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Top 10 Terrible Performances by Otherwise Great Actors

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp

Script written by Nathan Sharp

Nobody's perfect, not even these phenomenal thespians. Actors like Ben Kingsley, Will Smith, and Jeremy Irons may be masters of their craft, but sometimes even amazing actors phone it in. WatchMojo counts down the top worst performances by otherwise great actors.

Special thanks to our user Andrew A. Dennison for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+Most+Cringeworthy+Performances+By+Otherwise+Great+Actors


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Script written by Nathan Sharp

Top 10 Terrible Performances by Otherwise Great Actors

What were they thinking!? Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Terrible Performances by Otherwise Great Actors.

For this list, we’re looking at various awful performances from actors who are generally respected and acclaimed.

#10: Ben Kingsley

“BloodRayne” (2005)
Ben Kingsley is easily one of the most respected actors of all time. This is the man who starred in movies like “Gandhi” and “Schindler’s List,” and he has been the recipient of an Oscar, SAG Award, and two Golden Globes. So what, pray tell, is he doing in a video game adaptation directed by Uwe Boll? We can’t fault Kingsley too much here, as it’s hard to create a good performance under Boll’s direction, but it’s very clear that his heart was not in this. We’re not sure if it was money issues or what, but it’s baffling to consider what made him agree to perform in this atrocity.

#9: Jesse Eisenberg

“Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016)
While BvS turned out to be…divisive, the movie has no shortage of decent performances, considering the cast includes consummate pros like Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, and Ben Affleck. However, Jesse Eisenberg’s performance is another story entirely. After receiving acclaim for films like “The Squid and the Whale” and “Zombieland”, and an Oscar-nom for “The Social Network”, Eisenberg’s inconsistent, jittery and weird portrayal of Lex Luthor felt like a big step backwards, and was panned by both critics and audiences. The character ended up being more like a poor-man’s version of Heath Ledger’s Joker instead of the ruthless, cunning nemesis Superman fans know and love.

#8: Natalie Portman

“Star Wars” prequel trilogy (1999-2005)
Natalie Portman has come into her own in recent years, with fantastic performances in movies like “Black Swan” and “Jackie.” However, the “Star Wars” prequels were released in the early stages of her career (the first released when she was only 17), and she had yet to grow into her talents. The prequels were meant to be a heartbreaking and tragic tale about the loss of Anakin’s humanity, but it’s hard to care about that when both he and Natalie Portman’s Padme were so darned wooden. Portman even told New York Magazine that originally no one wanted to work with her after the prequels, and it’s not hard to see why.

#7: Will Smith

“After Earth” (2013)
Look Will, just because you’re taking a backseat to give your son a chance to shine doesn’t mean you can phone in your performance. Will Smith is one of the most notable examples of musical-artist-turned-actor, and he’s capable of a lot given the right material. Unfortunately, “After Earth” is not the right material. We’re forced to endure his painful and clichéd dialogue, but it wouldn’t be so bad if he actually put in a modicum of effort. Unfortunately, he’s about as charismatic as a brick wall, and poor Jaden doesn’t fare much better.

#6: Johnny Depp

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (2005)
Johnny Depp is one eccentric dude, but you can’t deny that he’s a good actor when he wants to be. However, when it comes to Willy Wonka, there’s just no competing with the genius that was Gene Wilder. Depp’s performance as Wonka was just… weird. Yes, we understand that Willy Wonka is supposed to be an odd and subtly sinister man, but Depp’s performance comes across a little too try-hard, and it results in annoyance rather than child-like wonder. While some may enjoy Depp’s overly-kooky take on the character, others believe that he was way too irritating. Ourselves included.

#5: Jeremy Irons

“Dungeons & Dragons” (2000)
Like Kingsley appearing in a video game adaptation, we have no idea what Jeremy Irons was thinking when he agreed to be in “Dungeons & Dragons.” The film was based on a property that’s famous for its freedom of player choice, something that doesn’t exactly translate well to the big screen, and a first-time filmmaker was directing it. All signs pointed to it not being very good, and it wasn’t. We have a theory that Irons knew the movie was going to suck, so he decided to go for broke and give us one of the most outlandish, over-acted bad guys in recent memory. Or it was just terrible directing. We hope it’s the former.

#4: Al Pacino

“Jack and Jill” (2011)
Al Pacino is the man behind Michael Corleone, Tony Montana, and Frank Serpico, just to name a few. Here he plays himself in a movie where Adam Sandler dresses in drag and talks in a silly voice. We don’t know if he was forced to make this movie at gunpoint, but that would certainly explain his presence. As disappointed as we are in Al, we’d be lying if we said that watching him flirt with Adam Sandler wasn’t kind of fascinating, at least in a cringe inducing way. Nevertheless, this has still got to be a low point in Mr. Pacino’s esteemed career.

#3: Marlon Brando

“The Island of Dr. Moreau” (1996)
While we’re on the low points of Hollywood greats, let’s discuss “The Island of Dr. Moreau.” It stars Marlon Brando, one of the best actors ever. He was Terry Malloy, Vito Corleone, Stanley Kowalski, and Colonel Kurtz! And here he is playing an oddball doctor who‘s creating humans out of animals. Brando plays Moreau as so distant, strange and unlikable that we can’t connect to him in any way. Of course considering Brando’s daughter committed suicide during the film’s production, it isn’t surprising that his mind often seems elsewhere.

#2: Robert De Niro

“Dirty Grandpa” (2016)
We think we can all agree that Robert De Niro is in it solely for the money at this point, right? “Dirty Grandpa” certainly isn’t the first terrible movie that De Niro curiously appeared in. Remember “The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle?” However, the way his career is going right now, it doesn’t look like it will be the last either. De Niro’s perpetually horny senior takes outrageousness and crudity to a whole new level throughout this movie, and it’s very clear that he gives zero craps in doing so. What happened to Vito Corleone and Travis Bickle?

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable, or in this case dishonorable, mentions.
- George Clooney
“Batman & Robin” (1997)

- Dennis Hopper
“Super Mario Bros.” (1993)

- Reese Witherspoon
“Hot Pursuit” (2015)

#1: Gary Oldman

“Tiptoes” (2003)
It’s a bit of a joke on the Internet that Gary Oldman can transform into anyone. His performances are always so good, and his makeup and costumes so convincing, that he can disappear into any role. However, we suppose he can’t transform himself into Matthew McConaughey’s dwarf twin brother. This movie follows Kate Beckinsale and McConaughey as they argue about whether or not they can have a dwarven baby, and did we mention that Gary Oldman plays a dwarf? Even if he was good, the entire concept of this movie is just too ridiculous to take seriously. And believe us, it desperately wants you to take it seriously.

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