“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Charles Dickens’ famous words are appropriate for these 10 actors who somehow reached the zenith and nadir of their career in the same year.
John Travolta – 1978
You could argue 2000’s Battlefield Earth was John Travolta’s most high-profile bomb, but that film has a certain charm to its ridiculousness that makes it incredibly watchable as an unintentional comedy. 1978’s Moment by Moment, on the other hand, is just plain terrible. There’s basically nothing to keep the audience’s interest, despite its star power. And it’s pretty crazy to think that it came out the same year that Grease was doing gangbusters business at the box office. That probably made Travolta’s brief moment of failure much easier to bear.
Dennis Quaid – 1983
Early in Dennis Quaid’s career, he struck gold with The Right Stuff. It wasn’t a huge box-office hit at the time, but it’s now fondly remembered as a classic, and it’s amazing to go back and see all of the other young faces in it, like Jeff Goldblum, Ed Harris, and Pamela Reed. Unfortunately, Quaid had to temper his triumph by also starring in Jaws 3-D, which isn’t the worst in the Jaws film series, but that’s only because Jaws: The Revenge is an even more legendarily bad movie. At least Quaid got to star in a good movie with his Jaws 3-D co-star Louis Gossett Jr. two years later with 1985’s underrated Enemy Mine.
Bill Murray – 1984
The world wasn’t ready for Bill Murray to take on an extremely dramatic role in 1984, right when he was hitting it big with one of the most popular comedies of all time, Ghostbusters. I’m by no means saying that The Razor’s Edge is a bad movie; it was just ahead of its time. In the past few decades, Murray has been able to pull off comedic and dramatic roles with ease. I would say he rode the line perfectly between serious and funny in Groundhog Day. But The Razor’s Edge is one of those forgotten Bill Murray movies that was overshadowed by an even better film.
Eddie Murphy – 1984
Eddie Murphy was on fire in the ‘80s. He shot right out of the gate with 48 Hrs. in 1982 and followed that up with 1983’s Trading Places. And the hits kept on coming with Beverly Hills Cop in 1984, right? Wrong. Just before he starred in the highest-grossing R-rated comedy for many years, he had the misfortune of appearing in the Dudley Moore dud Best Defense. Why did he do it? The paycheck was too good to turn down. At least he can take solace in the fact that he’s the best part of that film. Plus, Beverly Hills Cop and the other hits he had that decade quickly wiped away any memory of his one early misstep.
Tim Robbins – 1986
Coincidentally, the writers of Best Defense, Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck, also wrote the worst movie Tim Robbins ever appeared in: 1986’s Howard the Duck. And that just so happened to be same year Robbins also had a role in a little movie called Top Gun. Sure, he wasn’t the top-billed actor in Top Gun, but it was his highest-grossing movie worldwide for two decades until another Tom Cruise vehicle knocked it off its pedestal: 2005’s War of the Worlds.
Chevy Chase – 1989
In 1985, Chevy Chase starred in a great comedy called Fletch and a not-so-great one called National Lampoon’s European Vacation. In 1989, the tables turned and he starred in a great comedy called National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and a not-so-great one called Fletch Lives. There’s something poetic about that role reversal. Chase went out with a bang and whimper that year. His career never reached its previous heights after that.
Brad Pitt – 1992
Brad Pitt has had many amazing roles over the years in David Fincher films and more, but A River Runs Through It stands out in my mind as one of his best films. Maybe it’s that Robert Redford charm behind the camera bringing it out, but Pitt has rarely been better than he is in this film, and it’s particularly impressive that he achieved such success early in his career. Sadly, no one is perfect, and he also sleepwalked his way through the Who Framed Roger Rabbit-wannabe Cool World in 1992.
Robin Williams – 1992
Robin Williams redefined what it meant to be a voice actor in 1992’s Aladdin. Since he broke the mold, other famous actors have lent their voices to high-profile animated films like Toy Story, Shrek, and Kung Fu Panda, just to name a few. That same year, Williams also gave us the confusing movie Toys, which can’t tell who its audience is. It’s rated PG-13, but at times it seems squarely aimed at children while at other times it’s more adult in nature. Thankfully, Toys has been all but forgotten while Aladdin endures as one of Williams’ most memorable movies.
Arnold Schwarzenegger – 1994
In 1994, Arnold Schwarzenegger reteamed with two directors for the third time each. James Cameron had successfully directed Schwarzenegger in The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Their third collaboration, True Lies, was another big hit. Ivan Reitman had successfully directed him in Twins and Kindergarten Cop. However, his third time going back to the well proved to be a disaster. Junior didn’t connect with audiences, and it earned half of the two previous comedies at the box office. The world wasn’t ready for a pregnant man back then, but it was just fine with portraying Muslims as terrorists. My, how things have changed.
Sandra Bullock – 2009
Very few actors or actresses can boast receiving an Oscar and a Razzie in the same year, but Sandra Bullock is one of them. In 2009, she played a tough-as-nails mother with a heart of gold in The Blind Side and a brainless psychopath who chases an indifferent guy across the country in All About Steve. One character couldn’t be more agreeable while the other couldn’t be more obnoxious. It’s kind of inspiring to see an actress reach such back-to-back heights and depths in her acting range. At least she was a good sport about it and received both of her awards for those films in person.
Success has a way of wiping out failure, so even though the actors on this list struck out with one film, it just made their other film’s homerun that much more powerful.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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