Doomed for Failure: The Best and Worst of Shyamalan

Without trying to appeal to the audience differently by changing his styles and using his budget wisely, Shyamalan is setting himself up to repeat history.

A few days ago, my partner and I sat down for our weekly movie night. After flipping through Netflix, Hulu and all the other apps we now have to supplement our cable cutting, we settled on Old. A movie released this year in 2021, that was produced by M. Night Shyamalan. Without giving too much away, Old is about a family of four who go on a much needed vacation to reconnect as a family. A few days into their vacation, they’re shown a private beach, recommended for only the best visitors. Unfortunately, they find out quickly that the beach is not a normal beach and time flows much differently. Within a few hours, the visitors grow older and begin to die from various causes. While this seems incredibly interesting, it was unfortunately one of the worst Shyamalan films.

Contrary to what the title might make you believe, I’m a fan of M. Night Shyamalan. That’s why I agreed to watch the movie. However, while the premise is interesting, and the ending made me rethink some of my morals, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. This only reinforces my love-hate relationship with M. Night Shyamalan. In my opinion, the acting was mediocre with low-to-mid-level actors, and the pace was too slow for my taste. Not to mention I have questions that may still be unanswered after a second viewing. Sadly, it is my belief that if he doesn’t change his tactics soon, he’ll be doomed for failure.

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Who is M. Night Shyamalan?

M. Night Shyamalan is an American director, screenwriter, producer and actor who has worked on filmed that have grossed over $6 billion worldwide. His productions are best known for their twist endings, which often take audiences by surprise and leave them in shock. His movies are loved or hated, even with popular actors like Bruce Willis, Joaquin Phoenix, Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Wahlberg and Bryce Dallas Howard, but it’s hard to deny that he is one of the most unique directors in Hollywood today. In honor of his new release of Old, we’ll be reviewing his popular movies, ranked from worst to best (by my own standards!).

What movies has M. Night Shyamalan made?

He’s known for many classic thrillers like The Sixth Sense and Signs to sci-fi epics like Avatar: The Last Airbender and Lady in the Water. There are also somewhat you might call “so bad they’re good” films like Unbreakable, which was critically panned for its ploddingly slow pace. However, it has since become a cult favorite after people realized how clever Shyamalan had been with his narrative structure (a story told backwards). Below we’ve listed and ranked over 10 of his movies. Keep reading to find out which ones!

5 Worst Shyamalan Films

After Earth (2013): IMDb – 4.8, Rotten Tomatoes – 11%

After Earth is one of the worst M. Night Shyamalan movies

The goal of this alien invasion movie, After Earth, was to revive Shyamalan’s career. Years after his critical failure of The Last Airbender, he took another shot at a science fiction epic and produced this movie alongside with Will Smith. One might think that this movie would have better luck critically or commercially since it had a powerhouse like Smith, and his son Jaden Smith, attached, but that was sadly not the case. Audiences and critics alike panned the movie, with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 11% and an IMDb score of 4.8. Most complaints stemmed around the acting, as most critics believe Will Smith wasted his talents and Jaden cannot live up to his father’s name. Another issue was the lack of the classic Shyamalan twist! With an incredibly large budget to add the umph we needed, critics believed this movie to be “generic and predictable,” causing him to fall very short of their expectations.

Lady in the Water (2016): IMDb – 5.5, Rotten Tomatoes – 25%

Lady in the Water is another movie by M. Night Shyamalan that was terrible

Ahh, the film that made me realize M. Night Shyamalan either makes fantastic movies or just plain terrible garbage and there is no in-between. Starring Paul Giamatti, this feature film tells the story of a woman who appears in the swimming pool of an apartment complex. She has a message to tell, even though humans can’t seem to understand it. It has a complex plot with several layers that Shyamalan used in order to create his twist ending, which didn’t go over very well with audiences or critics alike. Plainly put: it’s a bad movie. This shows with an IMDb score of 5.5 and a Rotten Tomatoes score of 25%. Easily his worst film, but if you’re into slow-building mumble-core type movies, then this may actually be the movie for you.

Old (2021): IMDb – 5.8, Rotten Tomatoes – 50%

Old is one of the worst M. Night Shyamalan films

I had high hopes for M. Night Shyamalan’s latest movie, Old. This Universal Pictures movie is about a group of vacationers trapped on a remote island. Time moves differently on this island, causing everyone to age at an accelerated rate. While in theory, it sounds interesting, a commenter on Reddit said it better than I could: “The movie Old is what you get when you mix a bad script, bad acting, and bad editing all together.” Like many other Shyamalan movies, this one falls short with an IMDb rating of 5.8 and a Rotten Tomato score of 50%. It’s nothing like The Sixth Sense, but you might watch the entire movie more than once just to get all your questions answered.

The Visit (2015): IMDb – 6.3, Rotten Tomatoes – 68%

The Visit is another bad movie by M. Night Shyamalan

Another M. Night Shyamalan film that I had high hopes for. I’m beginning to think all the good parts are in the previews and if it looks too good to be true, it is! The Visit is a horror genre film that follows two children, Becca and Tyler, who are visiting their grandparents for the first time. They soon realize that something is not quite right with their grandparents, but can’t quite put their finger on it. Critics praised the movie for its suspenseful story and Shyamalan’s directing, but failed to make back its budget at the Box Office. It received a mediocre score from IMDb score of 6.3 and a Rotten Tomatoes score of 68%. I’d give this movie m for mature audiences, but it’s not really worth your time.

The Village (2004): IMDb – 6.5, Rotten Tomatoes – 43%

Another bad movie by M. Night Shyamalan is The Village

The movie I watch after Signs before I knew any better. This Buena Vista Pictures film starring Bryce Dallas Howard and Joaquin Phoenix takes place in the 1800s, where there is an enchanted forest that contains a small hidden village. The villagers are afraid of the creatures that lie outside their boundaries and continue to protect themselves with legends and stories. This is another example of mumble-core, mumble-gore, mumble, mumble, M. Night Shyamalan, mumble, mumble. It was not well-received by audiences or critics and only has an IMDb score of 6.5 and a Rotten Tomatoes score of 43%. Save yourself the time and watch something else.

5 Best Shyamalan Films

The Happening (2008): IMDb – 5, Rotten Tomatoes – 18%

The Happening is one of the best movies by M. Night Shyamalan

Now we move onto the fun and more entertaining movies and I’m starting with The Happening. However, it doesn’t seem that most critics agree with me when I say this is a great movie. This movie, starring the great Mark Wahlberg, Zooey Deschanel and John Alberto Leguizamo is a thriller/sci-fi movie about an invisible killer that is quickly taking the lives of civilians. The twist ending was a let-down for audiences and critics, but I still think it’s a great movie. The Happening has an IMDb score of 5 and a Rotten Tomatoes score of 18%, but I strongly suggest giving it a chance. Filled with blood, gore and some great visuals, it’s a switch from Shyamalan’s tried-and-failed jump scares.

Devil (2010): IMDb – 6.2, Rotten Tomatoes – 49%

Devil is another great movie by M. Night Shyamalan

While this is movie has a lower rating than some of his other films, this Universal Pictures film is great for horror lovers. Devil is an M. Night Shyamalan movie about five strangers trapped in an elevator with someone (or something) that begins taking their lives one by one. This movie has got it all—suspense, comedy and even one of M. Night Shyamalan’s signature twist endings. Compared to his other films, I think the acting was great, but could have been better at times. The script definitely made up for it. Like I said, it’s not rated very highly. Devil has an IMDb score of 6.2 and a Rotten Tomatoes score of 49%. However, if you’re looking for something to watch tonight, I suggest turning on this movie.

Signs (2002): IMDb – 6.7, Rotten Tomatoes – 74%

Signs is one of the best M. Night Shyamalan movies

The movie for me that started it all. This is when I really learned about Shyamalan and just how incredible his movies can be. Signs, starring Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix, is about an ex-minister named Graham Hess who lives in a small farming town with his family. They soon find out that aliens are the cause of their water problems and they must prepare for an invasion. It may be 14 years old, but it’s still great to watch this one on its own or even with family. Definitely one of the higher ranked Shyamalan movies; Signs has an IMDb score of 6.7 and a Rotten Tomatoes score of 74%.

Split (2016): IMDb – 7.3, RT – 77%; Glass (2019): IMDb – 6.6, RT – 36%; Unbreakable (2000): IMDb – 7.3, RT – 70%

Is it ok to group all of these together? They are part of a trilogy after all. What’s a better way to prove your worth than by creating three epic twist endings that come together to form one amazing revelation? Nothing. Unbreakable came first, released in 2000, starring Bruce Willis who plays David Dunn has a deep secret. Then there’s another powerhouse: Samuel L. Jackson, who plays a mysterious stranger who just might have the answers Willis is looking for.

The next movie in the trilogy is Split, starring James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy. This movie follows McAvoy, who suffers from dissociative identity disorder, when he kidnaps three girls. At first, it’s hard to see the connection between Unbreakable and Split. That is where the third movie comes in.

Glass stars the top three popular actors: James McAvoy, Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis. In this film, Willis, who is now a vigilante, will take on McAvoy for the conclusion we waited over 15 years for. The ratings of these movies are as follows, Unbreakable with an IMDb score of 7.3 and Rotten Tomatoes score of 70. Split received a 7.3 from IMDb and 77% from Rotten Tomatoes. Last but not least, Glass has a score of 6.6 from IMDb and 36 from Rotten Tomatoes.

Although Glass didn’t do as well as its predecessors, it’s definitely one of the best Shyamalan films. If you’re interested in a supernatural thriller and like mysterious creatures, the big reveal from this trilogy might be just what you need.

The Sixth Sense (1999): IMDb – 8.1, Rotten Tomatoes – 86%

The Sixth Sense is the besst movie by M. Night Shyamalan

Now, we’re onto arguably the best film Shyamalan has created. While Shyamalan’s films are hit-or-miss, when he hits it, he knocks it out of the park! The Sixth Sense is not just a typical ghost story, starring Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment as a child psychologist who tries to help an eight-year-old boy with sixth sense abilities. The boy has been seeing ghosts all his life and now they want him dead. While this film starts off slowly, it’s full of plot twists and will keep you on the edge of your seat. The Sixth Sense has an IMDb score of 8.1 and a Rotten Tomatoes score of 86%.

Why is Shyamalan doomed for failure?

There’s two primary reasons for his inevitable failure. According to the timeline, his best film (The Sixth Sense) was over 20 years ago. While his ratings have gone up and down, they tend to stay level. None of his other movies has reached the level of The Sixth Sense, probably because he cannot recreate the satisfaction that it gives. He peaked at the beginning of his career and has only gone down since.

While his movies were once unique, they’ve begun to all have a similar plot line that doesn’t really shock anyone—that is, until you get to the end. That is the second reason Shyamalan is destined to fail. While some people may like this film style, others find it predictable and boring. Without trying to appeal to the audience differently by changing his styles and using his budget wisely, he’s setting himself up to repeat history. He’ll only continue to make mediocre films, while wishing he could reproduce the mass effect of The Sixth Sense.

Should I watch Shyamalan’s films?

As you can see, Shyamalan’s films are hit-or-miss. However, they are good for one thing: a family movie night. If you need a suggestion, there’s nothing wrong with going back to The Sixth Sense or even the Unbreakable series to give yourself a refresher on how great his films can be! Or go the opposite route, watch a lower-rated film and see if maybe you can find an appreciation for it. Have you seen any Shyamalan films? We’d love to hear from you! Drop a comment below and let us know what you think of this writer/director.

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