We Can't Unsee These 12 Terrible Performances by Great Actors

Terrible performances by great actors

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tom hardy as Bane
tom hardy as Bane by SicSlipknotMaggot (CC BY-NC-SA)

And the Oscar Doesn't Go To...

Great actors can miss. They can miss hard. And when they do, the world doesn't forget. Curious about what kinds of swings and misses the likes of Judi Dench and Eric Bana have taken? Here are 12 times that great actors were absolutely horrible in a movie.

Cats (2019)

1. The Cast of ‘Cats’ (2019)

Full disclosure: I didn’t see this flick. You’d have had to drag me to the theater for this one. However, its legacy has been made quite clear, and from the clips I’ve seen, I have no words. 

This feels more like an expensive Hollywood prank than an actual movie, or a Golden Globes opening skit that’s way too long. Idris Elba? Dame Judi Dench? I’d love to know what those paychecks looked like. None of this makes any sense to me.

Meryl Streep in 'Ricki and the Flash'

2. Meryl Streep in 'Ricki and the Flash' (2015)

This feels like one of those fake "Saturday Night Live" trailers. I can't believe this is a real movie. I need to disclose once again that I didn't see this movie, probably because there's no way it could be real, but Meryl, is everything OK? This feels like something you didn't need to do. Did you owe somebody a favor? Lose a bet? I don't understand how this happened.

tom hardy as Bane
tom hardy as Bane by SicSlipknotMaggot (CC BY-NC-SA)

3. Tom Hardy in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ (2012)

Sorry, folks. The truth hurts sometimes. That voice he does for Bane is simply insane. He sounds like Sean Connery put on a Darth Vader helmet. It just makes it so hard to find him scary, and in turn, brings the movie down as a whole. And as far as villains go, talk about shoes to fill.

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Brendan Gleeson in ‘Lake Placid’ (1999)

4. Brendan Gleeson in ‘Lake Placid’ (1999)

This man is legitimately one of my favorite actors, and I love this movie to my core. Sweet Brendan had a bit of a rough go of it on this one. Not sure we’ll ever know if he was doing this on purpose, but Gleeson does in fact read the stage directions "sarcastic" out loud not once, not twice, but three times in this movie. Bud, what happened?

Related: The 50 Worst Movies of All Time, According to Critics

John Malkovich in ‘Eragon’ (2006)
star wars the phantom menace

6. Natalie Portman in 'Star Wars' (1999–2005)

We all know that Natalie Portman is a master of her craft these days, but look, you gotta start somewhere. The "Star Wars" prequels are probably some performances she'd like to take another crack at ("You're breaking my heart!!"), but it's not like those scripts or the wooden Hayden Christiansen made things any easier on her. She's come a long way.

‘Cowboys & Aliens’ (2011)

7. Harrison Ford in ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ (2011)

This one really isn’t Harrison’s fault, because this movie stinks out loud — but the dude definitely phoned this one in. His grizzly cowboy thing feels like watching an A.I.-generated Harrison Ford, sleepwalking through every scene. Can’t blame him. Make that money, baby.

Alan Cumming in ‘Goldeneye’ (1995)
Alan Cumming in ‘Goldeneye’ (1995) by AndyTGD (CC BY-SA)

8. Alan Cumming in ‘Goldeneye’ (1995)

The word “invincible” is ruined for me because of this movie. Alan Cumming is an incredibly talented actor, but this performance makes my skin crawl. If you want some prime time Alan, tune into the U.S. version of "The Traitors" where he’s putting every other game show host on Earth to shame with his charisma and likability.

Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Ambulance’ (2022)

9. Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Ambulance’ (2022)

Looks like Jake Gyllenhaal is in his own new “era,” considering that every movie he’s in these days, he just screams stuff at the top of his lungs. "Ambulance" is an insane movie, as bad as anything you’d expect from Michael Bay, but Jake Gyllenhaal’s vibe is simply off the charts. It really feels like he's just crushed six or seven Red Bulls before every take. Let’s just coooooooooool it down for a minute, Jakey boy.

Michael C. Hall in ‘Gamer’ (2009)

10. Michael C. Hall in ‘Gamer’ (2009)

Michael C. Hall twice dominated TV for years at a time as David Fisher and Dexter Morgan, in two of the greatest television performances there have ever been. In this movie, where prisoners must fight to the death in a big video game arena, he plays a guy named Ken Castle. Ken Castle has a Foghorn Leghorn accent and does an incredibly wacky dance number. Mesmerizing, no?

Audrey Tautou in 'The Da Vinci Code'

11. Audrey Tautou in 'The Da Vinci Code' (2006)

The movie's a stinker, we all know this. Audrey Tautou, who in fairness is probably struggling with a language barrier, doesn't help matters much. She kind of seems like she's doing what I would do if I wandered onto a movie set and was cast in a starring role: Smile, try not to be awkward, and don't look at the camera. I'm sure there are plenty of bilingual actors that could have pulled this one off a little better.

Eric Bana ‘Star Trek’ (2009)

12. Eric Bana ‘Star Trek’ (2009)

People seem to like this movie way more than I do. J.J. Abrams hits as hard as he misses, but this movie falls right in between. The one thing I always think about? Eric Bana, face adorned with alien tattoos, slouched in his weird little throne like an angry teenager. And who could forget him screaming “Fire everything!” over and over? This ain’t the same Eric Bana that stole my heart in “Funny People,” I’ll tell you that much.