In Hollywood, they say you’re only as good as your last film. How tragic then that some actors’ last films are, well, stinkers. Even acting legends like Bela Lugosi can end up with a final role that hardly does them justice (In Lugosi’s case it was Ed Wood’s notorious schlockfest Plan 9 from Outer Space). Here are eight more actors whose last productions failed their legacies.
When Heath Ledger died suddenly in 2008, he was in the middle of filming The Imaginarium Of Dr. Parnassus by surrealist director and former Monty Python member Terry Gilliam. Rather than recast and reshoot Ledger’s role, Gilliam embraced the surreal nature of his film and made the decision to use Ledger’s footage and have other actors (Jude Law, Colin Firth, and Johnny Depp) also play his character in other parts of the film. The quirky film was not a total disaster (it sits at 64% on Rotten Tomatoes), but Ledger fans were disappointed that his final role proved to be of little impact considering the magnum opus that had been his first film released just months after his death, The Dark Knight. The Imaginarium Of Dr. Parnassus is mostly forgotten by Ledger fans, who best remember him for his iconic take on the Joker.
Like Heath Ledger, Robin Williams’ sudden death shocked and saddened the world in 2014. The veteran comedy legend was known for such hits as The Birdcage, Jumanji, and Mrs. Doubtfire, as well as his dramatic Oscar-winning turn in 1997’s Good Will Hunting. He changed animation forever when his breakout voice role as the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin (1995) led to every animated film being voiced by A-list stars. Sadly, his film career ended with a voice role that is nowhere near as beloved as Genie. In fact, most people have probably never heard of Williams’ last film, the British sci-fi comedy Absolutely Anything, released posthumously in 2015. Williams voices the role of Dennis the dog in the live-action film starring Simon Pegg and Kate Beckinsale. Critics gave the film 18% on Rotten Tomatoes, and audiences decided they’d rather just watch Mrs. Doubtfire again.
One of the comedy staples of the ’80s and ’90s, John Candy was a veteran of Canada’s SCTV, which was a sketch comedy show like Saturday Night Live. Candy is beloved for his roles in comedy classics including Uncle Buck, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and Spaceballs. Sadly, Candy passed away in 1994 at the age of 43 from a heart attack, and his last two films do not do the great comedian justice. His final film, Canadian Bacon, a rare non-documentary by Michael Moore satirizing U.S.-Canada relations, was released posthumously in 1995 and sits at 14% on Rotten Tomatoes. But it’s 1994’s Wagons East, a Western adventure comedy co-starring fellow comedian Richard Lewis, that is not only Candy’s last film released during his lifetime, but also has the (dis)honor of having a 0% Rotten Tomatoes score.
In the ’90s, SNL‘s breakout star Chris Farley was considered the spiritual successor of John Candy, and like Candy, his last film turned out to be a Western comedy clunker. Farley cemented himself as a comedy star with films such as Tommy Boy (1995) and Beverly Hills Ninja (1997). But his career was cut short by his untimely death in 1997, leaving one film in the can to be released in 1998. Unfortunately, it was the disastrous Almost Heroes, a rare misfire from Best in Show director Christopher Guest. This Western buddy flick sits at an abysmal but well-deserved 8% on Rotten Tomatoes. Unsold DVD copies are probably sitting next to a van down by the river.
Beloved Broadway and film actor Raul Julia, best known for playing Gomez Addams in two Addams Family films in the early ’90s, sadly passed away in 1994. Released that same year, his last movie was Street Fighter, based on the classic ’80s Capcom video game. Julia could make good roles great, but bad roles fantastic; his turn as the Street Fighter villain M. Bison is among one of the greatest examples of scene-chewing evil on film — better than Alan Rickman in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Sting in Dune combined. Julia had already signed to reprise the role in the sequel and was looking forward to it before he passed away, and the movie was dedicated to him in the credits. But at 18% on Rotten Tomatoes, Street Fighter hardly makes a fitting end to a brilliant career.
Best known for starring opposite a cartoon character in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, this storied British actor was actually quite prolific and even nominated for an Oscar for his role in Neil Jordan’s Mona Lisa (1996). But unfortunately, Hoskins’ final film role was as a dwarf in the interminable Snow White and the Huntsman (2012). Unfortunately, Hoskins was stricken with Parkinson’s and retired from acting after this film, passing away in 2014 (the same year as his Hook co-star Robin Williams). Some would argue that Hoskins’ worst film was 1993’s Super Mario Bros (and they would probably be right), but at least that film has gained a cult following. All Snow White and the Huntsman gained was the wrath of advocacy groups for passing over little people for the roles of dwarves.
From her famous shower scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho to her turn in Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil, scream queen Janet Leigh was a fan favorite and studio darling. She was also married to leading man Tony Curtis, and together they produced Jamie Lee Curtis, who would go on to star in her own iconic horror film, the original Halloween in 1978. This is how Janet Leigh came to star opposite her daughter in the tepid 1998 Halloween sequel, Halloween H20, which garnered 52% on Rotten Tomatoes. Unfortunately, that was Leigh’s final turn on film; she had come out of retirement specifically to star with her daughter, her second time doing so (their first team-up was for another John Carpenter horror flick, The Fog).
You may remember the cheesy 1980 movie Xanadu because of Olivia Newton-John, but what you probably don’t remember is that it also starred veteran actor/dancer and American legend Gene Kelly (of Singin’ in the Rain fame and many other musical classics). Unfortunately, Xanadu has the distinction of being Kelly’s last film. Panned by critics, it sits at 24% on Rotten Tomatoes. Xanadu was so hated, it is even responsible for inspiring the creation of the Golden Raspberry (or “Razzie”) Awards, which “honor” the worst achievements in film every year. Surely not the note Gene Kelly would have liked to end his career on, but we’ll always remember Singin’ in the Rain.