But still, in the 12 months since encountering the Day-Glo rush of its first trailers, our affection for Harmony Korine's simultaneous celebration and critique of mindless hedonism has grown with each subsequent viewing.
In honor of the anniversary of Faith, Cotty, Candy and Brit's life-changing vacation, we're looking back at four memorable moments from the film. As James Franco's Alien says: "Bikinis and big booties, y'all – that's what life is about."
(A word of warning: Some of these moments are Not Safe For Work.)
4. When Faith Leaves
It's not quite Hitchcock killing off Janet Leigh in the shower, but Korine's decision to send off Selena Gomez's Faith halfway through the film is bolder than it looks. Gomez was the face of the film's marketing, and the audience's entry point into the Spring Breakers world. Faith going home after getting a glimpse of Alien's social circle could have been a savvy move to keep Gomez from being too identified with the other characters' worst behavior, but in jettisoning its nominal protagonist the film kicks into a higher gear, while also making a trenchant point about the way its white-girl heroines think abut race.
3. The Shootout
You could write an essay on the climactic shootout that ends Spring Breakers, and you've got your pick of topics: the way the film tosses away Franco without as much as a second look, the way Candy and Brit casually mow down an army of disposable drug soldiers, even the way the lighting makes their ski masks look like blackface.
2. The "Look at My S---" Scene
James Franco deserved a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. No offense to Jared Leto, but Franco's Alien transcended his influences to become a truly unique cinematic creation. We would have paid good money to see the Academy try to fit this monologue in a clip package.
1. The "Everytime" Montage
Who could have guessed that a film that premiered at the Venice Film Festival would hand its most emotional moment over to a second-tier Britney Spears song? For much of the film, the mysterious bond between Alien and the spring breakers remains one of ever-shifting power plays, but their poolside rendition of "Everytime" provides the film with a real moment of human connection. That it's immediately followed by a montage of unsettlingly aestheticized violence (even for a film with a lot of aestheticized violence) only makes it more disturbing and poetic.