Mr. Cranky

Mr. Cranky

Mr. Cranky, a satirical film critic, was created in 1995 by Jason Katzman and Hans Bjordahl. The Cranky personae premises that all movies are terrible; at issue, solely, is the severity of pain, insult, discomfort or idiocy projected, injected, ingested, subjected or otherwise presented. There are no good films in the Cranky pantheon; only films which inflict greater or lesser suffering.

Subtextually, the Mr. Cranky website is a comment on an uncritical film-reviewing culture. In contrast to boilerplate, overly effusive reviews—often including declarations that incorporate a film's theme or title in a pun or play-on-words—the Cranky review is received on the originality of its portrayal of physical suffering and mental anguish effected by the viewing experience.

The movies are rated on a six-step scale, with the least worst (i.e. best) film receiving one "bomb." Films that cause greater suffering receive additional "bombs." (Up to four.) Movies deemed particularly offensive receive a Dynamite or "Boomstick" rating. The worst films (i.e. those Cranky has marked as irredeemable-- "Proof that Jesus died in vain" in classic Cranky vernacular) receive the Animated Atomic Explosion or "Kaboom!" rating.

In October 2001, a "guest reviewer" named Mr. Smiley appeared. A post-modern reflection of the Cranky character's anti-reviews, Mr. Smiley is a mirror opposite of the Mr. Cranky personae: all reviews are hyperbolically positive. Mr. Smiley is a stereotypical smiley face smelling a pink Freesia flower, appearing every year near Halloween. Consistent with the theme, the Smiley character has a rising five-step scale going from one smiley face to the "Prozacerrific!" Happy Pill. Consistent with other 20th century artists including the post World War I Dadaists (Absurdists) and post-modern anti-art of the 1960s—best embodied by Warhol's "pop art" works and Lichenstein's self-portraits—Mr. Smilely was an effective ironic tool used to comment on the deficiencies of uncritical analysis and review.


Mr. Cranky, who takes the form of a self-gagging purple frowny-face, appears on the website Shadowculture's Mr. Cranky Rates the Movies. The character was created for a Colorado-based website named XOR. Katzman, the primary writer, and Bjordahl, his editor, purchased the rights to the feature in 1998 and established Cranky's website, which includes an archive of reviews, editorials, and message boards. The website launched on October third, a date that Crankylanders (see below) sometimes refer to as "Cranktoberfest".

The Mr. Cranky reviews also appear on the Chicago Tribune website. They can be found in print in both the Tribune's free publication RedEye and in the self-published trade paperback book Shadowculture's Mr. Cranky Presents: The 100 Crankiest Movie Reviews Ever (Author House, 2004; ISBN 1-4184-4812-5)

Jason Katzman is employed at the University of Colorado and also contributes articles to MSNBC. Hans Bjordahl worked on Where the Buffalo Roam, the first internet comic strip, and is currently employed by Microsoft.

Retirement and continuance

On July 3, 2008, the homepage stated, "Mr. Cranky Retires!! Infamous Site to Call it Quits August 31, 2008... After 12+ years ripping Hollywood films to shreds, the infamous movie review site that made vitriol an art form, Mr. Cranky, has decided to shut down... August 31 is our deadline to discontinue the site, but also the deadline to see if there’s any last-ditch means of selling or saving it... Until that time, there won't be anymore reviews, but the site and the "Goodbye Mr. Cranky" forum will be open for fans to search and recall the past." [1]

The announcement was premature. The site has been redesigned, and new reviews are being posted. Posts on the site indicate that the original Mr. Cranky team is still involved, but new reviews are contributed by other writers as well. [2]

All the old reviews and forums can still be accessed at


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