This is not a list of terrible actors. Several of the people on this list have done exceptional work...in other films. This is instead a list of actors who have, either through poor direction, self-indulgence or inexperience, absolutely stunk up an otherwise wonderful film.
Of course, some of them are just horrible in just about anything they've ever been in.
Quentin Tarantino - Pulp Fiction
This entry could also have been Django Unchained, in which Tarantino was cruelly indulged in his belief that he could do an Australian accent. While far from the only director to cameo in his own movies, Tarantino shows perhaps the greatest drop-off in talent when stepping from behind the camera to in front of it. In Pulp Fiction, Tarantino plays Jimmie, a friend of Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) who helps out when Jules and Vincent (John Travolta) accidentally shoot their passenger in the face, and for several minutes completely derails one of the greatest films of the 90s by being completely unconvincing as a human being.
Timothy Spall - The King's Speech
He's only in a couple of scenes but they're memorable for all the wrong reasons. Spall is playing Winston Churchill to Colin Firth's King George VI, but he goes for absurd caricature, snuffling and grunting like he's based his performance on Napoleon, the fascist pig from Animal Farm. We've seen documentary footage of Winston Churchill so we all know how he actually spoke. It seems Spall did not.
Katie Holmes - Batman Begins
Poor Katie has been deemed the low point of Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, but the fact she's completely wrong as Rachel Dawes isn't entirely her fault. She's not good in the role but why did anyone ever think a 27-year-old best known for a show about teenage moping would be right for a strident assistant district attorney? It was an uphill battle and one Holmes was never likely to win.
January Jones - X-Men: First Class
Honestly, she seems like she didn't even know the camera was on.
Daryl Hannah - Wall Street
Daryl Hannah's acting has improved dramatically as she's got older. Look at her in Kill Bill. She's so furiously committed as Elle Driver that she was, frankly, robbed of an Oscar nomination. That fierceness was nowhere to be seen in one of her earliest roles, in Oliver Stone's Wall Street. As Charlie Sheen's girlfriend she's as empty and ornamental as everything else in his shallow yuppy life.
Don Cheadle - Ocean's Eleven
The horror of Cheadle's performance comes down to one thing: that abysmal cockney accent. Cheadle is a terrific actor but by choosing, for no good reason, to perform the role with an accent he absolutely could not do he dragged the viewer out of the film. You weren't listening to anything he was actually saying but wondering why he was saying it in that bizarre voice. It was pure self-indulgence.
Andie Macdowell - Four Weddings And A Funeral
Macdowell has made the line, "Is it raining? I hadn't noticed" one of the most famous from Richard Curtis' comedy classic, but not in the way intended. She delivers it, as she does with all her other lines, with all the passion and charisma of the speaking clock. Hugh Grant deserves a lot more credit for the amount of heavy lifting he had to do to make this rom-com fly.
Mickey Rooney - Breakfast At Tiffany's
It's debatable whether this is a terrible performance or just horrendous direction? If Mickey Rooney is asked to play Holly Golightly's neighbour as an appallingly racist Japanese caricature and then he commits to that completely, is that his fault or the fault of director Blake Edwards? Whoever's fault it is, this is one of the worst casting decisions in cinema history.
Drew Barrymore - Donnie Darko
Drew Barrymore can be so charming, and yet she's so blank in Richard Kelly's first film, a movie that sadly turned out to be a fluke for the director. Playing the title character's English teacher she strains so hard to invest every line with meaning and importance that it's almost comical. Her production company, Flower Films, produced the movie so maybe nobody wanted to tell the boss to reign it in a bit?
Keanu Reeves - Much Ado About Nothing
OK, it's not a great movie but in a very successful film version of one of Shakespeare's best plays, populated by a cast weighed down by acting awards, Keanu Reeves sticks out like a sore thumb. Reeves is very well suited to one thing and that's playing blank characters. In The Matrix or Bill and Ted, playing someone perpetually handsomely confused, he's just what's required. Asking him to tackle Shakespearean language is just mean to everyone, including him.
(Images: AllStar, Rex)