It only takes one terrible movie to derail a rising career. That's an immutable law of Hollywood, a cold truth that has smothered the careers of numerous starlets and pre-star performers.
Hollywood is a fickle mistress, and the tales of career derailment are sadly more entertaining than the films that derailed them.
There are countless stories of people who almost made it before falling into utter obscurity, but some of them are infinitely more shocking than others—particularly when a big-name actor is at the center.
Which popular Hollywood stars fell from grace after one embarrassingly bad film tanked their careers? Here are our most notable picks.
7. Alexander (Colin Farrell)
Colin Farrell's career has become one of the most exciting stories in Hollywood in the last few years, as the Irish golden boy has hit his stride and made some incredible pieces of recent work.
However, with 2004's Alexander, he suffered the wrath of Hollywood and ended up twisting in the wind for a while.
Alexander was the culmination of everything falling apart around him: a terrible film, a terrible performance, at a terrible time. Hated on by critics and audiences alike, his reputation shattered in the blink of an eye.
Thankfully, Colin Farrell climbed back and he's even on course for an Academy Award nomination for The Banshees of Inisherin.
6. Batman & Robin (George Clooney)
In retrospect, we can see that George Clooney is more than just a handsome actor who tried to break into superhero movies.
But back in 1997, Clooney was cast in Batman & Robin as Batman for that very reason: he was a pretty man with wide appeal.
Batman & Robin is now renowned for how awful it was. Even after all these years, Clooney himself still pokes fun at it whenever he's asked about it, like how he once thought it was a good career move.
This film pushed Clooney's name way down the A list for a while. If it wasn't for Ocean's Eleven being a smash hit, it's possible we might not even know who he is today.
5. Battlefield Earth (John Travolta)
The issue with John Travolta is that he's been in so many more bad projects than good ones.
For every Pulp Fiction, he has at least three other films that left audiences wincing as they watched. Chief among them? Battlefield Earth.
Coming off a successful run with Pulp Fiction in 1994, Face/Off in 1997, and The Thin Red Line in 1998, John Travolta thought this sci-fi film would be a good change of pace to broaden his career.
Battlefield Earth ended up being so bad—with an abysmal IMDb rating of 2.5 and a Rotten Tomatoes critical approval of just 3%—that it threw his career right off the cliff.
In the years since, Travolta eventually managed to recover and find a happy medium again, but it wasn't an easy road and he's yet to make a truly great film like the ones he used to be in (other than Hairspray).
4. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (Sean Connery)
It's one thing for a terrible movie to temporarily derail one's career, as comebacks are always possible. But sometimes a movie is so damagingly bad that it forces an actor into retirement.
That's how it was with Sean Connery and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The film was so over the top and the production was so hectic that he decided to call it quits as soon as he was done.
Yes, it's true. Sean Connery hasn't appeared in any movies since 2003, with The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen as his last live-action appearance. (He voiced himself in 2012's animated Sir Billi.)
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen embodied everything wrong with the filmmaking of its era. It had no redeeming qualities, plus it led Sean Connery to his cinematic end, so thanks for that.
3. Spider-Man 3 (Topher Grace)
In retrospect, Spider-Man 3 isn't quite as bad as people said it was at the time. Its most unfortunate task was following the success of Spider-Man 2, one of the best comic book movies ever made.
Did Topher Grace deserve to be outcast by Hollywood for his admittedly shocking performance as Venom? It was bad, but was it that bad?
Spider-Man 3's reception is a cautionary tale about how harsh reactions can be to a middling movie, with Topher Grace hung out to dry by the film industry for less-than-stellar results.
2. Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (Chris Klein)
Chris Klein is the one man who never recovered from the tripe he starred in, which is sad considering the success he found as Oz in the American Pie movies.
To the very few people who even saw the film, it's a mystery how Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li ever made it into production. Between the producers and directors, somebody should have called it off.
For his part, Chris Klein seemingly lost his senses and decided to chew the scenery so badly that he has remained uncastable in pretty much any reputable movie since.
1. The Wicker Man (Nicolas Cage)
The Wicker Man—from 2006, not the 1973 original—is the height of Nicolas Cage's uniquely mad method of acting.
This film was a bad idea from start to finish, beginning with the fact that a remake was wholly unnecessary and ending with Nicolas Cage's absurd performance of unintentional hilarity.
In retrospect, The Wicker Man marks the arrival of a strange era in Cage's filmography: the years when he acted in nearly any script that landed on his desk. (He had to pay off that huge IRS bill somehow!)
That era—comprising 38 films—didn't end until 2018 when he starred in Mandy, which initiated a comeback that wouldn't fully consumate itself until The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent in 2022.