Critical Backlash

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

"Seriously? Zero [stars]? It's worse than the remake of The Wicker Man? I guess I'm forgetting all the badass lightsaber duels in that movie."

Joe Loves Crappy Movies, on the scathing reviews of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

So there's a show that everybody hates. The critics tear strips off it, your friends swear it sucks, and even the advertising seems to agree. So one night you happen to come across it... and it's not that bad, actually. It's not perfect—the star is a Large Ham, the hero's daughter is a whiny brat, and the walrus scene doesn't work—but it's nowhere near the disaster that everyone says it is. What's going on?

You've just experienced a Critical Backlash.

The opposite of Hype Backlash, Critical Backlash is when something is over-criticized and condemned to the extent that it couldn't possibly be as terrible as everyone makes out. Like Hype Backlash, it's yet more proof that the critics aren't always necessarily correct and Quality by Popular Vote isn't always a reliable indicator of something's merit.

Critical Backlash tends to occur when critical reaction towards the product is tainted by some outside factor; over-hype, over-exposure and outside controversy may prompt the critics to focus on the noise surrounding the work rather than the merits of the work itself. Critics are often primed to dislike the product based on some pre-existing prejudice and fail to look deeply enough for redeeming value (if they even bother to look at all), particularly if the work suffers from Public Medium Ignorance. Some critics may Follow the Leader and echo more popular and louder critics.

Of course, some things also just press a critic's buttons the wrong way; critics usually have different expectations and approaches than the wider audience, and just because something doesn't tick the right boxes on their checklist doesn't mean the wider audience might not find something of merit in it.

If the work develops a particularly devoted audience in spite of an critical drubbing, then it may experience Hype Backlash and Critical Backlash from different quarters; the work may not be as bad as the critics say, but equally not as good as its most ardent fans claim, falling instead somewhere in between. Cult classics and works that are Too Good to Last have often suffered from a Critical Backlash, only to be later rediscovered and Vindicated by History.

Adaptations and works that generally fall into a critic's Acceptable Targets radar (such as animation and science fiction and fantasy) often receive this kind of reaction.

Please note that this page is not a personal blog to discuss your personal experiences of this trope; this page is all about the general properties which tend to receive this treatment. Remember also that Tropes Are Not Good and that this is a Subjective Trope; seeing something you hate here only means that other people may not hate it as much as you do, not that it doesn't have points worth of criticism, so try to resist making a Justifying Edit.

Examples of Critical Backlash include:

Anime and Manga

  • MD Geist has been so often called "the worst anime ever" that, when a lot of people actually watched it when it aired on Syfy, for many of them it failed to be as bad as claimed; it's gained something of a fanbase largely for the designs of the mech, its soundtrack, and generally avoiding anything "cute".
  • The Inuyasha anime plays around with this: when the series first came out in Adult Swim during the early 2000s the show was considerably renowned, but the English dub from Viz and The Ocean Group was openly reviled by fans (sure even back then it had its supporters, but still). However, over time the fanbase for Viz's English dub became a lot more vocal and, while it may not be seen as one of The Ocean Group's finest works, it is still considered to be a good effort. Unfortunately, while this was happening the show was starting to get a lot more backlash (due to various things such as Hype Backlash and the show becoming more episodic). It has even gotten to the point where plenty of viewers think that the voice acting from the English dub is the only good thing about the show nowadays (especially in the case of Naraku and Koga.) So, to make a long story short, the English dub of the series is becoming an example of this, even if the show hasn't became one yet.
  • Code Geass has received so much exaggerated praise and exaggerated criticism due to its Broken Base status that long after the show originally aired different people regularly experience either Critical Backlash or Hype Backlash -depending on their expectations, degrees of suspension of disbelief, etc.- after they finally get to see it for themselves. It's not surprising to see newcomers arguing that the series doesn't deserve all the hate or all the hype.
  • Much like Inuyasha above, the soundtrack from Bruce Faulconer's production team for the FUNimation English dub of Dragon Ball Z was universally reviled online early on, and its fans became more vocal over the years since the airing was finished. The dub overall has its own late-blooming supporters as well, but usually not based on the quality of the actual episodic dub of the time itself so much as subsequent dubbing in video games and future adaptations such as Dragon Ball Kai.
  • A character example is Katejina Loos from Victory Gundam. By the time most people discover Victory and watch the show, they will have been told again and again that Katejina is "The Queen of Evil" in the Gundam verse. They will have been told repeatedly that she is more evil than Gihren Zabi, Yazan Gable, Muruta Azrael, Lord Djibril, Ali Al-Saachez, and Decil Galette, and more annoying than a gene-splicing Katz Kobayashi and Flay Alster mixed with the blood of Scrappy-Doo himself. While Katejina is undoubtedly a horrible person, there is simply no way for her to be as revoltingly awful as the fandom makes her out to be, and many people watching Victory for the first time (years after it aired) find themselves actually noticing her few good points, if only because the fandom's bashing of her, makes her bad ones something you just sort of accept.
  • The Wham! Episode ending for Neon Genesis Evangelion becomes a lot less tragically depressing if you come in expecting the show to be, well, tragically depressing. For most people, the fact that it came out of nowhere and pretty much derailed the entire series, killing off several major characters and giving us the infamous Tang ending is what really caused a lot of emotional anguish to the audience. However, thanks to It Was His Sled and the numerous explosions on Internet forums and even on this site's page description, it's almost impossible to go into the show not knowing it will experience eleventh hour sadness due to Creator Breakdown. Thusly, when everything starts falling apart after episode 20, and the show forcefully cranks out the Deconstructor Fleet and Tear Jerker Up to Eleven, the implausibility borders on mildly depressing to So Sad It's Funny.


  • In the Spider-Man pantheon, Maximum Carnage and The Clone Saga are routinely used for target practice by seemingly everyone under the sun. While they are probably not examples of the best of Spidey's career, there are many people who genuinely feel that both stories don't warrant the sheer volume of backlash routinely given to them. One reason for The Clone Saga being less hated is how it was streamlined in the 90s cartoon (as was the Alien Costume/Venom origin). Also, everyone in the fanbase and critics hated One More Day more. A lot of people do acknowledge that the Clone Saga had some very good material, (among other things there was an excellent miniseries called The Lost Years), but it dragged on far longer than could be supported by the story, resulting in the endless cycle of who the clone is until everyone stopped caring. Of course, another problem is that some of the stories were very bad, among them the death of Dr. Octopus, though some were even worse than that one.


  • Many people feel this way about Waterworld. It arrived in theaters in 1995 with both the baggage of its gigantic budget and Troubled Production (the sets got hit by a hurricane and that still wasn't the biggest issue) and growing critical and audience weariness with Kevin Costner, and its story is hackneyed, but its scope and scale are genuinely impressive.
  • Kevin Costner's The Postman was a commercial failure and its premise sounds ridiculous the first time you hear it, but it's certainly no Battlefield Earth.
  • Doom, not the game, but the movie. It may not be accurate to the game, but does that really matter? The biggest problem The Rock leaves a Lampshade Hanging on. Otherwise it's fine.
  • The American Godzilla film often gets this; true, it does severely depart from its source material, but as a stand-alone monster film and even as a "realistic" take on the Godzilla franchise, it's not bad, and even some of the die-hard Japanese Godzilla fans admit to liking it (and especially its Animated Adaptation) better than some of the official Toho films (some of which have been known to be famously horrible).
  • The Matrix sequels were not that bad (Reloaded was more about philosophy; Revolutions emphasized the action) and could no longer introduce the central mindblowing concept. Sure, they're not that good, but they aren't godawful.
  • Speed Racer. Critics hated it and it wasn't a very big hit, but many of those who watched it consider it to be a fun, if silly movie.
  • Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen; the massive bashing from critics may have been a reason why it grossed over $800 million.
    • Dark of the Moon which, while getting slightly better but still negative reviews, grossed over a billion.
  • Rob Reiner's North qualifies, despite its unquestionably poor quality. The reason is that the hatred of this movie in popular culture is so intense that NO movie could deserve it. Ebert's over-the-top condemnation of the movie alone inspired the Nostalgia Critic's review, who went on to trash it himself(and even went on to say that Ebert was too easy on it). Anyone who heard about this movie through popular culture will experience critical backlash if they so much as chuckle, smile, or experience any positive emotion while watching this movie.
  • Gigli is an interesting case. A lot of its initial reviewers declared it to be a bad, but not terrible movie. Somehow the torrent of mildly to moderately negative reviews, combined with the fact that it starred Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez (who were the "It" couple of the moment) transformed it from "bad movie" to "worst movie of all time". Roger Ebert actually took time out of a different review to point out that it wasn't THAT bad.
  • The Star Wars prequels... which tend to get varied reactions anyway.
  • Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
  • James Rolfe made his list of his Top 10 list sequels that aren't as bad as everyone says.
  • The Super Mario Bros movie. Sure it's not at all like the usual story goes. But it was based on a game that was solely about a tiny man with a mustache who hops on turtles and eats mushrooms, while collecting coins. With only that to go on, it's actually pretty impressive that they were able to come up with a Darker and Edgier depiction of an 8-bit game.
  • Some critics seem to think Hello, Dolly! is a terrible movie musical. If you overlook the most glaring problems (Barbra Streisand's acting and sluggish pacing) it's So Okay It's Average at worst, though definitely not up to the standard the same studio had set with The Sound of Music.
  • Critics have roast the 2010 film version of The A-Team, but regular movie goers have enjoyed it because it's meant to be just a fun, crazy, popcorn film, like a lot of summer movies, not a thought-provoking thriller like The Dark Knight (this could be why Iron Man 2 reviews suffered as well). It's also probable that the reviewers never actually watched or enjoyed the original show.
  • Twilight most definitely falls under this trope for some.
  • Mighty Morphin Power Rangers was fairly well thrashed by reviewers but made a decent amount of money from its fanbase. Today it is generally regarded as a Guilty Pleasure, it retains all that is considered fun about Power Rangers while having a much bigger budget and completely original footage.
  • Hudson Hawk was raked over the coals by critics when it was released. They thought it was an absolutely terrible action movie. And it was. Many viewers since have, however, noticed that it is a pretty darn good comedy, which is what its creators intended all along. It has also found an audience among anime fans due to the startling number of parallels to Lupin III.
  • Avatar, even in This Very Wiki. When Avatar got extremely popular, the Hype Backlash was so bad, many critics began to dissect the heck out of it and complain about even the slightest of its flaws, to the point where even that backlash and all its criticisms were considered overblown.
  • In general, whatever kids summer movie will usually end up like this, with most of them being trashed by the critics but even many adults just see it as Glurge or Narm.
  • On lists of Worst Best Picture Winners, Ordinary People is often given a high rating. But this is possibly due to the fact that it beat Raging Bull to the Best Picture Oscar. The film itself is a very subtle, quietly moving film that doesn't deserve the almighty kicking it gets.
  • Pretty much everyone likes the movies Facing the Giants, Fireproof, and the recently released Courageous...except the movie critics.
    • Or people who see The Kendrick Brothers' films as Glurge or Narm-filled cash grabs.
  • Pretty much anything Eli Roth does, whether it's directing or acting, comes under this.
  • Citizen Kane - people from the 40s would probably be cringing at seeing how something like this is considered a Sacred Cow today.


  • This actually happens to Twilight given its Hate Dumb.
  • You know, a lot of critics back in the 40s would probably look at one series/universe today and wonder why the heck people like it. They hated the hell out of it because of how it was written, even using the same stock phrases people use to describe The Inheritance Trilogy and Twilight. Now? If you criticize it at all you'll be deemed "illiterate" by its Defensive Fans, who have given it the prestigious "Immunity to Criticism" badge. What am I talking about? The Lord of the Rings, of course!
  • gives us 6 great novels that were hated by critics in their time.
  • The Harry Potter series got a bit of this, in response to its rabid Hate Dumb.
  • British author Colin Wilson first hit the big time in 1958 with a book of critical literary analysis called The Outsider. This was at first hailed as a critical success and the big-name critics couldn't get enough of this perceived driven young genius whose personal life was also newsworthy - it turned out he was living rough to save on rent and spending his days in the British Library researching and writing. However, with subsequent books the critics turned and savaged him, perhaps fearing they'd been over-fulsome the first time. While still having cult status, Wilson's "formal" literary career never really survived this early critical Heel Face Turn.

Live-Action TV

  • A lot of reality shows.
  • Two and A Half Men is trashed as the Antichrist of sitcoms. The show itself is mostly guilty of trite jokes and plots. It also gets away with a lot more sex jokes than its time slot, and having a minor as a co-star, would seem to allow. Yet is always among the top watched shows.


  • The album My Beauty by former Dexy's Midnight Runners lead Kevin Rowland came in for some of this. In this case, many critics chose to focus their ire on the fact that Rowland chose to wear drag and make-up on the album cover. This led the album being one of the worst-selling in the label's history, with only about 500 copies shifted; however, on its re-release after the the controversy had died down, later reviewers found it to be a relatively solid album of cover tracks.
  • The 1970s musical genre of disco isn't the naming genre behind Deader Than Disco for no reason, but it's nowhere near as bad as many of its more virulent critics would make out.
  • "Relax" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood.
  • Tori Amos' Boys for Pele was panned by critics, but it's considered one of her best albums by her fans.
  • Bob Dylan's 1978 album Street-Legal was slaughtered by critics (in Rolling Stone's review Greil Marcus started out by calling it "a joke" and got even more vicious as he went) for its Springsteen-ish arrangements and sometimes inscrutable lyrics. It's even been speculated that the album's poor reception might have helped drive Dylan to convert to Christianity. But after a remixed version was released in the 90s many fans have embraced it as one of their favorite albums.
  • The Beatles final (sort of) album, Let It Be, was derided as a mess of half-done songs and sloppy editing, and arrived in stores after they'd broken up. However, it contains "Let It Be" and "Across The Universe", two of the Beatles most famous songs.
  • Ironically a lot of music that is nigh untouchable by critics today (unless they're insane) was actually hated by critics back in the day.
  • The Hatedom of Justin Bieber has gotten to the point where even people who dislike his music think all the hate is overblown.

Video Games

  • Any Mortal Kombat game between MK3 and Deadly Alliance falls into this, most notably MK4. Ironically, the game was panned for the exact reason Street Fighter IV was acclaimed.
  • Every Sonic the Hedgehog game made since 2000, when you listen to the very loud Fan Dumb. Sonic Unleashed gets hit especially by this trope hard from IGN and Gamespot's (quite unfair) reviews, which made it all the more ridiculous when Sonic Unleashed got worse reviews from those sites than the much-maligned |Sonic the Hedgehog 2006.
    • There are even some who think |Sonic 2006 isn't as bad as all of the critics and fans think.
  • The Fan Dumb in the Elder Scrolls community will lead you to believe that Oblivion will insult your parents and rip out your brain and shit on it before stabbing you in the nads. Of course this is only a natural cycle...they said the exact same thing about Morrowind, only for most of the fanbase to drop that when Oblivion came out and gave them a new target.
  • This YouTube video actually shows the reviewer honestly saying he didn't find Zeldas Adventure and Hotel Mario to be as bad as everyone says they are—he even goes so far as to say that he liked Zeldas Adventure and Hotel Mario, despite having his fair share of complaints towards the games. In fact, the CD-I in general had this trope used by the reviewer, who said that it actually wasn't that bad, usually saying it was So Okay It's Average. The CD-i actually does deserve some credit though... most people who hate on it and say it's the worst system of all time have probably only ever seen pictures of it on the internet and maybe footage of people like the Angry Video Game Nerd playing it, and will only be able to tell you that its game library consists solely of games whose footage was parodied on YouTube Poop or other educational software - Mentioning that The 7th Guest (considered a classic, given that it was one of the first CD games period) was actually put on the CD-I, or even a few exclusives that were well-received would probably get you a blank stare.
    • Even The Angry Video Game Nerd admits that the SegaCD wasn't that bad and that it does have some appeal since it was just an Accentuate the Negative and very few of the reviews went into detail. If anything, he admits that some of the games do suck but that quite a bit of the reasons some of them suck (as well as the system) was just there was better stuff available after a couple years. At the end of his review; he says that he was ignoring some games because he didn't actually own them, so he was limited. He also says the SegaCD had more thought put into it than the 32X (which was rushed out the door) and has certain appeal. Other systems he makes fun of like the colecovision and intellivision he says "We've mostly been focusing on shitty games, that's the name of the game." and has a couple positive things to say, especially Montezuma's revenge on the Colecovision.
  • Despite a certain someone making it extremely trendy to rip on Final Fantasy VIII, there's still a large fandom for the game, liking the more complicated character drama, the subtle nuances of the plot, and even the card game. And even one that can explain the plot holes.
    • Final Fantasy Mystic Quest is becoming an example of this trope as well as its fanbase is starting to become a bit more vocal over the years. More people are willing to be okay with how simplistic the game is and find it to be a fun little title nevertheless (though its fairly renowned soundtrack probably helped).
  • For that matter, Final Fantasy in general - despite how many internet shepherds have made it "cool" and "Edgy" to hate on them, they still have their fans.
  • Deus Ex Invisible War is actually a really good FPS and received average critical scores of about 8/10. To hear the fans talk about it though, it's the worst heresy ever spawned from the pits of FPS hell- or at least little better than Daikatana and it is even considered Fanon Discontinuity by some. This is more due to the fact that it simply can't live up to the original, largely because it's accused -with some justification- of being "dumbed down" for the Xbox.
    • It still had a much, much more down-to-earth story than the original game did, which arguably became almost a caricature by the end. Heaven forbid you say you liked it better than the original.
  • Ok, Unreal Tournament III was an Obvious Beta at the launch moment, which played a bit against it, critically speaking, in the beginning. Also, it isn't Unreal Tournament or Unreal Tournament 2004. However, its gameplay isn't the bad the fans of previous installments make it to be seen, and with the advent of the Black Edition, it was just improved in any sense possible, and it's actually worth of a high place in the series' quality.
  • The Atari 2600 version of Pac-Man and ET the Extra Terrestrial are frequently called "the worst games ever" by critics. Granted, Pac-Man suffered from being a Porting Disaster and E.T. has some issues of its own, but they're not as bad as critics might think, compared to other games released on that system at the time these 2 games were released.
  • Many reviewers chose to follow the crowd in bashing Dragon Age II, calling it a dumbed down action game, when in fact it still features the tactical combat just like Dragon Age Origins, only faster. The game did have its problems (recycled dungeons, unpredictable enemy spawns), but the writing and dialogue were very good. Of course, it probably doesn't help that Bioware was caught planting user reviews from its employees, was quoted out of context in wanting Call of Duty 's audience, and that there was a ridiculous amount of pre-order DLC available. Despite a flood of harsh negative user reviews, many fans will agree that it's still a solid overall game.
    • Most fans will admit that while Dragon Age 2 is still a good game, it's not nearly as in-depth or as nuanced as Origins was. Many of the fanbase now consider it the Oblivion to Origins' Morrowind: Still a good, entertaining game, but it can't hold a candle in terms of depth to the latter.
  • The Halo series tends to get this a lot of this, especially considering that much of this comes from the massive Fan Dumb of Half Life, System Shock and Call of Duty. Especially on The Escapist, thanks to Zero Punctuation (who has openly said he didn't really enjoy Halo, but said it was average) in which the series is frequently complained about ripping off stuff it actually created or popularized or was done on Marathon (Which was also done by Bungie), is criticized for its Fan Dumb (despite that they themselves are the same way), has extremely subjective opinions thrown at it, and stuff that's flat out contradicted by the games.
  • Alpha Protocol: Savaged by various reviewers who failed to appreciate its nuances and scared off the vast majority of first adopters, it has become a cult classic whose fans admit that it has flaws but enjoy the vast replayability it offers.
  • Averted in the case of Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Despite being released as an Obvious Beta with fewer characters than the previous game (that was more or less set up to be the preview for an even bigger game), general opinion was rather positive.
  • Metroid: Other M. The game actually got decent to average reviews, even though it was nowhere near the same praise as the previous games. However, fans absolutely hated it, mainly for the Kudzu Plot, the almost maddening linearity, the move from exploration to pure action, and most of all, Samus's new personality. The fan reaction and bad press made the game a disaster in the sales department, even by Metroid standards, with many stores drastically dropping prices on the game lower than even a shovelware budget title. It even made Nintendo executives (who put an expensive ad campaign for the game) wonder just what went wrong.
  • Duke Nukem Forever: Rescued from Development Hell after a decade and a half, it was the most popular playable title at PAX 2010—yet it was almost universally treated as Snark Bait by critics once it was released. Some reviewers even ventured into Fan Hater territory, slinging insults at anyone who actually enjoys DNF. Despite all that, the game still sold well enough to be profitable—a fact that actually annoyed its critics. Check out the Metacritic scores for the PC version, and note the difference in distribution of ratings between critics and users.
  • 4chan's /v/ hates video games as a whole. With the exception of a handful of Sacred Cow franchises, nearly any video game posted there is declared shit, especially games that aren't even out yet.
  • Diablo III. Despite that it was bombed to lower than Big Rigs (mostly by irate fans or haters), the reviewers loved it. And for that matter, judging by how many people consistently log on and play, seems that Blizzard did something right.

Web Original

  • The webcomic Ctrl+Alt+Del is widely derided, yet maintains such a significant base of regular readers that the author is able to live off the comic. In the world of webcomics? This is very rare.

Western Animation

  • For how much hate Star Wars: The Clone Wars got from The Movie, many people have come to see it more along the lines of "Not too bad" instead of "It rivals the Star Wars Holiday Special for badness". Confused Matthew even said it wasn't as bad as everyone claimed (He still thought it was bad, mind you; he is a Caustic Critic after all. However, he put it at the same level as the Star Wars prequels—No better, no worse). The television show has been applauded in several circles and even the much hated Ahsoka has her fans. In fact /co/ went from hating it to being a total Tsundere for it.
  • Beast Machines originally had quite a bit of backlash after all the praise and love Beast Wars got. With the advent of fansubs of Japanese produced G1 material and the later dubbing of The Unicron Trilogy made many people realized their weaknesses made Beast Machines strengths stand out more (animation, story, characterizations, etc.).
  • Plenty of Disney movies before their "renaissance" or "Second renaissance", actually. Even some who were considered to be the "Dork Age" or "Black Sheep" of Disney's animation like The Black Cauldron have cult-fanbases today.