Picking the right script is harder than you might think. Sometimes, an actor says yes to a movie under the mistaken belief that it will be a huge hit, only for it to turn out to be an incoherent mess that puts off critics and audiences alike.
Then there are those movies where an actor is so wooden, he or she could be used to build a dining room table.
Oftentimes, these movies come very close to destroying an actor’s career. Here are twenty movies that almost crashed – or indeed did crash – their star’s careers.
Hayden Christensen – Attack Of The Clones / Revenge Of The Sith
Hayden Christensen probably thought landing the part of the adult Anakin Skywalker in the second movie of George Lucas’ Star Wars prequel trilogy would lead to great things. Sadly, a combination of his wooden acting, George’s appalling script and two movies that were about as exciting as watching paint dry pretty much did for Christensen’s career. Luckily, despite the near-universal panning his acting in Star Wars received, Christensen has been working steadily ever since, and he’s currently got two movies in post-production.
Tom Green – Freddy Got Fingered
Comedian Tom Green’s career was coming along quite nicely until he made the truly awful Freddy Got Fingered in 2001. He had received acclaim for 1999’s The Tom Green Show, and appeared in Road Trip, Superstar and Charlie’s Angels. Freddy Got Fingered was supposed to launch his comedy movie career to Adam Sandler-levels. Unfortunately, the movie was universally panned and a box office flop, and Green has been coasting along making small appearances in movies and TV shows ever since.
Chris O’Donnell – Batman & Robin
Chris O’Donnell was very much the up-and-coming actor to watch following on from his Golden Globe-nominated performance in 1992’s Scent of a Woman. In 1995, he landed the role of Robin in the smash hit Batman Forever. He couldn’t have guessed that the next Batman movie, 1997’s Batman and Robin, would be such a disaster. The movie’s star, George Clooney, managed to emerge from the rubble relatively unscathed, but O’Donnell’s career suffered badly. It wasn’t until he landed the role of Special Agent G. Callen in NCIS: Los Angeles in 2009 that he was able to get his career back on track.
Elizabeth Berkley – Showgirls
Elizabeth Berkley played Jesse Spano in the long-running high school comedy, Saved by the Bell. Her success in that show led many people to believe that she would to go on to have a very successful movie career. However, her appearance in Paul Verhoeven’s 1995 megaflop, Showgirls, pretty much killed her career stone dead. She eventually managed to turn things around, going on to star in shows such as The L Word and CSI: Miami.
Jake Lloyd – The Phantom Menace
Jake Lloyd already had the smash hit Arnold Schwarzenegger Christmas movie, Jingle All the Way, under his belt when he was cast as young Anakin Skywalker in George Lucas’s Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Sadly, despite being a huge commercial success, the movie was panned by many people, and Lloyd was bullied at school and became a target for fan abuse. He eventually quit acting altogether, and in 2015 he was arrested on a charge of reckless driving and diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Mike Myers – The Love Guru
Once the undisputed king of the comedy movie genre, with hits such as Austin Powers and Wayne’s World under his belt, by the 2000s, Mike Myers’ star had faded a bit and he was mainly known for providing a dodgy Scottish accent for the lead character in the Shrek movie series. Myers tried to relaunch his flagging comedy career in 2008 with The Love Guru. Unfortunately, the movie was a critical and commercial failure, and Myers spent the best part of the following decade in the career doldrums. Things have started picking up for him again now, with an appearance in the forthcoming Freddie Mercury biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody, and a new Austin Powers movie in the pipeline.
Sean Connery – The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Turning down the part of Gandalf in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy in favor of playing Alan Quartermain in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen proved not to be one of veteran actor Sean Connery’s smartest moves. Passing on Gandalf because he didn’t understand the script meant the Scottish actor missed out on an estimated $450 million in shared profits, and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen went on to be a commercial and critical failure. Sadly, it was also Connery’s final movie as he retired soon afterwards.
John Travolta – Battlefield Earth
It came as no surprise to anybody but John Travolta when his vanity project, Battlefield Earth, was panned by critics and shunned by audiences back in 2000. The movie was based on one of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s novels, and wasn’t just universally hated, but also managed to bankrupt the production company behind it. Travolta’s career took a tumble as a result, and it wasn’t really until 2015’s American Crime Story TV drama that the actor was able to get his career back on track.
Mark Hamill – Star Wars
Unless you happened to have the first name ‘Harrison’ and the last name ‘Ford’, Star Wars was a bit of a poisoned chalice for most of the actors involved in it. Yes, the movie was a massive success and became the undisputed heavyweight of the modern pop culture explosion, but for actors such as Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, shaking off the roles of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia proved incredibly difficult. Hamill spent most of the ’80s acting in Broadway stage productions in an attempt to avoid typecasting. Unfortunately, when he did make a return to movie acting, it was in the unsuccessful Slipstream. A string of flops and cameos followed, meaning that for most of the 1990s and 2000s, Hamill was principally known for his voiceover work, in particular voicing the Joker in the Batman animated series. He made a return to the Star Wars universe in 2017’s The Force Awakens.
Lori Petty – Tank Girl
Lori Petty was a rising star back in the early 1990s, with hits such as A League of Their Own, Point Break and Free Willy under her belt. 1995’s Tank Girl was her first leading role, and sadly it bombed at the box office. Petty’s career never really recovered, and she has spent the last twenty years cropping up here and there in various TV shows and relatively obscure movies.
Jamie Kennedy – Son Of Mask
Jamie Kennedy was big news in the late ’90s and early ’00s. He had already starred in three Scream movies, and had delighted audiences in movies such as Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle and Malibu’s Most Wanted. There didn’t seem any reason why his next movie, Son of Mask, would stop his career from going from strength to strength … and then people saw it. The movie was absolutely dreadful, and Kennedy’s career suffered as a result. He eventually made a comeback of sorts in the show Ghost Whisperer and as a voice actor on the now cancelled The Cleveland Show.
Brandon Routh – Superman Returns
There were high hopes when Bryan Singer’s spiritual successor to Superman II, Superman Returns, was announced. Unfortunately, the movie didn’t live up to expectations when it turned out Singer’s version of Superman wouldn’t do anything particularly super, and the plot revolved around Lex Luthor forcing everyone in the world to buy real estate from him (yes, really). Brandon Routh – who had expected to come back for a planned sequel – was ditched, and his career didn’t really go anywhere until he was cast in the TV show Arrow and its spin-off show, Legends of Tomorrow.
Geena Davis – Cutthroat Island
Cutthroat Island was the movie that not only broke Geena Davis’s career, but also her marriage to the movie’s director, Renny Harlin, and the production company who bet the farm on it being a success. The movie was a chaotic mess from start to finish, production dragged on and on and the final result was a critical and commercial failure. The production company went bust after the $98 million movie made just $10 million at the box office, Harlin and Davis split up and Davis hasn’t done anything of note since.
Will Smith – After Earth
It became blindingly obvious quite early into After Earth that Jaden Smith had landed the lead role in the movie more for who his father was than for his acting ability. The movie was panned by critics and audiences stayed away on hearing the news that Smith spent most of the movie slowly bleeding to death in a chair. Jaden Smith’s acting career pretty much went nowhere after After Earth, and it took another two years before his father was back on screen in the well-received sports drama, Concussion.
Topher Grace – Spider-Man 3
Sam Raimi’s previous two Spider-Man movies were critically acclaimed and very popular with audiences. Unfortunately, continuous studio interference made his third movie a mess that is still regularly criticized today. One of the movie’s villains, Venom, was played by rising star Topher Grace. His wooden performance was criticized, and the failure of the movie pretty much killed his career stone dead.
Demi Moore – Striptease
Striptease saw Demi Moore ‘bearing all’ for Burt Reynolds in a film that would later romp to victory in the 1996 Golden Raspberry Awards. Moore was paid an astonishing $12.5 million to play the part of a former FBI secretary who is forced to become a stripper to pay for a custody battle after losing her job. The movie was ridiculed for its plot and for Moore’s and Reynolds’ appalling acting, and Moore has never enjoyed the sort of success that made her one of the highest-paid actresses of the 1990s ever again.
Madonna – Swept Away
Madonna’s movie career has been sketchy at best. For every Desperately Seeking Susan and Evita there’s a Dick Tracy and a Die Another Day. For many, her absolute worst has to be 2002’s Swept Away. Directed by her then husband Guy Ritchie, the movie was torn to shreds by critics, and audiences stayed away in droves. The singer’s acting came in for particular criticism and, apart from an appearance in an episode of Will & Grace in 2003, she hasn’t acted in a movie or TV show since. Best to stick to what you know, Madge.
Lindsay Lohan – I Know Who Killed Me
It’s hard to remember that Lindsay Lohan used to be the squeaky clean Disney poster girl and star of wholesome fayre such as Parent Trap and Herbie: Fully Loaded. We all know what happened next. The Mean Girls star fell spectacularly off the rails and what should have been an easy transition from teen star to A list actress was derailed by years of hard partying and constant run-ins with the law.
Kevin Costner – The Postman
If Waterworld took the shine off Kevin Costner’s Oscar-winning career, The Postman buried it for years. The movie was a critical and commercial failure, and Costner retreated into smaller roles as he began to slowly rebuild his career. Nowadays he’s seen as a stalwart elder statesman figure, playing the roles of older, wiser men in movies such as Man of Steel and Hidden Figures.
Christopher Reeve – Superman IV
It’s astonishing to think that Christopher Reeve turned down the lead in movies such as Lethal Weapon, American Gigolo, Body Heat and Fatal Attraction in favor of the massive turkey that was Superman IV: The Quest For Peace. The movie – which was made on a shoestring and filmed mostly in the very un-New York-like, 1960s British city of Milton Keynes – was a box office bomb and Reeves’ career never really recovered.