Films

When good films happen to bad actors

In-between wearing fatsuits and conversing with the ghosts of dead pets, sometimes bad actors feel the odd pang of guilt. What am I doing with my life? What if no one remembers my legacy? How can I look at myself in the mirror for one more day?

On these days, they'll actually read the scripts they usually skim, go to the meetings they usually get their assistant to attend and say yes to the film they usually turn down because of the long words used in the dialogue.

Here are 40 examples of this actually happening:

(Main image: All Star)

  • When good films happen to bad actors

    Adam Sandler

    Film: Punch-Drunk Love

    Year: 2002

    Reason for praise: The guy who played a hapless golfer, a hapless waterboy and a hapless wedding singer probably seemed like a natural fit to play a hapless small business owner yet when it's in an indie drama directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, of Magnolia fame, it suddenly makes zero sense. He pulled it off though.

  • When good films happen to bad actors 1

    Jennifer Lopez

    Film: Out Of Sight

    Year: 1998

    Reason for praise: It's easy to forget how much hype surrounded Lopez after her feisty performance in this cool Steven Soderbergh crime caper. Mainly because she soon found a niche in formulaic romantic comedies that found her falling over in variously 'cute' ways. Shame.

  • When good films happen to bad actors 2

    Keanu Reeves

    Film: The Matrix

    Year: 1999

    Reason for praise: Keanu Reeves has had an inexplicably long career despite an acting style that relies solely on him being confused at all times. It actually worked in this phenomenally successful sci-fi thriller as his character was supposed to be completely shell-shocked throughout. Worked less in the sequels...

  • When good films happen to bad actors 3

    Hayden Christensen

    Film: Shattered Glass

    Year: 2003

    Reason for praise: Still known by many as one of the criminals responsible for killing the Star Wars franchise, his flat acting made the second two prequels even harder to watch. But in this fact-based drama, his role as a morally skewed journalist helped to win the film strong reviews.

  • When good films happen to bad actors 4

    Marlon Wayans

    Film: Requiem For A Dream

    Year: 2000

    Reason for praise: The co-creator of the Scary Movie series wasn't an obvious choice for Darren Aronofksy's follow-up to π but, beside Oscar-winning actresses Ellen Burstyn and Jennifer Connelly, he made a decent impression. Re-found his niche though with Little Man and White Chicks not long after...

  • When good films happen to bad actors 5

    Katie Holmes

    Film: Batman Begins

    Year: 2005

    Reason for praise: Christopher Nolan's reinvention of the superhero saga was perfectly cast all round from Christian Bale's gruff yet soulful Batman to Michael Caine's fatherly Alfred yet the casting of Dawson's Creek star Katie Holmes raised a few eyebrows. They were still left raised until she was replaced by Maggie Gyllenhaal in the sequel.

  • When good films happen to bad actors 6

    Nicolas Cage

    Film: Leaving Las Vegas

    Year: 1995

    Reason for praise: It's pretty common to ridicule poor Nicolas Cage these days. After shouting his way through The Wicker Man, Next and Season of the Witch though, it's not like he hasn't been asking for it. It's worth thinking back to his Oscar-winning turn as an alcoholic in this gut-wrenching drama and maybe pretending that he just retired right after.

  • When good films happen to bad actors 7

    Heather Graham

    Film: Boogie Nights

    Year: 1998

    Reason for praise: Launching her into a career that would hold such promising films as Lost In Space and Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer, her role as Rollergirl in this porn drama was definitely memorable. Might not have been for her acting though. Sorry Heather.

  • When good films happen to bad actors 8

    Mike Myers

    Film: Inglourious Basterds

    Year: 2009

    Reason for praise: A small cameo it may have been, but it was definitely a shock seeing The Love Guru crop up in Tarantino's blistering WWII saga. Other than the Shrek films, it's all he's done since 2008.

  • When good films happen to bad actors 9

    Matthew McConaughey

    Film: Lone Star

    Year: 1996

    Reason for praise: Best known for being the guy who can't keep his shirt on in romantic comedies you wouldn't even want to watch on a plane, McConaughey actually came onto the scene with a lot of promise back in the day. This John Sayles drama led us to believe he'd be a force to be reckoned with. We was lied to.

  • When good films happen to bad actors 10

    Julia Stiles

    Film: The Bourne Ultimatum

    Year: 2007

    Reason for praise: Managing to utilise her scale of emotions (from uninterested to mildly uninterested), her role as an icy operative didn't prove too much of a stretch in the Bourne films. She does however star in the upcoming adaptation of The Bell Jar. Might not work so well...

  • When good films happen to bad actors 11

    Cuba Gooding Jr

    Film: Jerry Maguire

    Year: 1996

    Reason for praise: Ah, how we all loved Cuba back in the mid-90s. We even gave him an Oscar. But then Pearl Harbor and Boat Trip and Norbit happened and we all got really angry. If you can remember the last film you saw him in then we'll give you 20p.

  • When good films happen to bad actors 12

    Sylvester Stallone

    Film: Cop Land

    Year: 1997

    Reason for praise: Acting alongside Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel and Ray Liotta is intimidating for any actor but for Sly it was an almost inconceivably tall order. While he'd made some classics, he'd never really found himself in such a challenging position.

  • When good films happen to bad actors 13

    Paul Walker

    Film: Pleasantville

    Year: 1998

    Reason for praise: Playing a surfer/person that likes surfing is spot-on for Paul Walker but anything else proves a problem for the human Ken doll. Taking on a role in this intelligent comedy drama gave him an early break and clearly turned him off doing films which include words with more than three syllables.

  • When good films happen to bad actors 14

    Kate Hudson

    Film: Almost Famous

    Year: 2000

    Reason for praise: Ah, remember when Kate Hudson wasn't starring in romantic comedies? True, it didn't last long but her Oscar-nominated turn in Cameron Crowe's music drama gave us a dangerous amount of false hope. But since the release, every film she's starred in has been deemed a turkey on Rotten Tomatoes.

  • When good films happen to bad actors 15

    Chris Klein

    Film: Election

    Year: 1999

    Reason for praise: If you haven't seen Chris Klein's totally serious and unintentionally brilliant audition for Mamma Mia! then you should now. If you have then you'll be aware of his acting abilities. His role as a goofy, air-headed student in this smart high school satire played to his strengths. Long time ago, mind.

  • When good films happen to bad actors 16

    Freida Pinto

    Film: Slumdog Millionaire

    Year: 2008

    Reason for praise: While everyone got wrapped up in the feel-goodness of Danny Boyle's Oscar-winner, it became easy to forget what Freida Pinto actually brought to the table. Her work ever since has further questioned this. Once you've seen Rise of the Planet of the Apes, you'll be even more confused.

  • When good films happen to bad actors 17

    Gerard Butler

    Film: How To Train Your Dragon

    Year: 2010

    Reason for praise: Taking time off from starring in romantic comedies aimed at people taking long-haul flights, Butler lent his voice for this Oscar-nominated animation. It's one of the best non-Pixar offerings out there and if the sequel is half as good, he'll be taken off this list immediately.

  • When good films happen to bad actors 18

    Jessica Alba

    Film: The Killer Inside Me

    Year: 2010

    Reason for praise: Beautiful as she might be, Jessica Alba just hasn't manages to catch a break. Generously, she takes zero credit for this and instead blames all the directors she's worked with. But after a career based on her looks, she finally let them get well and truly destroyed in this chilling slice of noir.

  • When good films happen to bad actors 19

    Tim Allen

    Film: Toy Story 3

    Year: 2010

    Reason for praise: The most successful animated film of all time and one of the few to receive an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, the third film in the franchise (yes, we hear there's going to be a fourth) was a godsend for Allen. His career has veered from bad to worse of late (bad being The Santa Clause and worse being The Santa Clause 3).

  • When good films happen to bad actors 20

    Tara Reid

    Film: The Big Lebowski

    Year: 1998

    Reason for praise: Before she managed to become Hollywood's poster girl for why getting drunk and having plastic surgery were both dangerous, Reid played against type as an airhead in the Coen Brothers classic. At least she came back to star as every single role in the sequel. Let's just hope she got the joke...

  • When good films happen to bad actors 21

    Vin Diesel

    Film: Saving Private Ryan

    Year: 1998

    Reason for praise: It's hard to remember a Vin Diesel who wasn't stealing cars and/or fighting aliens but his repetitive resume received an early jump start with a role in Steven Spielberg's WWII drama. Next to be seen in 6 Fast 6 Furious or whatever it's called...

  • When good films happen to bad actors 22

    Sofia Coppola

    Film: The Godfather: Part III

    Year: 1990

    Reason for praise: Not really her fault but Sofia Coppola is not a natural actress. Agreeing to star as a favour to her dad, her skills were limited to say the least. It didn't stop the film from being nominated for seven Oscars though. Thankfully, she acts no more.

  • When good films happen to bad actors 23

    Katherine Heigl

    Film: Knocked Up

    Year: 2007

    Reason for praise: Before she starred in enough romantic comedies to make your teeth rot and your stomach ache, Katherine Heigl managed to make this unconventional relationship with Seth Rogen work in the hit Apatow film. Of course she publicly disowned the film after. We guess it was out of character for her to star in something watchable.

  • When good films happen to bad actors 24

    Andie MacDowell

    Film: Groundhog Day

    Year: 1993

    Reason for praise: Back in the 90s, Andie Macdowell was considered human enough to be deemed a believable living and speaking person in a number of high-profile movies. But when she wasn't feeling no rain, she was starring alongside Bill Murray in this damn-near-perfect comedy.

  • When good films happen to bad actors 25

    Kevin Pollak

    Film: The Usual Suspects

    Year: 1995

    Reason for praise: Mainly cropping up in comedies that question the very definition of the word (The Santa Clause 3, Dr.Dolittle 2, Grumpier Old Men, The Whole Ten Yards'), Kevin Pollak was also allowed to see what the set of a non-sequel, non-turkey looked like back in the mid-90s. No such look since though.

  • When good films happen to bad actors 26

    John Travolta

    Film: Pulp Fiction

    Year: 1994

    Reason for praise: After starring in Look Who's Talking Now (when the animals start talking as well), Travolta's career received an adrenaline shot to the chest in Tarantino's crime classic. Since then, it could do with another. From Battlefield Earth to Old Dogs, something needs to be done.

  • When good films happen to bad actors 27

    Zac Efron

    Film: Me & Orson Welles

    Year: 2009

    Reason for praise: The High School Musical star ditched the corridor wailing to star in Dazed and Confused director Richard Linklater's period comedy and while co-star Christian McKay received all the plaudits, it was a rare ray of hope for Efron.

  • When good films happen to bad actors 28

    Gary Busey

    Film: Thunderbolt & Lightfoot

    Year: 1974

    Reason for praise: Entourage viewers will at least be aware that Busey is comfortable with laughing at himself. Which is good, given a career that's included roles in The Gingerdead Man and Slap Shot 2: Breaking The Ice. It has also included an Oscar nomination (?!?) and a role in this Clint classic. Recent work has included being completely crazy.

  • When good films happen to bad actors 29

    Mariah Carey

    Film: Precious

    Year: 2009

    Reason for praise: When your biggest role was playing a singer in a Razzie-sweeping film called Glitter, there's nowhere else to go but up. Still, no-one could have predicted that Carey would "dress down" for a tough drama about abuse to play a social worker. Worked out though. Nothing since however.

  • When good films happen to bad actors 30

    Eddie Murphy

    Film: 48 Hrs

    Year: 1982

    Reason for praise: Back before he started getting really annoying, Eddie Murphy was a fresh and funny presence in the 80s. In his debut film, he was kind of a big deal. Cut forward to the 90s, 00s and 10s and the good films were few and far between. Holy Man? Norbit? Meet Dave? The Adventures Of Pluto Nash? Jesus.

  • When good films happen to bad actors 31

    Eric Roberts

    Film: The Dark Knight

    Year: 2008

    Reason for praise: God love the guy, he tries. If IMDb is to be believed, Eric Roberts has 14 movies out this year. from past experience however, we doubt any will be worth watching. Even ironically. But back in 2008, in-between starring in Witless Protection and Light Years Away, he also starred in a little film about Batman...

  • When good films happen to bad actors 32

    Lindsay Lohan

    Film: Mean Girls

    Year: 2004

    Reason for praise: Back when she was just a simple, drug-free girl who was legally allowed to leave her house, Lohan made a strong impression in Tina Fey's biting high school comedy. Now, she's sadly limited to doing things like this.

  • When good films happen to bad actors 33

    Josh Hartnett

    Film: Black Hawk Down

    Year: 2001

    Reason for praise: Given a variety of leading man roles in the late 90s/early 00s, Hollywoood soon wised up and dropped Josh Hartnett like a dirty penny. His best film came from Ridley Scott who gave him the lead in the frenetic war drama. He was last seen by no-one in films that you haven't heard of.

  • When good films happen to bad actors 34

    David Caruso

    Film: King Of New York

    Year: 1990

    Reason for praise: If overacting was the same as good acting. damn if Caruso wouldn't be up there with the greats. Instead, his shouty shtick has become a thorn in the side of anyone with fully functional eyes and ears. Back in this simpler time, he was starring alongside Christopher Walken and being directed by Abel Ferrara. Many, many years have since passed.

  • When good films happen to bad actors 35

    Orlando Bloom

    Film: The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

    Year: 2003

    Reason for praise: While the acting may not have been the main focus of the trilogy, the cast were still a solid ensemble from Ian McKellen to Viggo Mortensen. Bloom landed on his feet with a central role in each film, just as his profile was gaining. We hate to see he peaked but he totally peaked. All over the shop.

  • When good films happen to bad actors 36

    Kyle MacLachlan

    Film: Blue Velvet

    Year: 1986

    Reason for praise: Okay so maybe his stilted acting style made some sort of sense in David Lynch's surreal classic but ever since, it's been a major distraction. Okay, maybe it made sense in Showgirls too...

  • When good films happen to bad actors 37

    Tom Arnold

    Film: True Lies

    Year: 1994

    Reason for praise: The incredibly fun James Cameron action comedy (remember when he had a sense of humour?) cast Tom Arnold, star of The Stupids and the life of Roseanne, as Arnie's wacky best friend. We can't see Arnold cropping up in Avatar 2. He's far too busy making a film called Jewtopia with Jennifer Love Hewitt.

  • When good films happen to bad actors 38

    Ice Cube

    Film: Three Kings

    Year: 1999

    Reason for praise: The rapper-turned-actor-turned-screenwriter (no, really) has managed to be an impossible to remember replacement for Vin Diesel in XXX: State Of The Union and was outacted by an animatronic snake in Anaconda. But in this smart Gulf War flick, he found himself in a vaguely believable situation, acting alongside real people!

  • When good films happen to bad actors 39

    Stephen Dorff

    Film: Somewhere

    Year: 2010

    Reason for praise: Taking time off from starring in films like Botched (an Irish/Russian comedy horror about Ivan the Terrible) and Shadowboxer (a crime drama where Helen Mirren plays Cuba Gooding Jr's lover and stepmother), Dorff took the lead in Sofia Coppola's award-winning indie. He did play an actor though.

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