When Oscar season comes around, we like to play a little game where we remember that not all of the celebrated actors and directors have had spotless track records for quality entertainment. Let’s look back at some of the worst movies made by this year’s batch of Oscar nominees.
Specifically, we have our eyes on the following people, but you can feel free to expand your criteria to any of the Oscar categories.
- Best Actor: Timothée Chalamet, Daniel Day-Lewis, Daniel Kaluuya, Gary Oldman, Denzel Washington
- Best Actress: Sally Hawkins, Frances McDormand, Margot Robbie, Saoirse Ronan, Meryl Streep
- Best Supporting Actor: Willem Dafoe, Woody Harrelson, Richard Jenkins, Christopher Plummer, Sam Rockwell
- Best Supporting Actress: Mary J. Blige, Allison Janney, Lesley Manville, Laurie Metcalf, Octavia Spencer
- Best Director: Paul Thomas Anderson, Guillermo del Toro, Greta Gerwig, Christopher Nolan, Jordan Peele
After a lifetime of great performances, it looks like Best Actor nominee Gary Oldman is finally going to get his Oscar. But Oldman has made a career as a character actor, and the man who has played everyone from Lee Harvey Oswald to Dracula has rarely turned down a paycheck.
His frequency of roles means that Oldman has probably been in as many bad movies as good ones, but none perhaps more embarrassing than 1998’s ‘Lost in Space‘. An attempt to bring the campy TV series to the big screen, Oldman gets to chew the scenery as Dr. Zachary Smith. If Oldman’s over-the-top mustache-twirling performance in the first half of the movie wasn’t bad enough, the second half had him turning into a spider… yes, a freakin’ space spider!
‘Lost in Space’ isn’t the worst movie Oldman has been a part of (try sitting through ‘The Space Between Us’ sometime if you don’t believe me), but it just might be his most embarrassing performance as an actor.
M. Enois Duarte
Sadly, you don’t have look very far for a bad movie in which Gary Oldman decided to make an appearance in. Last year, he accepted a paycheck to play the role of the ruthless dictator, Vladislav Dukhovich, in the boring and painfully unfunny ‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard‘. As usual, Oldman’s performance was top notch, but was only in the buddy-action flick for about a quarter of the run time. Much of the movie’s failure comes from the jokes feeling trite, asinine and without a punchline. The dialogue and gags feel as though they were designed as an excuse for over-the-top, wacky action sequences and for the two main stars (Ryan Reynolds and Samuel L. Jackson) to yell their lines. However, the chemistry between the two also feels forced and shallow. In the end, it’s a terrible movie, and poor Oscar-nominated actor Gary Oldman is now forever associated with it.
Like all great actors, Denzel Washington had to start to somewhere, and his feature-length debut was in a small, facepalm-bad movie called ‘Carbon Copy‘. The 1981 comedy-drama is all but forgotten today, and perhaps Mr. Washington would prefer to keep it that way. Sadly, I remember it. To be fair, at the time of the movie’s release, it was somewhat popular for comedies to openly tackle controversial social issues, from ‘Blazing Saddles’ and ‘Silver Streak’ to ‘Trading Places’ and ‘Coming to America’. This little gem from filmmaker Michael Schultz (‘Bustin’ Loose’, ‘The Last Dragon’) fits neatly into that trend. With that in mind, the dramedy has good intentions with its plot about an upper-class businessman (George Segal) discovering that he has an African-American son (Washington). Through the course of the story, the two men are faced with serious challenges from the upper elite of society, but the problem with the movie is a lack of comedy, failing to turn many of the social issues it attempts to touch upon into a joke or something to laugh about. The chemistry between Washington and Segal is strained and forced, trying to make what should be an emotional rollercoaster into a self-aggrandizing commentary that’s much too self-aware to deliver any effective message about class and racism. The film works really hard at being as good as those aforementioned comedies, but it ultimately fails and is rarely remembered by most moviegoers.
My love for Denzel Washington goes back to the 1993 John Grisham adaptation ‘The Pelican Brief’. Even with my simple 13-year-old mind, I could recognize his power. Much like the Harrison Ford of old, the two actors seemed like they couldn’t make a bad movie. Unfortunately, that couldn’t last forever.
A lot of Denzel’s performances were great up until 2002. Not all of his movies were perfect, but he was at least good in them. Then came along ‘John Q‘. In 2002, I still had a pretty unrefined taste and amateur knowledge of filmmaking, but even I could easily recognize the manipulative heartstring-tugging piece of garbage it was. Back then, I rarely recognized bad movies, and when I did, it was usually well after seeing it and only after contemplating on it. However, I recognized the awfulness of ‘John Q’ partway through. If I hadn’t been watching it with friends, I’d have shut it off and walked away without finishing it, but I trudged on. The further we got into it, the more I hated it. I stirred inside with anxiety. Fortunately, with the truly awful ones, my mind erases their plots from existence. Such is the case with ‘John Q’. I remember nothing but the hatred.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
As many wonderful things as I have to say about Gary Oldman as an actor, I think about 2009’s ‘The Unborn‘ and reflexively cringe. Quite possibly the most dismal entry in his expansive filmography, Oldman stars as an exorcist in this PG-13 attempt to bridge J-horror with Jewish mysticism. Most everything that ‘The Unborn’ has to offer you’ve either seen before or wish you’d never been subjected to in the first place: more chalk-faced ghost kids, the pretzel-limbed undead, standard issue jump scares, the “shocking” reveal that the horrific dybbuk behind it all has not actually yet been defeated, a pit bull rocking a 4th Grade art class mask for whatever reason, enormous ants popping out of everything, and an incontinent retiree with an upside-down head. On the upside, I was treated to the sight of Gary Oldman blowing into an enormous ram’s horn, so ‘The Unborn’ isn’t a total loss. I haven’t gotten around to seeing Oldman’s Academy Award-nominated turn in ‘Darkest Hour’ yet, but I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that his Winston Churchill never gets to do that.
Long before Sally Hawkins was nominated for Best Actress in a Leading Role for ‘The Shape of Water’, she was an uncredited extra in ‘Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace‘. I’ve only seen so much of Hawkins’ filmography, but it’s tough to imagine any of her other films being remotely as nails-on-chalkboard as ‘The Phantom Menace’. This would traditionally be the part of the Roundtable where I detail precisely why I feel this way, but come on: you’ve suffered through ‘The Phantom Menace’. You’ve suffered through more savage critiques of George Lucas’ disasterpiece than you can count. Let’s just skip that part and get back to dogpiling on Gary Oldman.
Gary Oldman is such a prolific actor that it’s little surprise most of our staff picked on him first. Simply by volume, he’s made so many movies that a chunk of them are bound to be bad. My least favorite Gary Oldman movie is ‘Air Force One‘, the ludicrous “Die Hard on the President’s Plane” action flick with Harrison Ford playing a hard-punching POTUS who kicks a bunch of terrorists off his jet by shooting machine guns and throwing hand grenades around while on an airplane in flight. Great idea, genius. An inexplicable blockbuster hit back in 1997, the movie is absurdly stupid on every level and has embarrassingly bad visual effects. (The climactic plane crash looks like it was drawn in crayon.) Sadly, Oldman’s hammy Russian baddie doesn’t help matters. The actor has played a lot of villains in his career, and usually does so memorably, but really phoned this one in.
As for Denzel Washington, Russell Mulcahy’s ‘Ricochet‘ is dumb with a capital M. This is the one where Denzel plays a former cop terrorized by John Lithgow as a cackling madman he once put away, and the whole plot comes down to the two of them having an arm-wrestling match to the death. I’ve fortunately blocked most of this movie from memory, but it’s so bad the aftertaste has lingered for decades.
Dishonorable Mentions: Willem Dafoe in ‘Speed 2: Cruise Control‘, Frances McDormand in ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon‘, and both Allison Janney and Octavia Spencer in ‘The Help‘. (Yes, I know that Spencer won an Oscar for that movie. It’s still really bad.) Spencer also had a bit part in the atrocious John Grisham adaptation ‘A Time to Kill‘, which she should be ashamed to have on her résumé.
What other movies should this year’s Oscar nominees be most embarrassed to have worked on? Tell us in the Comments.