In the fickle entertainment industry, critics wield considerable influence, shaping public perceptions of actors and actresses. These actresses have faced a slog of criticism from audiences and film critics, ranging from acting that is too flat or one-dimensional to performances that are too over the top.
These actresses deserve more grace than they've been given, either because they're genuinely talented or, at least, not as bad as they've been made out to be.
1. Megan Fox
Bursting onto the scene with her breakout role in Transformers, Fox quickly became a Hollywood sensation, capturing attention with her mesmerizing looks and edgier persona. However, the initial wave of success was accompanied by intense scrutiny, with critics often focusing more on her appearance than her acting prowess.
Undeterred, Fox diversified her roles, showcasing her range in films like Jennifer's Body, which was unappreciated at the time but has reached cult following status, and Jonah Hex. While some critics dismissed her as a mere symbol, she surprised audiences with her comedic timing in This Is 40 and How to Lose Friends & Alienate People and brought vulnerable depth to the recent thriller ‘Till Death.
Despite having a rocky start with passable performances in the Transformers franchise or as the gimmicky mean girl in Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, Fox isn't given enough credit for her performances in the right roles. Her acting is put under extra scrutiny because of her mesmerizing beauty and typecasting as a female symbol. I think failure to break out of this mold largely had to do with her blacklisting after badmouthing Michael Bay and starting to believe everyone's lack of faith in her acting chops.
2. Kristen Stewart
Kristen Stewart's acting career is a tapestry of diverse roles that transcend the boundaries of genre and expectation. Emerging into the limelight with her portrayal of Bella Swan in the Twilight saga, Stewart faced initial skepticism from critics who often associated her with the franchise's teen idol image.
However, she swiftly proved her acting mettle by choosing unconventional roles in films like Adventureland and The Runaways. Stewart was often panned for having an unexpressive face and lack of charisma. However, her career took a transformative turn with her performance in Clouds of Sils Maria, earning her the prestigious César Award and heralding a new era in her career.
Subsequent projects such as Personal Shopper and Seberg showcased her versatility and willingness to take on complex characters. The Charlie's Angels reboot was a commercial flop and once again fed into the idea that Stewart gives flat, lifeless performances and is just not very likable.
It wasn't until 2021 that she would earn widespread praise and critical acclaim in the form of an Oscar nomination thanks to her performance as Princess Diana in the film Spencer. Even as a child, she gave some performances that were ahead of her years, holding her own alongside Jodie Foster in David Fincher's Panic Room. Much like Robert Pattinson, Stewart is finally breaking away from the limitations the Twilight franchise placed on her.
3. Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga made her acting debut as The Countess on American Horror Story and impressed everyone with her acting talent actor transitioning from a career of pop stardom. However, Gaga's foray into acting wasn't such a big transition from her theatrical performances in her music videos and live shows and her ability to create strange characters through art and fashion.
The first time I realized Gaga would be an amazing actress was when she played her male alter-ego, Jo Calderone, during her performance of You and I at the 2011 MTV VMAs, fully immersed into character with a speech and corresponding song. Gaga seamlessly transitioned to the big screen with her debut role in A Star is Born.
Her portrayal of Ally Maine earned her an Academy Award nomination and dismantled any preconceived notions about her ability to command a dramatic role. Gaga's magnetic screen presence and genuine vulnerability in the film showcased a depth of talent that surprised critics and audiences.
Following this success, she continued to flex her acting muscles in the critically acclaimed crime drama House of Gucci, where her embodiment of Patrizia Reggiani further demonstrated her range. However, the reception was much more mixed, and audiences became critical of Gaga's attempted Italian accent, which viewers described as “terrible” and “nothing like an Italian accent.”
With her casting as Harley Quinn in the upcoming sequel to Joker, people have become skeptical of her acting talent, wondering if she got lucky with a few projects and has become overhyped just because she was a pop star. Gaga was born for a role like Harley Quinn, and her acting isn't just “good for a pop star,” so the skepticism seems unwarranted.
4. Brie Larson
Since Brie Larson has broken into the mainstream in recent years, she's lost a lot of the indie appeal she had in her earlier career. This is thanks to veering into blockbuster films in the Marvel cinematic universe that audiences don't find likable, charismatic, or compelling. Larson's public image has been affected in many ways by the comments she has made in interviews that rub people the wrong way, but regardless of what you think of her as a person, there's been a big shift in her filmography over the past fifteen years.
Larson started out playing quirky characters like Envy Adams in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. In 2016, she won an Oscar for Best Actress for he role as Mia in the indie drama Room, playing a woman who is being held captive along with her son, who has never left the inner confines of a single room.
She had gripping, emotional roles in Short Term 12 and then veered into comedy with Judd Apatow's 21 Jump Street, which had a positive reception. However, joining forces with Amy Schumer in Trainwreck spelled the beginning of a downward turn in her career. In 2019, she played the title role in Captain Marvel, introducing herself into the MCU.
Since then, she has played in four different MCU films, and she received a terrible reception for each performance. Many Marvel fans even wish for her character to be killed off or replaced. While Larson has lost a lot of the charisma and whimsy that blessed her earlier work, I saw that spark many years ago, and with the right direction, she could go back to a place where she shines again.
5. Sofia Coppola
Sofia Coppola, known primarily for her remarkable directorial work, had a brief but notable stint as an actress early in her career. Despite critics initially focusing on her famous surname, she endeavored to carve her path in the industry. Coppola gained attention for her role in her father, Francis Ford Coppola's iconic film, The Godfather: Part III.
While the film faced mixed reviews, Sofia's performance as Mary Corleone earned her recognition — in all the wrong ways. She faced significant backlash from critics, who questioned her acting abilities, and wrath from The Godfather fans, who blamed her for ruining the movie. Coppola transitioned to filmmaking, where she truly found her calling as a director.
Over the years, she has crafted a distinctive cinematic style with films like Lost in Translation and The Virgin Suicides, earning critical acclaim and becoming the second woman ever to win the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival. While her acting career may have been relatively brief, Coppola's performance in The Godfather: Part III is so universally lambasted as one of the worst acting performances in a major film, it has many of us re-analyzing the performance and asking ourselves, was it that bad?
Sure, it was amateurish, but it was Coppola's first acting role, and she had to go up against acting legends like Al Pacino. Speaking of which, many viewers have criticized even Pacino's performance in the third film, so perhaps the greatest issue was the material. Coppola's performance may have been underwhelming, but it was serviceable and not as bad as the huge trainwreck people claim. The film had much bigger problems outside of a single amateur actress.
6. Shelley Duvall
A unique blend of eccentricity and undeniable talent marks Shelley Duvall's acting career. Rising to prominence in the 1970s, Duvall became a muse for director Robert Altman, delivering standout performances in films like McCabe & Mrs. Miller and Nashville. However, her iconic role as Wendy Torrance in Stanley Kubrick's The Shining catapulted her into the cinematic spotlight, earning her praise for her portrayal of a woman unraveling in the haunted Overlook Hotel.
In hindsight, audiences now laud Duvall's incredibly authentic performance in The Shining as a terrified woman being terrorized by her mentally unraveling husband. This praise has been amplified by lore surrounding the production of the movie, claiming that Duvall was subjected to repeated emotional abuse and exhaustion by perfectionist director Stanley Kubrick.
It's hard to believe that such an iconic performance earned Duvall a Razzie nomination for Worst Actress at the time — an insulting nomination that has since been rescinded. While critics occasionally dismissed Duvall's unconventional style and distinctive features, her collaborations with visionary directors showcased a fearless approach to her craft.
Notably, her work with Altman continued in 3 Women, a film where her nuanced performance earned her the Cannes Film Festival's Best Actress award. Duvall's versatility extended to the fantastical with her role as Olive Oyl in Popeye, opposite Robin Williams. Despite facing periodic critiques, Duvall's ability to immerse herself in a variety of roles demonstrated a range that defied easy categorization.
7. Emma Watson
Emma Watson, despite her widespread popularity and acclaim, has faced some criticisms throughout her acting career. One common critique early in her career was related to her portrayal of Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series. Some critics argued that her performance, particularly in the early films, occasionally veered towards overacting and lacked the subtlety seen in her co-stars.
Even veteran acting co-star Alan Rickman vented in his journal entries about Watson's questionable diction. Watson found success in plenty of films outside of the Harry Potter franchise, with films like The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Little Women, and Beauty & the Beast. However, she has repeatedly faced criticism for her less-than-convincing attempts at accents, particularly in The Bling Ring and Little Women.
Some argue that she occasionally struggles to connect with certain characters on an emotional level fully. However, criticisms of her acting have been overblown. While Watson struggles with particular dialects, plenty of talented actors are notorious for doing bad accents (cough, Brad Pitt). Watson was a monumental force in the Harry Potter franchise.
It wouldn't have been the same without her. She brings an endearing energy to each role she takes. She may not be Meryl Streep, but by no means is she on par with the worst actresses in Hollywood.
8. Kate Hudson
Kate Hudson's acting career is a dynamic journey marked by a blend of charm, versatility, and a willingness to explore diverse roles. She first gained widespread recognition with her breakout performance in Almost Famous, where her portrayal of Penny Lane earned her an Academy Award nomination.
However, despite this early success, critics occasionally dismissed her as being typecast in romantic comedies and questioned the depth of her performances. Despite finding herself mostly confined to the rom-com genre for many years, she always brought charisma to these roles, often amplifying the quality of films like Raising Helen and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.
Her first major role was as Penny Lane in Almost Famous at 19. This role earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in 2001. However, she wouldn't receive critical acclaim again for another twenty years for her comedic role in the mystery/crime comedy Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.
Hudson brought so much spunk to the role that it was hard to believe critics had relegated her to the bargain bin of actresses, deeming her acting as unworthy of mention with the big leagues. In Glass Onion, Hudson reminded us that she's more than capable of bringing charm and hilarity to roles that make you fall in love with her.
9. Drew Barrymore
A Hollywood icon since her childhood debut in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Drew Barrymore has weathered the ebbs and flows of fame with undeniable charm. While critics occasionally cite her reliance on a bubbly persona, Barrymore's extensive filmography showcases a journey marked by versatility.
From romantic comedies like The Wedding Singer and satirical horror films like Scream to acclaimed dramatic performances in films such as Grey Gardens, she is an actress who always surprises me with her range. With the capacity to play a convincing scream queen, a rebel, a hopeless romantic, or an amnesiac, she has a surprising gift that allows her to disappear into her roles.
Her talent was obvious even in childhood, starring in Steven Spielberg's E.T. at seven years old. However, as a child, she also earned her first Razzie nomination for Worst Actress. Her first Razzie nomination came at 12 years old for the film Firestarter. While plenty of people love Barrymore and consider her to be America's sweetheart, she's also grown a sizable group of haters who think she never would have gotten anywhere without nepotism and think her comedic performances are gimmicky.
10. Melissa McCarthy
Melissa McCarthy, known for her uproarious comedic performances, has faced criticism for occasionally being typecast in roles that rely on physical humor. However, McCarthy has proven time and time again that she has excellent comedic timing and undeniable charisma through consistent performances as Suki, whom she played for seven years in Gilmore Girls.
In Bridesmaids, McCarthy proved she could be funny in less of an adorable way and more of a deadpan way as the irreverent, inappropriate bridesmaid. However, as she took on more leading comedic roles in The Heat, Identity Thief, and Tammy, they became increasingly obnoxious and felt forced. Instead of her early career's effortless brand of comedy, it began to feel try-hard.
This is exactly why her decision to shift focus to a more dramatic, villainous role as Ursula in The Little Mermaid is exactly what she needed. She knocked it out of the park, delivering a compelling performance as a menacing force of evil and spine-tingling vocals with pipes we didn't even know she had. McCarthy has the potential to be a great actress in multiple genres if she chooses her roles carefully.
11. Sophie Turner
Rising to fame as Sansa Stark in Game of Thrones, Sophie Turner faced initial skepticism due to her early acting career and the enormity of the series. Despite playing a major character in one of the most popular and universally loved series of all time, GOT fans frequently complained that Turner's acting often took them out of the scene.
They described her portrayal of Sansa as “wooden” and “unenthusiastic.” Fans complained that even with excellent writing material, Turner's performance was one-dimensional. Following the end of the series, she starred in the final X-Men film of the franchise, Dark Phoenix. It was a box-office bomb and was panned by both critics and X-Men fans.
While Turner didn't have much material to work with, her performance wasn't doing the film any favors. Since then, she has largely fallen off the map, but I think the flack she got as Sansa Stark was unwarranted. Far from the best actress in the series, she was no Katie Holmes. Most of the issues people took with Turner had to do with her unsympathetic character and the surrounding acting giants that made her shortcomings more noticeable. Turner needs a role that will demonstrate her range.
12. Jennifer Lopez
Criticized at times for her early film choices, Jennifer Lopez first made a splash on the big screen playing Selena Quintanilla in the 1997 film Selena. I still maintain this was her best performance and the highest-quality film of her acting career. She went on to star in some cute and watchable films like Jersey Girl, Maid in Manhattan, and Enough, but she also starred in some pretty terrible films like Gigli and The Back-up Plan.
Her film career fluctuated between terrible and okay, sometimes even reaching modest levels in the “good” territory. Acting took a backseat to her music and dancing pursuits for many years, but she reminded us of her formidable star power on the big screen when she played a savvy adult dancer in Hustlers. J Lo is an actress who can hold her own on screen, but the roles she's offered rarely let her show her true potential. There are several films in her filmography where she gives impressive performances, but she is always treated as an unserious actress.
13. Halle Berry
In 2002, Halle Berry won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as Leticia Musgrove in Monster's Ball. However, her career has been on a steady decline ever since. Her career took a huge hit when she played Catwoman in 2004, a film with such poor reception it's currently sitting at a 3.4 rating on IMDb.
However, the criticism of Berry's take on Catwoman is greatly exaggerated. Perhaps I'm biased because Berry's version was the first Catwoman I ever saw, but I loved her performance. It's certainly not bad, even if you prefer other versions over Berry's. Berry took part in another major franchise when she got cast as Storm in the X-Men films.
The films garnered mixed reviews. Audiences were critical of Berry's inconsistent African accent, limited screen time, and lack of character depth. In recent years, Berry has made fewer film appearances, and none have been critically acclaimed since 2002. This frequently lands her on lists of Hollywood's Worst Actresses, but that's unfair. Berry's acting career may consist of more flops than diamonds, but it often has little to do with Berry's acting capabilities. An Oscar-winning actress is hardly terrible at acting.
14. Sarah Michelle Gellar
Forever etched in pop culture as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sarah Michelle Gellar faced scrutiny for her post-Buffy career choices. However, her talent extends beyond this blip in television history, evidenced by her performances in films like Cruel Intentions, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and The Grudge.
Gellar's performances, even in silly movies like the Scooby Doo live-action franchise, are charismatic and fun to watch. However, Gellar's choice to take on a lot of supernatural and spooky films resulted in her being typecast as a genre-specific actress. In the late '90s and early 2000s, there was a surge of young actresses making their mark in Hollywood.
Gellar's contemporaries, such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Jennifer Aniston, and Reese Witherspoon, were often associated with more diverse and critically acclaimed projects. At the same time, television was undergoing a shift towards prestige dramas and complex character studies. Even though Buffy the Vampire Slayer was critically acclaimed for its writing and character development,
Gellar's focus on lighter fare or series with shorter runs, such as Ringer, might have led to her being overlooked in discussions about serious dramatic actors. Gellar is another example of a great actress with charisma, star power, and likability who ended up being forgotten due to unsavvy career choices.
15. Bryce Dallas Howard
Bryce Dallas Howard has encountered occasional criticism for her involvement in big-budget franchises, but her performances consistently shine through. From her vulnerable performance in The Village to her blood-boiling depiction of a racist in The Help, Howard brings depth to her characters, challenging any notion of her being confined to blockbuster roles.
Howard faces a lot of accusations of being an industry plant thanks to her father being a world-renowned director, Ron Howard. However, she's stolen the show in Black Mirror, has made some impressive directorial debuts, and received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance in As You Like It. Howard's talent makes her filmography all the most frustrating and confusing. A good portion of her career has been wasted on the Jurassic World franchise and minimal appearances in single television series episodes.