If you're an actor working in movies, there is no higher honor than taking home a little gold statue on Oscar night. Yet after tearful acceptance speeches are given and celebratory champagne is poured, sometimes Oscar winners take an inexplicable sharp turn into schlock that leaves fans scratching their heads and Academy voters hanging their heads in deep shame. In those cases, what the Academy gives should be taken away, as evidenced by the photos of ill-advised career choices from the past 40 years on the following pages. Look long enough at the pictures on the screen and you can almost hear the actor plead, "Somebody, anybody, please take back my Oscar!"
Cuba Gooding Jr.
Cuba Gooding Jr.'s "Show me the money" line from Jerry Maguire became a national catchphrase, so the pop-culture obsessed Academy was quick to show him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for the popular 1996 movie. Fast forward to 2002 and Gooding is doing everything but making good on that Oscar glory. His role in the critically panned Boat Trip as a guy who pretends to be a homosexual to get close to a female dance instructor on a gay cruise is surely his career nadir. The homophobic, unfunny flick required the actor to dress in drag and become an obnoxious stereotype of a gay man for cheap laughs that never came. To put this movie's awfulness into perspective, if such a crass caricature of African-American people were unleashed in theaters, Martin Luther King Jr. would rise from the grave to burn every copy.
The apparently sadistic Academy has a soft spot for beautiful women playing hard, ugly roles and loves to dole out Oscars to those brave actresses. Academy voters also love to set headline-grabbing precedents to appear hip with the times, so it was a no-brainer that Halle Berry became the first and, as of this writing, only African-American woman to win a Best Actress trophy for her harrowing performance in 2001's Monster's Ball. The former beauty queen followed up her win with a performance in the god-awful horror stinker Gothika only to follow that up with 2004's Catwoman, which earned her a Razzie for Worst Actress. Berry deserves some credit for actually showing up to accept her Razzie, but the in-denial winner blamed everyone—the studio, her agent—except herself for this atrocity of a comic book adaptation that should have been tossed with last week's kitty litter.
Nicolas Cage had an eclectic career playing a slew of quirky characters in movies like Valley Girl, Raising Arizona, Moonstruck, Vampire's Kiss and Wild at Heart before he was finally rewarded with an Oscar for his role as a depressed alcoholic who makes his last stop in Sin City with the intention of drinking himself to death in 1995's Leaving Las Vegas. After his win, Cage largely eschewed the eccentric roles of his early years in favor of bombastic action flicks like The Rock, Con-Air, Face/Off and Gone in Sixty Seconds in addition to big-budget family films like National Treasure. All of this is somewhat understandable—if you have an Oscar, go ahead and make some money—but there is no logical explanation for his loony performance in Neil Labute's remake of The Wicker Man, a strong contender for the worst film of all time.
Classic beauty and former fashion model Kim Basinger had no problem being cast as a pretty face in movies like 9 ½ Weeks, Batman, Blind Date and The Marrying Man, but she did have a problem being taken seriously as an actress until L.A. Confidential. Her pivotal role as a Veronica Lake-looking call girl won her a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for the 1997 movie even though she had very limited screen time. It took three years for Basinger to return to the big screen with the double whammy of I Dreamed of Africa and Bless the Child, both of which earned the Oscar winner Razzie nominations for Worst Actress. In the latter film, a weepy-eyed Basinger spends much of the movie running around New York while trying to protect her supernaturally-gifted young niece, Cody, from a satanic cult that wants to exploit and/or sacrifice the child. We're not sure what attracted Basinger to this lambasted film, but she'll probably tell you that the devil made her do it.
Jon Voight is no stranger to Academy voters, having earned his first nomination for his iconic role in Midnight Cowboy and taking home the Oscar for his role as a paraplegic Vietnam War vet in 1978's Coming Home. Voight's loins even sired another Oscar winner in the form of daughter Angelina Jolie, who took home a Best Supporting Actress statue for 1999's Girl, Interrupted. Two years before Jolie made her papa proud, what was Voight doing slumming around in the jungle with Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube and a giant animatronic snake in Anaconda? The answer: making bad movie history and earning himself two Razzie nominations, for Worst Actor and, hilariously, Worst Screen Couple with his slithery co-star. In the film, the snake crushes the Oscar winner, swallows him whole, and vomits up a half-digested Voight, who winks at the camera. The Academy is forgiving—or has a short memory—and still handed Voight another Oscar nomination years later for Ali.
Faye Dunaway had already received Oscar nominations for her iconic roles in Bonnie and Clyde and Chinatown before she finally won Best Actress for her part in the still-relevant Network as a TV entertainment producer who will do anything for a hit show. Five years later came the role that would overshadow her career ever since…and not in a flattering way. Dunaway's over-the-top interpretation of Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest left us all anxious around wire hangers and has made Mommie Dearest perhaps the greatest camp film of all time. Although this story about a big star's alleged child abuse was presumably filmed with serious intentions, Dunaway's pervasive scenery-chewing renders every line ("I'm not mad at you, I'm mad at the dirt!") a laugh-out-loud riot, even when Crawford is slapping her daughter senseless. Dunaway won a Razzie for Worst Actress and, to this day, refuses to speak about Mommie Dearest to reporters. You probably shouldn't ask her about Supergirl or Dunston Checks In, either.
Former Beverly Hills, 90210 actress Hilary Swank has won two Oscars for Best Actress for her roles as a woman masquerading as a guy in Boys Don't Cry and as a female boxer in Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby. Swank seems to pop up every few years, win an Oscar, and then retreat into the shadows to remain under the radar. Two years after her last Oscar win, Swank took the part of Madeleine Linscott in Brian De Palma's campy The Black Dahlia about the most infamous murder in Hollywood's history. Swank's bizarre character is described by one reviewer as a "bisexual praying mantis" who slinks around looking for one-night stands with servicemen or lipstick lesbians and who speaks in a clipped, actor-y voice that is truly a howl. Madeleine stands out to the other characters because she resembles the Black Dahlia, but Swank makes her unforgettable for other reasons entirely.
Aussie actress Nicole Kidman emerged as an Academy favorite after her divorce from Tom Cruise and removing herself from his crazy train. Her role as Virginia Woolf in The Hours required her to mask her delicate porcelain features with a giant prosthetic nose, which of course is reason enough for the Academy to throw a statue at her. Since that win in 2002, Kidman has starred in a string of flops and disappointments, including Bewitched, The Invasion, Australia, The Golden Compass and Fur. In 2004's lame The Stepford Wives, a remake of the 1975 film of the same name, Kidman plays a suburban housewife who finds out that most of the women in her community are obedient, subservient robots—sort of like her robotic performance in this box-office dud.
Michael Caine has been nominated for an Oscar six times and, along with Jack Nicholson, is the only actor to have been nominated for an acting award in every decade since the 1960s. Caine's first win for Best Supporting Actor came for Woody Allen's for 1986's Hannah and Her Sisters, but Caine was not present to pick up his statue at the ceremony. What could be so important that an actor would skip Hollywood's biggest self-congratulatory annual party? Caine was busy filming the soggy sequel Jaws: The Revenge, the fourth and final film in the monster-shark series that was universally panned. Even though Caine sat out the awards show to play with an animatronic great white, the Academy forgave his absence and awarded him another Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in 1999 for The Cider House Rules. As for Jaws: The Revenge, Caine has this to say: "I have never seen it, but by all accounts it is terrible. However, I have seen the house that it built, and it is terrific."
Statuesque actress Geena Davis was on a roll in the '80s with popular performances in movies like Tootsie, The Fly and Beetlejuice before she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role opposite William Hurt in The Accidental Tourist. Davis kicked off the '90s with her iconic performance opposite Susan Sarandon and newbie Brad Pitt in Ridley Scott's post-feminist Thelma & Louise, for which Davis was nominated for another Oscar. Unfortunately, then-husband Renny Harlin talked his wife into starring in his pirate-themed action movie Cutthroat Island, a film that cost $115 million, made $10 million, and bankrupted production company Carolco Pictures. Davis's big-screen career never really recovered from what the Guinness Book of World Records lists as the biggest box-office flop of all time, nor did her marriage with Harlin, which ended in 1998.