There are few filmmakers who have hit the heights that M. Night Shyamalan has reached in his two decades as a screenwriter-director. Having burst onto the scene with his 2nd theatrical feature The Sixth Sense, which earned 6 Oscar award nominations including Best Picture and 2 individual awards for Shyamalan himself (screenwriting and directing), the man best known for his movie-warping twists has had a prominent career, albeit one that may not have lived up to its full potential.
In this edition of Ranked, we’re pitting all of M. Night Shyamalan’s directorial efforts against one another to rank them from worst to best in terms of artistic quality and public perception.
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13. The Last Airbender (2010)
M. Night Shyamalan’s career hit rock bottom with The Last Airbender.
The big budget adaptation of the famous Nickelodeon animated series ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’, this 2010 release was awash with mismatched editing, terrible CGI and a frightening lack of visual and narrative logic. Add to that its insistence upon delivering 20-plus episodes of backstory in just 2 hours and the result is a film filled with the most awkward and unnatural dialogue exchanges you’re likely to ever see – it seemed Shyamalan and company could think of no better way to introduce characters other than for them to simply say their names, histories and motivations in their introductory lines.
Criticised by everyone from fans of the original series to newbies, The Last Airbender also woefully tiptoed into racist territory, the film choosing to cast white actors as heroes (despite the original series’ ethnically diverse cast) and people of colour as the villains. It truly was a low point for Shyamalan in a period of his career filled with monumental misses – this being the most embarrassing.
12. The Happening (2008)
Coming into The Happening in 2008, fans of M. Night Shyamalan’s career had already had their patience tested a few times, but if ever there was a jumping off point it was here.
Described by movie parody YouTube channel Honest Trailers as “one of 2008’s best comedies”, The Happening was a film that delivered so poorly on its premise as an environmental horror that it is now best remembered for the countless memes it has generated.
Mark Wahlberg – “What? Me? No…” – offers a career low performance and Zooey Deschanel looks like she doesn’t even know where she is, but neither of them ever had a chance at delivering the most amateur dialogue of Shyamalan’s entire catalogue.
In The Happening, Shyamalan seemed to reach his peak in terms of control, and the result was one that demanded his influence on future projects be better managed. It took 7 years for him to write another original screenplay (The Visit) and even longer for him to somewhat repair his reputation as a director, this failure coming to almost destroy the legacy of this once great screenwriting/directing prodigy.
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