepid, tedious love triangle to get to the shocking reveal that…who cares.

Everyone figured out the damn ending fifteen minutes into the movie and if you didn’t, you’re the kind of person who’s jaw hits the floor at the end of every Murder She Wrote episode.

There is nothing of value here, save for the wasted performance of Bryce Dallas Howard and a few spooky set pieces that, had they mattered in the grand scheme of things, might have been worth sitting through.

Whereas Signs is about regaining faith and The Happening, no matter how clumsy, tries to be a commentary on ravaging the environment, The Village is thematically empty.

“What if the leaders of a 19th century village told everyone there were monsters in the forest?”

“Okay, and?”

“And that’s it.”

I hate this movie.


1. The Last Airbender

imageThe last three on this list are almost interchangeable, I’m placing The Last Airbender at #1 because it was more than a terrible movie, it was the dismantling of an otherwise worthy franchise.

Shyamalan didn’t just disappoint fans of his own material, he enraged the fans of a beloved property by half-assing a screenplay that seemed completely unfamiliar with basic mechanics.

One of the most fundamental aspects of screenwriting is infusing exposition seamlessly into the narrative. The characters in The Last Airbender shout out declarative statements in the most amateurish, embarrassing way possible.

Maybe the tentpole action/adventure isn’t his thing, no shame in that, but rudimentary elements like that should not be a problem.

The Last Airbender stumbles on the first step.


In summation, M. Night Shyamalan is a worthy writer/director with the necessary restraints. Hopefully, after a decade of ego-induced bombast, he’ll get back to making movies with a strong thematic presence and a cast of characters worth caring about.

After Earth doesn’t look like the return to form I’m looking for but stranger things have happened.

Perhaps the grand twist in the Shyamalan saga is that the unique voice of a talented filmmaker isn’t dead after all?

Or maybe not:

We’ll see. Review this Friday.

Image Credit: Showrenity

Image Credit: Shooting The Script