8 of the most audience-dividing, polarising films of all time

  • 8 of the most audience-dividing polarising films of all time

Darren Aronofsky's new film Mother! has seen audiences and critics divided over whether it is a ground-breaking thriller, or a dull, convoluted mess.

Cinema is littered with films that have as many detractors as they have fans, and here is a list of eight of the biggest films to polarise audiences since the year 2000...

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

The last film that legendary director Stanley Kubrick finished, and was released after his death starred real-life couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman as an unhappily married couple, as the husband infiltrates a secret society's masked orgy in the tale of scandal, sex and paranoia.

Depending on who you ask, the film is either beautifully shot or crushingly boring and slow-paced, the tension and paranoia are either overwhelmingly primal, or non-existent, while the main characters either deliver excellent performances or play ridiculously sexually-naive characters.

Both sides of the argument would be in agreement that Kubrick wanted to use his incredible attention-to-detail and directing skills to create a beautifully-shot Venetian masked orgy scene, and grossing $162 million worldwide, there's no denying that he got audiences into cinemas, but whether they were pleased with what they were watching depends on each viewer.

Crash (2004)

A star-studded ensemble cast, including Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Michael Peña, Ryan Phillippe and Ludacris featured in a series of interweaving stories of racial prejudice dished out and/or received by a whole host of different characters in modern-day Los Angeles.

The film's intense moral message of bigotry and xenophobia struck home with some, who were unsettled by the portrayal of abuse and disconnect between people of different standings and backgrounds, while many decried that the 'good or evil' depiction of racism had all the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

Despite the staunchly divided opinions of fans and critics, Crash picked up the Best Picture Oscar, controversially beating Brokeback Mountain to the prize and has gone on to be labelled as the worst Best Picture winner of all time, and even its director Paul Haggis agreed that it shouldn't have won.

The Tree of Life (2011)

Auteur director Terrence Malick is, by his very nature, a divisive director, his films The Thin Red Line, Days of Heaven and The New World have polarised viewers who either love his experimental existential approach, or hate his meandering, unfocused output.

But with 2011's The Tree of Life, Malick took it to the next polarising level, as he chronicles the meaning of life through a middle-aged man's childhood memories, which was both booed and applauded at its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, going on to pick up the prestigious Palme d'Or - the festival's top prize.

Praised from some quarters for its beautiful, far-reaching and ambitious story on the very concept of existence, some decried the non-linear story for being painfully slow, incoherent and pretentiously self-absorbed - signs were memorably posted outside theatres with advice that potential viewers read up on the film before watching

Watchmen (2009)

Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' far-reaching, non-linear, satirical comic book set in an alternate history which saw America win the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal never happened, is regarded by many as the greatest comic book series of all time.

The unenviable task of converting the 12 issues into a coherent and watchable movie fell on the shoulders of Zack Snyder, who delivered a two hour and 42 minute sprawling, ambitious superhero story that split audiences and critics down the middle.

Visually striking and boasting one of the finest opening credits in film history, Snyder's convoluted movie didn't do much to recruit new fans into the fold, while Watchmen diehards either thought it was a visceral, ambitious triumph, or the stuffy and hollow onscreen results proved that it should have been left well alone to begin with.

Boyhood (2014)

Richard Linklater's unique premise of shooting scenes every year over 12 years to see a six-year-old boy grow into an adult in front of our eyes received incredible amounts of hype in the build-up to its release.

Upon its release, people were bowled over by the brilliant realisation of Linklater's idea, and it topped many film critics' list of best films of the year as well as picking up six Oscar nominations.

However, once the initial excitement had waned, many saw through the film's impressive concept that it was actually a fairly run-of-the-mill drama, and the only Oscar that it went on to receive was Best Supporting Actress - proving that the Academy were as divided about Boyhood as most of the people who had watched it.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

Stanley Kubrick had been planning the story of a robotic boy who dreams of becoming 'real' since the early '70s, but due to CGI restraints, didn't pursue it, before handing it over to Steven Spielberg in 1995 who set to work on getting it to the big screen in 1999.

Spielberg cast The Sixth Sense child actor Hayley Joel Osment to play the robo-Pinocchio David alongside a talented cast including Jude Law, William Hurt and Brendan Gleeson, as it grossed over $230 million worldwide.

Fans and critics were divided on the matter, with praise towards the inventive, intriguing masterpiece that explores ideas of what it means to be human; meanwhile, detractors rubbished the meandering, boring film that looked like Spielberg was unnecessarily and ineffectively trying to pay homage to the late, great Kubrick.

Signs (2002)

M. Night Shyamalan's third major directorial effort, after the phenomenal The Sixth Sense and understated superhero cult classic Unbreakable, was the story of a priest who has lost his faith as the planet is visited by aliens.

With his previous two films utilising huge twist endings, when a Signs twist never materialised, some expectant audiences were disappointed at the lack of pay-off, while others were pleased that Shyamalan had averting expectations by dispensing with a twist.

Overall, some fans enjoyed the sustained tension throughout the film and dubbed Shyamalan a master filmmaker, however disappointed viewers were bored by the lack of thrills, and pointed at massive plot holes, including the aliens' aversion to water while visiting a planet made up of 70 percent water.

Avatar (2009)

James Cameron's epic sci-fi movie was ground-breaking in becoming the first major 3D release, and its extensive use of motion-capture to create the world of Pandora earned it nine Oscar nominations, going home with three statuettes.

The story of a paraplegic marine entering the moon Pandora in order to mine for the valuable mineral unobtanium became the highest-grossing film of all time, and heralded by fans for being visually stunning as it created a modern sci-fi classic comparable to the immense universe of Star Wars.

Cameron's story has been criticised for stealing the plot of Pocahontas or Dances with Wolves, and how it fits the trope of the 'white saviour' saving the 'backwards' native people.

James Cameron is still pushing ahead with three Avatar sequels, which - owing to the fallout from the original - won't be attended by many viewers of the original.

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