It’s no secret actors make a ton of money. You’d think they’d at least make an effort, right? You know, earn their money? That’s not always the case, and while there’s definitely entertainment in watching a movie that’s bad on purpose (we’re looking at you, Sharknado), let’s take a look at some movies starring actors that should have been good if the actors hadn’t checked out before they finished reading the script.
Were you excited for a big-screen version of Demolition Man? Can’t blame you. We’ll even give Sylvester Stallone a bit of a pass because no one expects Stallone to be winning any awards for his acting. But Sandra Bullock? She replaced Lori Petty as Stallone’s partner, and you can’t help but wonder if it could have been a different movie. The LA Times called her "perky," and that isn’t exactly a compliment. It isn’t just that she sounds like she’s reading words off a card; it’s that she sounds like she’s seeing them all for the first time and trying to work out what all this futuristic talk is about. Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers said, "It feels computer engineered, untouched by human hands."
When we want robots for actors, we’ll ask for them, Sandra.
Dungeons & Dragons
Do you really get into your Dungeons & Dragons sessions? Does your character not just have a whole back story, a tragic childhood, and hopes and dreams that seem just tantalizingly out of reach? Do you make requests of your DM in character? If so, you’re probably better at it than literally anyone who was in the 2000 screen adaptation of D&D.
There are a few big names there, too, but we’re mostly looking at Jeremy Irons, who delivers a performance the Orlando Sentinel called "hamming." It’s almost as though he couldn’t believe his agent had booked him into a role that required robe-wearing, spell-casting, and dragon-imagining. Maybe he was cast just to spite someone and decided to go as over-the-top as he could. See him as the most annoying member of your gaming group. You know the one, the guy that actually does have a closet full of robes, wears them on a semi-regular basis, and insists on using his dirty Cheetos-fingers to move pieces around on the map. If you can make it through the film, keep an eye out for the Cheetos dust.
You can spend an afternoon discussing the incredible performances of Leonardo DiCaprio. He did what a lot of actors can’t do, making the jump from amateur pretty boy to serious adult. Inception, Catch Me If You Can, The Aviator, The Wolf of Wall Street … all good!
The Beach won’t make any list of Leo’s best movies, even though the setting is a gorgeous, exotic paradise that you’d love being stranded in. Preferably alone, with none of the horrible acting. Just check out the above clip of the climactic scene, where they’re all supposed to be impressed, amazed, and all sorts of other emotions. Imagine yourself being on that island with these scenes being played out in front of you. You’d tell people to stop clowning around and take this seriously already. The nicest thing CNN’s Paul Clinton could say about the actors was that "everyone has a lovely tan." Solid priorities.
Superman IV: The Quest for Peace
You probably don’t go into any superhero movie expecting award-winning acting. That’s fair. However, most people do expect everyone involved with the movie to take your nerd-cred as seriously as you do. (The most recent Marvel movies do this extraordinarily well.) Superman IV: The Quest for Peace … not so much.
There’s a weird thing that starts to happen here thanks to the combination of horrible acting and horrible storyline, and you can see it in the above clip. Are we watching a Christopher Reeve who’s sick of wearing the suit or a Christopher Reeve who’s playing a Clark Kent who’s going for a certain amount of mind-bending ineptitude in order to conceal his true identity? When you start thinking like that, it turns into a massive headache. Is he being bad on purpose? At what point did he stop acting? On the plus side, pondering that will get you through the movie, which Jay Boyar of the Orlando Sentinel called "cinematic kryptonite."
Picking just one clip to illustrate the awfulness of Battlefield Earth is difficult. Somehow, this train wreck of a movie still has a 3 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Perhaps those positive reviews came from critics who just glanced at the cast list before coming down with a case of food poisoning, missing the movie, and logging their reviews anyway.
It’s bad in its entirety, and according to Steve Persall of the Tampa Bay Times, "A performance by John Travolta in which he abandons everything that ever made him cool is the rotten cherry on top."
The cast is so much better than this, but you have to give them credit for a few things. They’re all able to say they were in one of the worst movies ever made. On the flip side, this is one of the best drinking game movies. For real. Drink every time prosthetics move incorrectly, or if anyone says "leverage" or "man-animal." Stop about halfway through the film to be safe.
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
It isn’t going out on a limb to say that the accents in this Kevin Costner flick need a bit of work. It’s unclear how they decided Robin Hood would hail from California, but it was probably at that point everyone else decided they weren’t even going to bother trying.
Everyone except Alan Rickman. His awesome Sheriff of Nottingham makes the rest of it that much more painful to watch. It’s like watching a single, talented up-and-coming actor struggling to hold together an amateur dramatic show because there’s a talent scout from the Royal Shakespeare Company in the audience. If you haven’t seen it in a while, you’ve probably forgotten there’s a few other amazing people in it, like Morgan Freeman. He just gave up, too, and Empire magazine’s Philip Thomas agreed, calling it "considerably smaller than the sum of its parts." That’s nicer than you’ll be if you give it a watch again.
You’ll be forgiven if you’ve forgotten about the not-so-classic, Rob Reiner-directed North (1994), which starred an Elijah Wood who looks exactly the same as he does today. It’s about a boy who’s living the dream, going on a search for the perfect parents. There’s a huge cast of stars, including Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Jason Alexander, Bruce Willis, Kathy Bates, John Ritter, Jon Lovitz, Dan Aykroyd, Reba McEntire … you get the picture.
Unfortunately, the final product makes it look like all these stars were hired without realizing just how offensive the stereotypical parents and families would really be, and once they read the script, they just wanted to get it over as fast as humanly possible and then hope no one saw or remembered they were ever in it. Sure, the ’90s were a different time, but what was cringeworthy then is now probably Wood’s "movie-I-want-everyone-to-forget-about." (Sorry, man. The internet never forgets.) Mick LaSalle from the San Francisco Chronicle called it "strange and oddly distasteful," which is even more accurate now that it’s a few decades in the past.
The Swarm came out in 1978, so we can forgive a lot, like the bad special effects or the not-quite-thrilling-enough-for-a-thriller plot. On the other hand, it’s not like good acting hadn’t been invented yet. Even now, you know the names: Michael Caine, Richard Chamberlain, Henry Fonda, Olivia de Havilland. That’s a lot of talent, so there’s no excuse for this one not standing the test of time like pretty much any of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies. It was even written by the more-than-competent Stirling Silliphant, who also wrote The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno, and In the Heat of the Night.
The film is all about a swarm of killer bees sweeping across the U.S., but it’s clear that not a single actor believes bees are anywhere near the set. If you were to say "ow" right now, you’d be about as convincing as any of these actors bothered to be. Alan Jones from Radio Times called the entire thing "a hive of Hollywood has-beens [trying] to out-ham each other." If you really want more than 2.5 hours of bad bee special effects, you’d be better off watching the classic Oprah GIF on loop.
If Batman v Superman or the definitely-not-acting Sad Batman interview didn’t have enough Ben Affleck for you, there are other Ben Affleck movies you can watch. You could even try 2003’s Daredevil if you’re feeling brave. Perhaps the best thing that can be said about Batman v Superman? At least it’s not Daredevil.
Even Affleck’s voiceover in the trailer sounds like he’s constantly focused on the difficulties of playing a blind character and that he’s always reminding himself what he should and shouldn’t be reacting to. But he’s not the only guilty party here — how about a refresher on just how over-the-top and twitchy Colin Farrell’s Bullseye is?
Daredevil might be the blind one, but Farrell is the one who’s acting as if he’s never seen things before. Also, Jennifer Garner is the least convincing Elektra ever. Not only are the fight scenes a choreographed nightmares that look like bad remakes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons, but once you notice she’s consistently holding her sais as wrong as she can be, you won’t be able to un-see it.
Sorry, Mr. Irons. We respect you, we really do, and while there’s only so much you can do with material from yet another young adult paranormal romance, everyone expects better of you. That goes for Emma Thompson, too. These two set the tone for what could have been at least a watchable movie. There’s acting, and then there’s overacting with a vengeance. This movie might also leave you thinking there should be some kind of rule about putting on an accent for a film. There should be a committee or something. It might have prevented the accents — and performances — here, which Rolling Stone critic Peter Travers called "outrageously awful." How Alden Ehrenreich recovered from this performance to be cast as Young Han Solo, we’ll never know.
If you don’t remember Nell, that’s not surprising. It’s meant to be something of a lofty social commentary on … actually, we’re not sure just what it’s supposed to be. Nell is raised in the middle of nowhere in the Smokey Mountains, and this one hasn’t aged well. Between Liam Neeson’s overly enthusiastic attitude toward everything and Jodie Foster’s single facial expression (a wide-eyed, open-mouthed stare that must be either amazement, awe, or confusion), this story that might have been a memorable is turned into a laugher. Sure, you’ll feel bad for laughing, but you’ll still laugh. Most of the big-time critics didn’t even bother with this one, and it’s no wonder: eFilmCritic.com’s Rob Gonsalves called it "Stunningly awful." Not much more needs to be said.
Island of Dr. Moreau
You could write a whole book on what went on behind the scenes of 1996’s Island of Dr. Moreau, and it would be miles better than the train wreck we got. It’s shocking the movie got made at all, considering how hard Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer checked out from the start.
According to The Telegraph, things started to go sideways from the beginning, and Kilmer — who was brought in as a replacement — spent the entire time making unreasonable demands. Clearly not really wanting to be there, he even threw a mid-shoot temper tantrum that would make any toddler proud, sat down, and refused to get back up.
Brando spent every morning dreaming up ways to change the script, and the script was rewritten every afternoon. The rest of his time was spent not learning his lines. All his lines were read to him through an earpiece, and is it any wonder that it came out so very badly? Oh — and, there was the added problem of crossed signals to Brando’s earpiece. Every so often, he would be fed his "lines" from a police scanner, and David Thewlis says he once shouted during a scene, "There’s a robbery at Woolworths!"
Brandon Judell from Critics Inc. offered possibly the best description of it, calling it "Satan’s Sesame Street."
Highlander II: The Quickening
There are a few reasons Highlander II: The Quickening got a staggering 0 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and those reasons are basically Sean Connery, Christopher Lambert, and a bad script. Maybe the actors figured they could act the awful script into a good movie but then gave up early on in the shoot.
There is a plot, but it was stupid and you shouldn’t spend time thinking about it. Connery and Lambert don’t seem to know what’s going on most of the time, and they’re in the movie. That sound you hear? That’s not acting, that is, according to critic Brian Orndorf, the sound of "a franchise [being] epically flushed down the toilet."
We have to give Halle Berry some massive kudos here, since she at least recognized what a completely horrible performance she gave in Catwoman. With a dismal 9 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, it stunk enough to win four Razzie Awards. Berry showed up in person to pick up her Worst Actress award, and she didn’t hold back.
"I’d like to thank the rest of the cast," she said at the ceremony (via MTV). "To give a really bad performance like mine, you need to have really bad actors." Ouch! Halle, it’s a little late. The time for the claws to come out was actually during filming.
The Godfather Part III
It’s no secret that sequels — especially to iconic movies like The Godfather – come with a certain amount of expectation. Audiences like to see sequels that are in the same spirit as and quality of the originals, and when The Godfather Part III hit theaters, that didn’t exactly happen for one jaw-clenching, tooth-grinding reason: Sofia Coppola.
How bad was her "portrayal" of the Don’s daughter? According to Entertainment Weekly, when the press got a peek at the film, they didn’t just laugh quietly and discreetly to themselves — they laughed very, very loudly at her final scene. Yes … (spoiler alert) they laughed at her death scene. Just let that sink in.
Even Sofia’s mother, who kept a journal during filming, wrote that, "Well-meaning people tell me I am permitting a form of child abuse," and her aunt had reassured her that daddy Francis Ford Coppola couldn’t possibly be actually wanting to put her in the film, because "no one would do that to their kid" — or, ya know, to their movie. But he went ahead and did it anyway, after Winona Ryder was forced to drop out due to illness, and boy, was it rough. Time magazine reviewer Richard Corliss condemned her (via the Los Angeles Times) as "com[ing] close to wrecking the movie," while The New York Post warned, "there’ll be hell to pay around the Coppola house." As for the movie, they added, "The disappointment can be crushing." Ouch.
District 9 was a pretty darn cool movie, with Rotten Tomatoes giving it an honorable 90 percent. So, when director Neill Blomkamp came out with the similarly sci-fi-themed Elysium a few years later, it seemed like it would be a pretty safe bet to allow yourself to be hopeful it’d be a comparably good ride. It was not.
Sorry, we’re going to have to point some fingers here, because seriously, Jodie Foster? We know you can do better than that. But let’s take it from the Duluth New Tribune review, which had this to say about it: "Jodie Foster delivers an unbelievably terrible performance in Elysium. […] A performance so awful I found myself keenly anticipating Foster’s next scene to see if she would keep on bringing the dreadful. […] It’s amazing how bad she is in this movie."
She’s not the only problem, either. Spectrum Culture noted the movie featured "some extreme overacting from supporting characters," while The Reader brought things full circle back to Foster, saying: "Jodie Foster is officially no longer a two-time Oscar winner. There’s no way anyone can do what she just did in Elysium and get to keep golden bookends."
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
Some actors are amazing at accents. Take Hugh Laurie, for example. How many people were shocked to find out that House, MD wasn’t American? How many people even suspected it?
And then there’s Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, directed by Francis Ford Coppola. You know, the movie with the amazing special effects and makeup, the incredible costumes, and that time he says "Booda-PESHT" with all the sincerity of a Golden Retriever who’d like you to know he’s your bestest friend. Is it any wonder that Time called it one of the worst British accents in movie history? You’re better than this, Keanu.
When Entertainment Weekly talked to Coppola about the movie in hindsight, the accent and the acting were one of the things they asked him about. Coppola had this to say about it: "We knew that it was tough for him to affect an English accent. He tried so hard. That was the problem, actually — he wanted to do it perfectly and in trying to do it perfectly it came off as stilted. […] So maybe I wasn’t as critical of him, but that’s because I like him personally so much. To this day, he’s a prince in my eyes." Aww!
The Phantom Menace
Let’s step back in time for a minute, way back to 1999. Y2K was a legit worry, but there were more important things going on, namely a new Star Wars movie. Hopes rose as we found out more about it: Darth Maul looked awesome, there was a double-bladed lightsaber, and even the title was ominous in a promising sort of way. Then we sat through it and walked away trying to convince ourselves it couldn’t have been that bad. Alas, it was.
Rolling Stone kicked off their review like this: "The actors are wallpaper, the jokes are juvenile, there’s no romance, and the dialogue lands with the thud of a computer-instruction manual." Specifically? Well, in case you’ve forgotten, here are some points that reviewers from Rolling Stone to Time and The Hollywood Reporter leapt on: Natalie Portman as Amidala, wading through diplomatic dialogue she’s clearly given up on making anything interesting, Jar Jar Binks’ … well, everything, including that terrible voice, and Liam Neeson being indescribably wooden and more than a little creepy when he decides the little kid needs to come off-planet with him. As for the kid, granted, it’s tough finding child actors who are honestly good and capable of displaying human emotion, but they’re out there. Unfortunately, they’re not in The Phantom Menace.
Super Mario Bros.
It’s no secret that Hollywood has a tough time making a good movie based on video games, so when they gave Super Mario Bros. the good ol’ college try, well, it fell short of what most college filmmakers might come up with. Critics on Rotten Tomatoes were harsh, saying it was nothing like the game "for it is typically held that games are pleasurable" and that "the casting is peculiar" for "characters without personalities."
And really, it’s no wonder. The Guardian did a deep dive behind the scenes of the film, and it wasn’t just a flaming car wreck, it was a 100-car pileup that included a manure spreader and a few gasoline tankers. The script was rewritten over and over again, and the cast, including Dennis Hopper and Bob Hoskins, got more and more frustrated … so frustrated, in fact, that they resorted to drinking whiskey between takes and smoking a lot of pot, as we mean a lot.
Actor Richard Edson (who played the Goomba, Spike), had this to say about the final product: "When you’re involved with such a big disaster, the stench of it sort of stays with everybody. […] If you’re going to sell your soul, you’d better be getting more than just money out of it." Who would have thought Super Mario Bros. would have carried such a valuable life lesson?
The Fifty Shades trilogy
Say what you will about the Fifty Shades of Grey books, but they made a ton of money — so much money that they decided to make some movies based on them, which brought up an important question: How was that content going to make it to the big screen in a mainstream theater?
And here’s the thing: At the heart of it is … well, it’s not love, or maybe it is? Lust? Infatuation? An entire subculture? At the heart of the story were two very attractive people who were, in fact, cast. But they were apparently cast separately, because they had no chemistry whatsoever, which is inconvenient for a film about all those aforementioned bodily functions.
ABC News described the acting of Fifty Shades Darker like this: "Too bad the sexual chemistry between Dornan and Johnson is like the sexual chemistry between a leprechaun and a sasquatch, neither of which actually exists." Cosmopolitan collected 15 of the meanest comments about Jamie Dornan’s acting (which included gems like,"Well, any pair of fish lying next to each other at Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market have more chemistry [than Dornan and Johnson],"), and you get the feeling they didn’t have to stop at just 15.
When Elle asked Dornan about the popularity of the series, the role, and the hype, he had this weird, weird response: "Mass appreciation doesn’t always equate to something good. Think of Hitler!" Um… okay?