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18 Actors Who Always Make Bad Movies Better

Updated January 10, 2021 688 votes 78 voters 2.0k 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 Incredible Burt Wonderstone / Warner Bros. Pictures

    If we had to describe Steve Buscemi in one word, that word would be "game." He's game to take on eccentric characters (as he did in Fargo), he's game to take big roles or do small cameos, and he's game to do unapologetically silly comedy on occasion. His choice of projects often seems to be based on what he thinks would be fun for him to do as an actor, and that makes him entertaining to watch in literally everything.

    "Literally everything" includes Transformers: The Last Knight and several of pal Adam Sandler's lesser movies (The Cobbler, The Ridiculous 6). What makes Buscemi special is his absolute commitment to the material. Just look at his performance in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, in which he plays half of a cheesy Las Vegas magic duo alongside Steve Carell. No one will ever accuse that material of being brilliant, but the way Buscemi dives into his glitzy character is hilarious. 

    The actor never gives less than his full effort, ensuring that even if the movie stinks, he doesn't.

    Instant improvement?
  • Photo: New in Town / Lionsgate

    J.K. Simmons won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for 2015's Whiplash. It made him, if not a household name, at least something close to it. Now, he's an in-demand character actor who makes multiple movies per year. 

    While Simmons starred in some fine films both before and after his Oscar win, he's also helped perk up some that were disappointing. His brief cameo is the sole high point in Uwe Boll's controversial and offensive video game adaptation Postal. His joy of performance also proved to be a benefit to the otherwise drab Renée Zellweger rom-com New in Town, the flat Bradley Cooper drama The Words, and the botched Steve Jobs biopic Jobs. Because he always shows up with an abundance of enthusiasm, Simmons automatically improves any movie he's in.

    Instant improvement?
  • Photo: Rings / Paramount Pictures

    Everyone agrees that Vincent D'Onofrio is a versatile actor. He has a way of disappearing into character that makes every performance he gives unique and interesting. In the best cases - playing Edgar the bug in Men in Black, for instance - he's unforgettable. 

    Look at him in a bad movie like the sequel Rings, though. Unlike everyone else in the picture, he seems aware that he's appearing in junk, so he plays the role of a blind cemetery caretaker with a sly tongue-in-cheek quality. That willingness to have fun with subpar material also made him a highlight in Feeling Minnesota, Chips, and Escape Plan. As a performer, he's simply too fascinating to ever be boring.

    Instant improvement?
  • Photo: Like a Boss / Paramount Pictures

    Jennifer Coolidge was a member of the famed improv troupe the Groundlings, so she's highly trained in comedy. Her skills have been put to perfect use in Legally Blonde and American Pie, as well as many of Christopher Guest's movies. With a unique voice that improbably sounds like the combination of a baby doll and someone's great-grandma, her delivery of a punchline is like no one else's. 

    Despite some classics, Coolidge has popped up in a few very bad movies. Nevertheless, her comedic skills always prove a highlight. Plump Fiction, Pootie Tang, Date Movie, Like a Boss, and Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip have all benefited from the lovably ditzy screen persona she's spent years perfecting. That she keeps finding new angles to approach that persona is all the more impressive.

    Instant improvement?