The process of making a movie is a complex one – especially in the modern world, when special effects are often so important in completing the production process. However, even with all this technology and the endless smoke and mirrors, the timeless factors that generally determine whether a movie is great or terrible or anything in are, of course, the plot and the characters.
Characters, in particular, are essential to a movie’s success – a Hollywood offering is made or broken depending on how strong and relatables its leading personalities are. They are the heart of the movie and the aspect of any given production that audiences can relate to most.
The best and most memorable characters in movie history – the likes of Hannibal Lecter, Scarlett O’Hara, Indiana Jones, Norman Bates, Vito Corleone, The Joker or James Bond – tend to come from popular movies that, for one reason or another, are considered to be great. That isn’t always the case, however.
Some movies can be absolutely terrible, but may be marginally redeemed by one key character who’s so great, he or she actually makes the awful movie watchable. These are ten such rare and awesome characters, who were encumbered by otherwise terrible movies.
10. Sinestro (Green Lantern)
2011’s Green Lantern was a terrible movie – one of the worst comic book adaptations of recent times – thanks largely to the inappropriate casting of Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan (the rest of the cast wasn’t great on the whole either).
That being said, Mark Strong portrayed a very good Sinestro – the mentor of Jordan who would later wield the yellow ring of fear. Strong was imposing in the role, which is exactly what you need from someone who was meant to go on to form the evil Sinestro Corps. In that sense, it was actually a shame the movie bombed and a sequel wasn’t made so that he could shine some more.
An honourable mention has to go to the late Michael Clarke Duncan’s Kilowog as well – although his character wasn’t as complex as Sinestro and was indeed wholly CGI.
Character Quote: “You reek of fear, Hal Jordan. Abin Sur was a great warrior. My mentor. My friend. You insult his memory by wearing his ring.”
9. James “Jim” Brody (Freddy Got Fingered)
Freddy Got Fingered is one of the worst movies ever made.
Tom Green’s nonsensical 2001 “comedy” – about Tom Green’s character Gord ambling through life until he finally gets his big break – was truly awful. However, one character makes it worth watching.
Gord’s long-suffering father – Jim, played by the brilliant Rip Torn – is hilarious. His frustration at his son’s lack of achievements are portrayed in such an outrageous way that you can’t help but split your sides laughing. He’s aggressive, sarcastic and, at the same time, resigned to his son forever being a nobody – and it’s absolutely great.
Character Quote: “Ohhhhhhh, look honey, our boy’s a genius! He’s rigged a pulley system so he can eat sausage and work on his stupid drawings!”
8. Poison Ivy (Batman and Robin)
1997’s Batman and Robin is generally accepted to be a terrible movie, jam-packed with horrible one-liners and terrible character depictions. George Clooney was a terrible Batman, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze had some of the worst lines in movie history and Jeep Swenson’s Bane was a mindless far-cry from the tactical genius in the comic books.
Uma Thurman’s Poison Ivy, however, was pretty damn good. She had the whole femme fatale thing down to a T and, more to the point, she looked great (and her one-liners weren’t nearly as terrible as most of the other characters).
She was one of the few cast members to come out of the movie with her reputation intact and rightly so.
Character Quote: “There’s something about an anatomically correct rubber suit that puts fire in a girl’s lips.”
7. Seymour Simmons (Transformers)
In spite of the franchise’s undeniable financial success, there’s no doubting that Michael Bay has ruined Transformers – especially for the children of the 80’s who are familiar with the original Generation 1 incarnation of the “robots in disguise”.
The same can be said for all four instalments in the franchise, but let’s focus on the first one here (which is actually the best, but still terrible) from 2007. It introduces a number of key characters, all of whom are rather annoying and poorly performed, except one.
John Turturro’s Agent Seymour Simmons – a member of the government’s Sector 7 Advanced Research Division – is brilliant. He’s eccentric, weird and crazy – and he wears Hawaiian underwear and clip-on ties – but he brings some real humour to the film.
Turturro reprised the role in two further Transformers movies (both of which he stole the show in again).
Character Quote: “All right, okay! Hey, you want to lay the fate of the world on the kid’s Camaro? That’s cool.”
6. Alice (Resident Evil)
It may seem weird to say that a movie (and indeed an entire franchise) is terrible when the lead protagonist is great, but that’s exactly what the case is regarding 2002’s Resident Evil (and its numerous sequels).
The first movie is indeed the best of the lot – and the four sequels it has spawned so far generally get gradually worse – but it’s still far from being a good piece of cinema. That being said, Milla Jovovich as Alice definitely makes it watchable.
Not only is she as gorgeous as ever, she’s also totally bad-ass and she portrays the enigma of her amnesiac character with a great deal of believability.
Character Quote: “That homicidal bitch may be our only way out of here.”
5. Bison (Street Fighter)
The late, great Raul Julia never disappointed with his acting and that notion didn’t change even in the worst of the films he starred in – 1994’s Street Fighter was no different.
It was an awful movie – a poorer example of a video game movie adaptation (which is really saying something) – which consisted of a whole load of otherwise terrible acting, some horrifically cheesy one-liners and a predictable plot.
Julia, however, was fantastic as the lead antagonist Bison. He overacted, sure, but it was done with real verve and gusto to the point that it was awesome and highly entertaining. He knew the film wasn’t great and just enjoyed the ride.
Character Quote: “For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. But for me, it was Tuesday.”
4. Hoagie Newcombe (Jaws: The Revenge)
Michael Caine has never been shy about the fact that he has taken on some film roles solely for the pay-day, but to see him in 1987’s Jaws: The Revenge was still quite a shock (when asked about it, he famously said “I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific”).
It’s an awful film and it sullies the franchise quite badly – even more so than Jaws 3-D, which is really saying something – but Caine was typically brilliant in it. His sleepy-eyed charisma as carefree airplane pilot Hoagie Newcombe almost made the movie worth watching.
It’s safe to say, however, that he probably regrets missing the chance to collect his Academy Award for Hannah and Her Sisters thanks to Jaws: The Revenge filming commitments.
Character Quote: “When I get back, remind to tell you about the time I took 100 nuns to Nairobi!”
3. Qui-Gon Jinn (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace)
It’s fair to say that the Star Wars prequel trilogy wasn’t very good – in spite of the excitement the movies generated and in spite of the undeniable financial success that came with them.
The first one – 1999’s Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace – was the worst of the three, but it also provided the most awesome character. Liam Neeson brings a decent level of bad-assery with him to any role and his experienced Jedi Master, Qui-Gon Jinn, certainly had plenty of that.
As well as being a great warrior, he was full of wisdom and, most impressively, grabbed Jar-Jar Binks’ tongue to make him shut the hell up – something everyone was thankful for.
Character Quote: “The ability to speak does not make you intelligent. Now get out of here.”
2. Lex Luthor (Superman Returns)
To call 2006’s Superman Returns “terrible” might be a bit harsh, but it was certainly underwhelming, uninspired and a little bit boring. Brandon Routh wasn’t wholly awful as the titular hero, but he was given very little to work with and the supporting cast was largely unmemorable – apart from Lex Luthor, that is.
With an actor as talented as Kevin Spacey in the role, it was never going to be a poor depiction of the character, but the fact is it was actually brilliant.
Spacey’s Luthor was well-written (unlike other characters in the movie), with an aura of power and a sadistic cruelty that made him a great villain.
Character Quote: “Prison is a creepy place, Kitty, and one needs to make creepy friends in order to survive. On the inside, even my talents were worth less than a carton of cigarettes and a sharp piece of metal in your pocket.”
1. The Accountant (Drive Angry)
If you’re looking for guns, gore and car chases, 2011’s Drive Angry delivers exactly what you want. If you’re looking for a great piece of movie-making, you’ll be sorely disappointed by it.
It’s a loud, clunky mess of a film with very little by way of plot – and a typically insane Nicolas Cage performance as John Milton in the lead role – but it does have a good point (in addition to the gorgeous Amber Heard being easy on the eyes) in the form of a character; The Accountant.
William Fichtner’s character is a servant of Satan himself, who is tasked with taking Milton back to hell. He is dry and sarcastic and he performs the role with a swagger that can’t be denied.
Character Quote: “I need you boys to stand down. Captain, you know what this badge means, right? Federal Bureau of get-the-f*ck-out-of-my-way.”