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10 worst action heroes ever, ranked

Action heroes come in all different shapes and sizes. Some action heroes have big muscles (Alan “Dutch” Schaefer) and elite combat skills (John Rambo). Other action heroes rely on their bravery (Indiana Jones) and intelligence (Ethan Hunt). And if you’re John McClane, your foul mouth will either make or break you.

The action heroes listed above are some of the most iconic characters of the last 50 years. But, for every legend, there is a dud on the opposite end of the spectrum. These disappointing action heroes failed for various reasons, from the performance and script to the premise and execution. These are the 10 worst action heroes.

10. The Guy – Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003)

Elijah Wood stands in a metal suit in Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over.
Elijah Wood in Spy Kids 3: Game Over / Dimension Films

If you’re known as “The Guy,” you better be the greatest thing since sliced bread. Throughout Spy Kids 3-D: Game OverJuni Cortez (Daryl Sabara) convinces the beta-testers inside the game that he is The Guy, the person who can beat the impossible Level 5. When the group reaches Level 5, Juni’s lie is exposed, and the gamers are about to eliminate him when the real Guy (Elijah Wood) appears.

After a quick pep talk where The Guy says inspirational things like “nothing is unwinnable” and “we can accomplish anything,” The Guy leads the kids through the door to Level 5. However, The Guy dies within five seconds of entering Level 5, proving he is not “the one.” At least The Guy made a good speech before his death.

Stream Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over on Paramount+.

9. Mutt Williams – Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

Harrison Ford and Shia LaBeouf both hold flashlights in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Crystal Skull.
Paramount Pictures / Paramount Pictures

Shia LeBeouf was dealt an impossible hand when he joined the Indiana Jones franchise as Mutt Williams, Indy’s son, in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of Crystal Skull. The Transformers star had to share the screen with Harrison Ford in one of his two iconic roles (Han Solo being the other). While Indy is a charming and heroic character, Mutt is annoying and rude, quite the opposite of his father. It also doesn’t help Mutt’s case that Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is considered the weakest film in the franchise.

LeBeouf caught a lot of strays for playing Mutt. LeBeouf told the Los Angeles Times that he “dropped the ball” in honoring the franchise’s legacy and mentioned Ford was unhappy with the film. Ford responded by calling LeBeouf a “f***ing idiot.” Pissing off Ford earns you a spot on this list.

Stream Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull on Disney+ and Paramount+.

8. The X-Force – Deadpool 2 (2016)

Deadpool and the X-Force ready to jump out of a plane in Deadpool 2.
Deadpool and the X-Force / 20th Century Fox

On paper, Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) forming the X-Force in Deadpool 2 was a smart move. Deadpool enlisted the services of a team to free Russell Collins (Julian Dennison) from a prison convoy and protect the boy from Cable (Josh Brolin). The X-Force team included Domino (Zazie Beetz), Bedlam (Terry Crews), Vanisher (Brad Pitt), Shatterstar (Lewis Tan), Zeitgeist (Bill Skarsgård), and Peter (Rob Delaney).

Deadpool and company start the mission by parachuting out of a cargo plane. However, difficult wind conditions cause Deadpool to go off course, but he lands in one piece. The same cannot be said for the majority of the team. Bedlam, Vanisher, Shatterstar, Zeitgeist, and Pete die in the most brutal ways imaginable, including electrocution and decapitation. Only Domino survives. For the rest of the X-Force, their heroic journies were over in the blink of an eye.

Stream Deadpool 2 on Disney+.

7. Eddie Brock Jr./Venom – Spider-Man 3 (2007)

Eddie Brock smiling evilly in Spider-Man 3.
Sony Pictures Releasing

Spider-Man 3 has a Spider-Man villain problem. There are three villains: Flint Marko (Thomas Haden Church), also known as the Sandman; Harry Osborn (James Franco), Peter’s best friend who becomes the New Goblin; and Eddie Brock Jr. (Topher Grace), who becomes Venom. Brock is the villain that does not belong.

Brock never had a chance to shine as a villain, as Venom only shows up in the final third of the film and appears in one fight. Venom is known for its imposing presence, but Grace’s version plays more like an evil comedian. It’s not the most egregious casting decision in an action film, but it’s not great.

Stream Spider-Man 3 on Netflix.

6. Patience Phillips/Catwoman – Catwoman (2004)

Catwoman cocks her head to the side in Catwoman
Warner Bros.

Halle Berry was on top of the world in 2004. At the 2002 Oscars, Berry became the first African American woman to win Best Actress for her role in Monster’s Ball. During the next few years, Berry would venture into multiple action franchises, including the X-Men as Sue Storm and James Bond as Jinx in Die Another Day. However, her successful run came to a screeching halt with her role as Patience Phillips in Catwoman.

As the titular hero, Berry played a version of Catwoman, but the film does not care about Batman lore as Patience has little to do with the comics. Big mistake, as Catwoman is regarded as one of the worst films ever made. Berry is a terrific actress, but the filmmakers failed her as they cared more about looks than the actual character. Plus, the action was nowhere to be found.

Stream Catwoman on Max.

5. Bruce Wayne/Batman – Batman & Robin (1997)

George Clooney as Batman in Batman & Robin
Warner Bros.

In another case of a “great actor, bad role,” George Clooney put on the Batsuit (with nipples) to play the caped crusader in Batman & Robin. Clooney had all the traits — handsome, charming, and cunning — to play billionaire Bruce Wayne. Yet, Clooney showed none of the endearing qualities that made him a ’90s heartthrob.

Of all the actors who played Batman, Clooney’s performance is at the bottom of the list. Clooney’s Batman is the last version of the character to incorporate comedic elements into his performance as Christian Bale, Ben Affleck, and Robert Pattinson would all focus on the darker aspects of Wayne. It also doesn’t help Clooney that he headlined the worst live-action Batman film to date.

Stream Batman & Robin on Max.

4. John Henry Irons/Steel – Steel (1997)

Shaquille O'Neal holds a weapon as Steel.
Warner Bros.

If you thought DC was in trouble in 2023, head back to 1997 to see what real problems looked like. DC released Batman & Robin and Steel over the summer of 1997. Steel starred a young Shaquille O’Neal as John Henry Irons, a brilliant engineer who builds a metal suit of armor to fight as the vigilante “Steel.” In the comics, Steel is an ally to Superman.

Shaq is a larger-than-life entertainer, but in 1997, he was a very inexperienced actor. With only three roles to his name, Shaq was not ready to be the lead of a comic book movie. Without a strong supporting cast to carry the bulk of the film, Shaq was set up to fail. Shaq came off as a big guy in a clunky suit of metal with no memorable qualities, which is unfortunate, considering how likable he is off-camera and on television.

Stream Steel on Max.

3. Jonathan Cross – Rollerball (2002)

Chris Klein holds a jacket over his shoulder in Rollerball.

Chris Klein, while perfect in the raunchy R-rated comedy American Pie franchise, should never have played Jonathan Cross in the remake of Rollerball. Klein had to know beforehand that his performance would automatically be compared to James Caan, who starred as Jonathan in the original Rollerball from 1975. As one of the all-time tough guys, Caan thrived in a role that relied on physicality and violence.

Unsurprisingly, Klein’s Jonathan is not a believable roughneck. It’s a casting misfire, as Klein lacks the grittiness and cockiness to play Jonathan. Klein is a jock, not a killer. Plus, Jonathan is a bland protagonist. The studio allegedly wanted Keanu Reeves to play Jonathan, which makes sense, considering he was one of the biggest action stars of the time. Reeves may not have saved Rollerball, but it would have been better with him instead of Klein.

Stream Rollerball on Prime Video.

2. Red Sonja – Red Sonja (1985)

Red Sonja points a sword in Red Sonja.
MGM/UA Entertainment Co.

Red Sonja has all the right ingredients for a successful film. It has Fubar‘s Arnold Schwarzenegger, one of the most influential action stars of all time. Red Sonja is set in the same universe as Conan the Barbarian, a hit movie in 1985. The titular role of Red Sonja, a sword-wielding sorcerer, is played by Brigitte Nielsen, a rising supermodel with global appeal.

Yet, good ingredients do not guarantee a good meal. The same can be said of Red Sonja, a film that does not work at all. Schwarzenegger has called it the worst movie he’s ever made. One of the major problems stems from the casting of Nielsen, who had never acted before in her career. Red Sonja is supposed to be a confident, powerful heroine. Yet, Nielsen is dull, lifeless, and severely miscast. Red Sonja can be a great character, but you won’t find anything great in this film.

Rent Red Sonja on YouTube.

1. Detective Tony Costas – Collision Course (1989)

Pat Morita and Jay Leno stare with confused looks on their faces in Collision Course.
De Laurentiis Entertainment Group

Jay Leno is best known as the comedian who succeeded Johnny Carson as the host of The Tonight Show, a position for over 20 years. Three years before he took over for Carson in 1992, Leno starred as Detective Tony Costas in Collision Course, a buddy comedy action film co-starring Academy Award nominee Pat Morita.

I would love to know who decided to cast Leno in this role and ask them why. If I had to guess, the producers tried to replicate the success of comedians in buddy cop movies, like Eddie Murphy in 48 Hrs. and Charles Grodin in Midnight Run. Even if Leno was a believable action star, the film was not funny, nor was the action entertaining. Collision Course did not even receive a theatrical release in the United States. Luckily for Leno, he kept his day (or nighttime) job.

Stream Collision Course on Hulu.

Dan Girolamo
Dan is a passionate and multitalented content creator with experience in pop culture, entertainment, and sports. Throughout…
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