7 John Travolta Movies That Are Total Failures, According To Rotten Tomatoes

When I first moved to New York in 2017, I made a work friend who quickly became a close friend. One of the many things we bonded over was a shared love of John Travolta's lesser known movies. More specifically, I was impressed at how much joy my new friend was able to derive from the actor's career. I'd be lying if I said that joy stemmed from a genuine appreciation of the man's work, but I think he harbored a strange kind of respect for Travolta, as if any man who could put out "Look Who's Talking Now" or "Gotti" and still maintain some sort of career was deserving of admiration. As such, we planned a massive Travolta marathon which we sadly never got around to.

But if we ever did get around to taking a journey through the dregs of Travolta's career, Rotten Tomatoes might be a decent guide. By now, we should know not to take RT scores too seriously. The fact that, according to the site, there are only two perfect sci-fi movies in the history of cinema should make anyone suspicious of the review aggregator. But in Travolta's case, anyone looking to enjoy his lesser-known, critically panned work would find RT an invaluable resource

The Academy Award nominee's overall Rotten Tomatoes ranking page reveals that not only are there a dizzying array of Travolta features, he's actually managed to achieve the elusive 0% RT score multiple times. So, allow me to take you on a ride through the lowest-rated John Travolta movies, where we shall celebrate the joy that can be found in the man's less critically successful work. That, and we'll all have a good laugh at "Gotti."

The Poison Rose

One film that would have definitely made our John Travolta marathon playlist is 2019's "The Poison Rose," which currently enjoys a 0% RT score and a 23% audience score. This ill-fated thriller was directed by George Gallo, the same man responsible for somehow convincing Robert De Niro to star in his 2020 crime comedy "The Comeback Trail" (which currently holds a 30% rating on RT). "The Poison Rose," however, sees Travolta at the height of his off-putting hairpiece era, playing hard-drinking Los Angeles Private Investigator and Lone Star state-transplant Carson Phillips. Phillips is asked to take up a missing persons case in his Texan home town, but as you might expect from a paint-by-numbers crime thriller such as this, quickly discovers this case is more complex than it seems.

This film is full of the kind of lovably trite dialogue my friend and I would repeat ad-nauseum, most of it delivered by Travolta in a bewildering Texan drawl. But the true mystery at the heart of "The Poison Rose" isn't Phillips' missing persons case, it's the fact that this film has a half-decent cast and still managed to get 0% RT score. I mean, Morgan Freeman, Brendan Fraser, Robert Patrick, Peter Stormare, and Famke Janssen? And not even a single percentage point? This one surely deserves to be included on the Travolta marathon if only so we can find out what in god's name Gallo made his impressive cast do to earn this most abject of green splats.

Trading Paint

Even if you'd never heard of this one, you can probably tell by the title alone than it would be on this list. "Trading Paint" just sounds like a late-career John Travolta action drama with a 0% RT score, and that's exactly what it is. In this film, which debuted the same year as "The Poison Rose," Travolta is Sam Munroe, a retired stock car racer who's forced back onto the track after his own son, Cam, joins a rival racing team. Yes, Travolta's character is trading paint with his own son in a Sam v Cam face-off that sounds almost as ridiculous as the actual plot of "Face/Off". The movie also stars Michael Madsen, Shania Twain and Toby Sebastian, and was directed by Iraqi Kurdish filmmaker Karzan Kader.

Unfortunately, as /News's own evaluation of the "Trading Paint" trailer predicted, none of this added up to much in the way of a critical response. Rotten Tomatoes has aggregated 13 reviews for "Trading Paint," three of which are from "Top Critics" and all of which are resoundingly negative. The New York Post's Johnny Oleksinski was particularly harsh about Travolta "croaking out a Southern accent as he overplays his outbursts and emotional reconciliations." Now, now, Johnny, this is the second ridiculous southern accent we got from Travolta in 2019, and exactly the kind of thing that would earn "Trading Paint" a place in our Travolta marathon.

Contrary to what the reviewers will have you believe, then "Trading Paint" has everything you could want from late-career Travolta: the grizzled "I don't do that kind of thing any more" old man archetype, hammy dialogue, a mystifying yet strangely alluring hairpiece. Throw it on the marathon playlist!

Speed Kills

Much like fellow screen legend Samuel L. Jackson, John Travolta's modern career choices have been frequently mystifying and always amusing. 2018 might just be the epitome of late-stage Travolta. First up from this seminal year, we have "Speed Kills," a crime drama based on the book of the same name. The book is a biography of speedboat designer and racer Donald Aronow, who in the film is named Ben Aronoff.

There's a recurring theme with a lot of these later Travolta films: all the trailers have the actor introducing exactly who he's playing right at the top. In "The Poison Rose" trailer, Travolta explains "My name is Carson Phillips, I'm a Hollywood PI. I like to drink, smoke, and gamble." With "Speed Kills," he announces, "My name is Ben Aronoff. I'm a self-made millionaire and an offshore boating champion. My boats have won hundreds of races. Oh yeah, they've also moved 100 million pounds of cocaine through Miami." That's pretty much the gist of this one, and it doesn't sound like too bad a premise, does it? Unfortunately, the TomatoMeter was not kind to this retelling of Aronow's life. All 17 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are negative, with Variety's Dennis Harvey being particularly merciless with this summation: "What's not to like? Well, everything."

But perhaps the most egregious criticism came not from any esteemed reviewer but from Powerboat Magazine, which warned its readers to "Prepare for Disappointment." Just think about that for a second. You might have thought that, despite the film failing to impress moviegoers or critics with its story, performances, or direction, it could at least please the power boat crowd, being that it's literally full of their favorite thing in the world. Alas, even the boaters weren't giving Travolta or his co-conspirators a pass.


Now, we reach the real jewel in the crown, John Travolta's 2018 passion project: "Gotti." This authorized John Gotti biopic was at the top of our Travolta marathon list and for good reason. The actor went from the Cannes Film Festival to a glitzy New York premiere promoting what he evidently felt was one of his finest acting achievements. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Travolta was sure his performance would "make him a player in the next awards race." He even signed up to social media for the first time in order to spread the word that the Travolta of old was back, and that this film was the beginning of the renaissance.

Unfortunately "Gotti" was summed up most succinctly by The Guardian as a "bizarre quasi-camp spectacle of Travolta channeling the Teflon Don via Tony Soprano via the Dolmio dad." Not to revel in Travolta's failure here, but this is an astounding turn of events that makes the man even more fascinating than he already was. He was truly convinced this movie — which began with this incredible opening scene in which Gotti turns awkwardly to camera and says "Let me tell you sumfin' New York is the greatest f****n' city in the world" — was going to be the film that put him back on the map.

All of the 58 reviews for "Gotti" on Rotten Tomatoes are negative, earning the film a rare 0%. Upon its release, there was something shady about the user reviews for "Gotti," which initially rocketed to 80%. Since then, that score has plummeted, but "Gotti" does at least still have the distinction of owning the highest audience score among the rest of these duds, with 44%. Still, that will be little consolation for Travolta, who clearly had higher hopes for "Gotti."

Life on the Line

John Travolta's "Face/Off" co-star Nicholas Cage has just one movie with a depressing 0% Rotten Tomatoes score, despite appearing in just as many, if not more, direct-to-video-on-demand films in recent years. Travolta, meanwhile has a full seven zero-rated films, and 2016's direct-to-video disaster film "Life on the Line" is one of the most hilarious.

Focusing on what is, according to the film's trailer, "the fourth most-dangerous profession in the world," "Life on the Line" sees Travolta deliver yet more Texas twang as Beau Ginner, the foreman of a lineman group. When a deadly storm threatens his town, he and his team must risk their lives to restore power to the grid so that a doctor can perform surgery on Beau's pregnant niece. If you need any more insight into the kind of film this is, at one point a character says "We're lineman, Beau, it's what we do."

Let's take this over to Rotten Tomatoes, where a surprising amount of "Top Critics" actually reviewed Travolta's DTV offering, only to completely eviscerate it. Yes, this is yet another 0-percenter. "Life may be on the line, but it's in short supply on the screen," lamented The Hollywood Reporter's Sheri Linden, while the New York Daily News warned that viewers "might require a high-voltage shock just to endure it." But The New York Times' Neil Genzlinger might have been the most cutting with his assertion that "Life on the Line" was merely "a terrible movie." At least Travolta is wearing a workman's hat for a lot of this film, which occludes whatever hair-piece calamity awaits beneath.

Look Who's Talking Now!

In 2024, we find ourselves awaiting the inevitable arrival of some awful movie written by A.I. But back in the '90s, John Travolta and director Tom Ropelewski were, according to Roger Ebert, doing their best impression of what that film might look like. As the esteemed critic saw it, "Look Who's Talking Too" "looks like it was chucked up by an automatic screenwriting machine." When the A.I.-driven garbage future arrives, then, we'll only have ourselves, and TriStar Pictures, to blame.

The third installment in the "Look Who's Talking" franchise found Travolta once again playing the patriarch of the Ubriacco family. This time, however, instead of dealing with talking babies, James and Mollie (Kirstie Alley) Ubriacco find themselves with two new additions to the family in the form of Rocks the mutt (Danny DeVito) and Daphne the poodle (Diane Keaton). There is some semblance of a plot here but do you really want to hear it?

1989's "Look Who's Talking" made us wish all babies were voiced by Bruce Willis, despite its lukewarm reception from critics. 1992's "Look Who's Talking Too" made us reconsider our thoughts on the first film, and 1993's "Look Who's Talking Now!" — well, it's on this list, where it earned a spot for having 25 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and making sure every single one of them is bad. It's also a bit of an outlier here, as it's not really as fun as any of the later Travolta travesties and arrived just a year before the actor would make his big comeback in Quentin Tarantino's "Pulp Fiction."

Staying Alive

John Travolta trained like Rocky Balboa for "Saturday Night Fever" then Rocky Balboa himself, Sylvester Stallone, directed the sequel. Unfortunately, whereas the first installment is considered a classic, the sequel is, well, "a disgrace," at least according to Boston Phoenix's Owen Gleiberman.

Set six years after the original, 1984's "Staying Alive" sees Travolta reprise the role of Tony Manero, who while working as a dance teacher gets his chance at appearing in a Broadway show. At the time of writing, this is the oldest film to hold a 0% rating on RT, with all 30 reviews panning Stallone's attempt to ride the success of the 1977 original. Still, in my humble opinion, "Staying Alive" is in good company here.

Travolta's career is a mystifying, fascinating, and diverse thing, and while all these films might be rated the "worst" by Rotten Tomatoes, they are at least interesting moments in the man's filmography. Sadly, my good friend with whom I bonded over our love for Travolta stinkers is no longer with us and we never got to do our full Travolta marathon. But the other day — the same day, in fact, as this article was greenlit — one of my friend's social media posts from years ago popped up, in which he wrote "Whenever I feel like I'm not doing my best I remember that someone greenlit John Travolta's 'Michael' with the tagline 'He's an angel... Not a saint.'" So, whenever you need some motivation, think of Travolta. Think of how even his bad movies come with a silver lining, and think often, as I do, of my friend's words.