The Razzie Awards are handed out each year around the same time as the Oscars. They ostensibly celebrate the worst films and cinematic performances of the previous twelve months. While intended purely as fun, the Razzies have been a little controversial in some quarters. Anything that’s a high-profile box office flop is undoubtedly something they will target, even if there were far worse movies released during the year. They often overlook the true worst of the worst in favor of picking low-hanging fruit. When someone like Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian pops up in a film, you can be sure Razzie voters will recognize them, too.
The organization’s cheap shots often feel designed to garner attention. Consider the 2004 Razzies, which gave the Worst Actor award to former President George W. Bush for Michael Moore’s documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was given Worst Supporting Actor that year for the same film, beating out Jon Voight in Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2.
The Razzies particularly enjoy getting attention by poking great actors. Anyone whose career enjoys any sort of longevity will make the occasional clunker. Rather than acknowledging that, the Razzie voters pounce, offering quick, smug condemnation. Below are fifteen universally acclaimed actors who were, at one point or another, in the group’s crosshairs.
These are 15 Excellent Actors Who Have Been Nominated For A Razzie.
15. Robert DeNiro
We don’t have to look very far for our first example. The Razzie nominations for this past year in film include the legendary Robert DeNiro as Worst Actor for Dirty Grandpa. DeNiro plays Dick, the foul-mouthed, sex-obsessed grandfather of Zac Efron’s Jason. The two make a pilgrimage to Daytona Beach for spring break after Jason’s grandmother/Dick’s wife passes away. Once there, Dick hooks up with Lenore (Aubrey Plaza), a party girl with a serious fetish for old men.
Granted, Dirty Grandpa is a far cry from DeNiro classics like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and Goodfellas. The first time we see him in the film, his character is lounging in a recliner, frantically pleasuring himself. Frankly, it’s a little embarrassing to see such a great actor reduced to performing in this kind of juvenile comedy. Nonetheless, DeNiro gives the role his all, fully committing to the old perv he’s portraying. Is commitment not a fundamental part of acting? Considering that some actors seemed to be sleepwalking through their roles last year (oh, hi, Kevin Spacey in Nine Lives), this is hardly anything to get so indignant about.
14. Christopher Walken
When you think of Christopher Walken, what comes to mind? His unusual vocal cadences? His ability to effectively play menacing characters? His Oscar-winning turn in The Deer Hunter? His dry sense of humor, which has been utilized so well in pictures like True Romance and Pulp Fiction? Honestly, you probably think about all of these things and more. Walken is one of those rare actors who makes all kinds of movies and elevates every single one of them. Even in a terrible movie, his presence brings a smile.
Believe it or not, Walken has been nominated for a Razzie more than once. In 2002, he was up for Worst Supporting Actor for his role in the Disney theme-park-attraction-turned-movie, The Country Bears. A year later, he was up for the same award for two different movies: Kangaroo Jack and Gigli. Are these the best films of his career? No, obviously not. But have you seen them? Christopher Walken is the best thing in any of them! Why punish him for being the only worthwhile element in garbage?
13. Julianne Moore
Julianne Moore is often called an “indie darling” because of the many, many high-quality performances she’s given in independent films. Far From Home, Boogie Nights, The Kids Are Alright, Magnolia — those are just a few examples of her tremendous talent. And let’s not forget her Oscar-winning work in the Alzheimer’s drama Still Alice. At the same time, Moore isn’t afraid to hop aboard mainstream projects. She appeared in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, and the Carrie remake. It’s hard to argue that she isn’t one of the most versatile and talented actresses around.
So, of course, the Razzies wanted to throw Moore some shade. She was nominated for Worst Supporting Actress for 2015’s Seventh Son. That film was bounced around the release schedule several times — rarely a good sign — and when it finally did arrive in theaters, reviews were scathing. No one would mistake it for a good film, but it was more misguided than anything. The potential was there for something interesting; they just didn’t pull it off. Thankfully, Moore lost the Razzie, which went to Kaley Cuoco for both The Wedding Planner and her voice work in Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip.
12. Laurence Olivier
Laurence Olivier is the quintessential classic British actor. Aside from a phenomenally successful career in the theater, he was nominated for a whopping ten Academy Awards, and he won the Best Actor Oscar in 1948 for playing the title role in a screen adaptation of Hamlet. He also received an honorary award from the Academy in 1947, plus a lifetime achievement award in 1979. Olivier’s credentials are impeccable.
Except for those two Razzie wins he managed to rack up. As with many actors, he had trouble finding quality roles as he got older. His first nod came for the 1980 Neil Diamond-starring remake of The Jazz Singer. It was the first year the Razzies existed, and they gave Olivier the Worst Supporting Actor award, which he shared with John Adames for John Cassavetes’ Gloria (which is actually quite a good film). Two years later, he won Worst Actor for his work playing Gen. Douglas MacArthur in the war movie Inchon, beating out, among others, Willie Aames in Zapped! Putting Sir Laurence Olivier and Willie Aames in the same acting category? Those Razzies sure are crazy!
11. Michael Caine
Michael Caine has been working in motion pictures for more than sixty years. In that time, he’s been nominated for six Oscars and has won two, the first for 1987’s Woody Allen comedy Hannah and Her Sisters, the second for 2000’s The Cider House Rules. The amazing thing about Caine is that he’s always been very prolific. There are, as of this writing, 163 credits on his filmography. His most recent work includes playing Alfred in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy and Arthur Tressler in Now You See Me and its sequel.
Because he’s been in so many projects, Caine has made his share of duds over the decades, though he’s never attempted to hide the fact that he’s taken certain movies simply for a paycheck. One of those pictures was 1987’s Jaws: The Revenge, for which he earned a nomination for Worst Supporting Actor at the Razzies. (“I have never seen it, but by all accounts, it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific,” the actor famously quipped.) Several years earlier, he was a contender for Worst Actor in two films: the adventure movie The Island and Brian DePalma’s now-considered-a-classic thriller, Dressed to Kill. Given his penchant for self-deprecating humor, we doubt Caine loses any sleep over this.
10. Barbra Streisand
For a prime example of Razzie Awards lunacy, look no further than the case of Barbra Streisand. It’s not that they nominated the beloved actress/songstress for multiple awards (Worst Supporting Actress for Little Fockers, Worst Actress for The Guilt Trip, and 1981’s All Night Long). None of those movies are especially good, but neither are they the kind of things that make you want to gouge your own eyes out with a spork.
No, the seriously, deeply loony thing the Razzies did was to nominate Streisand for 1983’s Yentl, a passion project she also directed. The film is about a Jewish girl who disguises herself as a boy so that she can enroll in a religious school that’s off-limits to females. Because of this cross-dressing angle, the Razzies thought it would be funny to nominate her as Worst Actor. (It’s a lame gag that they’ve fallen back on repeatedly over the years. Tyler Perry, for example, is often nominated as Worst Actress when he plays his Madea character.) In any event, Babs didn’t win. The award that year went to Christopher Atkins for the male stripper drama, A Night in Heaven.
9. Sean Penn
Sean Penn is an actor of great intensity. Even when he’s in a comedy, there’s something about him that feels a little dangerous. This quality has served him well, helping him earn two Oscars for his work in Mystic River and Milk. In 1986, though, he was not yet SEAN PENN. The actor had achieved popular success as Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and critical acclaim in arty fare like The Falcon and the Snowman and At Close Range, but he was known as much for his marriage as for his work.
That’s because, at the time, he was married to Madonna, the biggest female pop star in the universe at the time. She was eager to launch an acting career, so the two starred together in Shanghai Surprise, a weak comedy/adventure/romance about a con man and a missionary nurse joining forces to find a stolen supply of opium. It turned out to be one of the year’s most high-profile duds, leading the Razzies to give Penn a nod as Worst Actor. He lost out to another pop superstar, Prince, in Under the Cherry Moon. Madonna, meanwhile, was given the Worst Actress (dis)honor for her performance. One has to wonder how they discussed that situation at home.
8. Halle Berry
Halle Berry often gets a bum rap. She’s made a lot of movies that are, shall we say, not very good. But that’s because filmmakers don’t always know how to make effective use of her talents, meaning that she doesn’t always get offered the best roles. When someone gives her something to really work with, Berry is quite capable of knocking it out of the park. Her Emmy for Introducing Dorothy Dandridge and her Oscar for Monster’s Ball provide proof of that.
There aren’t enough of those films on her resume, and if we’re being honest, there are too many like Catwoman, for which the Razzies named her Worst Actress in 2005. Ever the good sport, Berry showed up to accept the award. Her tongue-in-cheek acceptance speech included an expression of thanks to her manager, of whom she said, “He loves me so much that he convinces me to do projects even when he knows that it is [garbage].” We love her for saying that, and we sincerely hope she has a new manager now.
7. Peter O’Toole
Peter O’Toole is one of the true giants of acting. He’s a venerable legend thanks to a diverse slate of great performances, including Oscar-nominated turns in Becket, The Lion in Winter, Goodbye Mr. Chips, The Ruling Class, The Stunt Man, My Favorite Year, and, of course, a little picture called Lawrence of Arabia that you may have heard of.
For all his acclaim, O’Toole got noticed by the Razzies on two separate occasions. He earned a nod as Worst Actor for 1984’s disastrous Supergirl, and another as Worst Supporting Actor for the 1986 comedy Club Paradise (O’Toole’s the sharply dressed gent at the bottom right of the picture above). The latter cast him opposite an array of comedic talent, including Robin Williams, Rick Moranis, Eugene Levy, and Andrea Martin. Even the movie’s director, the late Harold Ramis, admitted it didn’t quite turn out the way he had hoped. Still, Club Paradise isn’t that bad, and O’Toole is fine in it. Not even an unsuccessful film could make the man’s talent dissipate. Thankfully, the voters ultimately opted to give their award to Jerome Benton, for the Prince-directed Under the Cherry Moon.
6. Jack Nicholson
Has Jack Nicholson ever given an authentically terrible performance? He’s made some duds over the years, but can you think of anything he’s ever done that made you say, “This guy doesn’t know what he’s doing?” We can’t either. For some unknown reason, the Razzies thought he did that twice in 1992. They nominated him as Worst Actor for both Man Trouble and Hoffa.
It was a weird year for that category. Man Trouble was admittedly a bomb, but Nicholson got some decent notices for Hoffa, even though the film itself was met with mixed reviews. Joining him in the Worst Actor category were Kevin Costner in The Bodyguard (a huge hit) and Michael Douglas in Basic Instinct (also a big hit) as well as Shining Through. The award ended up going to a much more deserving recipient: Razzie favorite Sylvester Stallone for Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. That was a terrible performance in a terrible film. As for our guy Jack, his “sin” was apparently just making two non-commercial films in the same year.
5. Kirk Douglas
Saturn 3 is a 1980 science-fiction movie about two scientists who are terrorized by an 8-foot robot on a Saturn research base. There are many absurd things about this Alien ripoff, including the way co-star Harvey Keitel had his voice dubbed, the casting of 64-year-old acting veteran Kirk Douglas and ’70s bombshell Farrah Fawcett (who was 33 at the time) as lovers, and the manner in which the script finds gratuitous reasons for the actress to remove articles of clothing. The film was widely derided, with Douglas securing a nod as Worst Actor at the Razzies. He lost to Neil Diamond for The Jazz Singer.
This is yet another case where the actor unfairly took some of the blame for the movie itself. Saturn 3 is a hot mess, although it’s admittedly amusing in a cheesy kind of way when viewed today. The screenplay is filled with clunky dialogue, and director Stanley Donen (Singin’ in the Rain) is way out of his element making a sex- and violence-filled sci-fi adventure. Douglas clearly didn’t have a lot to work with. His efforts to inject some life into the proceedings are valiant, if unsuccessful.
4. Sandra Bullock
Who doesn’t love Sandra Bullock? No one, that’s who. She’s charming, she’s funny, and she’s crazy talented in the realms of both comedy and drama. In other words, she’s exactly the type of beloved star the Razzies love to target. And target her they did for her lead performance in the 2009 comedy, All About Steve. No matter how you slice it, this is a creepy film. Bullock plays a kooky crossword puzzle aficionado who essentially stalks a man (Bradley Cooper) after he opts not to go on a second date with her. It’s hard to make stalking funny — a fact this picture discovers the hard way.
Bullock actually won the Worst Actress award, beating out the likes of Beyonce (for Obsessed) and Miley Cyrus (for Hannah Montana: The Movie). Being the adorably lovable and humble person that she is, the actress accepted the Golden Raspberry in person. Even better, she handed out DVD copies of All About Steve to those in attendance at the ceremony. The very next night, she won a far more prestigious award: an Academy Award, for her work in The Blind Side.
3. Al Pacino
Al Pacino may be the actor most honored for great work and for terrible work. He’s been nominated for eight Academy Awards, with one win, for Scent of a Woman. (That’s right, he didn’t win for The Godfather or Dog Day Afternoon. Shocking, huh?) On the flip side, he has received four Razzie Award nominations, for Revolution, Gigli, the 2009 one-two punch of 88 Minutes and Righteous Kill, and the Adam Sandler comedy Jack and Jill, for which he won Worst Supporting Actor.
Pacino has always been a hard performer to get a grip on. He is, of course, prodigiously talented, as his best movies make crystal clear. But, especially in later years, he has shown a penchant for over-acting, often delivering broad theatrical performances that sometimes invite ridicule. In the case of Jack and Jill, his broadness fits right in, given that he plays himself and is required to romance Sandler in drag. Incidentally, the movie swept the Razzies that year, winning Worst Picture, Worst Actor (for Sandler), Worst Actress (also for Sandler), Worst Supporting Actress (for David Spade, also in drag), Worst Screen Couple, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay, Worst Screen Ensemble, and Worst Prequel, Remake, Rip-off or Sequel. We aren’t 100% sure, but we don’t think the Razzie committee liked that movie very much.
2. Diane Keaton
America fell in love with Diane Keaton after she played the title role in Woody Allen’s 1977 romantic comedy Annie Hall. She’d already gained fame as Kay Adams in The Godfather and its sequel by that time, but this was something else altogether. Men wanted to date her, women wanted to emulate her fashion style, and her character became a symbol of the modern woman. The role was nothing short of groundbreaking, and it ended up netting her an Academy Award.
Three more Oscar nominations were in Keaton’s future, as was a Razzie nod. The actress received a tip of the hat for her starring role in Because I Said So, a lame 2007 comedy that cast her as an eternally meddling mother desperate to fix up her frustrated daughter (Mandy Moore) with the right man. It’s a poorly-written picture, filled with outdated slapstick. (Keaton’s character is a cake decorator, and many of the gags involve elaborate cakes being destroyed.) That said, Keaton does exactly what the script calls on her to do; specifically, play an obnoxious, overbearing mom. Luckily for her, Lindsay Lohan made an “erotic” “thriller” called I Know Who Killed Me that year, ensuring that Keaton didn’t have to sweat a Razzie victory.
1. Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando literally changed acting. An ardent proponent of the Stanislavski method, which emphasized realism over theatricality, he blew the roof off the profession during the 1950s with intense, deeply authentic performances in A Streetcar Named Desire, The Wild One, and On the Waterfront. His status as an all-time legend was solidified in 1972, when he played Don Corleone in The Godfather and found creative uses for butter in the erotic drama, Last Tango in Paris.
Then something weird happened. Brando became known as much for his eccentric behavior, both on and off screen, as he was for his talent. His later performances were often bizarre or indicative of boredom, and directors were famously frustrated by his refusal to make conventional choices. For this reason, he landed Razzie nominations for The Formula in 1980 and Christopher Columbus: The Discovery in 1992.
All of this came to a head with 1996’s The Island of Dr. Moreau. During the production, Brando refused to learn his lines, instead relying on an assistant to feed dialogue to him through a small radio transmitter. He additionally insisted on being covered in thick white makeup for many of his scenes and, on a couple of occasions, wearing an ice bucket on his head. Perhaps needless to say, this was not his finest moment. The Razzies responded by naming him the year’s Worst Supporting Actor.
What do you think of the Razzie Awards? Do you agree with these nominations? We want to hear your thoughts in the comments.