Given the option, we imagine that most actors would choose to go out in a blaze of glory, hitting a career high, or maybe even making their best film, just prior to their death. But it usually doesn’t work out that way. Of course, bad movies happen to good actors all the time, but they don’t always get to make up for it before kicking the bucket. What’s worse, the films they would have preferred to sweep under the rug tend to gain extra notoriety on account of their…finality.
Here are 15 roles in films that acclaimed, promising, and/or beloved actors would likely prefer never to have seen the light of day. The problems run the gamut. Sometimes, these actors are quite clearly phoning it in. Very occasionally, it’s a role of which they should be utterly ashamed, or their talents were simply squandered. Often, however, their performance is the best thing about these films that are so bad, that they’re…still pretty bad. Only a few of these titles qualify for “cult” status. The rest are Rotten Tomatoed and Razzie Approved.
15. Raul Julia – Street Fighter: the Movie (1994)
Famous for classic films like Kiss of the Spider Woman and Tequila Sunrise, and beloved as Gomez Addams, Julia was already diagnosed with terminal cancer when he accepted the role of General M. Bison in this video game adaptation alongside the Muscles From Brussels. Julia reportedly took the job for his kids, who were with him on set, because they were fans of the game and wanted to see him beat up Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Bison is a power-mad drug kingpin with dreams of running his own dictatorship. A consummate professional, the award-winning actor went above and beyond to prepare for the role, studying the mannerisms of historical dictators and drug lords. He also somehow mustered the energy to do his own stunts. The film was commercially successful, but universally panned. Sadly, the inane – and occasionally homophobic – dialog and a nonsensical plot fail to do Julia’s performance justice. The actor manages to come away with his dignity intact, but the film is an unequivocal stinker.
14. Gene Kelly – Xanadu (1980)
Olivia Newton John’s 1980 roller-skating musical fantasy was so bad that it inspired the creation of the Golden Raspberry Awards (aka The Razzies). Olivia plays Kira, a Grecian muse who comes to Earth periodically to inspire artists. Gene Kelly is Danny McGuire, a washed up big band leader who changed careers after he lost his own muse in the 1940s. Kira’s magic powers inspire Danny, along with Swan from The Warriors, to open a roller disco.
You might think this idea would call her career aptitude into question, but they enthusiastically comply. At least Kelly gets the best scene, dancing old school alongside Olivia and some ghost musicians. But the rest of the film is a beautiful disaster. A famous Esquire review quipped, “In a word, Xana-don’t”. Kelly was also aware of the film’s flaws, saying, “The concept was marvelous, but it just didn’t come off.” The film legend died two years after its release, though he might have changed his tune had he known the cult favorite it would become.