A bad casting decision won’t hinder a bad movie, but put the wrong person in the wrong role and a good movie becomes “Golden Razzie” fare. Since the first silent films, casting agents have made some dubious choices to portray legendary or pop culture figures. John Wayne was a western movie legend, but was horribly miscast as Ghengis Khan in The Conqueror. I am sure Khan never waddled up to one of his enemies and said “Wa-Ha, pardner, care ta taste some of ma cold steel.” The Conqueror was universally loathed for both Wayne’s acting and Howard Hughes heavy handed direction.
Wayne’s unfortunate turn as a Mongol was not the most egregious choice ever, but it certainly took his Hollywood cred down some. Mickey Rooney suffered the same fate, having to portray an Oriental man in the classic Breakfast at Tiffany’s. He did it in what can only be described as the most racist portrayal of a Japanese man ever, complete with round glasses, mouth prosthetic and ‘yellow face’. With that in mind, here are 50 casting decisions that qualify as stinkers.
50. Cameron Diaz – Gangs of New York
It’s no secret that Daniel Day Lewis completely steals the show in Martin Scorsese’s 2002 Best Picture nominee Gangs of New York, delivering one of the most memorable villain performances in cinematic history as William “Bill the Butcher” Cutting. With such a commanding on-screen performance, anyone who isn’t up to Day-Lewis’ level is bound to stand out but while the rest of the cast hold their own, the totally miscast Cameron Diaz sticks out like a sore thumb. Diaz plays Jenny Everdeane, a pickpocket with connections to Bill the Butcher who ends up becoming a love interest for Leonardo DiCaprio’s protagonist, Amsterdam Vallon.
Gangs of New York was a rare serious dramatic role for Diaz and unfortunately, she just wasn’t up to snuff, giving her character a spotty-at-best Irish accent and simply not being convincing as a 1860s pickpocket/prostitute. It doesn’t help that she’s often the focus of the film’s weakest scenes, as the love story between Jenny and Amsterdam feels forced and takes away from the much more compelling revenge plot driving the narrative. It’s a shame because Diaz is playing the only prominent female character in the film and it’s hard not to think that the role would have been better served by a more capable actress.
49. Jake Gyllenhaal – Prince of Persia
It feels weird to include Jake Gyllenhaal on a list like this as he’s one of our favorite actors, but it’s hard to deny that he was woefully miscast in Prince of Persia. Gyllenhaal does a fine job as the film’s central hero, Dastan, and certainly looks the part when it comes to having a ripped physique, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that this casting decision reeks of whitewashing. Gyllenhaal, an American actor of Swedish and Jewish descent, was cast in a role that really should have gone to someone with a Persian or Middle Eastern background.
While it’s true that this whitewash extends to pretty much all the rest of the film’s principal cast, Gyllenhaal is the most prominent miscast, primarily because Prince of Persia was adapted from a series of successful video games that feature a lead character who clearly comes from a much different racial background than the Donnie Darko actor. Oh well, at least Prince of Persia is still one of the few tolerable video game movies out there, even if its casting decisions are questionable at best.
48. Liv Tyler – The Lord of the Rings
Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of the greatest adaptations in film history, but it’s not without its flaws. One of the major weak links of Jackson’s trilogy is Arwen, a minor character from J.R.R. Tolkien’s source material whose role is significantly beefed up thanks in large part to the casting of Liv Tyler in the role. Tyler has proven to be a capable actor elsewhere (her performance in HBO’s The Leftovers is particularly strong) but she’s out of her element here. Although she looks the part of a beautiful Elven maiden, she is given little to do outside of pining for Aragorn and contemplating in exhausting detail whether she should stay in Middle-Earth or go west with her family.
After The Fellowship of the Ring gave her such an epic moment with her facing down the Ringwraiths, it’s a shame that Arwen is used mostly to prop up the trilogy’s most uninteresting side story from that point on. The situation is made even worse by the fact that Tyler has to perform opposite the likes of Hugo Weaving and Viggo Mortensen, who are much stronger actors. In a trilogy that sees other female performers like Cate Blanchett and Miranda Otto more than holding their own against their predominately male cast mates, Tyler proves to be the weak link.
47. Abbie Cornish – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Much has been made about 2017 Best Picture nominee Three Bilboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and its problematic white redemption arc, but one glaring issue with the film that no one seemed to talk about was the casting of Abbie Cornish as Anne, the wife of Woody Harrelson’s Chief Willoughby. While there’s nothing wrong with Cornish’s actual performance, it’s odd to see her playing a character married to someone who is significantly older than her.
Harrelson is 21 years older than Cornish and though there are many relationships that exist between partners with significant age gaps, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen Harrelson paired with someone much younger than him (look to Michelle Monaghan in HBO’s True Detective). Given the socioeconomic status of the characters in Three Billboards, it would have made much more sense to cast someone older than Cornish in the role
46. Kate Bosworth – Superman Returns
More than a decade later, Superman Returns is a film that gets unfairly derided as a bad superhero movie, but Bryan Singer’s loving homage to Richard Donner has some really good things going for it. Unfortunately, Kate Bosworth’s casting as Lois Lane is difficult to defend; not because she turns in a poor performance, mind you (though she’s certainly no replacement for Margot Kidder) but rather because she was too young for the part. Bosworth was only 22 when filming began, which would have been fine if this was a Superman origin story featuring Clark Kent’s first encounter with a young Lois Lane. However, Superman Returns picks up five years after Superman left Earth, establishing that he already had a relationship with Lois before he ever left the planet.
If we do the math, Lois would have been a teenager when she was with Clark, which is a little uncomfortable considering she has a five-year-old son in the film. The idea of Superman impregnating a teenager (who was also somehow a big deal reporter at the time) probably wasn’t what the film was going for when Bosworth was cast. We can understand wanting a young-looking actress to play Lois, especially since Brandon Routh was just 25 when he donned the red tights to play the Man of Steel, but Superman looking eternally young is kind of the point, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it have been more effective to have Clark return to Earth to find his former lover visibly aged, further reminding him of how removed he is from humanity? Oh well, at least Amy Adams didn’t turn out to be a much better Lois Lane when she first got the role in 2013’s Man of Steel.
45. Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne – Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Luc Besson’s box office bust Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is a beautiful, but lifeless adaptation of the graphic novel of the same name, weighed down by, among other things, its pair of totally miscast leads. Dane DeHaan gets the worst of it, as he bears no resemblance to his character from the source material. Whereas the role of Valerian called for a young Harrison Ford type, DeHaan is about as far away from that description as it gets. His moody, offbeat charms are better served in edgier roles (his turn in Gore Verginski’s A Cure for Wellness comes to mind), not as a pretty boy space cop.
Cara Delevingne’s casting as Valerian’s partner Laureline makes a bit more sense, as she certainly looks the part, but the pair have next-to-no chemistry and it’s difficult to buy their romantic connection. The script’s wooden dialogue certainly doesn’t do them any favors, but that still doesn’t excuse the casting misfire that happened here.
44. David Thewlis – Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman is easily the best film in the much-maligned DC Extended Universe but it’s not without its faults. Much like most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies, Wonder Woman lacks a truly memorable villain. Although the film nails the surprise of David Thewlis’ British politician Sir Patrick actually being the God of War Ares, Thewlis simply looks all wrong to be playing such a formidable foe.
Sure, that was sort of the point of his casting but in practice, it just looks silly having a man in his mid-50s fight a woman in peak physical fitness and even more so once all the CGI armor gets added in. Thewlis is a fantastic actor, so he ultimately sells it all as well as he can, but it’s hard not to feel like this is one of those casting decisions that should have been looked over in closer detail before shooting began.
43. Jai Courtney – Pretty Much Everything
Nondescript and devoid of charisma, Jai Courtney has become something of a running joke in film critic circles as an actor Hollywood keeps casting in things for reasons no one can figure out. That isn’t to say Courtney is a bad actor – in fact, he’s been rather enjoyable in films such as Insurgent and even Suicide Squad – but he is in no way a leading man. His turns in films such as A Good Day to Die Hard and Terminator: Genisys are unimaginably forgettable, to the point where you could have replaced him with pretty much any fit white guy with a good jawline and most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Courtney still deserves the benefit of the doubt and could carve out a good career taking fun and interesting supporting roles, but we refuse to take him seriously as a leading man anymore. Sorry Jai, you’re just not our guy.
42. Oscar Isaac – X-Men: Apocalypse
X-Men: Apocalpyse is easily one of the worst films in a franchise that has become better known for delivering disappointments than slam dunks at this point and much of the blame goes to the titular villain. Oscar Isaac’s talents are completely wasted on Apocalypse, whose garish costume design tells you pretty much all you need to know about how much of a dud he is as a character. Under so many layers of makeup, it’s no wonder Isaac turns in a uncharacteristically dreadful performance, emoting as effectively as a brick wall. It’s doubtful that any actor could have made Apocalypse a worthwhile villain, but Oscar Isaac sure doesn’t get anywhere close.
41. Christian Bale – Exodus: Gods and Kings
The issue of whitewashing comes up quite a bit in this article and one of the most prominent examples from the last decade is Ridley Scott’s biblical misfire Exodus: Gods and Kings. The film came under fire for casting predominately white actors in the lead roles, which opened up a wider discussion over the lack of major non-Caucasian movie stars in Hollywood (Ridley Scott discussed the challenges of securing financing for a big-budget spectacle without big-name movie stars around the time of Exodus’ release).
Still, not all of the film’s white guy performances are created equal and whereas Joel Edgerton is campy enough as Ramesses II to at least be entertaining, Christian Bale turns in a totally wooden performances as Moses. Bale’s grim and gruff delivery, honed to a fine-edged sword thanks to his time playing Batman, simply wears thin over the course of Exodus’ two-and-a-half hour runtime, which is a bit perplexing given that you’d expect the man who led the Israelites to freedom would have at least a little bit of charisma to spare.
40. Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Godzilla
When it actually focuses on its titular giant monster, Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla is a smashing good time but the problem is that the King of the Monsters gets very little screen time compared to the film’s human cast, who are almost universally bland. Godzilla’s biggest and most unfortunate redirect is making us all believe that Bryan Cranston would be the human lead, when it’s actually Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Taylor-Johnson is generally a likable enough actor but his blank-slate personality is ill-suited to carrying the dramatic weight a film like this and his bland military guy character is about as forgettable as they come.
39. Tom Cruise – Valkyrie
Tom Cruise is one of the most committed action stars of his generation and rarely makes a bad movie, but it’s hard to deny that he was out of his element in Bryan Singer’s 2008 World War II thriller Valkyrie. While some would argue that Cruise’s role as Jack Reacher is his biggest miscasting given how little (pun intended) resemblance he has to the character, Reacher is a fictional character so there’s precedent for taking creative liberties with the source material. On the other hand, Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg was a very real person – a German Colonel who orchestrated the failed plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.
Cruise is at least eight inches shorter than Stauffenberg was and looks totally out of place as a high-ranking German officer, but the actor doesn’t even attempt to put on a German accent, which only further highlights how ill-suited he is for the role. As evidenced by his best films (Mission: Impossible, Minority Report, Top Gun), Cruise is at his best when playing a variation on himself; not a historical figure who deserved a bit more care and attention.
38. Halle Berry – Catwoman
Halle Berry was only a few years removed from her historic Oscar win when she accepted the lead role in Catwoman and had already had success playing a superhero with her portrayal of Storm in the X-Men series. Unfortunately, Berry’s performance was about as far from Michelle Pfeiffer’s incredible portrayal of the character from 1992’s Batman Returns, as Berry’s version lacked the seductive nature of Pfeiffer’s, and instead was over-the-top and hyper-sexualized. It certainly doesn’t help that Catwoman is one of the worst superhero movies ever made but even if it hadn’t been a cinematic travesty, Berry’s performance still stands as arguably the worst on-screen Catwoman to-date.
37. Josh Hartnett – Blow Dry
Truth be told, Blow Dry wouldn’t have been much better even if someone else was playing Josh Hartnett’s character but this is one of those miscasting jobs that is so bad, you really have to wonder how anyone possibly signed off on it. Hartnett plays a Yorkshire barber, complete with a terrible attempt at an English accent that sounds like a horrendous hybrid of Yorkshire, Irish and California slacker for good measure. You have to feel bad for the late Alan Rickman, who plays Hartnett’s character’s father and was probably at his wit’s end having to hear his co-star’s feeble attempts at a convincing accent.
36. Laurence Olivier – Othello
As one of the most gifted actors of his era, it’s hard to deny that Laurence Olivier was the perfect choice to play the lead in the 1965 film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello. Olivier is brilliant in the role, but a significant error in judgment gets him included on this list. Specifically, Olivier donned blackface in his portrayal of the Moorish General, a decision that didn’t cause much of a stir back in 1965 but would have been universally panned had it occurred today.
Olivier adopted a rigorous gym regime and took six months of voice-coaching in order to lower his voice by an octave to better capture the jealous and enraged Othello, but spending two-and-a-half hours in the makeup chair to make himself look black was a step too far and ultimately a pointless one, considering we’ve had plenty of black actors play traditionally white Shakespearean characters without having to adjust their skin tone.
35. Everyone – 21
Inspired by the real-life MIT Blackjack Team who used card counting strategies to beat casinos worldwide, 21 came under fire for making the majority of its characters white Americans, whereas the main players of the MIT team were mainly Asian-Americans. Jim Sturgess’ character Ben Campbell was based on Jeff Ma, who served as a consultant on the film. Ma was criticized and described by some as a “race traitor” for his involvement in the film, though he argued that he had little control in the casting process and thought it was important that a talented actor portray him rather than someone of Asian descent.
Ma, who is Chinese-American, said, “I would have been a lot more insulted if they had chosen someone who was Japanese or Korean, just to have an Asian playing me.” 21 producer Dana Brunetti argued that there weren’t bankable Asian-American stars to cast in the film, though considering the film itself wasn’t very good anyway, there’s at least a small silver lining to them not having their names attached to 21 in the first place.
34. Emma Stone – Aloha
Cameron Crowe’s 2015 romantic comedy Aloha was not well-received by any metric, but one of the biggest criticisms leveled against the film was the casting of Emma Stone as Allison Ng, a character with Hawaiian and Asian heritage. Many viewed Stone’s casting as a prominent example of Hollywood whitewashing, an argument that Stone herself came out in support of when she addressed the controversy head on back in July 2015. “I’ve become the butt of many jokes,” she said “I’ve learned on a macro level about the insane history of whitewashing in Hollywood and how prevalent the problem truly is. It’s ignited a conversation that’s very important.”
Aloha ended up being a box office flop, though that likely had more to do with poor reviews and a lack of interest rather than the controversy over Stone’s miscasting.
33. Sean Connery – The Hunt For Red October
Let’s get this out of the way: Sean Connery is perfect in The Hunt For Red October and the film wouldn’t be half as good without him. Now that we have that out of the way, can we all agree that he is also totally miscast as the Soviet Union’s best submarine captain? Now, that isn’t to say that Connery couldn’t convincingly play Marko Aleksandrovich Ramius if he tried, but the actor makes no effort to conceal his thick Scottish accent, which sticks out like a sore thumb amid all the characters speaking in Russian accents aboard his sub. The only reason Connery gets a pass for this is because he’s Sean freaking Connery.
32. Anthony Hopkins – The Human Stain
Based on Philip Roth’s novel of the same name, The Human Stain stars Anthony Hopkins as Coleman Silk, a 70-year-old Jewish professor of English who is actually a light-skinned African-American.
That should tell you all you need to know about why Hopkins is so woefully miscast in the role.
It’s hard enough to buy Hopkins (British accent and all) as a Jewish black man, but The Human Stain makes matters worse by casting Wentworth Miller (Prison Break) as the younger version of Coleman. To his credit, Miller is much more believable as a light-skinned African-American, but he and Hopkins bear little to no resemblance to one another, creating another layer of miscasting. At the very least, Hopkins is such a great actor that his performance would probably be enjoyable if he wasn’t so wrong for the part.
31. Ben Foster – Warcraft
You could probably extend this entry to “every actor playing a human character in Warcraft” but Ben Foster stands out as the film’s biggest miscasting. Foster is a fantastic actor and as if to prove the point, he easily stands out from the crowd in Warcraft as the grand wizard Medivh. The problem is that Foster stands out because he’s so obviously miscast in the role. While it doesn’t help that the film’s script gives all sorts of nonsensical lines to spout off, it’s clear that Foster is all wrong for the part (not least because he looks so out of place as a wizard) and the intensity he brings to the performance, while admirable, comes off as more unintentionally hilarious than anything.
30. Matthew McConaughey – The Dark Tower
The Dark Tower was easily one of the most disappointing movies of 2017, a mediocre adaptation of a Stephen King work that deserved much more care and consideration. One of the film’s few bright spots is Idris Elba as gunslinger Roland Deschain, who is convincingly badass in the film’s few action sequences and even manages to convincingly sell some of the script’s more groan-worthy expository dialogue. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Elba’s co-star Matthew McConaughey, who plays the villainous Man In Black.
Written as a mysterious and enigmatic antagonist in King’s novels, McConaughey goes into full scenery-chewing mode for his take on the Man In Black, but it all just comes off as embarrassing here. McConaughey is a talented performer capable of much better work and while much of the blame should be placed on Akiva Goldsman’s awful script, it’s hard not to get the sense that McConaughey would be wrong for the part even if The Dark Tower was a good movie.
29. John Cusack – Lee Daniels’ The Butler
John Cusack excels at playing likable, quirky everyman types (which is probably why he so often plays the romantic lead in films like Say Anything and High Fidelity), so casting him against type as one of the most unpopular Presidents of the United States was a pretty big gamble from the outset. However, this seemed to be lost on Lee Daniels, as Cusack was miscast in two of the director’s films. The first was The Paperboy, in which Cusack plays a murderous sex maniac, but his small role as Nixon in The Butler makes little sense.
Cusack, complete with a laughably bad prosthetic nose, is distractedly bad here as ol’ Dick, as he both looks and sounds nothing like the 37th President. It’s almost as if the filmmakers intended Cusack’s Nixon to be played for laughs – which is rather jarring in what is otherwise a serious dramatic film – but considering The Butler came just five years after Frank Langella gave arguably the definitive cinematic version of Nixon in Frost/Nixon, Cusack’s portrayal looks positively pedestrian by comparison.
28. Scarlett Johansson – Ghost in the Shell
Another prominent example of whitewashing in genre filmmaking, Scarlett Johansson’s casting as Ghost in the Shell Motoko Kusanagi was simply an unacceptable move for a major studio to make in 2017. Much like with Jake Gyllenhaal’s casting in Prince of Persia, there is nothing inherently wrong with Johansson’s performance. She’s a great actress and we genuinely enjoy most of her performances. That being said, handing a prominent Asian role to an already successful white actress at a time when Asian actors as a whole are hugely underrepresented in Hollywood reeks of poor taste, so it’s little surprise that a petition was circulated by fans of the Ghost in the Shell manga demanding that the role be miscast. At least Ghost in the Shell fans got some karmic justice in that the Rupert Sanders-directed film was both a commercial and critical flop. Hopefully, if someone takes another stab at a live-action adaptation years from now, they’ll start off on the right foot by getting the casting right.
27. Jake Lloyd – Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
We don’t want to turn this into another dumpfest on Jake Lloyd, as he’s received enough flak from Star Wars fans as it is. The problem lies more with George Lucas and the casting director on The Phantom Menace for putting so much of the film’s focus on an eight-year-old kid. As everyone knows, Anakin Skywalker grows up to become the powerful villain Darth Vader but in The Phantom Menace, we don’t get so much a hint of that inner darkness in Lloyd’s performance because he’s just a kid with wonder in his eyes. This may have actually been an interesting angle to take with the character had Lloyd not had to carry so much of the film on his young shoulders.
Even the most talented child actor can be cringe-inducing at times and Lloyd’s reading of certain lines — “Are you an angel?” comes immediately to mind — is just unbearable at times. It’s unfortunate that things played out the way they did for Lloyd, as he’s been up front about how the fallout of playing Anakin convinced him to quit acting altogether, but there’s no getting around how unsuited he was for this role.
26. Jesse Eisenberg – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
There is so much wrong with Batman v Superman’s rendition of Lex Luthor it’s hard to even know where to begin. Setting aside that his motivations seem to change from scene-to-scene — first he wants to kill Superman because he just doesn’t like him, then he wants Superman to kill Batman instead, then he wants to play God because the film needs someone to create Doomsday — Luthor’s poor characterization may have been somewhat forgivable if Jesse Eisenberg wasn’t delivering the hammiest comic book villain performance this side of the 60s Batman (though unlike Eisenberg, Adam West made that work).
Now, this is not an attack on Eisenberg as an actor, as he has delivered some fine performances in the past, but this is a case of miscasting on an epic scale. It only becomes more disheartening when you realize that Snyder had been actively looking at casting Bryan Cranston for the role before coming up with the “brilliant” idea of casting Eisenberg as a younger, maniacal turd version of the character. Yeah, thanks for that one Zack.
25. Jared Leto – Suicide Squad
Prior to release, the Suicide Squad marketing machine hit us over the head for months about the extreme lengths Jared Leto went to get into character as the Joker, from sending used condoms to his costars, to staying in character so much that Will Smith claims he never actually “met” Jared Leto on set. With that kind of dedication, you would expect that Leto’s Joker, good or bad, would at least be captivating to watch; even more so when you consider that he doesn’t actually have very many scenes in the film. Unfortunately, the only truly memorable thing about Leto’s performance is how forgettable it is.
The big question on everyone’s mind going into Suicide Squad was how Leto would compare to Heath Ledger’s iconic portrayal of the character in The Dark Knight, but Leto doesn’t even do anything to distinguish himself as being worthy of comparison. His “Scarface” Joker is outclassed by Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn at every turn and he lacks the danger and chaotic nature that Ledger had in spades. On the bright side, at least he’s only one of the many, many problems with Suicide Squad.
24. Ronda Rousey – Furious 7
Before she was famously upset in the UFC octagon by Holly Holm in December 2015, Ronda Rousey was the “it girl” of the pop culture world. She was the most dominant female athlete on the planet, with a blond California surfer girl look that made movie producers weak in the knees. Naturally, she began to make the celebrity crossover from incredible athlete to movie star. After making her film debut in the largely forgettable Expendables 3, Rousey saddled up next to Vin Diesel and The Rock for another installment of Drive Fast and Steal Things. Err… wait — we mean Furious 7. Rousey plays the head of a security for an Abu Dhabi billionaire. Mostly she just stands around in an evening gown, doing her best to look grumpy. She gets one small fight scene and then disappears from the film. It felt like the producers just wanted to be able to advertise that Rousey was in the film, and shoe horned her into some made-up role just to fulfil that wish.
23. Kristen Stewart – Snow White and the Huntsman
First of all, the world did not need a live action remake of Snow White. Don’t try to convince us otherwise, we’re not changing our minds. But since we did get Snow White and the Huntsman, starring Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, and Kristen Stewart, we will definitely take this opportunity to rag on it. Stewart, who has a reputation for having the acting range of an overripe banana, plays the iconic Snow White with a performance so bad that one critic summed it up like this: “Stewart’s Snow White… pouts her lips, bats her bedroom eyes, and scarcely seems to have more on her mind than who might take her to the senior prom—let alone the destiny of an entire kingdom.” Ouch.
22. Seth MacFarlane – Ted’s Voice
Look, there’s nothing wrong with doing voice acting. In fact, given the explosion of animated features from the likes of Dreamworks and Pixar Studios (not to mention regular Disney Animation Studios), the chance for big celebrities to make some extra cash by doing a couple weeks in the recording studio is fantastic. But here’s an example of what not to do: use the most famous voice in your arsenal for a brand new character no one has ever heard of. When Seth MacFarlane (creator of Family Guy) used the iconic voice of Peter Griffin for the foul-mouthed teddy bear in Ted, it literally ruined the whole experience. Sure, the movie was kind of funny at times, and Mark Wahlberg plays a loser from Boston better than anyone. But whenever Ted spoke, all we heard was Peter Griffin. And no, making some meta joke about it in the middle of the movie is not enough to make us forgive you.
21. Johnny Depp – The Lone Ranger
At this point, we feel there’s a whole new genre of films called “Put Johnny Depp in Some Weird Make-Up and Costume and Turn On The Cameras.” That definitely seems like it was the pitch for The Lone Ranger. We’re not sure why anyone thought it was a good idea to cast Johnny Depp as Tonto, a Native American, even though Depp once claimed he believes he is part Native (from his great-grandmother). Regardless, we’re in a new era of political correctness. Johnny Depp might be a guaranteed box office success, but can we please stop casting white people as Native Americans, Latinos, or basically any other unrealistic nationality. There are plenty of good minority actors and actresses out there who deserve a shot.
20. Jeremy Renner – The Bourne Legacy
Matt Damon is Jason Bourne. If you’re going to make a Bourne movie, put Matt Damon in it. These are simple movie making rules that shouldn’t need to be explained. Instead, Universal Pictures decided to cast the forgotten Avenger in a Bourne movie that doesn’t even include Jason Bourne. Like, not even a little.
After three films in the series, Damon decided not to return for a fourth. But the studio wouldn’t be deterred by a small detail like having the star of the series be left out. Instead they crafted a weird tale about a character named Aaron Cross, a black ops agent played by Renner. Maybe the movie wouldn’t have been that bad if they didn’t try to cash in on the popularity of the Bourne series. But they did, and movie goers were frustrated by the lack of Damon. To the surprise of literally no one, Damon announced he will return for fifth film in the series, simply titled Jason Bourne.
19. Emilia Clarke – Terminator Genisys
Look, we have nothing against Emilia Clarke. We think she’s great, and are especially fond of her role of Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones. But there’s no getting around the fact that Sarah Connor from the Terminator series is an iconic character who should never have been recast. After Linda Hamilton knocked the role out of the park in Terminators 1 & 2, they should have realized that no one else would ever compare. And we’re going to ignore the fact that the television series Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles even exists for our purposes here. With a convoluted story set in multiple years due to the time traveling mechanic, Terminator Genysis fails to live up the lofty expectations of its name. Likewise, Clarke fails to live up to her characters, despite her best efforts.
18. Ashton Kutcher – Jobs
We understand that sometimes comedic actors want to try their hand at something a little more serious, and vice versa. But did anyone really think that Kelso from That 70s Show would be believable as Steve Jobs, the computer genius/giant jerk who helped revolutionize the way we interact with modern computers and technology? Sorry Ashton, but you can’t go from Dude, Where’s My Car to playing the guy who helped invent iconic things like the iPod and iPhone without us being skeptical. For a much better biopic about the Apple founder, check out Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs.
17. Russell Crowe – Noah
We’re not sure why Hollywood continues to think that epic portrayals of bible stories make for good movies. Yes, we know that The 10 Commandments is a classic and that The Passion of The Christ made about a bajillion dollars. But seriously, stop. No one believes that Russell Crowe, a short-tempered white guy from New Zealand, can accurately play Noah, a guy from the Middle East who built a giant wooden arc (by hand!) to save all the animals from a global flood brought on by God’s wrath. The film made pretty much everyone angry, religious and non-religious alike. Some Muslim countries even banned the movie for contradicting the teachings of Islam.
16. Everyone in Fifty Shades of Grey
Starring Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson as the infamous couple, the Fifty Shades of Grey movie attempted to capitalize on the phenomenon that was the novel with the same title. Unfortunately, the movie fell short in almost every way. Most notably, Dornan and Johnson had such little chemistry together that the film could have easily been called Fifty Shades of Oh God My Eyes This Is So Boring. Capturing none of the sexual tension or interesting power dynamic of the literary version of the couple, reports began to leak out that Dornan and Dakota legitimately hated each other on set. With sequels tentatively scheduled for 2017 and 2018, audiences are set for at least two more snore-fests as we try to pretend that these two actually like each other.
15. George Clooney – Batman & Robin
Lots of famous names have played the Dark Knight, to varying degrees of success. After all, fans were outraged when it was announced that Heath Ledger would play The Joker, and that turned out pretty well. Anyway, back to Clooney. He only played Batman once, in the critically panned Batman & Robin. Ya know, the movie with the bat nipples. The film stunk so bad that Clooney vowed to never don the cowl and cape again, leaving plans for a second Clooney/Batman flick stuck in purgatory.
14. John Wayne – The Conqueror
We know we mentioned this one in our opening paragraph, but we really need to hammer the point home about how awful it was. Genghis Khan was born in Mongolia, which is part of Asia. John Wayne was born in the middle of Iowa, perhaps the whitest part of the entire United States. After starting his movie career in 1926 and making a name for himself on the big screen, mainly as the star of numerous great Western flicks, Wayne decided to play the role of Khan in the 1956 disaster The Conqueror. Maybe he was just bored after 30 years in the business. Or maybe producer Howard Hughes just drove up to his house with a dump truck full of money. Either way, the movie and the casting choice was terrible and is routinely cited as one of the worst in film history.
13. Kelsey Grammer – The Expendables 3
Sylvester Stallone. Jason Statham. Antonio Banderas. Jet Li. Wesley Snipes. Dolph Lundgren. Randy Couture. Terry Crews. Harrison Ford. Arnold Schwarzenegger. And Kelsey ‘effin Grammer? What?
As a movie series, The Expendables has never taken itself too seriously, which is part of its charm. Bringing together all the biggest action movie stars from the last two or three decades and putting them in one big, over-the-top, muscle-bound, blow-everything-up extravaganza has been fun. But what the hell is the guy from TV’s Frasier doing in the third one? He is literally the last person we would associate with this movie. He plays a retired mercenary-turned-recruiter for tough guys, but it’s barely believable. And that’s saying something, since the whole movie requires us to suspend our disbelief in reality.
12. Nicolas Cage – Ghost Rider
We know that Nicolas Cage doesn’t like to turn down roles. Partly because he likes to make outlandish purchases like dinosaur skulls. And partly because he has a history of not paying his taxes. Regardless, when the studios asked him to play Johnny Blaze, the motorcycle stuntman who agrees to sell his soul to the Devil in exchange for his father’s life, Cage quickly signed on. Rather than playing Blaze as a hard drinking badass adventurer, like he is in the comics, Cage decided to give a more brooding, emotional performance. It wasn’t a good choice. Critics and fans hated the film, leading it be one of the worst rated superhero films ever made. Maybe Marvel studios will be able to reboot this character in their shared Cinematic Universe.
11. Rosie O’Donnell – The Flintstones
We admit that we’re not huge fans of Rosie O’Donnell. When she was cast alongside John Goodman and Rick Moranis in the live-action adaptation of the animated classic The Flinstones, we weren’t thrilled. O’Donnell played Betty Rubble, who was typically shown in the cartoons as a quiet, mild-mannered follower. Does that sound like Rosie to you? Obviously not. The film was met with mixed reviews, as Goodman and Moranis have great chemistry as Fred and Barney, respectively. However, critics panned O’Donnell’s performance as Betty Rubble — she was even awarded the Razzie that year for Worst Supporting Actress.
10. Sofia Coppola – Mary Corleone, Godfather III
She is the daughter of a famous director (Francis Ford), cousin of a famous actor (Nic Cage) and a great director and screenwriter in her own right (won a screenwriting Oscar for Lost In Translation, was nominated as best director too). But as an actress in the The Godfather III, Sofia was about as wooden as a barstool. Nepotism is nothing new in Hollywood and in her defence, Coppola was uncredited for two appearances as a child in The Godfather and The Godfather II. However, Daddy Francis must still shake his head at casting his progeny as an adult in his third, critically acclaimed effort. Sofia Coppola’s Mary Corleone was monotone and as uninteresting as watching grass grow. That she was killed off before the final act was a blessing.
9. Jack Black – Carl Denham, King Kong
Jack Black is a manic, slightly chubby, man-boy best known for playing loveable losers and misfits, like his hilarious Dewey Finn in School of Rock. Cast as an old school movie director in Peter Jackson’s not-totally-horrible remake of King Kong was a foolish decision. From the time Carl Denham hustles correctly cast Naomi Watts as Ann Darrow, you know the decision was flawed. Neither as dashing or as debonair a character as the prettily shot period movie needed, Black’s Denham comes across only as a desperate Schlub. Without mania, Black is way out of his element. The film needed a suave yet slightly sinister Denham, what it got was Shallow Hal playing film director.
8. Ryan Reynolds – Hal Jordan, Green Lantern
Hollywood loves a superhero. Ryan Reynolds’ Green Lantern (aka Hal Jordan), not so much. Director Martin Campbell probably figured he was going to get some Robert Downey Jr./Tony Stark magic from his handsome and snarky leading man. He figured wrong. Reynolds doesn’t have the gravitas of Downey, but that’s not a bad thing. He’s just more suited to playing a too-handsome-for-school wisecracker, as he did in Van Wilder. Seeing Reynolds in a green crime-fighting suit dealing out retribution to bad guys is just all kinds of wrong. The film bombed as bad as Reynolds did in a role he wasn’t suited for.
7. Hayden Christensen – Anakin Skywalker, Star Wars Ep. II & III
Pretty boy Christensen “won” not one, but two, Golden Raspberries for his portrayal of Anakin Skywalker, aka Darth Vader. That George Lucas’ three prequel films were rather craptacular is beside the point. Casting the handsome Canadian, who did well in Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides, went way against the type of actor needed to play moviedom’s most heinous villain. That we already knew the ‘adult’ Vader didn’t help matters. Leo DiCaprio, among about 400 other hopefuls, was turned down for the role. Enough said.
6. Colin Farrell – Alexander
Like superheroes, Hollywood is absolutely enamoured with epic, biblical fare. A biopic of The King of Macedonia, Alexander, seemed like a good idea at the time. And having Oscar winner Oliver Stone direct? A slam dunk. Problem was, they cast a hard-partying Irishman with a thick brogue as the eponymous character. Don’t get us wrong, Colin Farrell has put in yeoman’s work in great movies such as In Bruges and Tigerland. Heck, even his fat suit, balding turn as Bobby Pellit in Horrible Bosses was a tour de force. Alexander The Great, though, was blond, gay, and bloodthirsty. Which Farrell got right on only one count in the role — the blond part.
5. Vince Vaughn – Norman Bates, Psycho
Alfred Hitchcock would roll in his grave if he saw Gus Van Sant’s remake of his classic, as well as Vaughn’s interpretation of Norman Bates. Put it this way, casting fast-talking funnyman Vaughn as Bates would have been like Hitchcock picking Jerry Lewis to play Bates back in the day. A better fit as Bates in Van Sant’s ode would have been someone suitably creepy like Steve Buscemi, not Trent from Swingers. The rest of Van Sant’s cast was solid, loaded with great talent like Julianne Moore, William H. Macy, Viggo Mortensen (another great would-be Norman) and Philip Baker Hall. Vaughn’s choice to play the villain seems downright idiotic in retrospect.
4. Ben Affleck – Matt Murdock, Daredevil
Good thing that Affleck has a couple of Oscars for writing, directing, and acting in some really good films over the last 20 years or so. Because in 2003, he nearly hit the trifecta of bad acting and movie choices. Gigli was one thing, but playing the titular blind comic book hero was as against the grain as roles get. A self-professed ‘Southie’ playing a sight-challenged criminal attorney is the stretch of stretches. Daredevil never did pan out as it should have, generally because of Affleck’s miscasting. Well, at least he got to hang out with future wife Jennifer Garner (Elektra) on set.
3. Denise Richards – Christmas Jones, The World Is Not Enough
Richards could never be mistaken for an actress of any note. That she played a nuclear physicist in a Bond film is even more ludicrous. The blonde, pneumatic, former Mrs. Charlie Sheen is mostly known for titillating fluff like Wild Things and Blond and Blonder. And pardon us if we’re wrong, but Bond girls in the past haven’t been just pretty faces, but fairly brainy women with outrageous names. Monikers like ‘Pussy Galore’ (Honor Blackman), ‘Solitaire’ (Jayne Seymour), and ‘Octopussy’ (Maud Adams). Richards couldn’t hold a candle to any of them.
2. Keanu Reeves – Johnathan Harker, Dracula
That playing the titular John Wick has sort of resurrected Keanu Reeves career is a curious bit of business. The man who made a stoner slacker famous, though, was horribly, outrageously mis-cast as vampire hunter Jonathan Harker in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. His English accent was deplorable and he played Harker like Ted Theodore Logan. “Excellent” it wasn’t. This role is but one of many that Reeves was never destined to play. It’s like pretty much his whole career has been one big accident.
1. Kevin Costner – Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
A non-English-accented, long-haired Californian playing Robin Hood, you say? Pity. Costner set the legend back immeasurably with his bogus portrayal of one of England’s most beloved mythical characters. What made it worse was that this was his follow up to the acclaimed Dances With Wolves, making it even harder to stomach. Costner’s Robin Hood was a cross between his earnest Elliot Ness from The Untouchables and crass Crash Davis of Bull Durham. Except he left out the acting part. Ugh, what a terrible film and role.