15 Times Oscar-Winners Slummed It in Popcorn Movies

15 Times Oscar-Winners Slummed It in Popcorn Movies

A series about street racing that turned into a series of heist movies before eventually shooting a car into space hardly seems like the playground of serious actors. And yet 10 films in, the Fast & Furious franchise is kitted out with plenty of acting cred, counting among its extensive cast of action heroes no fewer than four Oscar winners.

Previous films featured Charlize Theron and Helen Mirren (both returning in this spring’s Fast X), who will be joined in the upcoming decquel by fellow winners Brie Larson and Rita Moreno (co-star Jason Statham doesn’t make the list, having been robbed for his work in the Crank movies).

It used to be seen as a step down for major talent to join this type of popcorn schlock, but the franchise-ification of Hollywood has made it more palatable for award winning types to have a go at slumming it. Anyway, the Fast movies are not only undisputed popular moneymakers, they’re high-end action melodramas — they might not push our finest performing talents to the limits of their craft, but they’re nothing to be embarrassed about, either. That’s not always the case when Oscar-winning casts show up in unexpected places, as these examples will certainly illustrate.

The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

Oscar-winners: 5

Gene Hackman has two Best Actor Oscars (for The French Connection and Unforgiven) and three other nominations. Ernest Borgnine put on the blue suit and won a Best Actor prize for Marty, and Red Buttons won Best Supporting Actor for Sayonara. The great Shelley Winters was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Poseidon, but had previously won that award twice. Jack Albertson, though less of a household name, was only a Grammy short of an EGOT in his lifetime, having won Emmys, Tonys, and a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for The Subject was Roses. Not bad for an action melodrama on an upside-down boat.

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Oscar-winners: 3

Plenty of Marvel movies boast Oscar-winning talent, but Thor: Ragnarok (a surprisingly effective movie about a man who turns into a green monster and gets shot into space) is on another level. Director (and voice actor) Taika Waititi won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay for Jojo Rabbit; Cate Blanchett (Hela) has several nominations to her name, including one this year for Tár (the race widely seen as being a toss-up between Blanchett and Michelle Yeoh); she won a Supporting Actress trophy for playing Katherine Hepburn in The Aviator and Best Actress for her role in Blue Jasmine. Anthony Hopkins (Odin), has two Best Actor Oscars alongside four nominations. It’s not just winners, either: Benedict Cumberbatch, who has a cameo, is twice-nominated, as is Scarlett Johansson, who appears via stock footage (so count it or don’t). Mark Ruffalo has three Supporting Actor nominations, but no wins as yet. Several other members of the cast (including Jeff Goldblum, Tom Hiddleston, Tessa Thompson, and Idris Elba) are all widely acclaimed performers who haven’t (yet) taken home Oscars.

Green Lantern (2011)

Oscar-winners: 3

Speaking of Oscar-winner Taika Waititi, he appears in this, perhaps the most maligned modern superhero movie (well, OK, this or Morbius) — a movie so unloved that Ryan Reynolds, in Deadpool 2, used time travel to wipe it from existence. Green Lantern also includes turns by Best Supporting Actor winner Tim Robbins, and Geoffrey Rush as Tomar-Re. Angela Bassett, whose recognition is long overdue, doesn’t technically earn a spot here, but that could change soon, given that she’s up for Best Supporting Actress for Wakanda Forever.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (2011)

Oscar-winners: 4

The Harry Potter film series always punched above its weight in terms of acting talent (that’s what happens when you hire basically every ageing British actor to play a teacher), never less so than in the climactic final entry. Dame Maggie Smith, playing Professor McGonagall, has Academy Awards for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, alongside a bevy of nominations in each of those categories. Jim Broadbent, who won an Acting Oscar for Iris, appears briefly, as does Emma Thompson, who won for Supporting Actress as well as Adapted Screenplay. There’s even a cameo from Gary Oldman, reprising his role as the werewolf Sirius Black; he won a Best Actor trophy playing Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. The film is also packed with Oscar nominees, including Ralph Fiennes, John Hurt, and Helena Bonham Carter.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

Oscar-winners: 3

Penélope Cruz is a Best Supporting Actress winner for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, while Geoffrey Rush has a trophy for Shine. Best Supporting Actress winner (for Shakespeare in Love) Judi Dench has been nominated eight times in total, and has a cameo here. Though it made plenty of money, that talent couldn’t save the fourth film in the creaky Pirates of the Caribbean franchise from taking on water in the form of negative reviews.

Valentine’s Day (2010)

Oscar-winners: 5

A fairly bland late-career directorial effort by the great Garry Marshall, and it seems the director’s name alone was more than enough to draw talent. Shirley MacLaine, Julia Roberts, and Kathy Bates all have Best Actress Oscars, while Jamie Foxx has a Best Actor trophy, and Anne Hathaway has a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. That’s a lot of fine chocolate for a movie more suited to the post-holiday half-off aisle at Walgreens.

New Year’s Eve (2011)

Oscar-winners: 3

Despite the less-than-stellar reviews for Valentine’s Day, it did make money, and so Garry Marshall followed it up with the romantic anthology New Year’s Eve…which did win several award nominations, including five Razzies; the entire female cast was also honoured by the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, who gave them a shared “Actress Most in Need of a New Agent” prize. Halle Berry, two-time Oscar winner Robert De Niro, and Hilary Swank are among this stinker’s ensemble cast.

Aeon Flux (2005)

Oscar-winners: 2

True, there are only two Oscar winners in this one, but they’re giants: Charlize Theron won her Best Actress Oscar in 2004, with two nominations since (she never seems to be more than a few years away from another nod); Frances McDormand has won three Best Actress Oscars, one for producing Nomadland, and she’s nominated this year in that same capacity for Women Talking. Including that last one, she’s had eight total career nominations to date. You’d think that talent would have given the studio more faith in this adaptation of the MTV animated series; alas, studio meddling resulted in a truncated mishmash (which, to be fair, might not have been that good anyway).

Grizzly II: Revenge (1983)

Oscar-winners: 3

Its release delayed for nearly four decades, someone obviously noticed that this hilariously incoherent sequel (to 1976’s Grizzly) included some major star power. George Clooney, with a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Syriana and one for producing Argo, gets top billing in the modern release alongside Laura Dern, who has a Best Supporting Actress Oscar of her own, even though each only appears briefly. Nurse Ratched herself, Oscar-winner Louise Fletcher, has a much larger role.

Critters 3 (1991)

Oscar-winners: 2

Best Actor winner Leonardo DiCaprio stars in this horror three-quel, joined by William Hanna as the voice of the titular Critters. While technically not honoured for his performing skills, Hanna, as part of the Hanna-Barbera team, won seven Animated Short Film Oscars for various Tom & Jerry shorts.

Cool World (1992)

Oscar-winners: 2

Maligned at the time, this dark(er) take on Who Framed Roger Rabbit? has become a bit of a cult classic. Though their awards were years in the future at the time of production, star Kim Basinger now has a Best Supporting Actress Oscar (for L.A. Confidential), while Brad Pitt eventually won a Supporting Actor trophy for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and another for producing 12 Years a Slave.

Movie 43 (2013)

Oscar-winners: 5

A Farrelly Brothers-adjacent anthology comedy film that took over a decade to complete, the finished product is a fascinating train wreck, which in this case is definitely not the same thing as “even slightly good.” Even putting aside the Oscar winners, the list of actors and co-directors (including Rusty Cundieff, James Gunn, Griffin Dunne, and Bob Odenkirk) is wildly impressive. But that cast, though: Best Actress winner Halle Berry lead in one of the segments. Common, who acts in another, has an Oscar for Best Original Song. Also appearing: Best Actress Oscar holders Kate Winslet, Emma Stone, and Julianne Moore. (I feel the need to reiterate that the movie is quite bad.)

Red (2010)

Oscar-winners: 4

The pretty-good action comedy includes winners whose awards cover over half a century. Morgan Freeman won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 2004; Helen Mirren won a Best Actress prize in 2007; Richard Dreyfus took home a Best Actor award in 1978; and Ernest Borgnine did the same way back in 1956.

Avengers Endgame (2019)

Oscar-winners: 10

Some of the appearances in the Marvel-movie-to-end-all-Marvel-movies (even if it didn’t) don’t amount to much more than cameos, but there’s still an impressive breadth of Oscar-winning talent in this movie about time travel and a search for glowing rocks. Oscar-winners in the stacked cast include: Robert Redford, Michael Douglas, William Hurt, Natalie Portman (a voice cameo, but still), Marisa Tomei, Taika Waititi (another voice only performance), Tilda Swinton, Brie Larson, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Samuel L. Jackson (nominated for Pulp Fiction and the winner of an honorary Oscar last year).

Beyond the Poseidon Adventure (1979)

Oscar-winners: 3

Though the first film was fairly prestigious, certainly for a disaster movie, the second film in the series is much more of a trashy good time. Michael Caine (famous for pointing out that his appearance in Jaws: The Revenge paid for a very nice house) has two Supporting Actor Oscars, and Karl Malden took home one of the same. Sally Field has two Best Actress trophies, and Shirley Jones has one for Best Supporting Actress.

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