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Zendaya's 6 Best And 6 Worst Movies Ranked

While Zendaya's television work made history, many know her for the film roles she's done in recent years. From voice work to sci-fi adaptations, the young actress is working her way through the different genres the industry has to offer. Starting her career on Disney Channel's "Shake It Up," Zendaya has successfully transitioned from a Disney Channel star to an adult actress in Hollywood, taking on a number of projects that have put her acting chops on display.

Many know Zendaya for her role as Michelle "MJ" Jones-Watson in the new "Spider-Man" trilogy, but she's done more than superhero films. She's returned to her dancing and singing roots with the musical biopic "The Greatest Showman," turned down a different biopic, and pushed her abilities to prove she can handle emotionally taxing adult roles. The best- and worst-reviewed films on her resume are a testament to the breadth of projects the actress has taken on and that she will be known as more than Spider-Man's girlfriend or a dancing Disney star as her career continues.

Best: Spider-Man: No Way Home

It should come as no surprise that a "Spider-Man" film is one of the actress' best. The Jon Watts-directed movie is the third installment of the "Spider-Man" collaboration between Sony and Disney's Marvel. It follows Spider-Man (Tom Holland) dealing with the aftermath of his identity being revealed to the world at the end of the previous movie. Zendaya is MJ Jones-Watson, Peter's girlfriend and near-sidekick. She works alongside Peter and their other friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) to fix some of the issues caused by a spell cast by Dr. Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). While their efforts were successful, it comes at a significant cost for the three high school seniors.

The superhero flick has the highest critic and audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes of all of Zendaya's films, with a 93% from critics and 98% from audiences. "Spider-Man: No Way Home" has exciting cameos, a heavier emotional toll than the previous two, and an ending that has caused fans to question what will happen next, though many critics note it may have been a touch too long in runtime. Despite that, they praised Zendaya's performance. For RogerEbert.com, Brian Tallerico said Zendaya "nails the emotional final beats of her character in a way that adds weight to a film that can feel a bit airy in terms of performance."

Worst: Space Jam: A New Legacy

Zendaya's worst-rated film came out the same year as her best. "Space Jam: A New Legacy" is a sequel to the 1996 "Space Jam," a movie that featured NBA superstar Michael Jordan and the animated rabbit Bugs Bunny. The second installment features basketball player LeBron James and the returning rabbit. Zendaya voices Lola Bunny, Bugs Bunny's love interest. The character was originally voiced by Kath Soucie.

"Space Jam: A New Legacy" features the basketball player encouraging his two sons to pursue their own basketball dreams. However, one wants to go into the video game industry. As the plot continues, James teaches the members of the Tune Squad basketball before they face off with a rival team in a heated game.

While the first film didn't do well with critics, it was a favorite for the generation that grew up with it. The second one didn't strike the same chord. The New York Post called it an "abomination" while IndieWire deems it a "depressing tale about what the stewards of classic characters really think about the value of art in a content-mad world."

There was also controversy over what Zendaya's character wore in the film. Like the male characters, Lola Bunny wore a basketball uniform, but in "Space Jam" she wore a crop top and very short shorts. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the actress voiced her surprise at the reactions to the rabbit's attire. "I think we needed some evolution with her," Zendaya shared. "Not by objectifying her but by making her strong and still feminine."

Best: Spider-Man: Homecoming

Another "Spider-Man" is on Zendaya's list of best films. This time, it's "Spider-Man: Homecoming," the first of the new trilogy. This one follows Peter Parker as he adapts to his new identity and tries to find a middle ground between being a superhero and a high school student. He also has to handle a villain stealing Chitauri power cells to make special weapons, which are being sold to criminals in the area. And the seller happens to be the father of his crush.

MJ doesn't have a large role in this movie, especially compared to the character's involvement in the two that follow; she has under three minutes of screen time (via IMDb). She is on the academic decathlon team, so she's around, but there is very little interaction between her and Peter. Fans are given a glimpse into the character and her personality, though.

Critics praised "Spider-Man: Homecoming," despite it coming fresh off the heels of the "The Amazing Spider-Man" duology that started just five years before. Andrew Garfield played the titular character in that franchise. NPR's Bob Mondello compliments Holland's portrayal, commenting that the actor "seems as excited about Spider-Man as his classmates even though he is Spider-Man." The Toronto Star even calls it a "fun, a big improvement" over the Garfield-led series.

Worst: The Greatest Showman

It may come as a surprise to some that "The Greatest Showman" is one of Zendaya's worst films. It has a higher critics score than some others on this list, a 56% on Rotten Tomatoes, but that doesn't make up for the criticism the musical movie received. 

Zendaya is Anne Wheeler, a trapeze artist that performs with her brother W. D. (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) as part of P. T. Barnum's (Hugh Jackman) show. She has a romantic connection with Phillip Carlyle (Zac Efron), who becomes Barnum's partner despite his parents' wishes. The two share several intimate moments, including a musical number that ends with Anne rejecting Phillip. While they try to figure out who or what they can be, Barnum is trying to keep his show afloat and his marriage intact.

Critics were particularly harsh about the historical inaccuracies of the film. While "The Greatest Showman" is based on the businessman's life, even calling itself a biopic, several aspects of the movie are extremely fictionalized. For example, Zendaya's character was completely invented for the film, as was Efron's. Others, like Barnum himself, were given different personalities, which might have made them appear nobler than they actually were.

Besides calling out the inaccuracies, critics gave the movie mixed reviews. Many enjoyed the musical numbers, with The Dallas Morning News noting "it's the musical numbers that make [the film]," while others were concerned that there was little substance behind the lavish production design.

Best: Spider-Man: Far From Home

With the other two on this list, let's round it out by including "Spider-Man: Far From Home," the second installment in the new "Spider-Man" saga. This one follows the teens as they head to Europe on a school trip while strange element-based antagonists are attacking. But, it isn't always Spider-Man saving the day. Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a new hero on the scene, but saving the world is the last thing on his agenda.

Zendaya's MJ has a more distinct role in this movie than she does in the first. Peter plans to share his feelings for her on the trip, but she has other plans in mind. MJ reveals she knows his secret identity, meaning both of his friends now know. Audiences get to watch MJ in action as she fights off Mysterio-wielded drones with an ancient weapon from a museum and admits she's been watching Peter for a while (and it isn't just because she suspected he was Spider-Man).

While it is the lowest-scored film of the trilogy, it still holds a critics score of 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. The Boston Globe called it a "wholesome teen comedy." Many reviews compliment how the film handled Tony Stark's (Robert Downey Jr.) death. The movie directly followed "Avengers: Endgame," both in plot and release, and sees Peter and the world try to come to terms both with the character's death and the return of everyone that had vanished.

Worst: Duck Duck Goose

"Duck Duck Goose" is another animated film that features Zendaya voicing an animal. The movie follows Peng (Jim Gaffigan), a swan goose that is part of a flock migrating to China. He is given the job of helping the young flyers since he is a single goose but ends up stumbling into some lost ducklings. Zendaya voices Chi, one of those ducklings.

The movie was originally meant for a theatrical release in the United States with Open Road Films (via Deadline), but Netflix picked it up instead. It does not have a critics score on Rotten Tomatoes, but of the three reviews listed, two are negative. Flickering Myth calls it "soul-suckingly bland" and wrote that kids "deserve so much better." "I hated the animation," Rachel's Review shared. "I hated the characters. I hated the humor." 

The audience rating is an extremely poor 38%. The reviews note that the humor is a bit more adult than they expected for a children's film, that their children were bored or did not enjoy it, and that Peng is heartless to the ducklings. So, it may be best to skip this part of Zendaya's catalog.

Best: Dune

Though she was only in the film for seven minutes of the two-and-a-half hour runtime (via the Los Angeles Times), "Dune" is one of the best projects on Zendaya's resume. Based on the 1965 book of the same name by Frank Herbert, "Dune" is a sci-fi movie that features interplanetary travel to ensure the survival of an entire group of people. Despite the run time, the adaptation wasn't able to include all the events of the book, making it the first movie of a franchise.

Zendaya is Chani, a woman that appears in Paul's (Timothée Chalamet) visions. She is a Fremen, a group of people that live on Arrakis, a desert planet that is the only source of the spice. Paul's visions show a future that involves war across the universe. He eventually runs into her in person and joins her tribe. Paul is also a Fremen, but is considered a member of the House Atreides. His father Duke Leto Atreides (Oscar Isaac) is the ruler of Caladan, an ocean planet.

"Dune" earned 10 Academy Award nominations, including best picture, best adapted screenplay, and best visual effects, ultimately winning six Oscars. These wins included best visual effects, best production design, and best original score. The score Oscar marks only the second win for Hans Zimmer, despite being nominated a dozen times. In addition to the numerous awards, the critic consensus is that "Dune" is a "visually thrilling adaptation" (via Rotten Tomatoes).

Worst: Super Buddies

Before she was wowing audiences as Rue in "Euphoria," she voiced a talking horse in the direct-to-DVD movie "Super Buddies." It is a part of the "Air Bud" franchise, marking the end of both the original "Air Buds" saga and the spinoff "Air Buddies." Zendaya portrays Lollipop, a horse that interacts with Rosebud (Genevieve Hannelius). In this installment, the puppies find rings that give them superpowers, which they use to try and stop an alien that has come to Earth.  

There are no critic scores for the film on Rotten Tomatoes, but the audience has given it a rotten score of 51%. One audience review of "Super Buddies" writes that a fight scene is a "ripoff of when Lord Voldemort kills Harry Potter," while another says their child tuned out for most of the film. With the few reviews out there leaning negative, this film is firmly one of Zendaya's worst.

Best: Smallfoot

Despite many of Zendaya's worst films being animated, there is a cartoon feature that is better than the rest. "Smallfoot" is about Migo (Channing Tatum) the yeti and his discovery of humans. Zendaya voices Meechee, a female yeti that Migo has a romantic interest. As the story progresses, Migo and Meechee learn more about the world around them as they're exposed to new cultures and ideas.

The film is Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, with a 76% critic score and 62% audience score. Critics enjoy the message behind it, which CNN describes as "the question of being afraid of and hostile toward those who are different from us." "It is heartening in this era of fake news," Movie Mom wrote, "to have a movie about curiosity, critical thinking, and challenging the status quo." Reviewers like that "Smallfoot" encourages the children watching it to think for themselves and look into the information being shared with them rather than taking it at face value.

Critics did mention the animation and musical numbers as detriments to the film, but that it wasn't enough to overshadow the strength of the theme. The Guardian describes the movie as having "bland animation" and "generic clappy-blah songs," but that the "unexpectedly heartfelt message ... just about makes up for [it]."

Worst: Frenemies

Many know that Zendaya's career was jumpstarted by the projects from her Disney Channel days. "Shake It Up" and "K. C. Undercover" were popular programming, and, like other Disney leads, she has some Disney Channel original movies under her belt. "Frenemies" features the actress and her "Shake It Up" costar Bella Thorne alongside Nick Robinson, Stefanie Scott, and Mary Mouser. It follows three sets of friends that have to work through something that turns them into enemies. Zendaya plays Halley, one of the founders of GeeklyChic, a web magazine.

"Frenemies" premiered on the Disney Channel in 2012 to 4.2 million viewers (via TV by the Numbers). There's no critics score for "Frenemies" and the audience score available is 42%, which isn't favorable. A review from Common Sense Media writes that the movie "paints an oversimplified picture of teen life" and that it has "sanitized characters and an unrealistic plot." Audience reviews state that the writers "did not know the definition of a frenemy," the characters are hard to watch, and the three stories are "poorly constructed."

Best: Malcolm & Marie

As a film secretly completed during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, "Malcolm & Marie" tells the story of Malcolm (John David Washington), a filmmaker awaiting the reviews of his recent film while his girlfriend Marie (Zendaya) questions who the main character of it was based on (via Deadline). The two argue about their careers and inspiration, leaving the state of their relationship unclear as the sun starts to rise. The project is the second collaboration between Zendaya and Sam Levinson, the creator of "Euphoria."

Critics gave the film average reviews, resulting in a 57% on Rotten Tomatoes. The chemistry between Zendaya and Washington has been well-received by critics, with Movie Mom saying the "palpable magnetism and chemistry" of the leads make the film what it is. As the only two characters in "Malcolm & Marie," their interactions are essential to the story. Reviews have widely criticized the plot and dialogue.

Additionally, the performances of both leads are considered a highlight in the movie and a turning point for the actress. The Hollywood Reporter calls it "a commanding turn that cements [Zendaya's] arrival as a grownup movie star." "Malcolm & Marie" has sparked some backlash, with some feeling the over 10-year age difference between the two actors is an issue. Zendaya believes people have trouble seeing her as an adult due to the fact that she has been playing teenage characters since she was a teenager (via BuzzFeed News).

Worst: Zapped

"Frenemies" wasn't the actress' only Disney Channel original movie. "Zapped" features Zendaya as Zoey, a girl that downloads a phone app to help train her dog, but it turns out it works on human men too. She may use it to her advantage as she starts attending a new school and has trouble fitting in after her widowed father remarries.

Unlike "Frenemies," Zendaya's second Disney Channel Original Movie was the highest viewed of the year, averaging 5.7 million viewers (via TV by the Numbers). Despite the numbers, audiences don't have favorable reviews for "Zapped." They describe it as "a never-ending slog of unfunny jokes" with "characters [that] were underwritten and obnoxious." This resulted in the film earning 43% on Rotten Tomatoes from audiences. John Caramanica of The New York Times wrote that the movie is "an old model in need of an upgrade," while Common Sense Media calls it "entertaining enough" even with the "worrisome" stereotyping of men in Zoey's life.