When I told a friend of mine that we were going to be talking about Crash this week, the race one, not the fetish sex one, my friend said that it didn’t belong in this Hunt. She said that everyone agrees it shouldn’t have won Best Picture over Brokeback Mountain, and that because of that false victory it’s become an easy target, but that in reality it’s a decent, touching movie. First of all, just as a reminder to everyone, the way the Hunt works is any movie can be nominated, iif it’s not the worst movie then I will say as much and we will move forward. But no movie is above being nominated. Second of all, Crash is not a decent and touching movie. In fact, it’s such a horrible mess of inflammatory racism and reductive clichés that while it’s not the WMOAT in the way that, say, Baby Geniuses is the WMOAT, it’s the WMOAT in the way that Birth of a Nation is the WMOAT. This movie should be sentenced to 100 million hours of community service.

Crash centers around a half-dozen interconnected stories about people living in Los Angeles. There’s Don Cheadle as a detective sleeping with his white partner. There’s Terrence Howard as a sitcom director who’s having trouble with his light-skinned wife after they’re harassed by a racist cop, played by Matt Dillon. There’s Matt Dillon’s partner, Ryan Phillipe, who asks for a transfer because of Dillon’s obvious racism, but then does something crazy and racist on his own. Ludacris plays a car-jacker who only robs white people and espouses a unique brand of modern race theory, like some kind of street smart Cornel West. And then there’s Brendan Fraser as the Los Angeles District Attorney, whose racist and clinically depressed wife, Sandra Bullock, is basically Tea Leoni in Spanglish. Also there’s a Hispanic locksmith and a Persian convenience store owner. All of them run all over the city being racist and non-racist to each other, pointing guns in each other’s faces and breaking down stereotypes only to reinforce other stereotypes. It’s like an Afterschool Special for horrible people. It kind of reminds me of Death Wish, except in Death Wish, every time Charles Bronson left the house he would be immediately attacked by armed gang members, whereas in this movie, as soon as anyone leaves the house they are immediately attacked by improbable clashes of racial tensions.

One of the main problems with the movie is that it was written by Paul Haggis, who, in addition to being a terrible writer, is for all intents and purposes is the whitest man on Earth. He wrote LA Law and …thirtysomething. I barely even feel comfortable writing about this movie as a white person, so I can only imagine what kind of moral diarrhea Paul Haggis must be feeling. Of course, he’s not feeling any moral diarrhea because Paul Haggis is the kind of person, apparently, who tells his black friends why they should be offended by hip hop’s portrayal of African American culture, and refers to himself as the Oppressor. I’m not saying that white people can’t recognize racism, or that a white person could never write thoughtfully and meaningfully about the problems facing our country. I’m just saying this white person (Haggis) can’t recognize racism, and this white person could never write thoughtfully and meaningfully about the problems facing our country.

Case in point, as the movie opens and we’re being introduced to all of the characters, Ludacris is having a spirited debate with Larenz Tate about how they were treated poorly in a restaurant because of the color of their skin, and then he points to Sandra Bullock walking by and how she bristled at them because they were black, even though they’re dressed like USC students and look non-threatening. “If anyone should be scared around here, it’s us. We’re the only two black people surrounded by a sea of over-caffeinated white people and the trigger happy LAPD. So you tell me, why aren’t we scared?” There’s a momentary pause, and then Larenz Tate says “Because we have guns?” And then they proceed to CAR JACK SANDRA BULLOCK. So just to get this straight, two young black men are complaining about racism and then flip the paradigm on its head by being violent criminals? Whoops, hold on. My brain just crashed, I have to restart it. And every scene is like this, multi-layered racism in combinations that don’t even exist.

At a certain point, the film just collapses under the weight of its own “meaningfulness.” For example, the angry Persian store owner goes over to the Hispanic locksmith’s house to shoot him because the locksmith told him to get his door fixed but he was racist against the locksmith and thought he was trying to cheat him out of money and then his store got broken into and the insurance company told him he was negligent in fixing his door, but instead of shooting the Hispanic locksmith he shoots the locksmith’s five-year-old daughter, but it turns out that the gun was full of blanks because apparently the Persian’s daughter knew that her dad could not be trusted with a gun and she put blanks in the gun. OK, except that after the “miracle” of the little girl surviving a shot to the head, everyone just goes their separate ways? The police are not called? And then Persian man believes that the little girl is his protective angel and that everything is going to be OK, which would be a totally beautiful life lesson to get this man’s life on track, except that I personally take issue with any life lesson that can only be learned BY SHOOTING LITTLE GIRLS IN THE HEAD.

Characters become three dimensional when they act in contradiction to the audience’s pre-conceived notions about them. So, when a criminal commits a small act of kindness, or when a good guy commits a small act of cruelty, they become human. The problem is that Crash‘s characters are all one-dimensional, so that when they decide not to be racist for a second, or when Ryan Phillipe decides to shoot Larenz Tate for no reason whatsoever, the best they can hope to become is two-dimensional. Not to mention the fact that every actor is completely typecast, which as a practice has a long history of racial bias. So Don Cheadle plays the quiet, conflicted cop, while Ludacris is a gangbanger. Matt Dillon plays a working class stiff just trying to get through the day, while Brendan Fraser plays a shiny beaurocrat. I guess what I’m trying to say is this movie should have won the Academy Award for FAIL.

Next week: K-Pax. As always, leave your suggestions in the comments or in an email. And if you haven’t done so already, please consult the Official Rules.

Comments (67)
  1. hep  |   Posted on Aug 11th, 2008 0

    this is the truest truth! Crash went to the Little Children school of smugly uprooting obvious issues by hideously reinforcing them. all I have to say is “why you no use the blakes? THE BLAKES!”

    p.s. that’s a nomination for Little Children

    • bobbabjak  |   Posted on Feb 4th, 2009 0

      I totally second “Little Children” solely on the basis of the most obvious and overbearing VO narration in film history.

  2. I thought Don Cheadle’s partner was hispanic? They threw in a “cars parked on lawn” jab at least once, if I remember correctly.

    Also, K-Pax is a really good choice. I think I already mentioned Bicentennial Man. Can I second my own vote? Does anyone else remember how terrible and boring this movie was? (Or really any Robin Williams movie?)

  3. Mark  |   Posted on Aug 11th, 2008 +3

    “Crash” is deservingly on “The Hunt”… it is hypocritical and contradictory. Whenever someone mentions that they LOVE Crash I ask them what the moral of it is. Everyone pauses for about 10 seconds,,their gears clearly grinding beyond belief sorting all of the contradictions and stupidty, before they say “Racism is bad.” Then why does the movie show all the non-racist characters as ulimately racist? So is the moral of the story “Everyone is racist, even people that aren’t. That’s life.”? I could go on… but I’d rather re-read your blurb and agree with everything.

  4. Chadams  |   Posted on Aug 11th, 2008 +1

    Thanks for the Leoni nod, Gabe. Here’s the difference. Bullock’s character you want to punch some learnin’ into, Leoni’s you just want to put her out of her drunken, saddy-sad, “I just got done shooting a NyQuil commercial as evidenced by my gin blossom” misery.

  5. caringiscool  |   Posted on Aug 11th, 2008 -5

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  6. matt  |   Posted on Aug 11th, 2008 0

    crash is the worst type of gutter shit.

  7. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  8. Adam  |   Posted on Aug 11th, 2008 +3

    Great write-up, dead on. Of course, the film’s most egregious error is expecting anyone to believe in Matt Dillon’s character. I’m supposed to believe that a cop who sexually assaults a woman in a traffic stop just because he can is suddenly a hero because he then SAVES THAT SAME WOMAN from a burning car wreck? Disturbing. No, Paul Haggis, I am not going to sympathize with the rapist character. No matter how hard you try. Anybody else guess the identity of the “mysterious” body Don Cheadle was investigating within the first half hour of the flick? I’m guessing lots of you. Crash is Magnolia for the KKK.

  9. I admit I kind of liked this film the first time I watched it, but I was 14 and thus was excused from too much deep thinking. The second time I saw it (a year or two later) I realized how bad it was. And I totally agree with everything you say here.

  10. please check it  |   Posted on Aug 11th, 2008 0

    John Tucker Must Die is every kind of offensive awful trash made for teenagers. Also Ashanti’s in it. Represent the teen ‘comedy’ vote!!! (I’m not actually a teenager, i just have a lot of time on my hands)

  11. Capote deserved the Oscar that year. hands down.

  12. It was as if Lars Von Trier remade Grand Canyon

  13. Wow, that was excellent! And Sandra Bullock’s career has really gone down hill since “Speed.”


  14. Still not convinced it belongs on the Hunt, though you nailed the “message”. I especially agree with Adam’s comment about Matt Dillon’s character. Showing me that the racist cop can save people and has to deal with his prostate-cancer ridden father doesn’t make me feel sympathy for him after he’s RAPED a girl. That would be like if Frank Booth in Blue Velvet visited nursing homes and played guitar for the residents, on his days off from being an asshole.

    And personally, I liked Good Night and Good Luck the best.

  15. Nick  |   Posted on Aug 11th, 2008 +1

    Do Miami Vice!

  16. Sarah  |   Posted on Aug 12th, 2008 +4

    Is “Bicentennial Man” the movie with the robot who has feelings and expresses them through intricate wooden carvings and then marries the youngest daughter in the family that he was like a robot nanny to her and then won’t let her die and keeps giving her this weird blue elixir so she can stay alive and old forever and they can keep having sex?

    I’m pretty sure it is. In which case, I think that this passes the ultimate WMOAT test ? do I almost want to warn Gabe not to watch it to protect his (tenuous) faith in the human condition? Why yes, yes I do.

  17. tycho  |   Posted on Aug 12th, 2008 0

    that was a really great write up.

    question for the rulebook. Does the celebrity have to be a celebrity in american only?

    either way; 2046 has to be the worst film i have ever seen in a cinema. It has Zhang Ziyi, and featured people who are really famous in korea. It is just an utterly pointless lesson in how to hide the fact that you hace nothing to say about something, but have a lot of money to throw away.

  18. Shane  |   Posted on Aug 12th, 2008 +1

    Bicentennial Man is hands-down, bar-none the worst movie I’ve ever seen. Though that clip above is mighty awful…

  19. What? You actually compared “Crash,” which is basically a Lifetime Movie with curse words, to “Birth of a Nation,” one of the most innovative movies of all time? Sure, it’s racist as hell, but Haggis is no D.W. Griffith.

    Other than that, total agreement, although you neglected to mention what an insane tissue of contrivances and coincidences the movie’s plot is. When you factor in how massively sprawling Los Angeles is, the fact that so many of these characters repeatedly encounter each other (under incredibly overheated circumstances, natch) within a very compressed time frame, the sheer absurdity of the movie overwhelms everything else that’s wrong with it. (For the record, I hate that usage of the word “tissue.”)

  20. Please choose Point of No Return (the jaw droppingly awful remake of one of my favorite movies ever, La Femme Nikita) starring the stunningly talented Bridget Fonda. Back in the days of the VCR it’s the only movie I ripped out, tossed across the room and jumped on feverishly, happily incurring the 40 dollar destructo-fee. It was dead, and could inflict no more pain on the unsuspecting movie renting public. I had done my job.

  21. SO TRUE. I hate that movie and never thought it deserved any accolade except the one from the bottom of my shoe. Nice one…

  22. Hogan  |   Posted on Aug 12th, 2008 +1

    Just to show how pathetic America is, “Crash” is currently the number 1 movie on the “Netflix Top 100″ movies…

  23. Bicentennial Man, yes. I also fell asleep while watching that horrible movie.
    Spice World and Kazaam should be up for The Hunt, as well.

  24. Rich  |   Posted on Aug 14th, 2008 -4

    How about A Knight’s Tale? Only seen four minutes of it but the sight of blonde locked Heath Ledger riding into stylised medeival village to the music of Queen was enough to make the ears nose and throat bleed a little.

    Plus, surely it’s time for an antidote to the hysterical post-death sycophancy, including the over the top success of Dark Knight? I saw that four minutes during a Heath Marathon on Australian tv just days after the event that stopped a nation. Sad, but it’s not like the guy cured cancer.

  25. Yes! This is the worst film I’ve ever seen in my entire life. And anyone who thinks that this is a deep, or perceptive examination of race relations in this country need only watch “The Wire.” (Specifically anything having to do with Carcetti.)

  26. Jackie  |   Posted on Aug 14th, 2008 +1

    I’d like to nominate the 1995 movie Fair Game starring Billy Baldwin and Cindy Crawford. Also the 1995 movie Congo. Oh, and Virtuosity. (Though realistically, I love Virtuosity, which was also in 1995.) Oh God – Judge Dredd was also 1995. I guess I just want to nominate 1995 for best worst year for best worst movies.

  27. Watch how I write something, using perfect diction and a steady pace AND THEN SOMETHING SLIGHTLY OUT OF THE NORM HAPPENS, and I let you know with big, huge inflammatory caps. This pick in my mind was purely personal hatred. Crash’s nomination a couple of years back was definitely a reflection of the poor selection of movies that year. However, you’re taking a huge leap to even consider it as the worst movie of all-time.

  28. I whole-heartedly agree; awful movie. Just rip off okay-but-not-great mosaic flicks like Traffic and Magnolia, add some easy tearjerking ‘emotional’ stuff, and top it off with a sh*tload of societal and racial clichés, and this is what comes out. No wonder it was written and directed by a Scientology dude. Too bad about Matt Dillon, though – loved him in ‘Drugstore Cowboy’, ‘Rumble Fish’ and ‘Factotum’.

  29. John Doe74  |   Posted on Aug 25th, 2008 -13

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • tautou  |   Posted on Oct 2nd, 2008 +4

      You’re so right! How did I not see it before?! Dude thanks for being so movie smart. I need Roger Ebert’s expert analysis to really UNDERSTAND Crash. Get some brains the rest of you!
      Movie dummies!

  30. “Get some brains!” What an awesome, ESL sounding quote. I am going to start saying that, it sounds like Borat or something. Also, do House Of The Dead. Based on a video game, plus double awful super horrible.

  31. Jake  |   Posted on Aug 27th, 2008 +1

    I nominate The Quiet for the worst movie of all time, starring Elisha Cuthbert and Camilla Belle. It is an insane abortion of a movie that has to be seen to be believed.

  32. disappointed in how short your lashing of Crash is. Please, please go back and write at least another 1000 words. You left out so much, I feel you glossed over how vapid and improbable and hackneyed this movie is. Please, moar.

  33. RichYan33  |   Posted on Oct 3rd, 2008 +2

    Oh Bless you. This was THE most heavy handed piece of crap I ever saw. I have no idea how this was a hit let alone an Oscar winner. When Dillon ends up helping the woman he felt up I almost busted out laughing it was so ridiculous.

  34. jacob  |   Posted on Oct 29th, 2008 0

    i realized reading this that you HAVE to do Babel. the reason being is that it is the exact same awful movie, but it deals with the least interesting or controversial topic of all time: communication. at least this movie failed at racism. Babel fails because two kids get stranded in mexico because brad pitt doesn’t speak spanish. WHAT THE FUCK?

  35. Ben  |   Posted on Nov 4th, 2008 -1

    don cheadle’s girlfriend was not white, she was hispanic. He only said that to further ire his mother. Wasn’t sure if you corrected that later on or not. Didn’t have enough patience to read the whole thing.

  36. this one is for at-home-sitting moms… just one more drama for wipping

  37. Samaire  |   Posted on Nov 20th, 2008 -14

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  38. “It was as if Lars Von Trier remade Grand Canyon” Trevormail is so spot on. I think Grand Canyon needs a nomination though – I would honestly sit through Crash five times in a row before I’d watch Grand Canyon again. One of my least favorite movies ever.

  39. hilary tong  |   Posted on Nov 30th, 2008 -5

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  40. bill  |   Posted on Jan 6th, 2009 -13

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  41. wishiwasyou  |   Posted on Jan 13th, 2009 +4

    Crash was one of the worst formula crap movies I have ever had the displeasure of seeing. The fact that this movie won any acclaim is surprising. I had a sociology class that forced me to write a 2000 word paper about the film. The paper was 1500 words about how gut wrenchingly awful this movie was and 500 words relating to the topic. The teacher gave me an A. Go figure.

  42. wishiwasyou  |   Posted on Jan 13th, 2009 +1

    Crash was one of the worst formula crap movies I have ever had the displeasure of seeing. The fact that this movie won any acclaim is surprising. I had a sociology class that forced me to write a 2000 word paper about the film. The paper was 1500 words about how gut wrenchingly awful this movie was and 500 words relating to the topic. The teacher gave me an A. Go figure.

  43. Synch G  |   Posted on Jan 14th, 2009 -1

    I am a Hispanic, born in downtown Los Angeles, and spent my childhood in the slums of East LA. So it’s safe to say I know my own race better then Paul Haggis, and more in my right to comment in whatever manner I choose, although I never adapted to the ghetto-ness of my surroundings . I have seen and heard my fair share of corruption. Gabe’s comment on Paul Haggis telling other races what they should find offensive is dead on. BECAUSE any Hispanic that was visually presented like in the movie IN THE REAL WORLD, WOULD HAVE MOST LIKELY done something like sold the fucking keys! or worse… Hell, even the kept dressed looking Hispanics would have done something similar. Paul Haggis, co-creater of “Walker, Texas Ranger” clearly the mastermind of our time.
    I’ve seen pics of him too prior to this article: red haired+bald+freaking white as fuck. If i didn’t know he was a screenwriter just by looking at him, I would have thought he was a gay ballet/dancing instructor.

  44. Adam Bruneau  |   Posted on Jan 22nd, 2009 +1

    Yes! Yes! You are so OTM. I heard so much about how it was an ‘important’ movie about ‘racial issues’ and all this deep shit. I barely made it past the carjack scene with Ludacris before realizing how massive of a lie it all was. People that think this movie is important are idiots.

  45. narg  |   Posted on Jan 23rd, 2009 0

    I got in an argument with my gf about how awful this movie is. She called me insensitive, I called her stupid….We are no longer dating, but I made sure to email her this link….thanks stereogum!

  46. Max Thrax  |   Posted on Jan 24th, 2009 0

    Didn’t like it much, but it’s okay. Brokeback was robbed, but this isn’t even the worst movie that won Best Picture. That distinction belongs to Rocky or Shakespeare in Love, and that essentially disqualifies Crash from being considered.

  47. Ujala  |   Posted on Jan 25th, 2009 -4

    I think this was a beautiful movie. Not Oscar material, but entertaining nonetheless.

    I thought that it didn’t preach, but showed us racism in this world in a very real way. The acting was flawless. Everything about this movie was great, IMO.

    But i have to say, You’re not going to know until YOU watch the movie yourself. This is the kind of movie that depends on your personal tastes if you’ll like it or not…

    I would gladly watch it over again if i had to.
    Do i think it belongs in this list? NOOOO a million times.

  48. Jewel  |   Posted on Jan 25th, 2009 -3

    I don’t think you understand the concept of the film. it was more to show that racism exists, and what it does to society, than to preach.

    There wasn’t a message, which i alright too. You’re supposed to do figure that for yourself.

    Should this have won over BBMountain? It’s a pretty close run. But no.

  49. bob  |   Posted on Feb 2nd, 2009 -4

    yea, you’re right. brokeback mountain was soooooo much better than crash. the only good thing about brokeback mountain was the mountainous backdrop

  50. Oliver  |   Posted on Feb 5th, 2009 -5

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  51. Apsaras  |   Posted on Mar 31st, 2009 +3

    So instead of “Racism is bad”, the lesson of Crash is supposed to be “Rasicm is.” What blistering insight!

  52. david  |   Posted on Apr 10th, 2009 +2

    Give my vote to Crash as well. Those of you up in arms just don’t get it. Glitter and Showgirls are easy to dismiss. The reason why Crash is so abhorrently bad, is because it’s a “serious” movie that’s so intellectually incompetent.

  53. Seriously dude? Crash? I agree with about 90% of the stuff you had up there but when I saw this and Boondock Saints you lost all credibility. Some people just like to complain I guess.

    I hear the University of Phoenix is offering film school. You should add those classes when you see your advisor next week.

  54. Silly you! Of course Crash won over Brokeback Mountain because accepting racial differences is much more appropriate than accepting a homosexual love! Duh! It surely was a false victory.

    Anyways, my biggest problem with the movie is that NO THEY DID NOT GIVE A HEARTWARMING ENDING FOR EVERY RACE!! Yes everyone learned their lesson, yes they all had a moment to stop being racist and think for a moment. Everyone except Asians. Think about the Asian guy. In fact, they called him Chinese the whole movie but he spoke Korean in the end. They had a broken English accent & also a broken Korean accent….. okay…… so what language do they really speak then?!? He was the asshole selling his own kind, and was worried about cash until the last minute. The Asians got the least coverage time wise, and character wise, and nothing good was said about them!

    Lesson learned: everyone has a heart deep down inside except the Asians. Awesome.

  55. mar  |   Posted on May 12th, 2009 0

    is it weird that i think that crash, the fetish sex one, is a decent, touching movie?

  56. vrotmnenogi

  57. Shaz  |   Posted on Jul 17th, 2009 +1

    Next time someone is being racist to you? Don’t feel bad – cause they are just feeling lonely and want to crash against something to feeeeel.

    What a bunch of bullshit!

  58. joel  |   Posted on Aug 19th, 2009 0

    maybe not the worst ever, perhaps only the most blatant (of course Mr. Haggis is the man who brought us Walker, Texas Ranger)

  59. This film’s depiction of Los Angeles is completely off and wrong….counted as a bad film by everyone in my family.

  60. Not sure if anyone mentioned this already, but it’s worth noting that Paul Haggis has gone on record several times (including in a recent issue of “Script” magazine) as saying that “Crash” was written essentially, as a joke- a mishmash of obvious “insights” and an exercise in lampooning liberal guilt.

    Which sort of makes it even an even worse film, if you think about it.

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