Movie reviewing is a tough job—reviewers have to sum up a movie in just a few sentences. Here are thirteen examples of brutally honest, surprisingly short movie reviews that get right to it. (We have bolded the best parts.)

1. Top Gun

Top Gun (1986, Drama) Tom Cruise, Kelly McGillis. The adventures of a Navy jet pilot. Trivializes war by turning it into a music video.

(Source: Kokomo Tribune, 31 Jan. 1991, p. ENT 9. No byline.)

*

2. Cinderella (1997)

Cinderella (1997, Musical) Whitney Houston, Brandi, Whoopi Goldberg. A young woman learns the power of positive thinking.

(Source: Kokomo Tribune 2 Nov. 1997, p. D6. No byline.)

*

3. Casablanca

Casablanca Anti-government insurrectionists with drinking problems hang out in a bar and suppress their emotions. (1943) KQED. 8pm.”

(Source: the Pacific Sun, 13 Feb. 2015. By Rick Polito.)

*

4. The Abyss

The Abyss (1989) Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Like E.T. under water. Spectacularly silly, some awesome effects. (PG-13) (2½ hrs.) HBO, Thu. 9 A.M., 6:30 P.M. (CC)”

(Source: NYT, 29 Jan. 1995. By Howard Thomas or staff.)

*

5. Cujo

Cujo: The film version of the Stephen King thriller about a killer St. Bernard ought to be wrapped up in newspaper and thrown into the trash. It’s one of the dumbest movies ever made, and the only feeling it engenders is pity for the poor dog. R. 1 star.”

(Source: Reading Eagle, 1 Sept. 1983, p.23. By Gene Siskel and syndicated by the Chicago Tribune.)

*

6. Paint Your Wagon

Paint Your Wagon (1969). Clint Eastwood, Jean Seberg, Lee Marvin. Elaborate but rather squatty western with nice music, via Broadway. Clint sings like a moose. (3 hrs. 205 min.) TNT, Sun. 2:40 P.M.”

(Source: NYT, 25 Oct. 1992, p. TV4. By Howard Thomas or staff.)

*

7. Flashdance

Flashdance (NBC Monday at 9 p.m.) is another movie nobody seemed to like except the public. A kind of full-length erotic aerobics class on TV, it stars Jennifer Beals as a pretty 18-year-old who works as a welder in a Pittsburgh steel mill by day and dances frenetically in a neighborhood bar at night, dreaming of auditioning for the local ballet company and somehow managing to fit in a steamy romance with her impossibly rich, unattainable boss (Michael Nouri), once a working stiff just like her. Ludicrous throughout—but undeniably sexy.

(Source: LA Times, 16 Feb. 1986, p. 819). By Kevin Thomas.)

*

8. Interview With the Vampire

Interview With the Vampire (1994). Tom Cruise is a bloodsucker who drains the life from everything around him. In this movie, he plays a vampire.

(Source: the LA Times, 6 Dec. 1999, quoting the Marin Independent Journal. By Rick Polito.)

*

9. Young Guns

“½ star Young Guns – (R: Violence, brief nudity) Nominally a western, this wretched waste of a movie is really an insult to the very idea of a western. Emilio Estevez, Kiefer Sutherland, Charlie Sheen, Lou Diamond Phillips, Dermot Mulroney and Casey Siemaszko play juvenile delinquents hired by rancher Terence Stamp to protect his property. After their benefactor’s death, these amoral thugs ride around shooting people, and the movie glorifies their ridiculous exploits. Only Kiefer Sutherland comes close to making his part work. Directed, or so the credits claim, by Christopher Cain (That Was Then, This Is Now), from a script by John Fusco.”

(Source: The Palm Beach Post, 21 Oct. 1988, p. TGIF 14). By Michael Mills.)

*

10. Night of the Living Dead

Night of the Living Dead (1968). Judith O’Dea, Duane Jones. Revolting garbage, though a camp cult favorite. (2 hrs.) A&E, Wed. 2 P.M., Thu. 9 A.M.”

(Source: NYT, 25 Oct. 1992, p. TV4. By Howard Thomas or staff.)

*

11. Jungle 2 Jungle

Jungle 2 Jungle (PG, 111 minutes) The plot of Jungle 2 Jungle has been removed from a French film called Little Indian, Big City. The operation was a failure and the patient dies. Tim Allen stars as a broker who discovers he has a 13-year-old son, raised by his estranged wife (JoBeth Williams) in the Amazon. He brings the kid back to New York, where the ‘fish out of water’ plot wheezes along without inspiration, interest or comedy. Martin Short is wasted as Allen’s pal, although indee movie fans may be amused that he has stolen Jim Jarmusch’s hairstyle. Rating: 1 star.

(Source: Ocala Star-Banner, 14 March 1997, p. 10. By Roger Ebert, syndicated from the Chicago Sun-Times.)

*

12. Teen Wolf

Teen Wolf (1985). Michael J. Fox, James Hampton. Pretty awful. (PG) (2 hrs.) TBS, Fri./EarlySat. 12:45 A.M./ TNT, Mon. 3:30 P.M.”

(Source: NYT, 15 Feb. 1998, p. TV6. By Howard Thomas or staff.)

*

13. Teen Wolf Too

“Teen Wolf Too (1987). Jason Bateman, Kim Darby. College freshman subject to family curse. A mess. (PG) (1¾ hrs.) MAX, Thu. 6:15 P.M. (CC)”

(Source: NYT, 15 Feb. 1998, p. TV6. By Howard Thomas or staff.)

*

(Special thanks to John Siracusa, who inspired this post by paraphrasing the Top Gun review on the podcast Reconcilable Differences.)