Actors Whose Next Movie After Winning An Oscar Was Awful

Although any artist truly dedicated to their craft would say that it's all about the process and not winning awards, it would be hard to believe any actor that claimed they hadn't imagined winning an Oscar. Even the majority of viewers at home have probably dreamed of giving an acceptance speech, of making it big in Hollywood and walking up to the stage for the highest validation Tinseltown has to offer. A coveted Oscar launches the career of each winner into a distinctly new and higher-profile phase, wherein a celebrity-worshipping public immediately wonders: what's next?

The problem is that the movie industry operates on a long, stumbling timeline. It takes years to cast, scout, shoot, edit, score, and complete a movie, and often years after that for studios to finally schedule, market, and release them. So our beloved newly-minted Oscar A-listers will usually have no control over the project that follows their golden statuette, as these decisions were all made before they even dreamed about trying to fit their thank-yous into the 30 seconds before the orchestra plays them off. A dud they participated in just for the money could follow their critical darling role, and just as often studios rush to put out something that's been gathering dust on the shelf to capitalize on the actor's newfound critical acclaim. Here are some actors whose next movie after winning an Oscar was awful.

Helen Hunt

Helen Hunt, primarily known for the sitcom "Mad About You," took a starring role in 1997's "As Good As It Gets" and went toe-to-toe with the legendary Jack Nicholson. Nicholson plays a thoroughly unpleasant and misanthropic romance novelist who's only even likeable by virtue of being played by Jack Nicholson, but Hunt's warm humanity and patience balances his prickliness perfectly. The chemistry won Nicholson his third Best Actor Oscar and Hunt her first for Best Actress. Hunt would take a much-deserved break from film for a couple years after the achievement, appearing only as a voice in an episode of "The Simpsons" as Moe's love interest.

Unfortunately, her return to the silver screen in "Dr. T and the Women" was a complete flop, although as a member of an ensemble cast she dodged embarrassment for the most part. While critics were evenly split – probably because they had a soft spot for director Robert Altman and were more sympathetic to his laconic rhythms — audiences absolutely loathed this movie about a charming gynecologist and the various women in his life. "Dr. T and the Women" is one of very few films to receive a straight up "F" from audience pollster CinemaScore (per Vulture), and it couldn't recoup its meager budget at the box office.

Rami Malek

Although he rose to fame playing the fittingly monotone main character on "Mr. Robot," Rami Malek loosened up considerably to play the legendary Freddie Mercury in the Queen biopic "Bohemian Rhapsody" in 2018. Despite fair to middling reviews and suffering a troubled production that saw a switch in directors two-thirds of the way through filming, Malek would triumph at the Oscars over the likes of Christian Bale ("Vice") and Bradley Cooper ("A Star is Born). Even though Freddie Mercury himself (and a vocal impersonator) provided most of the actual singing, Malek's acting and physical embodiment of the late glam-rock legend won the day.

In a mildly ironic twist, Malek's next role would be entirely vocal, as he provided the voice of Chee Chee the gorilla in 2020's forgettable cash-grab "Dolittle." The film was absolutely excoriated by critics, who focused mainly on the bizarre leading turn from Robert Downey, Jr. and the terrible script, but also remained unimpressed by the all-star animal voice cast. In a final, fully ironic turn of events, there's a scene in which Chee Chee the shy gorilla has to sing a lullaby to calm down an ostrich, so Malek ended up using his real singing voice after all.

Eddie Redmayne

Truly no actor may have a more incongruous pair of roles back to back than Eddie Redmayne. In 2014, he won an Oscar for playing beloved scientific icon Stephen Hawking, winning raves in the biopic "The Theory of Everything." In exactly the kind of movie that seems designed to win Oscars, his portrayal of a real-life inspirational figure and his struggles with life, love, and motor neuron disease, Redmayne made people reach for tissues and was a clear favorite for a golden statue.

His next role was a complete left turn into the Wachowski sisters' bad-acid-trip "Jupiter Ascending." Redmayne played the haughty bad guy in a bizarrely unique and utterly baffling space opera about interplanetary trans-human inheritance rights and half-human dog soldiers. "Jupiter Ascending" is admirably committed to its world-building, and visually impeccable to watch (like many of the Wachowski's post-"Matrix" efforts), but it was met with severe indifference and confusion from critics, stalling immediately at the box office upon release. Its singularly WTF-inducing vibe, like "Dune" mixed with a teen drama on The CW, might give it cult status someday, but as an Oscar follow-up for Redmayne it certainly was a head scratcher.

Sandra Bullock

In 2010, Sandra Bullock rode the momentum of "The Blind Side" to an Oscar win. The film didn't entirely blow critics away, and is mostly a by-the-numbers oversimplification of an inspiring real life story. But critics and audiences agreed that Bullock's performance as a fierce and protective southern matriarch was the unquestionable highlight. "The Blind Side" pulled off the rare feat of grossing more in its second weekend than its first, and the strong word-of-mouth combined with the general consensus that Bullock was due for an Oscar made her a shoe-in when the ceremony finally rolled around.

Her next role, however, would be in 2011's "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close," a film that doubled down on perhaps the touchiest "based on a true story" material possible in contemporary America: the events of 9/11. An adaptation of a Jonathan Safran Foer novel, the movie polarized critics right down the middle and was the opposite of a "Blind Side"-like grower at the box office, fading away immediately. Ultimately, with the then-recently-expanded Best Picture category, "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" earned a nomination on the momentum of a marketing campaign and just kind of seeming like a Best Picture nominee, but the choice was controversial. Chris Kapek of The Huffington Post didn't mince words, writing, "[The movie] is not only the worst reviewed Best Picture nominee of the last 10 years, [but] easily the worst film of 2011."

Jamie Foxx

At the 77th Academy Awards, Jamie Foxx had the exceedingly rare honor of being nominated for two different acting Oscars in two different categories: Best Supporting Actor for "Collateral," which he lost to Morgan Freeman ("Million Dollar Baby"); and Best Actor for "Ray," which he handily won over the likes of Don Cheadle ("Hotel Rwanda") and Leonardo DiCaprio ("The Aviator"). After more than a decade of success in television, the music industry, and small parts in films, his portrayal of legendary musician Ray Charles cemented Foxx as an all-around A-list star.

His bright and shining new star power wouldn't help his next feature, 2005's "Stealth." A forgettable, critically-panned stink bomb that lazily mashed up "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Top Gun," "Stealth" starred Foxx alongside Josh Lucas and Jessica Biel as human pilots facing a rogue AI drone. "Stealth" would hardly recoup half of its $135 million budget, and quickly became another failed blockbuster on the ash heap of history, where Jamie Foxx surely prefers it to stay.

Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence rose to fame impossibly quickly. After a few years on "The Bill Engvall Show," she had a breakthrough performance in "Winter's Bone" in 2010 that would make her one of the youngest Oscar nominees for Best Actress ever at just the age of 20 (via The Wrap). Shortly after that, in addition to starring in X-Men movies and headlining "The Hunger Games" franchise, she would win Best Actress for "Silver Linings Playbook," the first of several successful collaborations with director David O. Russell. Her victory, still just at age 22, meant she could pick whatever project she wanted moving forward.

Unfortunately, a horror movie that she shot in the fall of 2010, months before her "Winter's Bone" Oscar nomination would put her on the map, had been shelved by the studio for a bit, and they saw fit to release "House at the End of the Street" a couple years later after Lawrence's Oscar win to maximize the box office potential of what turned out to be a roundly terrible film. Critics loathed it, finding it to be mostly devoid of actual scares and its plot mostly incomprehensible. Even the title seems like it should have a "the" at the beginning. Ultimately the bet paid off for the studio, as "House at the End of the Street" made a modest profit on a small budget, but it's the clear low-water mark in Lawrence's otherwise stellar career.

Hilary Swank

Just five years after winning a Best Actress Oscar for "Boys Don't Cry" in 1999 in a star-making performance, Hilary Swank joined the elite ranks of actors with multiple Oscars for leading roles with another victory for "Million Dollar Baby" in 2004. One of the most acclaimed and successful movies in director-writer-star Clint Eastwood's long career, "Million Dollar Baby" wowed critics on its way to winning Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor (for the ever-reliable Morgan Freeman) in addition to Swank's statue.

But the rarified air of being a double-Oscar winner comes with a lot of scrutiny, and Swank's next role was a letdown that began a general slowing down of her entire career in the years that followed. Brian De Palma cast her as a femme fatale in a high-profile adaptation of James Ellroy's novel "The Black Dahlia," which was doomed to draw unflattering comparisons to the seminal Ellroy adaptation "L.A. Confidential" from the start. Though the film was stylish and moody in the vein of classic noir, critics were unimpressed by the cast's generally flat performances, and audiences detested "The Black Dahlia" to the tune of a cringeworthy "D+" grade from CinemaScore.

Jared Leto

Since long before the summer of "Morbius" that wasn't, Jared Leto has spent a career perfecting a Nicolas Cage-esque penchant for appearing in films that range from critical darlings to complete and inexplicable flops. His pinnacle so far in traditional Hollywood is a Best Supporting Actor win in 2013 for "Dallas Buyers Club," transforming himself by losing 30 pounds to play a transgender woman dealing with HIV. Even with the Oscar win, his performance was overshadowed a bit by Matthew McConaughey's in the starring role — McConaughey even lost 50 pounds to Leto's 30, not that it's a competition. Nonetheless, after a strange and waltzing career Leto seemed to have found new mainstream acceptance.

His next stop was a step back in 2016's "Suicide Squad," not to be confused with the subsequent (and much better) "The Suicide Squad" in 2021. DC's first movie about the squad of anti-heroes was drubbed critically despite making a fair amount of money, and in general Leto failed to live up to the high bar set by his predecessors Jack Nicholson and the late Heath Ledger in portraying iconic Batman villain The Joker. It didn't help that "Suicide Squad" was poorly written and choppily edited together after requiring numerous reshoots

Charlize Theron

Oscars have a long history of going to the star that de-glamorizes themselves the most that particular year. Charlize Theron's Best Actress victory in 2003 for "Monster" is one of the most textbook examples, as one of Hollywood's most beautiful actresses gained weight and committed fully to the physical and mental embodiment of Aileen Wurnos, a convicted serial killer who led a brutal life of poverty and prostitution. The makeup process wasn't actually that complicated, but the result was stark and memorable, and Theron's all-out commitment won her the Oscar and foreshadowed her physical prowess as an action star in future films like "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "Atomic Blonde."

In the short term, however, Theron delivered a letdown in the form of the cliché-ridden and critically-loathed "Head in the Clouds" in 2004. In many ways the polar opposite of "Monster," the film was a gauzy historical drama against the backdrop of World War II that followed a very attractive love triangle (or love triad, perhaps) among Theron and the equally glamorous Stuart Townsend and Penelope Cruz. Treacly, flat, and forgettable, "Head in the Clouds" was a forgettable misfire from Charlize Theron that was unfortunately timed just after her crowning Oscar glory.

Christoph Waltz

It's almost impossible to believe that of the dozens of actors and actresses who have played memorable roles in Quentin Tarantino's films, only one of them has won Oscar gold: Christoph Waltz. And what's even more unlikely, he's pulled it off twice, winning Best Supporting Actor for 2009's "Inglorious Basterds" and again just three years later for "Django Unchained." In a testament to his versatility, the awards were for very different roles: in "Basterds" he played the terrifyingly villainous Hans Landa, and in "Django" played the heroic Dr. King Schultz. 

Perhaps he went for the heroic role because his first attempt to follow "Inglorious Basterds" was playing another villain in the colossal flop "The Green Hornet" in 2011. A rare attempt at comedy in the increasingly straight-faced superhero genre, "The Green Hornet" was met with middling critical distaste, and generally was considered a huge letdown for a film directed by visual maestro Michel Gondry ("Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind") and written by star Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg of "Superbad" fame. Waltz does his best in an underwritten role as a paranoid gangster, but has virtually no chance of creating a bad guy as indelible as Hans Landa so soon after taking the Oscar home.

Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman's sequence of roles in 2010 and 2011 is a little confusing. First, she starred in Darren Aronofsky's psychological thriller "Black Swan" as a ballerina haunted by a menacing doppelganger played by Mila Kunis. Then, she starred in a romantic comedy about a pair of friends with benefits called "No Strings Attached" with Kunis' former "That 70s Show" co-star (and future husband) Ashton Kutcher, which is not to be confused with a movie that came out several months later actually called "Friends With Benefits" with basically the same story, that starred none other than Mila Kunis herself. Got all that?

Her Oscar-winning turn in "Black Swan" was a showcase role for Portman, and remains the high water mark of a storied career that's taken her from child prodigy to "Star Wars," and all the way back around to A-list status and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And while "No Strings Attached" wasn't straight-up terrible, receiving reviews that mostly betrayed disappointment in the star-power involved, the two romantic comedies with strikingly similar premises will be remembered as a missed opportunity: why not just have Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher star in one movie, and combine forces? Perhaps Natalie Portman would have paired better with "Friends With Benefits" co-star Justin Timberlake.

Gary Oldman

Does Gary Oldman have money problems? He's one of those ultimately dignified British actors like Jeremy Irons or Ben Kingsley, seemingly unable to say no to any role in an action movie or thriller that comes along, no matter how much acclaim or prestige they've gathered during storied careers. Perhaps some people just love acting that much. Granted, winning Best Actor for 2017's "Darkest Hour" was his second Oscar, so he might not have felt compelled to meet some new, higher standard at this late stage in his career.

But that doesn't make "Hunter Killer," in which Oldman trots out his American accent to play the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during a convoluted international crisis with the Russians, any less forgettable. The thriller barely registered at the box office, and critics could hardly stay awake to review it. After playing one of history's most memorable figures in Winston Churchill all the way to the Oscar podium, hardly anyone was interested in seeing Oldman play just some general in another dime-a-dozen war movie. If they were, they'd have plenty of superior choices like "Air Force One" or "Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy" from Oldman's own filmography to choose from.