Leaving Las Vegas

5 (and a bit) surprisingly good movies from supposedly bad actors

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Just as a broken clock is right twice a day, an apparently ‘bad’ actor will occasionally star in a genuinely brilliant film.

Take Adam Sandler (who stars in Blended, which is released on DVD today), for instance. Although he has unleashed Little Nicky, That’s My Boy and Jack and Jill on the world, he’s also been responsible for Punch Drunk Love and Happy Gilmore.

Here are a few more surprisingly good movies from supposedly ‘bad’ actors.


Leaving Las Vegas (and quite a few others) – Nicolas Cage

Poor old Nic Cage is often described as a bad actor, but that’s definitely not the case; he’s just a bit misunderstood.

To unlock the full power of the Cage, you just need to cast him in the right role. And for Nic, the right role is always ‘crazy guy’. For example, there’s Vampire’s Kiss, where he plays a paranoid young chap who think he’s a vampire. Then there’s Wild at Heart, where he plays a crazy outlaw with a thing for snakeskin jackets.

The pinnacle of Cage’s career, though, is Leaving Las Vegas. Cage plays a man who decides to literally drink himself to death, which he approached by studying videos of himself getting absolutely hammered in real life. It worked though, as he won an Oscar for his performance. Yes, Nicolas Cage has won an Oscar!


Precious – Mariah Carey

Prior to making Precious, famed warbler Mariah Carey’s movie career consisted of one film called Glitter. Her performance was so bad that she won the Worst Actress Razzie (which is like an Oscar for bad actors) for her efforts.

And then along came Precious. Stripped of make-up and any sign of being a pop star, Carey starred as a big-hearted but beaten-down care worker and turned in an understated but powerful performance. Who knew she had it in her?


Requiem for a Dream – Marlon Wayans

Marlon Wayans is best known for movies like Scary Movie 5 and White Chicks, which is a short way of saying that most critics hate his work.

One movie stands out on his CV, though: Requiem for a Dream. Starring alongside acting heavyweights Jared Leto and Jennifer Connelly, Wayans more than holds his own as a happy-go-lucky drug dealer for whom things go horribly, horribly wrong.

Having proved he can act, Wayans promptly blew a raspberry at the critics and went back to making bawdy comedies that make loads of money. Good on him!


Everything since 2011 – Matthew McConoughey

Once upon a time, there was an actor named Matthew McConoughey. He was good-looking and had abs of steel, and so he was cast in lots of romantic comedies where his sole purpose was to take his shirt off. Unfortunately, this led to people called him nasty names like Matthew Mahogany (it wasn’t us, promise).

And then, something amazing happened: McConoughey put his shirt back on and started acting. And he was good at it too! Since 2011, McConoughey has appeared in some great films, including The Lincoln Lawyer and Mud. His ascent to acting glory has even been given a name: the McConaissance.

The McConaissance hit its peak earlier this year, when McConoughey won an Oscar for his performance in Dallas Buyer’s Club and universal praise for portrayal of Rust Cohle in True Detective. And this was the bloke who starred in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past!


JCVD – Jean Claude Van Damme

Jean-Claude Van Damme must hate looking at his Rotten Tomatoes page. It’s an almost constant stream of bad films, with Universal Soldier (19%), Street Fighter (12%) and Derailed (0%) particular low lights.

Take a closer look, however, and you’ll find JCVD, which currently has a staggering (for poor Jean-Claude) 83%.

JCVD sees Jean-Claude take on the role of a lifetime as…erm, Jean-Claude Van Damme. The Muscles from Brussels plays a fictionalised version of himself, a down-and-out washed up actor who ends up getting involved in a hostage situation at his local post office.

It’s unlike anything he’s done before, with the highlight of the film coming when Jean-Claude delivers a 6-minute monologue to the camera about his life, his family and his own failings with all the conviction of an Oscar winner (who happens to be good at kicking people in the head).


Can you think of any films we’ve missed? Tell us in the comments!

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