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Why I Walked Out: A Film Critic Shares the Times He Walked Out on a Movie

Two supremely gross movies caused me to abandon my professional obligation and leave the theater.

By Sean PatrickPublished about a month ago 6 min read
Top Story - November 2023
Why I Walked Out: A Film Critic Shares the Times He Walked Out on a Movie
Photo by Keagan Henman on Unsplash

A question that I get regularly in my line of work as a professional film critic is "Have you ever walked out of a movie?" The answer is simply, yes, I have walked out of a movie. I have, in fact, walked out of two movies. I also went on to publish remarkably negative reviews despite not having finished watching these two movies. I felt strongly that I had seen far more than enough of each of these movies to make a value judgment about them and I don't feel any sort of ethical qualms about it. These were appalling films that were unlikely to improve markedly following my leaving.

I left both films due to being severely grossed out. I will explain but please understand that while I will use as much tactful language as I can, I may have to describe some things that will be uncomfortable to say the least and disgusting at worst. Take that as a warning, the following passages on these two movies contain language of a gross and descriptive nature: Reader discretion is advised. Do me a favor, if you decide to continue reading, drop your own movie walk out stories in the comments, I am curious how many of my loyal readers have similar walkout experiences to mine. Thanks!

Formula 51 (The 51st State)

My first walkout came very early in my career. In 2001 I was assigned to watch and write about a troubled production called Formula 51. The film had been through the ringer during its troubled production having been initially titled The 51st State. The film underwent severe reshoots and was finally dumped unceremoniously in theaters with little promotion. The film stars Samuel L. Jackson as a drug dealer who has created a killer new drug. The drug is super addictive and everyone wants to get their hands on it. Jackson's Elmo has to outwit numerous killers trying to get his drugs and the recipe to produce it.

I'm recalling the plot from memory so that could be a little off but that is the gist of it. Regardless, at about the halfway point of Formula 51 Jackson manages to avoid a group hitmen by giving them a severe diuretic. How he got them to take the drug, I have no idea. But as Elmo watches on from another room through a two-way mirror, the killers start to.... feel the effects of the super-laxative. You can imagine, the scene starts with bubbling and gurgling noises before descending into the baddies having massive diarrhea in the room and we have to see it. I can't recall how much of the fecal results we had to endure because after the first baddie began filling his pants, I walked out.

I have a pretty strong stomach, generally speaking. I've seen Salo: or the 120 Days of Sodom, a movie that is famous for a scene in which captives are served feces that they feed upon as if it were ice cream. I didn't leave. That film was directed exceptionally well and the point of the film is bursting through boundaries. Formula 51 is not well directed. And, the scene in question did not need to exist or be nearly as graphic as my memory recalls. Bodily function humor can be quite good. The Owen Wilson-Jason Sudeikis comedy Hall Pass has a very funny gag with explosive diarrhea and I laughed at that. Context and execution matter.

Formula 51, by the time we reach the explosive diarrhea scene, was already going all kinds of wrong. Meatloaf played one of the film's villains, nicknamed Lizard, and he plays the role as a pure display of grotesquerie. A quite overweight Meatloaf rolling in his own filth while surrounded by sex workers was nearly enough of a display to earn Formula 51 a negative review. Thus, when the explosive diarrhea scene arrives in full, it was quite clear that the movie, as a whole, was a lost cause.

College (2008)

The other movie I walked out of in my career as a film critic is a supposed comedy called College. Released in 2008, College starred Drake Bell as one of a hapless trio of doofuses attending college for the first time. Bell's character is dealing with a break up and his friends want him to forget her by getting drunk and hooking up with college babes, who are always portrayed as more open to random sex than the supposedly frigid High School girls. Can you tell this was written by a male screenwriter, I know, huge shock.

But it wasn't the rank misogyny that had me walking out of College. No, though, it was already trending into being an epic bad movie, the scene that caused me to leave my seat and not return involved more body related humor. In my life, I have seen some things and done some things that perhaps others might find gross. We all have done things, either willingly or unwillingly, that have made us a little queasy and if you somehow haven't, how have you avoided it? You really should share.

Let's set the scene. The under-age protagonists are attending a wild fraternity party and are being fooled into thinking that they are being recruited to join the frat. Naturally, joining a frat requires a bit of hazing. There are things that people must do in order to join a frat. At this particular fraternity, the hazing ritual involves drinking alcohol that is poured over the naked backside of a large, hairy frat brother. The subject lays on his back as his potential frat brother squats over their face. The alcohol is poured over the crack of the backside, making sure to cross every... Rubicon, before landing on the face and in the mouth of the victim.

I started for the door just as the beer was traveling over a part of the human anatomy that is rarely so prominent in a mainstream movie before landing on the face of the victim. College was already a lost cause, but the butt beer was the rancid cherry on that already foul sundae. So, I walked out and did not return. I don't know what happened to the protagonists of College and I do not care. I am heartened to read, via Wikipedia, that the director of this movie and orchestrator of this scene, Deb Hagan, never directed again. That's a rare feat of good taste on the part of Hollywood. Deb probably needed a new line of work.

Find my archive of more than 20 years and nearly 2000 movie reviews at Find my modern review archive on my Vocal Profile, linked here. Follow me on Twitter at PodcastSean. Follow the archive blog on Twitter at SeanattheMovies. Listen to me talk about movies on the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast. If you have enjoyed what you have read, consider subscribing to my writing on Vocal. If you'd like to support my writing, you can do so by making a monthly pledge or by leaving a one time tip. Thanks!


About the Creator

Sean Patrick

Hello, my name is Sean Patrick He/Him, and I am a film critic and podcast host for the I Hate Critics Movie Review Podcast I am a voting member of the Critics Choice Association, the group behind the annual Critics Choice Awards.

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  • Alice B. Schellinger. about a month ago

    I’m glad you mentioned these. I thought I was the only one unsettled. I have yet to actually walk out of a movie, possibly because I make it a point to avoid films I KNOW will make me uneasy by looking into the plots, but, I am glad someone talked about these.

  • JBazabout a month ago

    I only walked on one movie ( to my recollection) if I remember it I will send a link. Great topic and interestingly enough, I never heard about either of these movies. Congratulations

  • Lamar Wigginsabout a month ago

    Nice! And congrats on your top story! The only movie I ever walked out of was ‘Young Einstein’ prob cause I was too young to understand much about it’ we left and walked into an adjacent theater where whatever Batman movie was playing the year YE came out. I’m kind of interested in what you thought about ‘Natural Born Killers’ I loved it! But heard that people like Oprah Winfrey walked out.

  • Grz Colmabout a month ago

    Fun article! I don’t usually walk out… but I have walked out of a couple of French films in the last couple of years (I’ve loved many) but these felt just too contrived & I wasn’t remotely digging these. Can’t think of the exact titles though. I’m not sure I’d watch Salo.. My friend and I also walked out of Kill Bill (shock horror!). We were eating subway at the time and hadn’t seen anything quite so bloody before. 😅 We only got to the animated sequence about forty or so minutes in. Of course I went back to see it a couple of months later and loved it as well as part 2. 😁

  • Onah chideraabout a month ago

    Nice work ❤️😗 Just joined haven’t really got to know how people like my stories 😏

  • Rachel Deemingabout a month ago

    I am trying to think of movies that I have a walked out of and none spring to mind but I am sure that there are ones that I've turned off on the telly. Can't think of any currently though. Both of these sound horrendous anyway. Great article, btw.

  • Lana V Lynxabout a month ago

    I am not a movie critic and never walk out of movies, no matter how bad they are. If they are really bad I just start laughing at their ridiculousness. When I pay good money for a movie ticket, I will squeeze out every ounce of entertainment from it. Nice review, though, and I’m glad I haven’t seen either of those movies.

  • Mackenzie Davisabout a month ago

    This is so fascinating, Sean! I love reading your thought process as a critic, something that I've been interested in. I'm honestly surprised you've only walked out of two; granted, these movies in particular sound god-awful, so I don't judge your decision, lol. Gotta say, that Big Lebowski image at the end got me laughing! I just watched it again the other day.

  • Melissa Ingoldsbyabout a month ago

    I agree ☝️ with you on these films and especially Salo… ugh 😣 I hated that film. I understand why you walked out indeed. Congratulations on your top story mate!!

  • Md Marshalabout a month ago


  • Judey Kalchik about a month ago

    I applaud your sound decisions. Haven't seen them, won't see them.

  • Kendall Defoe about a month ago

    Only familiar with 'Salo', and I still refuse to watch it. And I am someone who sat through 'Howard the Duck' in theatres...twice! Great article!

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