Actors, like children, sometimes just need someone to tell them no. Just as a 10-year-old needs constant reminding not to play with matches, a respected actor should realize his or her next role probably shouldn’t involve scamming a band of goofy bears or propagandizing for an unpopular religion. But, like the 10-year-old who just can’t resist the flame, even the best actors pick embarrassing roles sometimes. Here are some of the worst examples.
1. Arnold Schwarzenegger in Batman & Robin (1997)
By the late ’90s, you knew very well what to expect from Arnold: muscles, explosions, and a few well-placed puns. As Mr. Freeze, he took things to the next level with over two hours of innumerable horribly written puns involving variations on the words cold and freeze — all while tinted blue. No surprise that just six years later he forsook Hollywood for a career in which cheap puns are par for the course: politics.
2. Ben Kinsgley in The Love Guru (2008)
Kingsley once played Gandhi, which was no easy task, so it’s easy to cut him a little slack, but well, what was he thinking? This Mike Myers flick, with a cast that includes thespians like Jessica Simpson and Verne Troyer, has Kingsley dressing up in full guru garb and telling his protégé (Myers) how to unlock his chastity belt. This from a man with three Oscar nominations. Appalling!
3. Christopher Walken in The Country Bears (2002)
Before Pirates of the Caribbean, Disney tried the whole movie-based-on-a-Disney-attraction gambit and produced the execrable Country Bears, a fictional account of the titular beasts’ rise to fame and fortune. Most of the actors were B-list (Queen Latifah, Brad Garrett); Walken was the major exception. It’s safe to say he didn’t think this one through. Grrrr.
4. Demi Moore in Striptease (1996)
It’s easy to forget, but Demi Moore was once more than Ashton Kutcher’s cradle-robbing wife. She was a huge star! So it caused quite a stir when Moore starred in Striptease. She appeared nude, was paid a record fee, and performed the stripping herself, which could have come off as a gutsy move. Alas, Moore was already in her mid-30s, the movie stunk, and the whole thing reeked of desperation.
5. Halle Berry in Catwoman (2004)
In hindsight, Berry’s thinking was understandable: a recent superhero turn in X-Men had gone well, and she’d won an Oscar for Monster’s Ball. What could go wrong? Only everything. The smoking-hot Berry looked absurd in the leather suit, and the movie bombed, winning multiple Razzies, including one for Worst Actress. To her credit, Berry took it in stride, accepting her Razzie in person — while holding her Oscar. Maybe she does have nine lives!
6. Jamie Foxx in Stealth (2005)
In 2005, Jamie Foxx was riding quite a hot streak: He had received two Oscar nominations and a Best Actor win for Ray. What to do next? Star in Stealth, one of the worst action movies ever made, alongside such luminaries as Jessica Biel, Josh Lucas, and an out-of-control fighter jet with near-human intelligence, apparently. The role was only marginally better than if he had chosen the Knight Rider remake instead. Thank heavens for small favors.
7. John Travolta in Battlefield Earth (2000)
In the midst of his post-Pulp Fiction (1994) comeback, Travolta made a huge mistake: playing an alien in a flick adapted from the founder of Travolta’s religion, Scientology. This movie is beyond terrible and Travolta’s worst sin is desecrating the religion he was trying to promote. The flick was given a special Razzie as the Worst Drama of Our First 25 Years.
8. Jon Voight in Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2 (2004)
Before he began embarrassing himself barnstorming the country asking if President Obama is “creating a civil war,” the star of Midnight Cowboy (1969) and Coming Home (1978) did himself a disservice by taking a role in Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2. The worst part? Voight only made the sequel. The more successful, if equally ridiculous, original had no need for his services.
9. Robert De Niro in The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle (2000)
You really have to wonder what was going through Robert De Niro’s head when he signed on for this flick, which has him chatting with an animated moose, donning a monocle, and speaking in a bad European accent. He definitely didn’t need the money, and he was 16 when the original cartoon premiered, so he probably wasn’t a fan. This is destined to be one of life’s unanswerable questions.
10. Will Smith in Wild Wild West (1999)
In 1999, Smith was in the midst of a streak of major hits, including Independence Day (1996) and Men in Black (1997). Then came this embarrassing remake of the TV series with an even more embarrassing theme song by Smith himself. Though he would recover with Ali (2001) and I Am Legend (2007), the image of Smith yukking it up with Kevin Kline in a cowboy hat left an indelible mark.