You never know when your life’s ticket is going to get punched, so make everything you do something that matters. This adage can be applied to everyone, even Hollywood’s most rich and famous actors. For proof, see these 15 stars who climaxed their acting careers not with a bang, but with a whimper. Here are 15 final performances that happened in bad, forgettable movies.
Bernie Mac wasn’t known for starring in particularly stellar films, but he made everything he appeared in substantially better. Yet some films were seemingly beyond even Mac’s golden touch. His last film before his untimely death was the John Travolta flop Old Dogs. Watch him putter around the background in the trailer below.
Aaliyah’s music and movie career was cut down too early by a tragic 2001 plane crash. While she was off to a promising start with Romeo Must Die, Aaliyah’s last finished film turned out to be the disastrous Anne Rice adaptation Queen of the Damned. Ironically, the pop star’s death is the only thing that kept the feature from going straight-to-video.
Lloyd Bridges, patriarch of the family that gave us Jeff and Beau, reinvented his square jawed hero performances to great comedic effect in films like Airplane! and Hot Shots! Unfortunately the actor’s final funny performance was in the much maligned gangster spoof, Jane Austen’s Mafia! If you’re inclined to the lesser works by frequent Zucker brothers collaborator Jim Abrahams, the full movie can be found here.
John Candy’s posthumous release was a lame Western comedy co-starring Richard Lewis called Wagons East. The posthumously released movie was universally panned upon its release and is only, only (can we stress this more?) noteworthy for being Candy’s last acting effort.
Academy Award winner Joan Crawford may have the most ridiculous final effort of anyone on this list. The Academy Award winner’s final opus was Trog, a caveman on-the-loose schlocker that cast Crawford as the scientist studying the titular creature. Watch her yell “Trog!” over and over again below.
Between The Andy Griffith Show and The Ghost and Mr. Chicken, Don Knotts will always have a place among Hollywood’s most celebrated comedic actors. So how is it the star managed to go out on a low note like an Air Bud sequel? We’re still scratching our heads, but you can see Knotts voice a talking dog provide narration for the Air Buddies trailer below.
If his The Andy Griffith Show co-star went out on a bad note, the show’s star himself went out on a really, really cringeworthy one. The late star’s final turn was in an indie sex comedy (!) set in a nursing home. Check out the aw-shucks actor’s o-face in the green band trailer below. Actually, don’t.
Comedienne Mae West clung to her previous role as an old Hollywood sex symbol to the bitter end. Her final role was in the musical romp Sextette, a movie that began filming when West was 81 years old. Watch her seduce youngster Timothy Dalton in the trailer below.
The Graduate actress Anne Bancroft passed in 2005, though her final acting role would premiere in 2008. Bancroft provided voice-over work in Delgo, one of the most expensive animated films ever made that also became one of the biggest theatrical flops ever made. Though the film was universally reviled by critics, Bancroft’s performance was well-praised.
In what may be the most notorious case of an actor going out on a bad note, Bela Lugosi’s final role was in Plan 9 From Outer Space. The film is generally considered to be one of the worst of all time and Lugosi’s role amounts mostly to silent footage that frames the narrative. The film became so notorious that Tim Burton made it the centerpiece of his biopic Ed Wood in 1994. The entire public domain film can be viewed below.
Lon Chaney, Jr.
Like his contemporary Lugosi, Wolfman actor Lon Chaney Jr. ended his career in bad horror films eager to cash in on his iconic Universal monster roles. The most reviled of these is his final turn in Dracula Vs. Frankenstein. Though Chaney previously played both characters during the 1940s, the movie instead cast him as a Groton, the mute assistant.
The photo of Raul Julia above is from Sidney Lumet’s The Morning After. The actor wasn’t lucky enough to go out working on such an established film, however. Instead Julia’s last effort had him cartoonishly chewing scenery in the video game adaptation Street Fighter. Nicolas Cage, eat your heart out with the sample below.
Peter Sellers was a comedic genius, but unfortunately couldn’t quite keep up with the changing current of counter-culture humor dominating Hollywood in the 1970s. For evidence of this you can watch Sellers’ final film, The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu. The mystery spoof showed off Sellers’ failing health and penchant casually rac1st stereotypes, a combination that made audiences around the world squirm. The film was only overshadowed in badness by The Trail of the Pink Panther, a posthumous film literally constructed from deleted scenes of previous Pink Panther movies.
Orson Welles directed and starred in the one of the greatest movie ever made, Citizen Kane. Prior to his death, he starred in one of the greatest movies based off an action figure line ever made, Transformers: The Movie. Though the animated feature fares better than most films on this list (not to mention Michael Bay’s live action efforts), you certainly get the feeling that the childish material was beneath an auteur like Welles. For proof, check out the clip below.
Unlike everyone else on this list, Sean Connery is still alive. Indeed, the actor’s final effort, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, was such a fiasco that it drove him away from the film business and into an early retirement. While the film is not quite as bad as its reputation claims, you can see Connery’s disinterest in the LXG trailer below.