The Worst Movies Ever: Mission To Mars


Wost Movie Ever: Mission to Mars (Science Fiction Category)

When you talk about great film makers, you’d be remiss to leave out Brian De Palma.  If you take a look at the guy’s resume, you’ll see a significant amount of excellent movies (Scarface, The Untouchables, and Mission: Impossible just to name a few), but there are a few blemishes.  Today, we’ll take a look at his biggest failure, Mission to Mars, which is receiving my own personal notice for the Worst Movie Ever in the Science Fiction category.

That’s an achievement in itself, right?  There are sooooo many bad science fiction movies that it would be easy to pick out a score of awful ones… Space Truckers springs to mind (one of those weird movies where Dennis Hopper is the bad guy… or maybe not, he’s at least in the movie… maybe I’m thinking of Water World, or Super Mario Bros.), but I give that a pass because it’s obviously a B movie that was made by nobody and features nobody but Hopper, so you know it’s going to bad right away – and Space Truckers only cost $25 million (which I know sounds like a lot of money, but for a science fiction movie, it’s not), and Mission to Mars cost $100 million.  Somehow, the movie managed to gross nearly $111 million, so Touchstone Pictures didn’t get wrecked by a colossal failure, but it was a close one.  There’s also the fact that there was so much premium talent involved in Mission to Mars, and yet it still sucks.  HARD.

Is it just me, or is the trailer fairly intriguing?  The disconnect between a well cut trailer and shizzy movie is vast – I saw this movie in the theater;  People were audibly groaning.  It was rough.  It’s the closest I’ve ever seen a movie audience come to rioting.  It’s that bad.

mission_to_mars worst science fiction movie everMission to Mars is paced like a college graduation – it drags endlessly.  The movie opens with this long crane shot that establishes the barbecue at Don Cheadle‘s house; pay attention, film students, because it’s the very definition of unnecessary.  There’s another boring ass crane shot that lasts forever inside their space vehicle which might have been interesting if it wasn’t done poorly and I hadn’t already seen it in 2001:  A Space Odyssey.  When I say it was done poorly, I don’t mean technically, I mean it just wasn’t well planned; you don’t know what you’re looking at or why you should care or what the focus is of the shot or the scene.  It’s just a big piece of shiz.  As the movie goes on, the pacing problems become an epidemic… the editing is often atrocious and individual shots last about twice as long as they should (something you need to look at for 3 seconds stays on the screen for 10 seconds – note the scene during which  Gary Sinise is watching Tim Robbins and Connie Nielsen dance in the space vehicle), but the editing is just strange.  I kept thinking, “Why am I still looking at this?”  And then they’d cut to something else, and then back to the thing I just stared at forever – the scene when they fire the radar at the mountain and the ‘security system’ activates is a good example of this.  Why are they just standing there, waiting to get their ass kicked?!?  Run, damn it!  It’s the editing, and it’s terrible – if they had edited it in a way that made it seem as though the whole thing happened too fast for them to get away, the scene would have been a lot more plausible.  Oh and the alien looked like shiz – this movie came out in 2000, so the bar for digital characters set by The Phantom Menace was not reached – not even close.

The dialogue is effing atrocious!  I don’t think it’s because three people wrote the screen play (Jim Thomas, John Thomas, Graham Yost), because all of the characters speak in exactly the same way.  It’s pretty hard to write dialogue for the purpose of exposition, and if you want to know how not to do it, this is a good movie to check out.  The dialogue concerning the death of Jim’s (Sinise) wife is particularly bad every single time it rears its head – and it comes up about a thousand different times during the first hour of the movie.  There’s also the scenes when they’re eon their way to rescue Luke (Cheadle); I know they’ve been on a space craft for six months and they’re excited to go to Mars, but they’re surprisingly fun-loving and even downright silly.

Action movies have a format, and I can accept that.  You need an action beat – something needs to happen, explode, punch somebody in the face! – I’ve heard people say as often as every ten pages.  I guess they decided they needed another action scene, because as the rescue mission is approaching Mars, they have to deal with a hull breach that comes from… where, I don’t know.  Somehow, the hull got breached.  Ultimately, this leads to the destruction of their ship and the death of Woody (Tim Robbins), who sacrifices himself so they won’t try to save him once he decides that he is beyond being saved.  His wife is upset about this (yeah, members of the crew are married – seems like a good idea)… for about two minutes.  The rest of the movie, it’s like it never happened; especially for her.  This is bad writing.  They story also makes note that Jim (Sinise) is a great pilot, but we never see him pilot anything – including the REMO (REsupply MOdule) that he flies from Mars orbit to the surface.  That sounds hard, right?  The damn thing looks like a satellite rather than a space craft, but he somehow safely guided it through the atmosphere to the planet’s surface.  It sounds impossible and, more than that, like a great spectacle for a movie.  But is it in the movie?  No.  Guess what else isn’t in the movie – when Luke’s (Cheadle) crew first lands on Mars.  So what we’ve got here is a movie called Mission to Mars where we never see a space craft land on Mars, never see mankind take its first step on a new world, never have a science fiction recreation of the most famous moment in space travel when Niel Armstrong made his immortal statement…  nothing.  They just put, “6 Months Later,” up on the screen.

That’s just beautiful.

I think De Palma’s only direction to the actors must have been, “Just be really stoic, all the time – only show emotion when it’s absolutely necessary, like if you’re dying or somebody else is – and even then, reign it in.”  Still, it’s hard to understand how so many good actors could turn in such boring, flat performances as they each demonstrate the emotional range of a tea spoon during immensely stressful situations in nearly every scene of the movie.  At least Terri (Connie Nielsen) cries when her husband Woody (Robbins) dies…  for a minute or so.  Once they get to Mars, she’s all business.


For some reason, I get the feeling they wanted Annette Bening for this role and settled for Connie Nielsen.

Yeah, the effed up the sound track, too.  Ennio Morricone‘s music is either totally inappropriate for the scene or is badly misused.  He made weird choices… during the hull breach scene, there’s all this organ stuff going on.  It doesn’t fit at all.

Half-Ass Remake of 2001?

Yep, that’s pretty much what it is.  And while 2001:  A Space Odyssey is long on style and kinda short on story, it’s a gripping film from start to finish.  Mission to Mars is a boring piece of shiz that is fortunately less than two hours.

From start to finish, Mission to Mars is an ineffective disappointment that entertains no one.  So if you have a serious hankering for Mars, I’d say stick to Mission:  Space at EPCOT – coincidentally, the ride is also hosted by Gary Sinise.


About Jamie Insalaco

Jamie Insalaco is the author of, and editor in chief of

Posted on April 14, 2011, in movie review and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. They just played this on TV. It was so bad that I actually went online to see what others were saying. Wow, seriously one of the worst. movie. ever. What’s with the organ soundtrack? Somehting like a kid playing with the casio at the local Radio shack.

    • I believe that the cast and crew were all friends and they wanted to make a movie together, so they just hopped in front of a green screen and filmed whatever. A soundtrack by one of their kids makes sense!

  2. It’s difficult to put in words just how bad this movie was but somehow yoy did it quite well. It was so bad I couldn’t stop watching. I can’t believe there isn’t a drinking game revolving around this movie. There should be semester long film classes based solely on this awful movie. We’re lucky it didn’t ruin everyone’s career or somehow end the art of film all together.

  3. Here it is a romanic song about this movie (I was ispired by the “Pearl Harbor” song from the 2004 animated comedy “Team America”)

    ♫ I miss you more then Brian De Palma missed the mark ♫
    ♫ When he made “Mission to Mars””… ♫
    ♫ I miss you more then that movie missed a good pacing ♫
    ♫ And that’s an awful lot girl ♫
    ♫ And now, now you’re gone away… ♫
    ♫ And all I’m trying to say… ♫
    ♫ …Is “Mission to Mars” sucked… And I miss youuu… ♫

    ♫ I need you like Gary Sinise needed acting school ♫
    ♫ He was fucking terrible in that film! ♫
    ♫ I need you like the characters needed an arch ♫
    ♫ They were all two-dimensional and dull! And now… ♫
    ♫ All I can think about is your smile and that shitty Martian too…♫
    ♫ “Mission to Mars” sucked… And I miss youuu… ♫

    ♫ I need you like how the movie needed a writer ♫
    ♫ The dialogues were an awful lackuster! ♫
    ♫ Don’t make me sick with the emptyness of your absence ♫
    ♫ Just like that movie did with that convoluded ending! ♫
    ♫ I guess “Mission to Mars” sucked… ♫
    ♫ …Just alittle bit more than I miss youuu… ♫

    ♫ Why does Brian De Palma get to keep on making movies? ♫
    ♫ I think he should have stopped with “Mission: Impossible”… ♫
    ♫ …But not the one on Mars… ♫
    ♫ Cuz “Mission to Mars” sucked… And I miss youuu..! ♫

  4. Here’s another thing I have to say on this shitty movie:
    Jamie, have you noticed that those toyful spacesuits of the characters have stripes of colour on them?
    There, in the minfucking ending, we see Jim (who has black stripes on his suit), Terry (who’s suit has yellow stripes) and Luke (who instead has red ones, just like Woody) walking inside the 2001 Monolith ripoff.

    Say, have you ever studied Dante’s “Divine Comedy”?
    I know you’re probably thinking “What the fuck is wrong with this kid?!?” but listen… In the book, do you remember (or know perhaps) how Satan looked like? He was a huge devil with three faces… And each face had a colour!
    Satan had a black face, a red face and a yellow face!!!
    …And if this wasn’t enough, get a load of this:
    These three colours ALSO have their own meaning!
    The yellow means Rage, the red means Impotence and black… Is Ignorance!

    Isn’t just surprising how these aspects fit PERFECTLY with those three space morons? Jim (black) is an IGNORANT for choosing to go the fuck knows where in space without even knowing if the Martians still even exist after milleniums, Luke (red) is IMPOTENT for being unable to do a shit during the entire fucking movie (plus Woody is an impotent character and kills himself) and Terry (yellow)… Well, Neilsen’s performance was so dull the viewers go on a complete RAGE after realizing that they just wasted their time for this crappy movie!

    So what have we learned today, kids?
    Brian the Palma is the devil and this movie is satanic! DESTROY IT!!!

    • Hi Luke,

      I didn’t notice the colors on their uniform – maybe they’re supposed to indicate rank or job title, like on Star Trek? But I like your theory that they’re the devil! It fits with the tenor of the movie better!

      thanks for commenting!

  5. I remember seeing this in the theater with my dad on opening night. I was about 14 so the science fiction theme caught my eye. All I remember is that my dad fell asleep 20 mins in, a lot of people walked out, everyone looked confused at the end, and I am still waiting for my refund.

    • I was 19 and saw this with friends. They hooked us in with their whole origins of life on earth found on mars. Between that and the cast & the cast and crew, it seemed liked a no brainer… Then we ssw rther movie and realized the person who wROte it had no brain

  6. While I cannot refute anything you say about this film, I think there can be no serious dispute that Battlefield Earth is the WORST sci-fi film of all time.

  7. I am watching this movie right now , and all I can say is that every single scene is utterly terrible. The dialogue. The pacing. The camera work. The framing. The soundtrack. The flat, boring acting. The incompetent editing. The completely unbelievable storyline. The 8th grade-level script……. I could go on and on and on, and these incompetent astronauts haven’t even landed their “rescue” mission….. Oh, look at that: Tim Robbins just took off his helmet, and I actually laughed……

    Everyone involved in making this piece of poop should get eaten by maggots.

  8. Thanks for the sad, entirely on-point review. I came here after googling to see if other people can’t stand Gary Sinise like I can’t, but I’d totally forgotten about this awful, awful movie. Let me add one other complaint: the atrocious “science”. I don’t expect sci-fi to be scientifically accurate, or even try to be in most cases, but ohhh man…the scene where they’re looking at that hologram of a handful of DNA nucleotides on a helix, then deduce that it’s *human* DNA and that “the last two chromosomes are missing…” Holy. Hell. Even aside from the fact that one could never tell the organism from a tiny DNA snippet like that one — AND the insane idea that a person could have the entire human genetic code committed to memory, recognizable on sight — it’s very widely known *even among millions of non-science types* that chromosomes contain DNA, not the other way around. In other words, this scene makes exactly as much sense as someone finding a tiny shred of paper printed with a tiny fragment of a single word, and concluding not only that “it’s from the Encyclopedia Britannica!” but also that “the last two volumes are missing!” Wheee! I used to get mildly annoyed when my beloved X-Files played fast and loose with real science….this movie made that show look like PBS Nova.

  9. Not sure why this bothers me the most but when Robbins character says “we never did that in a sim” and then about five lines of dialogue later Nielsen says “when we get home we really need to try this in a sim” it drives me crazy. Laziest writing ever. Also the hologram at the end makes no sense. They just created this movie about evolution ending in a dissolve of now existing cities on earth, like, two hundred million years ago???? Was there a live feed that once every hundred years updated the history? And why would they all travel to another galaxy IF EARTH WAS RIGHT THERE!! AAAARRRGH!. And yes, she could have rescued woody of they had just thought about it at all. But whatever.

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