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We Called It! We Blew It! What EW critics got right and wrong over 25 years

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Over the past quarter century, EW got a lot of movies, TV, music, and books right – except when we got it wrong. Ahead, check out our hits and misses from the last 25 years. 

MOVIES

WE CALLED IT

RESERVOIR DOGS, 1992: Quentin Tarantino’s auteur vision was evident in his first feature. Critic Owen Gleiberman called the film “funny, thrilling, and so unabashedly violent it both shocks you and leaves you giddy at your own capacity for shock.” A

TOY STORY, 1995: “The beauty of Toy Story is the way it expresses the essence of child’s play — that pretending is the art of dreaming when you’re wide awake,” Gleiberman wrote. Fifteen years later, Toy Story 3 was bringing him to tears. A

THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, 2001: Critic Lisa Schwarzbaum admitted she was a Lord of the Rings virgin before reviewing Peter Jackson’s sweeping adaptation — but even the most fervent J.R.R. Tolkien nerds could find no fault with her take. She wrote, “I may have never turned a page of Tolkien, but I know enchantment when I see it.”

RELATED: EW’s 25 Best Movies in 25 Years 

Ron Batzdorff

WE BLEW IT

PRETTY WOMAN, 1990: Twenty years after the fact, Gleiberman called his pan of this beloved romantic comedy “the most infamous review I had ever written or probably ever would write.” He initially dismissed it as a “plastic screwball soap opera.” Julia Roberts wouldn’t be wrong to tell him, “Big mistake. Huge.” D

FIGHT CLUB, 1999: Schwarzbaum achieved notoriety among Chuck Palahniuk fanboys with her scathing slam of David Fincher’s cult classic. But there’s no denying it’s a deliciously written review, evoking “limp penises” and several mentions of IKEA. D

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN2008: A brief review of this “Swedish headscratcher,” as Gleiberman put it, has racked up 468 mostly angry comments on EW.com at press time.

RELATED: EW’s Origin Story: How the magazine’s evolved since its 1990 launch 

ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images

TV

WE CALLED IT

TWIN PEAKS, 1990: Critic Ken Tucker knew David Lynch’s oddball mystery wouldn’t be a commercial hit—but that wasn’t the point. “Twin Peaks makes you aware of just how slapped together most TV entertainment is,” he wrote. “Its calm, deliberate eccentricity is a virtue in itself.” A+

FRIENDS, 1994: Humdrum, six-friends-in-a-coffeehouse conceit aside, Tucker saw promise in what would define Must See TV. “Friends operates like a first-rate Broadway farce, complete with slamming doors, twisty plots, and intricately strung together jokes.” A-

VERONICA MARS, 2004: Another crime-riddled fictional town that captured our attention? Neptune and its sleuthing teen Veronica. “[Her] world is like an Archie comic gone really dark,” critic Gillian Flynn wrote. A- 

RELATED: 25 Best TV Characters in the Past 25 Years 

HBO

WE BLEW IT

SEX AND THE CITY, 1998: The first few episodes of the HBO series didn’t leave us wondering whether we were a Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, or Charlotte. In fact, critic Bruce Fretts characterized the women as so self-involved “they make Ally McBeal look like Mother Teresa.” C-

DAWSON’S CREEK, 1998: Sometimes there’s no accounting for teen taste. Even Tucker’s then 16-year-old couldn’t predict the drama’s success, quipping, “It’s like My So-Called Life without the life.” Sad Dawson. C

PRETTY LITTLE LIARS, 2010Speaking of soapy young-adult series, we didn’t consider PLL A-worthy either when it debuted. According to critic Leah Greenblatt, it “hits every ‘racy’ teentertainment mark so hard… it feels like the only thing missing is a visit from the ghosts of Jennifer Love Hewitt and Freddie Prinze Jr.” D- 

RELATED: They said what?! Test your knowledge of the craziest celebrity quotes as told to EW 

MUSIC

WE CALLED IT

KANYE WEST, 808S & HEARTBREAKWest’s fourth album was a dramatic departure that disappointed fans, but in our A--review he found “the soul beneath the swagger,” a path he followed for the watershed My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

JEFF BUCKLEY, GRACEThe singer-songwriter didn’t get the recognition he deserved until after his tragic death in 1997, but when his debut arrived in 1994, we declared it one of the best albums of the year — and scored it a rare A+.

ADELE, 19: Sure, in the review of 19 EW said, “Adele’s songs aren’t as sharp as Duffy’s,” but we’ve been championing the British superstar from the start: Her first appearance on the Must List came in March 2008, three months before 19’s U.S. release and well before she became a worldwide phenomenon. 

RELATED: 25 Unforgettable Dresses From the Past 25 Years 

WE BLEW IT

PEARL JAM, TENPearl Jam were pioneers of the Seattle sound, with huge tunes like “Alive” and “Even Flow,” but EW shrugged off their 1991 debut with a dismissive B-.

JANET JACKSON, JANETIt sold an estimated 20 million copies worldwide, spawned signature hits like “If” and “That’s the Way Love Goes,” and established Janet as one of the definitive artists of her generation, but EW was not having her liberated come-ons, giving it a C+ and declaring the record that’s pronounced “Janet, period” a “mess—period.”

JOAN OSBORNE, RELISHThe one-hit wonder resonated deeply with EW: Relish was declared the best album of 1995 (a list that omitted Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill and Björk’s Post) and also landed on the Best of the Decade list for EW’s 10th anniversary. 

RELATED: 25 things we can’t believe about 1990 

BOOKS

WE CALLED IT

BRIDGET JONES’S DIARYHELEN FIELDING: We were v.v. right about this British sensation, dubbing it an “addictive snack food of a comic novel.” A

THE HUNGER GAMESSUZANNE COLLINS: Guest reviewer Stephen King called the book “a violent, jarring speed-rap of a novel that generates nearly constant suspense and may also generate a fair amount of controversy.” B

THE PERFECT STORM, SEBASTIAN JUNGER: Long before it shot to the top of the best-seller lists, we wrote, “Ferociously dramatic and vividly written, The Perfect Storm is not just the best book of summer. It’s an indelible experience.” A+ 

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WE BLEW IT

LONDON FIELDSMARTIN AMIS: Reviewers fawned over what they called “the great London novel,” but our critic wrote, “London Fields has its moments…but they are submerged in 470 pages of pullulating cleverness and eager-to-displease overkill.” C

A NIGHT WITHOUT ARMOR, JEWEL: Jewel’s poetry collection — which includes a verse that rhymes “cripples” with “nipples” — was savaged by almost everyone but us. “Jewel is just a polish away from shining,” we wrote. B

THE GOLDFINCH, DONNA TARTT: Our critic found very little to like about Tartt’s Pulitzer winner: “Like the beautiful, antique-looking furniture Hobie builds using materials from different ages, the novel has too many disparate parts to be a genuine treasure.” B-

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