BBC - Mark Kermode's film blog

« Previous | Main | Next »

Great Acting in Bad Films

Post categories:

Mark Kermode | 12:34 UK time, Friday, 27 January 2012

I asked for your nominations for the best acting in the worst film you've seen. Here I pick out some of the most startling choices and, prompted by some of you, pose a new question...

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructionsIf you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit Mark's blog to view the video.


Related Posts on Kermode Uncut
Great Performance Shame About the Film

Mark's reviews on 5 live
Take your pick from Mark's A-Z

Hear Mark Kermode review the week's new films every Friday from 2pm on BBC Radio 5 live. Kermode & Mayo's Film Review is also available as a free podcast to download and keep.



Page 1 of 5

  • Comment number 1.

    You took both copies of Tiptoes? thats a bit greedy

  • Comment number 2.

    The worst performance in a good movie has got to be Andie Macdowell in Four Weddings and a Funeral, surely? Truly excruciating acting, it's mind-boggling how the film-makers apparently didn't notice...

    PS IsitstillrainingIhadn'tnoticed.

  • Comment number 3.

    Shelly Duvall isn't very impressive in The Shining.

  • Comment number 4.

    It has to be Quentin Tarantino in Pulp Fiction. Everyone is on the best form of their careers and then along comes QT. It is the same story in Reservoir Dogs and although Death Proof is awful already the scene with Tarantino and Eli Roth makes it even worse. Let’s hope he can resist casting himself in Django Unchained.

  • Comment number 5.

    Quentin Tarantino's appearance as Jimmy in Pulp Fiction. The scene in which Jules and Vincent store the car at Jimmy's house is fantastically funny, with a fabulously suave cameo by Harvey Keitel. But, quite ironicallly I feel, I can't stand Tarantino's cringe inducing delivery of his OWN lines. Lets face it, in terms of starring in his own films, Quentin's no Martin Scorsese in Taxi Driver...

    Movie's still a classic though.

  • Comment number 6.

    Dr K,
    I have been struggling with your new assignment. Why? Well, because of Shelley Duvall. I have watched the Shining a million times now and I still can't figure out if Shelley's performance was genius or just plain terrible.
    What do you think?
    Please give me an awnser good doctor, because I certainly can't.

  • Comment number 7.

    ^Sorry Seany B, didn't see your post.

  • Comment number 8.

    In my opinion, Jack Nicholson kills The Shining stone dead. For the first half of the film, the hotel itself is the villain and the film is terrifying and beautifully crafted.

    Then Jack Nicholson goes mad, you think "Oh look, Jack Nicholson going mad again" and the film falls apart.

  • Comment number 9.

    Dear Doctor, as you've pointed out, Godfather 3 is a great film. It didn't harm the beauty of parts 1 and 2, and it will never top part 2, but it is absolutely a great film. Pacino is fantastic, the scene in wich he confesses is absolutely heartbreaking to me, but what does Sofia Coppolla do there? Absolutely a trainwreck of an actress, and a complete downer on a fantastic film.

    Greatings from Holland.

  • Comment number 10.

    Andie Macdowell in Four Weddings and a Funeral - WE HAVE NOTICED!!

  • Comment number 11.

    Oh, and don't worry Mark, I quite like The Godfather part III as well, although linking back to the current subject, Sofia Coppola really is horrendous in it.

  • Comment number 12.

    wo wo wo wo - tron legacy is not a bad film!!

    worst performance in a good film for me is hard

    cos to be fair my favourite films are my favourite because they are perfect

    all i can think of is

    jane alexander in kramer vs kramer?


    Paul Giamatti's shaky performance in the negotiator?

    sometimes i confuse wether bad acting is meant to be that way because the character is meant to be bad or wether it's just because i dont like the human/actor

    it's so subjective

    so my judgement is based solely on i think someone else could of done that role better

    it makes me think differently about acting all together

    i bet nicolas cage gets lots of mentions

  • Comment number 13.

    I know it isn't the best film ever, but I do think The Fifth Element would have been VASTLY improved by the lack of Chris Tucker. He singlehandedly makes that film almost unwatchable. Otherwise it's a perfectly fine, and rather fun science fiction film. But there was absolutely NO NEED for him to be in that film... or at least to have had so much screentime.

  • Comment number 14.

    @HowardBealeGoneMad No probs, I am guessing it will be a popular one.

  • Comment number 15.

    Also, I know Tron wasn't great (even though I did kind of enjoy it), but the worst thing about that film was Michael Sheen! His character actually reminds me slightly of Chris Tucker's in the fifth element: irritating and completely pointless. At least in Tron they had the foresight to only have him in it for 5 minutes!

  • Comment number 16.

    The same question popped into my head while watching Keanu Reeves in The Devil's Advocate this week.

  • Comment number 17.

    Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now. As soon as he turned up on set, the production went into gridlock while Coppola sat patiently with Marlon and waited for him to stop talking about termites. It's not a far cry from what he does in the film, killing the pacing for 20 interminable minutes. On the other hand, his self-indulgent babbling had me on my knees begging for his death, so maybe it was a genius performance after all.

  • Comment number 18.

    Orlando Bloom in... Well anything good he's been in.. But as someone who thinks Kingdom of Heaven is underrated I'll go with that

  • Comment number 19.

    The second Spider-Man film is a great comic book adventure, but I cannot stand Tobey Maguire's stilted, awkward, barely-conscious and emo-esque performance as Peter Parker. It seemed more like he'd been bitten by a damp piece of wood than a radioactive spider.

  • Comment number 20.

    What about Kevin Costner in Dances with wolves. He is lifeless and you only know about his characters development from the narration. Fantastic story and directed really well I thought but he was the worst thing in it.

  • Comment number 21.

    For worst performance in the best film. I would say christian bale in dark knight as batman. THe voice was a real problem plus we didnt ge the psychological devlop as int he first nolan batman. I would also say Elijah wood in eternal sunshine. he plays a really creeepy stalker in a film about internal strife about the fear of memory. His character does not need to be there not only that he is really distracting tfromthe rest of the film

  • Comment number 22.

    Paul Henreid in Casablanca. How on earth are you supposed to believe that Ingrid Bergman is torn between him and Humphrey Bogart? Henreid gives cardboard a bad name!

  • Comment number 23.

    Oh and also Orlando Bloom's performance in Kingdom of Heaven. Kingdom of Heaven is a good film especially in the director's cut. However what kills the film is that he main hero is played by mister bloom whon is in true bland hero mode. He loosm like he has forgotten his coffee nott hat he is racked with guilt or with religious strength

  • Comment number 24.

    Ben Affleck in The Town. As a director I feel Affleck is sublime; Run Baby Run with Casey playing the lead is amazing, however as an Actor I think he leaves a lot to be desired. I find him to be clunky and wooden when playing serious roles. Oh and here's another one - Ben Affleck in Good Will Hunting. He looks thoroughly embarrassed whenever he's on screen. PLEASE STICK TO DIRECTING, YOU'RE REALLY GOOD AT THAT!!!

  • Comment number 25.

    Mickey Rooneys performance in "Breakfast At Tiffinys" is so horrifically offensive, I aged three and a half years when watching it... Which as you can imagine, makes filling out forms a real chore.

  • Comment number 26.

    Re: Tron

    David Warner makes two lousy roles pretty watchable. In fact, he does that quite a lot - Avatar, Code Conspiracy, Titanic....

    I've heard it said that any decent actor can shine in a great role, but only a great actor can make a bad role good. Certainly I've sat through a lot of terrible TV because David Warner is in it.

  • Comment number 27.

    The absolutely worst performance in the best film I've seen is perhaps Keanu Reeves in Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula. It's pretty hard for me to say this, as Coppola's adaptation of the Bram Stoker novel is one of my all-time favourite films, no doubt one of my Top 3, however it's impossible to deny that Keanu Reeves was a poor choice for the role of Jonathan Harker as his English accent seems forced and performance is as wooden as the stakes that are used in the film.
    Luckily, I love the film so much because the rest of the cast and the direction is so fantastic that Reeves merely blends into the background when actors like Anthony Hopkins and Gary Oldman stand aside him.

  • Comment number 28.

    Two nominations courtesy of Francis Ford Coppola:
    I agree Godfather III isn't that bad, but it could have been better if Winona Ryder had been in it instead of Sofia Coppola. The second is obviously Keanu Reeves in Dracula!
    The mahogany Katie Holmes in Batman Begins. I still prefer it to the Dark Knight though despite her being replaced by Maggie Gygygygygygyhall, though.
    Chris Tucker in the Fifth Element; although this is more because of the character was completely superfluous.
    Danny Dyyyyyer in the otherwise enjoyable Severance.
    Everyone in Argento's "Suspiria"

  • Comment number 29.


    CLINT EASTWOOD - Gran Torino

    The film was amazing, uplifting, sad, emotional with a great ending. Yet through out the entire film I was made to cringe every single time Clint decided to 'Grrrr' through his gritted teeth and scowl when someone did something to annoy him. It was laughable. However, I loved the film and have watched it many times.

    One day Kermode you're going to mention one of my posts...!!!

  • Comment number 30.

    Orlando Bloom in Kingdom of Heaven. His attempt at a empowering speech at the climax nearly broke the whole experience for me.

  • Comment number 31.

    Having just watched it last month for the umpteenth time in all it's hyper-gothic glory, I still find myself grimacing at Keanu Reeves' Herculean anti-acting in Bram Stoker's Dracula. What exactly did he watch as preparation for the role? Dick Van Dyke and Brando in Mutiny on a loop?? Still, an incredible adaptation, fabulous score, plenty of good performances...

  • Comment number 32.

    I don't think Tiptoes is a particularly bad film, it certainly isn't a slapstick, knockabout comedy that the dvd synopsis suggests and as misjudged as it is there's definitely a better film struggling to get out. Matthew McConaughey's character is a far more interesting role compared to his usual rom-com fluff and the ending is a very solid refreshing finale ruined only be the p.s they tack on. Life isn't a box of chocolates, people are flawed.

    Face the fear Mark.

  • Comment number 33.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 34.

    Michael Madsen in "Sin City".

    While the rest of the cast had the 'acting dial' turned up to eleven, Madsen looked like he just stumbled onto the set one morning and read the script 5 minutes before the director said 'action'. In a film where everything else is super-stylized and over the top, the blandness of his performance really stands out.

  • Comment number 35.

    Worst performance in the best movie....I have to say Casey Affleck in 'the Assasination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford'. Its a great movie. But I hated Casey Affleck in it. He was murmuring to himself throughout the movie, infact he does that in every movie. He speaks slowly with no clarity, neither there is any emotion in his face nor there is any proper body language. I know the academy nominated him for best supporting actor but its a terrible performance. I've seen it 4 times till now....but hated his performance every time I saw it.

  • Comment number 36.

    This will probably be shouted down, but I think Geoffrey Rush is great in the Pirates films. You can tell he is really enjoying himself whilst delivering a fantastic performance. YAAAAAR.

    - Rob Ashton

  • Comment number 37.

    For me the worst performance in a great film has to be The usual suspects. One of the best films of all time with arguably the greatest twist which wont be revealed here however Stephen Baldwin puts in a typically over the top and cringe worthy performance. Everyone says its his best performance but when your up against Bio dome and Flintstones in rock Vegas that's not difficult.

  • Comment number 38.

    ben affleck in boiler room and mako in conan the barbarian, annoying performances in otherwise brilliant films.

  • Comment number 39.

    Matthew Lewis as Neville Longbottom in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.

    I'm not a big fan of the series and I've never read the books, however, I enjoyed the final installment. Although I found Matthew Lewis' performance extremely difficult to watch, every time he was on screen I found myself cringing so much that I got neck cramps.

    His delivery of the lines was comparable to Gareth Gates reading from a queue-card.

  • Comment number 40.

    I adore Oliver Stone's film 'Nixon' but there's that scene at the Lincoln Memorial where Anthony Hopkins (as Richard Nixon) goes to confront a mass of student protestors. While he tries desperately to steer the conversation on to other issues, the students just want to confront him about Vietnam and I just don't believe any of them, really. Hopkins is fine - that's probably the problem; These kids are supposed to have him on the ropes with their argument but they just come across as a load of arsey know-nothing actors trying to be deep and meaningful. You really get the feeling that Hopkins could mop the floor with them if the script had only gone his way. That bugs me so much that it even trumps Shelley Duvall in 'The Shining'. What bugs me most about it, I s'pose, is that it mucks up a really terrific centre piece in the film and I cannot get over it! I don't want to name names of the actors because they weren't famous people and since I haven't seen them since, I can assume that they aren't, present tense, so that'd be rubbing salt into the wound. But it's poor!
    On a similar note, in 'JFK' (incidentally, my second favourite film ever) Kevin Costner, who is an actor who has always bothered me in the past but I feel that his convictions pull it all back by the end of this one, delivers one line appallingly badly. His very first one in the movie! Assistant D.A. Lou Ivon, rushes into Kev's office and informs him that his beloved president, John Fitzgerald Kennedy has been shot in Dallas and Kev replies; "Oh no!" A reasonable response to said story you'll admit. It's just that My Mate Kev manages to deliver the line like your Dad telling himself to care when you're upset that someone et your favourite biscuit!

  • Comment number 41.

    I've always thought Joseph Cotton is pretty terrible in The Third Man - doesn't stop it from being one of my favourite films ever though.

  • Comment number 42.

    Maybe not the entire performance but the worst piece of acting in a great movie has to be Brad Pitt at the end of Se7en! His laughable delivery of the lines 'OH GOD!!!!' 'OH GOD!!!!!' 'WHAT'S IN THE BOX!!!' are for me the only scar on the face of a magnificent thriller.

  • Comment number 43.

    Of course that should be Cotten.

  • Comment number 44.

    Madonna in Dick Tracy, every one else gets the fact that this is an over the top comic bookesque film with no real substance. You would think a film with no substance would suit the Madge however she seems to be treating it like Shakespeare and thinking 'everyone will love me for this'. The reality I'd rather watch her performance in Body of evidence on loop for a week than one more minute of Breathless Mahoney.....

  • Comment number 45.

    Well I know Mark doesn't care for it's ramshackle nature but I LOVE Blues Brothers... I even love Matt "Guitar" Murphy's woefully clunky performance in it. His scenes with Aretha Franklin (who is surprisingly good, as a matter of fact) possibly display the worst acting ever committed to film.

  • Comment number 46.

    This is a difficult question to answer, I think, since consistently great performances go a long way towards making a film great.

    I knew Sofia Coppola, in The Godfather Part III, was going to come up. I've heard this many times and don't quite get it. She wasn't brilliant, but I thought her character wasn't supposed to be a polished, confident adult; more of a gawky teenager - which Sofia was at the time. Then again, had her acting been better, we might have lost a very good director.

    One performance that has always annoyed me, and done so six (6) times, is Anthony Daniels as C-3PO in the Star Wars films. As an Android he's supposed to be human-like, but there's more genuine humanity in the bleeping tin can he's always following around. (I sometimes wonder whether that's supposed to be part of the joke.)

  • Comment number 47.

    - Those lanky ginger twins in the Harry Potter franchise.
    - Nicolas Cage in all his good films.
    - Agree with Andi McDowell and Quentin Tarantino.

  • Comment number 48.

    Chris Tucker in The Fifth Element. OTT (in an already OTT Sci-fi comedy film) for no reason other than "hey it's Chris Tucker in a stupid wig and stupid clothes acting all OTT. It's funny isn't it?" No Luc Besson, no it's not. His character is not likeable and completely pointless to the plot.

  • Comment number 49.

    One of the worst performances ive seen on the big screen has to be that of the leading man in David Cronenberg's 'Scanners'. What could have been a great film, becomes a merely decent one thanks to most of the good work on show being undone by the truly stunning lump-of-balsa-wood cast in the central role. A more shockingly stilted turn I cannot bring to mind. The 'actor's name? - Mr Stephen LACK! Quite.

  • Comment number 50.

    Katie Holmes in Batman Begins

    She was bland and offered us nothing we her portrayal as Rachel Dawes

    Also, he may have improved since then, but Andrew Garfield was whiny, unlikeable and annoying in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

  • Comment number 51.

    One of my favorite films (that I've yet to find another fan of, or a UK DVD release) is The Passion of Darkly Noon. This is easily Brandon Fraser's best performance. The film is a master piece... but, Ashley Judd (one of my least favorite actresses) distracts and hinders my enjoyment of this gem every time I watch it.

  • Comment number 52.

    The answer is simple matthew broddrick in glory, or orlando blome in... Any good film he's ever been in. Good as always mark, keep up the good work.

  • Comment number 53.

    kevin Costner in Robin Hood, Prince of Theives. You could say it is a guilty pleasure, but I always enjoy watching Prince of Thieves. However, when Costner tells Morgan Freeman that they will dine at his fathers in "Nottinghaaaaaammmmmm" in his bold american accent, I can't help but cringe. An enjoyable romp of a film, but a terrible lead performance by Costner

  • Comment number 54.

    The worst-ever performance in a great movie has to be Paul McCartney in A Hard Day's Night. In fact, any performance where a pop-star is acting themselves is usually a stinker - except for Jagger in Performance, I suppose...

  • Comment number 55.

    I wish people would stop comparing The Godfather Part 3 to Parts 1 and 2. Of course it's going to fail by comparison but in it's own right as a movie it's very good.

    It's always worth remembering when watching Godfather Part 3 is that it wasn't supposed to be called Godfather Part 3. A crucial point!

  • Comment number 56.

    Una O'conner in the original Invisible Man (which is magnificent) is absolutely horrendous as all she does is scream, very loud and very annoying. It may be because she is opposite Claude Rains who is magnificent all the way through.
    (Also there are two terrible policeman)

  • Comment number 57.

    There’s a fine line between bad acting and being utterly miscast.

    Where the two meet then it’s truly awful. e.g. Anthony – show me the money – Hopkins in “The Human Stain” for example.

    Hopkins played a light-skinned black man who attempts to pass as a Jewish white man. Hopkins didn’t even attempt to hide his Welsh accent in that one.

    Nicholas Cage must get a mention for his many terrible performances in some of the stinkers he’s appeared in.

    A honourable mention goes to Jack Nicholson for most of his movies of the past 20 years. DeNiro has done some stinkers since Casino, both careers in terminal decline.

    Bale & Worthington in Terminator Salvation.

    Otherwise – many actors have a limited range (Eastwood being one); when a part fits their persona then they are great, as soon as they are cast in a part outside that comfort zone then it becomes wince inducing. Gran Torino was all about turning Eastwood’s Dirty Harry persona on its head, so it had to be Eastwood cast in that one.

    Shelly Duvall in the Shining? I thought she was OK, but in a woefully underwritten part; just there to get chased around and scream. One problem facing many women actors is that they are often given little to do than be 'victims' ~ or romantic interest.

  • Comment number 58.

    Joaquin Phoenix in "Gladiator" - ruins what might have been a reasonably entertaining film. (The part was initially not supposed to be so prominent, but they had to rewrite everything when Oliver Reed died.)

    Don Cheadle in "Oceans 11" - worst British accent since Costner.

    Winona Ryder when she was in her "costume drama" period had quite a few doozies (though she's okay in "The Crucible"). I think the attempt to turn her into Lady Anne in "Looking for Richard" is one of the saddest things I've ever seen on film.

    Shelley Duvall in almost anything.

    ....and I know we're talking about film, but for me the epitome of this is Lorraine Bracco on "The Sopranos." For a show with such tremendous, consistent, and compelling performances from top to bottom, she was like watching Lindsay Lohan trying to pass herself off as a nun. (Come to think of it, Lindsay Lohan would have been a better choice).

  • Comment number 59.

    I'm so glad you asked this question because I've always felt I have a really good answer to this that I've thought about for years.
    Christopher Nolan has always been braved in his castings but always seems to get the best out of an actor or actress but the one that landed face down:

    Katie Holmes, Batman Begins.

  • Comment number 60.

    yup. Katie Holmes in Batman Begins was pretty poor.
    Megan Burns in 28 days later. She didn't offend me, but she was really wooden and jarring. She talked like she was constantly on valium and that was before she took the valium.
    Dan, Glasgow

  • Comment number 61.

    Tiptoes looks amazing.
    David Lynch is probably my favorite director of all time... however, I still can't handle Nick Cage in Wild at Heart.

  • Comment number 62.

    Sam J Jones in Flash Gordon. Who was he? No idea, but he didn't really stand a chance when faced with such majestic pantomime performances courtesy of Max von Sydow, Timothy Dalton, Topol and Brian Blessed, not forgetting Ornella Muti in spandex. There's 100x more humanity in Brian May's guitar.

  • Comment number 63.

    Kirsten Dunst in 'Eternal Sunshine...' is one that springs to mind immediately. Chris Tucker in The Fifth Element too.

  • Comment number 64.

    David Bowie in The Prestige.

    One of my favourite films and a musician i admire a lot but I wouldn't have cast him.

  • Comment number 65.

    Tania Mallet as Tilly Masterton in Goldfinger 1964. A howlingly bad and wooden actress with cringeworthy line delivery. She was awefull.

  • Comment number 66.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 67.

    The one that immediately springs to mind is Albert Finney in 'Murder on the Orient Express' a performance so bad i suspect even Finney is embarassed by it and to top it off he even got an Oscar nomination, surely the worst performance ever to be nominated.

    Cleanbreak films@ ditto Mickey Rooney how did he ever survive the edit?

  • Comment number 68.

    Mercedes McCambridge by default. She is the voice of the demon in The Exorcist (for the few uninitiated). I have a real affinity for idiosyncratic voices – it’s my thing. I have a big list of favourites, but off the top of my head are: George C Scott, John Huston, Vincent Price, James Stewart, Tom Waits, James Mason, Richard Burton, Peter Lorre, Lauren Bacall, Tommy Lee Jones... and so on. Okay, you get the gist by now and you will all have your own.

    The film is truly great, but the decision to use that voice for the demon never sat well and always jars each time I hear it. Now, I have never spoken to a possessed child (though my rambunctious 4 year old nephew is almost there), but it wouldn’t have that voice and is the least credible part of the film. How do I know this? It’s like searching for some gift – I’ll know it when I see it, and in this case: hear it. In fact, now I think of it, the best thing about the painful Star Wars: Episode 1 was Nathalie Portman’s voice. To me that’s closer to how it ought to have been. Though, of course, George Lucas digitally alerted it I believe.

  • Comment number 69.

    Hi Dr K,

    I am a big western fan and have in my time watched far too many of them so i believe i have the right to notice and comment on truly terrible performances in some good films!! However, the stand out one for me has to be Kevin Costner in Dances With Wolves. A truly brilliant film; direction was perfect, cinematography was stunning, costumes were amazing and the supporting cast, particularly Graham Greene, were second to none. But there at the centre of it all is Kevin (Prince of Thieves) Costner. Delivering the same performance as Robin Hood but with a little more thought, i.e. a lot of pathetic gazing into the distance. Aaaargh!!!!!! Admittedly his narration worked well but the performance was awful!! Also see Open Range in which the same things happen - admittedly his performance is better but still by far the worst thing in the movie.

    Please, Dr K, do me and all those western fans that are still out there a favour and take no-good-son-of-a-gun Costner out to a lowly lit Carrel, with a Morricone score playing over the top and deliver some bad acting justice then ride off into the sunset. We love you Dr k! We love you!

  • Comment number 70.

    One of the best examples I can think of when it comes to bad performances in great films is Bee Vang, who plays the wayward Hmong teenager in Clint Eastwood's 2008 offering, Gran Torino. I'm a big fan of Clint's work, I loved Gran Torino for it's sharp writing and Clint's performance as the cantankerous Walt Kowalski. However, I really felt that the film was let down in some way by the unconvincing performance of some of the younger Asian actors, particularly Bee Vang.

  • Comment number 71.

    It has to be James Cromwell in L.A. Confidential, without doubt the shoddiest Irish accent and entirely wooden performance in one of my absolute favourite films!

  • Comment number 72.

    Robert de Niro in Jackie Brown. Or it could just be that he's so good it only looked like he really wasn't trying at all.

  • Comment number 73.

    Katie Holmes in Wonder Boys, great film but she is just out of her depth.

  • Comment number 74.

    Worst performance in a good film...George Lazenby in On Her Majesty's secret service.
    Good performance in a bad film....Gary Oldman in Dracula

    That now concludes the judging from the Somerset panel.

  • Comment number 75.

    Oh, damn you @Sage Graine, I thought I was the only one who was going to say Scanners. Stephen Lack is quite awesomely bad, blank-faced and like nothing so much as a rabbit in the headlights, but at least he's up against a star-making turn from the great Michael Ironside.

    So if I'm not allowed that one, how about Sir Anthony Hopkins in the otherwise half-decent Legends of the Fall? He starts out a little bit bonkers, but by the end he's not so much chewing the scenery as devouring it, in a performance that's so far over the top you can't even see the top, way down there.

    Sir Ant has a bit of a tendency to do this, in fact, if the director gives him enough rope. See also The Wolfman, though that doesn't really count because his silly performance is the only entertaining thing in an otherwise tedious film.

  • Comment number 76.

    Hmmm...Some people may argue that this isn't actually a decent film,but what about Christopher Lambert in Highlander!

  • Comment number 77.

    I'm surprised nobody has mentioned Mark Hamill in the original Star Wars trilogy. Great films (I know Dr K is going to object to this but they are) but Hamill had all the carisma of a dead badger.

    While I'm on the subject, a good performance in a mediocre film, Liam Neeson added some much needed gravitas to Star Wars: Phantom Menace.

    One actor who always adds to a film (no matter how bad) is Sam Rockwell who managed to make the flabby Iron Man 2 much more enjoyable.

  • Comment number 78.

    I think stephen lack's acting in scanners is supposed to be wooden and stilted considering he is sort of an autistic outsider.

  • Comment number 79.

    I cannot understand why no-one has mentioned Mark Hamill in "Star Wars". I know that it's not what you'd call a performance-led film, but the moment where Hamill says that if the imperial stormtroopers knew who bought the droids then that would "lead them (naff pause followed by choked up) home" is, arguably, the worst piece of film acting ever.

    But this whole question is really a case of how you look at it. The number of times critics have wet themselves over a film performance that has actually been pretty poor is what I would consider to be worthy of comment. Here one might mention Sean Connery in The Untouchables. Neither a terrible performance nor a great film, but a performance that was universally lauded and, indeed, Oscar-winning, but which is, frankly, Sean Connery on a screen being Sean Connery... not appalling, but not that good either (see also Helena Bonham-Carter in Fight Club, Tom Cruise in Rain Man and Clive Owen in everything)

  • Comment number 80.

    By the way, I also like Godfather Part III, but do have the (superior) version of it starring Winona Rider stored in my DVD cabinet of the imagination...

  • Comment number 81.

    I've just seen "The King's Speech" again and this question is just made for that film.
    Everything is great in that movie, a real masterpiece and it rightfully got so many oscars.
    Nevertheless, Timothy Spall as Churchill is just terribel! It seems like he is moking the audience by turning Churchill into a caricature of a real human being. Terribel choise of casting and terribel performance!

  • Comment number 82.

    Okay I'd say:

    1. - Aron Ekhart's Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight - before it's release I was so excited about this Nolan movie. I thought "you know what, this will be the Nolan movie that makes it into my top ten best films of all time".

    What happened was that as well as some huge structuring errors Ekhart basically failed. He took the great tragic figure from Batman lore and made awful choices throughout his time on screen.

    I guess he decided that when playing a character struggling with duality the best thing to do is play one side angry... and the other a bit angrier and to shout more!

    I can't believe a director like Nolan could have miss-directed this performance as well as directing Ledger's definitive Joker in the same film!!!!!!!!!

    The Dark Knight was supposed to be a cocktail of Mann's Heat (Good vs Bad essentially being two sides of the same coin) with the main story thread of the tragic, fallen hero Harvey Dent (Michael Corleone style - good guy turns bad) running through it.

    I feel Nolan failed on both counts with Bale's grunting Batman falling short of Ledger's Joker also (but with the gravitas of Batman Begins behind him he was better off than Ekhart from the get go).

    Now, just to stoke the fire up a little bit I'd just like to throw this one in the air:

    Paul Dano in There Will Be Blood?

  • Comment number 83.

    Can't argue with Keanu Reeves in "Dracula", but I'd like to also like to mention his role in Richard Linklater's adaptation of "A Scanner Darkley". We are apparently watching his character gradtually lose his grip on reality, however at no point does his personality shift, or his bahaviour change, he starts the film as "man acting like Keanu Reeves", and end it, as "man acting like Keanu Reeves".

  • Comment number 84.

    i think this one is obvious......
    Kevin Costner in Robin Hood,
    Althought Mr. Brooks was excellent

  • Comment number 85.

    I love PJ Hogan's 'Peter Pan', but I am always underwhelmed by Jason Isaacs's performance as the Father. I'm not sure that it's the actor's fault, since the role itself seems ill-defined, almost an afterthought. And yet, in his dual role as Hook, Jason is absolutely riveting. At once funny, frightening, vulnerable and pathetic, in my eyes his is the definitive big screen Hook, and one of the best villains in any family film.

    A strange case, in which an actor is at once my favourite thing in a film, and also my biggest complaint.

  • Comment number 86.

    Worest performance in a great film, Orlando Bloom in the three Lord of the Rings film, the bit in the last one when there coming up with ideas to help Frodo by distracting the enemy and Bloom goes 'a diversion', reminded me of Dougal on Father Ted.

  • Comment number 87.

    Robbed! Paul Bettany was clearly my shout!

  • Comment number 88.

    Al Pacino in Heat, great movie but way over the top and a typically shouty performance that characterises his later work. Out acted by a subtle and considered DeNiro. Charlie sheen in Platoon also

  • Comment number 89.

    This may go down like a lead balloon, but I personally think Al Pacino stinks up quite a few films with his belief that "great acting means SHOUTING VERY LOUD".

    Heat. Absolutely great movie but Pacino is very shouty and spoils certain scenes.

    Devils advocate Let the shouting commence.

    Scent of a woman actually left me partially deaf as Al shouted relentlessly in Chris O'Donnells ear.

    The best Pacino is a quiet Pacino. Perfect Example is his Timeless well thought out, brooding performance in the Godfather.

    Great movies, Great acting (Apart from the rubbish 3rd instalment)

  • Comment number 90.

    Keanu Reeves, Much Ado About Nothing.

  • Comment number 91.

    It's been mentioned once or twice but Katie Holmes in Batman Begins. No one else in that film puts a foot wrong but just boggles the mind that anyone thought she was the right person for the role. This further punctuated by the character being recast the The Dark Knight. Maggie Gyllenhaal is outshines her in everyday without making it seam like a different character despite not looking alike. It just goes to show a different class of actress she is compared to Holmes.

  • Comment number 92.

    Worst performance in a great film: Timothy Spall in The King's Speech. His impression of Winston churchill was excruciating, and had me thinking that perhaps he didn't know what sort of film he was in. Maybe he thought he was filming The League of Gentleman 2?

  • Comment number 93.

    Okay, as this board's self-appointed hillbilly film critic, I guess I'll go with Keely Smith in Robert Mitchum's moonshine-haulin' noir epic "Thunder Road."

    Smith is a beautiful woman, an immensely talented singer, but an actress---oh my---she ain't. I would call her performance wooden, but that would be an insult to our leaf-sprouting friends everywhere.

  • Comment number 94.

    Personally I love Francis Ford Coppola's version of Bram Stoker's Dracula, it's got Gary Oldman doing a definitive version of The Count in my opinion, a lovely performance from Winona Ryder and an enjoyably hokey one from Anthony Hopkins, but...Keanu Reeves with that English accent? Bloody hell.

  • Comment number 95.

    Agree about Quentin Tarantino in Resevior Dogs and Pulp Fiction. But I will say that I only noticed that he was basically playing himself around the third viewing of both films.
    I also agree about Christian Bale in the Batman films (well, Dark Knight, I havent seen the first film). I think it was "that" voice which really killed his performance. When we went to see it, everyone in the cinema laughed each time he used that voice.

    For my own choices, the first that comes to mind is Sean Young in Blade Runner. I love that film, but the first few times I watched it, all I could think about was how wooden and awkward she was.

  • Comment number 96.

    Worst performance in best Movie? keanu reeves in Dracula. Great film ruined by balsa wooden performance by Keanu literally chewing words from an out of synch auto cue whilst suffering acute constipation. His best role then?

  • Comment number 97.

    Paul Dano in There Will Be Blood. Terrible. Completely out of his element. poor casting. and his voice it sounds like someone scrapping there nails against a window. no wonder he in Little Miss Sunshine he didn't open his mouth!!

  • Comment number 98.

    @ #6 Vidak Orlovic I agree with you that Shelley Duvall is a difficult role. Certainly she's annoying but I think to a certain degree she's supposed to be, and she definitely has to get full marks for effort, especially given what she was going through on set at the time. Then again, apparently I have low standards, as I actually quite enjoy Keanu Reeves in Francis Ford Coppola's "Bram Stoker's Dracula". I remember, the first time I saw it the performance made the film for me ("Is the castle far?"), and even though I appreciated that it was a good movie it was only on second and third viewings that I realised how great it was played straight.

    I also liked Keanu Reeves in "A Scanner Darkly". It's a subtle shift for monotonous stoner to virtually braindead zombie, but I do think he portrays it quite well.

    To actually answer Dr. K's question, Jaden Smith in the remake of "The Day the Earth Stood Still" stuck out like a sore thumb. Again, a solid performance from Reeves (who didn't have to act emotional) and from John Cleese (although admittedly he wasn't in it much). Whilst I wouldn't call it a good movie necessarily, Smith's performance stuck out like a sore thumb.

  • Comment number 99.

    Timothy Spall in The Kings Speech?
    His cartoon version of Churchill is terrible...

  • Comment number 100.

    I second the Sofia Coppola of Godfather III, and also state that I like that film too, so nuh. :D

    Tarantino in anything he casts himself in.

    Someone said Casey Affleck in Assassination of Jesse James - WHAT!??! He was astounding in that film, creepy, chilling and sympathetic in every line. Although Pitt and Rockwell were equally incredible, I think his performance in that is underrated, as is the film as a whole.

    Orlando Bloom in LOTR, wooden? You could make a door with his performance. Oh and that elf who has one line to Liv Tyler in Return of the King.


Page 1 of 5

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.