What are the most overrated performances of all time? Before we list that out, do me a favor, indulge me for a moment. Sit on a chair. Tilt your head, rock gently back and forth, your hands on your lap. Stare off into space, not connecting eyes with anybody that speaks to you. Speak when you need to in a nasal tone, punctuated with yeahs and uh-ohs. You just won an Academy Award, because you have equaled what Dustin Hoffman did in ‘Rain Man’ (1988). Hoffman, a genuinely great actor humped the same note for two hours while co-star Tom Cruise busted his butt to give a performance with an actor giving him nothing. A hugely over praised performance that tops my list of crazy overrated performances through film history.
Perhaps the actor was cast in something against type and surprised critics, perhaps they were won over by the subject matter, but in hindsight the twenty performances here are indeed the most wildly over praised performances in movie history. And sadly every single performance is an Academy Award winner! How terribly sad. Here is the list of most overrated movie performances of all time.
20. Marlee Matlin – Children of a Lesser God
Without being unkind, deaf actress Matlin is not the great performance in the film, her co-star William Hurt says all of his lines and hers and brings greater emotion to it all.
19. George Burns – The Sunshine Boys
An old show business veteran gets cast as an old show business veteran; yeah, that’s a stretch. Oh, and he is old, did I mention that?
18. Judy Holliday – Born Yesterday
The classic dumb blonde who charms a mobster, she was always smarter than she seemed. But an Oscar? Over Gloria Swanson in ‘Sunset Boulevard’?
17. Jeremy Irons – Reversal of Fortune
Having not liked any performance he has ever given except as Scar in ‘The Lion King’ (1994), I am not surprised he made the list. Everything he does is overrated as far as I am concerned.
16. James Stewart – The Philadelphia Story
Not even close to being even one of the actor’s best performances, yet he won an Oscar. Of course the year before he gave the year’s best performance and lost so yep, they made it up the next year. Sad.
15. Jamie Foxx – Ray
More of an impersonation than a performance, not once did I believe I was watching Ray Charles. Impersonation in any biopic is essential, and though he looks like him, even moves like him, he never finds his soul.
14. Elizabeth Taylor – Butterfield 8
Her life was a mess, she had nearly died, so what the hell, give the girl an Oscar for of the lesser performances of her career. Critics hated the film and her in it, but not the Academy.
13. Helen Hunt – As Good As It Gets
With that wandering accent and the same old Helen Hunt shtick we saw for years on TV’s ‘Mad About You’, I wondered, throughout the film, why even the mentally ill Jack Nicholson would fall for her. So hung up on herself you should run away. So morally superior…
12. Barbra Streisand – Funny Girl
She was better later, in ‘The Way We Were’ for example and deserved her Oscar for that. In ‘Funny Girl’, is she portraying Fanny Brice or herself? I say the latter. It was never anything less than a star-making vehicle, and she knew that more than the director.
11. Adrien Brody – The Pianist
I never understood the acclaim. To me he cries on cue, he experiences Holocaust atrocities we have seen before and really gives us nothing. One of the most overrated performances of the last thirty years.
10. Humphrey Bogart – The African Queen
In one of the most likable performances of his career, Bogart won his Oscar, besting Brando in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’. Say that again out loud so you believe it. Hammy and self indulgent, it is wildly overrated.
9. Catherine Zeta-Jones – Chicago
So you spit out every line like venom and that is called great acting? You deliver each line and lyric with anger and you are named Best Supporting Actress? Shameful.
8. Kate Winslet – The Reader
This was not even the best performance Winslet gave in 2008, which would have been ‘Revolutionary Road’, yet she somehow won for this middling work.
7. Michael Douglas – Wall Street
I like Douglas as an actor but could never figure out why critics fell over themselves for his performance as Gekko? Good? Sure, but great, no way. Another Oscar winner.
6. Henry Fonda – On Golden Pond
From the moment the film was announced, Fonda was winning that Oscar. In his late seventies, playing a man in his late seventies, many felt he just played himself, a cold, nasty piece of work. Was not a fan, either of the film or him.
5. Reese Witherspoon – Walk the Line
She had an Oscar before Scorsese did. As June Carter, she smiles, she twinkles, she is as cute as a Tele Tubby, but lacking depth. If only she were not so damned smug…
4. Al Pacino – Scent of a Woman
Hoo-Haw!! Shout every line, punctuate it with Hoo-Haws and they have to give me an Oscar, and if it works, I will do it in every film for the rest of my life. That must have been what he was thinking, right?
3. Roberto Begnini – Life is Beautiful
What can I say that I have already not said about this pathetic excuse of a performance winning an Oscar? A joke, a terrible joke.
2. Julia Roberts – Erin Brockovich
Okay she can act, but I have always believed that. But what was it about her performance in ‘Erin Brockovich’ that made people take her seriously all of a sudden? Sure she is a fire cracker as Brockovich, but does anyone really believe this was a great performance, and greater than Ellen Burstyn in ‘Requiem for a Dream’?
1. Dustin Hoffman – Rain Man
As the opening paragraph suggests, not a fan. I love Hoffman, and his performance is certainly accurate, just not very good. He connects to no one, doesn’t make eye-contact with anyone, and gives a selfish performance, the kind I refer to as artistic masturbation. And they gave him an Oscar when in fact the best performance in the film was his co-star, Tom Cruise.