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35 Actors Who Spoke Out Against Their Own Performances

From Jim Carrey, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Alec Guinness to Jamie Lee Curtis, Viola Davis, Nicole Kidman, and more, these actors and actresses got brutally honest about the acting they dislike most.

Jake Gyllenhaal, Nicole Kidman, Dev Patel, and more actors who criticized their own work.

Jake Gyllenhaal, Nicole Kidman, Dev Patel, and more actors who criticized their own work.

Everett Collection

Name a beloved actor around a pack of cinephiles, and you will instantly be inundated with personalized lists considering — and reconsidering and reconsidering — their best and worst performances across genres. While we idolize movie stars for the high points of their careers, there is also something endlessly fascinating about seeing talented people stumble, fall, and fail.

Film lovers watch the careers of their favorite stars closely, and can usually tell when someone gives a bad performance. And oftentimes, the actor who gave that performance thinks it was bad too. Maybe it’s the knowing glint in Jamie Lee Curtis’ eyes that says, “Yes, ‘Virus’ is an exhausting piece of nonsense!” that helped turn the 1999 stinker into a cult film. Or perhaps it’s the nonplussed purse of the lips behind every line from Robert Pattinson in “Twilight” that made Edward Cullen so memorably (and maddeningly) annoying. Even if the end result is bad, seeing these titans of industry thrown off their games by ill-considered scripts and misguided directors can provide a kind of novel enjoyment.

Whether it was an ill-advised role they took for a paycheck, a passion project that didn’t turn out as expected, a movie reframed by evolving sociopolitical realities (think whitewashing in “Pan” and white savior stories like “The Help”), or simply a bad performance in a good movie, even Hollywood’s biggest stars are susceptible to failure. When it occurs they usually know it, but if and when they own up to that misstep is a different matter altogether.

For actors and actresses, it’s good business to heap praise on your latest movie during its promotional cycle, but as years go by, it’s common for stars to let their real feelings about a movie be known. Sometimes it’s a matter of setting the record straight as fan and critical reactions roll in. But more often it seems these moments are awkward displays defending these artists’ self-awareness and levels of taste. That often leads to some very memorable quotes, as actors don’t mince words when talking about their worst movies.

Check out a brief history of actors condemning their work in the list of performances below.

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