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The Worst Films Hollywood's Best Actors Were In

While climbing to the top of the Hollywood ladder without making a bad movie along the way is possible (hello, John Cazale), it's a feat achieved by precious few. Some of Tinseltown's most iconic actors today were once total rookies, clunkily looking for a foot in the door, and sometimes that meant taking on roles that could later come back to haunt. 

Even those who do manage to achieve stardom with a relatively immaculate record intact can have a hard time keeping it that way. When tempted with a solid paycheck, it's difficult for stars of a certain age to resist the odd formulaic thriller or ill-conceived comedy — but that doesn't make seeing a talented actor phone it in any easier on the audience.

Movies are a team effort, only perfectly realized when hundreds of people come together to do their job with precision, skill — and a whole lot of luck; good actors often don't know they're in a bad movie until it's too late. Many of the following stars signed on to their respective bombs with the best of intentions, only to discover that there was nothing they could do to save them. For all, these films were an invaluable learning experience — if only to learn they should never, ever do anything like that again.

From low-budget monster movies and sci-fi misfires to astonishingly racist buddy comedies, these are the worst films Hollywood's best actors have been in. 

Warning: This list contains spoilers (albeit, for films that you should never see).

Leonardo DiCaprio, Critters 3 (1991)

Five years before he cemented his status as a teen heartthrob in Baz Luhrmann's "Romeo + Juliet," Leonardo DiCaprio made his feature film debut in "Critters 3," a sequel that nobody expected or even asked for. It follows the residents of an apartment building as they band together to save themselves from the Crites, a race of carnivorous aliens that are apparently extremely hard to kill. DiCaprio stars as Josh, a character he described as "your average, no-depth, standard kid with blond hair" in a 1993 interview with The New York Times. It appears as though the young actor was very much aware that his first film could be remembered as his worst (although it should be mentioned he'd done TV at this point, most significantly "Growing Pains" and the TV show "Parenthood"), and if he was in any doubt, all he had to do was read the reviews.

Unsurprisingly, "Critters 3" was trashed by the critics. It might seem unthinkable that Leonardo DiCaprio, respected Best Actor winner and A-list icon, has a movie with a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes in his past, but that's the case — and it's completely deserving of that score. Though the first film was written before "Gremlins" hit cineplexes, "Critters" is often seen as the knock-off version of the more successful franchise — albeit, without the winning mix of humor and horror that made the "Gremlins" series so beloved. The third "Critters" film is far too light on laughs, and with its shockingly bad special effects on display, there are no genuine scares, either.

Denzel Washington, Heart Condition (1990)

Dubbed "Denzel Washington's greatest mistake" by The Ringer, 1990's "Heart Condition" is a buddy comedy about a racist cop (Bob Hoskins) who gets the heart of a murdered Black lawyer after his own fails. When Jack Moony comes around from his transplant surgery, he discovers that his new heart belonged to a man he couldn't stand, ambulance chaser Napoleon Stone (Washington). Worse than that, the ghost of Stone appears before him and won't leave until Moony solves his murder. If you're wondering if this flick is really as bad as it sounds, it is — Moony uses the n-word after assaulting Stone in the first act of the film, which was named one of the "most racist movies" ever by Complex.

Washington signed on to star in the ill-fated, offensive comedy after he finished filming "Glory," for which he would win his first Oscar. It was "really a coup" for debuting writer-director James D. Parriott. "I had to talk him into it over lunch," Parriott told The Ringer. "We shot the movie, and during that summer as I was editing it, 'Glory' came out. All this buzz happened, and then it opened and suddenly Denzel was this huge star." Meanwhile, "Heart Condition" got trashed, and it has won very few people over since — it has a generous 10% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. "The movie definitely didn't help him," Parriott added. "It didn't encourage him to do other comedies, for sure."

Saoirse Ronan, "The Host" (2013)

Four-time Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan has a string of impressive performances under her belt, but there's one film the Irish actor would likely love to erase. Based on a book by "Twilight" author Stephenie Meyer, 2012's "The Host" takes place in a future where a race of parasitic aliens has colonized Earth. The Souls use humans as hosts, but one girl (Ronan) refuses to give up her body. It's a dual performance from Ronan, who plays protagonist Melanie Stryder and the alien occupying her. Even for someone with her raw talent, it proved tricky. "The acting, as well as Andrew Niccol's writing and direction, are all awful," the Atlantic said in a scathing review. "I can't in good conscience recommend that anyone see this film," 

"The Host" was supposed to be the next big thing in the world of YA movies, but it failed to capture the imagination of its intended audience the way "Twilight" had. Comparisons to the worldwide vampire hit were inevitable, and when they arrived, they weren't favorable (CNN dubbed the movie "Twi-lite" in its review, while the Philadelphia Inquirer said that a lack of any real romance "makes the film a poor cousin to 'Twilight'"). 

Being linked with the Kristen Stewart/Robert Pattinson phenomenon certainly didn't help but, even when judged on its own merits, "The Host" is still a horrible movie. It meanders along at a painfully slow pace, and gets very little out of its mildly interesting premise.

Emma Stone, Aloha (2015)

Emma Stone became the talk of Tinseltown after her Oscar-winning turn in 2016's "La La Land," but just a year earlier, she was a hot topic for a very different reason. Cameron Crowe's "Aloha" follows US Air Force officer Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper), who returns to Hawaii after years away from the islands. Running into former partner Tracy Woodside (Rachel McAdams) stirs up all kinds of emotions for the lovelorn military man, but when he's paired with Air Force pilot Captain Allison Ng (Stone), he starts to picture a new path. If you're wondering why Stone plays a character called Ng (an Asian name that she has to pronounce for Cooper in one awkward scene), so were many Asian viewers.

"I've learned on a macro level about the insane history of whitewashing in Hollywood and how prevalent the problem truly is," Stone told News.com.au after her role in the rom-com triggered a backlash. "It's ignited a conversation that's very important." 

Stone became a part of that conversation again when Sandra Oh made a joke about "Crazy Rich Asians" being "the first studio film with an Asian-American lead since 'Ghost in the Shell' and 'Aloha'" at the Golden Globes in 2019, shouting "I'm sorry" from the audience. Bad press can sink a movie, but the truth is, whitewashing is far from the only issue here. Despite being written and directed by Cameron Crow ("Almost Famous," "Say Anything," "Jerry Maguire"), "Aloha" is overly sentimental, needlessly complicated ("There's more backstory than story," quipped the Austin Chronicle), and very poorly executed.

Scarlett Johansson, The Perfect Score (2004)

Two-time Oscar nominee Scarlett Johansson and fellow Marvel star Chris Evans had already worked together on more than one occasion by the time they teamed up for "The Avengers," but their first joint effort is undoubtedly their worst. In fact, when it comes to Johansson, it's her worst, period. 2004's "The Perfect Score" is a heist caper about a bunch of high school kids who decide to break into the HQ of New Jersey's Educational Testing Service and steal the answers to their upcoming SAT exams. Francesca (Johansson) comes up with the scheme, and she's able to convince school hunk Kyle (Evans) and four other teen movie stereotypes (an athlete, a stoner, a working-class kid, and the it-girl) to come aboard.

Directed by Brian Robbins (who would go on to helm three terrible Eddie Murphy movies before pretty much vanishing from Hollywood), "The Perfect Score" contains references to "The Breakfast Club" and "Dazed and Confused," but it's worlds away from the movies it aspires to be like. The premise, while far from groundbreaking, could have made for an entertaining teen movie in the right hands, but the story is painfully predictable and the talents of the young cast are wasted. 

"What could, and should, have been as fun and daring as skipping school turns out to be as dull as a two-hour detention," said the BBC, describing Johansson as "embarrassingly over-qualified for this kind of high-concept, low-ambition fare."

Charlize Theron, Aeon Flux (2005)

She has proven that she's more than capable of fronting a kick-ass action movie in the years since "Aeon Flux" was released, but with a dire 9% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, this film remains a black mark on Charlize Theron's record. 

Based on the beloved, slickly-animated, scantily-clad cartoon series that once dominated MTV"s "Liquid Television," this tedious sci-fi tale takes place four centuries after the vast majority of Earth's population was wiped out by a virus. The remnants of humanity survive inside a walled megacity governed by corrupt scientists, and it falls to Aeon Flux (a highly-skilled rebel) to take out their leader. Theron's character kicks and flips her way to the truth, but by the time she discovers it (which isn't that far into the movie), the audience has already lost interest.

Theron came into the film on the back of her Oscar-winning turn in "Monster," and director Karyn Kusama was seen as an exciting new talent at the time. "I threw myself into ['Aeon Flux'] with the belief that she's a great filmmaker," Theron told Variety. "And then we f***** it all up. I just don't think we really knew how to execute it. And it's disappointing, but it happens. I've been in this business long enough to know that you cannot get it right every time." That's true, but getting it this wrong is also quite rare. Theron (who was almost paralyzed during an on-set flip gone wrong) gave her all physically, but the talented actor we know and love is nowhere to be seen here.

Tom Hanks, The Circle (2017)

If you've ever wondered why Tom Hanks doesn't play more bad guys, watch "The Circle" and you'll have your answer. This star-studded tech thriller follows Mae Holland (Emma Watson) as she rises through the ranks at The Circle, a tech/social media company run by Eamon Bailey (Hanks). She's sucked into the company's ethos of openness, but an encounter with Ty Lafitte (John Boyega), the creator of The Circle's social network TrueYou, leads her to question whether or not total transparency is a good thing. Released the year after "Black Mirror" addressed similar themes in the critically acclaimed episode "Nosedive," "The Circle" felt late to the party, and its A-list cast couldn't help it.

It's jarring when Eamon Bailey is revealed as another shady Silicon Valley-type (Hollywood's preferred brand of villain at the time), because he has the face of a man known the world over as Hollywood's perennial nice guy. It's not that a morally bankrupt CEO isn't within Hanks' range, but his reputation precedes him, and the actor has himself admitted that he struggles with villainous roles. 

"I recognized in myself a long time ago that I don't instill fear in anybody," the two-time Best Actor winner told The New York Times two years after "The Circle" bombed at the box office on its way to a 16% Rotten Tomatoes rating. "Bad guys, by and large, require some degree of malevolence that I don't think I can fake."

Christian Bale, Exodus: Gods and Kings (2014)

Christian Bale took on the role of Jesus in a 1999 TV movie, the year before the former teen actor's first grown-up breakout movie (psychological thriller "American Psycho") hit cinemas. By the time he signed on to play Moses in Ridley Scott's "Exodus: Gods and Kings" almost a decade and a half later, Bale was an Oscar-winner and widely considered to be among the top actors in the business. 

Bale's fame, coupled with the sheer scale of the production and a whitewashing backlash, meant that there was a lot more attention this time around, and the actor found himself under pressure to play the Biblical figure in a certain way. "I came to realize, 'Okay, I have to take a leap of faith here under Ridley's guidance — and we have to forge our own portrayal,'" he told New York's Daily News.

Bale's turn as Moses failed to impress the critics (the Irish Times called his performance "sour," while the New York Post went one step further and called it "God-awful"), as did the film as a whole. The sets are lavish and the wardrobes impressive, but no amount of bronzer could cover up the lack of substance. Perhaps with the pageantry of Cecil B. DeMille's Golden Age classic "The Ten Commandments" on his mind, Scott tried too hard to keep the whole thing grounded, and the result is a snooze fest of Biblical proportions. Despite the enormity of the role, Bale delivers a surprisingly muted performance.

Gary Oldman, Killers Anonymous (2019)

There's little doubt that Gary Oldman is one of our greatest living actors, though some of his decisions over the years have been questionable. He proved that he's still one of Hollywood's greatest chameleons when he took on the role of Winston Churchill in "The Darkest Hour," winning his first Academy Award. He was standing on a stage collecting the statuette for Best Actor in 2018, yet (like a number of stars on this list) followed up an Oscar triumph with a terrible film. In fact, in this case, it was a string of terrible films — in 2019 alone, Oldman was seen in three movies rated 5% or less on Rotten Tomatoes.

The one that stands out as the worst of that period (and arguably the worst of Oldman's career) is "Killers Anonymous," which scored a big fat zero on the Tomatometer. The title of the film refers to a support group for assassins, who are forced to band together when it transpires that a member of their group tried to assassinate a U.S. senator. Oldman's character (simply referred to as "The Man") is a veteran of the hired gun game and acts like a sponsor to younger, more blood-thirsty killers. Efforts to build a "John Wick"-style mythology around the assassins quickly become tiresome, and things get less interesting when Oldman's character takes a back seat. He spends most of his screentime sitting on rooftops, reacting to events from afar.

Robert Downey Jr., Johnny Be Good (1988)

He became the biggest Hollywood star on the planet during his time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but even Robert Downey Jr. isn't immune to failure: 2020's "Dolittle," his first post-MCU film, bombed hard at the box office and scored a paltry 14% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It must have been a rude awakening for the former Iron Man actor, though "Dolittle" is far from his worst film. Believe it or not, the two-time Oscar nominee has a movie that scored a 0% on the Tomatometer, one from the early days of his Hollywood career.

Downey Jr. got his first big break in 1985 when he was added to the cast of "Saturday Night Live." But the season was a disaster (the addition of several non-comedians proved to be an unwise move), and Downey Jr. was gone the following year. Anthony Michael Hall, who had worked alongside Downey Jr. in "Weird Science" was also let go, and the two friends decided to team up for a film that would prove to everyone just how funny they could be.

Unfortunately, 1988's "Johnny Be Good" only reinforced people's opinions. Hall stars as a high-school quarterback with a bright future, while Downey Jr. plays the goofy best friend — and, boy, is he goofy. The humor is infantile and painfully dated, even for the time. "The people who made this movie should be ashamed of themselves," veteran film critic Roger Ebert wrote in his review.

Samuel L. Jackson, Kite (2014)

Samuel L. Jackson was nominated for an Oscar for his turn as Bible-verse quoting hitman Jules Winnfield in 1994's "Pulp Fiction," and he would slowly establish himself as the most bankable actor in Hollywood in the years that followed, introducing himself to a whole new generation of viewers as S.H.I.E.L.D. boss Nick Fury in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He's made a lot of films in his time (nearly 200 onscreen credits at the time of this writing), and it stands to reason that they weren't all winners. 

As talented as Jackson is, he has loaned his presence to a number of bad movies, though many of them ("Snakes on a Plane," for example) come with a certain B-movie charm. There's nothing at all charming about "Kite," the worst of the worst as far as Samuel L. Jackson movies are concerned.

"Kite" is the story of a killer teen (India Eisley) who poses as a prostitute in order to get close to a gang of human traffickers led by the man who killed her parents. Jackson plays her murdered dad's former partner, a mentor figure who shows her the ropes and supplies her with an array of ridiculously powerful weapons. She doles out death in a torrent of overly-edited action sequences that try (and fail) to compensate for poor choreography using extreme violence. Bloated, lurid, and completely amateurish throughout, this one is fully deserving of its 0% Rotten Tomatoes rating.