The Razzies Want Hollywood to Own Its ‘Bad’

Forrest Hartman


In early March, Tom Hanks reached a new tier of acting stardom, joining a select group of performers who can display Golden Raspberry Awards beside their Oscars. The former “honor,” best known as a Razzie, is usually given for what voters consider the worst outing in a film category. Needless to say, actors strive to avoid recognition, but Razzie co-founders Mo Murphy and John Wilson say it’s all in fun.  


“We don’t consider ourselves a slap in the face,” Wilson said. “We think of ourselves as a banana peel on the floor. We are not saying, ‘How dare you?’ We’re saying, ‘Why did you?’ If you’re Halle Berry and you just won an Oscar, come on, a better script than ‘Catwoman’ has to have come across your agent’s or manager’s desk.”


Murphy said the Razzies have been called out as bullying, but she doesn’t buy it.  As a film industry veteran herself, she understands that moviemaking – particularly acting – is hard, and she thinks of the Razzies as good-natured ribbing.


“Our attitude is, ‘You know what? We know you’re good. Why did you make this choice?’” she said.


Historically, the Razzies have largely picked on high-profile industry players, steering clear of the low-hanging fruit provided by unknown and inexperienced filmmakers. In 2023, for instance, Jared Leto – another member of the Oscar/Razzie club – received Worst Actor for his starring turn in the Marvel movie “Morbius.” The Razzies also hammered Hanks, who is one of the most celebrated actors in cinema history. Hanks not only won Worst Supporting Actor for his outing as Col. Tom Parker in “Elvis,” he received a share of the Worst Screen Combo Razzie. For the latter award, co-winners were the oddball accent he adopted as Parker and the latex facial prosthetics that made him look overweight.



“These people have choices,” Wilson said. “They obviously have talent or they wouldn’t be as well-known as they are. We’re just saying, ‘This particular time, you kind of blew it.’”


Murphy and Wilson said the Razzies are satire, owing more to “Saturday Night Live” than anything else. They were born in 1981 after Wilson paid 99 cents for a double feature of “Can’t Stop the Music” and “Xanadu.” He found both pictures so atrocious that – even though he used pocket change to get in – he wanted his money back.


“As I’m walking to my car, I’m thinking, ‘You know, there really ought to be an award for movies like this,’” he said. “In my head, on the way driving home that night, I came up with a dozen possible contenders.”


Inspired, Wilson hosted a counter-party during the next Oscar ceremony, inviting between 30 and 40 friends to watch the Academy Awards, then dole out Razzies in categories including Worst Actress (Brooke Shields for “The Blue Lagoon”) and Worst Director (Robert Greenwald for “Xanadu”).


“It was very silly,” Wilson said. “But it was a lot of fun.”


Four decades later, the Razzies have become part of the pop culture landscape.  For Wilson and Murphy, that’s a point of pride, even if they think their assessments get taken too seriously.  



“One of the things that has changed in the 43 years we’ve been doing this is the whole idea of satirical, parodistic humor isn’t as welcome as it had been in 1981,” Wilson said. “I think that’s unfortunate, and I think some people do take the Razzies far more seriously than certainly we intend them to be taken. They are a joke. We’re a joke. It’s supposed to be amusing. It’s not meant to be a bucket of ice water in your face.”


While some filmmakers get offended by Razzie nominations and wins, there are those who acknowledge the awards with humility. That list includes The Rock, who cheerfully accepted responsibility for his part in the 2018 feature film adaptation of “Baywatch.”


Wilson and Murphy have particularly fond memories of Halle Berry, another Oscar winner who owns a Razzie. Not only did Berry take the ribbing gracefully, she showed up at the live ceremony and gave an eight-minute speech about her Worst Actress win for “Catwoman.”


“She was funny, she was self-deprecating, she brought her manager on the stage, she brought her Oscar on the stage, she brought one of her co-stars,” Wilson said. “She just went to town on it. It had a slightly angry edge, but it was hilarious. … That was the perfect Razzie speech.”


Other stars to publicly acknowledge their Razzies include Jamie Dornan, Tom Green, Alan Menken, Tom Selleck, Sandra Bullock and Ben Affleck. Both Bullock and Affleck have Oscars to offset the sting of their Razzies, but Affleck can also celebrate an extremely rare pat on the back from the Razzies. In 2015, he got the Redeemer Award for following his “worst” outings by directing the critically acclaimed drama “Argo.” Affleck also gets kudos from Wilson and Murphy for leaving his 2004 Worst Actor award behind after breaking it on-air during a “Larry King Live” interview.



“We went back, picked it up and put it on eBay, and sold it as The Razzie Ben Affleck broke,” Wilson said. “It actually paid for the hall the following year.”


Jeffrey K. Howard, president of the Las Vegas Film Critics Society, says the Razzies sometimes go after films he enjoys, but he doesn’t take that personally.


“This is art, so art is in the eye of the beholder, right? Some of my all-time favorite movies are some of the worst movies of all time, and I know it,” Howard said. “I love ‘Congo.’ I just think that’s the greatest movie in the world, and it’s one of my guilty pleasures.”


“Congo” was nominated for seven Razzies.


“I think the Razzies are necessary because if you’re going to have a best picture you’ve gotta have the worst picture,” Howard said. “I think it’s all in fun.” 



In 2023, the Razzies broke new ground when voters decided to give themselves – or at least their institution – an award. Why? The group’s more than 1,100 voters initially nominated 12-year-old Ryan Kiera Armstrong for Worst Actress for her role in the 2022 remake of “Firestarter.”


Wilson said Murphy was immediately concerned by the nomination, but he argued that voters had spoken. It didn’t take long for online critics to complain that nominating a pre-teen was cruel. It rapidly became clear that Murphy’s instincts were right.


“We did put out a press release, apologizing to the actress, taking her off the ballot, saying that we would change our rules from this point forward, and there would no longer be a place in the Razzies for anyone under 18,” Wilson said. “After that, Maureen (Mo) and I decided maybe we can go one step further, and in her place on the ballot we put, ‘should we give ourselves a Razzie?’”


The answer was, “yes.” In fact, the Razzies received more votes than any nominee in any category.


“Basically, it’s an example of making a mistake, owning it and rectifying,” Murphy said. “And it’s not like we won’t make a mistake again. We hope not to, but it really is the way to deal with it. You know, great people are constantly making mistakes, and it’s so simple to say, ‘Yeah, actually you’re correct,’ and mean it, of course.”



The “Firestarter” controversy isn’t the only time the Razzie organizers have admitted to blowing it. The group also rescinded a 2021 Razzie given to Bruce Willis, noting that voters were unaware the actor had been diagnosed with aphasia at the time. They also rescinded Shelley Duvall’s 1981 nomination for “The Shining” due to allegations that director Stanley Kubrick purposefully traumatized the actress during filming.    


Wilson and Murphy say casting a critical eye on their organization is in keeping with the Razzie motto: “Own your bad.”


“Our mission statement now is we bring humanity to celebrity,” Murphy said. “We all make mistakes. Look at us. We’re the Razzies, and we have certainly made our mistakes. We hope to be an example of what it’s like to make a mistake. I mean that’s life. You make a mistake. You own it. You rectify it. You move on.”


Author Bio:

Forrest Hartman is Highbrow Magazine’s chief film critic.


For Highbrow Magazine


Image Source:

--The Razzies


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