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Amazing Acting Performances In Otherwise Garbage Movies 

Bailey Benningfield
Updated June 18, 2019 2.2k votes 616 voters 15.7k views 15 items

List Rules Vote up the excellent performances that stand out in otherwise not-great films.

Acting: it's hard! But some people manage to do it so spectacularly they carry an entire poorly-written movie. Unlike bad movies with great casts, these horrible films only have one - maybe two - redeeming performances. But if you can look past all the distracting CGI, tired tropes, and hollow dialogue, you can glimpse master artistry at work. 

When starring in an Oscar-bait film loaded with money and big-name stars, it's easy for an individual actor to phone in a solid performance. In such films, there's never a shortage of dazzle, so a few weak moments can easily be overlooked in the name of the final product's grand elegance. However, without the support of well-executed movie magic, the actors must take responsibility for making their movie at least partially watchable. And when performers rise to the challenge, it's obvious to absolutely everyone. 

Vote up the actors who were simply too good for the movies in which they appeared.

Margot Robbie is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Amazing Acting Performances In Otherwise Garbage Movies
Photo: Warner Bros.

Despite Jared Leto's highly-publicized attempts at method acting, which for some reason included sending a pig carcass to his costars, Margot Robbie is the one who truly gets it right in Suicide Squad. Always one to commit, critics praised her performance, even as they admitted she couldn't save the film.

Although the movie has essentially the same vibe as a 14-year-old My Chemical Romance fan come to life, Robbie provides a dark, funny, and layered performance.

Is this a diamond in the rough?
Sandra Bullock is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Amazing Acting Performances In Otherwise Garbage Movies
Photo: Netflix

Although certainly entertaining, Bird Box is filled with horror tropes and gratuitous gristle. Even though the filmmakers arguably squandered Sandra Bullock and Sarah Paulson's romantic chemistry on sisterhood, Bullock makes the film watchable. She delivers just the right amount of emotion to make her character's relationships believable, regardless of the banal dialogue and lengthy run-time.

Is this a diamond in the rough?
Olivia Wilde is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Amazing Acting Performances In Otherwise Garbage Movies
Photo: Walt Disney Pictures

Obsessed more with technology andvisual effects than with creating a story that's actually interesting, Tron: Legacy underwhelmed critics by lacking plot and character development. Olivia Wilde, who plays Quorra, adds a touch of humanity to the film's digital world, which otherwise feels cold and largely devoid of emotion.

Although critics have used some odd adjectives to describe Wilde's performance, including "fragrant" and filled with "feline innocence," everyone seems to agree she delivers a warmth the rest of the film notably lacks. 

Is this a diamond in the rough?
Russell Crowe is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Amazing Acting Performances In Otherwise Garbage Movies
Photo: Warner Bros.

Superhero movies are like sand in the shoe of popular culture: even when you think you've gotten it all out, more inevitably appears, and you say to yourself, "Oh, c'mon." With this in mind, it's hardly surprising a movie about Superman - on its seemingly hundreth iteration - fails to deliver a unique plotline that doesn't veer into heavy-handed platitudes.

However, between the gratuitous action sequences and less-than-likeable lead in Man of Steel, Russell Crowe, who plays Superman's dad, delivers an impassioned performance that provides the film with some much-needed sentimentality.

Is this a diamond in the rough?