Audiences are talking about Tom Hanks’ strange performance as Colonel Tom Parker in the musical biopic, Elvis, going as far as to declare it downright bad. While it is certainly a stylistic choice made by the talented actor, it doesn’t have much impact on the overall story told in the film. Occasionally, actors’ performances have a positive effect on the story that doesn’t go unnoticed by audiences, especially when the plot is lacking.
Movie fans on Reddit have strong opinions about great performances in otherwise bad movies. These actors are bright lights in a sea of muddled plots and poor special effects. From breakout roles to seasoned actors, these bad movies did not do justice to the talented performers.
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10 Hong Chau (Downsizing)
In the comedy-drama Downsizing, Matt Damon stars as a man who undergoes a procedure to shrink himself and live in a tiny community. Though the premise is unique and has potential, it is executed poorly overall. However, audiences are introduced to Hong Chau as Ngoc Lan Tran, an activist who was shrunken against her will.
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Reddit user thewoodlayer has strong opinions on the film verses Chau’s talent, writing, “she deserved so much better than that trash script and the trash execution of that premise.” Her role provides comic relief and emotional complexity. Ngoc Lan Tran does not conform to stereotypes and quickly earns more screen time.
9 Raul Julia (Street Fighter)
Based on the video game of the same name, Street Fighter follows the fight of Colonel Guile to bring down military dictator General M. Bison. The film’s overuse of special effects, poor editing, and distance from the source material combine to create a bad experience. However, Raul Julia’s performance as M. Bison is a shining light.
Julia gave his best to the role. Reddit user aelizabeth27 notes how he “leaned into the role like it was Shakespeare.” His portrayal is theatrical as M. Bison becomes the epitome of villains devouring every scene. He acted like his life depended on the role and it is noticeable. M. Bison was Julia’s final role before passing away from complications of a stroke (via The New York Times).
8 Tommy Lee Jones (Under Siege)
In action-thriller Under Siege, mercenaries must be stopped aboard a battleship. Starring Steven Seagal and Tommy Lee Jones, the plot is pretty far-fetched with poor development including a topless dancer who becomes a gun-wielding powerhouse quickly with one firearms lesson. However, Jones’ performance as William Strannix is memorable in comparison.
Reddit user sanman thinks Jones understood the role perfectly, writing, “[he] put in a way better acting performance as the villain, compared to everybody else.” He is a scene-stealing villain and brings the character to life through his sheer intensity. It is clear that he put in the effort to make his character convincing and emotional.
7 Margot Robbie (Suicide Squad)
Suicide Squad introduces audiences to the gang of supervillains including Deadshot, the Joker, Captain Boomerang, and most importantly, Harley Quinn. Despite a lackluster film with no real storyline and no character development, Margot Robbie’s performance as the Joker’s partner-in-crime stands out.
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Reddit user Arcade80sbillsfan writes, “She’s gonna just be seen as the eye candy but she knocked the role out of the park.” Harley Quinn deserves more screen time as her character has the most developed personality and story aside from her recognizable appearance. She is feisty and manic, forcing the audience to forget Robbie is just playing a character. She does a fantastic job embodying an underutilized Harley Quinn in an otherwise dull movie.
6 Liam Neeson (Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace)
Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace follows Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi as they protect Queen Amidala under the return of the Sith. The film is visually beautiful but lacks good pacing, dialogue, and story. However, Liam Neeson’s portrayal as Jedi Master Qui-Gon is memorable.
Reddit user Nedelka03 praises Neeson’s performance, writing how he “managed to be unforgettable as Qui-Gon.” Dialogue aside, Neeson exudes strength and confidence in the character. He is able to appear incredibly wise compared to Obi-Wan as his apprentice, making him a believable Jedi Master. Neeson commands every scene, successfully holding the entire film on a single character, including the final battle between the Jedi and Darth Maul as a great ending to a bad movie.
5 Jeremy Irons (Eragon)
The fantasy-action film Eragon fell flat with audiences due to lacking any real depth as the titular character embarks on a journey after finding a dragon’s egg. Fortunately, the film introduces younger audiences to the magic that is Jeremy Irons. Portraying Eragon’s father, Brom, Irons makes a compelling mentor.
The film’s dialogue was rather hollow compared to the book, but Reddit user Hexatona thinks Irons “poured every [ounce] of his acting into those lines of his.” He worked with what little he was given and elevated his character through artistic expression. The character lacked depth but had a full personality thanks to Irons.
4 Christopher Lee (Star Wars: Episode II – Attack Of The Clones)
In Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones, Christopher Lee portrays the underrated villain, Count Dooku. As leader of the Separatist movement, Dooku is a formidable force as he once trained Qui-Gon Jinn and is a skilled fighter. Audiences will never forget when Count Dooku and Yoda engage in a lightsaber battle.
Reddit user DepressedCockroach writes, “his acting was truly art in every film he acted in.” Dooku doesn’t become as easily enraged compared to other Sith. He is calculating and confident in his skill. Lee’s portrayal radiates a certain wisdom that comes from experience and shows power. He is an unforgettable villain in a sadly forgettable film.
3 Andra Day (The United States vs. Billie Holliday)
Sing/songwriter Andra Day made her acting debut portraying Billie Holliday in The United States vs. Billie Holliday chronicling the singer’s arrest on drug charges. The poorly written film has unnecessary subplots, but Day stands out as a spectacular Billie Holliday. Her vocal performances are powerful, and she nails the look of the songstress.
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Redditt user AveryCold enjoys Day’s portrayal, writing, “Oscar level performance in an [otherwise] unwatchable movie.” The plot meanders and is muddled with no clear narrative or intense drama. Day is the only redeemable quality, earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role in 2021 (per The Guardian).
2 Alan Rickman (Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves)
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is an adventure film focusing on the legendary outlaw who robs the rich to give to the poor. Though Kevin Costner as Robin Hood is technically the star, it is Alan Rickman’s performance as the Sheriff of Nottingham who steals the show. His portrayal is over-the-top hilarious and genuinely entertaining compared to other characters.
Reddit user pepperlandshine praises Rickman, writing, “He was the only one who understood what movie he was in.” Rickman’s performance still holds up as he brought life to the terrible script. His sensational interpretation of the crazed villain elevates the movie as the Sheriff becomes the comic relief.
1 Will Smith (I Am Legend)
In the post-apocalyptic I Am Legend, virologist Robert Neville (Will Smith) attempts to find a cure for a virus that has wiped out most of mankind and turned others into nocturnal mutants. Audiences watch as Neville experiments on rats, searches for food, and tries to survive in a completely abandoned New York City. The entire movie relies on Smith’s performance.
Reddit user CondeMilenario applauds Smith, writing, “he did an amazing job and made the first half of the story – especially the parts in which he was alone – even more enjoyable than it was in the book.” With such a small cast, Smith successfully portrays a lonely man that eagerly wants to cure the infected. Though the script falls apart halfway through, Smith is a convincing survivor and invokes emotion in the audience.
Next: 10 Best Performances From Seemingly Miscast Actors, According To Reddit