We all have our own personal list for this theme, and it’s no wonder: Hollywood often gives merit where it’s not due, be it in the form of box office success or critical praise. We’re going to focus on the latter for this list, going through some names that have been celebrated as great performers by critics but who are not really up to those expectations for us. Some of them have been nominated and won Oscars and other awards too.
Let’s be clear that including those actors on this list does not mean that we find them completely untalented – it’s more of a “you’re not that good” than it is a direct critique of their work. With no further delay, here are our 10 most overrated actors working nowadays.
10. Anne Hathaway
Anne Hathaway gets a lot of undeserved hate. Her “goody two shoes” image gets on some people’s nerves sometimes, but we’re not here to talk about that – male actors’ personalities are almost never a matter of discussion, and nor should female actors’.
Before her Academy Award-winning role in Les Misérables, she was wonderful in this little indie film directed by a certain Jonathan Demme, Rachel Getting Married. It’s a slobbering mess of an emotional role like Fantine, but Hathaway’s so much better in understated mode.
That’s why we think she overrated. In Interstellar, she was the only actor in the cast that could not get on board with Christopher Nolan’s hyper-sensitive storytelling, while in 2015’s The Intern she tried to do her thing but Nancy Meyers’ script completely screws up her character’s arc.
Let’s not even talk about Song One, Don Peyote and her very annoying White Queen in both Alice in Wonderland movies, freaky choices for an A-lister that shows she’s not really all that.
9. Jared Leto
Hollywood loves a Method-acting story, especially if it involves an actor disfiguring his own body to play a part. Put Jared Leto’s performance in Dallas Buyers Club in that same league, because his Rayon is not only one more example of a cis actor doing a trans role, his performance is also skin-deep – for what is worth, Matthew McConaughey’s much more subtle work in the same film warrants more emotional impact for the spectator.
Throughout his fairly long career, Leto has delivered very fine performances in Fight Club, Requiem for a Dream, Panic Room, Chapter 27 and Mr. Nobody, but he’s not this powerhouse dynamo of an actor people make him out to be. His recent incarnation of the Joker in Suicide Squad is yet another example – an effortlessly cool and theatrical performance, with not much going for it in terms of depth.
8. Eddie Redmayne
Eddie Redmayne is spectacular in a so-so movie called Savage Grace, one of his earliest roles back in 2007, but once he came into prominence in Les Miserables (with a very bland performance if compared to his cast-mates), he picked roles that favor gimmickry and technique over profundity.
It was so in his Oscar-winning performance in The Theory of Everything, a film so obsessively devoted to its subject that it never lets him breathe and become a real, fleshed-out person on screen.
Pair that with his transgender role in a film that aggressively misunderstands trans identity (The Danish Girl) and the most fun you probably had with Redmayne on screen lately was his absurdly over-the-top performance as Jupiter Ascending’s villain, a sometimes whispery, sometimes shouty tyrant that is, at least, built to be unsubtle.
7. Rachel McAdams
Rachel McAdams has recently been nominated for an Oscar for her turn in Spotlight, and while she’s definitely one of the players in a fantastic cast, she’s not really a standout. She’s way better in True Detective, season 2, but then the general disappointment with the season per se kept most people from recognizing that.
Overall, though, McAdams is historically not that good – she did well as bona fide cultural icon Regina George in Mean Girls, but then her career devolved into slobbery rom-coms (The Notebook, The Time Traveler’s Wife, The Vow), and some subpar more “serious” offerings.
She was barely there for Southpaw, which was Jake Gyllenhaal’s show anyway, made a huge missteps in starring in Cameron Crowe’s Aloha and Wim Wender’s Every Thing Will Be Fine, and was the least interesting thing in very fine films like Wes Craven’s Red Eye, Ira Sachs’ Married Life, Neil Burger’s The Lucky Ones, Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder and Anton Corbijn’s Passion. Maybe it’s just a matter of bad parts, but when you’ve worked with this many talented directors, it’s hard to keep falling short.
6. Hugh Jackman
Granted, Hugh Jackman has quite a singing voice. That’s what makes his turn in Les Miserables as bearable as it is, since he’s singing from start to finish – I swear we have nothing personal against this film, it’s just a lot of weirdly overrated actors in one production.
The Oscar-nominated role of this already Tony-winning actor was probably his only wildly serious performance – he’s an entertainer, a people-pleaser, as evidenced by his longtime role as Wolverine in the X-Men film series.
The guy can be funny on occasion, as one can see from his over-the-top performance in the dreadful 2015 flick Pan. What he can’t be, though, is a fully-fleshed character – he didn’t deliver in Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain, Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige and Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners, the three more “prestige” entries in his filmography. So yeah, we all love him and he’s charismatic, but let’s retire the “great actor Hugh Jackman” epithet.