7 worst expat movies of all time

7 worst expat movies of all time

Hollywood doesn’t produce many films worse than romantic comedies starring Matthew McConaughey, but when it does they usually involve expats

There are some great films about expats, but given the turkey-to-classic ratio, it’s something of a mystery how most get made.

The main problem is the fallacy that expats are out there diving headfirst into strange cultures, new languages and beautiful friendships.

Mostly they sit around watching pirated DVDs (of lousy expat films probably) moaning about whatever country has the misfortune to host them.

To guide you through these expat-rated horrors, we’ve endured a hardship posting in front of a foreign television, watching the all-time worst of cinema’s overseas adventures with only a box of crappy local popcorn for comfort.

7. 'Mamma Mia!' (2008)

Papa don't preach. And mama definitely don't dance.
A young expat tries to find the true identity of her father on the eve of her Greek Island wedding -- a plot that could easily be tragedy, drama or farce.

Add Pierce Brosnan croaking through an ABBA soundtrack, however, and it becomes horror.

Swedish pop songs are shoehorned in at every opportunity. Donna (Meryl Streep) is short of cash, we hear "Money, Money, Money." Donna recalls her pop star past: "Dancing Queen."

The whole mess could've been avoided with a simple paternity test or by including the ABBA song, "Wedding Party Wiped Out by Salmonella Outbreak," if only Bjorn and Benny had gotten around to writing it.

Excruciating expat dialogue

Sophie [reading Donna’s diary]: "We danced on the beach, kissed on the beach and dot, dot, dot."


6. 'The Beach' (2000)

"This movie is a bigger disaster than the Titanic. Wait a minute, that's it!"
With its gorgeous Thai scenery and rumbling undercurrents of violence, jealousy and death, "The Beach” aims to deliver a serious message about the illusory nature of paradise, but doesn't.

It's hard to say which is less credible, a bunch of backpacking muppets building a community on a hidden beach without an internet cafe or Leonardo DiCaprio (as Richard) joining them and failing to get the French girl.

Excruciating expat dialogue

Richard: "I just feel like everyone tries to do something different, but you always wind up doing the same damn thing."

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5. 'Under the Tuscan Sun' (2003)

Sometimes, not understanding English actually comes in handy.
Unlucky-in-love American writer Diane Lane (Frances) happens upon the only villa in Tuscany that isn’t being rented out by middle class vacationers from London and buys it on a whim.

In restoring the villa, she restores her own ... blah, blah, blah, whatever.

So what's the message here? Don't worry if your marriage collapses, just buy a house in Italy, spend a bundle renovating it, then someone else will come along. There's a life lesson we can all relate to.

Excruciating expat dialogue

Frances: "I'll hire the muscular descendants of Roman gods to do the heavy lifting."


4. 'Eat Pray Love' (2010)

Just because eating carbs is life sustaining doesn't mean it's life affirming.
Unlucky-in-love American writer Julia Roberts ... no, stick with us, this one's slightly different.

Granted, Roberts as Liz Gilbert goes to Italy, but there’s no villa, just the start of a year swanning around the world with no apparent worries about cash.

In Italy, Roberts' character learns to eat Italian food (without gaining weight). She then moves to India to explore spirituality before travelling to Bali for love.

Not love with some vacationing sleazeball. Love with Javier Bardem. Like that happens in real life.

Excruciating expat dialogue

Liz: "It won't last forever. Nothing does." (Except this film -- 140 minutes long!)

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3. 'Mr. Baseball' (1992)

"How was I supposed to know wearing a sweater in the tub was culturally unacceptable?"
Who needs jokes in your script when you’ve got foreigners?

Simply send grumpy ageing baseball star Jack Elliott (Tom Selleck) to Japan, where hilarity ensues as he grapples with their crazy cultural traditions -- and toilets!

What should be a feel-good film about a fading star's last dash for glory winds up being a feel-queasy trot through every Japanese cliché known to Hollywood.

Unsurprisingly, Universal Studios' new Japanese owners were unhappy at the time. The film does have some good performances, but not from Selleck, who was upstaged by his moustache, and not for the last time.

Excruciating expat dialogue

Jack: "Different language, same attitude! Let's go!"

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2. 'Mickey Blue Eyes' (1999)

Just being one of the fellas doesn't mean you're good.
To be fair on the creators of this mafia "comedy," we could’ve picked on any Hugh Grant film here, the basic premise of all being that Grant is a posh Englishman whose Tiggerish bemusement at all things American is fundamentally hilarious.

Once, perhaps. Twice, at a push. But by the time you've watched the same act in "Nine Months," "Two Weeks Notice," "Music and Lyrics" and "Did You Hear About the Morgans?" you'll agree it's high time Hugh got himself arrested. Again.

Excruciating expat dialogue

Hugh Grant: "Gosh! Crikey! Oh, I say!" etc. etc. etc.

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1. 'Farewell to the King' (1989)

"What about the palm fronds? Too much?"
Expats, eh? Always acting so damn entitled.

But if you think they're annoying where you live, spare a thought for the tribe in Borneo, which winds up with Learoyd (Nick Nolte) in the midst of World War II.

Not content to loudly drink his own bodyweight in alcohol every Friday like normal, decent expats, Nolte becomes their king -- a role that involves going topless and sporting Dog the Bounty Hunter’s blond bouffant.

Nolte cranks the ham dial up to 11 in this poor man’s "Apocalypse Now," taking on Japanese invaders to protect his tribe which, despite being peopled with fearless head hunters, would apparently have been lost without a middle aged white guy there to save the day.

Excruciating expat dialogue

Learoyd: "I have a special relationship with the spirits. I died once. I had to. I had to give up everything, even the will to live."

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Barry Neild is a cake-winning freelance journalist based in London. His stories and reports from around the world have been published by some of the planet’s leading newspapers and websites. 

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