The old maxim goes that movie characters don’t have to be likable, they just have to be watchable. This past year certainly had its share of obnoxious and infuriating individuals who held our attention, whether it was through terrific performances, well-written parts, or a certain je ne sais quoi that rendered them fascinating to watch.
Ralph Fiennes as vivacious music producer Harry Hawkes in A Bigger Splash; Michael Keaton as opportunistic McDonald’s promoter Ray Kroc in The Founder; Juston Street as the socially inept college student Jay Niles in Everybody Wants Some!! — these were just some of the irritating screen characters who nevertheless commanded our attention.
Unfortunately, they were far outnumbered by obnoxious characters who were anything but pleasant to watch. These folks were so relentlessly annoying that it was a chore to sit through their scenes. Here, then, are the worst of the worst — the 15 Most Insufferable Movies Characters Of 2016.
15 JACK REACHER - JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK
The 2012 action yarn Jack Reacher, the first movie based on one of Lee Child's bestselling novels, turned out to be a good fit for Tom Cruise. It allowed him the opportunity to play his strong and silent routine in the service of a twisty thriller — what’s more, he was able to surround himself with interesting characters and also take advantage of inspired casting choices (Werner Herzog as the villain!).
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, on the other hand, offers no distracting niceties, thanks to its ludicrous script, lethargic pacing, and bland supporting cast. With everything positive falling by the wayside, what’s left is merely a transparent vanity project for its aging star. Cruise’s Jack Reacher is saintly, heroic, brilliant, indestructible, and able to leap gaping plotholes in a single bound. He’s also something of a know-it-all dullard — a bore with a big head.
Watching Cruise go through his mechanical, megalomaniacal moves on this picture, it’s fortunate he has no plans for a third Jack Reacher film … yet.
14 ENCHANTRESS - SUICIDE SQUAD
There’s certainly no shortage of maddening characters in the summer blockbuster Suicide Squad, from Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s misshapen Killer Croc to Jai Courtney’s noxious Boomerang. As for Jared Leto’s Joker, the less said, the better. Still, none of these villains proved to be as difficult to take as Enchantress, played by Cara Delevingne.
Enchantress is a centuries-old witch who’s subject to a time-share situation inside the body of June Moone (also Delevingne), the girlfriend of super-dull super-soldier Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman). The sinful sorceress can be controlled as long as her heart is kept in a box, but once the organ is freed from its prison, she goes on a rampage.
Enchantress resurrects her brother as a CGI demo reel giant, transforms humans into creatures with bubble wrap for innards, and — the worst offense of all — struts around the city screaming melodramatic lines in a bizarrely modulated voice.
13 BEK - GODS OF EGYPT
Director Alex Proyas stated that his film Gods of Egypt was influenced by Lawrence of Arabia, but when it hit theaters last February, audiences saw that it played more like Lawrence of Atari, with impersonal (and often unconvincing) effects doing their best to bury the campy proceedings. The film was a massive flop, and an angry Proyas took to Twitter to blame its failure on the critics (or "diseased vultures,” as he called them).
Yet the scribes were only doing their duty when they pointed out the picture’s inanities, including its roster of risible characters and critters (including a sandworm borrowed from Dune). Most bothersome of all is Bek (Brenton Thwaites), a scrappy mortal who teams up with a good god (Game of Thrones' Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Horus) to vanquish a bad god (Gerard Butler as Set). Bek is clearly meant to stir memories of Aladdin, but between Thwaites’ blank stare, his flat line readings, and his character’s doofus quips (“We should run! We mortals do it all the time!”), he’s better at stirring memories of Bill and Ted on one of their excellent adventures.
12 JUSTIN BIEBER - ZOOLANDER NO. 2
In the theater-clearing Zoolander No. 2, imbecilic male models Derek (Ben Stiller) and Hansel (Owen Wilson) agree to help an Interpol agent (Penelope Cruz) uncover why famous singers like Bruce Springsteen and Justin Bieber are being assassinated. Springsteen, of course, is nowhere to be found in this cinematic train wreck — he’s mentioned by name only — but Bieber was only too happy to take part.
Bieber is seen being bumped off by an unknown assailant, mustering enough strength before he dies to take and post a selfie. On a TV sitcom, such a limp gag would be rewarded with the sound of canned laughter; in the theater, it was met with deafening silence.
The late, great David Bowie had an amusing cameo in the original 2001 hit Zoolander, which made sense given his own ties to the fashion industry. Unless one’s a true Belieber, there's simply no comparable trade-off in this picture.
11 DANTE - BARBERSHOP: THE NEXT CUT
The best of the Barbershop trio — or the Barbershop quartet, if one includes the spinoff Beauty Shop — Barbershop: The Next Cut does a fine job of mixing lighthearted laughs with meaningful commentary.
Venue owner Calvin (series star Ice Cube) worries about the crime that’s tearing apart the neighborhood, and his somber musings are never diminished by the knockabout humor driving other parts of the story. The laughs are largely perpetrated by the opportunistic One-Stop (J.B. Smoove) and the crotchety Eddie (Cedric the Entertainer) — and exactly none are courtesy of the preening and sexist Dante (Deon Cole), a regular customer who seemingly spends more time at the establishment than anywhere else.
While the others (particularly Eddie) frequently fire off non-PC quips that reverberate due to witty word play or deft comic timing, Dante’s cracks land with all the grace of a tile sliding off a rooftop and shattering on the waiting pavement.
10 BEBOP & ROCKSTEADY - TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS
It’s a question that has baffled the great minds of our time: Which duo is more tiresome, Bebop and Rocksteady before the transformation or Bebop and Rocksteady after the transformation?
Longtime players in the TMNT franchise, these brainless bumblers plumb new depths of audience annoyance with their joint appearance in the live-action endeavor Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows. But are they more vexing in the earlier stages of the film, when these two low-class criminals (played by Gary Anthony Williams and WWE superstar Sheamus) are still in human form and escape from prison alongside the villainous Shredder? Or are they more irksome in the latter portion of the picture, after Shredder has turned them into, respectively, a mutant warthog and a mutant rhinoceros?
Considering their mouths function equally well in either incarnation, thus allowing for the release of such lame retorts as “I’m Finnish, cuz when I start a beatdown, I always Finnish it,” it’s best to just call it a draw.
9 MICHELLE DARNELL - THE BOSS
Melissa McCarthy has been a formidable presence in films as varied as Bridesmaids, St. Vincent and Spy, but when she opts to appear in movies co-written and directed by her spouse, it’s best to steer clear. In the two films she's made in tandem with husband Ben Falcone, Tammy and The Boss, she's been provided with material far beneath her abilities (which comes as a surprise, since she herself co-wrote both movies).
In The Boss, McCarthy plays Michelle Darnell, a millionaire and self-help guru who loses everything after she's arrested for insider trading. Michelle is a boorish and unlikable individual, and even McCarthy’s ability to deftly toss out a few funny zingers doesn’t humanize the character. Of course, like practically all comedies centered on a seemingly irredeemable person, this wraps up with a few insincere moments of character maturity and empathy — a narrative about-face that’s as unlikely as it is eye-roll inducing.
8 CHARLIE MILLER - INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE
To be fair, most of the new actors (and their attendant characters) appearing in this belated sequel to the 1996 smash are too dull to inspire any feelings one way or the other — whether it’s Jessie T. Usher as the grown-up stepson of Will Smith's hero from the first flick or Liam Hemsworth as the poor man’s version of Maverick from Top Gun. These folks barely register as living organisms, but we wish that was the case for the two guys tasked with providing comic relief.
As played by Nicholas Wright, Floyd Rosenberg is worthy of making this list. An accountant employed by the government, Floyd tags along behind scientist David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) and engages in the sort of scaredy-cat routine that went out with Lou Costello and Bob Hope. He’s irritating, but he’s still easier to take than Charlie Miller (Travis Tope), an Earth Space Defense (ESD) pilot and best friend of the slab of beefcake portrayed by Hemsworth.
Whereas Floyd is a more generic nerd, Travis is a woman-obsessed nerd; the type of guy who doubtless spends late nights posting lies about his sexual prowess on MRA websites. In Independence Day, we pulled for the humans; in the dreary Independence Day: Resurgence, our sympathies rest entirely with any otherworldly creature that can just shut this guy up.
7 THE MAD HATTER - ALICE THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
It’s no secret that Johnny Depp now plays caricatures rather than characters, but his work as the Mad Hatter in the two Lewis Carroll adaptations is particularly aggravating. If he was slightly tolerable in 2010’s Alice in Wonderland, it was only because the freshness of director Tim Burton’s vision distracted viewers from those scattered moments when he popped out of the margins like a gaudy jack-in-the-box. But by placing more importance on his role in Alice Through the Looking Glass, the filmmakers have made him nigh unwatchable.
Saddled with reams of needless backstory, the Hatter now has an actual name: Tarrant Hightopp (this would be news to Carroll, who never assigned him a moniker). He’s also given a superficial psychological sheen in that he suffers from daddy issues — a development that allows Depp to mince and wince with shameless abandon.
For the record, Alice Through the Looking Glass contains a second insufferable character: Time, played by Sacha Baron Cohen. Yet when compared to the Mad Hatter, he comes across as poised and taciturn as Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry Callahan.
6 HOPE ANN GREGGORY - THE BRONZE
Hollywood has presented viewers with far too many movies in which the protagonist is a petulant man-child (see: a sizable portion of Will Ferrell’s resume), so it's only fair to produce one in which the lead is a bratty woman-child. But did she have to be this insufferable?
After all, the standard stunted-development character may be spoiled and whiny and self-centered, but usually there's a glint of decency buried deep within them. The Bronze immediately puts up a wall around that by making Hope Ann Greggory (Melissa Rauch, who also co-wrote) an utterly repellent character, one so grating that the promise of spending 90 minutes with her seems tantamount to a stint on Death Row.
A former Olympics gymnast who does as little as possible while living at home with her infinitely patient dad (Gary Cole), Hope simply isn’t interesting (or funny) enough to make her pettiness and mean-spiritedness tolerable.
5 RON HOLLAR - THE HOLLARS
An extreme – and extremely painful – exercise in indie quirk, The Hollars stars John Krasinski (who also directed) and Sharlto Copley as siblings whose mother (Margo Martindale) has recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Krasinski plays the nominal lead in this ensemble piece — he’s an aspiring cartoonist who’s having trouble committing to his pregnant girlfriend (Anna Kendrick). He's a humdrum character, but it’s far preferable to the one played by Copley.
The South African actor, known for such credits as District 9 and Hardcore Henry, plays Ron Hollar, a layabout who’s upset that his ex-wife has found happiness with the decent Reverend Dan (Josh Groban). Ron frequently parks outside Dan’s home and employs binoculars to spy on his ex, and he’s eventually arrested after he breaks into the house to visit his kids.
Stalking tendencies aside, Ron is supposed to be the film’s non-PC comic relief — he asks a Laotian doctor (Randall Park) if he knows martial arts like all Chinese men — but he's odious, rather than edgy.
4 MIKE BANNING - LONDON HAS FALLEN
In this sequel to 2013's Olympus Has Fallen, all of the world's leaders have gathered for a funeral in London, only to be assassinated by Pakistani terrorists disguised as British soldiers, bobbies, Beefeaters and everything else short of Nanny McPhee. Thank goodness, then, for Secret Service agent extraordinaire Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), since he's the only reason U.S. President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) is the only world leader to escape death.
Watching Banning take down terrorists in London Has Fallen is like watching the opening Normandy Beach scene in Saving Private Ryan, with the thousands of Germans replaced by thousands of terrorists and the thousands of Allied soldiers replaced by one Mike Banning. Like Jack Reacher, Banning’s something of a smarmy bore, but he’s actually worse since he’s more prone to lame wisecracks. “Go back to F--kheadistan!” he bellows to a baddie at one point.
Ouch. Weren’t the Geneva Conventions created specifically to prevent torture on the order of that painful quip?
3 LEX LUTHOR - BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
Gene Hackman was a beloved Lex Luthor in 1978’s Superman and Kevin Spacey was just fine in 2006’s Superman Returns. But Jesse Eisenberg? The actor has proven to be solid when playing brainy characters (as in his Oscar-nominated turn in The Social Network), but his attempt at outright villainy resulted in the most irritating Luthor portrayal seen on screen.
Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer wrote Luthor as a twitchy and eccentric man-child who always appears to be on the verge of a temper tantrum. His diabolical evildoer in Batman v Superman is basically the love child of Cesar Romero’s Joker and Richie Rich, and he’s ultimately as frightening as a Pomeranian nipping at the heels of Superman himself.
2 NOBBY BUTCHER - THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY
The disastrously unfunny The Brothers Grimsby stars Sacha Baron Cohen as Nobby, a soccer-crazed slacker who learns that his long-lost brother Sebastian (Mark Strong) has been working for the past couple of decades as a world-class secret agent.
Nobby is a bumbling idiot who automatically makes any situation worse, but he doesn’t stir cherished memories of Peter Sellers’ similarly incompetent Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther franchise — instead, Nobby is so vile that he immediately recalls such big-screen repellants as Tom Green’s character in Freddy Got Fingered and the titular twits in Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie. In rapid succession, Nobby hides inside the hoohah of a female elephant that’s about to make it with numerous male pachyderms, sucks poison out of his sibling’s testicle, places a firecracker inside his own behind, and tests out his new gun by gleefully shooting innocent civilians.
Cohen’s dim-witted characters are perpetual litmus tests for audience acceptance, but Nobby Butcher turns out to be his most misguided creation yet.
1 DICK KELLY - DIRTY GRANDPA
The plot of Dirty Grandpa can be dismissed with one sentence: After the death of his wife, the elderly Dick (Robert De Niro) talks his straight-laced grandson (Zac Efron) into driving him to Daytona Beach over spring break so that he can score with a young hottie.
Dick is supposed to be this larger-than-life presence — a man who knows what he wants, speaks his mind, and doesn’t worry about who gets offended. His candor is supposed to trump all opposition, but the man is simply deplorable, and all his faults are further amplified thanks to De Niro operating in indifferent, paycheck-snatching mode.
Dick makes a filthy comment about Queen Latifah, tosses around the “n” word in front of tough black guys after they give him permission (?!), and engages with his nephew in lewd behavior that can’t be described here lest the entire site gets shut down for indecency.
Which movie character from 2016 annoyed you most? Let us know in the comments!