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10 Casting Choices That Saved Their Movies From Being Completely Forgettable


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Summary

  • Certain castings can take what otherwise would be a mediocre or forgettable movie and elevate it into something great.
  • For example, Robert Downey Jr.’s charismatic portrayal of Sherlock Holmes saves the forgettable action movies from being complete duds.
  • Alyssa Sutherland’s understanding of the tone in Evil Dead Rise makes her performance as the main deadite standout and keeps the film engaging.

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Filmmaking is a tricky business and casting the right actor for the right role is always a challenge, but some casting decisions have been so good they made mediocre movies better. Plenty of bad movies have good performances in them, but certain performances are more than a solid part of an average movie. They instead raise the rest of the movie and make the film worth more than the sum of its parts. With another actor in the role, these films would suffer greatly.

This is often the case when an actor understands the main character and the movie better than the script or director does, and their unique spin on the character gives the film more substance than it would have had without them. Sometimes a key supporting actor can also save a movie, as their performance stands out among the cast. A simple understanding of tone can make a world of difference for both the character and the movie, and these actors understood their films the best.

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10 Reneé Rapp As Regina George

Mean Girls 2024

Mean Girls (2024)

Release Date
January 12, 2024

Director
Samantha Jayne , Arturo Perez Jr.

Cast
Angourie Rice , Auli’i Cravalho , Jaquel Spivey , Reneé Rapp , Jon Hamm , Ashley Park , Jenna Fischer , Tina Fey , Tim Meadows

Rating
Not Yet Rated

Writers
Nell Benjamin , Tina Fey

Distributor(s)
Paramount Pictures

Despite its musical twist, the 2024 version of Mean Girls doesn’t add much to the original film. The remake is mostly a glossy retread of the 2004 teen classic, with the best jokes being ripped straight from the first. However, Reneé Rapp does deliver a star-making turn as Regina George, the leader of the plastics. While this Regina isn’t as well drawn as Rachel McAdams’ version, the role still allows Rapp to shine, showing her vocal and comedic chops. Rapp is a highlight of Mean Girls and the only new cast member who rivals her original counterpart.

9 Robert Downey Jr. As Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes

Release Date
December 25, 2009

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
128 minutes

Writers
Anthony Peckham , Simon Kinberg , Michael Robert Johnson

Studio(s)
Warner Bros. Pictures

All adaptations of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Detective are heavily reliant on the actor starring as Sherlock. Still, Robert Downey Jr. does some extra lifting in the two films by Guy Ritchie. Sherlock Holmes and its sequel are mostly forgettable and not particularly smart action movies that are saved by their all-star cast. Downey can play cocky and charismatic in his sleep, and he is effortlessly charming as Sherlock. Neither film is particularly good, but this interpretation became a franchise solely off the love for Downey as the character. Sherlock Holmes 3 has been stuck in development hell for over a decade, but there’s still a desire by many to see the trilogy be completed.

8 Alyssa Sutherland As Ellie

Evil Dead Rise

Alyssa Sutherland as Ellie in Evil Dead Rise

Evil Dead Rise

Release Date
April 21, 2023

Director
Lee Cronin

Cast
Alyssa Sutherland , Lily Sullivan , Gabrielle Echols , Morgan Davies , Nell Fisher , Mia Challis

Rating
R

Runtime
120 minutes

Distributor(s)
Warner Bros. Pictures

Last year’s Evil Dead Rise was a good update to the franchise that never reached the heights of the originals but had just enough clever scares to get by. Most of the film’s fun came from Alyssa Sutherland’s performance as the main deadite and possessed mother. Sutherland seemed to understand the tone of Evil Dead better than the film itself and is joyfully nasty in the role. From the smallest grin to the biggest yell, she is what keeps the film engaging for two hours.

7 Paul Giamatti As Marty Wolf

Big Fat Liar

Marty Wolf in Big Fat Liar

Big Fat Liar

Release Date

Director

Cast

Rating

Writers

For the most part, Big Fat Liar is a below-average children’s film, but one performance is so funny it elevates the entire film to become a solid comedy. While Frankie Muniz is a charming kid lead, what makes Big Fat Liar stand out from something like Agent Cody Banks is Paul Giamatti as Marty Wolf. Giamatti is a delight in everything he is in, but his over-the-top take on a slimy movie producer is hilarious to both kids and adults. The image of a blue Giamatti has alone cemented Big Fat Liar as an early 2000s classic.

6 Rachel McAdams & Ryan Gosling As Allie & Noah

The Notebook

The Notebook

Release Date
June 25, 2004

Director
Nick Cassavetes

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
124 Minutes

Story By
Nicholas Sparks

Distributor(s)
New Line Cinema

Most adaptions of Nicholas Sparks’ books are critically panned upon release and fade from the public memory shortly after, except The Notebook which is still talked about and watched two decades later. Nothing about the story of The Notebook is inherently better than anything else Sparks has written, but the chemistry and charisma of the two leads are enough to make the movie a very watchable romance. Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling are two actors who can elevate any material given them and ar by far the best Nicholas Sparks couple.

5 Robert De Niro As Dick Kelly

Dirty Grandpa

Robert De Niro and Zac Efron in Dirty Grandpa

Dirty Grandpa

Release Date
January 20, 2016

Director
Dan Mazer

Cast
Dermot Mulroney , Aubrey Plaza , Robert De Niro , Julianne Hough , Jason Mantzoukas , Zoey Deutch , Zac Efron , Adam Pally

Rating
R

Runtime
102minutes

Writers
John Phillips

Studio(s)
Lionsgate

In the latter part of his career, Robert De Niro has swung from starring in modern masterpieces like The Irishman or Killers of the Flower Moon and lending his star power to C-grade comedies like The War with Grandpa. Dirty Grandpa is by far the most irreverent and tasteless film De Niro has ever been in, but it goes so far that it almost becomes funny again. The script doesn’t have well-written jokes, but it is undeniably funny to see De Niro in such outlandish situations, and the film would be infinitely more painful with another actor.

Dirty Grandpa is now streaming on Netflix

4 Owen Wilson As Jedediah

Night At The Museum

Night at the Museum

Release Date
December 17, 2006

Director
Shawn Levy

Rating
pg

Runtime
108minutes

Writers
Shawn Levy

Studio(s)
20th Century

Owen Wilson’s role in Night at the Museum was originally intended to only be a cameo, and he is in fact not credited in the first movie at all. However, the character was so popular, that his role wasn’t only expanded, he became one of the faces of the franchise. The first Night at the Museum is an average execution of a great premise, but Wilson as Jedediah walks away with the movie. Wilson is hilarious as usual, but he is also the actor most locked into the premise of the movie and sells the mythical realism of being a tiny cowboy better than anyone could.

3 Nicolas Cage As Nick Cage

The Unbearable Weight Of Massive Talent

Nicolas Cage, wearing a luxurious red robe and a big pair of sunglasses, sits waterside in The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent

Release Date
April 22, 2022

Director
Tom Gormican

Rating
R

Runtime
107 minutes

Writers
Kevin Etten , Tom Gormican

Studio(s)
Lionsgate

The entire premise of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent is that Nicolas Cage plays a fictional version of himself, so obviously his casting is important, but Cage turns in a shockingly good performance as himself. The film’s script is a surface-level satire on the star’s image, but Cage doesn’t play the movie as a joke, instead trying to find some real pathos in this cartoon version of himself. While the movie may waste the central premise, Cage is too good for the role, as he doesn’t go for the easy laughs, instead making what could have been a joke of a movie into an interesting chapter of his filmography.

2 Joaquin Phoenix As Arthur Fleck

Joker

Joker

Release Date
October 4, 2019

Director
Todd Phillips

Rating
R

Runtime
122 minutes

Writers
Todd Phillips , Scott Silver

Distributor(s)
Warner Bros. Pictures

Joker surprised the entire world when it ended up grossing over a billion dollars and became an awards season player, and most of the film’s success must be attributed to Joaquin Phoenix’s central performance. Todd Phillips’ take on the DC Comics character is a rather superficial retread of early Scorsese films, but Phoenix manages to find something interesting in the character and give a new and exciting take on the clown prince of crime. Completely avoiding previous takes on the character, Joker becomes a one-man show for Phoenix, and his commitment to the character gives the film more gravitas and meaning than it has on the page.

1 Kristen Stewart As Bella Swan

Twilight

Twilight

Release Date
November 21, 2008

Director
Catherine Hardwicke

Cast
Robert Pattinson , Ashley Greene , Peter Facinelli , Rachelle Lefevre , Elizabeth Reaser , Kristen Stewart , Nikki Reed , Jackson Rathbone , Cam Gigandet , Kellan Lutz , Taylor Lautner , Anna Kendrick , Billy Burke

Rating
PG-13

Runtime
121 minutes

Writers
Melissa Rosenberg

The internet unfairly ganged up on Kristen Stewart after the release of Twilight, mocking the actor’s performance as Bella Swan. While Twilight was never high art, she actually made the films better with her awkward performance as a young teenager. Recent comments about Twilight by Kristen Stewart show that she understood what was appealing about the story more than anyone else involved, and she came to the character of Bella with a real take and performance. Bella Swan could have easily been a paycheck role for Stewart, but she put in the effort and made Twilight a cultural phenomenon.

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