Legendary actor James Dean famously said once that the gratification from acting "comes in the doing, not in the results." While this advice was intended to remind performers that the craft itself is more important than how audiences perceive the work, it’s clear that some actors took this quote to heart in the worst way possible, ignoring the fact that their performances just plain sucked.
In rare cases, these terrible performances can even improve a movie, transforming the mediocrity on display into something so bad that it turns full circle, becoming almost good in a trashy kind of way. Join us as we take a look at the dreadful roles that somehow made their movies better, Oscars be damned!
The Room – You’re Tearing Me Apart, Wiseau!
Everyone’s favorite flower shop customer typifies the kind of bad acting that people enjoy more than any other. After writing, directing, and starring in The Room (2003), a film often described as the Citizen Kane of bad movies, Tommy Wiseau became an industry legend in ways that even he couldn’t predict.
Fifteen years after Wisea made his big screen debut, the actor’s bizarre accent and exaggerated delivery has transformed The Room into a cult classic, one which continues to be quoted by midnight movie fans worldwide. In the hands of anyone else, lines such as "Hi, doggy" and "Anyway, how is your sex life?" would just be bad, but Wiseau’s baffling performance somehow elevates these words into a bizarrely hilarious curio that will forever hold a place in Hollywood’s hall of fame.
After all, it’s not every day that James Franco creates an entire film based around your horrible acting, and that’s exactly what he did when he based his film The Disaster Artist (2017) on the making of The Room, picking up a Golden Globe along the way for his troubles.
Showgirls – It Doesn’t Suck
Despite the main character’s protests to the contrary, Showgirls (1995) sucked and it sucked hard, but this was always the intent. According to director Paul Verhoeven, actor Elizabeth Berkley deliberately pushed her trashiness to hitherto unseen extremes precisely because he told her to. During an interview with Rolling Stone, Verhoeven defended the Saved By The Bell alumni, explaining that, whether it was good or not, "I was the one who asked her to exaggerate everything — every move — because that was the element of style that I thought would work for the movie."
While critics trashed this story of a trashy stripper upon its release, audiences have since learned to embrace the ludicrous dialogue and campy acting of Showgirls, holding a particularly special place in their hearts for the character of Nomi Malone. From her cringeworthy attempts at erotic dancing to that sex scene in the swimming pool, Berkley’s performance has become one of the all-time greats in cult cinema. It’s just a shame that her attempts to turn people on ultimately turned casting directors off — to the point where her acting career ended up floundering worse than Nomi did in that pool, thrashing around with neither shame nor dignity.
Battlefield Earth – Face/Palm
After returning to the spotlight following his iconic role in Pulp Fiction (1994), John Travolta decided to use his new-found glory and millions of his own dollars to produce a sci-fi epic that became a box office bomb of epic proportions. Based on a novel written by L. Ron. Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, Battlefield Earth (2000) became a laughing stock among critics, earning a rating of just 3% on Rotten Tomatoes. While the criticism was rather broad, condemning everything from the confused direction to the ludicrous plot holes, particular attention was given to Travolta’s role in the film.
The long-time Scientologist played a member of an alien race in Battlefield Earth who wore dreadlocks and nose plugs — because why not? Short of twiddling an imaginary moustache, Travolta’s pantomime performance was almost Shakespearean in gravitas, lending the audience a hilarious reprieve from the monotony of the film itself that won the actor a Golden Raspberry award for his efforts.
Despite its now legendary critical mauling, Travolta still maintains that Battlefield Earth is "a beautiful film," explaining to The Daily Beast that he doesn’t regret his involvement in the slightest. In fact, Travolta would still star in the movie now if he had to do it all over again, blaming the media for its negative image.
Batman And Robin – The Ice Man Cometh
In a misguided attempt to recapture the cheesy magic of the ’60s Batman TV show, director Joel Schumacher and writer Akiva Goldsman set the superhero genre back decades with their second collaboration starring the Dark Knight. From its gaudy production values to those unforgettable bat-nipples, Batman & Robin (1997) has regularly topped lists compiling the worst movies of all time since its release in 1997, scoring just 10% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Both Schumacher and star George Clooney have since apologized for their roles in bringing the film to life, regretting how Batman And Robin temporarily brought the franchise to an end before it was rebooted eight years later. However, anyone who’s seen the film knows that no apology is necessary. Sure, Batman And Robin was so abysmal that it forced Warner Bros. to cancel plans for Batman Unchained, a follow-up that would have also starred Harley Quinn. On the plus side though, Batman And Robin also brought us the campy delight that is Arnold Schwarzenegger in the role of Mr. Freeze.
Previously known largely for serious action roles in the likes of Terminator (1984) and Predator (1987), Schwarzenegger bizarrely began exploring comic roles in the ’90s, all of which culminated in his puntastic rendition of Mr. Freeze. The ice cold villain took great delight in turning every line into a gag, and, in hindsight, it’s hard to imagine anyone else but Arnie utter immortal puns such as "Cool party" and "Let’s kick some ice!"
Gigli – Bennifer
For a film that depended almost entirely on the sparks between its two leads, it’s fascinating how real-life couple Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez failed to muster anything that remotely resembles chemistry in the movie Gigli (2003). If anything, Martin Brest’s film somehow managed to achieve the complete opposite, repelling critics and audiences alike to the point where Gigli became one of the biggest box office bombs in history, grossing just $7.2 million with a budget of $75.6 million.
The media immediately seized upon the couple’s failure and so did the Razzies, which awarded the film a total of six Golden Raspberry Awards, including Worst Actor and Worst Screen Couple. While it’s hard to decide whose talent failed to shine most in Gigli, Ben Affleck’s performance is particularly bad in the best way possible.
Whether you enjoyed Gigli or despised every frame, it’s hard to deny that the scene that deserves most to live on in infamy is when Affleck utters the words, "I’m the f***in’ original, straight-first-foremost, pimp-mack, f***in hustler, original gangster’s gangster!" Who else but Affleck could deliver such a painfully awkward line with a straight face? It’s a ballsy performance but not in the way that Affleck might have hoped it would be.
Masters Of The Universe – Loved For Eternia
Inspired by a beloved ’80s cartoon, which developed via Mattel and their toy line, Masters Of The Universe (1987) holds a special place in the hearts of grown-up kids everywhere.
Poor reviews and lackluster box office earnings put an end to hopes for a sequel, and even contributed to the imminent closure of Cannon Films, but it seems that most people missed the point. Sure, He-Man’s ongoing war against Skeletor is clunky and just poorly made, but Masters Of The Universe also deserves to be celebrated as a camp classic in its own right. That’s largely due to Dolph Lundgren’s performance in the lead role.
Wielding a sword and little else, Lundgren imbued He-Man with a goofy charm that resonated with an entire generation of children who were overjoyed to see their hero on the big screen at last. Using any measure known to man, it’s clear that Lundgren’s performance will never be considered as "good" in any objective interpretation of the word, but his portrayal of the character on screen was still remembered fondly enough to help kick-start an upcoming reboot which David S. Goyer is currently in talks to direct.
The Wicker Man – The Wicker Meme
Like Robin Hardy’s original take on The Wicker Man (1973), Neil Labute’s remake revolves around the search for a missing girl on a remote island. However, unlike the first Wicker Man, the new version starring Nicolas Cage omits the horror in favor of unintentionally hilarious comedy, spawning hundreds of schadenfreude-laden reviews from critics and countless more memes from the internet-at-large.
Viewed purely as a remake of the horror classic, the 2006 version of The Wicker Man deserves nothing but contempt and derision. After all, the original film remains a masterclass in suspense and paranoia, and this new imitation simply doesn’t hold up. However, if you’re willing to put aside any notions of horror and embrace Cage’s bizarre performance for what it is, then the new Wicker Man is arguably one of the best comedies ever made.
It’s hard to tell whether Cage played the part for laughs or was genuinely sincere in the role, but either way, his (over)acting here is truly a marvel to behold. With an animal-like intensity, Cage blazes across the screen, screaming about bees and punching women while wearing a bear costume. There’s nothing else out there quite like it, and if the film’s box office failure is anything to go by, then there will probably never be anything like this again.
Judge Dredd – The Expendable
It’s rather ironic that a movie about a futuristic cop that acts as judge, jury, and executioner has become a guilty pleasure for many (See what we did there?), but that’s exactly what’s happened years after Sylvester Stallone’s adaptation of Judge Dredd (1995) was first released. The film was originally considered to be a box office flop domestically, and a Rotten Tomatoes audience score of just 30% confirms that this ’90s comic book adaptation didn’t resonate with audiences at the time. However, interest in the property has ensured that Judge Dredd will never be forgotten completely.
One particular sticking point for fans of the comic was the fact that Stallone took off the helmet and revealed Dredd’s face in the movie. This is something that the character would have never done in the source material, but then again, if he hadn’t done this, then we would have never received the gift of Stallone’s hilariously rigid facial expressions.
At the end of Judge Dredd, the absurdity peaks during an argument shared between Dredd and his counterpart Rico, escalating to the point where both forget how to pronounce basic words in English. The gibberish that both actors scream at each other has since become immortalized online thanks to an endless stream of GIFs and parodies that ensure Judge Dredd will hold a special place in the hearts of cinephiles everywhere, even though a later adaptation simply called Dredd (2012) did a far better job of capturing what the character is really all about.
The Happening – A Wooden Threat
Marketed as M. Night Shyamalan’s first foray into R-rated territory, The Happening (2008) stumbled into far more cartoonish territory instead, provoking a collective eye roll from critics everywhere who struggled to stifle laughter during the film’s purported scenes of horror. Somewhat of a success in terms of box office revenue, The Happening is still remembered as one of Shyamalan’s worst films, amplifying the script’s B-movie origins into something far more laughable than was ever intended.
Much of the unintentional comedy on display can be attributed to the wooden dialogue and surprisingly poor acting. In particular, Mark Wahlberg is so wooden at some points that it becomes hard to differentiate him from the killer trees that are trying to end life on earth. Time and time again, Wahlberg’s weirdly earnest delivery rings false and transforms the movie into a bizarre parody of what Shyamalan was likely trying to achieve.
Funnily enough, Wahlberg himself admitted a few years later that The Happening was a really bad movie, explaining that he originally joined the project to break out of the typecasting that had begun to plague his career. "You can’t blame me for wanting to try to play a science teacher, you know? I wasn’t playing a cop or a crook." While it’s impressive to hear that Wahlberg is open to trying new things, it’s safe to say that most would rather see the world succumb to the threat of deadly plants than watch him attempt to play a science teacher again, even if it was hilarious to watch the first time around.
Spice World – Wannabe Actors
In the same tradition as The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night (1964) and The Monkees’ cult film Head (1968), The Spice Girls brought their own unique brand of girl power to cinemas everywhere in 1997, capitalizing on both their record-breaking success and the world’s brief fascination with "Cool Britannia." Predictably, Spice World broke box office records, and, even more predictably, the critics loathed it for the most part. However, even the most hardened journalist must admit that there’s something infectiously fun about the film.
Sure, there’s no real plot to speak of and, yes, none of the girls ever made the headlines for their acting ability, but thanks to the bubbly charisma of Mel B, Mel C, Emma, Geri, and Victoria, Spice World continues to spice up the lives of fans everywhere two decades on. To celebrate the film’s 20th anniversary, U.K. cinemas re-released the film to much acclaim, suggesting that the Fab Five still retain their retro charm.
Since Spice World was first released, the girls have gone their separate ways and reunited more than once, but none of that matters while watching the film. Spice World is a bright and breezy time-capsule of a unique period in British history, one that wouldn’t work without the brash positivity of the girls themselves, each of whom elevate the plot’s silly trappings into something undeniably silly yet ultimately engrossing.
Troll 2 – "They’re Eating Her!"
Every now and again, a movie comes along that defies the odds and fails in every conceivable way. More than any other film on this list, Troll 2 is that movie. From the totally implausible plot to the fact that not even a single troll appears in the film, Troll 2 (1990) is a catastrophe in every sense of the word, redefining what the word "bad" truly means.
The story itself follows a family who try and stop vegetarian goblins from turning them into plants, but that doesn’t really matter. What does matter is the atrocious performances on display, which helped the film develop a cult following that led to numerous screenings at midnight movie festivals and a documentary called Best Worst Movie (2009), which chronicled the many problems experienced on set.
While it’s difficult to pinpoint the single worst performance in Troll 2, the one that’s gained the most notoriety over the years comes courtesy of Darren Ewing, whose character reacts in horror at the sight of a woman being devoured by the goblins. Clips and memes depicting the moment when he screams "They’re Eating Her!" became a viral sensation years later, encouraging a new generation to seek the film out, despite a Rotten Tomatoes score of just 6%.