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Great Performance, Shame About The Film

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Mark Kermode | 10:18 UK time, Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Andrea Riseborough gives a fantastic performance in Madonna's 'W.E' - unfortunately the film is one of the worst I've ever seen.

This got me wondering about other examples of great acting in terrible movies.

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  • Comment number 1.

    Gary Oldman in Matthew Mahogany/Kate Beckinsale straight-to-the-bin film Tip Toes.

    Mahogany and Beckinsale's relationship is on rocky ground already before she discovers she is pregnant, news that Mahogany does not take well. As it turns out, Matthew is a genetic oddity, as EVERYONE ELSE IN HIS ENTIRE FAMILY is a dwarf. Not quite hilarity/drama ensues. Gary Oldman, contrary to any and all casting conventions, is cast as Mahogany's brother, Rolf. He is very good in the role, described on the dvd as "the role of a lifetime", but since he is effectively walking around on his knees what you end up with is a pretty grotesque, truly bizarre film. The presence of the reliably brilliant Peter Dinklage as an estranged relative serves to make the casting decision even more bizarre.

    I read the IMDB and I wondered if it was a joke. I've now seen it, and I'm still not convinced it exists. I can't, I don't even know.

  • Comment number 2.

    it's going to be an intersting interview then, "hi Andrea the film is a pile of crud, but your great in it!".

  • Comment number 3.

    Great topic to discuss. My choices would be;

    Miranda Richardson in Damage. An absolute turkey of a film that tries to be Last Tango in Paris. However Richardson's performance is brilliant as Jeremy Irons's neglected wife.

    Another one would have to be Burt Reynolds in Striptease. A disaster of a film that gets a score of nil instead of -1 due to Reynolds's over the top and somewhat comedic performance.

    The final one I can think of is David Morrissey and David Thewlis in Basic Instinct 2. No where near as bad as the other films I have mentioned, but still a somewhat guilty pleasure. Morrissey and Thewlis are brilliant in this laughable film. The dialogue is terrible, the story is ludicrous and the fact that they both keep a straight face and deliver good performances should be noted since they deserve total praise. And the fact that this film won a Razzie as worst film of 2006 is unfair.

  • Comment number 4.

    Easy - Peter Serafinowicz's voice as Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace.

  • Comment number 5.

    Tricky, but Adrian Lester gives a cracking performance in Brannagh's execrable "Love's Labours Lost". For one brief moment, as Lester does his song and dance routine to 'I've Got A Crush On You', you see what Kenny was trying to do, but the rest of it? Eugh.

  • Comment number 6.

    I didn't think 'Sin City' was all that but like everyone else, I liked Mickey Rourke a lot as Marv. However, Elijah Wood was also very good, I thought in that silent role as Kevin - I do think that, had he opened his mouth, he would've been as bad as everyone else.
    Similarly, I love Oliver Stone but 'U Turn' is unwatchable except for Billy Bob Thornton as that overweight mechanic.
    And though I think hard about it, I still can't find anything good to say about 'Cowboys and Aliens'.

  • Comment number 7.

    Paul Bettany in 90% of the films he's done. (The Da Vinci Code (Ian Mckellen was not too bad in this), Priest, Wimbledon, etc.) I'm convinced one day he will release the greatest film ever made. I still believe!

    I'd also suggest Ryan Gosling in The Notebook, and Mark Strong in Rock n' Rolla

  • Comment number 8.

    There are some great performances in The Village - although I liked it I can't say that its a good film, as its really not.

    Paul Bettany in most of his films, he's brilliant in everything, but the films rarely match his quality; Legion, Wimbledon, The Tourist, Priest, and of course "I know what you did Last Supper".
    His great films are really great though, so it outweighs the duds. :)

  • Comment number 9.

    Richard Dawson's portrayal of the cynical TV presenter Damon Killan in the Running Man is an obvious one for me. The film's is pretty terrible (although a guilty pleasure of mine) but his snarling sociopath Killan rises up over the poor set pieces and predictable plot to give the film a real satirical bite. One which in the age of reality tv, which has execs exploiting regular members of the public f most of the time our amusement, has real contemporary relevance.

  • Comment number 10.

    The worst movie I've ever seen is Exorcist II: The Heretic. Mark is absolutely right on this one, both the film and the acting contained within ranges from hammy and over-the-top, to embarrassingly amateurish, to soul-crushingly boring! But if I had to pick a bright-spot, it would be Ned Beatty, who doesn't really do much to stand out, except being the only actor in the whole cast who doesn't seem completely lost as to what he's doing, seems to actually be enjoying himself, and, perhaps most importantly, doesn't make me wanna slash my wrists! Too bad he's only in the movie for about five minutes, and he has to act alongside Richard "EVIL!" Burton giving his absolute worst performance (which is saying something). For shame Exorcist II, for shame.

  • Comment number 11.

    Christopher Walken has been brilliant in more bad movies than any actor alive! Personally I'd go for Communion, the one about how the writer Whitley Streiber discovered he'd been abducted by aliens. Shot like a (very) cheap sic-fi movie but presented as fact. Totally absurd movie but yet another great performance from Walken!

  • Comment number 12.

    Eugene Levy in the American Pie films. The first one wasn't that bad, but he was consistently brilliant in the dross that followed.

    Incidentally, Band Camp was surprisingly engaging to my post-pub-bot-quite-ready-for-sleep brain, and much better than I was expecting.

  • Comment number 13.

    It's possible to give a good performance in a bad film, but is it possible to give a good performance if the script is woeful?

  • Comment number 14.

    Ian Whyte, returning from the underrated AvP, nailed the Predator-performance template established by the late Kevin Peter Hall in the otherwise disappointing Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem.

  • Comment number 15.

    Bill Paxton has been the bright centre of a number of rubbish films (True Lies, for instance). As have Lance Henriksen and Rutger Hauer. In all three cases, it's a shame they never quite made it to the A-list.

  • Comment number 16.

    Sorry but life is not black or white and people deserve much more from a reviewer than an opinion without any subtelity.

    There is clearly a huge mental rigidity in many people close to the cinema world. They do not want newcomers "disturbing" their well defined criteria, specially if it is a famous person coming oustide from their little world and who is fighting to have her place.

    I will definitely see WE and judge by myself.

  • Comment number 17.

    Jim Sturgess puts in a fine performance as a disturbed and tormented young man in the otherwise totally terrible Heartless.

  • Comment number 18.

    And as Dr K alluded to the performances of Riseborough, Sam Riley and Andy Serkis are the only things that make Brighton Rock even vaguely watchable - a real mess of a film that one.

  • Comment number 19.

    Four 2011 examples:

    Dominic Cooper in "The Devil's Double" - a mesmerising performance as Uday and his body double in what was otherwise a vile piece of filmmaking

    Michael Parks in "Red State"- Parks' portrayal of a fundamentalist preacher was worthy of an Oscar nod; unfortunately the absence of a coherent plot, a half-decent script and overall direction meant this stinker of a film was doomed from the start

    Woody Harrelson in "Rampart" - Harrelson's best performance in years was marred by a contrived plot and gimmicky visuals

    Glenn Close in "Albert Nobbs" - impressive Oscar bait lost in a film that is as dull as dishwater

  • Comment number 20.

    The Running Man and Sin City are GREAT films.

  • Comment number 21.

    Sorry Zorglub, but if it was a s simple as you say, Dr K would have slated both of Steve McQueen's films when he started directing having previously been in another artistic medium.

    On the topic at hand, Dreamgirls was supposed to be a pretty average to weak film, but several of the performances were well regarded (I haven't seen it myself).

  • Comment number 22.

    Mark Strong in almost every film he's done. He's played 101 supporting roles for some really bad films (Babylon A.D. for example) and I'd love to see him do more lead work because he's one of my all time favourites. Even if the script is poor, the direction cliched, it doesn't matter - Strong always pulls off an amazing performance giving the film at least some worth.

  • Comment number 23.

    Andrea Riseborough - an early contender for a kermode award?

  • Comment number 24.

    My favourite example of a thesp riding to the rescue has to be Peter O'Toole in 'Troy'. His commitment never lets up, even when faced with the insurmountable obstacle of Orlando Bloom, and my admiration for his performance only increased when I read his (albeit slightly xenophobic) summation of the film:

    "Ugh, what a disaster. The director, that Kr**t (Wolfgang Petersen), what a clown he was. When it was all over, I watched 15 minutes of the finished movie and then walked out. At least I had one good scene."

    Coincidentally, 'W.E.'s own Oscar Isaac successfully nudge-nudged his way through his role as King John in Ridley Scott's misjudged 'Robin Hood', providing the film with a thimble-full of the fun it otherwise desperately lacked.

  • Comment number 25.

    Arnold Schwarzenegger in Batman and Robin, which is without a doubt one of the most vile pieces of dog excrement I have ever seen. However Arnie just seems to think he's in another film. He delivers every camp one-liner like he's on the set of are you being served and gleefully walks around in his giant silver sparkly spacesuit. Forget Showgirls Forget Barbarella, a 'Camp Classic' give me Arnie any day.

  • Comment number 26.

    Laura Dern's performance in David Lynch's INLAND EMPIRE springs to mind, it truly is amazing...but the film is is no more than an exercise in endurance - It's a horrible mess.

  • Comment number 27.

    Hi Mark, great topic, i have long argued somthing similar with a friend regarding directors. A film may be bad due to many things like script, acting or whatever, but the director may have done HIS job bang on, its just a bad film. As for great performances in a bad film how about Tim Roth in Planet of the Apes?

  • Comment number 28.

    Some interesting views in here. Whilst I agree with the writer who said that Christopher Walken has been great in an awful lot of bad films, the number one is surely Sir Michael Caine. Caine has literally carried films through to the last scene, the best example being the woeful 'The Holcroft Covenant' where he is brilliant and everbody and everything else is just pitiful (take a bow Victoria Tennant). But he's also been in movies like Blue Ice, Shiner, Gambit, and A Shock To The System - all films that were deeply flawed but in which he was exceptionally good. Interestingly, the one turkey of a film that even he misjudged was Steven Seagal's On Deadly Ground, a terrible waste of talent and presumably the reason why Seagal no longer enjoys mainstream cinema releases...

  • Comment number 29.

    Slim Pickens has a great cameo in the otherwise terrible Irwin Allen film the Swarm,when he picks up his sons body the film is breifly interesting before it turns to rubbish again.

    Orson Welles and Woody Allen in Casino Royale 1967 the film is terrible but the times theses two are on screenit becomes interesting

  • Comment number 30.

    I really love David Lynch and it pains me to say this...but I hated Inland Empire. It's like he deliberately set out to make the most dull, painful, pretentious movie imaginable, just because he could. However, Laura Dern is outstanding in it.

  • Comment number 31.

    There are quite a few to choose from, but I would have to say Rhys Ifans and LLyr Ifans as the Lewis Twins from the very flawed Welsh revenge film Twin Town. They are the heart of that film and somehow make a pair or drug abusing car thieving hooligans come across as loveable. What about Martin Freeman who is perfectly cast as Arthur Dent in the very disappointing Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy Movie, (Honourable mention goes to Stephen Fry as the voice of the guide). Then there is Raul Julia as M. Bison the Street fighter movie. He takes an otherwise forgetful, rubbish and artless video game film and somehow gives it an air of class and dignity. But perhaps the best performance in a terrible film, clearly has to go to, The Duck from Howard the Duck.

  • Comment number 32.

    A couple immediately come to mind. Alan Rickman in... well, quite a lot of films, actually, but especially as the Christmas-cancelling, spoon-torturing Sheriff of Nottingham in the otherwise rotten Robin Hood: Prince of Bad Accents.

    There's also Jeremy Irons in Eragon, which truly is one of the worst films I've ever seen, with some of the worst acting by people who should know better (I'm looking at you, Robert Carlyle). A couple of years earlier Irons had hammed it up like a good 'un in Dungeons and Dragons, but here he plays it as though he's doing Shakespeare, and although the script is terrible and none of his co-stars can act for toffee, he almost salvages the scenes he's in.

  • Comment number 33.

    Night at the Museum 2 is pretty poor but Amy Adams is brilliant as Amelia Earhart, saves the movie from being a real clunker.

  • Comment number 34.

    Paddy Considine in Le Donk & Scor-Zay-Zee and Gary Oldman in Romeo is Bleeding

  • Comment number 35.

    Michael Sheen was great in Tron. What would have otherwise been a total snooze-fest. It's a shame he wasn't in more of the film.

  • Comment number 36.

    Another Gary Olman (and Chloe Webb to be fair) one for me, in Sid and Nancy, as a lover of all things punk (though Vicious was a talentless pretty violent moron) it failed on many counts, the guy who played Johnny rotten was dire to mention one. However Oldman and Webb were great. And I thought the rickshaw was good in Shanghi Suprise (hmmmm another madonna connection!)

  • Comment number 37.

    Looking back at the reviews on my blog ( - cheap plug, I know), I am drawn to highlight three specific performances over the past five years

    Seth Rogen in Observe And Report - A toe-curling mess of a film that could have been a great black comedy, and this can be observed in Rogen's performance. A socially-deficient bastard-child of Paul Blart, Ronnie Barnhardt is a fully-rounded character thanks to Rogen, and the strength of his part elevates Observe And Report above incidental balderdash.

    Taylor Lautner in The Twilight Saga - Though a mixed bag of films, one of the most consistent (and strongest) points of the film franchise is Lautner's role as Jacob. He has a genuine intensity and magnetic screen presence, and is the standout performer of the three central leads.

    Zach Galifianakis in The Hangover - I too am in the critical minority who thought that the first Hangover film was overrated and so the sequel being the first film cranked up to eleven was no surprise. However, I am always drawn to the eccentric humour that Galifianakis brings to the table and find his character to be very challenging, but in a comedically entertaining manner.

    Keep up the good work, as always Doctor K!

  • Comment number 38.

    Sam Riley in Brighton Rock, rubbish film but great performance by him (and as mark pointed out, Andrea Riseborough)

  • Comment number 39.

    I'm also going to jump on the Gary Oldman bandwagon. Coppola's Dracula had nothing going for it other than Oldman's gloriously over the top performance. However maybe he is so enjoyable due to how terrible most of the cast are.

  • Comment number 40.

    Frank Langella in Masters of the Universe and Raul Julia in Street Fighter.

  • Comment number 41.

    Two performances from films which i personally thought were awful.

    1. Nicholas Cage in David Lynch's Wild at heart, i'm a huge fan of David Lynch and loved Mulholland Drive, Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet but this was just a real mess of a film however it is worth watching because of an electric performance by Cage as Sailor, unfortunately Cage has slowly lost all his acting ability until we are left with the unbearable Wicker man remake.

    2. This film is only considered awful by me because of everyone telling me how fantastic it was however after watching Full metal jacket i immediately hated it. To me it appeared disjointed as if Kubrick had made two different films then stuck them together. The only saving grace for me was R. Lee Ermey as the drill inspector who pushes the recruits to their limits.

  • Comment number 42.

    I think one example of a good performance in a bad film is Michael Gough as Alfred Pennyworth in Joel Schumacher's infamous 'Batman and Robin'. Even with all the camp, the neon, the ham and the ice puns, he gives the part a note of sophistication, wit, charm, wisdom and even a bit of sweetness during Alfred's admittedly tacked-on illness subplot. One of the only things in that mvoie that can be called good.

  • Comment number 43.

    Paul Bettany's superb performance means that I've sat through the The Da Vinci Code about 5 times, even though it's terrible.

  • Comment number 44.

    A great question Mr Kermode! Got my brain thinking.

    I would have to say Giovanni Ribisi in The Gift. I thought the film was pretty pants, a not very scary 'who dunnit'. But Giovanni Ribisi put in a great performance as the young and very much troubled Mechanic. He is one of our generations most under appreciated and lesser known actors.

  • Comment number 45.

    The Last Kiss, my dear lord that was a repugnant, facile, indulgent piece of sub-Woody Allen, Zach Braff flavour of the month rubbish

    Tom Wilkinson did show up the rest of the ensemble rather deliciously though. He was as good he could possibly have been

  • Comment number 46.

    Another vote for Mark Strong but in the even worse Film de Ritchie: Revolver. Every time he showed up I wanted to watch a film about his character rather than the pretentious mess that he was in.

    A side question might be, which actors are always worth watching, but seem to have graced more bad films than good (perhaps through bad luck, or really poor career choices). Paul Bettany might be on that list.

  • Comment number 47.

    Edward Norton in 'Primal Fear' and what would the Pirates of the Caribbean series have been like without Depp? Think about Captain Jack played by Orlando Bloom... doh!

  • Comment number 48.

    Christian Bale in The Fighter

  • Comment number 49.

    Hi Dr K

    I know it has been raised several times already but Paul Bettany is undoubtably the best actor to ever appear in virtuallu every single bad movie of the last decade. I mean, seriously, what has he done to annoy every casting director in hollywood to the point that the only films he is in are rubbish pigs swill such as Wimbledon, Da Vinci Code, Priest the list could go on! I think the only decent film I have seen him in was A Knights Tale, and even that would have been an awful film if it wasn't for him, Mark Addy, Rufus Sewell and, of course, the late Heath Ledger.

    One day he will be cast in a film that has a good script, good director and it will undoubtably be the best film ever made.

    And, by the way, Dr K i completely agree with you about W.E. - AWFUL!

  • Comment number 50.

    morg: the film is not already released...

  • Comment number 51.

    While you may heavily disagree with me on this Mark, I personally feel that Jackie Earle Haley's performance as Freddy Krueger in the 2010 remake of Nightmare on Elm Street was superb.
    The film itself couldn't hold a candle to the original, but Haley brings such a different but unsettling ambiance to what had previously been a role that would later become a parody of itself with Robert Englund becoming just a bad comedian who happened to kill people. Hell, even when Englund was also very menacing in the 1984 film, I still feel that there are SOME areas in which Haley's creepiness surpasses Englund's (emphasis on SOME).

  • Comment number 52.

    "Scent of a woman" comes to mind, Al Pacino on good form, very average film however, Also Heath Ledger/Gary Oldman, in The Dark Knight, very flawed, overlong, incoherent piece of work, however their performances stood out.

    Christopher Walken in The Deer Hunter, he was the best thing about yet another flawed overrated film

  • Comment number 53.

    Great question.

    I would have to pick Jeff Glodblum in the 1998 turkey Holy Man alongside Eddie murphy, And more recently Christoph Waltz in the very flawed and ill disciplined inglorious basterds.

  • Comment number 54.

    Without a doubt Willem Dafoe in "The Boondock Saints". It completely boggles my mind how any human being could legitimately enjoy the ludicrous, racist, misogynistic, heterosexist, cynical, gosh, poorly written, and morally repugnant debut from Troy Duffy. However, whenever I get into discussions with other people who like the movie, they always, without fail, confront me with the exaggerated excellence of Willem Dafoe's performance as the gay detective. And, once again, without fail, it is always the point which I find it impossible to disagree on.

    However, Mark, I'd also like to comment on your hypothesis that favored movies are more likely to be judged for their good performances than bad films. I'd like to propose a reverse hypothesis, that bad and mediocre movies with good performances often get more attention than they actually should. Last week's Golden Globes was a perfect example of an evening where sub-par films such as "The Help" only seemed to get nominated for Best Picture because they were also nominated for several performances. Personally, I think "The Fighter" is another example of a film that was nominated for Best Picture, not because it was actually creatively up-to-snuff, but only because of the work of its ensemble cast. It's almost as if award ceremonies, at least high-profile American ones, feel as if they are obligated to nominate movies just because they like the performances in them. I think the nail in the coffin might have been "The Blind Side", a not-terrible but otherwise completely irrelevant film that was only nominated for Best Picture because Sandra Bullock was nominated for Best Actress.

    Of course, both of these hypotheses would suggest a very profound and unfair bias within the film and award industries that is perpetuated to this very day. There are tons of bad horror/sci-fi/fantasy movies and comedies every year, but the stand-out performances often contained within those films are never nominated. And even if they were, I doubt that the enthusiastic and honest performances in a movie like "The Hangover" would get them held in the same esteem as the by-the-numbers, tear-baiting tripe of "The Blind Side", "The Help", or "The Fighter".

  • Comment number 55.

    Richard Burton in 1984.

  • Comment number 56.

    The cinematic pile of dog poo that is 'Hannible' is watchable for Anthony Hopkins playing the whole film for laughs and Gary Oldman playing 'Stavross' from 'Dr Who'.

    But the ultimate great performance in a terrible film is Gable and Leigh in 'Gone with the wind'. Every scene in that film is drawn out and protracted just so that David O Selznick could get his moneys worth out of the sets.

    @31 i won't hear a word said against 'Howard the duck' one of my highlights of last year was seeing that on dvd.

  • Comment number 57.

    Nearly everyone thinks the Star Wars Prequels are terrible (me included), however I thought that Ian McDiarmid was excellent. He was never out of character, he nailed the sly evilness of the chancellor/emperor and the scenes with him in them, however silly, are always enjoyable and engaging.

  • Comment number 58.

    Just about every performance I've seen Rutger Hauer give; his SS officer in the 1994 flop 'Fatherland' comes to mind more than others.

  • Comment number 59.

    Same goes for so many films:

    The Fighter, The Reader, Bronson, The Dark Knight, The King's Speech, The Black Swan and on and on they go - it's a "just give me my Oscar and then I can concentrate on being in good films without the worry of official recognition"

    A good exercise would be "Great film, shame about the performance"

    Gladiator, Forrest Gump and so on

  • Comment number 60.

    A few roses that grow out of manure for me are - Michael Keaton in Beetlejuice and Multiplicity. Both films are all over the place different ways, but he's top notch in both.
    Al Pachino in Devil's Advocate - Yes he might have phoned it in but him phoning it in is still brilliiant whereas 'actors' like Shia Labeouf and Orlando Bland can only dream of.
    Danny Devito in Twins

  • Comment number 61.

    Meryl Streep must already be pretty close to the top of the pile for her performance in "Iron Lady."

    A special vote must go to the horse in "War Horse" ‐ the only creature to emerge from that mawkish mess with any shread of dignity.

    "Be Cool" has to be one of the most dreadful sequels to a successful movie ever made yet I thought "The Rock" came away from the wreckage looking better than everyone else.

    Marlon Brando’s iconic performance in "The Wild One" has elevated what is otherwise a cruddy exploitation flick to something more substantial.

    And one more.....Sienna Miller as Edie Sedgwick in "Factory Girl." I’m sure the movie would be near unwatchable without her chameleon like performance in the title role.

  • Comment number 62.

    If I had to say though which is the Best performance in the WORST film it would be:

    Stanley Tucci in The Lovely Bones - perhaps the best depiction of a child sex attacker/killer in what was perhaps Jackson's main reason to abandon serious book adaptations and return to the safe haven of Tolkien and his Hobbit friends.

  • Comment number 63.

    Pam Grier in Jackie brown

  • Comment number 64.

    @16 & @ 50 - Zorglub - Madonna fan perchance? They do tend to be very precious about anything she does.

    My vote goes to both Bill Nighy AND Michael Sheen in the Underworld franchise - terribly made films made bearable and watchable by their excellent performances despite some appalling dialogue.

    Judging by the thread so far, British actors seem to specialise in this sort of thing - Sheen, Oldman, Strong, Nighy and the past master, Charles Dance who has been excellent in some rubbish films over the years (Last Action Hero, Alien 3, Ali G Indahouse and a whole bunch of stuff we've never heard of) and is apparently going to be in the next Underworld movie....

  • Comment number 65.

    Ellen Burstyn in The Exorcist. Travesty of a film, great central performance.

  • Comment number 66.

    #57 - Funny how the Star Wars prequels did so well at the box office despite "Nearly everyone..." thinking they're terrible. Despite that 'consensus', few disuaded their family & friends, evidently, from seeing them. Odd, huh...

    #64 - Alien 3's "...rubbish"? You're in the minority around these parts on that score!

  • Comment number 67.

    Film: Flash Gordon. Actor: Max Von Sydow as Ming. I loved this film when I was a kid, and it is a classic however it does show its age now. Yet actors like Sydow and Brian Blessed show they're having a lot of fun with the characters they are playing and in some way 'camping' it up too.

    Alien 3 has also come up as a film which was slammed by many and set with problems during production. However if we were to view this as a bad film then Brian Glover as the Jailer clearly acted everyone off the screen. Even when the Alien attacks him, he's sent off in performing style.

  • Comment number 68.

    This is what I find so frustrating about both Mark and Simon. They often tell us, the public, if they think a film is rubbish on air during the show. But when an actor from that film, or its director come on the show to talk about it, they both enthuse about the film and are interminably polite. Only when that person is out of the studio, out of ear-shot, do they tell the truth! I try to imagine Mark cursing Guy Richie on air with Guy in the same room, for his rubbish films, re-enacting verbatim the rants he so frequently got on when reviewing, for example 'Rock-and-Rolla'. Yet I cannot help but think that would never, ever happen.

    So Mark, you have just said that this film is "one of the worst films" you have ever seen. I challenge, nay beg you, to say that during your interview on Friday. It may be good to be honest, but in this case it would also make good radio.

    PS: 'W.E'. isn't about Wallis Simpson; it's about Madonna. She clearly thinks there's a symmetry between what she went through as a Yank married to a Brit, and what Simpson went through. That alone should tell you to steer well clear of this film.

  • Comment number 69.

    Andy Garcia in Godfather Part III. Ms. Coppola was so screen-burningly awful that you almost don't notice how wonderful he is.

    There must be loads of examples involving Brian Cox and Ed Harris - both great actors who seem to get lousy roles.

  • Comment number 70.

    Brad Dourif in David Lynch's Dune.
    My favourite "car crash" of a movie by far.

  • Comment number 71.

    Did I say "car crash"? I meant Krakatoa!

  • Comment number 72.

    In agreement Paul Bettany in just about everything he's in is the shining light. However they are very rarely Best Actor or Best Supporting actor turns.

    Tim Roth in Planet of the Apes is another good shout but I can't verify it as I had to wipe the movie from my memory.

    However I'm going for Ziyi Zhang in Memoirs of Geisha, she holds the movie together whereas everyone else seams to be playing 2D character stereotypes. I don't think Ken Watanabe, Gong Li or Michelle Yeoh are terrible just not interesting. The movie if it wasn't for the cinematography and Ziyi Zhang would not have made it to my DVD shelf.

  • Comment number 73.

    Bad films I tend to blank out, I know there are probably terrific performances out there from Michael Caine, Alec Guinness and Peter Sellers in films they made in the 70's, but I can't remember them.

    Two performances from other actors in bad films stand out though. Paul Giamatti in Lady In The Water, and Alan Rickman in Close My Eyes. The films didn't deserve them.

  • Comment number 74.

    Having watched David Lynch's 'Inland Empire' recently I must credit Laura Dern's outstanding and diverse performance in the film, however, ultimately the movie fails to rise above anything more than a dreary non-sensical mess of a film leaving absolutely everything open for interpretation. Perhaps the movie requires repeat viewings just like Mulholland Drive in which Naomi Watts gave the performance of her career.

  • Comment number 75.

    The Beaver was very poor and badly written but Mel Gibson gave a great performance. Also Rowan Atkinson in the Johnny English movies, big waste of a comical genius.

  • Comment number 76.

    Ian Hart as Professor Quirrel in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. The first film was easily the worst of the lot (and that is saying something), but thankfully he made parts of the film endurable. Far too great an actor to be in such a shoddy film.

    Mark, perhaps next you could do a sort of opposite blog to this - what potentially-excellent films do you think were ruined or at the very least tainted by a poor performance from an actor/actress, or perhaps some other factor of production?

  • Comment number 77.

    Jennifer Connelly and Winny Ryder in The Dilemna (sic).

  • Comment number 78.

    I too think Paul Bettany is excellent in a lot of films which certainly aren't.

  • Comment number 79.


    I'm afraid to say i have um "ways" to see things early. I know i know its not right but lets be honest cinema is becoming far too expensive -.-

  • Comment number 80.

    Going back a bit, I would say Kate Nelligan in "Eye of the Needle" fits the bill - it is a pretty average film given added emotional depth by her committed turn.

    Then there's Sam Neill in just about everything he's ever been in. "Event Horizon" was only watchable when he was around. "Jurassic Park III" was a whole lot more fun than it might have been because of his presence and "Damien, Omen III" would have simply been a glorified slasher movie without his authoritative participation.

    Apart from that, there was Christoph Waltz in the irredeemably awful "Inglourious Basterds", a film so misjudged that it actually managed to make the Nazis seem like the good guys. Actually, Diane Kruger was also excellent in that - probably for the one and only time in her otherwise undistinguished career.

    What about those films that are designed to showcase a star's talents for the purposes of wooing Oscar, but which backfire because they are terrible? This is a slightly different argument from everything that's gone before in that the performance is not a happy accident in a film of no merit, but part of an enterprise that is supposed to be top quality all round but which ends up being a pile of garbage because of a weak script or lacklustre direction or whatever. The pre-eminent example here would be Barbara Streisand in "Nuts", a film in which she huffs and puffs to highly impressive effect, but it's never very clear what jeopardy her character is in. Then there is Drew Barrymore in "Driving in Cars with Boys"... Jane Fonda in "The Morning After"... Sharon Stone in that one about the prison... People acting their socks off and hoping to be noticed acting their socks off, but trapped by the general mediocrity of everything around them...

  • Comment number 81.

    Jon Voight in Anaconda. A complete armpit of a movie made wholly engrossing by Voight's mad, sneering, driven, amoral baddie. Not quite Day-Lewis, yes, but such a magnetic performance that I've actually sat through this film twice.

  • Comment number 82.

    Emma Thompson in Love, Actually. To be honest, she is wonderful in EVERYTHING and was the heart and soul of that film. The moment in the bedroom when she cries broke my heart and it's no surprise that it's the scene everyone remembers. The rest of the film caused me to break out in hives.

  • Comment number 83.

    Paul Giamatti on Shyamalan`s Lady In The Water...

  • Comment number 84.

    Val Kilmer was brilliant and probably the best he has ever been as Doc Holliday in Tombstone. But what a rubbish Film!

  • Comment number 85.

    Kurt Russell in Death Proof. He's great, the film isn't.

    Also, Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid, Love. I watched this last night and it was one of the most excruciatingly terrible films I have ever seen, but he's really good in it.

  • Comment number 86.

    John Lithgow in "Twilight Zone: The Movie."

    His is the only good, memorable performance in the only good, memorable segment of the film. Skip the rest and get on the plane (and avoid the window seat).

  • Comment number 87.

    I would have to say Robert Englund in the later "Nightmare on Elm Street"-movies.
    The later instalements (espesially "Dream Child") are terribel movies, but always, when Englund is on the screen it gets very entertaining. In his role as Freddy he simply has an incredible screen presence and weird charm that makes him succeding to deliver even the most stupid lines and the most out of place scenes convincingly and enjoyable.

  • Comment number 88.

    I was personally a big fan of The Help, in this day and age it is quite rare to see a film focus purely on the story. As far as Female ensembles go, you’d be hard pressed to find a stronger cast all year.

    Dealing with serious issues, the film does have its emotional moments and certain scenes will have you fighting back the tears.

  • Comment number 89.

    After a lot of mulling over Anna Faris in Smiley Face, I've decided to plump for David Morse in Disturbia.

    David Morse is great in lots of really really average films, but in Disturbia he takes an otherwise pointless Shia The Beef vehicle and manages to inject some actual menace, even if it fritters away as soon as he's off the screen.

  • Comment number 90.

    I've been outspoken about my hatred for Lars von Trier's last two films, Antichrist and Melancholia, but Charlotte Gainsbourg was excellent in both. Willem Dafoe was also great in the former.

    -Safi, Cinephile Spoilers Podcast

  • Comment number 91.

    I actually really liked W.E!

    I know. I know. I'm sure I'm wrong because you know best but I had such low expectations going in to see the film that I was blown away by how much it didn't suck. I got free tickets to see it early and I asked all my friends to go but since it was a movie by Madonna, no one would.

    I think it would have been a much better movie had Madonna cut out all of the modern part. The Abbie Cornish character is just so dull and depressed the entire time. I just wanted to slap her and tell her to stop sulking. She's also kind of passive about fulfilling her objective...whatever that might be.

    The film was visually beautiful and story of Wallis and Edward was really quite interesting. The story is a bit over told, at least in my house, where I grew up watching period piece mini-series.

    I'd only recommend it for women. I fear a lot of the joy of looking at pretty objects (jewelry, gloves, other antique goodies) will be lost on men.

  • Comment number 92.

    Matthew McConaughey - REIGN OF FIRE
    Probably the best performance of our champion leaner's career (and I'm not being ironic). As Denton Van Zan, the anti-hero of this post-apocalyptic dragon movie, McConaughey reaches a level of snarling, teeth-gnashing bravado previously reserved for Nick Nolte. His greatest departure and his greatest success.

    Bill Paxton- FRAILTY
    He directed this ultimate failure about a midwestern father receiving murderous commands from God. The story is sloppy, but Paxton gives his best performance since A Simple Plan.

  • Comment number 93.

    Fraility, Jackie Brown and 1984 are all fantastic films, Jackie Brown is tied with Fight Club as the best film of the 90s and is easily in my top 5 of alltime

  • Comment number 94.

    The definitive example a great performance in a bad film is Mia Kirshner in Brian De Palma’s “The Black Dahlia”, based on the true story of the murder of Elizabeth Short. The big problem with “The Black Dahlia” is that Brian De Palma fixates too much on the detectives and their deepest urges and struggles, and not enough on Elizabeth Short herself. The most powerful sections of the movie are several screen tests, used interstitially, that bring home this fictional Elizabeth Short’s vulnerability and wiliness, and her desperation for fame and attention. She’s played wonderfully by Mia Kirshner, and her fragility and toughness are teased out by the voice of the director behind the camera. We don’t see him, but we hear his voice, coaxing her into doing all the things an actress must do: For him, she becomes Scarlett O’Hara, declaring with actressy intensity that she’ll never go hungry again; she tells the story of the death of one of her lovers, dissolving into tears and then brightening up, knowing that men like to be around a happy, cheerful girl, not a sad one. Mia gives a real, haunting portrayal of the Dahlia as a sad, lonely dreamer, tragic figure and delivers the emotional darkness that was so lacking from the rest of the movie. Elizabeth Short was a girl who needed to be rescued, but even Brian De Palma couldn’t do it.

  • Comment number 95.

    My suggestion would be Naomi Watts in "Ellie Parker".

    The film itself is a complete mess with a bad script, shoddy camerawork and terrible supporting actors, but Watts' performance is absolutely magnificent as a struggling actress trying to get ahead in Hollywood.

    I have seen the film several times now and I'm always impressed by her performance, even though I hate everything else about the film.

  • Comment number 96.

    Agree with 93 and disagree with 63 about Jackie Brown, QT's best most mature film, unfortunately he has sunk back into self referential movie geekdom since. It is a great shame that he garnered any praise for Inglorious which had about 3 decent set pieces surrounded by boring padding. Add Waltz (first scene only, he's just hamming after that) and Fassbinder to the list.

    Also just remembered Tom Hardy in Bronson. As much as I loved Refn's Drive, Bronson just seemed like a rip off stylistically and thematically of A Clockwork Orange, but with the Kubrickian formalism trained on endless tedium and repetitive tropes with a deep emptiness at the missing heart of the film. It's not just that the character is unlikeable it's that he keeps going on with no change or development.

    52 Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman? It is a tragedy of hammy self parody of a performance.

    Adding Ian Hart to my great actor, shame about the career list.

  • Comment number 97.

    It's always been a mystery how Malcolm McDowell managed such a good performance as Caligula, considering everything that was going on around him.

  • Comment number 98.

    I hated both 'A Knight's Tale' and 'Lost in Translation' but really enjoyed the performances of Paul Bettany and Bill Murray repectively. Bettany had a sense of anarchic fun in his role as Chaucer in an otherwise fatuous affair while Murray's subtle pathos was the only thing of note in the borefest that was Lost in Translation (still the only film I have fallen asleep watching in the cinema)

  • Comment number 99.

    The first one that springs to mind is Edward Norton's great performance in 'The Score' which is a strange film that has very lazy performances from greats actors such as Robert De Niro and Marlon Brando.

  • Comment number 100.

    Now I've just about got over people saying 'Brighton Rock' is a terrible film (because the original is fantastic and shouldn't be tarred with the remake's brush) - yes, I know I am pedantic...

    Might I suggest the film that seemed motivated only by Beyoncé Knowles' ego trip, 'Obsessed'. A truly awful film with a rather good performance by Idris Elba... until Beyoncé took over the screen and her awfulness dwarfed everything.


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