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Awful Performances By Hollywood's Best Actors

No one is perfect, and even the most talented among us are forced to face their own fallibility from time to time — including Hollywood's biggest and brightest stars. No matter how many Oscars they might have in their display case, every single actor on the planet will give a bad performance sooner or later. It's just the law of averages. Perhaps a critically beloved actress ends up choosing a truly lousy screenplay; maybe a respected star suffers through a particularly bad day on the set. Whatever the reason, even the best actors have offered up some truly awful performances that will live forever in Hollywood infamy. We still love these stars, of course, but we're not above offering a reminder of those misguided misfires by taking a look at some of the all-time worst. With that in mind, here's a not-so-fond tribute to some awful performances by Hollywood's best actors.

Forest Whitaker - Battlefield Earth

For such an awful movie, Battlefield Earth features some pretty amazing actors. Barry Pepper was incredible in movies like True Grit, 25th Hour, and Saving Private Ryan. John Travolta was fantastic in Saturday Night Fever, Pulp Fiction, and The People vs. O.J. Simpson. But if we had to pick the best actor to appear in this piece of sci-fi garbage, we'd have to go with Forest Whitaker.

The man won an Oscar for his powerful performance as the insane dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland. He was the essence of cool in Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai, he tore at our heart strings in The Crying Game, and he grabbed everybody's attention with his leading role in Bird. What's such a talented guy doing in one of the worst-reviewed films of all time? A movie based on a novel written by the man who created Scientology, no less?

The answer is simple: he was delivering the worst performance of his career. Playing Ker, an oversized alien with dreams of getting rich, Whitaker is forced to drop insults like "corporate crap heads" and earnestly wonder why humans enjoy eating rats. If this were a comedy, maybe it would work, but it's supposed to be deadly serious. So when Whitaker delivers his lines in caveman fashion, it comes off as unintentionally hilarious. His only saving grace is that he's partially shielded by Travolta's insane performance as the power-hungry Terl.

Of course, even if Whitaker was doing an amazing job, it hardly would've mattered, as he's buried under some of pretty terrible makeup. David Edelstein of Slate said Whitaker was "coiffed to resemble the Cowardly Lion in The Wiz," and Roger Ebert added in his review that Whitaker's costume looked like it was "purchased from the Goodwill store on the planet Tatooine."

Marlon Brando – The Island of Doctor Moreau (1996)

Make a list of the greatest all-time actors, and you've got to include Marlon Brando, who revolutionized Hollywood by introducing method acting to the mainstream. He's dropped some of the most famous movie lines in cinematic history—"The horror, the horror," "I'm gonna' make him an offer he can't refuse," "Stella!"—and won Oscars for On the Waterfront and The Godfather. But near the end of his career, Brando could be guilty of phoning it in, and nowhere is that more evident than The Island of Doctor Moreau.

Anyone familiar with the behind-the-scenes story of Apocalypse Now knows that Brando was incredibly difficult to work with. Worse still, when he showed up for Doctor Moreau, he was still reeling from the loss of his daughter, Cheyenne. Brando also admitted to being bored on set, and this all combined to create the perfect storm. He covered his face in pancake makeup. Then he started wearing an ice bucket on his head for no reason. He also decided his character needed to have a dwarf constantly by his side, a move that would later inspire Mini-Me of Austin Powers. None of it made any sense for the character of Doctor Moreau, but nobody could stop Brando.

Worse still, the script was constantly being rewritten, and Brando was having trouble keeping up. According to Sabotage Times, the situation was remedied by giving the actor an earpiece and having someone feed him his lines. But the antennae allegedly kept on receiving signals from nearby police radios, and Brando had a hard time distinguishing his actual lines from police chatter—resulting in a mess of a performance that signaled the Brando of old was gone for good.

Matthew McConaughey – The Dark Tower (2017)

After years of embarrassing himself with movies like Failure to Launch and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Matthew McConaughey finally broke free from his rom-com curse by starring in films like The Lincoln Lawyer, Bernie, and Mud. He sleazed it up in Magic Mike, got a blockbuster gig with Interstellar, and won a Best Actor Oscar for his turn as AIDS patient Ron Woodroof in Dallas Buyers Club.

So McConaughey seemed like the perfect guy to play the Man in Black, a.k.a. Walter, the villain of Stephen King's beloved fantasy series The Dark Tower. Really, at this point, King fans were eager to see anyone in the role; they'd been waiting years to watch the Man in Black flee across the desert, with the Gunslinger following.  Unfortunately, the 2017 adaptation forgot the face of its father and bombed with critics, flopped at the box office, and earned McConaughey some pretty dark reviews.

Scott Wampler of Birth.Movies.Death. described McConaughey's performance as "showboaty and embarrassing," while Sam Adams of Slate said that "McConaughey's matter-of-fact evil...reads more like the indifference of a check-cashing movie star." Michael O'Sullivan of The Washington Post slammed the actor by saying his performance was "unlikely to evoke deathly shivers so much as a terminal case of the giggles," but Alison Willmore of Buzzfeed had the best burn of all when she wrote McConaughey "offers up what's basically a more evil version of whatever he's doing in those Lincoln car commercials."

Cate Blanchett – Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Cate Blanchett is one of the greatest actresses to grace a movie screen. She's basically a chameleon, a woman who completely disappears into her roles, morphing into figures like Bob Dylan, Queen Elizabeth, and Katharine Hepburn—a performance that won her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. She won the big one for Blue Jasmine, wowed critics with Carol, and hammed it up to everyone's delight in Thor: Ragnarok.

But hey, nobody's perfect—something she learned with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Playing the semi-psychic Soviet Irina Spalko, Blanchett just comes off as silly and forgettable in a role that Peter Travers of Rolling Stone described as "a one-note villain...with an accent that conjures up Rocky and Bullwinkle more than the desired red menace."

Granted, this is an Indiana Jones movie, so we're not looking for realism. But Indy's bad guys need to generate some sort of emotion from moviegoers other than "meh." Belloq evoked contempt, Toht evoked fear, and Mola Ram evoked so much disgust that Steven Spielberg had to create an entirely new rating. Irina Spalko, on the other hand, evokes little more than a shoulder shrug. If any other actress had played the part, we wouldn't care as much, but this is Cate Blanchett we're talking about, and she's capable of so much more.

Eddie Redmayne – Jupiter Ascending (2015)

The year 2015 was a pretty epic one for bad performances. There was Josh Gad and Kevin James in Pixels, Chevy Chase in Hot Tub Time Machine 2, and Jason Lee in Alvin in the Chipmunks: The Road Chip. But as terrible as these actors were, they couldn't steal the shameful spotlight from Eddie Redmayne, who defeated all four actors to win the Worst Supporting Actor Razzie for his performance as Balem Abrasax in Jupiter Ascending. Ironically, this Wachowski flick hit theaters just a few days before Redmayne won his Best Actor Oscar for playing Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, beating Michael Keaton, Steve Carell, and Benedict Cumberbatch. But while his performance as the disabled physicist was flawless, we can't say the same for his turn as a whispery space titan.

Wearing Elton John's discarded outfits, Redmayne wildly modulates between throaty murmurs and wide-eyed, sweaty-faced shouting. In fact, Redmayne's screaming was so epically bad that after criticizing the actor for being "so slight, so boyish, that he never comes across as intimidating at all," Stephanie Merry of The Washington Post wrote, "Redmayne raises his voice to epic soprano levels when reaming out his otherworldly lackeys. If he's capable of inflicting damage, it's to eardrums alone." In other words, in an over-the-top movie filled with dog-eared super soldiers and bat-winged dinosaurs, Redmayne sticks out as the most outrageous thing in the film.

Jesse Eisenberg – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)

Jesse Eisenberg wowed everyone when he played Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, and while we can argue all day about the accuracy of David Fincher's film, there's no denying Eisenberg gave a powerhouse of a performance. He was even nominated for a Best Actor Oscar.

In addition to playing the social media mogul, Eisenberg has left his mark on movies like The Double, The End of the Tour, and The Squid and the Whale. But every great actor has their cinematic kryptonite, and in Eisenberg's case, that's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The curly-haired star won a Worst Supporting Actor Razzie for his performance as Lex Luthor, a role that was probably better suited for someone older and more menacing. Honestly, Eisenberg is the worst Luthor of all time, especially when compared to the likes of Gene Hackman and Michael Rosenbaum.

Eisenberg was just too loud and manic to play the Man of Steel's archenemy, and honestly, he would've done a far better job as the Riddler or the Joker. Putting a new spin on a classic character was a risky move on Eisenberg's part, and sadly, it just didn't pay off.

Natalie Portman – The Star Wars prequel trilogy (1999—2005)

When Natalie Portman is on top of her acting game, she's an absolute phenom. That's why she won the Best Actress Oscar for Black Swan, a role where Portman killed it as a frightened ballerina descending into madness. She earned an Academy Award nomination for her turn as a stripper in Mike Nichols' Closer, and she gained her third Oscar nod for a soul-shattering performance as the first lady in Jackie. Go back to her early days, and Portman was stealing the show in films like Leon: The Professional and Beautiful Girls.

Of course, not every performance deserves a little gold statue—witness the horrors of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. As it turns out, when you're working with George Lucas, you'll either end up in the most iconic movies ever made, or you'll have your career dragged through the mud over the course of three films. Unfortunately for Portman—not to mention Ewan McGregor, Samuel L. Jackson, and Liam Neeson—the latter proved true when she was cast as Queen Amidala, a.k.a. Padme.

Maybe it was the stale script with all that corny dialogue. Maybe it was working with a director who prefers special effects to actors. Or perhaps it was the fact she had zero chemistry with her leading man. Whatever the reason, Portman was one of the worst parts of the prequel trilogy, which is really saying something. Need proof? Then check out that Razzie-worthy moment from Attack of the Clones when she's rolling through a field with Hayden Christensen, or watch the cringe-worthy scene when Padme tearfully confronts Anakin in Revenge of the Sith. Every stilted line and fake emotion is painful, and honestly, it's breaking our hearts.

Kristen Stewart - The Twilight Saga (2008—2012)

At this point, it's safe to say that anyone still making fun of Kristen Stewart clearly hasn't watched a single movie since 2008. Once the butt of endless jokes, Stewart has won critical acclaim for films like Into the Wild and Camp X-Ray, devastated audiences in Personal Shopper, and walked away with pretty much every award in the film festival world for her work in Clouds of Sils Maria.

But despite her performances in Adventureland, Still Alice, and American Ultra (which is actually an awesome movie), Stewart might never completely shake the shadow of Twilight. Spend a few minutes on YouTube, and you'll find countless videos skewering her performance as Bella Swan. And in fairness, she is pretty rotten in this undead franchise, coming off as flat, monotone, and decidedly non-human. In fact, Stewart was nominated for Razzies on two separate occasions before "winning" in 2012 for the double whammy of Breaking Dawn—Part 2 and Snow White and the Huntsman.

Honestly, though, it's difficult for any actor—even the best in the business—to do good work with a horrible script, especially if that screenplay is based on lousy source material. And after the vampire franchise was finally staked in the heart, Stewart went on to prove that she was far more talented than she appeared in the Stephenie Meyer series. (While we're at, let's give props to Robert Pattinson, who's given way better performances than his turn as Edward Cullen.) Still, as far as vampire films go, Stewart's performance in Twilight is bloody awful.

Jake Gyllenhaal – Okja (2017)

It's fair to say Jake Gyllenhaal is one of the best actors in Hollywood today. The man has played a mild-mannered cartoonist, a brooding detective, an emaciated sociopath, and a love-struck cowboy. He's starred in Stronger, Enemy, Donnie Darko, and End of Watch, each and every time giving a performance for the ages. And that's what makes Okja so utterly baffling.

Directed by Bong Joon-ho, this Korean sci-fi flick follows a little girl trying to rescue an oversized swine from the clutches of a meat-crazed corporation. Along the way, she encounters a host of zany characters, from evil twins to an animal rights activist who refuses to eat. But without a doubt, the most annoying character she runs across is Dr. Johnny Wilcox (Gyllenhaal), an American zoologist and TV show host who tortures pigs, makes questionable fashion choices, and couldn't whisper if you paid him.

Gyllenhaal's over-the-top theatrics drew the ire of critics, prompting Dana Stevens of Slate to write, "There are broad performances, there are performances said to be 'as broad as a barn,' and then there's Gyllenhaal's performance." Kyle Buchanan of Vulture said his turn as Dr. Johnny was "so flamboyant, you can see it from space." Andrew Lapin of NPR claimed Gyllenhaal "squeals more than the pigs do," and Matt Zoller Seitz described the actor as a "flat-out casting disaster."

Even fans of Gyllenhaal's performance had to throw out some disclaimers, with David Sims of The Atlantic warning Dr. Johnny "will undoubtedly not work for everyone." As for the actor himself, Gyllenhaal responded to the criticism by saying he loved the reactions and that his performance was meant to be polarizing. Still, there's a big difference between an unlikable character and an irritating acting job, and here, Gyllenhaal falls in the latter category.

Johnny Depp – Mortdecai (2015)

Let's be honest. It's been a long, long time since anyone called Johnny Depp a great actor. Sure, he won some praise for his performance as Whitey Bulger in Black Mass, but for the most part, he's been wearing silly disguises, using ridiculous accents, and slumming it in movies like Yoga Hosers, Dark Shadows, and Alice Through the Looking Glass.

And that's a real shame because once upon a time, Depp was a living, breathing masterclass in playing weirdos and screwballs. The guy who played in Tusk is the same actor who wowed critics and audiences alike with performances in Ed Wood, Edward Scissorhands, and the original Pirates of the Caribbean. He even occasionally toned things down for solid performances in more realistic films like Donnie Brasco and What's Eating Gilbert Grape?

So really, Mortdecai perfectly sums up what's become of Depp's once-impressive career. The worst-reviewed movie in a checkered filmography, it finds him playing a mustachioed art thief on the hunt for a painting that might lead to Nazi treasure. And in unfortunate Depp fashion, it's a performance based solely on physical tics, funny voices, and absolutely no substance.

As film critic Peter Sobczynski put it, Depp's performance was "on the level of a below-average knock-knock joke." The folks who run the Razzies agree, as he was nominated for Worst Actor (losing out to Jamie Dornan for Fifty Shades of Grey). And domestic audiences weren't impressed either, as Mortdecai grossed just $7.6 million at home against a $60 million budget. That's a pretty long way to fall after starring in the 21st highest-grossing movie of all time.