Top Ten Movies That Obliterated Careers (or Should Have)
Every week, distributors release a large number of films into the world, which then find themselves in an even larger number of theaters to be watched by the massive number of people that make up the movie going public. In the best case scenario, an audience and critics alike celebrate the movie, and the people involved in producing it get to make another. Sometimes this process goes wrong. Some movies prompt ridicule; some effectively torpedo careers, or send them careening in directions they probably never expected when they signed their contracts and cashed whatever checks came in. Here are ten that did that to at least someone, if not everyone involved:
Following the unexpected success of Dances with Wolves, his low budget, Oscar-winning, highly popular and almost three-hour epic western, actor-director Kevin Costner attempted to recreate that success on a much grander scale with Waterworld, a science fiction epic about a mariner in search of dry land in a distant future world flooded by melted polar ice caps. The production quickly ran into serious issues, with the film repeatedly running over budget and Costner supposedly firing or prompting the walking off set of long-term collaborator and director Kevin Reynolds. By the time it hit theaters, the film had cost $175 million, making it the most expensive production in history up to that point, and mixed reviews did little to help its box office performance.
Though the film broke even and found itself a dedicated cult following over time, Waterworld (and its even longer and more bloated followup, The Postman) very much tainted Costner’s image, prompting several years of poor reviews and Golden Raspberry awards before he went on to a handful of more respected acting roles and directed the acclaimed Open Range in 2003.
Rumor has it that this 1980 musical’s premiere went so badly that by its end, the screen on which it was being projected had been damaged by audience members who threw their complimentary copies of the film’s soundtrack at it. Watching it now, this makes some sense; the film tried to cash in on the smash hit that was Saturday Night Fever but came out too late and too incomprehensibly to do so with any success. Written, directed and produced by Menahem Golan, The Apple is a garbled and poorly-sung retelling of Genesis set in 1994, which must’ve seemed like the far-off future to the filmmakers, in which an evil record company controls society. The movie was effectively a non-starter, with almost its entire cast remaining in obscurity following its release.
Rumor has it that this 1980 musical's premiere went so badly that by its end, the screen on which it was being projected had been damaged by audience members who threw their complimentary copies of the film's soundtrack at it. Watching it now, this makes some sense; the film tried to cash in on the smash hit that was Saturday Night Fever but came out too late and too incomprehensibly to do so with any success. Written, directed and produced by Menahem Golan, The Apple is a garbled and poorly-sung retelling of Genesis set in 1994, which must've seemed like the far-off future to the filmmakers, in which an evil record company controls society. The movie was effectively a non-starter, with almost its entire cast remaining in obscurity following its release.
By all logic this one should work perfectly for this list. Dünyayi Kurtaran Adam tells the story of two men who crash-land on a desert planet, train for battle by blowing up rocks, fight zombies and skeletons on horseback, and confront an evil wizard called The Wizard looking to utilize the power of human brains. More importantly, it tells this story predominantly through footage ripped directly from Star Wars: A New Hope and Soviet newsreels, as well as detuned versions of John Williams and Giorgio Moroder scores, most notably in countless scenes where the Indiana Jones theme plays when something important happens. Shoddily edited and deeply, deeply weird, the film ended up taking on the name of Turkish Star Wars and being mocked aggressively by its newfound audience when it made its way to the internet. Yet no one involved had their career anything close to destroyed by this mess. Screenwriter and star Cüneyt Arkin kept acting in many martial arts movies until his retirement in 2007, director Çetin Inanç made many more films, and a high-budget sequel, Dünyayı Kurtaran Adam’ın Oğlu (Son of the Man who Saves the World), saw release in 2006, confounding anyone who has seen the original and disappointing its devotees by not being built predominantly around stolen Star Wars clips.
Freddy Got Fingered
At the height of his career as a prankster in American pop culture, Tom Green wrote, starred in, and directed this arguable apex of early 2000s shock humor, a narrative about a cartoonist’s relationship with his dysfunctional family. However, that plot essentially serves as a jumping off point for Green’s antics, which include swinging an infant by its umbilical cord, playing dissonant keyboards with sausages suspended from his fingers, and a variety of scenes involving animals in some capacity or another. It received almost entirely zero or negative-star reviews, with Roger Ebert describing it as a potential “milestone of neo-surrealism,” undercutting such potential praise by stating that it “isn’t below the bottom of the barrel,” but that it “doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels.” Following its release, Green moved on to host a more conventional talk show on MTV, quickly married and divorced actress Drew Barrymore, took a handful of more normal roles in other films, and now performs as a stand-up comedian, but never again attempted anything as extreme as this.
Directed by the single-named Pitof, a French visual effects supervisor with a background in music videos, Catwoman serves for all intensive purposes as his only American feature and there’s a pretty good chance that this isn’t going to change any time soon. Excruciatingly slow, completely disconnected from the universe of the excellent Christopher Nolan-directed Batman films and absurd to the point that its final fight scene takes place between a woman brought back to life by a cat and a woman who has achieved near-invincibility through the side effects of toxic cosmetics, the film was described in less than affectionate terms by star Halle Berry as she collected her Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress. Additionally, the movie was plagued by production issues, perhaps evidenced by the almost 30 people supposedly in dispute over the process of the script’s rewrites, that left it incapable of becoming anything resembling a new hit superhero franchise.
Between what was then a high-profile couple in its lead roles, an advertising blitz, a substantive budget and an early summer release date, all evidence indicated that Gigli would turn at least a respectable profit of some kind before fading into obscurity; it didn’t. Instead, the film was widely panned and accused of being one of the worst to be released in 2003, if not ever, with a Boston radio station going so far as to offer shirts reading “I Survived Gigli” to anyone who attended the film’s last showing in the city. Furthermore, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez’s then-public relationship crumbled shortly after the film bombed, and filmmaker Kevin Smith recut his then-forthcoming Jersey Girl, in which Affleck and Lopez’s relationship was to be a focal point, in order to kill off Lopez’s character in the first fifteen minutes. Director Martin Brest has yet to make another film.
Manos: The Hands of Fate
Manos: The Hands of Fate feels like a broken movie. Made in El Paso, TX by a fertilizer salesman named Hal Warren looking to settle a bet by directing, starring, producing, and writing a feature film, Manos is a deeply strange, fragmented collection of scenes that feels like it could have only come from Texas about a bizarre cult, ritual sacrifice, and a satyr-like man called Torgo. Shot quickly on rented equipment, dubbed so poorly it’s often out of sync and largely unfixed in post-production (note that the film opens, for example, with a lengthy driving shot that was supposed to, but most definitely does not, feature its credits), the film quickly faded into obscurity until being picked up for an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, which rapidly propelled the movie from total obscurity into infamy, making it now one of the best known B-movies in the genre.
Whether or not Tommy Wiseau made or broke a career in film with The Room is still up for debate. Self-produced and intended to launch Wiseau’s career as a writer-producer-director-actor and master of contemporary drama, the film instead received mass derision for its borderline incoherent plot, absurd overacting, shots drifting in and out of focus, and poorly-synced dubbed dialogue, all of which has lent itself remarkably well to Rocky Horror-style audience participation. Since its release Wiseau has gone on to tour the film extensively, presenting confounding question and answer sessions before consistently sold-out monthly screenings in Los Angeles and additional showings all over the world. He’s also made cameos on Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and was involved in a short film called The House That Drips Blood on Alex, but it’s highly unlikely that he will ever be celebrated as he intended to be when he spent eight million dollars of his own money, the source of which has never been reasonably explained, on this masterpiece not-to-be.
Were this simply a bad movie, there’s be nothing more to say than “John Wayne, at the height of his career, insisted on playing Genghis Khan, and when the studio saw the results the film was shelved until 1974, when it premiered on television,” but The Conqueror’s story is considerably more tragic. The film was shot not far from the Nevada National Security Site, where many nuclear weapons tests were conducted in the 1950s, and producer/notable eccentric Howard Hughes sent tons of radioactive dirt back to California when the film needed reshoots. Within 25 years almost half of the crew developed some form of cancer and half of them had died, making the film a particularly horrific footnote in the history of American cinema.
Any film made by Godfrey Ho (a.k.a. Godfrey Hall, Benny Ho, Ho Chi-Mou, Ed Woo, Stanley Chan, Ho Fong, Ho Jeung Keung, God-Ho Yeung, and about two dozen other pseudonyms)
One look at director Godfrey Ho’s IMDb page communicates the simple fact that there’s something not quite right about his career, especially over the course of the 1980s. In 1982 alone the filmmaker produced nine titles, and he truly outdid himself in 1987, when he knocked out almost twenty in twelve months, most of which feature the word “ninja” in their title, such as Ninja Terminator, Full Metal Ninja, Full Metal Ninja, Rage of Ninja, and Thunder Ninja Kids: The Hunt for the Devil Boxer. While many directors struggle to get a film made every few years, Ho’s working method was so unique that it allowed him to get a whole lot more than that done: Ho would shoot footage for a handful of movies, then repeatedly cut and paste those shots, alongside stock footage and shots of two men wearing headbands with the word “ninja” on them, allowing him to make ten bad movies very quickly instead of just one. While this likely did good things for Ho’s bottom line, it also served as a gut-punch to American B-movie actor Richard Harrison, who acted in what he thought would be a handful of Ho’s films and instead found himself spliced into many more than that, leaving him so angry that he all but retired in the early 1990s.