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14 Times Actors Reunited On Screen But Couldn't Recapture The Magic

December 2, 2020 1.4k votes 314 voters 48.9k views14 items

List RulesVote up the actor reunions that couldn't recapture the magic.

We've all had the experience of seeing two stars reunited onscreen, only to have them fail to recapture the magic from their classic first pairing. Something special happens when the right two actors are put together. It's not only that the film itself is good, but that the two stars generate a specific kind of alchemy that burns into our memories. Sometimes, it's a romantic pairing with palpable onscreen heat. Other times, two actors might play off each other comically in an especially potent way. Whatever the reason, the collaboration proves unusually satisfying. 

That's why it's a bummer when the follow-up doesn't deliver the same goods. Whether it's weaker material, troubled productions, or shifts to a different genre, lightning simply doesn't strike a second time.

Below are some of the most notable examples of times actors reunited onscreen after a big hit, but couldn't recapture the magic. Which was the most disappointing? Your votes will decide.

  • Reds was one of the most acclaimed motion pictures of 1981. It was nominated for 12 Oscars, including Best Picture, and it won three - Best Cinematography, Best Supporting Actress for Maureen Stapleton, and Best Director for Warren Beatty. Beatty and co-star Diane Keaton were both nominated in the lead acting categories. The bond between their characters - a journalist and an activist, respectively - helps give this love story set against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution an emotional punch.

    Beatty and Keaton would share the screen once more in 2001's Town & Country, a comedy about an architect who keeps cheating on his wife, including with her best friend. The film received as much scorn as Reds earned accolades. Beatty and director Peter Chelsom engaged in an ongoing power struggle over the tone of the movie, and poor test screenings led to significant rewriting, reshooting, and re-editing. What ended up onscreen is a complete mess that wastes any potential investment in the characters portrayed by its two ultra-appealing leads.

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  • John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd transferred the magic they created as Saturday Night Live cast members to the big screen in The Blues Brothers. It was a feature-length version of a bit they did on the show and later took on tour. Because they created the characters of Jake and Elwood Blues - and Aykroyd co-wrote the screenplay - the film is perfectly tailored to their strengths, both as individual performers and as a duo.

    One year after the release of The Blues Brothers, the comedians reunited for Neighbors, a dark comedy based on the novel by Thomas Berger. The story concerns a straight-laced suburbanite who grows frustrated with the weird couple that just moved in next door. The fundamental problem is that someone decided it would be a good idea to have the two stars play against type, with Belushi as the conservative man and Aykroyd as the off-the-wall guy. That approach creates a dynamic in which Belushi perpetually feels like he's holding back, while Aykroyd overacts in an effort to appear unhinged. 

    Fans of The Blues Brothers understandably rejected Neighbors, as did critics.

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  • When John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson teamed up in Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, the duo were the centerpiece of a groundbreaking film that many people consider to be the single most important film of the 1990s. It was certainly the most influential, spawning a lot of pale imitators. The two actors worked up unforgettable chemistry together playing the hitmen who discuss banalities like eating at McDonald's in between jobs. They knew just how to deliver the screenplay's sharp dialogue so that it was simultaneously hard-boiled and funny.

    In 2003, the actors collaborated again in Basic, and were at a disadvantage from the start, given that the movie wasn't written by Tarantino. Instead, they're stuck in a muddled plot about the search for a group of Army Rangers who went missing during a training exercise. The many plot twists don't add up, and Basic has a howler of a surprise ending it has to scramble to explain to the audience.

    Whereas Pulp Fiction is tightly plotted, Basic is a mess that keeps Travolta and Jackson apart for most of the running time. What was the point of putting them in the same movie if they don't get to banter together onscreen?

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  • Silver Linings Playbook was an Oscar darling, earning eight nominations, including Best Picture. The story of a man with bipolar disorder and the young widow he enters a dance competition with works as drama, comedy, and romance. That's because Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are nothing less than scorching in their roles. The latter won the Academy Award for Best Actress. Audiences embraced the movie to the tune of $132 million domestically.

    Cooper and Lawrence reunited for Serena, a film that made a paltry $176,391 stateside after its release was repeatedly delayed. Why such a discrepancy? Silver Linings Playbook is contemporary and funny, whereas Serena - set in the Great Depression - is a dour period drama. SLP has a happy, uplifting ending. Serena, on the other hand, ends on a decidedly downbeat note.

    Fortunately for the actors, American Hustle and Joy, in which they also share screen time, were more enthusiastically received.

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