The Oscars are (practically) always wrong, there’s no getting around it. Giving movies awards tends to always tick people off and lead to crying fans babbling about how The Dark Knight was so much better than American Beauty even though they came out a decade apart. But for all the errors it makes, the Academy works extremely hard to tell us what we should like.
While Best Picture flubs always get the most attention, the problem of misgiving Oscars is rampant across all categories. If you care a lot about movie costume design, chances are you weren’t thrilled when The Aviator beat out Troy, or when 102 Dalmatians was somehow nominated (cause that happened). Makeup artists might not be thrilled that Frida was gifted the award in 2002.
However, perhaps most controversial is when a bad actor or actress wins the trophy. Sometimes it happens, an undeserving actor gets the little golden man and forever will be remembered as “one of the greats.” Once you get the award there is no turning back, as Halle Berry said in her Golden Rasberry Worst Actress acceptance speech: “No, I don’t have to give [the Oscar] back, it’s got my name on it.” Here are the 12 worst actors to ever win an Oscar.
12 Brie Larson
Before she gave her stirring performance as the kidnaped mother in Room, Brie Larson had been cast as the pretty love interest in movies like 21 Jump Street. While she had some acclaimed performances, they mostly came in low budget independent films or kid movies in the mid-2000s. The 26-year-old didn’t exactly come out of nowhere, having a prominent role in the show United States of Tara, but based on her earlier work, her Oscar win was a bit surprising. Her career seems to be on an upward trajectory from here, and she has plenty of time to prove that she isn’t just a one-hit-wonder. Look out for her in Kong: Skull Island, the latest entry in the King Kong franchise.
11 Cuba Gooding Jr.
Oh Cuba… No one can ever take his Oscar away from him, but we really, really want to. Since his win in 1996, Cuba has been in 9 direct to video movies. To put it in perspective, together George Clooney, Kate Winslet, and Halle Berry have been in 0. Aside from this appalling number, those movies he made that did make it to theaters are often panned. His films include classics like Snow Dogs and Daddy Day Camp. Cuba may have learned his lesson though; since his string of idiotic family movies, he has made an effort to appear in Oscar-worthy movies that help to start a dialogue about race relations in our country. The Oscar winner has also taken noticeably smaller roles making way for better actors.
10 Marisa Tomei
This is a tough one to judge as Marisa Tomei has had multiple nominations and has been regarded as an all-around pleasant woman to be around, but how she won an Oscar has baffled fans for years. While many “non deserving” winners did give a stirring performance or were surrounded by a fantastic cast, Marisa Tomei was seemingly given the Oscar as the Academy ignored many other better performances during the nomination process. Most of her career she has been cast as either the mid-40s wife of the protagonist, or the mid-40s girlfriend of the protagonist. She rarely portrays characters with any depth and has received her nominations (and win) playing characters in this vein.
9 Sandra Bullock
It’s kind of strange that the girl from All About Steve won an Oscar the same year that the movie was released. It’s easy to say that Sandra Bullock has made some questionable career choices in her 29 years on the big screen, but it all paid off when she took home the little gold man for her performance in The Blind Side. Since then she has been careful to only work on movies that get positive critical reception, but that wasn’t always the case. Before her win in 2009, Bullock was typecast in rom-coms as the workaholic who won’t take s%*t from anyone. She won her Oscar for playing that same role, just in a different style of movie.
8 Matthew McConaughey
Speaking about actors typecast in rom-coms, how could you not bring up Matthew McConaughey? The man was a punch line for so long, even taking jabs at himself for his aloof attitude and awful movies. Then came the change. Since 2012, McConaughey has completely reinvented himself, taking controversial and demanding roles in movies like Dallas Buyers Club, True Detective, and Wolf of Wall Street. The man went from losing awards like “Choice Movie Liplock” to winning Oscars and having his choice of being any director’s leading man.
7 Jennifer Hudson
Jennifer Hudson is a fantastic singer, and an even better person. She just exudes kindness and seems like a wonderful person to be around, even if she did cheat on Weight Watchers (because, who doesn’t?). What she isn’t good at is acting. Her adequate performance in Dreamgirls was able to squeak by the crop of other performances in 2006 and get the Oscar, partially because of her amazing rendition of “And I’m telling you I’m Not Going.” Again, she's great singer, not a great actress. She has since had 0 major acting nominations and has appeared in very few movies.
6 Gwyneth Paltrow
Whatever your personal feelings are about Gwyneth Paltrow, she has never been able to even come close to the performance she gave in Shakespeare in Love. Since then, her career was on a downturn until she landed the role of Pepper Potts in the Iron Man franchise, which really just made it plateau. Her lack of good featured roles may spawn from the fact that many directors and co-stars cite her as a nightmare to work with, but it could be because of her lazy performances and her insisting on being a singer as well. Outside of Iron Man, her most recognizable role was as a guest character on Glee, cause that’s what Oscar winners do.
5 Tommy Lee Jones
Has this guy shown emotion in the past 20 years? After winning an Oscar in The Fugitive, it’s almost as if Tommy Lee Jones decided: “that’s it!” Since then almost every character he’s played has been a different version of that same military man, just in different settings. He’s the military man who fights aliens, or the military man who advises a president, or the military man who got married and retired. It’s getting tiresome and moviegoers seemingly agree, as even his “blockbusters” are failures at the box office. It’s not that he’s bad at the role, it’s just that it’s the only role he seems to play.
4 Adrien Brody
Adrien Brody's post Oscar career has been riddled with flops like King Kong and Predators, not to mention that he was banned from ever hosting SNL again after his racist improv when announcing Sean Paul as the musical guest. He was never at the top of the list of desired actors before or after his win, and his career has panned out with little more to show.
3 Michael Caine
Michael Caine is an anomaly. The guy has churned out two Best Supporting Actor awards and four Best Actor nominations, and then continuously puts on lazy performances in stupid movies. Since his last nomination in 2002, Michael has appeared in a slew of different movies from the greats (The Dark Knight, Inception), to the mediocre (Now You See Me, The Prestige), to the awful (Bewitched, Journey 2). Most Oscar winners are careful to keep their legacy in tact, especially those who aren’t forced into bad movies. Michael Caine just doesn’t seem to even care. It’s almost as if he wants to make terrible movies.
2 Whoopi Goldberg
Whoopi has earned the right to do whatever she wants to do. She is a fantastic comedian, a wonderful lady, and a talented talk show host. As an actress, Whoopi needs some work. It comes as a shock to many when they realize she has an Oscar to her name, mostly because it’s impossible to ever believe she is someone other than Whoopi Goldberg. It’s a shock that no one in Ghost, at any point, just started calling her Whoopi. She never really played characters; she just reads the lines given to her as Whoopi would do in everyday life. The roles she plays are often very two-dimensional and lack depth. Fans would love to see her back at the Oscars doing what she does best: hosting.
1 Nicolas Cage
When planning out this entry, the idea was to simply list the movies Nicolas Cage has done, but that simply doesn’t give him enough credit. Nic Cage has treated us to some of the worst performances in movie history. Yet somehow he gave a surprisingly good performance in the 1996 movie Leaving Las Vegas. The Academy may have given Nick this award because it is so amazing that he could turn such a lack of talent into such a great performance. Either way, it’s shocking to think that even though fans put so much credit in this award, Nic Cage somehow has one.