16 Movies Held Back By A Boring Main Character

List Rules
Vote up the main characters who were the weakest part of the whole movie.

There's nothing more frustrating than a film with the potential to be great, only to be held back by a boring main character. A bland protagonist can bring down an otherwise solid story and make mediocre movies downright unwatchable. Sometimes the characters are simply poorly written in the screenplay, whereas other times the problem is with their conception at the very root of the narrative. Even if there are no issues with the script, the main character can be held back by the performance itself. Whether the actor lacks the talent to carry the film or just isn’t right for the role, a miscast lead can be detrimental to the overall experience.

Some of these films are good despite an uninspired main character. Others are barely watchable but might have been improved with a more engaging protagonist. Because these are the characters the audience spends the most time with, they often have the greatest impact. In some cases, they can be overshadowed by more interesting supporting characters who steal the show. Other times the narrative is more preoccupied with spectacle, and the protagonist is almost secondary to the action, special effects, and massive set pieces. In all cases, the film would have been improved with a more interesting main character.

  • Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) is a recent college graduate who begins a contractually agreed upon sadomasochistic relationship with a rich businessman named Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), only to discover it is too much after being spanked a few times.

    The BDSM community was outraged by the inaccurate portrayal of the sadomasochistic relationship and conservative citizens bemoaned the immoral message of the movie, but the controversy was far more exciting than anything put on screen. Even with improvements made to the painfully bad book that started as Twilight fan fiction, Fifty Shades of Grey is filled with unintentionally laughable dialogue. Dakota Johnson was hired after a lengthy casting process, presumably because producers found her relatable, but the actress struggled to make anything about the role believable, including her chemistry with walking mannequin Jamie Dornan.

    • Actors: Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan, Jennifer Ehle, Eloise Mumford, Victor Rasuk
    • Released: 2015
    • Directed by: Sam Taylor-Johnson

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  • 2
    188 VOTES

    Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

    Valerian (Dane DeHaan) is a United Human Federation soldier tasked with stopping a threat from taking down an intergalactic city serving as home to citizens from a thousand different planets.   

    With the numerous fascinatingly designed aliens in the film, Valerian is bland by comparison. Despite the actor’s attempts to give him a Han Solo-type swagger, Dane DeHaan does not have the natural charisma to make it work. These efforts weren’t helped by the fact that DeHaan and his romantic co-star Cara Delevingne had absolutely zero chemistry together. The visuals of Luc Besson’s space epic are remarkable, which only makes the weak portrayal of Valerian that much more disappointing.

    • Actors: Dane DeHaan, Cara Delevingne, Clive Owen, Rihanna, Ethan Hawke
    • Released: 2017
    • Directed by: Luc Besson

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  • 3
    154 VOTES

    Lieutenant Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is a US Navy explosive ordnance disposal officer who lost his mother (Juliette Binoche) during childhood after seismic activity caused a breached nuclear power plant reactor. As an adult, Brody returns to the site of the incident with his father (Bryan Cranston), who is determined to discover the cause of the breach.

    Let’s face it: The kaiju monsters are the main reason to watch a Godzilla film and human characters always struggle to be as engaging. Although Taylor-Johnson does his best with the role, Brody simply isn’t given enough to do within the narrative to make him feel as significant as the giant fighting creatures. Even when Ford joins the US military forces attempting to take down the invading creatures serving as the film’s antagonists, these efforts are little more than a side plot to the main action with Godzilla.

    • Actors: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, Sally Hawkins
    • Released: 2014
    • Directed by: Gareth Edwards

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  • With the prequel serving as an origin story for Darth Vader, Attack of the Clones is the first film to introduce an adult Anakin Skywalker, a Jedi apprentice assigned to protect the former queen of Naboo, Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman), leading to a secret romance.

    George Lucas has never been much of an actor’s filmmaker, resulting in some painfully stilted performances within the films he has directed. Despite a massive casting search for the actor and high praise of Hayden Christensen’s audition by co-star Natalie Portman, the actor’s portrayal of Anakin is often painful to watch. Poorly written dialogue and forced emotional moments made this one of the most disappointing Star Wars films, and Christensen is often at the center of the weakest moments.

    • Actors: Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Christopher Lee, Samuel L. Jackson
    • Released: 2002
    • Directed by: George Lucas
  • Under the Silver Lake
    Photo: Under the Silver Lake / A24

    Sam (Andrew Garfield) is a stereotypical LA transplant, having moved to the city to be in the film industry only to be more fascinated with attending parties and deciphering codes in pop culture than working toward an actual career.

    Sam becomes obsessed with his neighbor (Riley Keough) when she disappears before he has the chance to sleep with her and spends the rest of the film sleeping with other women while trying to solve the mystery. Even Andrew Garfield's spot-on performance couldn’t make this horny slacker hipster interesting. If nothing else, Garfield’s accurate portrayal of the character points to major issues within the script itself. Sam isn’t distasteful enough to be an antihero and isn’t likable enough to root for, so the audience is forced to spend the run time with a boringly aimless character.

    • Actors: Andrew Garfield, Riley Keough, Topher Grace, Patrick Fischler, Grace Van Patten
    • Released: 2018
    • Directed by: David Robert Mitchell
  • 6
    53 VOTES

    The 15:17 to Paris

    The biographical drama The 15:17 to Paris follows a trio of young men that thwarted a train attack in 2015, led by Spencer Stone.

    Clint Eastwood’s decision to use the three men from the incident to play themselves was intended as a selling point, but the non-professionals were unable to give convincing performances. Stone struggles to carry the film as the primary protagonist, and the cliche-ridden dialogue is made even worse by his wooden delivery. Stone may have been critical to the efforts in stopping the train attack, but he is ill-equipped and unable to save this film from being painfully bad.

    • Actors: Judy Greer, Jenna Fischer, Thomas Lennon, Bryce Gheisar, Paul-Mikél Williams
    • Released: 2018
    • Directed by: Clint Eastwood