‘Nightmarish’: 17 terrible performances by great actors

Even the best of us sometimes make mistakes – they just don’t end up being watched by millions of people worldwide.

For actors, however, life is a never-ending series of criticisms. A bad movie performance can live on in infamy just as long as a great one, and no actor is immune.

Whether it’s veteran legends like Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro, or stars at the peak of their powers such as Leonardo DiCaprio or Tom Hardy, even the very best actors have proved themselves capable of truly terrible turns.

Sometimes these performances are met with nothing but disdain, mockery, and Razzie nominations – other times, they manage to slip mercifully under the radar.

To be clear, the actors aren’t always the ones at fault; many of the performances on this list came in generally dreadful films, with performers let down by shoddy scripts or filmmaking.

Here’s The Independent’s list of 17 of the absolute worst performances from some of the best actors around…

Tom Hanks – Cloud Atlas (2012)

Hanks actually plays six different roles in the Wachowski sisters’ ambitious era-spanning epic, and he’s by no means bad in all of them. But his performance as gangster-turned-novelist Dermot “Duster” Hoggins could well be the worst of Hanks’s entire career. Laughably broad, and with an accent that’s ostensibly Irish but comes across as bad cockney, “Duster” is a creation best left in the dustbin.

Nicolas Cage – The Wicker Man (2006)

There have been few, if any, actors of Cage’s calibre to offer quite so many bad performances to choose from; his is a career of polarising extremes. Though apologists may try to plead “stylistic risk-taking”, Cage’s work in the 2006 Wicker Man remake remains near the bottom of the pile – an exercise in rural horror that comes across as laughable excess. You’ll never be able to say “bees” in quite the same way again after watching this.

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Halle Berry – Catwoman (2004)

Produced before superhero films became as ubiquitous as oxygen, Catwoman was a notorious dud when it first came out. Berry at the time was in the pomp of her stardom, having won the Academy Award for Best Actress just a few years previously. In its own ignominious way, Berry’s Catwoman turn was also award-worthy: she picked up her Golden Raspberry award in person, joking in her light-hearted acceptance speech: “In order to give a really bad performance like I did, you need a lot of bad actors around you.”

Al Pacino – Jack and Jill (2011)

One of the greatest actors to have ever lived, Al Pacino has nonetheless been known to give his fair share of questionable (over-)performances throughout the years. However, there’s none that quite stick in the craw quite so jarringly as his brief cameo in the bleakly bad Adam Sandler vehicle Jack and Jill. Playing himself, Pacino mugs his way through a musical advertisement for a beverage called a “dunkaccino”. It’s not very funny, and Pacino seems almost demeaned by his very presence in it.

Natalie Portman as Padme Amidala in ‘Attack of the Clones’

George Clooney – Batman & Robin (1997)

There’s no way the blame for this notorious superhero flop can be placed solely at Clooney’s door; from head to bat-toes, this film was daft, indulgent and misconceived. But the Ocean’s Eleven star certainly doesn’t cover himself in glory with his take on the caped crusader, resulting in what might be the worst on-screen Batman in memory.

Robert De Niro – Dirty Grandpa (2016)

Once considered by many to be the best actor on the planet, De Niro’s star has waned somewhat in recent years. Though he’s still able to pull greatness out the bag (see: The Irishman), his recent output offers a litany of phoned-in performances, from Little Fockers to The Comedian. In terms of sheer, degrading “how did it come to this” moments, there’s nothing on par with Dirty Grandpa, however, in which De Niro plays a randy septuagenarian who accompanies his grandson (Zac Efron) to Florida for Spring Break.

Berry in the critically panned ‘Catwoman’

Tom Hardy as Al Capone in ‘Capone’

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