The Man Who Hates Good Movies: Armond White

There are a surprising number of 100% scored movies on Rotten Tomatoes, but there should be a few more.  It’s the 99% ones I’m interested in.  Who are the reviewers spoiling perfection?  The ones who label a consensus masterpiece as trash.   When it comes to film critics who consistently go against the grain, a few notorious names stand out as the biggest outliers.

Armond White is probably the most infamous contrarian critic today. He has panned countless critically lauded films, from Oscar winners like 12 Years a Slave to genre hits like The Dark Knight. Roger Ebert once called White “a troll”; White wears the term proudly.

The late John Simon was also known for his scathing reviews in defiance of consensus praise. Simon slammed classics like The Godfather, Network, and Apocalypse Now in reviews often seen as needlessly mean-spirited.  As Jon Lovitz might say, Jealous?

Back to Armond White is a controversial film critic known for his negative reviews of beloved and critically acclaimed movies. For example, he called the prison drama The Shawshank Redemption “a simplistic, resolutely uncinematic fable” and said it “reveals what sham movie idealism can be”. He also slammed the iconic TV series Breaking Bad as “immoral and nonsensical” and said it promoted “pointlessly foul softcore nihilism”.

Recently he called Barbie “A woke, sanitized, and ultimately boring take on the iconic doll and Oppenheimer (2023): “A convoluted, self-indulgent mess that’s more interested in style than substance.”

Doing a search White uses the style over substance very frequently.  Especially Oscar-nominated and winning films.

So what are White’s motivations for panning these acclaimed works? He claims he wants to challenge consensus and offer a fresh perspective. However, some believe he simply enjoys being a provocateur. Others think he promotes obscurer films he deems more significant while dismissing anything too mainstream or crowd-pleasing.

Troll or not, at least he’s no Rex Reed; another critic with a long history of panning smash hits, from Star Wars to Titanic. His aggressive takedowns are littered with cringy  insults, once calling Melissa McCarthy “tractor-sized” and a “female hippo.”

Whatever drives White, he clearly relishes the role of the contrarian, unafraid to harshly critique what most hail as brilliant. While he frustrates a film’s biggest fan, he sparks debate.  He makes his readers back up their claims. It’s hard to take his reviews seriously however it does make you curious to see his take on every movie..

Sure, here are some snippets from Armond White’s reviews of some loved films:

The Shawshank Redemption (1994): “A treacly, sentimental tearjerker that’s been embalmed by the critical establishment.”

Breaking Bad (2008-2013): “A smug, self-satisfied show that’s more interested in style than substance.”

The Dark Knight Rises (2012): “A bloated, overstuffed mess that’s a pale imitation of its predecessor.”

The Shape of Water (2017): “A pretentious, self-indulgent film that’s more interested in style than substance.”

These are just a few examples, and White has given negative reviews to many other loved films. His reasons for disliking these films vary.

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