The Oscars honor the most talented people within the filmmaking industry. Even though it’s a mostly subjective award ceremony, there’s usually no denying the talent from most nominees. Still, the Oscars don’t have the ability to steer its winners away from poor career choices, and sometimes, some actors end up starring in the worst films of their careers just after taking home an Academy Award.
Some actors — talented though they may be — have taken all the wrong kind of chances after winning an Oscar. Instead of creatively capitalizing on their exposure, they took on roles that belonged to films that shouldn’t have even existed in the first place. So, instead of brushing these “gems” under the rug and forgetting about them forever, take a look at the 15 Worst Films That Actors Have Starred In After Winning An Oscar.
15. Halle Berry – Catwoman
When Halle Berry won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, it was a big deal. Not only was Monster’s Ball a raw and complicated role, but by winning the award, Berry made history. She was the first black woman to ever win an Oscar in that category (and is still the only black woman to ever win).
Sadly, the career that followed did not exactly do her talents any justice. Clearly wanting to have a bit of fun, she took the lead in 2005’s Catwoman, which ultimately turned out to be one of the worst career choices any actress in the history of motion pictures has ever made. Not only is Catwoman unwatchable, it’s both offensive to the source material, as well as to Berry herself. The fact that this film was ever made is completely indefensible.
14. Reese Witherspoon – Penelope
Walk the Line was a Johnny Cash biopic, but it was Reese Witherspoon as Johnny’s wife June who truly stole the show. In fact, her performance was so revered that she went on to win an Oscar for it. Since then, she’s done some fine work, but the direction she took her career in directly after winning the Oscar was a strange one.
She could have taken any role she wanted, but instead, she chose Penelope, the “Christina Ricci has a pig nose” movie that no one ever saw. Charming though it might have been to see Witherspoon take on a humorous secondary role in a romantic comedy, she could have chosen better. It doesn’t matter if the film had heart or if the performances weren’t terrible — Penelope isn’t just a bad movie, it’s the antithesis of the sort of movie an actor should ever even consider starring in following an Oscar win. This was just a bad idea.
13. Jennifer Lawrence – Serena
When Jennifer Lawrence showed up in Hollywood, she channeled David Bowie and pulled a solid “Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am,” not only earning herself an Oscar nomination when she was twenty-years-old, but winning only two years later. Between her critical status, as well as her worldwide star power from the Hunger Games series, Lawrence has quickly become untouchable Hollywood royalty.
Still, that doesn’t make her impervious to making poor choices. While her career was still in the midst of being a firework display that no one could take their eyes off of, she starred opposite Bradley Cooper for the third time since her Oscar-winning performance in Silver Lining’s Playbook and her Oscar-nominated performance in American Hustle — in a film adaptation called Serena. On the surface, it seemed like more Oscar bait, but in reality, it turned out to be a boring, sloppily-made waste of a film. It’s easily Lawrence’s worst cinematic outing to date.
12. Roberto Benigni – Pinocchio
Roberto Benigni is a national treasure in Italy, and for good reason. Between films like The Monster and Life is Beautiful (which he took home an Oscar for in the Best Actor in a Leading Role category), he’s proven how talented he is several times over. Directing yourself isn’t as easy as it sounds, but Benigni has proven his abilities in spades.
Sadly, the magic didn’t last after he won an Oscar, even though magic was precisely what he was trying to channel with his follow-up film, Pinocchio. It certainly had the potential to be as much of a masterpiece as Life is Beautiful was, but he sadly missed the mark. By a lot.
11. Helen Mirren – National Treasure: Book Of Secrets
Actors taking on big-budget movies after winning an Oscar seems to be a popular trend. It’s not always a particularly positive trend, but it’s a trend all the same. Clearly, after months of campaigning, they just want to have a little fun (and perhaps make a pretty penny in the process).
Helen Mirren did this with National Treasure: Book of Secrets, but it would have have been great if she hadn’t. The first film was fun, at best, but also just as unnecessary as its sequel. A better franchise exists for these films in some alternate universe, but that doesn’t mean it deserves the company of the Queen herself. While taking on roles in big-budget movies helps actors afford to be more creative with their acting choices, Mirren deserved better.
10. Nicolas Cage – Con Air
Is Nicolas Cage one of the worst or best actors alive? You watch him in something like Adaptation or Raising Arizona, and you see brilliance, but then you watch him in something like Moonstruck or The Wicker Man, and you very much don’t. Nicolas Cage is an enigma like no other, which probably has a lot to do with why so many people are so fascinated by him.
Still, he proved his acting abilities by winning the Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas — a high that didn’t end up lasting very long. He followed that win with a string of action blockbusters, and one of those explosion-fests was Con Air. You may have fond of memories of this film as being one of his more “normal” career choices, but don’t let your memory fool you. Con Air is far from normal. The hair and accent combo alone will throw you for a serious loop.
9. Natalie Portman – Your Highness
There have been some solid stoner comedies over the years. Between films like Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle and Pineapple Express, the stoner sub-genre isn’t half-bad, and it’s often a great place to look for some simple laughs. Every film genre has its dumpster fires, and stoner comedies are definitely no exception.
When James Franco and Danny McBride were at the forefront of herb-induced cinema in the late 2000s, they tripped over their own successes with their Medieval comedy, Your Highness, and for some reason, Natalie Portman thought it would be a good idea to tag along. After just won an Academy Award for Black Swan, Portman didn’t need to prove herself to anyone. She was already a huge success. We applaud her attempt to step outside her comfort zone, but it’s hard to see how anyone could think signing on for a film like Your Highness would be a good idea. You’re smarter than that, Nat!
8. Adrien Brody – The Village
Adrien Brody has disappeared, or at least, it definitely feels that way sometimes. Seriously, where’d this guy go? Even though he’s still working today, Brody doesn’t seem to have the kind of presence in Hollywood that his talent deserves. He’s turned in solid roles in films like King Kong and The Darjeeling Limited, but he doesn’t leave as solid an impression as he ought to. And maybe he can thank The Village for that.
Borderline abhorred for its disappointing ending, The Village signaled a turning point for writer/director M. Night Shyamalan. In a way, his entire career can be split in two, as the pre-Village rise to stardom and the post-Village circling of the drain. Brody does his best in the role (even though the casual moviegoer might define this as “over-acting”), but it’s just not very good.
7. Kate Winslet – Movie 43
Kate Winslet can do no wrong. Right? While it’d be nice to think so, Winslet, like any other actor, has flaws. She makes mistakes. After starring in the one-two punch that was Revolutionary Road and The Reader (the latter of which won her an Academy Award), she didn’t take the wisest route for her career. Instead, she showed up in a supporting role in the legendarily awful anthology comedy, Movie 43. Yeah…
In her scene, she stars alongside Hugh Jackman, which is some great casting if there ever was any. The problem, however, is the fact that Jackman’s character literally has testicles hanging from his neck. The rest of the sketches in the film aren’t any better, and the entire cast (not only Winslet) owe their fans an explanation for signing on to appear in a film that ranks among the worst ever made.
And really — actual testicles.
6. Shirley MacLaine – Cannonball Run II
Shirley MacLaine is a legend, and when she’s screaming through the hospital in Terms of Endearment so that someone will please give her dying daughter some pain meds, it’s plain to see why. That said, it doesn’t matter how talented you are — no one gets away with starring in the sequel to Cannonball Run. Not even Shirley MacLaine.
Nevertheless, that’s exactly what happened, and even though it didn’t necessarily ruin her career by any means, it hardly helped. Cannonball Run II is a weak excuse for a comedy, and it doesn’t matter what sort of talent might have been involved. There are comedy franchises that stand the test of time (National Lampoon’s Vacation comes to mind), but Cannonball Run is not one of them.
5. Michael Douglas – Black Rain
Michael Douglas’ career is certainly an interesting one. He has various spikes, and then sudden lows, but he’s still considered one of the best all the same. His most iconic work just so happened to be the role he won an Oscar for (Wall Street), and from there on, he could have done just about anything with his career. Why he chose Black Rain, however, is anyone’s guess.
After suiting up in corporate getups during his time on Wall Street, he clearly wanted to break free; it’s just a shame that he chose to cut loose in such a mediocre film. It’s from Ridley Scott, and it’s the kind of film that a critic might associate with “high-octane action!” but it just doesn’t work. Michael Douglas and Ridley Scott seem like they should be a recipe for nothing but success, but unfortunately, that’s not what they ended up with here.
4. Hilary Swank – The Reaping
The horror industry doesn’t have the best critical reputation, but every so often, a solid fright flick shines through. Some even rest on the shoulders of Oscar winners (The Exorcist, The Silence of the Lambs), so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise if an actor wanted to give the enduringly popular genre a spin after winning an Academy Award. It’s certainly not the safest move, but surprises happen every day, right?
Sadly, The Reaping was not one of those surprises. Sitting at a savage 8% on Rotten Tomatoes (which it undoubtedly deserves), The Reaping is like potent horror repellent, and the only truly scary component in the film is the fact that Hilary Swank’s career might never recover. You’re a two-time Academy Award winner, HS, but that doesn’t make it okay to star in movies like this, no matter how confident you might have been feeling.
3. Sally Field – Smokey And The Bandits II
Another two-time Academy Award winner, Sally Field can do no wrong. Well, theoretically, at least. After winning Oscar gold for the first time with her work in Norma Rae, Field returned to the world of Smokey and the Bandit for the sequel, proving once again on this list that quite a few Burt Reynolds outings simply aren’t very good, even with that glorious stache.
As for Sally Field, she’s forgiven on account of being Sally Field, but it still makes us wonder why she ever thought this would be a good idea. “Contractual obligation” is the only acceptable response. Field would still go on to win another Oscar, so it’s not as though this film ruined her career. But still… it leaves a significantly sour taste in one’s mouth, and it’s simply a film that doesn’t need to exist.
2. Dustin Hoffman – Family Business
Remember that time Dustin Hoffman won an Oscar for Rain Man, and then followed it up with the crime drama, Family Business? No? Well, rest assured in the fact that you’re not alone.
Family Business exists in a unique film category that accepts only the most underwhelming wastes of movies in existence. By all means, attempts to make this film work were definitely made, and the talent involved was nothing to scoff at (Sean Connery and Dustin Hoffman in a film by Sidney Lumet ought to have been a recipe for pure gold), but it unfortunately turned out to be nothing but a waste of time and a huge disappointment.
Hoffman so rarely lets us down that it’s hard to see what sort of spell he could have been under that made him think that starring in this movie was a good idea. Perhaps it’s Lumet that really deserves most of the blame, but considering that Hoffman just delivered career-best work with Rain Man, this one’s just a bit of a head-scratcher across the board.
1. Jared Leto – Suicide Squad
Speaking of head-scratchers, what the hell happened here? How did this all go wrong? Suicide Squad, in theory, had the makings for a brilliant anti-superhero film. It could have turned the genre on its head. It could have entertained audiences into a new wave of antihero action films. And with Jared Leto as the Joker, it could have stood the chance of giving Heath Ledger’s legendary take on the Clown Prince of Crime a run for his money. Sadly, that isn’t what happened at all.
Suicide Squad turned out to be a massive creative failure, and Leto, especially, was the crowning achievement in its embarrassing shortcomings. Despite deserving every ounce of gold on his Oscar statuette for his role in Dallas Buyer’s Club, playing the Joker may have been in his cards, but that doesn’t mean it should have been.
Perhaps expectations were just too high less than a decade post-Ledger (valid). Perhaps we just didn’t see enough of Leto’s work, considering the rumors that his role was torn to ribbons in post-production (very valid). Perhaps a grill and a forehead tattoo that literally reads “DAMAGED” were poor aesthetic choices (the most valid). Regardless of what you think, most can probably agree that it’s time to just give the Joker a rest. Hollywood can have another go with him once they’ve stopped and thought about what they’ve done.
What other actors followed up Oscar wins with Razzie contenders? Let us know in the comments.