The live-action superhero soap drama has been a staple of the comic book industry since The Lone Ranger first aired on television in 1949. Seeing the greatest heroes ever invented come to life in weekly, serial segments was truly the full realization of a medium transfer. Over time, both comics and television have evolved in and out of golden ages to the point where in terms of narrative, it’s gotten hard to tell the difference between the two. And in the modern age, there’s no better embodiment of this concept than CW’s ‘Arrowverse.’
The television consortium of Arrow, The Flash, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl, a cavalcade of web shows, the animated Vixen mini-series, and technically Constantine has taken the comic book community by storm since 2012 and has put itself in competition with the MCU’s TV division in a way that the larger DCEU has so far been incapable of doing. The driving force behind this quality has been due in large part to the talented actors who inhabit virtually every role with the professionalism and genuine enjoyment that can only come from true thespians. But acting is a fickle job, no actor has a completely clean resume, and it’s fun to make fun of other people’s mistakes.
15. DAVID RAMSEY IN CON AIR
The movie Con Air is most famous for Nick Cage instructing a criminal to “Put. The bunny. Down.” The second most famous thing it’s famous for is Nick Cage having ridiculously long hair that makes him look like a jaunty Charles Manson. The 18th thing it’s most famous for is having a young David Ramsey as Londell, an inmate in the plane transport that forms the crux and the setting of the movie.
It could have been a big break for the young actor, but he was forced to share the screen with some of the most weirdly charismatic presences of modern Hollywood. Nick Cage, John Malkovich, Steve Buscemi, Danny Trejo, Dave Chappelle, John Cusack, and Ving Rhames all play prominent roles and it would be hard, if not impossible, for a thespian trying to make his mark to stand out.
14. WILLA HOLLAND IN LEGION
Of all the characters in the Arrowverse, Thea Queen has grown the most. Introduced as a spoiled rich girl immune to consequence, she has since grown into a warrior and mature woman in her own right, overcoming traumatic loss in the process. And actress Willa Holland has given a solid performance in each stage of Thea’s transformation. Unfortunately, Holland’s growth as an actress took her down the unfortunate road to Legion, a poorly produced apocalypse film about an archangel defending a group of humans in a diner from wave after wave of a demonic invasion. ]
It starred Paul Bettany as the angel, Tyrese Gibson as a patron, Dennis Quaid as the diner owner, and Willa Holland as a stereotypical rebellious teenager. The acting is wooden and unconvincing all around, and Holland is far from an exception. Her death towards the end of the film is almost satisfying. Almost.
13. DANIELLE PANABAKER IN PIRANHA 3DD
Danielle Panabaker as Dr. Caitlin Snow/Killer Frost on The Flash is one of the most enigmatic aspects of the show. Panabaker is a terrific actress, but her transformation into a villain was strangely mishandled. Still, it’s not nearly as bad as her starring role in Piranha 3DD. The film is the thankfully final entry in the comedy horror franchise about murderous fish and takes the concept to its logical extreme: an adult-themed waterpark with David Hasselhoff as a lifeguard, David Koechner as the misogynist owner, and Christopher Lloyd as a marine biologist.
Danielle plays Maddy, the sole voice of reason who has the crazy notion that a waterpark with strippers during a piranha crisis might not be the best idea. She acts well, but this is a film where a major plot point is a live piranha hides inside a woman’s privates. Not exactly high art.
12. BRANDON ROUTH IN ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO
Brandon Routh must have an awkward relationship with comic book medium transfers. His first foray into the genre was in the often underappreciated Superman Returns where he was poised to be the heir to Christopher Reeves’ Superman mantle. But the film was panned upon release and his star failed to rise. His next attempt was as the villainous Todd Ingram in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and was received far more favorably.
In between however, Brandon had the misfortune to cameo in Kevin Smith’s Zack and Miri Make a Porno. The movie, about desperate friends who start an adult film business to make ends meet, features Routh as Bobby Long, a bashful gay film star in a loving, realistic relationship with coworker Brandon St. Randy played by Justin Long. There are a too many problems to list here, but the major one was it just wasn’t funny.
11. EMILY BETT RICKARDS IN FLICKA: COUNTRY PRIDE
Emily Bett Rickards is one of the big finds of the Arrowverse. A young, talented actress, Rickards was looking for a big break when she was cast as Felicity Smoak and has since become a major part of many Arrow storylines as well as sporadic ones on The Flash. But things were not always so good for her. Case in point, her debut role was in the direct to video sequel to the sequel to the 2006 horse movie Flicka.
In Flicka: Country Pride, Emily plays Mary, a minor character in a team of riders. The film is about as bland as can be expected from a fairly generic movie in an already boring genre. It’s almost fortunate for Rickards that she melds into the background and doesn’t feature at all prominently.
10. JOHN BARROWMAN IN SHARK ATTACK 3: MEGALODON
A seasoned veteran of the sci-fi genre, John Barrowman is perhaps best known for his long-running role of Captain Jack Harkness, which carried him from Doctor Who to two different versions of Torchwood. Before he took on the iconic role, however, he was still somewhat unknown despite extended roles on C.P.W. and Titans. It was at this point of desperation in his career that he signed onto Shark Attack 3 Megalodon. With a name like that, it has to be terrible.
The direct to video production was fairly self-explanatory and is most remembered for having some of the most horrendously bad CGI ever put to film and for starring John Barrowman before he was famous. In an interview, Barrowman admitted that it was a money role, done solely for a paycheck. He visibly cringed when a clip was shown. Can you blame the man?
9. JESSE L. MARTIN IN SMASH
Perhaps best known as the original Tom Collins in the musical Rent, Jesse L. Martin has made a name for himself as a talented actor and singer with an innate charisma and presence. His resume includes extended stints on Law & Order, Ally McBeal, and, embarrassingly, NBC’s ironically-named Smash. Based around a team of divas and egotists trying to construct a successful Broadway musical, the show was largely recognized for what it was: a blatant attempt to cash in on the popularity of Fox’s musical comedy Glee.
Martin played Scott Nichols, a director at an off-broadway theater. It was during the show’s inexplicable second season, when everything was rushed because the showrunners were smart enough to know they weren’t getting a third. Jesse himself was actually pretty good, but the show was such an albatross that his whole performance feels like a mistake.
8. TOM CAVANAGH IN YOGI BEAR
In a weird way, 2010’s Yogi Bear should have been great. Capitalizing on the success of the first live-action Alvin and the Chipmunks movie, it starred Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake as CGI Yogi and Boo Boo respectively and Tom Cavanagh and T.J. Miller as rangers Smith and Jones. It had the potential to be a hilarious family comedy in line with The Muppets. Instead, it was an unmitigated disaster, panned by critics and audiences alike. And Tom Cavanagh, already a household name from his time on Ed, Scrubs, and Eli Stone, suffered the worst off all.
Only Aykroyd, who seems to be doing his level best to erase all audience goodwill from his legacy, came off worse from the movie. It would be almost five years until Cavanagh could rehabilitate his image by playing multiple versions of Harrison Wells on The Flash.
7. DOMINIC PURCELL IN BLADE: TRINITY
Even after all these years, Blade: Trinity remains a visible stain on the superhero movie genre. The last instalment of the Blade trilogy, it features Ryan Reynolds’ first failed foray into comic book adaptations, a visibly drugged out Wesley Snipes, and more or less killed any aspirations wrestler Triple H had at being an action star. It also starred Dominic Purcell, post-John Doe but pre-Prison Break, as possibly cinema’s worst incarnation of Dracula. Including 2014’s Dracula Untold.
He walks shirtless through New York, emanating an angst and despair style that was already old by the mid-2000s. His acting is suitably rough, as has become his signature style over the years, but it works exponentially better as the semi-sane pyromaniac Heatwave on Legends of Tomorrow and The Flash than it does as a time-displaced vampire lord.
6. WENTWORTH MILLER IN UNDERWORLD
Unquestionably, Wentworth Miller as Leonard Snart was one of the best parts of The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow. His constant sneer and reedy voice emphasized his heartless, calculating attitude and cold approach. It’s the same kind of exceedingly good acting he previously brought to Prison Break and numerous cameos. For better or worse, he simply refused to bring it to 2003’s Underworld.
At the time, he hadn’t risen to prominence yet so his role of Dr. Adam consisted of two brief interactions with the film’s living plot device, Michael, and an even briefer talk with a pair of disguised policemen. He betrays Michael to said policemen and then is never seen again. His screen time runs less than five minutes and hides no clue as to the star power Miller would later prove capable of.
5. STEPHEN AMELL IN TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS
The man who kicked off the Arrowverse in spectacular fashion, Stephen Amell also hold the distinction of being one of the nicest celebrities in the world. He’s easy-going, engages with fans, and even donates entire paychecks to charity. But no amount of generosity is going to forgive the fact that he took Casey Jones, one of the coolest characters ever, and played him like a whining brat. To be fair, nobody comes out of the Michael Bay-led Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sequel with their head held high, but as his first blockbuster endeavor, you’d think Amell would be a little more selective.
His performance never reaches the point where his ham-fisted delivery is enjoyable. Childish writing and a broken script certainly didn’t help. If there’s anything more to this franchise (and this is Hollywood so who are we kidding) then Amell would be wise to stay far way.
4. MANU BENNETT IN THE MARINE
Possibly the most masculine thing to come out of New Zealand since The Lord of the Rings¸ Manu Bennett has had a storied career where he’s played various forms of the same grizzled, raspy-voiced hard-core warriors. In the Arrowverse, he takes the form of iconic villain Slade Wilson, the central antagonist of season two of Arrow. Another project to show off his awesomeness was the John Cena vehicle The Marine. Essentially an experiment to see if the WWE Champion could work as a movie star, the results were mixed, and that’s being particularly generous.
Bennett played Bennett, a near-wordless thug working with a group of diamond thieves. The whole movie is something of a joke and Manu clearly isn’t taking it too seriously. Though he does get the distinction of knocking out Cena in their first encounter, so that’s something to brag about.
3. NEAL MCDONOUGH IN I KNOW WHO KILLED ME
Neal McDonough is one of the greatest character actors of the modern age. Full stop. He goes into every role with a youthful energy that can only be mustered by someone who legitimately loves his work. His performance as Damien Darhk on Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow was marked by a smug superiority that made him stand out amongst a roster of quality villains. He even brought the same presence to the Lindsey Lohan film I know Who Killed Me.
The entire film plays as a test to see if the former child actress could handle a dramatic role. It failed in spectacular fashion. Full stop. McDonough plays Lohan’s father and helps her unravel a mystery about mistaken identity, serial killing, and paranoia. All of which makes the movie sound a lot more exciting than it really is. It’s horrible and McDonough, for all his talents, can’t save it.
2. MATT NABLE IN RIDDICK
Pitch Black was a quality sci-fi thriller that dealt as much with character and story development as it did with making its star, Vin Diesel, look like a capable actor and action star. It succeeded on all fronts. The Chronicles of Riddick was a follow up that clearly didn’t understand why its predecessor was good to begin with. Riddick was more of the same except this time it was Vin Diesel actively trying to hype his own name and failing in such a disgustingly egotistic level that it was almost impressive.
Matt Nable, the seasoned character actor behind the Arrowverse’s Ra’s al Ghul, played the role of Boss Johns, a space captain and father to the antagonist in the original Pitch Black. But this is a story where Vin Diesel turns a lesbian straight with his manliness. Pretty much every contract that was signed to make this happen was regrettable.
1. GRANT GUSTIN IN KID FITNESS JUNGLE ADVENTURE
Do not adjust your screens. Do not get your eyes checked. You read that correctly. Grant Gustin, star of Glee, 90210, and The Flash got his big break in a child-friendly exercise video. For the blessed masses who haven’t been introduced to Kid Fitness Jungle Adventure, it’s basically a group of over-excited fitness instructors, dressed in costumes that even Andrew Lloyd Webber would call tacky, dancing around in front of a jungle-themed set that even Barney the Dinosaur is laughing at, desperately trying to keep the smiles on their faces while they loosely tie basic fitness training to animal movements.
It was…painful. It was painful. Images of his performance, which he would have been 13 for and frankly should have known better, are hard to find, leading to the assumption that Gustin himself has scrubbed as much of his past as he can from the internet.
Which of these roles is the most embarrassing? Let us know in the comments!
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