Think the critical maulings given to the likes of Jonah Hex, Green Lantern, and Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice are the worst that its stars have had to endure during their careers? Think again. The most maligned of the DC movies appear positively reputable compared with some of the stinkers that have previously tainted its heroes’ resumes.
And these aren’t the kind of low-budget direct-to-DVD flops that most actors have shown up in while struggling to make ends meet as a youngster straight out of drama school. No, we’re talking about the major studio movies starring established names who should have known better.
From pretentious sci-fi disasters and embarrassing historical epics to lame romantic comedies and unintentionally hilarious horrors, not to mention several hopelessly misguided remakes and a hokey thriller which literally tricked its lead into filming, these are the pictures that the biggest names to venture into the DC universe will want to forget they ever made.
11 Ben Affleck (Gigli)
And so we start perhaps with the biggest turkey (gobble, gobble) of the lot, a staggeringly bad rom-com which received such a savage critical response that it very nearly destroyed its two loved-up leads’ careers. Indeed, it’s hard to equate the acclaimed director, dependable leading man, and, of course, Caped Crusader that is today’s Ben Affleck with the perpetually smug, tabloid-baiting, box-office poison that was the Affleck of the early-mid '00s.
Indeed, at a time when best pal Matt Damon was riding high with the Bourne series, Affleck appeared to be deliberately derailing his post-Good Will Hunting momentum with a series of trainwrecks, the nadir of which was Gigli. Appearing on-screen alongside your off-screen partner never typically works out, and that proved to be the case when Affleck, playing a misogynistic gangster with a terrible Jersey accent, and Jennifer Lopez are exuding about as much chemistry as a blank periodic table. Deservedly cleaning up at the following year’s Razzies, Gigli is living proof that beautiful people can still make terribly ugly cinema.
10 Henry Cavill (The Cold Light of Day)
Henry Cavill’s career as a leading man very nearly ended before it had really begun thanks to the one-two of ‘all style, no substance’ fantasy flick Immortals and this star-studded but poorly-executed thriller. Indeed, it’s hard to see exactly what Zack Snyder would have seen in The Cold Light of Day to persuade him that Cavill was the perfect choice to play the Man of Steel, well apart from his muscular physique, of course, displayed here in all its glory.
Cavill remains as expressionless as ever throughout, despite the fact that his dull financial advisor character suddenly finds himself embroiled in the world of international espionage, and his attempt to play the all-action hero is about as unconvincing as his American accent. Throw in Bruce Willis at his most phoned-in, a similarly bored-looking Sigourney Weaver playing the villain, and a clichéd script full of exposition, and you’re left with a bargain basement bore which should have been left in the dark.
9 Christian Bale (Terminator Salvation)
This fourth and entirely unnecessary entry in the Terminator series was, of course, the film in which Christian Bale revealed to the world how much of a hot-headed jerk he can be when things don’t go on his own way. It’s fair to say that Terminator Salvation wasn’t worth almost destroying your reputation for. But almost as bewildering as the Welshman’s caught-on-tape foul-mouthed rant at the poor director of photography was his decision to sign onto the film in the first place.
Of course, his leading role in Christopher Nolan’s Batman reboot had proved that the star wasn’t averse to the odd blockbuster. But a film helmed by McG, the Charlie’s Angels director who makes Michael Bay look like a restrained arthouse auteur, was a different beast altogether. Sadly, for Bale, the rare move into testosterone-fuelled action didn’t pay off, and Terminator Salvation turned out to be as brainless as everyone feared.
8 Ryan Reynolds (R.I.P.D.)
The first three letters of the title could well have applied to Ryan Reynolds’ career, what with this messy genre-hopper coming so soon after the car crash that was Green Lantern. Of course, we now all know that the Canadian would go on to bounce back with the biggest movie of his career, but back in 2013, the prospect of a Reynolds superhero vehicle outgrossing Batman vs. Superman in the US would have been unthinkable.
Playing a Boston cop sent to help protect the Earth against the supernatural after being murdered by his partner, Reynolds is his typically sarcastic self, but he's hampered by a humorless script which drains any excitement out of the 'buddy cop movie with a twist' premise. And although Jeff Bridges and Mary Louise-Parker attempt to inject some life into proceedings, the messy visuals, flat set-pieces and all-too-obvious nods to Ghostbusters and Men in Black ultimately all flatter to deceive.
7 Heath Ledger (The Order)
Two years after enjoying box-office success with their medieval romp, A Knight’s Tale, Heath Ledger, Mark Addy, Shannyn Sossamon and writer, director and producer Brian Helgeland all joined forces once more for this 2003 religious horror flick. Sadly, lightning didn’t strike twice, and far from conjuring up classics like The Omen and The Exorcist, the preposterous The Order failed to even reach the same heights as the distinctly average Stigmata.
Indeed, Ledger may have been one of the most compelling actors of his generation, none more so than when he played The Joker, but he appeared hopelessly out of his depth here as a priest sent to Rome to investigate a mysterious murder. The rest of the impressive cast look just as shell-shocked to be starring in such a schlocky mess, while the portentous script is more likely to send viewers to sleep than to scare the hell out of them.
6 Tom Hardy and Chris Pine (This Means War)
McG’s rom-com second entry on this list also has the distinction of starring not one but two major players from the DC movie world, The Dark Knight Returns’ Tom Hardy and Wonder Woman’s Chris Pine. Having starred in the likes of Just My Luck and The Princess Diaries 2, the involvement of the latter wasn’t too much of a surprise. But eyebrows were undoubtedly raised when the former, who at the time was best-known for putting on roughly 40 pounds of muscle to play the infamously dangerous prisoner Charles Bronson, was cast as his love rival.
It will perhaps remain one of life’s great mysteries as to why Hardy chose such a vehicle to showcase his lighter side. Packed with hateful characters that even the most hopeless romantics would find it impossible to root for, and a mirth-free script which borders on the sexist, This Means War fails as a romance, fails as a comedy and fails as a watchable film full stop.
5 Josh Brolin (The Mod Squad)
You may believe that it is virtually impossible to find a Josh Brolin film which received a more hostile response than one of the 21st Century’s most notorious comic book flops, Jonah Hex. But go back to the spring of 1999 and you’ll find a largely forgotten adaptation of a much-loved '60s TV favorite which somehow incurred the wrath of critics even more than the post-Civil War science-fiction Western comic book adaptation.
Admittedly, Brolin was only a secondary player in The Mod Squad, Scott Silver’s cack-handed attempt to bring the small-screen crime drama to the big screen. And his adequate performance as Julie’s drug-dealing big pimpin’ old flame Billy certainly wasn’t the reason the film belly-flopped at the box-office, recouping less than a third of its $50m budget. But there was also little to indicate that ten years down the line, Brolin would become a regular face in various Oscar-worthy dramas either.
Thankfully, Brolin has moved on from terrible crime dramas (let's not forget how awful 2013's Gangster Squad was) and misguided DC adaptations, and now we're left to count the days until his take on the Mad Titan Thanos finally squares off against the Avengers in Marvel's Infinity War.
4 Keanu Reeves (The Watcher)
The story behind Keanu Reeves appearance in 2000’s The Watcher is infinitely more interesting than anything in the film itself. Indeed, if you ever wondered why a star of Reeves’ calibre would show interest in such a sadistic and outdated B-movie premise, the answer is, well, he didn’t.
The Constantine star claims that he initially passed on the script, but after a friend forged his signature on a contract, he decided to go ahead with the shoot, rather than get involved in a lengthy legal battle. Of course, he couldn’t disclose this information until 12 months after the release, by which time the lame serial killer thriller had already grossed nearly $30 million at the box office. Who knows what James Spader and Marisa Tomei’s excuses were, but Reeves may have wished he’d headed for the courtroom instead when he picked up a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Supporting Actor.
3 Will Smith (After Earth)
For a good 15 years, Will Smith was pretty much Hollywood’s most bankable star, with only one or two of his starring turns failing to rake in more than $100m at the box office. But thanks to the disappointing Men In Black III, his championing of Scientology and the obvious nepotism towards his much less talented son Jaden, his previously effortless charm had begun to fall out of favor with the general public by the time After Earth landed in cinemas in 2013.
The name M. Night Shyamalan also didn’t inspire much confidence, and although it didn’t quite plummet to the same depths as the director's previous outing, The Last Airbender, audiences, in the end, were right to be sceptical. Smith later called the sci-fi father/son tale the most painful of his career and admitted he regretted leading his son into the production. The overwhelming majority of viewers shared his sentiments.
2 Jared Leto (Alexander)
In contrast, Smith’s Suicide Squad costar Jared Leto is currently in the prime of his film career, having won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his stellar performance as a transgender AIDS victim in Dallas Buyers Club. But the 30 Seconds to Mars frontman has also had plenty of experience when it comes to big-screen disasters. And they don’t come much bigger than Alexander, Oliver Stone’s $155 million historical epic which clocked in at a bum-numbing 175 minutes.
Unfortunately, the director appeared to opt for quantity over quality, and the Alexander the Great biopic was widely panned upon its 2004 release, not only by film critics, but also from historians, who complained it was riddled with inaccuracies. In fairness, Leto’s performance as the doe-eyed Macedonian nobleman Hephaistion was one of the few aspects of the film to receive any form of credit, but it’s still little wonder that he’s avoided anything set pre-1940 since.
1 Jason Momoa (Conan the Barbarian)
2011’s Conan the Barbarian saw future Justice League member Jason Momoa adopt the role of the titular sword-wielding hero previously occupied by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The musclebound Hawaiian, who will soon be seen on screen as Aquaman, certainly had the physique to fill the Austrian Oak’s leather outfit. But sadly, the new interpretation lacked the characterisation and sense of humor which made the '80s movies such guilty pleasures.
In fairness, Marcus Nispel’s effort took full advantage of the leaps and bounds in technology to create an impressive and immersive 3D world dripping with guts and gore. But although the special effects no doubt enthralled those who had just come for the bloody spectacle, they still weren’t enough to compensate for its many shortcomings, and the film struggled to make half of its $90 million budget back at the box office. Mamoa later blamed the problematic script for its commercial failure.