What are the criteria for calling an actor great or supremely talented? The answer is not as simple as it seems to be. First and foremost we have to take into consideration the acting abilities of the actor in question, his ability to play different kind of roles and his choice of scripts. The box office result of a film doesn’t really matter for an actor to be taken seriously simply because an actor has no control over that aspect of the profession. It is much easier for today’s stars to market themselves as ‘actors’ with the help of over enthusiastic PR agents and the millions of worshiping fans easily buy into it. So here is a list of actors who appears to be great as far as acting is concerned but are in reality very limited actors.
15. Marilyn Monroe
We all love her for her striking beauty and sensuous personality but that’s about it. Her everlasting fame has a lot to do with smart PR machinery of Hollywood bigwigs who are still cashing in on her mysterious appeal. The old adage ‘a thing of beauty is a joy forever’ has worked in her favour in keeping her alive in the public memory even after more than half a century of her death anniversary. She had a magnetic screen presence no doubt but while praising her many likeable qualities the critics however fail to mention that she was a wooden actress. Even in the peak of her career and in her best film roles she played the despicable dumb blonde cum gold digger who seduces men to get material comforts. For instance in one of her most memorable film ‘Some Like It Hot’ she was just an eye candy but she was so perfect for the role of the glamourous singing and dancing Sugar ‘Kane’ that she waltzed her way to Golden Globe glory. But then who says that Hollywood awards are not questionable.
14. Cameron Diaz
One look at her filmography is enough to give you an idea of her limited acting capabilities. She is at best a globally known actress but then anyone who stars in a single Hollywood hit is accustomed to that kind of exposure given the popularity of Hollywood films around the world. She was an unstoppable force in the early 90s as she starred in some of the biggest hits of the time such as ‘The Mask’, ‘My Best Friend’s Wedding’ and ‘There’s Something About Mary’. However the problem with her is that she doesn’t leave a stamp of ownership in her movie roles. In other words she is easily replaceable. I wonder how many people go to watch a movie solely relying on her acting abilities. Showbiz stardom is all about being in the right place at the right time and although she definitely is a sincere actor but alas not good enough to be memorable. To her credit she was nominated for four Golden Globe awards which is shocking given her limited range and creative disposition.
13. Sandra Bullock
The fact that she won both an Oscar and a Razzie in the same year in the same year put many things to perspective. And also the fact that she wasn’t even nominated for the BAFTA award for her Oscar winning performance in ‘The Blind Side’ proved that it wasn’t appealing enough to non American audience as the BAFTAs are often considered as a precursor to the academy awards. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to win a Razzie since many great actors have won one for that uninspired performance in a particularly bad film and to Bullock’s credit she has starred in some of the most popular films of the 20th and 21st centuries like ‘Miss Congeniality 1 and 2’ and ‘Speed’. It was only after ‘Gravity’ in 2013 that everyone unanimously praised her for her acting credentials. Even though no one can deny that she is grossly overrated and overcompensated.
12. Matthew McConaughey
Alright, alright. alright! He has a knack for picking roles that are more often than not performance oriented but if he does full justice to them or not is debatable. His developed aesthetic sense sometimes works against him but when it clicks it does wonders to his careers. Very frankly speaking he graduated to the A league only after his Oscar victory for ‘Dallas Buyers Club’. His subsequent roles in ‘True Detective’ (TV series) and ‘Interstellar’ further cemented his positions as a bankable star in Hollywood. In the early stages of his career he starred in a couple of hit but poorly reviewed romantic comedies and occasionally showed sparks of brilliance in films like ‘Dazed and Confused’ and ‘Amistad’. His recent collaborations with avant-garde filmmakers have fall flat in their faces and his only interesting project in the immediate future includes the Stephen King adaptation ‘The Dark Tower’. He is a good actor but still needs a couple of more solids films and performances to fall into the great category.
11. Ben Affleck
There is no doubt that he is a better producer and screen writer than being a competent actor. He shines in an ensemble cast but whenever he has to carry a film singularly on his shoulders he falters. He has worked with the likes of Richard Linklater and Gus Vant Sant and even they could only do that much to improve his oeuvre as an actor. Even in David Fincher’s ‘Gone Girl’ Rosamund Pike out shadowed him completely so much so that one feel any unknown actor could have played the husband’s role. His presence didn’t add anything substantial to the film or its box office prospects. His ambitious project as an actor in last year’s ‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’ was dubbed as a disaster of epic proportions. He has won two Academy awards in his capacity as a film producer and a writer and it will be more creatively satisfying for both him and the audiences if he focuses more on what he is good at. A few watchable acting roles here and there won’t make any difference to his career.
10. Tom Cruise
He has worked with the best of directors and starred in some of the most loved and acclaimed movies of our times and his role in the ‘Mission: Impossible’ film series has made him an icon of modern cinema. So how come he finds a place in this list. To begin with he is one of those male actors who is more famous for his looks and his off screen persona than for his acting roles. His affair with Nicole Kidman and his tryst with Scientology made more news than his still ongoing acting career. Before anyone raises any question let it be made clear that he is a very good actor. In fact he has worked with a variety of directors in different genres of cinema and has come close to winning an Oscar many a times. The thing is that no one ever talks about Tom Cruise as a serious actor. May be because his best performances came almost two decades ago and his failure to deliver a memorable performance in the recent past has forced the people to rethink his credibility as an actor. To add to his misery his latest offering ‘The Mummy’ has been severely panned by critics.
9. Emma Watson
Alright she is still young and will get many opportunities to grow as an actress. The problem is not that she hasn’t proved her competence as an actress but rather it lies in over compensating her even for her mediocre outings. For instance her gender neutral victory at the MTV Movie & TV Awards 2017 was more of a well planned gimmick than a celebration of true talent. It sure did made headlines all over as a milestone in pop culture history but the question is was she really deserving of the award as far as acting is concerned. With great success comes great responsibility and harsh criticism. Emma Watson is someone who has seen the dizzying heights of success and stardom with the ‘Harry Potter’ films and was named the most bankable star in Britain before she turned 18.
Post the ‘Harry Potter’ mania she has worked in a selected number of films of which a few were appreciated and the rest sank without a trace. She is a fine actress getting better with each new film but let’s not just worship her yet as it would be unfair to her to put her on a pedestal one moment and to bring her down the next opportune moment; an ordeal that many super successful child stars in Hollywood went through and most of them never quite recovered.
8. George Clooney
He is a former TV sweetheart who became an in demand movie star thanks mostly to his good looks and debonair appeal. After starring in a couple of critically acclaimed movies in the beginning of his career he finally got his breakout role with ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ in 2001. He is not only an award winning actor but also a noteworthy director and screen writer who has seven Academy award nominations – including two wins – in six different categories in his name. Today he is a showbiz mogul and a hardcore humanitarian who has the luxury to choose and pick the projects he wants to star in or helm. Despite all his achievements and power one cannot shake off the feeling that he is a tad bit overrated and his good roles are few and far between. He is more of a charismatic presence in a film than being an actor that inspires awe and admiration. His three best actor Oscar nominations came for films that presented him in a very distinct authoritative figures. He shines in a good film but his performances never stays with you like they are supposed to. You forget them sooner than you forget the film.
7. Channing Tatum
Grossly overrated and evidently clueless it’s almost appalling that critics have started warming up to him in the last few years. Yes, he has starred in a couple of decent movies that made some noises during award seasons but nothing more than that. Although he first got recognition with the ‘Step Up’ and ‘G.I .Joe’ series he became a mainstay in Hollywood with the ’21 Jump Street’ and the ‘Magic Mike’ series. The year 2012 was the turning point in his career as he starred in films that were both well received by critics and audiences and a leading men’s magazine named him the movie star of the year. The following years proved to be significantly crucial and fruitful for him as a creative person as he became a part of projects like ‘Fox Catcher’, ‘The Hateful Eight’, ‘Hail, Caesar!’ and ‘The Lego Batman Movie’. The thing is if one manages to stay in the business for long enough one eventually gets a few films that stand out above the rest. Channing Tatum is ordinary and basic; at best he is handsome, sexy and popular.
6. Julia Roberts
Even though Julia Roberts might not make it to the list of any worst actor compilation but she doesn’t belong to the greatest ever list either. In fact she is far from being in one in the near future. We all love her and her movies are a delight to watch but however she repeats herself in most of her roles. She rose to prominence after starring in a couple of romantic comedies throughout the 90s and she also bagged a best actress Academy award for her tongue-in-cheek biopic turn in ‘Erin Brokovich’. If you take a look at her filmography then you will find that she has been a part of some of the most definitive movies of the last three decades. However it’s one thing to be a part of successful films but another altogether to hold court in those films. Although she is unmatchable in playing that ‘girl next door’ and ‘take me home to your mom kind’ of roles, she lacks versatility and comes across as the same person in all her films. So what if we have come to love her mannerisms on-screen over time but it cannot conceal the fact that she shies away from experimentation and new challenges.
5. Hugh Grant
The secret of Hugh Grant’s success lies somewhere in between his unassuming personality and the praise showered upon him by over indulgent British film critics. Very early in his career he played a gay man in the film adaptation of E.M. Forster’s ‘Maurice’ and won an award at the Venice Film Festival. He became a star of the highest order with ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’, ‘Notting Hill’ and ‘Bridget Jones Diary’. Although his on-screen persona is adorable and commands respect, he is sort of a misfit. His old world charm works wonderfully in some films but it’s an off-putting most of the time. Also there is lack of variety in his repertoire of films. His gentle, almost passive, body language might make a few old school viewers happy but it relegates shim to the background most of the time and makes sure that he doesn’t stand out. His recent movie roles in ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E’ and ‘Florence Fosters Jenkins’ clearly proves the point.
4. Keanu Reeves
He started out young and eventually graduated to be a successful and critically acclaimed actor thanks to films like ‘Speed’, ‘My Own Private Idaho’ and ‘The Matrix’ series. However the going got tough midway through his career when he started repeating himself and got caught in a creative rut of his own. He resurrected himself through the ‘John Wick’ series but a couple of supporting roles in experimental cinema has only worked against him. Perhaps he is the only A list actor to be nominated for six Razzie Awards, which celebrates the worst in cinema. He is a talented actor and has done some pretty interesting works but his career is too convoluted to take him seriously as an actor. He is constantly on the verge of becoming a great actor but he has a long way to go.
3. Sacha Baron Cohen
The strength of his career is based on the popularity of the three films – ‘Borat’, ‘Bruno’ and ‘The Dictator’. He is known for a particular brand of comedy which is both over the top and borderline offensive. He uses satire to harshly critique the hypocrisy of the civilized world and there is an underlying message in his every seemingly exaggerated punch line. If you observe carefully than you will notice that he always plays safe and even within his own comfort zone of comedy he hardly tries to bring something new to the table. His regular prototype is that of an unruly protagonist without any semblance or regard for conventional means. He is uninhibited in portrayal of those roles and that’s why the laughter keeps coming but his range is shortsighted.
2. Shia LaBeouf
He belongs to that category of actors who appears all intelligent and artsy but the reality is far from it. At least his films don’t live up to his self constructed image of that of a serious actor. It’s hard to believe now that he began his career as a Disney child actor on TV. In films he found success with ‘Disturbia’ and Michael Bay’s ‘Transformers’ series. He treaded uncharted territories with Lars von Trier’s ‘Nymphomaniac’ and even though the film was appreciated his work went unnoticed. The ‘I am Not Famous Anymore’ mask that he wore to the 2014 Berlin Film Festival now seems more like a publicity stunt than a statement making exercise. And also there is hardly anything substantial to write home about his film career so far. H e really needs to put his act together if he wants to leave a legacy of good cinema both for himself and his fans.
1. Angelina Jolie
She is exactly the kind of star-actor that the critics love to hate but her fan following tells a different story altogether. She is regularly featured in the prettiest, sexiest, well paid, most powerful and best dressed list. The big question is where she stands as an actor. Despite being a star kid she had humble beginnings which make her a self-made woman. From low-budget movies to Cable films to Oscar winning roles, she definitely has come a long way. Today she is a bonafide star crowd pulling muscle power but to call her an actress of merit would be an overstatement and unfair to many others in the list. She does deliver what is expected of her given a good director and a solid role to work with and her mesmerizing screen presence is unmissable. She is yet to deliver a memorable performance since ‘A Mighty Heart’ and even courted controversies for allegedly manipulating with the award organizers to win favours for her films ‘The Tourist’ and ‘In the Land of Blood and Honey’ (directed by her).