The Marvel Cinematic Universe boasts a myriad of uber-successful franchises, an intensely devoted fanbase, and stars that shine brighter than the Milky Way Galaxy. However, everyone has to start somewhere. Unfortunately, these beginnings are more humiliating than most.
They may be bona fide members of one of the most successful cinematic universes in film history, but far too many of the MCU actors were forced to toil in the Hollywood trenches of bad films and embarrassing bit parts before they found superhero stardom.
While most of us get the privilege of deleting our humiliating first jobs from our resumés and moving on with our lives, these Marvel actors are doomed to relive their hilariously embarrassing Hollywood origins for all eternity. (Thank you, the internet.)
Before they saved the world from the powers of evil, they were just humble bit players and extras trying to make a living.
From failed cheesy music videos to mortifying teen pop films, here are the 15 Humiliating Roles MCU Actors Wish You Would Forget.
15 Michael Keaton On Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood
His resumé boasts both cult films and blockbuster hits alike. It all started with a little trip to Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Keaton started out as a stagehand, but like the rest of the crew, he eventually found himself in front of the camera. Keaton’s onscreen adventures in the Land of Make Believe would find him wearing all sorts of embarrassing outfits from two-toned tights to full-size panda costumes.
To his credit, Keaton has always spoken rather fondly of his time on the PBS series and cites Fred Rogers as a truly good man to this day.
14 Zoe Saldana In Crossroads With Britney Spears
Three girls set out on the road trip of a lifetime — bonding, growing, and maturing as they each attempt to fill a crippling void in their young lives. Zoe Saldana plays Kit, the high school graduate who's already well into her Old-Maid-Cat-Lady phase and can’t seem to nail down her afraid-of-commitment fiancé.
She sets out with on a trip across the country to visit her disinterested beau, singing NSYNC songs with her bubblegum best friend in a hot random’s convertible.
Popstars-turned-actors aren’t known for making good movies, but Britney Spears’s 2002 coming-of-age Crossroads holds a special place in every mortified millennial's heart. Admit it. You watched this movie. You loved this movie. Who are you trying to kid?
13 Natalie Portman In Mars Attacks
Natalie Portman has had her share of wildly successful films and lackluster duds. However, it’s her appearance in Tim Burton’s bizarre science fiction film Mars Attacks! that lands her on this list. It’s just such a wild departure from the serious, Oscar-nominated fare she’s come to be known for (excepting the few failed comedies, of course).
Based on a trading card game, this cult film boasted an insanely talented roster of blockbuster film stars and an impressively hefty (especially for 1996) budget of $70 million.
Portman played Jack Nicholson’s President Dale’s daughter Taffy Dale. Though she began the film fleeing the aliens in terror, she ultimately ends up taking up her father’s mantle as Leader of the Free World. So, you know, good on her.
12 Chris Pratt In Bride Wars
America (and Marvel’s) sweetheart is Guardians of the Galaxy star Chris Pratt. With a string of high-profile blockbusters and a solid comedy background, Pratt has proven himself to be as versatile as he is adorable. This makes his 2009 stint in the Kate Hudson/Anne Hathaway starring Bride Wars that much worse.
The romantic comedy about two brides-to-be warring over the same wedding venue featured a stereotypical plot and a nonsensical ending that sees Pratt and Hathaway’s characters break up with each other moments before their wedding in front of Hudson’s entire wedding party. Ten years of romantic bliss can’t withstand one week of wacky hijinks, apparently.
No need to take our word for it, check out basically any of the movie's awful reviews, or if you're feeling daring, watch it for yourself.
11 Robert Downey Jr. In Elton John’s Cheesy Music Video
No one’s had more career highs (and lows) than Robert Downey Jr. Bursting on the scene with fun offerings like Weird Science and moving into critically acclaimed fare like Natural Born Killers, RDJ was expected to become Hollywood royalty. He almost succeeded… before his life fell apart due to his struggle with addiction.
Hollywood was nervous about casting the fallen star after the scandal went public, resulting in some truly regrettable roles (Shaggy Dog, anyone?) but one celebrity took compassion on Downey Jr.
Elton John has famously struggled with his own addictions and decided risk scandal by offering Downey Jr. a part in his 2001 music video for the song “I Want Love”.
So, on the one hand, RDJ was given a second shot at stardom. On the other, he stares into the camera with emo eyes while emotionlessly lipsynching to John’s song. Making this simultaneously the best and worst moment in his entire career.
10 Ryan Reynolds In Green Lantern
Deadpool was billed as the Marvel movie for people who “don’t like Marvel movies.” The film was a critical and box office success, and it’s all thanks to Ryan Reynolds infamous leaked test footage.
The video features an energetic Reynolds finally bringing to life a long-awaited goofy Deadpool in a fun and entertaining way that had fans immediately wanting more. However, this wasn’t Reynolds’ first superhero rodeo.
Reynolds’ first attempt at Deadpool was less than popular, with many fans wondering why Wade Wilson was given the serious treatment, but it did lead to one of his most successful roles to date, and it wasn’t as widely hated as his role in Green Lantern.
Vapid, confusing, an epic failure-- these are just some of the words used to describe Hal Jordan’s live-action debut.
9 Mark Ruffalo In Mirror Mirror 2
Everyone has to get their start somewhere, right? It just so happens that everyone’s all-time favorite Bruce Banner got his start in one of the most embarrassing ways possible: as a cool guy in a convoluted horror movie sequel.
Mark Ruffalo’s first film was arguably his worst (or at least his most humiliating). The future Hulkster made his movie debut in Mirror Mirror 2, a horror flick about a young female dancer being stalked by her stepsister… and also there’s an evil mirror in a church orphanage? Did it need to be both a church and orphanage? Were both the evil mirror and evil stepsister plots really necessary? Like we said, convoluted.
We’re not sure if Ruffalo’s painfully obvious young John Travolta impersonation is helping or hurting this performance, but we’re gonna go with helping... definitely helping.
8 Gwyneth Paltrow In Shallow Hal
Her “conscious uncoupling” and painfully out-of-touch blogs have garnered loads of internet scorn, but Gwyneth Paltrow’s starring role in 2001’s Shallow Hal is truly unfortunate.
In the movie she shops for giant underwear, orders a crazy amount of junk food, and she appears so heavy that her chair buckles under the weight. Hilarious?
The movie was meant to have some sort of deep, emotional revelation about not judging a book by its cover and that heavy set women have just as much worth as their thinner peers. However, Paltrow occasionally slipping into a fat suit while ultimately spending the majority of the movie as her normal, glamorous self kind of defeats the purpose.
Just like her failed Food Stamps Challenge, Paltrow attempted to connect with a marginalized group while wearing the suit. She called the experience humiliating and eye-opening at the time.
7 Chris Evans In Not Another Teen Movie
The Fantastic Four is a terribly unpopular movie, but we’re betting that there are other roles Chris Evans wishes he could scrub from his IMDb page-- such as his 2001 role in the raunchy comedy Not Another Teen Movie.
The role would see a very naked future Captain America offering a girl a “banana split” while strategically covered in whipped cream with a banana hiding in a very… suggestive area.
Evans admitted that he was thankful for the role at the time, but it doesn’t sound like he’d be down for a sequel. “I don't know if you ever saw it, but I had to put a banana in my butt,” he told Elle Magazine. “At the time, you're just so happy to be on a job. I just looked at it and said, ‘Who cares? I'm earning my stripes.’” Stripes well-earned.
6 Scarlett Johansson In Home Alone 3
Lost In Translation, The Prestige, and… Home Alone 3? Scarlett Johansson’s career is filled with emotional heft and kick-butt action. However, before she was a commanding leading lady she was just a disapproving big sister in a cash grab family-friendly comedy sequel.
The third Home Alone installment ups the stakes with an international heist plot, a snowstorm, and a heavily disinterested and unbelieving police force. Everything turns out okay in the end, though. Main character Alex Pruitt saves the day (and a neighbor in need) and a celebration is thrown in his honor.
It’s meant to be a rollicking family-friendly film filled with good times and clever one-liners. However, its laughs fall flatter than the bungling bad guys with Johansson’s Molly Pruitt eye-rolling all the while.
5 Samuel L. Jackson In The Exorcist 3
Nobody has a more iconic career than Samuel L. Jackson. The man can do no wrong. Well, if you’re following along, you know that’s not true. However, in this case, the unfortunate film role isn’t the fault of the film itself, but how it was received by a very specific section of the public.
The Exorcist III has incredible reviews and ratings, especially for a horror movie sequel. The film was generally well-received by the public overall. However, it was also a smash hit with serial killers…
Jackson’s 1990 film was Jeffrey Dahmer’s all-time favorite movie. He had a great respect for the film’s “Gemini Killer.” However, Dahmer wasn’t the only serial killer fan of the flick. Danny Rollings watched the movie just hours before committing the Gainesville college murders.
4 Mark Ruffalo’s Clearasil Commercial
Before he caught his big break in Mirror Mirror 2, Mark Ruffalo was attempting to outrun a pimply face in an impossibly awesome 1980’s Clearasil commercial.
Ruffalo smiles for the camera as the super cool narrator informs the fresh-faced star that he can’t hide from his pimples no matter how far or how fast he may run.
It’s recommended that the young actor “Zap” or "Double Zap" his zits as he strolls across the screen with a lovely lady on each arm. Clearasil makes you cool, guys. However, this commercial unfortunately fails on that aspect, as Ruffalo appears goofy and unnecessarily happy.
However, the final shot of Ruffalo nonchalantly leaning against a wall is pretty great. The '80s were truly a different time.
3 Vin Diesel In The Pacifier
Vin Diesel seemed to be attached to every awesome action movie franchise imaginable, and that was before he became Marvel’s sweetest (and grooviest) character to date with Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy. However, just like The Rock and Arnold Schwarzenegger, Diesel took a little career detour into the land of family comedy.
The Fast And Furious actor showed off his hidden soft side in 2005’s family-friendly comedy The Pacifier as the minivan driving, ball pit diving, diaper changing Navy SEAL turned Nanny Shane Wolfe. Critics almost unanimously hated the film, with an overwhelming 103 out of 129 Rotten Tomatoes reviews veering towards the negative.
Props to Diesel for attempting to show some range. If only he had known an adorable dancing tree was just a few years down the road.
2 Evangeline Lilly In White Chicks
Say what you want about Lost, the real tragedy in Evangeline Lilly’s career was her appearance in Marlon and Shawn Wayans’ White Chicks. There’s just so much to unpack with this film.
There weren’t many comedies starring black leads in 2004, so seeing not one but two forced to spend the majority of the film pretending to be White is a little disappointing. Add to that the overly tired comedic trope of a man pretending to be a woman (usually a vapid one), and you’ve got yourself a barrel of stale, musty laughs.
Lilly’s role? Party Guest. She was an uncredited guest at a party filled with awful "Yo’ Mama" jokes and couldn’t stop doing weird things with her mouth.
1 Idris Elba in The Dark Tower
Stephen King adaptations either hit or miss-- there is no in between. They are fantastically faithful, creepy renditions of the iconic books, or they are drivel filled with bad acting and silly jump scares.
So when Idris Elba landed the role of the Gunslinger in The Dark Tower, there was the potential for things to go very, very right. However, sadly, everything went incredibly wrong instead.
With years of halted development, a famously short runtime, and an onslaught of awful reviews, The Dark Tower offered little in the way of redemption. The movie was so poorly received, in fact, that planned sequels may be scrapped altogether.
However, Elba’s performance was widely regarded as the single bright spot in this mess of a movie, though the star became so frustrated with the backlash that he couldn’t refrain himself from giving negative critics an earful.
What do you think? Should MCU actors be embarrassed of these roles? Can you think of any other humiliating roles that they've been in? Sound off in the comments!
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