Marvel has spent the last decade killing the movie game, and much of that credit undoubtedly goes to its cast. Whether they’re resurrecting former stars (Robert Downey, Jr., Samuel L. Jackson), elevating mid-tier performers (Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth), or iconizing veteran actors (Tom Hiddleston, Paul Rudd), it’s been nothing but courtside swishes for a studio still on the rise. Even when missteps or ill-fitting hires don’t pan out (sorry Edward Norton), Marvel manages to flip it into a smoothed-over strength moving forward (hey Mark Ruffalo). As a result, the staff they’ve accumulated over eight years of action has proven tough to match for franchises on the rise.
But, no matter how talented a posse of performers can be, everyone’s got a nice sour lemon in their resume. That towering achievement devoid of quality, begging to be lambasted by critics and the casual consumer alike. That’s where this list comes in. Captain America: Civil War is bound to be a high water mark for nearly everyone involved, so it seems like an excellent time to highlight the bottom of each participant’s respective barrel.
Here are 15 Marvel Actors’ Worst Movies.
15. Samuel L. Jackson – Kite (2014)
Mr. “Five-Movies-A-Year” Jackson has put together quite the collection of classics in his forty years on camera. Unfortunately, the flip side to such a prolific coin is that one’s bound to run into some world class stinkers, as is the case with this Academy Award nominee. Landing opposite Pulp Fiction (1994) and Unbreakable (2000) on the quality spectrum are any number of crappy releases over the last few decades — stuff like Strictly Business (1991), Sphere (1998), and Twisted (2004). But the eye-patched commander’s worst onscreen award goes to Kite, a 2014 flick that puts new perspective on poorly paced cinema.
Based on the 1999 anime of the same name, Kite spins the controversial tale of an orphaned schoolgirl turned sex slave/assassin. It’s predictably slathered in tasteless tones, with death scenes way past the definition of gory and a twist ending that’s asinine in execution. Jackson, playing a rogue cop who dresses like Nick Fury’s stunt double, waltzes through this lazy affair with complete disinterest — seemingly more intrigued by what he’ll do with his paycheck than the final product. Can’t say we blame him.
14. Sebastian Stan – The Covenant (2006)
Though his screen career has been relatively short, The Winter Soldier has built up quite the portfolio of appearances: Rachel Getting Married (2008), Black Swan (2010), and The Martian (2015) being among his best stuff. Sadly, not even a bionic-armed Bucky could save Sebastian Stan from the embarrassment that was 2006’s The Covenant. An amateur mashup of The Lost Boys and One Tree Hill, the film finds a group of supernaturally blessed teens who are the descendants of Puritan witchcraft. Kept secret for centuries, the death of a friend at a local house party threatens to break the silence and destroy everything they know to be true.
It’s bad. The Covenant is a film so mired in WB-style kitsch that every frat boy standoff, expository bit of dialogue, and bad special effect only add to the hilariously unintentional humor. Playing opposite wooden performers Taylor Kitsch, Steven Strait, and Toby Hemingway, Stan is cast for his chiseled jaw and little else. It’s clear that there was more talent to be purged in later appearances, but Cap’s best pal does one hell of a job hiding it here.
13. Tom Hiddleston – I Saw The Light (2016)
A proverbial candidate for ‘internet’s favorite celebrity,’ Tom Hiddleston took off after his star-making turn in 2011’s Thor. In that time, he’s portrayed everything from a con man (Crimson Peak) and a captain (War Horse) to the undead (Only Lovers Left Alive) and F. Scott Fitzgerald (Midnight in Paris). When it came time to cast iconic country singer Hank Williams, the witty Brit seemed an unconventional, albeit excellent choice for the part. But even with commendable commitment and impressive vocal skills, 2016’s I Saw The Light fell flat for fans hoping to see movie magic along the lines of the 2007 Johnny Cash biopic, Walk The Line.
The Loki actor goes all in as Williams, playing opposite onscreen wife (and MCU playmate) Elizabeth Olsen. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the pieces simply refuse to come together over the course of its two hour runtime. Instead, I Saw The Light too often treads into melodramatic territory, playing up the cliches of country without going beyond surface level readings of the famed performer. Not the worst film on here by a long shot, but still pretty darn bad.
12. Elizabeth Olsen – Very Good Girls (2014)
Playing opposite Dakota Fanning, Elizabeth Olsen’s turn in 2014’s Very Good Girls is a tough watch. She and Fanning play lifelong friends who get to spend one last summer together in New York before heading off to college. Both take an oath to lose their virginity, an excitable goal made problematic when they fall for the same artistic hunk (Boyd Holbrook) with little to no flaws. Naturally, bonds are tested, and a predictable array of romantic rules are followed in this limp outing from director Naomi Foner, who had previously been up for an Oscar with 1988’s Running on Empty.
As Gerri, Olsen’s outwardly infatuated teen is a hollow ball of ticks and business. Little is provided to differentiate her from Fanning’s Lily, and the results are hazy to say the least. The actress’ singular charm provides a little respite in this desert of dorkiness, but it’s feeble in comparison to prior outings Silent House (2011) and Liberal Arts (2012). If only there was a spell to eradicate such awkward attempts at hipness. Where’s Scarlet Witch when you need her?
11. Don Cheadle – After The Sunset (2004)
Don Cheadle has forged a career on playing the intense guy in films like Traffic (2000) and Hotel Rwanda (2004). His piercing eyes and presence onscreen have served the role of supporting actor (and War Machine) well, be it comedy (Ocean’s Eleven), drama (Crash), or a thorough blend of both (Out of Sight). And then there’s After The Sunset. Released right in the thick of Cheadle-mania, this toothless action thriller plays like a James Bond flick utterly stripped of charisma, swapping out nuance for a heap of nonsensical muck.
Starring Pierce Brosnan in the underwhelming role of Max “The King of Alibis” Burdett, Sunset really tested the devotion of Ian Fleming fans post-Die Another Day (2002). Cheadle pops in to play a foreign billionaire who hires Burdett to pilfer a priceless jewel, and the role is laughably out of step for the stern performer. Not only do viewers have to bear with Cheadle’s bad accent for the duration of his time onscreen, but the wasted efforts of Woody Harrelson and Salma Hayek fail to make matters much better. This definitely won’t be getting an anniversary reissue anytime soon.
10. Paul Bettany – Mortdecai (2015)
Don’t get it twisted, Paul Bettany has been in some bad movies. Firewall (2006), Legion (2010), Priest (2011), the list goes on and on — though 2015’s Mortdecai shoves all potential candidates to the end of the line with startling ease. This witless comedy, about an art dealer (Johnny Depp) forced to dodge bad guys while in the pursuit of a priceless painting, is just plain dumb. There isn’t a single moment that comes with genuine humor, while the film’s incessant amusement with it’s own idiocy is downright frustrating.
The cast is somehow star-studded, with Depp, Ewan McGregor, Olivia Munn, Jeff Goldblum and fellow Tony Stark affiliate Gwyneth Paltrow all diving to new career lows. Bettany may possess nigh-unlimited power as Vision, but this sad attempt at Wes Anderson oddity permanently proves the actor wields no such ability in his own career. If still unconvinced, the character he plays in the film is named Jock Strapp. Yep, like a jock strap. Skip this one like your life depends on it.
9. Chris Pratt – Movie 43 (2013)
The jam-packed casts continue with Movie 43, an irreverent anthology of sketches that achieve little outside of wasting their talent’s time. Celebrities who pop up include Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Richard Gere, Uma Thurman, Gerard Butler, and one Star Lord aka Chris Pratt. Appearing opposite wife Anna Faris, the lovable couple proceed to stink up the joint (no pun intended) as a rocky relationship salvaged through…coprophilia. If unsure what this affliction is, look it up at your own peril. To make a gross story short, it’s nasty fun that’s light on the fun, an uncomfortably odd display that would surely bomb on MadTV, let alone a feature length film.
The rest of Movie 43 follows suit, with laughter becoming so scarce that when it does happen, it seems almost accidental. Pratt and Faris swung for the fe(n)ces in this lowbrow affair, and they can at least find solace in the fact that everyone from Chloe Grace Moretz to Naomi Watts flopped just as bad. But with two franchises in the bag and The Magnificent Seven and Passengers on the way, Pratt looks as though he’s learned his lesson.
8. Anthony Mackie – Crossover (2006)
Remember Anthony Mackie in 8 Mile (2002)? Long before he donned Falcon wings and kicked it with Cap, the New Orleans actor was best known as Clarence, the guy who got thoroughly served by Eminem onstage. This was still Mackie’s claim to fame by 2006, when a starring role in the basketball drama Crossover flopped harder than Shaq taking a courtside spill. The young actor plays Tech, a talented player who joins forces with Up (Lil’ JJ) in traveling to Los Angeles while girls, GED’s, and personal agendas come into play.
Crossover is a disaster. It’s embarrassingly bad, to the point where typically astute critic Richard Roeper went on record to say: “I hated this movie. It’s a piece of junk.” He wasn’t exaggerating either — this thing is filled to the brim with halting delivery, poor pacing, and dialogue that’s not believable no matter where you’re from. Mackie’s charm shines through, with hints of where his wise-cracking Falcon would eventually go, but it’s thoroughly buried beneath the black tar of this lame court. An airball for the ages.
7. Jeremy Renner – National Lampoon’s Senior Trip (1995)
A textbook example of where the National Lampoon’s brand went after the ’80s. With no Belushi nor Chevy Chase in sight, the comedic staple became a sad remembrance of past glory, with crap like Senior Trip shamelessly squeezing whatever commercial success was left. And judging by the tepid response to this 1995 clunker, the well was bone dry. The plot is outlandish per usual, as deadbeat students write a letter to the President that gets them invited to the White House, setting in motion a series of shenanigans and wit worthy of a bad fart joke.
In fact, the only point of interest Senior Trip might hold for modern fans is getting to spot Jeremy Renner in his film debut. The Hawkeye actor, all of 24 years old, plays the hell out of dumb slacker Mark “Dags” D’Agostino, a dude buried beneath Axl Rose earrings and a Kurt Cobain flannel. Keep in mind, this movie is grade-A trash, with a barren landscape of gags and over-the-top encounters to keep its pace limping ahead. Renner, sans bow and arrow, can’t even come close to saving viewers from this National Lampoon’s abomination.
6. Scarlett Johansson – The Spirit (2008)
The busy actress has made many a flop in her career, dating all the way back to historically mocked fare like North (1994) and Fall (1997). But these films, while terrible, featured Johansson in minimal parts, leaving these selections to be a little unfair in the larger scheme of things. As such, we’ve decided to toss the mantle of most moronic movie to The Spirit, a project that features the red-headed actress front and center. Adapted from Will Eisner’s iconic comic strip, the Frank Miller film sunk like a mortar brick in 2008, with critique coming in every shape and size.
Roger Ebert clowned the film’s acting in particular, explaining that “to call the characters cardboard is to insult a useful packing material.” Harsh words, but accurate given the poor taste that went into the project’s completion. Johansson, as an assistant to S.H.I.E.L.D alumni Samuel L. Jackson’s character, plays sultry femme fatale Silken Floss. Don’t worry, the role is written as one-dimensional as possible, aided by the overt sexism that Miller doles out to Johansson, Eva Mendes, and Sarah Paulson. Black Widow wouldn’t be having any of it.
5. Paul Rudd – Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)
By 1995, no one cared about the Halloween franchise anymore. It hadn’t been relevant for over a decade, though the steady stream of financial profit ensured the studio would continue to crank them out. This sad state of affairs hit a particularly low point with the sixth installment, intended to tie things back to the original by including Dr. Loomis (Donald Pleasance) and Tommy Doyle, the little boy from the first film. Now a full grown adult played by Paul Rudd, Tommy has become obsessed with Michael Myers, and seeks out the cause of his murderous ways when the titular boogeyman shows up to have some fun.
Much to the chagrin of fans, Michael might be the only one having it here. Halloween 6 commits the cardinal sin of being generic, following the slasher rulebook so closely it’s shocking. Pleasance is a corny pleasure in his final film, though the try-hard efforts of future Ant-Man Rudd are just plain old silly. There was still plenty of work to be done before the comedian honed his onscreen persona, and this showcase is the middle school yearbook that no one ever needs to see again.
4. Mark Ruffalo – View From The Top (2003)
Even though Mark Ruffalo is typically terrific, he’s susceptible to the surefire dud that most would pay to wipe from their IMDB page. The nebbish performer has a few flops up for contention, among them agonizing dramas The Dentist (1996) and All The King’s Men (2006), though to play the Johansson card, the selection must make more than moderate use of its Avenger. As such, the pick for this list is rom-com debacle View From The Top.
Enlisting a cast of Gwyneth Paltrow, Christina Applegate, Robe Lowe, and Mike Myers, View is a clinic in how romantic comedies can go wrong. Idiotic pacing, flaccid characters, and editing that borders on the incoherent, the film feels like a cinematic slap in the face with a wet fish. Joining in on the non-fun is Ruffalo, playing Paltrow’s love interest and an hombre as clueless as the rest of this merry band of airheads. Arriving only a year before his breakout appearance in 13 Going on 30, it was a marked low point for this Hulk of an actor.
3. Chris Hemsworth – Red Dawn (2012)
The original Red Dawn (1984) is a terrific cult action film, driven by a crop of young actors that included Patrick Swayze, Charlie Sheen, C. Thomas Howell, and Lea Thompson. Though its subject matter was controversial enough to blacklist writer/director John Milius, the enormous success spoke volumes as to the quality of the project. Flash forward a few decades, and Hollywood has the not-so-bright idea of refurbishing Dawn for the modern age. Swap out the Russians for North Korea, and the results should be the same, right?
Wrong. This movie is a train wreck that proves karma is alive and well in the movie business. Long gone is the tantalizing touch of Milius, and in it’s place is a boring display of predictable action. Chris Hemsworth only makes matters worse, as the Asgardian hero comes off a lot less convincing without a hammer in his hand. Paling in comparison to Swayze, the crucial role of Jed Eckert requires a depth that Hemsworth is simply unable to replicate in his performance. Just don’t watch the movie, and everyone, including Thor here, will be a lot better off.
2. Chris Evans – London (2006)
Being pretentious is never something to associate with Captain America, making this eye roll of an indie drama all the more ironic. Chris Evans, everyone’s favorite boy scout, turns out to be the driving force behind London, a 2006 drama co-starring Jessica Biel, Jason Statham, Kat Dennings and Dane Cook. Employing the use of a party as metaphor for wasted opportunity, this self-aware serving of angst is pure nonsense from the get-go. It’s blatantly obvious from the names involved that talent is in flux, though the heavy-handed idealizing of the story keeps any connections with the audience to a minimum.
Evans, playing lovelorn loser Syd, sinks right into this ball of early adulthood and the results are rather pathetic. Much of London’s runtime feels as though it were a lengthy acting exercise as opposed to a thought out drama, and the utter nonsense behind its final moments is so flighty in meaning, it’s downright upsetting. Take the advice of Roeper on this one: “you should avoid it like a bad case of whooping cough.”
1. Robert Downey, Jr. – Johnny Be Good (1988)
Paul Gleason is hilarious in this movie, he really is. As a coaching counterpart to the assistant principal in The Breakfast Club (1985), he provides the only beacon of light in Johnny Be Good, an otherwise ridiculous ’80s comedy. To put things in perspective, Anthony Michael Hall, who so convincingly played the nerd a few years prior, was now presented as the big man on campus, snagging ladies and football scholarships with ease. Um…no? The jump just doesn’t work here, and a script built around a running joke only furthers the lack of laughs scattered over this eternal 90 minutes.
Uma Thurman pops up as youthful eye candy, but it’s RDJ’s appearance that really pushes this thing into WTF territory. Playing Hall’s best pal and the closest thing ever to a human Looney Toon, his off-the-wall ramblings are downright confusing opposite the jock’s gawky machismo. And that’s just the first half; things go down quicker than an olympic diver on the latter part of the picture, no doubt aided by Downey’s motormouthed madness. It’s a move no one ever talks about anymore, and if ever graced with it’s presence, you’ll understand why.
What’s your least favorite movie starring a Marvel hero? Sound off in the comments section.