10 Great Performances in Truly Terrible Movies

There was little reason to expect that a jukebox musical filled with so-bad-they’re-good ‘80s pop songs was going to be any good whatsoever, and true to prediction, Rock of Ages was one of the summer’s biggest dogs. It’s out tomorrow on DVD and Blu-ray, though, which exponentially increases the chances that one of your friends (the one who’s always wanting to go karaoke-ing, probably) is going to buy it and insist on having it on at some point in your friendship. Fear not: though Rock of Ages is an execrable film, it has (contrary to any and all expectations) a genuinely enjoyable and unexpectedly witty Tom Cruise performance buried underneath all the hairspray and Journey covers. Playing Stacee Jaxx, a rock star long removed from anything resembling reality, Cruise is totally credible and genuinely funny; there’s a good 20-minute stretch in the middle where they just turn the movie over to him, and it’s the only point in the entire running time where Rock of Ages actually works. As a thank-you to Mr. Cruise and all of those who make the unbearable ever-so-briefly watchable, we put together a list of a few of our favorite great performances in terrible movies; see if you agree with our picks after the jump.

Alan Rickman, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves

This 1991 take on the venerable legend is best remembered (if at all) for Kevin Costner’s notoriously absent English accent, which is kind of a good thing to have when you’re playing Robin Hood. But that’s far from RH:PoT’s only problem: it’s also got an embarrassingly half-assed Christian Slater performance, a romance with Maid Marion (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) that’s entirely chemistry-free, and sluggish direction by Kevin Reynolds (Waterworld) that somehow makes the movie feel even longer than its flabby 138 minutes. But it’s also got Alan Rickman, chomping scenery by the handful as the evil (but totally entertaining) Sheriff of Nottingham. Wrote Roger Ebert, in his 1991 review: “Rickman’s performance has nothing to do with anything else in the movie, and indeed seems to proceed from a uniquely personal set of assumptions about what century, universe, etc., the story is set in, but at least when Rickman appears on the screen we perk up, because we know we’ll be entertained, at whatever cost to the story.” And thank God for that.