When Hudson Hawk came out in 1991, I was mostly interested in whether or not hoverboards were real, and staying away from bullies, so I didn’t pay much attention to INDUSTRY NEWS, and yet it somehow managed to seep into even my distracted consciousness that that this was an epically horrible movie. To be fair, up until this weekend, I hadn’t seen it and I didn’t know anyone who’d seen it. So while I was definitely anticipating something awful, I was also fully aware that I could be operating under false information. Anyone who’s been to high school knows that reputations can far outlast the original event. And thus it is with a clear mind, and a guilt-free conscience, having watched the movie in its entirety, that I can say “Oh wow, no, Hudson Hawk is really horrible, you guys.” Seriously, someone should have left it in a plastic bag in the girl’s bathroom during prom.

Hudson Hawk is the nickname of a famous cat burglar, Eddie Hawkins, who’s just gotten out of prison after a 10-year-stint and is already being asked to perform another job, when all he wants is a cappuccino. Wait, no, let’s start earlier. Leonardo Da Vinci is a famous artist and inventor from the Italian Renaissance who has been asked to develop a machine that will transform lead into bronze, but Da Vinci does one better, creating a machine that transforms lead into gold, and also a paper-mache hang-glider. FAST FORWARD to1991, and Bruce Willis is talked into stealing a horse for from Sotheby’s by his best friend, Danny Aiello, to pay off a mob debt. But it turns out the horse contained a piece of Da Vinci’s gold machine, and everyone’s after it. Then Hudson Hawk is kidnapped by the C.I.A. and sent to Rome in a shipping crate where he meets Sandra Bernhard and Richard E. Grant who are billionaires conspiring to get all the crystals from Da Vinci’s gold machine and ruin the global economy. By devaluing gold. Meanwhile, Andie McDowell plays a nun from the Vatican who falls in love with Bruce Willis, Danny Aiello flies off a cliff in a car that explodes but doesn’t die because “air bags, ain’t that somethin’,” and they save the day and paraglide in Leonardo Da Vinci’s hang-glider into a village and get cappuccinos, The End, are you fucking kidding me?

If that synopsis is any indication, one of the movie’s main problems is that it’s insanely complicated for how stupid it is. There are multiple double-crosses and hidden allegiances as if this was the Bourne Identity instead of a slapstick action comedy starring and co-written by Bruce Willis. Not to mention the elaborately layered anti-business and anti-church messages, like some kind of precursor to the Da Vinci Code (which is admittedly kind of stupid too (understatement)) but without all those annoying attempts at making sense. But perhaps one of the most painful things is the movie’s unrelenting quirkiness. Take one of its main defining features, which is the fun little fact that Hudson Hawk times all his jobs by singing showtunes.

Ugh. I wish I was a professional cat burglar so I could steal my hour and a half back, RIGHT GUYS? Another example of this is the cappuccino theme. Because it’s 1991, it’s hilarious for a tough guy to like cappuccinos. Real men drink lattes. Anyway, no matter how hard he tries, Hudson Hawk can’t get a cappuccino. It’s either shot out his hand:

Or the cartoonish espresso machine, which is supposedly sitting at the end of a bar that’s popular with Wall Street types, explodes.

As with any good romantic comedy, Hudson finally is reunited with his star-crossed lover, cappuccino, at the end of the movie. The problem is that WHO FUCKING CARES?

Now, it’s not really possible to criticize Hudson Hawk without criticizing the entirety of the action comedy genre. Fair enough. So let’s. I love action movies and I love comedies, but the problem with action comedies is that they’re neither that action-packed nor that funny. Anything that works too hard at covering the spread is bound to be a mediocre disappointment. And Hudson Hawk might be the medicorest of all the disappointments. Take this scene in which Hudson Hawk steals Da Vinci’s notebook from the Vatican, a joke about the Pope’s cable reception is made, and then a hilarious scene involving Xenophobia and ketchup takes place:

Boo. Also, no offense Early ’90s, but Andie MacDowell was your girlfriend.

To be fair, there were a couple of winners in this movie. Sandra Berhnard basically plays herself in the movie, so you can’t hate on that. Also David Caruso, aka Horatio Cane came out on top.

Mainly because he didn’t have any speaking lines.

Hudson Hawk is definitely one of the worst movies ever made, not only because it’s so bad, but because it stands as a testament to all the ways that movies can go wrong. It’s sloppy and nonsensical and some kind of weird Bruce Willis passion project. It combines false history with bad action, dull comedy, slapstick sound effects, campy over-acting, and showtunes. If this were a drink at a party it would be called Graveyard, and it would kill you. Whoops, I didn’t even mention my main problem with the movie:

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

Comments (32)
  1. Have you considered Waterworld? Seriously, also, Man Of The Year. It was so terrible. Also, can you try Spawn? I know it was a comic, but that’s no excuse for what I saw. It was the most offensively shitty thing ever. Just try and watch it, any of you.

  2. im sure this has been nominated a million times, but i only saw it recently and i’m confident if you survive a veiwing you will agree the worst movie of all time is Natural Born Killers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_Born_Killers) starring everyone famous in 1994, written by quentin tarantino BUT heavily edited by Oliver Stone who appears to have consumed large amounts of peyote while directing it.

  3. In 1991 I was just mastering walking so that’s probably why I’ve never heard of this movie, but apparently that’s a good thing. Bruce Willis movies in general are to be avoided (with a few exceptions).

  4. Sailor Jerry  |   Posted on Aug 25th, 2008 0

    Driven is the end to your journey Gabe. It is the fat kid in gym class that the other worst movies of all time picked last.

  5. Hudson Hawk Enthusiast  |   Posted on Aug 25th, 2008 -2

    You’re SO wrong. Hudson Hawk was a subversive, great movie (or should have been) that was ruined by Bruce Willis. Did you notice that Daniel Waters was a co-screenwriter on it? He wrote Heathers. The problem is that he was buried beneath Bruce Willis, who insisted on having a hand in creative, and Steve de Souza, who had worked with Bruce on the Die Hard series. All of that cappuccino/showtune bullshit was 100% Bruce Willis. If you get rid of that stuff it’s a good, fun, moderately smart movie. I demand a re-evaluation or you can expect Scott to get a strongly worded letter.

  6. Tony  |   Posted on Aug 26th, 2008 0

    I have to disagree. I never gave Hudson Hawk its due because it had such a terrible reputation. I caught it for the first time a few years ago, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s flawed, and maybe it would have worked better with a smaller budget, but it’s so much fun. Is it a great movie? No, and it’s probably not for everyone. But it’s far from the worst movie of all time.

  7. cremefracas  |   Posted on Aug 26th, 2008 0

    I just watched a candidate for TWMOAT this weekend. It’s called ‘Replicant’ and it involves Jean Claude Van Damme fighting an evil Jean Claude Van Damme. And cloning, and prostitute love. Although I don’t know if Van Damme qualifies as B-list.

  8. zingers  |   Posted on Aug 26th, 2008 0

    I can’t believe that’s David Caruso. I can’t believe David Caruso even excited before he hatched out of the darkness as the most annoying/disgusting man on TV. Even his bio on IMDB kinda agrees:

    ” [...] pale skin, puffy-eyed baby face and crop of carrot-red hair are all obvious and intriguing trademarks of TV star David Caruso.” If by baby face and intriguing you mean corpse face and annoying.

  9. Steve Sanders  |   Posted on Aug 26th, 2008 -1

    Are you serious? That’s a great film!

    Masters of the Universe should be up! Or is He Man somehow regarded a superhero?

    • Steve Sanders  |   Posted on Aug 26th, 2008 0

      I meant to reply to the Natural Born Killers comment above.
      Have no opinion on Hudson Hawk.

  10. Steve Sanders  |   Posted on Aug 26th, 2008 0

    With plenty of exceptions!

  11. Rob  |   Posted on Aug 26th, 2008 0

    I can’t stand Willis’ ‘O’ face he makes when he’s just pulled off a moderately difficult physical maneuver. Check out 1:28 on the second video clip here for a brilliant(ly painful) example.

  12. any caper movie that relies on lazy security guards for the plot is not worth the time.

  13. dtrashed  |   Posted on Aug 27th, 2008 -1

    I still think that because this movie was intentionally campy and stupid it should be disqualified from the competition, but yeah, it wasn’t a very good movie. But actually in the running for worst movie ever? I’m sorry, this is no Wickerman.

  14. bruce willis is only at his best when he sings about wine coolers.


  15. papasquat  |   Posted on Aug 28th, 2008 0

    agreed it is a bad movie but it’s still one of my favorites of all time. when he launched the poodle out the window with the tennis machine i pissed myself laughing. m. night shamalan movies should be on the list of the worst.

  16. Averyslave  |   Posted on Aug 28th, 2008 0

    Ugh, I only made it through the first showtune before giving up and switching off the Superstation. If you’re interested in more Bruce Willis mania — “The Bonfire of the Vanities”. If not, “Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever”, “Freddy Got Fingered”, or “End of Days.”

  17. Chester  |   Posted on Aug 28th, 2008 0

    For the love of all that’s unholy, why hasn’t the film POWDER been profiled yet?

  18. ACROSS THE UNIVERSE! This film has to be recognized on the grounds that it has no plot, it completely bastardizes Beatles songs into High School Musical-esque drivel (along with the almost as maddening, “let’s name characters after Beatles songs so we can cram more in! The main character’s name is Jude! Get it?!?) and it turns the 60′s into a Bob Hope parody of the 60′s. I had to deal with a bunch of theater geeks who think that it improved upon Beatles songs just because they like shitty musicals. To top it off, it was OVER TWO HOURS LONG. God, no movie has pissed me off this much.

  19. DK  |   Posted on Sep 2nd, 2008 -1

    It’s unique. I liked the nonsensical, quirky, early 90s feel to it, but I wasn’t watching with the intent to write an article on “the worst movie of all time.” Your review just informed me about your pet-peeves and then you agreed with the popular view of the movie. Way to go champ!

  20. Abacus Finch  |   Posted on Sep 2nd, 2008 +1

    I think what bothers some (OK, many) about Hudson Hawk is they find it to be a little too self-aware, but even then I think its a matter of viewer-taste. It most certainly isn’t intentionally horrible. In fact, I believe its actually a very good film.

    I think the filmmakers were, to a fair extent, in on the joke. I don’t see how (in a scene where a man gets beheaded) the Hawk can quip “Looks like you won’t be attending that hat convention next fall!” without at least some semblance of self-awareness.

    It’s rare that a Hollywood movie can be so self-aware without suffocating itself. In that respect, Hawk succeeds in spades.

    People often compare it to Bond or Bond spoofs, which is missing the point. I would argue that Willis is not merely ripping off rips offs of Bond movies and the like but is actually highlighting the fact that he’ll never be Bond. He isn’t suave. He isn’t dashing. He isn’t subtle. And he embraces this with the best tools he’s capable of employing: zaniness and calamity.

  21. DorothyMantooth  |   Posted on Sep 8th, 2008 +1

    Aw, I’m so glad I’m not the only one chiming in to say that I not-so-secretly love this movie. And I can’t believe you didn’t mention that all the henchmen were named after candy bars! I mean, Caruso was called Kit Kat! If that’s not the sign of a movie that’s In On The Joke, then… well, okay, maybe it’s not.
    But I still know I’m not the only one that found it hilarious! Ish.


    Thanks for taking the hit on that one, Gabe. I pass. What did you think of Pineapple Express? (speaking of action comedies)

  23. Franz  |   Posted on Oct 2nd, 2008 +1

    I first saw it when i was 10 years old and i liked it. I think it’s a movie for the kid, cause i liked it at the time. Show it to your kids i think they’ll love it, and watch it as you’ll watch a bad movie, because bad movie are always funny(not always but mostly). This film is like a old nineties movie, full of shit but hilarious if you’re can make fun of it.

  24. In Richard E. Grant’s autobiography, he tells all sorts of tales out of school (that’s industry talk) about the making of this film. You can read them on the Amazon reader if you don’t feel like shelling out twelve American dollars for a copy. Also, Isabella Rosselini was supposed to have the Andie MacDowell part.

  25. You know I was very surprised to find this information down because I saw this film and I really enjoyed it, without any preferences. Bruce Willis is one of my favorite actors.

  26. Seconded. I’ve seen much, much worse movies, including fourteen currently on the “Hunt” list. I wouldn’t recommend this movie without reservations, and I wouldn’t go so far as to call it “good,” but I like it, myself.

  27. Bruce Willis mmmmm… i love him since i was a child!

  28. I thought the Show Tunes thing was kind of clever. But yes, everything else was horrible. And they made a video game out of this!

  29. RML  |   Posted on Jan 31st, 2009 0

    A bad movie is not entertaining. Danny Aiello and Bruce Willis doing “Swinging on a Star” is entertaining. As they do that in this movie, HH is entertaining, at least in parts, and cannot be considered a bad movie, let alone the worst movie. I’ve seen it a couple of times. It’s _not to be taken seriously_. (Casting Sandra Bernhardt should have been the giveaway.) It’s entertaining and I’ve watched it at least three times. (OTOH, I can’t rewatch The Brown Bunny, even with the BJ scene. THERE’S your Worst Movie.)

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