The Marvel Cinematic Universe has given us some of the most memorable versions of Marvel characters that we’ve seen in a long time. Whether their origins have been reinvented or it’s the first time we’re seeing them in live action, Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios are doing something right, and a huge part of that is down to the actors. They have to have a certain caliber of performer to bring a superhero to life in a believable way. Some of that is down to the costume and how faithful it is to the comics compared to a real world equivalent. But the main reason audiences come back time and time again to these movies is that the actors resonate with them.
They want to see Tony Stark’s internal struggle as he fights for what he thinks is right against Captain America. What they don’t want to see, is their favorite heroes portray useless side characters, toxic boyfriends or even a monk that whips himself. No, we’re not kidding. We’ve delved deep into the careers of some of your favorite heroes to bring you some of the roles they won’t be bragging about any time soon. Here are 15 embarrassing roles that stars of the MCU want us to forget.
15 ANTHONY MACKIE IN ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER
We don’t care how outlandish, wild and out of this world the Marvel Cinematic Universe can be at times -- it’ll never be as bad as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. It retools the legendary President’s origin and combines it with the supernatural. There’s no mystery in this film, it’s exactly what the title says it is. And Anthony Mackie, aka Sam Wilson aka The Falcon, has a supporting role as Lincoln’s best friend -- William Johnson. Johnson isn’t really given much to do in the film, aside from being the damsel in distress at one point.
It’s not exactly a role with depth and character development. Although since the real William Johnson was Lincoln’s best friend and worked for him for years -- he could have been a good character, but Mackie isn’t given much to play with here.
14 ELIZABETH OLSEN IN THE ADVENTURES OF MARY-KATE AND ASHLEY
Remember Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen? The child stars originally featured in Full House and later had their own video series, The Adventures of Mary-Kate and Ashley. But did you know that their younger sister, Elizabeth, starred in the films with her older siblings? That’s right, before she was thrust into Hollywood with her role as Scarlet Witch in the MCU, she was a child star.
She clearly wanted the memory of her appearances as a child to fade, as she stopped performing in 1996 and didn’t come back until 2011. There were some personal family issues that also played a part of this -- but she was wise enough not to rush her career any more than needed. She’ll next be appearing in Infinity War like the majority of this list.
13 JOSH BROLIN IN JONAH HEX
The Goonies actor is no stranger to comic book movies. He’s most recently been cast as the time traveling mutant, Cable, in the Deadpool sequel and will be causing trouble for the Avengers as Thanos in Infinity War. But before he was a solid Marvel favorite, he actually had a role over at DC. He played the anti-hero cowboy, Jonah Hex, in the 2010 film of the same name.
The film was a box office failure, not even making its budget back. But the worst part was the reception of Brolin’s performance. He couldn’t really draw the cast together and it felt very disjointed. It’s a shame because Brolin usually gives a captivating performance, maybe he was just saving his energy for Thanos and Cable.
12 PAUL RUDD IN HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS
The sixth film in the Halloween franchise was the final nail in the coffin. After this point, the filmmakers decided to retcon the entire series with Halloween H20: 20 Years Later. Surprisingly, Paul Rudd had a role in The Curse of Michael Myers, playING Tommy Doyle, the kid that Laurie Strode was babysitting in the first film.
It turns out that Tommy has become obsessed with the serial killer, and believes that he’s mystically cursed so that he’s now immortal. Rudd is one of the main characters in the film, but all that his dialogue comes down to is just lines of exposition about the mystical curse. He’s not given much scope to play with aside from beating Michael up at the end. How thrilling.
11 PAUL BETTANY IN THE DA VINCI CODE
Remember when the world was caught up in The Da Vinci Code and the theory that Jesus Christ had a line of descendants? Well, Paul Bettany was a part of the frenzy when the film adaptation was released in 2006. He portrayed Silas, a monk who whipped himself and murdered various people to keep the secret.
Currently, Bettany spends his time in purple make up, playing the synthetic android; The Vision. But in 2006, he was stood naked whipping himself as part of the film. We get the unhinged murderous part of the character, but the self-flagellating part -- not so much. We don’t think the kids that love the Vision would like to see the actor whipping himself. Maybe just stick to wearing that Infinity Stone from now on, okay Paul?
10 SEBASTIAN STAN IN HOT TUB TIME MACHINE
Before Stan was cast as Bucky/The Winter Soldier, he starred in this abomination. Hot Tub Time Machine is what happens when writers choose words out of a hat during an exercise and have to create something from it. What happens next, is basically the first Back to the Future film badly combined with The Hangover and Sebastian Stan plays the knockoff Biff.
His role in the film is to beat up one of the characters because he’s a bully. That’s all he has to do in the film, and it’s just bad. Some people might just say that it’s harmless fun, but honestly this crude attempt at a sci-fi buddy comedy just doesn’t work. Even if it did get a sequel for some reason. Sebastian Stan definitely played a villain better once he donned that metal arm and leather outfit, let’s just forget that Hot Tub Time Machine ever happened.
9 CHRIS PRATT IN BRIDE WARS
What we need in the 21st century is to pit women against each other, right? Because that’s all that Bride Wars is, two women fighting over the same wedding date. If the premise wasn’t bad enough, they throw in a toxic relationship for good measure, and who gets the prized role of being the nasty, controlling partner?
It’s only the lovable Star-Lord himself, Chris Pratt. This isn’t exactly the best role to get anyway, but since we know just what Pratt is capable of in terms of comedy and depth it just makes his part in Bride Wars that much worse. And then there’s the name… Fletcher Flemson. We get that the audience is meant to hate the character, but with a name like that, he just didn’t have a chance.
8 MICHAEL KEATON IN HERBIE: FULLY LOADED
Herbie is a classic. The playful car has had a long cinematic history, but the 2005 movie just didn’t capture the nostalgia and love that the previous films did. Add to that some extremely lackluster performances, and we have an incredibly average film on our hands. And yes, we’re including Michael Keaton’s performance as one of those disappointing members of the cast.
He plays Lindsey Lohan’s father in the film, and mainly spends his time telling her why she’s not allowed to race or that she can’t be part of his race team. He’s boiled down to a stereotypical overbearing father. And we know he can do so much better. Just look at Birdman. Or Batman. Or more specifically, Spider-Man: Homecoming. Just look at what he did with a fatherly role in the MCU. Brilliant.
7 GWYNETH PALTROW IN SHALLOW HAL
We’re not quite sure why Shallow Hal did as well as it did. Yes, there was the occasional funny moment sprinkled in the film’s lessons of being superficial, but there were the near ridiculous moments where Gwyneth Paltrow was in a fat suit. And although it makes you feel sorry for the character flitting between the two versions (depending on how Hal sees her), Paltrow barely looks like herself. And obviously, that’s part of the point of the film.
But the suit doesn’t look particularly convincing, and there’s a lot of jokes made at the expense of overweight people. Don’t get us wrong, there are some entertaining parts of the film, but it’s definitely not Oscar worthy. We don’t think Paltrow will be adding this to one of her favorite projects.
6 MARK RUFFALO IN MIRROR, MIRROR II & III
Does everyone remember the horror classic Mirror, Mirror? No? Well, you didn’t miss much. It basically revolves around a mirror possessed by a demonic force. You’re better off watching Mirrors starring Kiefer Sunderland for that kind of thing. But anyway, for some reason Mirror, Mirror was given two sequels Raven Dance and The Voyeur. And Mark Ruffalo is in both of them!
He’s not playing the same character though, he played Christian in II and Joey in III. Stupid decision. But, since this was right at the start of his acting career, we’ll let him off. But he really wasn’t throwing his all into those roles, but at least he learnt from them and now delivers some brilliant performances. He brings the tortured duality of Bruce Banner and the Hulk to life perfectly in the MCU.
5 JEREMY RENNER IN HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS
Look, for an actor that’s proved he’s worthy of the Academy’s attention (he’s had nominations for The Hurt Locker and The Town), it seems bizarre that he’d take on a silly attempted franchise-starter like Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. By the time he cameo’d in Thor, the MCU was up and successfully running, Hansel & Gretel -- not so much.
It’s a ridiculous attempt at fantasy horror, continuing on the story of Hansel & Gretel in a steampunk theme that doesn’t really give the two leads much to do except kill and try to deliver stale one-liners. We all know that Renner is a better actor than that, and so is his lead, Gemma Arterton. There were rumors of a sequel, but let’s just hope that they don’t come to fruition.
4 SAMUEL L. JACKSON IN THE EXORCIST III
The legendary Samuel L. Jackson has appeared in over 100 films over the course of his career. He’s starred in some equally legendary movies like Pulp Fiction, Jurassic Park and Unbreakable. But, we doubt that anyone says that The Exorcist III is their favorite film of all time. His role in the film pretty much tells you all you need to know about what he does; ‘Blind Dream Man’. His character doesn’t even get an actual name.
Besides the fact that The Exorcist III ignores the previous Exorcist film and completely dilutes the story, it’s not exactly an award winning performance from Jackson. But then again, he’s not really given loads to do. We prefer him with the eye patch as the formidable Nick Fury.
3 CHRIS EVANS IN FANTASTIC FOUR
Oh come on, you knew that this one was coming right? Well for those that can’t quite remember the early '00s Fantastic Four movies, let us refresh your memory. Chris Evans, Captain America, played a different superhero; Johnny Storm aka the Human Torch. Oh dear. We’ve all seen what Evans can do with some heartbreaking storylines during the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but both Fantastic Four films just used Johnny as comedy relief for the cast.
There was the occasional cool moment (chasing the Silver Surfer), but aside from that, the main focus was given to Reed and Sue Storm. Luckily, Evans’ second Marvel outing as a superhero was a lot more successful -- with critics consistently praising his performances. Just don’t expect him to be suiting back up as Johnny Storm ever again, thankfully.
2 ROBERT DOWNEY JR. IN THE SHAGGY DOG
The Shaggy Dog involves immortal dogs, transformations, Tim Allen and Robert Downey Jr. That’s it. That’s the film. Basically, Downey Jr. plays a scientist experimenting on an immortal dog to discover the secret to immortality and is the villain of the film. Is this an alternate universe version of Tony Stark that isn’t as successful? We hope not. The Disney film wasn’t well received, and it’s understandable why. It ends with Tim Allen throwing a baton in a courthouse and telling Downey Jr. to catch -- he transforms into a dog. The end. That’s it.
It really isn’t the most captivating of performances from any of the cast -- not just Downey Jr. Luckily, he breathed new life into his career as Tony Stark, and the rest is history. But let’s hope that Disney don’t want to incorporate The Shaggy Dog into the MCU anytime soon.
1 SCARLETT JOHANSSON - THE SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS MOVIE
Even we were surprised at this one. So back in 2004, Spongebob Squarepants was at the height of his popularity so obviously someone needed to give him his own solo film. But one of the most surprising additions to the cast, was Scarlett Johansson. She plays the daughter of King Neptune, Princess Mindy. She basically helps Spongebob and Patrick across the film.
And that’s it. We don’t think anyone will be stating her voice role in the film as their favorite Johansson performance -- especially after her brilliant portrayal of Natasha Romanoff. She’s a funny, charming and formidable character in the MCU that has a great amount of depth during several of her appearances. In the Spongebob movie? She’s a princess whose only function is to help the two leads. Yeah, we’ll stick with Black Widow.
Which of these pre-MCU films is the most embarrassing to you? Let us know in the comments!