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Actors: Most of them are lucky if they can even act. So it’s always hilarious when they try other stuff, like singing, running for president, or playing bass. Still, there’s nothing that torpedoes a career quite like a self-directed vanity project. The Ben Affleck–helmed Gone Daddy Gone hits theaters this weekend, and you can only imagine our abject disappointment, as bloggers, when we found out that it’s actually supposed to be very good. But not every movie star can be competent at two things. Here’s our list of the Ten Worst Movies Directed by Actors*.
*Not including Kevin Costner, because that would be too easy.
Related: Grub Street Defends ‘The Cable Guy,’ and Other Awesome Responses to Our Actors-Turned-Directors List
10. Duplex (2002), Danny DeVito
In a career filled with directing misfires — Hoffa and Death to Smoochy among them — Duplex stands out; a critic friend describes it as “maybe the worst New York movie ever made.” Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore star as Park Slope yuppies who must knock off an 81-year-old tenant so they can move into their dream house. DeVito, who once showed a real flair for dark humor (in The War of the Roses, for example), lost all control of tone in this one, and the result is an awkward mishmash of cutesy romance and black comedy — singularly unfunny and sour.
9. Beyond the Sea (2004), Kevin Spacey
Making a Bobby Darin biopic was a lifelong dream for Spacey, but once he turned 45, he probably should have known better than to try to play the teenage Darin himself. His is the only voice on the soundtrack — a weird choice for a guy ostensibly trying to reintroduce another singer’s music to new fans — and Beyond the Sea comes off less as a tribute to Darin than one to Spacey.
8. Romance & Cigarettes (2007), John Turturro
In this noxious pseudo-musical about a philandering Queens construction worker, Turturro embarrasses an all-star cast including Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Christopher Walken, and Mary-Louise Parker, pointlessly asking them to sing bad karaoke to Bruce Springsteen, James Brown, and Tom Jones (see above) hits. It took Turturro more than two years to get the film into theaters, but the actors probably wish he’d given up after one. It would be even higher on our list if it weren’t for Kate Winslet, who inexplicably gives the performance of her career in the middle of this steaming mess.
7. Sonny (2003), Nicolas Cage
Of all the directors Nicolas Cage has worked with — Spike Jonze, the Coen brothers, Martin Scorsese, David Lynch — it’s a shame that the one whose working methods Cage seems to have absorbed the most is Mike Figgis. Using all of Figgis’s quasi-naturalistic style but none of his formal discipline, Cage directed Sonny, the story of a young hustler (James Franco) in 1981 New Orleans, as a collection of overripe performances so mismatched as to make the movie seem like a madhouse. Particularly awful: Brenda Blethyn as Sonny’s mother/madam, who shrieks in a hybrid Nawlins-Cockney accent like a banshee from hell.
6. The Cable Guy (1997), Ben Stiller
Jim Carrey was famously paid $20 million to star in this dark, unpleasant comedy about a guy who can’t separate television from reality, and the movie was dead on arrival with critics and at the box office. Was actor turned director Ben Stiller to blame? Maybe; it’s not as if his other movies — Reality Bites and Zoolander — have been so great. But The Cable Guy is in a class by itself, a movie so viscerally unpleasant to watch that a scene with Carrey stretching a chicken skin over his face qualifies as one of its most charming moments. How bad a director do you have to be to completely screw up a Judd Apatow script?
5. The Lost City (2005), Andy Garcia
A bloated, incomprehensible pet project, Garcia’s paean to a prerevolution Cuba took nineteen years to make, probably because nobody could make it through the script without falling asleep. The Lost City wants to be The Godfather, but, well, it’s not. The story follows Fico Fellove, a Havana nightclub owner, living under the threat of the Batista … Zzzzzzz.
4. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989), William Shatner
Easily the weakest Star Trek movie ever, Frontier is a dull, plotless slog from the outer reaches of the galaxy (which look really fake thanks to hilariously chintzy special effects) to Yosemite National Park (Kirk and Spock toast marshmallows) that proves Shatner knows almost as much about directing as he does about singing.
3. What Is It? (2006), Crispin Glover
Glover — still best known as the creepy dad in Back to the Future — tries to be David Lynch with this “surreal” “non-narrative” about a guy “tormented by an hubristic, racist inner psyche.” The film stars a Shirley Temple look-alike in a Nazi uniform, porn actresses wearing nothing but animal masks, and Fairuza Balk as the voice of a snail. What Is It? reportedly took a decade to make, and probably still wouldn’t have been very good even if Glover had worked on it for several more decades.
2. Harlem Nights (1989), Eddie Murphy
Unlike some actor turned directors, like Clint Eastwood, Eddie Murphy does not direct a movie in order to showcase the talents of other fine actors. He directed Harlem Nights to showcase himself. As the Washington Post’s estimable Desson Howe put it when the movie first came out: “With narcissistic aplomb, [Murphy] reduces Redd Foxx to doddering blindness, actress-vocalist Della Reese to scatological cussing, Arsenio Hall to an unfunny crying cameo and Richard Pryor, his former idol (and apparently the only comedian in this movie), to double-takes and Murphy-admiring smiles.”
1. Braveheart (1995), Mel Gibson
With its shallow, history-mangling plot, over-the-top homophobia, and approximate running time of two weeks, Gibson’s schlocky, rambling epic is his worst-ever film as a director — an impressive feat considering his more recent filmography. The repetitive, indecipherable battle sequences also offer the only reprieve from the most-narcissistic self-directed performance in film history. That Braveheart was a disappointment at the box office gives us some small hope for America yet. That it won the Oscar for Best Picture sends it straight to the top of our list!10 Worst Movies Directed by Actors