The 10 Worst Movie Performances by Academy Award Winning Actors
5. Nicolas Cage as Edward Malus (The Wicker Man)
It is almost cheating to include Nicolas Cage in any list of terrible performances. With only a handful of good performances, a sizable amount of mediocre performances, and countless dreadful ones, Cage experienced a historical drop in terms of his popularity, going from an A-lister to box office poison.
In yet another unnecessary reboot of a classic 1973 surreal horror, this 2006 film unintentionally became one of the greatest surreal comedies of the 21st century, solely thanks to the work of Academy Award winner, Nicolas Cage. Cage’s theatricality in The Wicker Man manages to make even the simplest of scenes beyond hysterical, with the famous “Not the Bees” scene rivalling even the likes of Tommy Wiseau.
The uncomfortable sense of dread the old film achieved through the peculiarities of the island experienced through the main character’s eyes is replaced by peculiarities of the main character himself. The biggest mystery of the film is not the disappearance of the girl, but how Cage’s skill as an actor can fall so hard and so fast.
With dozens of awful performances that can fill a complete list on its own, Cage’s performance in The Wicker Man manages to stand out from the bunch as uniquely horrendous.
4. Tommy Lee Jones as Two-Face (Batman Forever)
With a career spanning close to half a century, Tommy Lee Jones has certainly cemented himself as one of the greatest and most respected actors who has ever graced the silver screen, if only he didn’t grace it with this performance. Much like Leto, Jones won the Golden Statuette 2 years prior to giving one of the most abysmal portrayals of a Batman Villain.
Tommy Lee Jones, the established serious actor, somehow managed to out-crazy his co-star, the fanatical Jim Carrey, whose character was rightfully meant to be the more psychopathic one of the two. Joel Schumacher’s ridiculous directorial decision to make the two sides to Two-Face’s face have two subtly different personalities gave opportunity for Tommy Lee Jones to give two equally compelling terrible performances. In a film intended to be ridiculously over-the-top, with everything from the writing to the art and costume direction exaggerated, Jones’ Two-Face manages to stick out.
It is perplexing how Jared Leto’s Joker led the world to question the legitimacy of his craft while Tommy Lee undoubtedly weaker performance netted him no repercussions, on the contrary, it gave him a nomination for an MTV Award, along with other members of the cast, an act which speaks wonders for the award’s validity.
3. Whoopi Goldberg as Katie Coltrane (Theodore Rex)
Unlike the other actors on the list, Whoopi Goldberg is probably the least deserving of her Oscar win, earning the coveted trophy by giving a substandard performance for a mediocre film, winning over the likes of Annette Bening and Lorraine Bracco, whom both gave exceptionally better performances.
However, her portrayal in Theodore Rex makes her win for Ghost actually seem as deserving as any other win. Theodore Rex, unlike the other films on the list like Anaconda and Wicker Man, is not even so bad that it’s good, it’s so bad that it’s unwatchable. With a 2.4 rating at iMDB, and making history as the first direct-to-DVD film to be nominated for a Razzie, it’s no surprise that Goldberg, the star of the film would earn a rightful spot on the list.
The trope of a sassy African American female is never humorous to begin with, yet Goldberg managed to absolutely butcher an already weak cliché, with horrendously awkward line delivery and injecting “sass” in the wrong situations, giving a performance fit for a local TV station’s kids program, and certainly not a Hollywood actress, let alone an Academy Award winner. Her performance was essentially so fundamentally flawed to the point where the animatronic characters of the film pulled off better acting than herself.
2. Forest Whitaker as Ker (Battlefield Earth)
Battlefield Earth was universally panned by critics as one of the worst films of all time, with its flaws almost able to fill up a book on its own. Its biggest failure was not it’s 7 Razzie Win, neither is it the fact that it killed John Travolta’s career, but the fact that it annihilated the ability of a fantastic actor, Forest Whitaker.
Everything about the film was utter trash, which is not surprising considering the film’s alleged controversial Scientology interference. John Travolta’s performance has long been lauded by critics as terrible, however, critics seemed to have glossed over Forest Whitaker’s equally, if not worse performance.
Whitaker moved and spoke in such a slow, lumbering an oafish manner that, complemented by the ridiculous makeup and wardrobe, gave a historic on-screen performance so monumentally terrible that it made a great actor seemed more of an ape, if anything, than an actual human. Move aside, Andy Serkis, because you’re about to get replaced in the next instalment of The Planet of the Apes.
1. Halle Berry as Catwoman (Catwoman)
Yet another abysmal performance of a Batman Villain, just a few years after her Oscar win, Halle Berry’s portrayal of the eponymous Catwoman was so gravely disastrous that it killed her career for good, making her quickly fade into obscurity with her subsequent filmography being exclusively in terrible bargain bin movies or her already existing role in the X-Men Universe.
Granted, her performance in Catwoman is among the least off-putting of the film’s flaws, it still is terrible to the point where it actually should be studied and analysed by critics and budding actors alike to learn how not to act.
The seductive nature of Catwoman’s charisma is absolutely mutilated by Halle Berry’s awkward attempt at sexiness, and the film’s destructive editing paired with ludicrous song choices and terrible CGI really exemplified her terrible acting in the film, making her seem like a 40-year-old mom replicating what she saw in the latest Pussycat Doll video in an attempt to embarrass her hypothetical son.
That still is just barely scratching the surface of her absurd performance. The fact that she “subtly” attempts to mimic a cat in order to fit her character is so unbelievably comical and seemed more fitting for a fan video game and not a feature length, studio funded film. To give such a truly terrible performance that you went from an Oscar winner to a C-lister overnight is truly something deserving of the top spot on this list.
Author Bio: Zach Wee is a film student from Singapore. Apart from being an aspiring filmmakerr, Zach has a strong passion for cinema and manages the website of his school’s film club, where he edits and also submits weekly film reviews.
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