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Amazing Acting Performances In Otherwise Garbage Movies  

Bailey Benningfield
1.9k votes 535 voters 13.5k 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.

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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.

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Zooey Deschanel is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Amazing Acting Performances In Otherwise Garbage Movies
Photo: Paramount

In both morals and humor, Failure to Launch falls short. Just like Trip fails to launch his adult life, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew McConaughey fail to deliver believable romantic chemistry, and the filmmakers fail to deliver a logical plot. Zooey Deschanel - Paula's antisocial roommate - is the highlight of the film, so much so that some critics argued she deserved to be billed among the movie's leads. 

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Meryl Streep is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Amazing Acting Performances In Otherwise Garbage Movies
Photo: The Weinstein Company

In this oft-hated film, Meryl Streep plays an equally oft-hated historical figure, Margaret Thatcher. Although Streep's performance and impersonation of Thatcher is spot on, the filmmakers didn't know how to use her talents, and the result is a really well-performed slog. 

The Iron Lady is winding and confusing, focusing heavily on Thatcher's personal life while only touching lightly and sporadically on her career. While this portrayal led to allegations of sexism and bad filmmaking levied at the movie's writer and director, Streep received nothing but high praise for her acting chops.

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