Movies that were ruined by bad acting

There are many ways to define "bad acting." Maybe a director feels that a terrible performance is one that's too dramatic. It's possible that another believes subtlety is the enemy, wants everything to be over-the-top at all times, and hopes all their actors emulate Jared Leto's prep for Suicide Squad and full-tilt into the method acting technique for the duration of shooting. There's really no singular way to put "bad acting" into words — we just know it when we see it. 

But it isn't just their reputations that actors mar when they take a truly unpleasant turn on the silver screen — they also often taint the entire movie. While some films end up battered but not broken by one bad performance, others aren't so lucky. 

From speaking in half-baked accents that pull audiences out of the viewing experience to completely misinterpreting their characters' attitude and failing to bring the same level of quality to their performance as their co-stars, these actors committed some sizable acting sins — and left even bigger black spots on their films. Here's a painful look back at some of the many movies that have been ruined by bad acting.

Snowed under

Since starring as the brooding vampire-loving teen Bella Swan in The Twilight Saga, she's gained a reputation for being uninviting and unconvincing onscreen, with the masses relentlessly mocking her "wooden" acting and blank expressions. Although she's more than proven herself a formidable force in Hollywood in recent years, few can forget the movie-ruining bad acting she contributed to 2010's Snow White and the Huntsman.

A live-action remake of the Brothers Grimm fairytale that traded the gilded birdcages, gentle songs, and seven gleeful little men seen in Disney's version for grit and grime, Snow White and the Huntsman had all the necessary ingredients for a deliciously over-the-top action-fantasy-drama. Unfortunately, the film faltered, and according to many, the biggest flaw was Stewart's "laughably bad" performance as Snow White.

Critics found that Stewart floundered in a role that required everything she couldn't give — from natural instincts as a lead to the kind of upper-crust demeanor that comes with being a literal princess. Salon's Andrew O'Hehir found Stewart's Snow White completely unbelievable, writing that she looked and acted "rather too much like a standoffish American girl faking a posh accent." And it wasn't just the accent and the attitude — according to Slate's Dana Stevens, the movie was ruined by Stewart's "whole manner, her slouchy bearing and general aura of sulky passivity."

A Frosty reception

January Jones is a true talent. She stunned for seven seasons as Betty Francis on AMC's Mad Men, she charmed for 63 straight episodes of Will Forte's post-apocalyptic comedy series The Last Man on Earth, and she killed it in the 2014 drama film Good Kill. As the kids might say, we stan a skilled queen. But not every performance Jones has given in the past has been as unblemished as these — a claim her lackluster appearance in X-Men: First Class can corroborate.

Across the board, First Class was a smash. It turned a huge profit at the box office, and critics adored director Matthew Vaughn's handling of the famous mutant characters, praised the script, and fell in love with the heart-racing action sequences and thrilling musical score. What everyone hated, however, was Jones' performance as the superhumanly strong telepath Emma Frost.

Jones moved through First Class without any discernible emotion, taking the frigid nature of her character's name a little too literally. And despite Emma's inherent allure and mystique, Jones was neither a charming seductress nor a sinister mutant. For ruining X-Men: First Class, one watcher argued that Jones — whose real-life superpower Damon Lindelof once claimed is bad acting – "deserves to have her SAG card revoked." Ouch.

Poison Venom

Topher Grace delivering a good performance as Venom in Spider-Man 3? You'd like that, wouldn't you?

Though Grace found global success playing the sweet, sarcastic Eric Forman on That '70s Show from 1998 to 2005 and had appeared in several films in the early to mid-2000s, he had yet to score a role in a big-budget franchise picture prior to 2007. His opportunity to strike came when he landed the gig to play the dagger-toothed villain in the third installment of Evil Dead creator Sam Raimi's web-slinging franchise — but things went sour as soon as he got in front of the camera. 

More comfortable with portraying comedic characters, Grace appeared lost as a nun on a honeymoon in Spider-Man 3 — nowhere near as unhinged and unpredictable as he should have. The mere thought of engaging in a Brooklyn brawl with Venom was supposed to leave Tobey Maguire's Peter Parker shaking in his Spidey suit, but how could that actually happen when Grace's Venom felt like little more than a bad-tempered brat with jagged teeth and an "obnoxious 'Mr. Hipster'" — or, you know, Eric Forman experimenting with the emo subculture? 

Grace's strange turn as Venom destroyed Spider-Man 3 – and his role as the villainous journalist-turned-human-home-to-an-alien-symbiote ended up majorly damaging his career, too. Double RIP.

Prince of duds

How to make one (1) Awful Take on a Legendary Hero-Outlaw:

1) Blend equal parts not-British-at-all British accent and shaggy wig that seems more "Malibu Beach" than "cobble-stoned alleys and atmospheric forests of England."

2) Coat in delivery that never wavers — not even in mourning, triumph, or concession.

3) Taste and realize end product's unpalatability.

4) Burn recipe.

Kevin Costner carried out those first two steps in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, in which he played the skilled swordsman to an impressively awful degree. Costner's "wildly inconsistent" execution of the character makes Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves "a positively painful experience" decades after its original release, and his barely-there accent has gone down as one of the worst in film history.

Maybe Costner, a two-time Academy Award winner, was experiencing a bout of amnesia when filming Prince of Thieves and forgot how to act well. Perhaps the armor he wore in the film was cursed, hexing Costner to deliver a ghastly performance. Or maybe his heart just wasn't in it. (After all, he did turn down the script the first time he read it.) Whatever the case, it's undeniable that Costner totally ramshackled Robin Hood. As one viewer fitly put it, "How anyone can think Costner was good in this role is a frickin' mystery to me."

Godzilla: King of Bad Performances

Aaron Taylor-Johnson is to Gareth Edwards' 2014 monster movie Godzilla as one red sock is to a load of lily-white laundry: While he doesn't appear all that hazardous, just one member of a larger group, he has the power to spoil everything around him — and you won't notice it until it's too late. As U.S. Navy lieutenant Ford Brody, Taylor-Johnson was unenthusiastic and bankrupt of any semblance of empathy. Those attributes would be great for, say, a sociopathic villain in a superhero film or a robot featured on an episode of Black Mirror, but they're in no way befitting of a lead character in a mega monster movie. 

"Whenever he's asked to lend dramatic weight to the story, he fails miserably," Salon's Nico Lang said of Taylor-Johnson. "[His] pained attempts to emote were met with laughter from the audience."

Now, Taylor-Johnson isn't a bad actor — just take a look at his Golden Globe-winning work in the Tom Ford thriller Nocturnal Animals — but he was atypically abysmal in Godzilla, simultaneously "moronic," "brain-dead," and unremarkable in his own scenes and grossly overshadowed in the moments he shared with his on-screen father, Bryan Cranston's Joe Brody.

As the central star of a movie all about the King of Monsters, Taylor-Johnson should have given a royally sharp performance. Instead, the only thing he slayed was the film itself.

This Willie's all wet

A strapping lead with expert knowledge of ancient civilizations, loads of whip-cracking action scenes, dastardly villains, inspired set pieces, and more quotable one-liners than you can shake a stick at — these are the makings of Steven Spielberg's Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. An irritating and annoying attitude, frustrating lack of chemistry with her love interest, and dramatic display of damsel-in-distress antics — these comprise Kate Capshaw's performance as Wilhelmina "Willie" Scott in the 1984 sequel.

A Shanghai-based nightclub singer who accompanies Indy (the always-great Harrison Ford) and his sidekick Short Round (an adorable young Jonathan Ke Quan) on their mission, Willie was clearly the black sheep — and Capshaw stuck out in The Temple of Doom in a similar way.

Though audiences have warmed to the film since its release (critics originally found it too darkly violent), disdain for how Capshaw acted in Temple of Doom has endured. For many, her "atrocious performance" is "one of the whiniest, most grating, most insultingly awful [ones] in cinematic history." Going without the same effortless talent as her top-billed co-star, struggling to create a palpable on-screen spark between herself and Ford, and taking everything 10 steps too far, Capshaw was "painful to watch."

She may have ruined Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, but Capshaw didn't ruin her shot with Spielberg, whom she married in 1991.

Ocean's Zero

Bruce Willis was only in Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's Twelve for a little while, but his smug and stale cameo appearance was all it took to mar the movie forever. Within the 2004 comedy heist, Willis pops up (though it feels like he was "dragged in") as himself alongside Julia Roberts' Tess, who's pretending to be the real Julia Roberts to help George Clooney's Danny steal a Fabergé Imperial Coronation Egg from a museum in Rome. Rather than following the same action hero schtick that's proven successful for him in the past or behaving as he normally would in real life, Willis is creepy, as if he's on the verge of a maniacal outbreak or is desperate to sniff Roberts' hair or something equally as disturbing; unconvincing as himself; and unfunny, making a lousy scene in Ocean's Twelve even worse by overplaying the meta-humor to an uncomfortable level. 

Valerian and the City of Two Bad Performances

Luc Besson's Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets had plenty going for it — namely its arresting visuals, its "bonkers insane" first half, and its extravagant, lush world filled with creatures beyond your wildest imagination — but it got far more wrong than it did right. Without a question, what weighed down Besson's adaptation of Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières' comic series Valérian and Laureline the most were its two leads, Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne.

On paper, Valerian is brawny and trustworthy, although not the sharpest tool in the shed. On the big screen, however, DeHaan played him with too much broodiness and not enough bite, a "Han Solo-type character with zero panache." Delevingne did the same with Laureline, the sweet but efficacious heroine who serves as Valerian's partner in peace-preserving missions and his potential lover. Like DeHaan, Delevingne was rigid and devoid of emotion, delivering all her lines as if she was "conveying her latte order to the Starbucks barista."

Independently, the pair gave pretty pitiful performances, but together, they ruined Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets with their laziness and lack of chemistry. Like the Chicago Sun Times' Richard Roeper said, "They're so wooden they could have floated forever in the waters near the sinking Titanic and saved Rose AND Jack."

Not an apex Predator

To take a line from Britney Spears' dance-pop masterpiece, oops, he did it again. 

Three years after Topher Grace was labeled "the Worst Venom Ever from That Spider-Man Threequel," he gave a confusing performance in Predators, the third installment in the Predator franchise, which saw him star as a seemingly innocuous doctor who ultimately admits that he's a psychopathic serial killer. As Edwin, the disgraced physician harboring secret desires straight out of The Most Dangerous Game, Grace was flimsy yet hackneyed at the start and cartoonish during the film's climax, when Edwin spills his terrifying truth, a scalpel and neurotoxic poison in hand.

Grace isn't to blame for Edwin's strange characterization or his "What the hell was that?" twist that came in the third act, but the actor failed rise above the noise with the kind of acting we know he's capable of. In the end, he blighted Predators and left many believing he's just no darn good in "intimidating" roles.

Miss this train

There's always a risk attached to casting fresh talent in a feature film, but Clint Eastwood tapped a handful of untrained actors to star in The 15:17 to Paris, the biographical film that tells the real-life tale of the terrorist attack that took place on a Thalys train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris. Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler, Alek Skarlatos, and Mark Moogalian all portrayed themselves in the film, which Eastwood reportedly directed using his "famous one-take methods." His "experiment in stunt casting" and interesting directing choices went over about as well as you might expect.

The inexperienced Stone, Sadler, Skarlatos, and Moogalian gave The 15:17 to Paris their best shot, but these men clearly aren't actors and were rigid and self-conscious most of the way through. Try as they did, the foursome simply didn't know how to recreate the day they stopped the 2015 Thalys train attack for a slightly dramatized silver screen translation, resulting in "mortifyingly bad," "painfully obvious" acting that made The 15:17 to Paris the worst film Eastwood "has ever put his name to."