Top 10 Worst Performances from Oscar-Winning Actors

Yes, it seems that once again the Academy Awards have come and gone, with Hollywood coming out in full force to participate in the annual spectacle of red carpet glamour and industry self-fellatio. In the champagne aftermath, both critics and movie-goers alike are now busy dissecting the winners, losers and wannabes. Of course, if Mickey Rourke’s puckered mug and Phoenix-like career recitation has taught us anything it’s that in Hollywood you can be on top of the world one day and scrubbing toilets in an Arby’s bathroom the next. Yes, it’s a slippery slope between critical acclaim and public disdain and even Oscar-winning actors and actresses can take the occasional misstep or two. Don’t believe me? Below is a veritable who’s-who of Academy Award winners who gave performances more deserving of a Razzie than the coveted Golden Naked Guy Statue. So without further ado… The envelopes please…


10. Jon Voight in SuperBabies: Baby Geniuses 2

Once upon a time, Jon Voight was one of the most respected actors of his generation. From his ground breaking performance in Midnight Cowboy to his Academy Award-winning turn in 1978’s Coming Home. Then one day Voight woke up and apparently decided to star in the kind of soul-sucking monstrosities normally reserved for the likes of Uwe Boll and Dane Cook. Enter SuperBabies: Baby Geniuses 2, arguably the worst performance of Voight’s entire sorted career (and bear in mind this is a guy who also starred in Anaconda and The Karate Dog). You have to wonder what kind of demented logic could convince Voight to star in a film featuring talking babies shitting themselves and exchanging witty one-liners. Regardless, Baby Genuises 2, remains a cautionary tale of a once respectable career gone wrong, in addition to being the ultimate form of cinematic birth control.

9. Sean Connery in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

To his millions of fans, Sean Connery has become almost synonymous with James Bond – not to mention his countless other memorable roles, including an Academy Award-winning performance in Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables. Yes, despite the occasional misstep or two, it seemed Sir Sean could do no wrong. Then Connery decided to appear in 2003’s The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a film which makes his performance in Zardoz look like Citizen fucking Kane. With perhaps the exception of barking out pseudo-Russian dialogue in The Hunt for Red October, it’s one of Connery’s worst performances, reeking up the big screen like a steaming plate of refried haggis. But hey, at least Connery didn’t nuke the fridge when it comes to his career and had the good sense to stay the hell away from the face-melting travesty known as Indiana Jones and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

8. Christopher Walken in The Country Bears

Okay, so Christopher Walken looks like the kind of actor who secretly owns a Buffalo Bill-style skin suit and enjoys soaking in a tub filled with expired mayonnaise. Yet beyond his seeming mental instability, there’s little doubt that Walken is also a brilliant actor. Just look at his Academy Award-winning performance in 1978’s The Deer Hunter, in addition to the countless other groundbreaking roles he’s undertaken. Which is why it does seem slightly odd that Walken would agree to appear in The Country Bears; a film based on the animatronic Disney attraction of the same name. His performance is bizarre, twisted and unabashedly terrible. Then again, given Walken’s bug-eyed-schizophrenic nature, starring in a film about a bunch of giant anthropomorphic bears is probably the least crazy thing he’s ever done.

7. Robert De Niro in The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle

He’s been called a living legend and one of the greatest actors of the 20th century. Yes, with one subtle look from his leathery face Big Bobby De Niro virtually owns the screen. He’s also no stranger to critical acclaim with Academy Award-winning performances for both Raging Bull and The Godfather: Part II. Yet for all his talent it seems that even De Niro knows how to occasionally stink up theatres. Enter the live action kiddy-flick flop known as The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle, with De Niro starring as the villainous and heavily accented Fearless Leader. Sure De Niro has taken on some unusual roles in his time (his performance in Meet the Parents and Stardust to name a few), but his role in Rocky and Bullwinkle is so terrible, short of starring in a sequel and threatening to “fuck up silly moose and squirrel with ice pick to skull!”, it remains a mole-like blemish on the face of De Niro’s otherwise respectable career.

6. Michael Caine in Bewitched

When it comes to having an almost tangible onscreen presence, Michael Caine is the ultimate actor’s actor, earning Academy Awards for his performance in 1986’s Hannah and Her Sister’s and again in 2000 for The Cider House Rules. Of course, despite his professionalism and brilliant on screen gravitas, Caine is also no stranger to the occasional big screen bust. What else can you expect from a guy who starred in Miss Congeniality, A Muppet Christmas Carol and Jaws 4: The Revenge? Taking on beauty pageants, lippy puppets and an unusually angry rubber shark, however, pails in comparison to Caine’s performance in Bewitched; the rehashed remake of the classic TV series. Caine spends most of his fortunately brief time on screen spouting out a few humourless lines and struggling to avoid looking overly narcoleptic. The result is a performance that ranges somewhere between late night infomercial host and doing the voice over for a Lexus ad.

5. Forest Whitaker in Battlefield Earth

There’s little doubt that Forest Whitaker has the kind of onscreen presence most actors can only dream of. And nowhere is this more evident than in his Academy Award-winning performance as Idi Amin in 2006’s The Last King of Scotland or his equally memorable role in the criminally underrated Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai. Which is why when Whitaker appeared alongside John Travolta in the cinematic miscarriage known as Battlefield Earth, it could only be a case of either leaping before he looked or Scientologist brain-washing. Dressed as an alien that looks suspiciously like a cross between a Klingon transvestite and Gene Simmons in full KISS regalia, describing Whitaker’s performance as awful would be a gross understatement. Fortunately, Whitaker was able to move beyond his absolutely appalling appearance in the film, although it remains a painful reminder of good casting gone bad, and how even from beyond the grave L. Ron Hubbard continues to mind-fuck Hollywood.

4. Judi Dench in The Chronicles of Riddick

As one of the most talented and refined British actresses working in Hollywood today, Judi Dench is literally a tour de force on the big screen. From her iconic reimaging of M in the rebooted James Bond franchise, to her Academy Award-winning role in 1998’s Shakespeare in Love, Dench’s performances are almost always layered, thought proving works of art…that is, until she starred in 2004’s The Chronicles of Riddick. As an exercise in masturbatory filmmaking the Vin Diesel vehicle is boring at best and obnoxiously cheesy at worst. Sadly, Dench’s performance is no exception. She might be one of the most dignified and cultured actresses of our generation, but if The Chronicles of Riddick shows anything it’s that Dame Judy doesn’t know shit when it comes to good Science Fiction.

3. Morgan Freeman in Wanted

With a single line of dialogue from his now iconic voice, Morgan Freeman can move audiences to tears, make them laugh or have them on their feet cheering. Yes, his performances in films like The Shawshank Redemption, Se7en and his Academy Award-winning role in 2004’s Million Dollar Baby are, in a word: brilliant. Which makes it even sadder when Freeman appears in the occasional cinematic flop or two. Sure you could look at his roles in recent stinkers like The Bucket List and Evan Almighty, but for sheer bang for your buck you can’t do any worse than 2008’s Wanted. For an actor who is so undeniably talented, Freeman seems to spend most of the film looking painfully out of place and stumbling over his lines, all of which probably has a great deal to do with the horribly written script. It all culminates in Morgan’s now legendary quip: “Somebody kill this mother fucker!” – a line so painfully un-Freeman-like, not even the dimpled ass cheeks of Angelina Jolie can make it worth watching.

2. Cuba Gooding Jr. in….Everything

Once Cuba Gooding Jr. was a talented A-list actor who wowed critics and movie-going audiences alike with his subtle and nuanced performances in films such as Boyz n the Hood. Yes, in the electric atmosphere of Hollywood during the 90s it seemed like Cuba could do no wrong, eventually even nabbing an Academy Award for best supporting actor in 1996’s Jerry McGuire. Since then though….well, it’s pretty much been all downhill. In fact, it’s hard to pinpoint the absolute cream of the crap when it comes to Cuba Gooding Jr.’s string of terrible performances. Whether it’s his role as an imbecilic sled driver in Snow Dogs, his homophobically insulting portrayal of a dance instructor in Boat Trip or the more recent abomination known only as Daddy Day Camp (you know your career is seriously fucked when you appear in a sequel to an Eddie Murphy movie that even Eddie Murphy wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole). Yes, Cuba Gooding Jr. remains one of the greatest examples of how low an Academy Award-winning actor can truly sink, with a career that hasn’t so much tanked as it has committed ritualistic suicide all over the Hollywood walk of fame.

1. Orson Welles in Transformers: The Movie

He’s been called the founder of modern cinema, the greatest filmmaker of all time and an actor who defined an entire generation. While primarily known as a writer-director (with an Academy Award for his screenplay to 1941’s Citizen Kane – considered almost unanimously to be the greatest film of the 20th century), Welles also appeared as an actor in dozens of groundbreaking films. Sadly, towards the end of his life, the once-great Welles was reduced to taking on a string of demeaning roles, including playing second fiddle to Tom Selleck’s moustache when he provided uncredited voice work for several episodes of Magnum P.I. Far more depressing however, is the fact that Welles last film was none other than the 1986 animated feature Transformers: The Movie. Yes, that’s right, the final performance from one of the greatest actors and filmmakers in cinematic history was doing voice work for a film which features garbage-based Transformers from the planet Junkion and a soundtrack by Weird Al Yankovic…..Goddamn you Hollywood!!!!

Adam Volk is a freelance journalist, film geek and wannabe screenwriter who actually enjoys watching the Academy Awards – despite the fact that the winners are all about as surprising as the outcome of a friggin’ Harlem Globetrotters’ game. Transformers fanboys can send him death threats to

  • Orson Welles gives an extraordinary performance in Transformers. Everybody who thinks the performance is lacking is retarded, wether or not you think the movie sucks is one thing, but Orson Welles’ performance is 100% awesome.

  • I know you mention it in your write-up, but it is a little unfair to add Welles to this list when he didn’t win the Academy Award in an acting category. You may as well add Quentin Tarantino for his work on Destiny Turns On The Radio while you’re at it.

  • Primal

    I agree with Henrik. Orson Welles at #1 is absurd. I saw Transformers when I was a kid and didn’t know Welles body of work nor did I care much about film at that age. His voice acting never stood out as terrible.

    Morgan Freeman on the list for Wanted is also lame. Actors going against type are always crucified. Who the fuck cares if they do something out of the ordinary. I dunno, I don’t put much stock into actors, award-winning or not. They don’t have the amount of creative control as, lets say, a director.

    Now if you had 10 worst films by an oscar winning director, then that would be awesome for me.

    The others on this list are pretty spot-on though.

  • Also, english (or french) isn’t my first language, but isn’t the saying “without further ado”? “Without further adieu” seems to me to mean without further goodbye.

  • Henrik – World’s Number One Unicron Fan.

  • It’s not ‘adieu’, but ‘ado’.
    As in Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’.

    ‘Ado’ means trouble or fuss.

  • That’s what I thought.

    You don’t like Unicron Wintle?!?

  • TheAllKnowingGod

    Al Pacino in Scarface.

  • I like Unicron, but I will never be his number one fan!

  • And I’d like to say that, as someone who has found it difficult to write posts half this size, good job Adam. One easy-to-make spelling mistake shouldn’t negate the obvious work you put into writing something relevant for each actor, choosing good pictures at the appropriate size and inserting that Oscar into Cuba Gooding Jr.’s hand (if that was indeed your work).

  • Haha sorry, I have to take credit for the insertion of Oscar into Cuba’s hands. But I agree, Adam has done some awesome Top 10 lists, and this is another one.

  • Xu

    Jon Voight in TRANSFORMERS is also ridiculously cheesy

  • I once replaced the Oscar with The Creature From The Black Lagoon and placed it in someone’s hand. It was difficult, not fun, and probably not worth the effort. Good on you, Sean.

  • Goon

    this list shouldnt be ‘worst’ it should be ‘most absurd’ or ‘humiliating’ or ‘bizarre choices’ or something

  • Rusty James

    Great #1.

  • stevie_boy

    Add Raul Julia to a list of actors who ‘retired’ on a low.

  • I don’t agree with the choice of Morgan Freeman in Wanted. The film was great fun and I thought that line was perfectly in keeping with the tone of the movie. Freeman is an actor so to he is supposed to change from movie to movie. To say it is ‘un-Freeman-like’ like is ridiculous.

    Also I think that the director, Steven Norrington is more to blame with the failure of The League of Extraodinary Gentlemen than Connery.

  • Dude.

    Nicholas Cage won an oscar.

    I quote Adam Carolla:

    “If that Oscar was made out of chocolate, and Nick Cage had to take a little bite out of it for every piece of shit movie he starred in, that thing would be down to the base.”

  • Bryronic

    Sean Connery was waaaayyyy worse in “Entrapment.”

    And where’s Mira Sorvino? “Romy and Michelle”? “Wisegirls” (with Mariah Carey)?

  • Glendon

    The Muppet Christmas Carol is a holiday classic.

  • Zero

    As terrible as Battlefield Earth is, Forrest Whitaker completely owns that movie. He doesn’t so much steal it as punch everyone else in the face and then kick them while laughing. I think he mainly did the film to banter with John Travolta (Their banter was fun but merely added to the confused tone) and to tell people “Did you see me in Battlefield Earth? I was the best thing in that.”

  • ZillaGod

    Nothing wrong with Morgan Freeman in Wanted. In fact, he was one of the best things about it!

  • Raul Julia didn’t retire, he died.

  • TruthIsPainful

    The only thing that I can say about Oscar actors in bad movies is 1) they chose to be in the movie in the first place, to make money to pay for all their mansions, and 2) an actor is only as good as the director. Period. End of discussion.

  • Bill

    I have no major qualms with this list except to say one thing: Michael Caine’s performance in A Muppet Christmas Carol was actually quite superb, especially since he’s basically the only human on screen for the entire movie. A Muppet Christmas Carol is easily the best Muppet movie since, well, The Muppet Movie.

  • Matt K

    Orson Welles as Unicron was amazing.

  • Kelly Berrigh

    Great post, Cuba Gooding Jr. definitely has taken the biggest leap off the deep end. I loved him with TOm Cruise but everything else was like watching a train wreck.
    This post is now nominated for a BoB award where the top prize is 1000 bucks so good luck and don’t watching any Cuba movies

  • Besides the obvious missteps in this list (Freeman, Welles, and Walken is no weirder than anything else in The Country Bears), you neglected to explain why any of the actors are deserving of scorn, as opposed to the fact that you simply disliked the movies they took a part in. There’s also a major omission, and it’s not just Halle Berry in Perfect Stranger, Hilary Swank in The Black Dahlia, Rod Steiger in The Specialist, or Marlon Brando in The Island of Dr. Moreau, but the king of all terrible performances by a major Oscar winning star in a big budget film, Laurence Olivier as Gen. Douglas MacArthur in Inchon. Olivier is not helped by the atrocious makeup, but his acting is so over-the-top and hammy, with an accent out of a Monty Python sketch, that he should rightfully earn all 10 spots on your list.

  • scs54

    where’s Halle Berry in catwoman? Nicholas Cage in Ghost Rider? Al Pacino in 88 minutes?

  • RB Showman

    I can’t believe you left off Ben Kingsley in “Bloodrayne”. That movie was painful and Kingsley’s performance didn’t do anything to mitigate the pain (unlike Billy Zane’s — the only bright spot in that whole mess).

  • Caz

    I totally agree with Morgan Freeman, that line totally killed me, it was more of a Samuel L Jackson line than it was a Freeman line.

  • rachorz

    Ben Kingsley in BloodRayne is the first thing that came to mind, definitely.

  • Nate

    Marlon Brando not only deserves to be on this list, he deserves to be number one. Considered one of the greatest actors of all time, the two time oscar winner was in The Island of Dr. Moreau!!

  • But…but…Morgan Freeman’s line in Wanted was the best part of that movie!

  • C

    Sean Connery won an Oscar for The Untouchables? Really? Good grief, that’s… that’s just… scary. Was he supposed to be Irish in that movie? I remember having difficulty containing my laughter every time he opened his mouth. Still, it wasn’t as bad as Entrapment: for example, the scene on the platform towards the end, when he’s just run up the stairs and looks like he may drop dead any second. Horrendous.

  • David

    Robert DeNiro was hillarious as Fearless Leader, Morgan Freeman was cool and his line was awesome. I never had any problems with Sean Connery when he played Alan Quatermain. And Cuba Gooding Jr. has some good roles as Pearl Harbor and Men Of Honor, and he was funny in Snow Dogs.I don’t understand by the people hates Daddy Day Camp, I watched a little bit and it was funny.

  • Stephen

    Worst of all mankind….Nic Cage in The Wickerman….ENOUGH SAID!

  • David Walsh

    You forgot Halle Berry in Catwoman. What a shocker!!

  • Charles

    For Sean Connery sucking was not his fault, he was approached for Lord of the rings role of Gandalf, but turned it down as he was not into science fiction/ fantasy stuff. But after the succes of LOTR, he changed his mind. Thus LOEG bomb.
    Morgan Freeman did wanted becasue he’s getting tired of being type cast, as an actor he wants totry different material(thats why connery quit bond)do it’s a matter of us getting used to him in a different role

  • Mark

    Cuba Gooding Jr. should be first. I am not the only person who wants the Academy to take his Oscar back. After his first 2 or 3 post Oscar films, I just thought he needed a new agent. However, when the tidal wave of junk kept on coming, he has to be the one to blame. I thought about posting all the horrible movies and parts he has done but I didn’t feel like driving to a WalMart to see what was in the dvd clearance bin to make the list. (Did you hear what happened at WalMart in the dvd movie clearance bin? In the morning there were 10 Cuba Gooding Jr. movies in it. By the time the last customer left the store for the day, there were over a 100!)Or, (Cuba Gooding Jr. dvds are usually $1.99 but if you agree to take two they will give you $5.99!)

  • Kevin Costner

    I’m glad I didn’t make the list for Waterworld or the Postman!

  • Henrik

    The worst (best) performance ever by Nicolas Cage:

    Part 1 is just the warm-up, part 2 is where your mind will be blown. I had this sold to me, and it still blew me away.

  • Dan Rose

    George Clooney in Batman and Robin…

  • No way It’s surprising that. The reasons you tend not to go to medical doctor? Products do not always work for me personally.

  • Scott Munro

    how about Tommy Lee Jones as Two-face in batman forever, Jeff Bridges in that gymnast movie, and yes Mr. Costner the Postman – I kind of liked waterworld though – but the Postman was a misfire. Great directing comeback with Open Range – loved it

  • revelwoodie

    Oh, come on guys! You really forgot Jeremy Irons in Dungeons and Dragons? Every time he comes on screen you’ll involuntarily cover your head. That’s how bad it is.

  • anonymiss

    i like cheese. cheese and wine is good in the spring