Netflix has become part of our viewing culture. What was once an easy platform to watch our favorite films and shows has become a viable studio unto itself, with enough clout to land the biggest stars in Hollywood for leading roles. Being a so-called “Netflix star” no longer carries a negative stigma-- in fact, many of the actors on this list have the streaming service to thank for their career breakthroughs and/or resurgences.
Everybody has got to start somewhere and it's understood that the debut roles some of these stars had to take were not going to be the most interesting parts of their lives.
For the all recent success these actors may have seen, there are cinematic skeletons in each of their closets; a celluloid memento of a time when they gave a truly bad performance. A performance so poor, in some cases, they’d probably like to use the flashing gadget from Men in Black and wipe the existence of those parts from their memory. Until such things are possible, however, let’s roll up our sleeves and get to scraping the bottom of the barrel.
Here are 15 Embarrassing Roles Netflix Stars Want You to Forget.
15 Winona Ryder - Lost Souls
Lost Souls (2000) is a hot mess. A horror thriller that borrows from more films than we care to list here, it was a box office flop and a sign that Winona Ryder’s reign atop Hollywood’s A-list was coming to an end. She gives an incredibly amateurish performance, almost as though she forgot everything that made her such a good actress to begin. Her line delivery is oddly flat, her reactions are exaggerated at times and too subdued in others.
Ryder’s tenure on Stranger Things proves that she knows how to play fear and paranoia expertly, making the ineptitude of Lost Souls even more confusing. The film has a 7% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, making it her lowest release to date, and was ranked 95 on the site’s 100 worst-reviewed movies of the 2000s.
14 Jason Bateman - Teen Wolf Too
Like Barrymore, Jason Bateman was a child star who seemed destined to fade away, only to come back with a vengeance as an adult. He spearheaded hit comedies like Horrible Bosses (2011) and Identity Thief (2013), as well as dramatic fare like The Gift (2015) and Netflix’s Ozark (2017).
For the latter, the actor received some of the best attention of his career, and was even nominated for a Golden Globe. In other words, about as far as you could possibly get from Bateman’s worst role, which is the titular monster in Teen Wolf Too (1987).
This toothless sequel drops everything that made the original so much fun, for 90 minutes of lame jokes, hokey prosthetics, and laughably poor acting.
Bateman hadn’t yet established his screen presence, which is understandable given that it was his first film, but that doesn’t change how bland and forgettable he was in that movie.
13 Robin Wright - Toys
From her breakthrough in The Princess Bride (1987) to her signature role in Netflix’s House of Cards (2013-), Robin Wright has been a model of consistency. She's complimentary to every film she appears in, whether as a leading lady or a supporting character.
Well, almost every film. Not even Claire Underwood herself could save the disaster that was 1992’s Toys. The black comedy, which saw Wright star opposite Robin Williams, Joan Cusack, and Jamie Foxx was a notorious flop -- a film The Los Angeles Times described as a “total miscalculation.”
Wright plays Williams’ love interest in this movie, and though she seems genuine in her affections, the film’s bizarre tone and rambling dialogue has her coming off dreadfully stiff. She spends all of her screen time reacting to Williams’ antics, to the extent that she feels like a member of the audience rather than a character worthy of our attention.
12 Neil Patrick Harris - Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore
The title says it all - we don't live in a dimension where a movie called Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore has the potential to be anything but bad, and Neil Patrick Harris should have known better.
It’s not like the film was released during Harris’ rough years either, when he was best known as Doogie Howser or that raunchy guy from Harold and Kumar. This was released in 2010, well into the fifth season of How I Met Your Mother! There’s no excuse, but I digress.
Harris voices Lou, a beagle who was actually voiced by Tobey Maguire in the first film, and who currently heads up the HQ spy agency.
The film currently sits at 14% on Rotten Tomatoes, but after sitting through the entire thing, you might be inclined to think that’s too high a score.
11 Taylor Schilling - The Lucky One
Taylor Schilling became an overnight sensation when Netflix’s Orange is the New Black premiered in 2013. As the protagonist Piper Chapman, she was ferocious, tragic, funny, and a strong enough actress to ground it all in reality. For the seasons that have followed, Schilling has earned two Golden Globe nominations and an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Role.
Playing opposite Zac Efron, before he figured out what to do with his comedic talents, Schilling is a stereotypical dream girl whose main objective is to look beautiful. While she’s successful in doing so, there’s barely enough character (or plot, for that matter) to make it worth her while. The Lucky One currently has a 20% on Rotten Tomatoes, with many critics pointing out how Efron and Schilling pale in comparison to the leads in other Nicholas Sparks adaptations.
10 Joel Kinnaman - Suicide Squad
Joel Kinnaman doesn’t have the best luck when it comes to blockbusters -- his first attempt, the 2014 remake of RoboCop, was met with a universal shrug, and his 2015 collab with Liam Neeson Run All Night, barely made a profit. Both pale in comparison, however, to the embarrassment that was 2016’s Suicide Squad - the movie was pegged as the breath of fresh air that would save the DC Extended Universe.
Suicide Squad was a bust that opened its cast up to the mockery of the internet, and Kinnaman, as Rick Flag, was one of the easiest targets.
His performance is the holy trinity of bad acting: he has no personality, he has absolutely zero chemistry with the other actors, and his dialogue is almost exclusively made up of exposition. Kinnaman seems much more comfortable (and capable) on the small screen, as evidenced by Netflix’s Altered Carbon, where he plays a tortured detective.
9 Jane Fonda - Monster-in-Law
Jane Fonda is a living legend - she’s got seven Academy Award nominations, two wins, and a resume that reads like a greatest hits of the 1970s and '80s. One can only imagine what she was thinking when she came out of a fifteen-year retirement to star in the 2005 romantic comedy Monster-in-Law.
It’s every rom-com cliché from the early 2000s, minus the charm and likable characters. Fonda plays a mother who spars with her son’s fiancée, the irritatingly sweet Jennifer Lopez, and the lack of chemistry these two display should be studied in acting courses.
Fonda is so willfully unpleasant, so impossible to root for, it's easy to wonder why she took the part in the first place. Thankfully, Fonda has regained her footing in the last decade, as roles in Paolo Sorrentino’s Youth (2015) and Netflix’s Grace & Frankie (2015-) have proven.
8 Timothy Olyphant - Dreamcatcher
When it comes to smug, slightly sinister characters, Timothy Olyphant is your guy. He’s made a career out of blurring these two lines, as seen in his best roles: Seth Bullock in Deadwood, Raylan Givens in Justified, and the hapless husband in Netflix’s The Santa Clarita Diet. It's only when he’s forced to play upright, earnest characters that Olyphant’s talents diminish, and nowhere is this more apparent than in 2003’s Dreamcatcher.
An adaptation of the Stephen King novel, Dreamcatcher sees Olyphant duke it out with Jason Lee, Damian Lewis, and Thomas Jane for who can give the least convincing performance.
All things considered, Olyphant might be the winner. Where the others had hilariously bad scenes to play, Olyphant plays it straight, and is jaw-droppingly boring in the process. Even when he gets the chance to suffer an over-the-top demise, he underplays it, taking away what little joy this disaster has to offer.
7 Rosario Dawson - The Adventures of Pluto Nash
Rosario Dawson is the link that ties the Netflix MCU together, as her character, Claire Temple, appears in Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and of course, The Defenders. It's a credit to Dawson’s chops as an actress that she’s able to vibe with so many different characters, and proof that she’s come a long way since her first major release in 2002, The Adventures of Pluto Nash.
For those of you who don’t know, The Adventures of Pluto Nash is one of the most lavish, expensive, and unfunny comedies to ever come out of Hollywood. The film did major damage to Eddie Murphy’s star power, and Dawson, as his love interest, effectively goes down with the ship. She and Murphy look as bored the audience does, and their scenes together sink faster than an anchor to the bottom of the ocean.
6 David Harbour - The Green Hornet
Before Stranger Things (2016-) turned him into everyone’s favorite sheriff, David Harbour was a sturdy character actor with roles in Revolutionary Road (2008), End of Watch (2012), and The Equalizer (2014). He was a notable presence in these movies, exuding decency at times and oozing sleaze in others, but the shame of his pre-Stranger Things career has to be his villainous turn in the action-comedy The Green Hornet (2011).
Harbour plays corrupt mayor Frank Scanlon, a character so thoroughly forgettable he could have been written out of the film altogether and nothing would have changed.
Harbour does what he can with the lousy material he’s given, but even he can’t hide his disinterest. He sleepwalks through his entire performance, sloppily hitting the standard evil tropes before handing over the only memorable scenes in the film to Christoph Waltz.
5 Krysten Ritter - How to Make Love to a Woman
How to Make Love to a Woman was released in 2010, and had a reasonably talented cast at its disposal: Josh Meyers, Ian Somerhalder, Ken Jeong, and of course, Krysten Ritter. Sadly, their collective talents prove no match for the painful script, which delivers on its moronic title and literally nothing else.
Meyers, who writes and directs, manages the impressive feat of not even accidentally being funny, while Ritter, a force in everything else she does, delivers a performance better suited to an adult film than a legitimate comedy. As Lauren, Meyers’ onscreen fiancé, Ritter barely registers. She makes a few saccharine comments, sips her coffee, and that’s literally it. Anyone in the world could have played it.
4 Jon Bernthal - Grudge Match
Jon Bernthal is the king of cameos. He pops into a scene for a few minutes, dazzles the audience, and then leaves. The list of films he’s done this in is actually pretty remarkable -- The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), Fury (2014), Sicario (2015), Wind River, and Baby Driver (both 2017). The lone black sheep in this cycle, and the one that’s given us the worst Bernthal performance to date, is the sports drama Grudge Match (2013).
Bernthal plays B.J. Rose, the trainer who whips Robert De Niro’s aging brawler into shape and manages to be completely unmemorable in the process.
Its impressive, to some extent, how the filmmakers were able to erase The Punisher actor’s talents, but it is a feat that does no favors for him or the people watching at home.
3 Ellie Kemper - The Tape
Ellie Kemper’s bubbly sense of humor is hard not to like, and has lent additional heft to modern comedy classics like Bridesmaids (2011) and 21 Jump Street (2012). Kemper’s talents do have their limits, however, as evidenced by the misfire that is 2014’s The Tape.
A star vehicle for Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel, the film is utterly devoid of laughter, to the point where you may start to forget that you’re watching a comedy. Kemper plays one of their close friends, and her quirky antics hit the same brick wall of boredom as her co-stars.
The schtick about Kemper and her on-screen husband (Rob Corddry) being inexperienced in matters of lust is charming at first, but doesn’t go anywhere, and leans on her innocent demeanor to the point that it comes off as irritating.
2 Aziz Ansari - Ice Age: Continental Drift
Aziz Ansari is the star of the Netflix series Master of None -- one of the platform’s most original and insightful comedies. As showrunner, writer, and star, Ansari tackles awkward social situations with hilarity, all the while showing newfound depths as a dramatic actor.
Ansari voiced a little rabbit named Squint in 2012’s Ice Age: Continental Drift, and the results were less than stellar.
As one of many celebrities who lent their voices to the film (Drake, Jennifer Lopez, Nicki Minaj, etc), Ansari is the worst of bunch due to the grating nature of his character. His hyperactive tone is way too much, and given how little he factors into the story, it's so obviously a detour made for the sake of a celebrity cameo.
1 Drew Barrymore - Freddy Got...
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Drew Barrymore was everywhere. She managed to overcome her troubled past as a child star and experience her greatest success to date with hits like Scream (1996), The Wedding Singer (1998), Never Been Kissed (1999), and Charlie’s Angels (2000).
It's ironic, then, that the worst role of Barrymore’s career popped up during the same time. The role in question is the unnamed receptionist in Freddy Got F******* (2001). Directed by and starring Barrymore’s then-husband Tom Green,Freddy Got F******* is an abysmal viewing experience, a comedy that pushes the boundaries of the genre just by how unfunny it is.
We applaud Barrymore’s willingness to support her hubby, and her receptionist cameo would have been cute in most other films, but Green actually manages to make her look like an amateur.
Did we miss any Netflix star's embarrassing role? Let us know in the comments!