74 voters

18 Actors Who Always Make Bad Movies Better

Updated January 10, 2021 667 votes 74 voters 1.8k views18 items

List RulesVote up the actors who instantly improve every bad movie they're in.

Every actor who has any kind of career longevity will occasionally make a turkey. It's inevitable. Fortunately, we have actors who save bad movies. That's a very distinct trait - one that relies not only on talent but also on the positive feelings viewers bring toward them. These performers have something special that people just can't get enough of.

Of course, none of them intentionally set out to make bad movies. It's just something that happens, and it's in no way their fault. If anything, their work mitigates the damage. When a film fails to pan out, for whatever reason, you can still admire the way the actors visibly show up ready to give their all. 

Some of the following actors who always make bad movies better are A-listers, whereas others are familiar faces you see time and time again, perhaps without even knowing their names. Which ones make the most significant improvement to cinematic duds? Your votes will decide.

  • Photo: The Country Bears / Buena Vista Pictures

    Christopher Walken is one of those guys who loves to act and will cheerfully turn up in just about anything he's offered. His presence makes a great film, like Pulp Fiction or True Romance, even greater. Without a doubt, he's got big-time acting skills.

    At the same time, Walken can always enliven a bad movie with his unusual presence and quirky way of delivering dialogue. He provides a spark of joy in otherwise drab pictures like Gigli, The Country Bears, Nine LivesKangaroo Jack, and The War with Grandpa. Oftentimes, filmmakers give him some kind of weirdo monologue to deliver, and he never fails to ace it. That's because he delivers 100% in anything he does.

    Instant improvement?
  • Photo: The Spirit / Lionsgate

    Everybody loves Samuel L. Jackson in the Marvel movies and anytime he works with A-list directors like Spike Lee and Quentin Tarantino. He's forged some important alliances in the movie business, working with those key collaborators repeatedly to give audiences smart, ambitious, entertaining work. He also played fan-favorite Mace Windu in the Star Wars prequels.

    It's a testament to how popular Jackson is that everybody loves him in duds, too. There's a lot to criticize about that recent Shaft remake, as well as stuff like The Spirit, The Man, White Sands, Life Itself, and other misses. No one will come away from them complaining about Jackson, though. He's always got a sense of charm in his performances that transcends the weak material. 

    Plus, it's entertaining to hear him cuss up a blue streak, as has become his trademark.

    Instant improvement?
  • Photo: King Ralph / Universal Pictures

    John Goodman doesn't look like a typical movie star. He looks like a guy who would work at the local hardware store. That down-to-earth quality has long endeared him to audiences. His performances in the Coen Brothers movies Raising Arizona and The Big Lebowski are beloved, and his turn as a William Castle-esque director in Joe Dante's Matinee is a cult favorite. Let's not forget that he earned a big ol' box-office hit playing Fred in the live-action version of The Flintstones

    Goodman's warm presence and everyman appeal also light up pictures that are, shall we say, less satisfying than any of those titles. Remember King Ralph, in which he plays a working-class American who suddenly becomes the king of England? Or that ill-advised Stella Dallas remake, Stella, he did with Bette Midler? Or Blues Brothers 2000? Even in those and other misfires, Goodman is a jovial presence, making viewers smile with his abundance of energy.

    Instant improvement?
  • Photo: The Bonfire of the Vanities / Warner Bros. Pictures

    Morgan Freeman is one of the most highly respected actors working today. He achieved that status through beautifully nuanced performances in movies like The Shawshank Redemption, Seven, Driving Miss Daisy, and his Oscar-winning turn in Million Dollar Baby. Those are merely a few of his career highlights. 

    But as wonderful and talented as he is, Freeman does turn up in a flop every once in a while. When that happens, he still brings his commanding presence, as he did playing a no-nonsense judge in the botched screen adaptation of Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities and as an FBI agent in Transcendence. There's something comforting about seeing him play an authority figure, even in a lemon.

    Other times, he taps into his comedic side. Zack Braff's remake of Going in Style may not have had many laughs, nor did the old-guys-in-Sin-City romp Last Vegas, but Freeman was charming in them anyway. He's incapable of being anything less.

    Instant improvement?