Although it seems like a lot of movies are a terrible, doomed idea from the start, the truth is that nobody really sets out to make an awful movie. There is far too much time, money, and energy that goes into making a movie for a group of people– sometimes thousands of them– to deliberately make a bad one. The actors who actually take their craft seriously and don’t just treat making movies as a way to pay for their mansions tend to avoid signing on to films that don’t look promising. That becomes apparent when the actors that are often considered among the best have a relatively small number of duds in their filmography.
For a movie to get a rating of 0% rotten on Rotten Tomatoes is a rare feat. That essentially means that there isn’t a single published review of that movie that goes to bat for it in any way. Many of the movies that are frequently considered the worst of all time— Gigli, Battlefield Earth, Freddie Got Fingered, Howard the Duck, Showgirls, etc — managed to avoid getting 0% by having at least a few critics willing to say positive things about them. When a movie by a major studio and/or featuring stars A-list talent is so bad that it pulls a 0%, that’s a special kind of awful.
Here are 15 Amazing Actors Who Starred in 0% Rotten Movies.
15. Jared Leto – Basil
Jared Leto has come be known as an actor who seems to choose roles that interest and/or challenge him rather than roles in movies that are guaranteed to be any good in and of themselves. Like any actor on such a path, there are as many hits as there are misses, which is par for the course when you approach your career that way.
In the late-90s, Leto was still struggling to distance himself from his role on My So-Called Life and the teen heartthrob status that it earned him. Like many actors who are trying to wade into serious, respectable films, Leto signed on to do a period piece with 1998’s Basil. It’s generally a smart move, but unfortunately, Basil didn’t end up being the Oscar bait that Leto was probably looking for.
Critics panned the movie, and while it didn’t do any favors for the careers of co-stars Christian Slater or Claire Forlani, Leto was quick to bounce back with breakthrough roles in two critically-acclaimed movies the following year: Girl, Interrupted and Fight Club.
14. Patrick Stewart – Christmas Eve
In 2010, director Garry Marshall hit on the formula of using his clout to gather a bunch of big-name stars, putting them together in a movie of loosely-connected narratives, and basing it all around a holiday. After the success of Valentine’s Day, the director followed up with New Year’s Eve and Mother’s Day. While none of his “holiday trilogy” won over critics, most at least accepted the movies for what they were.
The same can’t be said for writer/director Mitch Davis’ 2015 attempt to rip off Marshall’s formula, Christmas Eve. The movie got a 0% score on Rotten Tomatoes and, unlike Marshall’s films, was also a major flop at the box office. While the movie rounded up some decent comedic talent with the likes of Cheryl Hines and Gary Cole, it was the great Patrick Stewart’s appearance that was the most shocking.
Sure, Stewart is getting older and is clearly at a point where he’s willing to just have fun and do silly movies when he wants to, knowing his legacy can’t really be tainted. There just seems to be so many better options than being in a movie this bad.
13. Leonardo DiCaprio – Critters 3
With Leonardo DiCaprio already starring in indie films like What’s Eating Gilbert Grape while he was still a teenager, it’s easy to assume that the actor never really had the typical rough “early period” that most actors have to go through. Most people are vaguely aware that DiCaprio was on a few TV shows as a youngster before quickly evolving into a smart, choosy actor who would eventually be Martin Scorcese’s go-to guy and that’s about it.
DiCaprio’s first feature film, predating even his stint on the series Growing Pains, was in the direct-to-video sequel Critters 3. DiCaprio was only 17 when he made the movie. Let’s be real: most of us are embarrassed by pretty much everything we did at 17, so it’s hard to fault DiCaprio for having made such a questionable choice.
Still, it’s because the actor has developed a reputation for hitting a home run just about every time out, being nominated for a million awards any time he’s in something, that it especially jarring for him to have such a horrendously bad movie in his past.
12. Denzel Washington – Heart Condition
After the success of 48 Hours, the buddy cop comedy genre exploded. Fr every Lethal Weapon, there were about a dozen Heart Conditions; movies that tried unsuccessfully to replicate the formula of two wildly different guys– at least one of them is always a cop– who are forced to work together for some contrived reason.
Denzel Washington was still considered an up-and-coming movie actor in 1990, largely known for his stint on the TV medical drama St. Elsewhere. While he had already won an Oscar for his role in 1989’s Glory, he was still trying to figure out exactly what type of career he was going to have. Legend has it that it was his then-agent who convinced him to try his hand at comedy by teaming with Bob Hoskins on Heart Condition.
The experience and subsequent critical and commercial massacre of the movie not only led to Washington firing that agent, but largely shying away from comedies for the rest of his career. He wouldn’t do another action comedy for 23 years, until the 2013 movie 2 Guns with Mark Walhberg.
11. Alison Janney – A Thousand Words
Though Eddie Murphy has made a lot of bad movies in his career, there is no denying that he is a skilled comedian whose ability to deliver funny dialogue is almost unrivaled. Making a movie built around Murphy not being able to speak makes as much sense as putting Dwayne Johnson in a movie where he never wears sleeveless shirts.
The other major red flag with A Thousand Words is the fact that principal photography wrapped in 2008, but was then followed by re-shoots a whopping three years later, with the movie not being released until 2012. Seldom is a movie delayed for four years – unless the people behind it aren’t in a big rush to have it be seen.
The ever-busy Allison Janney released nine other films in the time between A Thousand Words‘ filming and its release, including the highly acclaimed The Help– and also found time for an award-winning role in the Broadway musical 9 to 5. Janney probably forget about this movie just as quickly as the rest of us.
10. Jeff Bridges – 8 Million Ways to Die
Jeff Bridges has managed to keep his batting average pretty high for such a prolific actor, maintaining a fair amount of quality within that massive quantity of 70+ films. Beyond that, once you’ve created a character as iconic and enduring as The Big Lebowski‘s Dude and you were the first major villain in the MCU, people aren’t going to pay much attention to the darker corners of your filmography.
The biggest blemish on Bridges’ legacy is his headlining role in the 1986 action movie 8 Million Ways to Die. Co-starring with Andy Garcia in his first leading role, Bridges had plenty of reason to be optimistic about 8 Million. It was being directed by Oscar winner Hal Ashby (Being There, Shampoo) and was co-written by a still red-hot Oliver Stone. But it was also made during a time when Ashby was on a streak of high-profile box office disappointments and stories of difficult behavior on set.
9. Robert Downey, Jr. – Johnny Be Good
While RDJ is sometimes lumped in as a member of the Brat Pack of the 1980s due to his role in Weird Science, it perhaps does him a disservice to associate him with lighthearted teen comedies as the actor was making heavy movies like Less Than Zero during that time as well. He further continued to distance himself from John Hughes-style movies into the ’90s with roles in films like Natural Born Killers and his Oscar-nominated turn as Charlie Chaplin.
However, RDJ also has the unfortunate distinction of starring in one of the worst-reviewed movies of the entire decade: 1988’s Johnny Be Good. The movie also didn’t do any favors for Anthony Michael Hall, Uma Thurman, and Jennifer Tilly.
Johnny Be Good did team RDJ with his dad in one of only two times that the father/son duo acted together in a film– the other, 1994’s Hail Caesar, unfortunately wasn’t much better, and unfortunately also starred Anthony Michael Hall. Also the less said about the film’s use of a Judas Priest cover of the Chuck Berry classic that served as the inspiration for the film’s title, the better.
8. Laurence Olivier – Inchon
The early-80s saw some of the most troubled productions-turned-massive box office flops in Hollywood history, including Krull, Heaven’s Gate, and the war epic Inchon. Previously best-known for his work in early 007 films, Terence Young was at the helm of the ambitious Inchon. The film starred legendary actor Laurence Olivier, who had been turning in Oscar-nominated performances since the 1930s.
Production of Inchon was as bizarre as it was troubled. The movie was financed almost entirely by the South Korea-based Unification Church, and a psychic was called in to communicate with the deceased General MacArthur to make sure he approved of the film– turns out he totally did! In terms of problems, one of the stars developed laryngitis, a typhoon wrecked a huge portion of the set, and a cast member died, leading to extensive and costly re-shoots.
As it often seems to go with such troubled productions, the final product was hardly worth all the problems, and Inchon was a dismal failure with critics and audiences. It probably didn’t do much to tarnish the storied legacy of Olivier, but it had to feel like a personal disappointment and a lot of wasted time and effort for the then-74 year old actor.
7. George Clooney – Return of the Killer Tomatoes!
Few of Hollywood’s current A-listers can claim to have paid their dues prior to superstardom more thoroughly than George Clooney. Even before his breakthrough role on TV’s ER, Clooney was grinding it out, learning his craft, and making connections going all the way back to a 1978 role in a TV miniseries.
During the ’80s, Clooney also put in his time in campy horror movies, including Return to Horror High, Grizzly II: The Predator (unreleased), and Return of the Killer Tomatoes!, a follow-up to the 1978 cult classic Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Clooney at least appeared to be having fun while making the dreadful fruit-based horror sequel, already having that trademark charm and smile well in hand.
People wondered how his career still flourished despite the travesty that was Batman & Robin— well, that might be because that wasn’t even his worst movie, not by a long shot. If the killer tomatoes couldn’t keep Clooney down, Mr. Freeze wasn’t going to be able to.
6. Kathy Bates – You May Not Kiss The Bride
When you first saw Kathy Bates’ name on this list, you might have went straight to The Waterboy when trying to guess what her 0% rotten movie was. Well, although that isn’t the one– The Waterboy has a surprisingly high 35% on Rotten Tomatoes– there is still a Happy Madison footprint on You May Not Kiss the Bride by way of co-star Rob Schneider. So see, you weren’t too far off.
Bride sees the great Kathy Bates slumming it in a horrid romantic comedy headlined by Dave Annable from Brothers & Sisters and American Idol alum Katherine McPhee. The cast also includes Tia Carrere and Vinnie Jones. Among the “hilarious” scenes in this movie are Tia Carrere crashing a helicopter when a scorpion falls into her cleavage, and a misunderstanding involving a condom and an unmade bed.
Thank you, Ryan Murphy, for rescuing Kathy Bates from her modern-day movie purgatory and reminding us– and her– just how great she can be.
5. Sean Penn – Crackers
Sean Penn has often said that he would love to do more comedy, it’s just that he isn’t offered comedic roles. It might seem surprising that the man who portrayed stoner hero Jeff Spicoli in one of the most beloved comedies of all time has had trouble getting more comedic roles, but his appearance in the critically reviled crime comedy Crackers two years later might have hurt his chances at a career in funny films– and following that up with Shanghai Surprise with then-wife Madonna two years after that likely sealed the deal.
Despite the impressive talent in the cast that also includes Donald Sutherland and Wallace Shawn, Crackers never ends up being anything more than a vapid comedy full of cliched characters that only serves to glorify the stereotypes it seems to think it is making smart commentary about. That it comes from the director of My Dinner with Andre– -and that it was his very next movie, no less– is funnier than anything in this forgettable “comedy.”
4. Kevin Spacey – Father of Invention & Edison Force
From this point on in the list, the actors have starred in multiple movies that have “earned” a 0% rotten rating. To kick off this subsection of actors who have made bad choices multiple times over, we have Kevin Spacey, who first enter the 0% club with 2005’s action thriller Edison Force.
It’s not often that a movie is completely finished and all geared up for release but is pulled primarily because critical reception was that bad. But that it exactly what happened with Edison— as the film was originally known–which had such a disastrous screening at the Toronto Film Festival that its theatrical release was canceled outright. It was later renamed as Edison Force and unceremoniously dumped onto DVD.
Spacey’s other 0% film came five years later via the comedy Father of Invention, in which the Oscar-winning actor appears alongside such heavyweights as Johnny Knoxville and John Stamos in a movie where he plays the loser. Suddenly that shower scene in American Beauty isn’t the most embarrassing thing he’s ever done on screen.
3. Glenn Close – Home & Pinocchio
To Glenn Close’s credit, she doesn’t actually appear onscreen in either of her two 0% rotten movies. Still, narration and English dubbing of a foreign-language film still count as “performances,” and if you’re going to put your name on something, it’s fair game to judge your work on it.
In 2002, Roberto Benigni–best known to Western audiences as the director/star of Life is Beautiful— decided that, even though he was already 50 years old, he should play puppet boy Pinocchio in a live-action adaptation of the classic story. As if that wasn’t absurd enough, actor Breckin Meyer voiced him in the English-language version, making the whole thing all the more jarring. Glenn Close was one of many respected actors who joined on to play supporting characters, but there is only so much that can be done with the English translation of a completely asinine movie.
Close also misused her considerable voice talents for the 2009 documentary Home, which was lambasted for trying to warn audiences of the dangerous of consumerism while being sponsored by luxury brands like Gucci. Close wasn’t free of direct criticism, either, with critics saying her narration came off as dull and patronizing.
2. Morgan Freeman – The Contract, Edison Force & That Was Then…This is Now
In addition to also starring in the ill-fated Edison Force with Kevin Spacey, the velvety-voiced Morgan Freeman also has two additional 0% rotten movies in his filmography. And surprisingly, one of them isn’t Evan Almighty.
2006’s The Contract is a thriller that Freeman co-starred in with John Cusack, who has done a lot of great things but also has also starred in almost a half-dozen 0% rotten movies– so his choosiness in the last decade or so is definitely up for debate. The plot involves Freeman trying to kill someone who is opposed to stem-cell research and Cusack playing an ex-cop/high school gym teacher. Need we continue?
Freeman’s third 0% rotten movie goes all the way back to the ’80s, when the actor was still occasionally playing street-tough types. One of five movies written by Emilio Estevez, That Was Then was a long way from his award-winning Bobby. It’s neat to still see Freeman playing hip and edgy, but not neat enough to ever revisit this painfully bad film.
1. Donald Sutherland – Assassin’s Bullet, Puffball, Shadow Conspiracy, Benefit of the Doubt & Crackers
There isn’t enough space to go into the plots of all five 0% rotten movies that Donald Sutherland has been in. Crackers has already been discussed, Puffball is as bizarre as it sounds, and Assassin’s Bullet, Shadow of a Doubt, and Conspiracy have titles so generic that they can be given to about 5,000 other movies and they’d fit them just fine.
Even with five of the worst-reviewed movies of all time in his filmography, though, Sutherland’s overall body of work can’t be tarnished. He’s best-known to modern audiences for his spine-chillingly perfect portrayal of President Snow in the Hunger Games movies. He’s appeared in some of the most acclaimed and beloved movies of all time, in every genre imaginable, including M*A*S*H, The Dirty Dozen, Animal House, and Ordinary People. Sutherland has also been a fixture in cult classics throughout his career, from Invasion of the Body Snatchers to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
With a resume as varied and full of critically-acclaimed work as Donald Sutherland’s, even five irredeemably bad movies aren’t enough to make us think any less of the iconic actor. Especially since he also happens to be Jack Bauer‘s dad, and for that reason alone we would be careful about badmouthing him.
Have you seen any of these 0% movies? What did you think of them? Sound off in the comments!
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