On December 10th, SyFy will be celebrating its 20th anniversary. It’s hard to believe the basic cable channel has been around that long. In the process, they’ve provided a wide variety of content, from original science fiction series to reality TV. In spite of these achievements, SyFy should also be admonished for bringing their viewers some of the absolute worst made-for-TV movies ever made. From Sharktopus to Archnaquake to Alien Apocalypse to Hammerhead: Shark Frenzy, these ridiculously title, terribly produced films have taken the careers of fading celebrities or struggling actors and knocked them down just one rung lower. So to celebrate the channel’s big 2-0, here are 15 seminal Sy-Fy channel movie stars worth taking note of.
Photo: Nikki Nelson/WENN.com
After the end of his heartthrob role on Beverly Hills, 90210, Luke Perry etched out a decent career for himself as a television actor. Part of this is due to the fact he’s now simply a “working actor.” Let me tell you, when you are a clock punching TV thespian you can’t afford to let opportunities like Descent go to waste. Not to be confused with the 2005 horror film of the same name, Descent has Luke Perry as Dr. Jake Rollins, a man who must help lead a crew into the Earth’s core to detonate a nuclear weapon to push the crust back into proper alignment. He’s like a chiropractor for the ground! Thankfully, he’s since re-aligned his career out of the SyFy trenches.
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As a lead on the television adaptation of Fame (the 1984 version), Nia Peebles is no stranger to starring in bad television and movies. From Walker: Texas Ranger to Half Past Dead, it seemed Peeples would never catch a break and be in something of quality. Until Syfy’s Battle of Los Angeles came along– then it pretty much just made it official. The film, not to be confused with the Aaron Eckhart vehicle (though totally intending to do so), stars Kel Mitchell. It’s almost exactly the same movie, except without a budget and Aaron Eckhart. Fans if 1990s era Nickelodeon may consider this a plus, now that I think about it…
Antonio Sabato Jr.
Photo: Adriana M. Barraza
Mindstorm, Bugs, Ghost Voyage—this is just a taste of the titles you’ll find on Sabato, Jr’s resume with a mere glance. The Big Hit hunk is now the veritable king of the Syfy Channel original movie landscape. Said films are surpassed only by his award winning achievements made at the start of his career on such soap operas as General Hospital and The Bold and The Beautiful. Again, I’m not sure if SyFy is a step up or a step down from there, but they certainly sport more monster puppets and natural disasters.
Before he became a devout evangelical Christian, Stephen Baldwin was a well established actor, delivering breakout performances in The Usual Suspects, Born On The Fourth of July, and Last Exit To Brooklyn. I’m not sure if his faith helped influence his participation in films like Harpies, Shark in Venice, Silent Warnings, and Swamp Devil. If so, the Lord truly works in mysterious ways…
Okay, so Paul Rudd isn’t exactly known for being as prolific with SyFy channel movies as an Antonio Sabato, Jr. or a Stephen Baldwin. But with Jackie Chan Presents: Metal Mayhem (aka Gen Y Cops), Rudd helped break down a barrier and prove that, yes, established dramatic actors can come down from the mountain for a little SyFy channel cheese and get their careers back on track shortly thereafter. Granted, few have followed in his footsteps, but if Rudd can bounce back, anyone can.
Sean Patrick Flanery
Photo: Dominic Chan/WENN.com
Sean Patrick Flanery broke out with starring roles in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (as a teen version of the character) and Powder. However, his biggest success to date has been a starring role in the wildly popular cult movie The Boondock Saints. He must thank his lucky stars for the franchise everyday as his cult icon status guarantees him roles in SyFy movies like KAW, Savage Planet and Mongolian Death Worm whenever he needs some easy money. Plus, the titles have to make some of the best cocktail party chatter. “What are you working on, Sean?” “Oh, just a little arthouse indie thing called Mongolian Death Worm.” Sounds legit to me…
Everyone knows John Rhys-Davies from his roles in The Lord of the Rings and Indiana Jones trilogy. This genre cred might explain why SyFy has provided the coin for an actor of Rhys-Davies esteem. Though he’s been appearing in bad B movies for years, Rhys-Davies is good enough actor to elevate fare like Sabretooth, Dragon Storm, Chupacabra: Dark Seas, Anaconda 3: Offspring, and Fire & Ice: The Dragon Chronicles. Not to the status of good movies or anything, but long enough to remember, “Oh, hey, John Rhys-Davies” and reflect on his good movies while he’s eaten by Chupacabras.
Yes, before he was that Tom Hardy he was showing up in Syfy fare like Minotaur. He’d had a couple of starring parts in Star Trek: Nemesis and Layer Cake but Tom Hardy wasn’t above going toe-to-toe with a mythical Greek creature in this SyFy slasher movie. Not only does it serve as an embarrassing line on Hardy’s resume, but the action oriented role surely prepared him to take on Batman in The Dark Knight Rises merely six years later.
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After his Youngblood and About Last Night days were behind him, Rob Lowe recreated himself as a kind of character actor with leading man looks. He took supporting roles as comedic jerks and bad guys in films like Wayne’s World and Thank You For Smoking. On television he took the role of a handsome, affable leading man in projects like Stir of Echoes 2: Homecoming. The film should be noted as one of the few non tongue-in-cheek creature features SyFy has aired. That wouldn’t keep it from being panned by critics across the board upon release. Maybe that’s why SyFy sticks mostly to said creature features now?
As yet another character actor to make this list, it’s no surprise The Rock and A Few Good Men supporting performer Xander Berkely would opt for starring roles in SyFy’s Magma: Volcanic Disaster. After all, who passes up the opportunity to work opposite Power Rangers veteran Amy Jo Johnson? Nobody. She was the Pink Ranger and that carries a lot of weight in the indie world.
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Tara Reid seems to be making a kind of resurgence after bottoming out on drugs, alcohol and botched plastic surgery jobs. She returned to theaters for American Reunion, reprising her fan favorite role in the film. One wonders if that will be enough to erase SyFy’s Vipers from the memories of her fans. I doubt it, but it’s still easier to watch than Alone In The Dark, and that movie got theatrical release four years beforehand. At least it’s not the absolute worst Tara Reid flick out there…
Photo: Nikki Nelson/WENN.com
The star of Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman segued from having SyFy rerun his old show in syndication to grabbing the lead in Dragon Fighter. The film has the single best premise in the history of bad movies—scientists clone a dragon (?) only to have it break out of the underground laboratory in which it was made. Of course, only Dean Cain can stop it, but I’m still wondering how scientists can clone a mythological creature. Perhaps it’s a secret Dean Cain took with him from the low-budget backlot…
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Piper Perabo keeps herself relevant by appearing films like The Prestige and Looper, but with so much scifi/fantasy on her resume it would be inevitable she’d go SyFy when work got lean. Dragon Sword (aka George and the Dragon) is one of the most well received film on this list, a historical fantasy sporting an impressive cast (James Purefoy, Patrick Swayze, and Michael Clarke Duncan) and a family friendly story. Perabo should be pleased she’s one of the few survivors of SyFy Channel originals to not have to look back on her work and cringe.
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What’s scarier than a giant Anaconda? One that has to deal with David Hasselhoff. The actor stars in Anaconda 3: Offspring, a SyFy Channel film that’s a sequel to the popular Jennifer Lopez creature feature. The role would actually serve to benefit the former Baywatch star’s career—the novelty of Hasselhoff vs. Snake would anticipate his casting in Piranha 3D as—who else?—himself.
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Jersey Shore Shark Attack may be the pinnacle of SyFy’s gimmickry. It combined their love of reality shows and poorly rendered giant creatures into one awful, awful movie. However, it does have one merit—Joey Fatone of ‘N Sync plays himself in the film. The whole movie centers around a concert he’s set to perform, and, as expected, he gets eaten by a computer generated flying shark. Is there a better reason to wish SyFy another 20 years of success?