An insider's guide to the Razzies – the Oscars for bad movies

A brief history of the annual anti-Academy Awards from one of this year's longlist voters

Razzies founder John Wilson at the annual Razzie Awards in 2012 in Santa Monica, California. Getty Images
Powered by automated translation

Now that the Oscars have announced their 2023 nominations, awards season is well and truly under way. And for one subset of movie fans — namely the unapologetic lovers of truly terrible cinema — that means one thing above all: it's time to take stock of the very worst films of the last year ahead of the Golden Raspberry Awards, better known as the Razzies.

True to form, last week the Razzies followed the Oscars with their own shortlist. Curiously, while Austin Butler was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Elvis Presley, Tom Hanks's performance as Colonel Tom Parker in the same film, alongside his part as Geppetto in Disney's critically slated live-action Pinocchio remake, earned him three nods from the Razzies.

The Razzies, widely recognised as Hollywood’s leading celebration of all things awful in cinema, celebrate their 43rd birthday this year, and they’ve come a long way since co-founder John Wilson, himself a Hollywood publicist, invented them — essentially by accident.

Wilson recalled in a 2005 interview with South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel how the germ of the Razzies came to him while driving home from a double-bill screening of The Village People movie Can’t Stop the Music and the Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly-starrer Xanadu in 1980: “Those two movies ought to get awards for being that lousy,” he thought.

Wilson, who was also required to watch a host of less-than-stellar movies as part of his day job promoting them, put his the idea to the test at the beginning of 1981 when, at his annual Oscars night party at home in LA, he closed the evening by inviting his guests to cast ballots on their least-favourite films of the year in a makeshift living-room ceremony.

The event was a success and an impromptu press release was picked up by local media. Things snowballed from there. Just over 30 people had attended that first “ceremony” in 1981. Attendance would double annually for the next couple of years as press interest grew, and by the 1984 event the awards were being covered by CNN and major newswires.

With public interest piqued, Wilson realised he needed to move the event to maximise coverage — he may have been lampooning the world’s biggest, glitziest movie bash, but by holding his ceremony on the same evening he was also competing with it.

So, in 1984, the Razzies moved to their now-traditional slot of Oscars Eve, capitalising on the presence of the global movie media in Hollywood with time to kill ahead of the big event, and moving out of Wilson’s living room for the first time, to a public ceremony at LA’s Third Street Elementary School.

The Razzies have kept growing, and 2020’s 40th anniversary would have been the first televised Razzies ceremony, from the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre, courtesy of broadcaster Comedy Dynamics. Sadly, Covid-19 ultimately had other ideas.

Highlights of the Razzies’ 43-year history include Halle Berry showing up at the 2005 ceremony at Hollywood’s Ivar Theatre to collect her Worst Actress Award for Catwoman. She had her Monster’s Ball (2001) Oscar in hand, and an expletive-laden tirade at the film’s producers in mouth as she did so.

Berry isn’t alone in embracing the Raspberry. Paul Verhoeven (Worst Movie — Showgirls) and Sandra Bullock are also notable Razzie attendees. Bullock gamely accepted her 2010 Worst Actress Award for All About Steve saying: "I didn't realise that, in Hollywood, all you had to do was say you'd show up, and then you'd get the award. If I'd known that, I would have said I was appearing at the Oscars a long time ago."

Not everyone has been such a good sport. Sylvester Stallone is one of the Razzies' most frequent targets with 18 nominations in total. The Rambo actor has never confirmed that it was him, but “someone who sounded like him” left a far-from-pleased message on Wilson’s answerphone after the 2000 nomination for Worst Actor of the 1990s.

Postal director Uwe Boll, meanwhile, was far from complimentary towards Wilson in his acceptance video for 2019’s Worst Career lifetime achievement award.

And so to this year’s shortlist of flops. It’s probably no surprise to find Sony’s Marvel misfire Morbius and Disney's Pinocchio included, alongside Andrew Dominik's rather more divisive Blonde. Others include Blacklight, in which Liam Neeson channels the spirit of Liam Neeson, yet again with dramatically diminishing returns, and Disney's family comedy dud Cheaper by the Dozen.

In a rare democratic break with awards tradition, over the winter, the Razzies’ board allowed voters — about 650 people comprised of industry figures, previous winners, press and subscribers who have applied to join the jury — not only to consider the longlist, but also to suggest turkeys that may have been overlooked, or ideas for special categories on top of the annual awards such as Worst Actor and Worst On-Screen Combo.

Previous special categories included Worst Reckless Disregard for Human Life and Public Property (awarded twice, to Con Air in 1997 and Rambo: Last Blood in 2019) and the All Concept No Content Award for Worst Excuse for an Actual Movie, bestowed upon The Cat in the Hat in 2003.

Now that the shortlist is out of the way, all that remains is the final winners ceremony on March 11. While most eyes will be fixed on the interminable build-up of Baftas, Sag Awards and so forth to predict what films may triumph at the Oscars on March 12, there’s surely more fun to be had keeping tabs on the Razzies to predict what won’t.

Scroll through images of this year's Oscars Best Picture nominees below

Updated: January 27, 2023, 6:02 PM