An acting performance is far more complex than an actor simply emoting on-screen. How much an actor is in line with the script and the director’s vision determines the true greatness of an acting performance. An actor has the power to ruin the film or perhaps even elevate a mediocre script although the latter happens very rarely. There are lots of factors that determine how good or bad a performance is. It could be a bad script, a director who doesn’t really know what he needs from his actors or perhaps it has got to do with the skills of the actor too. There have been numerous instances where an actor chews the screen and blatantly goes off script but the performance may come off as a weirdly entertaining and enjoyable one. This article takes a look at the list of 15 such bad movie performances that are entertaining. Here they are:
15. Michael Shannon – Elvis and Nixon
This one didn’t nearly make the list but considering the genius that Michael Shannon is as an actor, this one comes off as a delightfully bad performance. ‘Elvis and Nixon’ is a wonderful comedy flick that focuses on the iconic meeting between the legendary entertainer Elvis Presley and President Richard Nixon. Shannon is visibly out of his elements here but his futile attempts at getting into skin of the great entertainer ultimately comes off as hilariously entertaining in a very pleasant manner.
14. Al Pacino – The Devil’s Advocate (1997)
It breaks my heart to put Al Pacino in here because the man is one of the greatest actors the world of cinema has ever produced. But sadly I couldn’t ignore this one and it infuriates me to no end when I think of his transition from being the master of subtlety to an epic ham. His performance as Satan in ‘The Devil’s Advocate’ is certainly not one that I enjoy but for many this is one of their favourite Pacino guilt pleasures. In fact, I’ve even come across a guy who said that Pacino’s performance in ‘The Devil’s Advocate’ is so over-the-top and ridiculous that he made Tony Montana look like Michael Corleone. And that really is something. As the devil himself, Pacino expands his now famous shouty persona and produces a performance that would stay with us for a long time.
13. Gary Oldman – The Fifth Element (1997)
Gary Oldman has a rare ability to make every single role of his look like they were just written for him. He might be over-the-top and has a brilliant knack for chewing the scenery without making a mockery of himself. His performance in ‘The Fifth Element’ as Zorg isn’t bad by any means but then again he’s been a lot better in many other films. However, his performance here elevates the film to another level as he grabs the screen and eats it up like a hungry tiger would and adds to the epic chaotic feel of the film. He is bizarre, funny and provides wonderful entertainment throughout.
12. Faye Dunaway – Mommie Dearest (1981)
Not entertaining in the conventional sense but Faye Dunaway’s infamous performance in ‘Mommie Dearest’ now seems perfectly watchable regardless of how ridiculously hammy it was or how excessively dramatic the film was. The more you think of it the fault wasn’t Dunaway’s but the script was probably one of the worst ever. It’s bizarre, silly and tries to be terrifying but nevertheless has some entertainment value.
11. Uma Thurman – Batman and Robin (1997)
There is nothing about this film that isn’t bad. Widely regarded as one of the worst films ever made, ‘Batman and Robin’ is filled with annoyingly hammy performances. And Uma Thurman’s performance Poison Ivy was no different. But surprisingly she manages to entertain and stand out in the midst of all the mayhem. The writing is so bad that she couldn’t possibly have portrayed her character in any other way and this makes her performance wildly hilarious and utterly terrible but a very, very entertaining one for she is actually a wonderful actress.
10. Jim Carrey – Batman Forever (1995)
This may seem unfair because you don’t really expect a great performance from a movie as visionless and unimaginative such as this. But Carrey’s performance is the only(along with Tommy Lee Jones’ Harvey Dent, perhaps) thing that keeps us entertained and glued to the film despite how ludicrous and stupid it may seem. As “The Riddler”, Carrey is funny, entertaining and makes use great use of his distinctive comic persona to craft something truly hilarious as he makes his villain every bit lovable and endearing.
9. Tommy Lee Jones – Batman Forever (1995)
I tried my best not to include two performances from the same movie but I couldn’t possibly ignore this one here. Along with Jim Carrey’s hilarious riddler, Jones knocks it out of the park as Harvey Dent in a performance that was completely hammy and dramatic. Jones is unusually over-the-top here but manages to compliment Carrey’s performance and goes well in tone with the overall loud, noisy feel of the film. Jones in fact happens to be a great actor but this happens to be just one of those instances where he just wanted himself to let loose and explore something completely different and the result wasn’t utterly disappointing.
8. Dennis Hooper – Waterworld (1995)
Dennis Hooper going over-the-top has always been fun to watch. In Kevin Reynolds’ post-apocalyptic sci-fi action drama, Hooper plays Deacon, the frightening leader of a band of pirates named The Smokers. Hooper blows it out completely as he chews the screen and goes wildly over-the-top and stands out in a film that thoroughly disappoints on nearly every level despite its searing ambition. Hooper pounces on the role and completely makes it his own as we find ourselves going back to the film to watch this man having an absolute blast on-screen.
7. Jon Voight – Anaconda (1997)
I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy this film. ‘Anaconda’ was a whole lot of fun with memorable thrills and some hilariously overacted moments. Among all, Jon Voight stands out with his raw ability to chew the scenes and completely overpower the film with a performance so terrible that it turns out to be the funniest thing in the film. Part of the film’s appeal is Voight’s performance as Paul Serone. He is way too expressive and talks in a bizarrely hilarious manner that is guaranteed to give you laughs until of course he dies. It’s funny, hilarious and stupid but one of my favourite guilt pleasures ever.
6. Keanu Reeves – Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)
I’ve always often found Keanu Reeves to be a mediocre actor at best. He could hardly emote and his facial expressions have always looked dry. But his performance here must be the absolute pinnacle of bad acting. Everything, right from his facial expressions to that infamously atrocious English accent, Keanu’s performance has to be one of the worst you’ll ever see. But the more you see him perform, the more you begin to enjoy his take on the rule in a strangely entertaining way. His performance ruins the film but on repeat viewings, you stop taking him seriously and that’s where all the fun comes from.
5. Jeremy Irons – Dungeons and Dragons (2000)
Another terrible flick where almost everything fails miserably. The acting is laughable, the writing and direction are plain awful. Irons is a really good actor and I haven’t seen him screw up a film but here he seems pretty relaxed and was probably in the mood to have some fun as he goes wildly over-the-top and makes it watchable in a way only an actor of his class could do. The film is a painful sit through but Irons makes it more than watchable for his performance.
4. Richard Burton – Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977)
One of the worst sequels ever made and unarguably one of the worst film of all time, the sequel to the greatest horror film of all time was an absolute cinematic travesty. But let’s not deny that Richard Burton as Father Philip Lamont provides the biggest entertainment value in the film. He redefines the art of overacting and goes all out in the film with his atrocious dialogue delivery and hilarious presence on-screen. Of course it’s a sin to expect anything that can even be termed as mediocre when you have an awfully written script but as I said the man seems undeterred and looks like having the time of his life on-screen.
3. Arnold Schwarzenegger – Jingle All the Way (1996)
A terrible film and an equally terrible performance. But the great superstar manages to make the bad look good with a performance so bad you can’t help but love it. His dialogue delivery is almost cringeworthy but it gels in with the movie and that becomes part of its appeal. Schwarznegger has fantastic persona but honestly I never thought of him as a decent actor despite many of them claiming he could act. However, his performance here comes as ridiculously entertaining partly because of how stupid the entire film is and how naive and silly the dialogue writing is but nevertheless it works. And that’s what matters the most.
2. Nicolas Cage – The Wicker Man (2006)
An outrageously bad remake of a cult classic horror flick, ‘The Wicker Man’ features one of the best examples of overacting in cinema. Cage is nearly unwatchable here and “compliments” the film with a performance so hammy and so over-the-top that manages to come off as weirdly entertaining in some ways. The writing is downright laughable and Cage translates it with his hammy approach that makes it look even more ludicrous. The result however is a horror movie that comes off as a hilarious comedy flick.
1. Tommy Wiseau – The Room (2003)
The classic “so-bad-that-it’s-good” film. Perhaps even the most wildly entertaining film ever made. From cringe-worthy to hilarious, intolerable to guilty pleasure, Wiseau’s performance in ‘The Room’ has been quite a hell of a ride ever since the film came out in 2003. The performance is downright terrible, atrocious, outrageous. Well, honestly you could look up all the words in the dictionary that fit in here and fill it up. But the sheer absurdity of it is what makes it so hilariously entertaining and endearing. The film has been growing in its “stature” over the years as Wiseau’s performance continues to entertain, make you laugh, cry and cringe.