8 Examples of Great Actors in Terrible Movies


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By Jeff Finkle

Who knows why great actors agree to appear in awful movies? It could be because they put blind faith in a director, or they don’t bother to read the script until they show up on set. Or, more likely the answer is that divorces are expensive or they lost a few million to Adam Sandler in poker. In honor of this week’s Comedy Bang! Bang! guest Michael Sheen, here’s a look at what happens when bad movies happen to great actors.

1. Laurence Olivier, The Jazz Singer (1980)

What do you do after spending your life becoming the greatest interpreter of Shakespeare the stage has ever known and earning a name that becomes synonymous with the craft of acting? You take on the only acting challenge you have left, playing the strict Cantor father to Neil Diamond’s rebellious singer son. As in the original 1927 classic “talkie,” Diamond’s aspiring songwriter does unfortunately wear blackface in order to perform on stage. In this ill-conceived 1980 remake, Diamond forsakes his hard-ass father and his religion so he can go to L.A., shack up with a shiksa and fulfill his destiny by singing “Love on The Rocks.” After playing a Nazi dentist who tortures Dustin Hoffman in The Marathon Man, perhaps Olivier thought he owed it to the Jewish people to play Neil Diamond’s Papa.

2. Michael Caine, Jaws: The Revenge (1987)

There’s no debating that Michael Caine is one of the all-time greatest actors. It’s also not debatable that Jaws: The Revenge is one of the worst movies ever made. Apparently killer sharks are a lot like Michael Caine’s career — they never, ever stop. Not unlike like Phil Collins, Michael Caine was seemingly everywhere in the ’80s, and regrettably for him, he chose to be upstaged by an animatronic shark. By the fourth installment of Jaws, this shark was more laughable than frightening. When later asked if he had actually scene the movie, Caine would famously remark, “I have never seen it [the film], but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific!”

3. Michael Sheen, The Twilight Saga (2009-2012)

Michael Sheen has built an excellent career, as an actor in both England and America, and you can’t totally blame him for wanting to be a part of a mammoth blockbuster like Twilight. Anyone watching these movies without Twi-hard goggles would surely root for Aro to kill Edward for being such a whiny, boring vampire. (Sheen was once a Lycan in the Underworld films and Lycans hate mopey vampires.) Michael Sheen brought some campy energy and a great cackle of a laugh to this lifeless teen romance disguised as a vampire fantasy film.


4. Bill Nighy, I, Frankenstein (2014)

I, Frankenstein tried to reinvent the monster movie by turning Frankenstein into a bad ass super hero, but in the words of the late, great Phil Hartman, “FIRE BAD!,” and so was I, Frankenstein. British actor Bill Nighy did get to play a demon prince/billionaire in this story, but even his gravitas couldn’t save this critically panned film. Apparently, the world isn’t ready for a Frankenstein with great abs. One can only imagine Bill Nighy talking to his agent as his character from Love, Actually and saying “What have you gotten me into?” before taking a drink and peeing on his copy of the script.

5. Robert De Niro, The Bagman (2014)

There are bad movies and then there is the rare bad movie that is so bad that you wonder how it ever became a concept, much less made. The Bagman is such a movie. The Bagman is so bad, both Siskel and Ebert are surely rolling over to write reviews from the grave. This is the low budget film that should have been a no-budget film. John Cusack is in almost every minute of the film and plays a mob bagman waiting at a seedy motel for a delivery from De Niro’s character. Let’s just say, the mystery isn’t what’s in the bag, it’s who talked both Cusack and De Niro into appearing in this wanna-be Pulp Fiction neo-noir mess.

6. Al Pacino, Jack and Jill (2011)

It takes a special kind of film to win in every category at the Golden Raspberries, and Adam Sandler’s attempt to “Out-Sandler” himself reaches its peak with Jack and Jill. In terms of Sandler movies, Jack and Jill makes Little Nicky look like Billy Madison. Adam Sandler and Adam Sandler star in this heartwarming tale of a man and his “identical” twin sister reunited for Thanksgiving. You have to hand it to Sandler; he somehow convinced Al Pacino to perform a hip hop ode to the Dunkin Donuts Dunkaccino.

7. Ben Kingsley, The Love Guru (2008)

It’s an understatement to say that legendary actor Ben Kingsley has great range, and you would think that casting the actor who formerly played Gandhi as Mike Myers’ Indian mentor, Guru Tugginmypudha, would be comedy gold. But, alas that is not the case with The Love Guru. Myers’ Guru Pitka is like a character that was written out of Austin Powers: Goldmember at the last minute for being too culturally insensitive.

8. Forrest Whitaker, Battlefield Earth (2000)

It’s tough to find anything more unintentionally funny than seeing John Travolta and Forrest Whitaker, looking like a bizarre cross between Star Trek‘s Worf and the Cowardly Lion, in Battlefield Earth. John Travolta waited years to make Battlefield Earth, based on the L. Ron Hubbard novel, and he spent millions of his own money to get it made. He’s lucky he wasn’t forced to pay back every person who actually paid to see this historically bad movie in the theater. It’s a testament to Forrest Whitaker’s impressive body of work as an actor that Battlefield Earth was just a blip in his career and it’s a testament to Travolta’s agent that he was able to ever get paid to act again. Fun fact: This movie held the record for most Razzie wins, until Sandler’s Jack and Jill knocked them off their pedestal.

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Documentary Now! Robert Evans Mansion

The Reel Deal

Everything You Need To Know About “Mr. Runner Up” Inspiration Robert Evans

Watch the two-part finale of Documentary Now! this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

In its upcoming two-part finale, Documentary Now! spoofs the crown jewel of docs: The Kid Stays In The Picture. It’s the autobiographical documentary about Robert Evans, the unlikely Hollywood mogul whose mix of self-aggrandizing bravado, classic good looks and extremely circumstantial good luck took him from being a salesman to an actor to the head of Paramount Pictures.

If you’ve never seen the film, it’s totally worth it. Rotten Tomatoes agrees, with a staggeringly-high approval rating. Watch it before, or watch it after — doesn’t matter. You’ll appreciate it whenever.

In the meantime, here’s a bit of background that will come in handy…

Robert Loves Robert

Robert Evans desk

USA Films/Everett Collection

Robert Evans is the ultimate Robert Evans fan. The movie was narrated by Robert Evans and based on his memoir of the same name. It is totally unbiased.

He’s Kind Of A Big Deal

Robert Evans, Chinatown
Paramount Pictures

Evans produced some of Hollywood’s true classics: Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, The Godfather, Love Story…the list goes on. Totally legit and amazing movies.

He’s Also Kind Of A Joke

Wag The Dog
New Line Cinema

Evans has been parodied in TV shows and movies like Entourage and Wag The Dog. He is the quintessential “producer” you already have in your head.

So Wrong He’s Right

Robert Evans Slap
20th Century Film Corp

Robert Evans is a notorious narcissist whose love of self is so blind and sincere that it’s actually adorable.

There’s Something Missing

via Giphy

Entire sections of Robert Evans’ life are left out of the documentary. Maybe it’s because of timing. Maybe it’s because real life isn’t a tidy narrative. Who knows.

He Blew It

Spider coke

Evans had a pretty spectacular fall from grace. He was convicted of cocaine trafficking in the early 80’s, and was connected to a contract killing during the production of The Cotton Club. Oops.

Losing Is For Losers

Everett Collection
Everett Collection

In the Robert Evans mythology, all tragedies are just triumphs in disguise, and every story has a happy ending…for Robert Evans.

Bill Hader Jerry Wallach

With these simple facts in hand you are now prepared to thoroughly enjoy the two-part finale of Documentary Now! starting this Wednesday at 10/9c on IFC.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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