9 of the most divisive movies of the last decade

most divisive movies

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With violent new crime thriller Only God Forgives splitting critics and cinema-goers completely down the middle, it seems an ideal time to look at the most divisive movies in recent memory.

From highbrow sci-fi epics to jaw-droppingly outrageous comedies, WOW247 picks out nine modern films that are loved and loathed in equal measure.

most divisive movies
[Hero or Zero? - Jon Heder in Napoleon Dynamite]

The Fountain (2006)

Hailed by some for its audacious sense of ambition, and hated by others for its perceived pretentiousness, Darren Aronofsky’s multi-stranded, visually spectacular drama stars Hugh Jackman as a Spanish conquistador, modern-day scientist and floating, bald-headed space voyager – all desperately seeking to prevent their lover’s death. Confused? You probably will be.

Admirers point to its powerful themes and imagery, beautiful cinematography and incredible Clint Mansell soundtrack. Detractors argue that it’s a confused, ludicrous and pompous mess.

What the critics say:

“Profound, moving and thought-provoking, this is a complex and gorgeous mini-epic” – Empire

“Pretentious, unfocused, and fussy, it manages to make Hugh Jackman unattractive and unsympathetic” – Chicago Reader

Cloverfield (2008)

The worlds of found-footage horror and city-destroying monsters collide in this Blair Witch meets Godzilla thriller – which sees a bunch of friends recording the unfolding chaos when New York gets attacked by a giant creature.

It’s a veritable nightmare of a movie: but people disagree over exactly why. For every individual who salutes it as a nail-biting exercise in first-person terror and suspense, there’s another who dismisses it as an infuriating turkey of nauseating shakey-cam and annoying, unsympathetic characters.

What the critics say:

“A sustained triumph of expanding and contracting perspectives, it whip-pans from human-scale panic to skyscraper-toppling spectacle” – Village Voice

“The realism of Cloverfield’s special effects fails to extend to the scurrying humans, whose fates inspire yawns and contempt” – New York Times

Napoleon Dynamite (2004)

Armed with a substantial cult following and a whole heap of famous admirers, this low-budget, offbeat comedy about a misfit high-schooler has nonetheless found itself facing a mighty backlash from those who argue it’s been over-hyped and unjustly feted.

Some claim it’s got great deadpan humour, a refreshing sense of originality and bag-fulls of likable charm. Others see the title character as an annoying, aggravating buffoon sitting atop a sea of aimless stupidity.

What the critics say:

“This film is tight, resonant, funny as hell, seriously bent and whacked, and also wonderfully healing” – Washington Post

“If Napoleon Dynamite really is a semiautobiographical exercise, it’s one of the most astoundingly self-hating in memory” – LA Weekly

Cloud Atlas (2012)

Probably the single most polarizing release of the last year, this ensemble adaptation of David Mitchell’s age-spanning novel sees its cast inhabiting a disparate range of characters across six different time periods.

But for every bit of praise it has received for its grand scale, astonishing visuals and hefty ambitions, it has received a hostile barb of contempt for its perceived pomposity and sometimes silly actor transformations – which include Hugh Grant as a post-apocalyptic cannibal chief.

What the critics say:

“What a demonstration of the magical, dreamlike qualities of the cinema – it fascinates” – Roger Ebert

“Defiantly sincere, totally lacking in self-awareness – and borderline offensive” –  LA Weekly

Tree Of Life (2011)

Terrence Malick’s existential character drama is both a story of one family’s emotional complexity in the 1950s, and a mediation on the nature of life itself. Your reaction to that summary will probably reflect your enjoyment, or lack thereof.

It’s masterfully acted, and at times utterly absorbing, but some of the more pretentious touches utterly alienate a large chunk of viewers – while the eyebrow-raising ‘birth of the universe scene’, CGI dinosaurs and all, has been the source of much derision.

What the critics say:

“There is simply nothing else like it: profound, complex, sincere and magical; a confirmation that cinema can aspire to art” – Empire

“Malick’s great ability holds us for a time, but this ends up a film that demands to be admired but cannot be easily embraced” – LA Times

Sunshine (2007)

Danny Boyle’s intriguing sci-fi thriller sees a determined space crew on a mission to re-ignite our dying sun – only for technical problems, deliberate sabotage and very human conflicts to jeopardize the future of humanity.

It has retained an enthusiastic cult following due to its brilliant soundtrack, stunning design and emotionally powerfully scenes (“what can you see?”), but plenty of scorn has been poured on its final third – with some claiming it descends into a mindless slasher movie and a kind of ‘2001-lite’.

What the critics say:

“Armed with sophisticated, underplayed authenticity, this thinking person’s thriller is never less than a blast” – Entertainment Weekly

Sunshine starts bad and gets worse. After watching it for 20 minutes, you really don’t care if all human life is doomed to destruction” – San Francisco Chronicle

Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003)

It’s no secret that this outlandish revenge outing from Quentin Tarantino is the director’s own gore-soaked love-letter to classic kung-fu and samurai movies – but not everyone appreciates the end result.

Fans lap up the lavish style, outrageous action sequences and memorable characters. Detractors see the whole enterprise as nothing more than a silly, childish exercise in giddy, adolescent self-indulgence.

What the critics say:

Quentin Tarantino is so brilliantly in command of his technique that he reminds me of an accordion prodigy setting a speed record for Lady of Spain” – Roger Ebert

“It boggles the mind that after six years of silence, all Tarantino has to offer is this puerile garbage” – San Francisco Chronicle

Babel (2006)

In a similar manner to The Fountain, Tree Of Life and Cloud Atlas, this is yet another ambitious, multi-stranded drama hailed by some as a genius piece of intelligent, poignant story-telling – and dismissed by others as a bloated heap of pretentious twaddle.

The earnest story spans three continents, as an American couple are faced with tragedy in Morocco, their Mexican nanny takes their children to a family wedding, and a deaf Japanese teenager struggles with sexual frustration and the death of her mother.

What the critics say:

“A rich, complex and ultimately heartbreaking film, Babel invites us to get past the babble of modern civilization and start listening to each other” – Rolling Stone

“Imagine global unrest as a cosmic game of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon; the predictable jigsawing of the script reeks of desperation” – Village Voice

Borat (2006)

Depending on your point of view, Sacha Baron-Cohen’s unashamedly boundary-pushing mockumentary is one of the funniest films ever made – or one of the most vulgar, distasteful and offensive.

As Baron-Cohen’s ignorant yet well-meaning title character embarks on a road trip across America, a whole load of outrageous situations emerge. Many delight in Borat’s no-holds barred humour and attempted highlighting of rampant bigotry. A seemingly equal number criticise its sometimes crude shock-tactics, ‘bear-baiting’, and use of staged scenarios. Which side are you on?

What the critics say:

“Absurd, outrageous, gross, disturbing, insightful – and so funny it’ll burst half the blood vessels in your face” – Empire

“As someone with a low tolerance for watching the humiliation of others—I spent most of the time squirming, cringing, averting my eyes, and plugging my ears” – New York Magazine

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Mark is the content manager for WOW247 in Leeds. When he isn't waxing lyrical about Ben Wheatley and Caravan Palace, he's landing news, assembling guides and penning features.