Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill (Photo: Criterion)

The nominees for the 40th Annual Golden Raspberry Awards won’t be announced until February 8, although it’s expected that Serenity will score big in the nomination count. Considering this dreadful flick starring Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway landed in the #2 spot on my year-end 10 Worst list (go here for the complete Best & Worst of 2019), its dominance would be A-OK with me.

On the other hand, there have been numerous times when this outfit got it completely wrong with its selections, recently when it went after 2017’s challenging Mother! by handing it absurd nominations for Worst Director (Darren Aronofsky) and Worst Actress (Jennifer Lawrence). The 2018 Worst Actress nominations for Jennifer Garner and Helen Mirren were daft as well, with voters confusing (as is often the case) decent performances with the lame movies in which they reside (Peppermint and Winchester, respectively).

For more examples, here are The 15 Worst Razzie Nominations Of All Time.

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15. DeForest Kelley, Worst Supporting Actor – Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

After Leonard Nimoy scored beaucoup bank for Paramount as the director of 1984’s Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and 1986’s Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, the studio thought nothing of entrusting the next film in the series to Nimoy’s fellow cast member William Shatner. In an interview with college journalists (including yours truly) at the time, the actor behind Captain Kirk quipped, “They think I’m going to spend $23 million to make the movie. I’ll take it and not make the money! Wouldn’t that be the biggest joke?”

Considering the savage reviews and disappointing box office that greeted 1989’s Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Paramount in hindsight probably did wish that Shatner had just pocketed the dough. Easily the worst reviewed of all 13 Star Trek feature films to date, the film predictably became a Razzie heavyweight, earning awards for Worst Picture, Worst Actor (Shatner) and Worst Director (ditto).

DeForest Kelley didn’t earn the trophy for Worst Supporting Actor, but just the fact that he was nominated is in and of itself ridiculous. As Dr. Leonard McCoy, Kelley was never less than wonderful in his fan-fave role, with his character repeatedly providing the heart opposite Kirk’s brawn and Spock’s brain. Kelley’s folksy demeanor in the part never failed to engage audiences, and his turn in Star Trek V: The Final Frontier was no exception.

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14. Danny DeVito, Worst Supporting Actor – Batman Returns

Danny DeVito proved to be a Razzie double threat for his 1992 output, earning two nominations in two different categories for two different movies. He was in the running for Worst Director for helming Hoffa, a leaden biopic focusing on the controversial union activist Jimmy Hoffa. While DeVito’s direction isn’t awful as much as uninspired, it also doesn’t quite stick out in the line-up like that proverbial sore thumb — indeed, more absurd was the Worst Actor citation for Jack Nicholson, who’s quite good as the title character (certainly as good as Al Pacino’s Oscar-nominated take in The Irishman).

Far more eye-catching is DeVito’s other 1992 bid: Worst Supporting Actor for his turn as the Penguin in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns. DeVito was clearly at a disadvantage in the public eye, since it was Michelle Pfeiffer’s sexy and spirited rendition of Selena Kyle/Catwoman that deservedly commanded all the attention and acclaim upon the film’s initial release. Yet even under all that makeup that required over two hours daily to apply, DeVito is able to project the tragic dimensions of a misshapen individual abandoned by his parents and forced to grow up alone in the sewers of Gotham. The Penguin’s painful past doesn’t excuse his abhorrent actions in the present, but thanks to DeVito, it also doesn’t allow the character to be readily dismissed as just another raving megalomaniac.

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13. Gina Gershon, Worst Supporting Actress – Showgirls

Paul Verhoeven’s notorious 1995 bomb Showgirls holds a special place in Razzie history. It scored a whopping 13 nominations, a record that has yet to be broken. It won seven awards, a record eventually tied by Battlefield Earth and subsequently broken by I Know Who Killed Me and then the current champion Jack and Jill. And in 2000, it won yet another Razzie, this one a special citation for Worst Picture of the Last Decade.

Since its initial release, Showgirls has become a cult favorite as well as a top seller on the home-entertainment front. At the time, though, it negatively impacted the careers of many of its participants, most notably lead actress Elizabeth Berkley. One person who emerged relatively unscathed was Gina Gershon, who leaped clear of the wreckage and landed in the 1996 indie hit Bound, the 1997 box office hit Face/Off, and the 1999 critical hit The Insider.

To anyone paying attention, this was hardly surprising. Gershon’s Razzie nomination as Worst Supporting Actress was clearly a knee-jerk citation, since her performance is unequivocally the best one gracing the film. While the other actors attempt to punch across scripter Joe Eszterhas’s ludicrous dialogue and idiotic scenarios with a straight face, she’s the only one to move forward with tongue planted firmly in cheek — as a result, her portrayal of diva dancer Cristal Connors is a high point, and the film suffers when she’s not around lapping up the scenery.

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12. Tom Cruise, Worst Actor – War Of The Worlds

In analyzing some of the odder choices for Razzie enshrinement, it’s necessary to understand what was happening in pop culture away from the screen. It was in 2005 that Tom Cruise began a relationship with Katie Holmes. In rapid succession, he appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show to declare his love for the actress (famously jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch), proposed to her at the Eiffel Tower, and announced they were going to have a baby. Not done with making headlines in 2005, Cruise also criticized the benefits of psychiatry and blasted Brooke Shields for taking antidepressants.

None of this affected Cruise’s box office clout, as his summer offering, Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, grossed a sizable $234 million stateside. His social shenanigans also didn’t interfere with his strong work ethic, as he delivered a committed performance in the picture.

When the Razzie nominations rolled around, Cruise received two in the new category of Most Tiresome Tabloid Targets (a category, incidentally, that has never appeared again). He was cited for “Tom Cruise & His Anti-Psychiatry Rant” but won for “Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, Oprah Winfrey’s Couch, The Eiffel Tower & Tom’s Baby.” Not wanting to spare the controversial Scientologist in any capacity, Razzie voters also nominated him as Worst Actor for the Spielberg flick. Yet that nod was simply an example of piling on, more so when compared to the truly dreadful actor who beat him for the award: Rob Schneider for Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo.

Years later, Cruise would actually win a Worst Actor Razzie — most deservedly, I might add — for the wretched 2017 bomb The Mummy.

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11. Madonna, Worst Supporting Actress – Die Another Day

In the 2002 James Bond film Die Another Day, the role of Verity was played by a veritable punching bag for Razzie voters. That would be Madonna, who managed over the course of approximately 25 years to win nine Razzies against 16 nominations.

While it’s true that the pop superstar has delivered a number of rancid performances worthy of jeers — there’s simply no arguing against her back-to-back wins for Shanghai Surprise and Who’s That Girl — it’s also accurate to state that the outfit’s voters often unfairly went out of their way to single her out. For instance, did she really deserve a Worst Actress citation for playing herself in the 1991 documentary Madonna: Truth or Dare?

Equally as ludicrous was her victory in the Worst Supporting Actress category for Die Another Day. As a fencing instructor, Madonna appears on screen for all of two minutes, and while her flirtatious bantering with 007 (Pierce Brosnan) may not rank among the series’ finest moments — “I see you handle your weapon well,” she purrs; “I have been known to keep my tip up,” he retorts — it hardly justifies Razzie members exercising their license to overkill.

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10. Tangerine Dream, Worst Musical Score – Thief

Although Tangerine Dream had been around since the late 1960s, it wasn’t until the 1980s that the influential German collective really began focusing on producing movie soundtracks. Renowned for paving the way for New Wave music, new age music and electronic dance music, the synth-heavy band’s first major screen credit arrived courtesy of William Friedkin’s 1977 suspense film Sorcerer. That subsequently led to approximately two dozen scores over the course of the ‘80s, with those for 1983’s Risky Business, 1985’s Legend and 1987’s Near Dark among the most notable.

The first effort in that ‘80s sprint was the outfit’s score for 1981’s Thief, a solid drama starring James Caan and featuring the big-screen debuts of writer-director Michael Mann and actors Jim Belushi, William Petersen and Dennis Farina. Mann’s choice of electronic music to fill his film was a bold one back in ’81, but it was a gamble that paid off. The Tangerine Dream soundtrack charted in the U.K. and earned stateside praise from Roger Ebert, who wrote that “the film moves at a taut pace, creating tension and anxiety through very effective photography and a wound-up, pulsing score by Tangerine Dream.”

Razzie voters, on the other hand, were startled by these strange new sounds and reacted in the same manner as conservative 1950s parents hearing their kids’ Elvis Presley records for the first time. The result was a tone-deaf nomination for Worst Musical Score.

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9. Amy Irving, Worst Supporting Actress – Yentl

Only twice in the combined history of the Oscars and the Razzies has the same performance been honored by both organizations. The first time was when James Coco earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination and a Worst Supporting Actor Razzie nomination for his portrayal of a struggling gay actor in Neil Simon’s 1981 hit Only When I Laugh. The second instance was when Amy Irving scored a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination and a Worst Supporting Actress Razzie nomination for her portrayal of a demure Jewish woman in Barbra Streisand’s 1983 hit Yentl.

Coco’s emoting didn’t merit either Academy applause or Raspberry resentment, but the same can’t be said for Irving’s fine work. She delivers a delicate performance as Hadass Vishkower, a soft-spoken woman who falls for the title character (Streisand) without realizing that “he” is actually a “she” in disguise. The Razzie nomination makes little sense, unless it was meant as a bookend to the one received by Streisand — not for Worst Actress but, because of her character’s cross-dressing ways, Worst Actor. Oh, those wacky Razzie voters.

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8. Worst Picture – Cliffhanger

Just how much do Razzie voters love — or should that be hate? — Sylvester Stallone? As actor, writer and director, the Rocky and Rambo star has been nominated 31 times and won 10 times, with one of those victories as Worst Actor of the Century. On top of that, 10 of his starring vehicles have been nominated for Worst Picture, although only one (1985’s Rambo: First Blood Part II) would go on to win.

No one would bat an eye at duds like Rhinestone, Rocky V and Driven earning nods, but 1993’s Cliffhanger is the odd film out. Stallone’s first box office hit after a string of underachievers and outright flops, it’s also one of the better films on his resume, with the actor cast as a professional mountain climber engaged in a battle of wits with a gang of ruthless thieves. Earning decent reviews at the time of release and nabbing three Oscar nominations in various technical categories, this satisfying action yarn, efficiently directed by Renny Harlin, hardly deserves to be rubbing shoulders with other Stallone Razzie contenders like Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot and Over the Top.

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7. Julianne Moore, Worst Supporting Actress – Seventh Son

The sorry YA adaptation Seventh Son was released in February 2015, during the period when Academy members were deciding whether to hand Julianne Moore a long-overdue Oscar for her excellent performance in the previous year’s Still Alice. It was reminiscent of the time when Eddie Murphy was nominated for Dreamgirls but lost, with one theory floating around that his critically reviled comedy Norbit was in theaters during the voting period and Academy members were too embarrassed to mark his name on the ballot.

Moore deservedly snagged the Best Actress Oscar for Still Alice, since it’s likely most voters hadn’t even seen Seventh Son. Yet even if they had, it shouldn’t have made any difference, since Moore is perfectly acceptable as the story’s villain, a witch known by the name of Mother Malkin. Razzie voters would end up nominating her anyway, but it was a dopey selection. Moore’s performance is no better or worse than those delivered by a number of A-list actresses cast as matriarchal evildoers in magical realms, from Rachel Weisz in 2013’s Oz the Great and Powerful to Julia Roberts in 2012’s Mirror Mirror. Heck, even Meryl Streep in 2014’s Into the Woods wasn’t that markedly superior to Moore, dubious Oscar nomination notwithstanding.

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6. Kristin Scott Thomas, Worst Supporting Actress, Worst New Star – Under The Cherry Moon

On the heels of his triumphant film debut with 1984’s Purple Rain, Prince decided to take on directing as well as acting duties for his follow-up picture. Unfortunately, 1986’s Under the Cherry Moon was a commercial bust, a critical disaster, and the winner of five Golden Raspberry Awards, including Worst Picture (tied with Howard the Duck) and Worst Actor and Worst Director for Prince.

Truthfully, this film about a gigolo (Prince, natch) working his magic in the French Riviera isn’t that awful — 1990’s Graffiti Bridge, Prince’s third and final feature, is far worse — as there are a few compensations. One would be Kristin Scott Thomas, who makes a winning film debut as a socialite wooed by our studly hero. Scott Thomas was spared from most of the criticisms directed at the picture — Walter Goodman of the New York Times opined that she “turns in quite an appealing performance under the circumstances,” while the Village Voice’s J. Hoberman noted that she “makes an impressive debut.” Yet as is often the case, Razzie voters adopted an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink mentality and nominated the newcomer as Worst Supporting Actress (which she lost to Dom DeLuise in drag for Haunted Honeymoon) and Worst New Star (losing to “the six guys and gals” playing Howard the Duck).

With approximately two dozen international awards to her name (as well as a Best Actress Oscar nomination for The English Patient), it’s probably safe to say that Scott Thomas has long forgotten about those preposterous Razzie citations.

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5. Robin Williams, Worst Supporting Actor – Death To Smoochy

Robin Williams will always be known first and foremost as a comedian, but whenever he dropped the shtick long enough to be serious or edgy, something positive generally happened. His broad comedic turns may have pleased millions, but there’s a reason his Oscar win came for his relatively subdued performance in Good Will Hunting.

Williams closed out the 20th century with the dreadful likes of Patch Adams and Bicentennial Man, but the darker side of the former Mork from Ork got quite the workout when he resumed his feature film appearances in 2002. He began the year by playing a psychotic children’s show host in Danny DeVito’s Death to Smoochy, followed that by essaying the role of a chilly murder suspect in Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia, and capped it off by portraying a deeply disturbed film developer in Mark Romanek’s One Hour Photo. It was a remarkable about-face and a tremendous triple play, but while Insomnia and One Hour Photo both earned strong reviews, Death to Smoochy was savaged by critics and ignored by audiences.

Regardless of one’s feelings toward the picture — an acrimonious satire that eventually compromises its own welcome venality by turning sentimental — Williams couldn’t be faulted, as he lent the proper measure of madness to the part of Rainbow Randolph, a disgraced TV star seeking revenge on the do-gooder (Edward Norton) who replaced him. Yet Razzie members flagged him for Worst Supporting Actor – the movie’s sole nomination.

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4. Blake Edwards, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay – S.O.B.

Writer-director Blake Edwards’ 1981 comedy S.O.B. may never be held in the same regard as Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard or Robert Altman’s The Player, but as a searing satire about the underbelly of the Hollywood scene, it still ranks among the best. William Holden (in his final film) and Julie Andrews (Edwards’ wife for 41 years, until his death in 2010) head an all-star cast that gamely throws itself into the story of a producer (Richard Mulligan) who decides the only way to turn his mega-flop into a mega-hit is by juicing it up with softcore porn sequences — and having the wholesome leading lady (Andrews) bare her breasts for the camera.

Edwards, known for such hits as Breakfast at Tiffany’s and The Pink Panther series, turned his years of working in the film industry into an outrageous screenplay that took no prisoners, and, as director, he coaxed a career performance out of Robert Preston, brilliant as a cynical doctor who’s never caught off-guard. Edwards’ screenplay landed a nomination from the Writers Guild, Preston earned the Best Supporting Actor prize from the National Society of Film Critics, and the movie itself was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture (Comedy or Musical).

Yet the insider jokes apparently flew a few miles above the heads of Razzie voters, as they handed Edwards nominations for both Worst Director and Worst Screenplay. Thankfully, even in their myopic state, they spared the film itself — its Worst Picture slot instead went to The Legend of the Lone Ranger.

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3. Stanley Kubrick, Worst Director – The Shining

It wasn’t until the organization’s second year in existence that the Razzie brain trust decided to limit each category to five nominees — thus, for its 1980 coming-out ceremony, the majority of the categories featured 10 nominees. Fortunately, 1980 upchucked so many putrid efforts — this was, after all, the year of Xanadu, Cruising, Saturn 3 and The Jazz Singer — that voters had plenty of options. Yet even with the abundance of awfulness on display, a few head-scratching picks made their way onto the ballot.

Among the more notable WTFs was the nomination of Stanley Kubrick as Worst Director for The Shining. Granted, the sizable cult surrounding this artsy adaptation of Stephen King’s bestselling novel didn’t take root and sprout until several years after the picture’s release. And for all its positive attributes, the film admittedly ranks on the lower end of the Kubrick scale, far below the likes of Dr. Strangelove, Paths of Glory and 2001: A Space Odyssey. But while critical reaction at the time varied greatly, no one in their right mind felt that Kubrick’s direction was the problem.

The script by Kubrick and Diane Johnson differed so radically from the book that a Worst Screenplay citation conceivably might have made sense, but none was forthcoming. Instead, the movie was represented by Shelley Duvall for Worst Actress — not surprising, given the barrage of negative reviews she received — and, absurdly, by Kubrick for Worst Director. Apparently, all work and no sense of play makes Razzie voters a dull lot.

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2. Brian De Palma, Worst Director – Dressed To Kill / Scarface / Body Double

Chew on this for a minute: Brian De Palma has been nominated for more Worst Director Razzies than either schlockmeister Uwe Boll or Adam Sandler’s go-to guy Dennis Dugan. Certainly, De Palma has spent his entire career engulfed in controversy, but even his detractors would begrudgingly agree that when it comes to cinematic prowess, few aside from Scorsese, Fincher and a handful of others can match the maverick filmmaker’s mastery of the medium.

To be sure, De Palma has made a sizable number of duds, and Razzie voters nominated him for two such efforts: 1990’s misguided The Bonfire of the Vanities and 2000’s monotonous Mission to Mars. Yet 1980’s razor-sharp Dressed to Kill remains the best example of his moviemaking savvy, 1983’s hyperkinetic Scarface finds its cult growing ever larger with each passing year, and even 1984’s Body Double is gaining in traction as film analysts are finally realizing it’s a satire rather than the straightforward thriller suggested by studio marketing.

De Palma didn’t deserve to be nominated for any of the three — instead, he was nominated for all three, which, when combined with the deserved Bonfire and Mars nods, ties him for the second most nominations in this category with M. Night Shyamalan (Michael Bay holds the record with six). On the other hand, Bay, Shyamalan, Boll and Dugan have all won Razzies, while De Palma remains a bridesmaid, losing on all five occasions. So there’s that, at least.

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1. Ennio Morricone, Worst Musical Score – The Thing

Ennio Morricone is one of the all-time great composers, and while he’s produced some soundtracks that fall below his usual level of excellence, none can be classified as bottom of the barrel — especially this one. On the contrary, his score for John Carpenter’s 1982 version of The Thing ranks among his finest achievements.

Until that point, Carpenter had created scores for all of his own pictures — he in fact excelled at it, as evidenced by the now-classic themes for Halloween and Assault on Precinct 13. With The Thing, he elected to hand the baton over to the veteran Morricone, who cannily conceived a score very much in the Carpenter tradition. It’s both minimalist and moody, perfectly in tune with the aura of dread that permeates the entire picture.

Like Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, though, The Thing was grim science fiction fare that found little favor with either critics or audiences during a summer season in which the far cheerier E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial reigned supreme. Both pictures have since joined the Spielberg flick as classics of the genre, but back in ’82, the Razzie voters viewed Morricone as an easy target, since they were also nominating him that year for his work on the forgotten melodrama Butterfly. But nominating Morricone for Worst Musical Score for any film would be akin to nominating Abraham Lincoln or Franklin Deleanor Roosevelt as Worst U.S. President or The Beatles or The Rolling Stones for Worst Band — it just doesn’t compute.

2 Comments »

  1. Somehow, it’s the Tangerine Dream nomination that surprised me most. But man oh man, your piece really brought to light the Razzies’ reactionary underbelly… a shame, as the basic idea of “rewarding” the worst is a sound one.

    • Agreed, sir. There really needs to be a “Movie Worsts” group, but it needs to be more honest and, as you say, less reactionary than the Razzies. It gets boring watching them go after their favorite targets year after year, especially when they don’t deserve such ire. I remember when Nicolas Cage took a break from schlock a few years ago and delivered a fine and rather brief performance in Oliver Stone’s Snowden. I doubt Razzie voters even saw the movie; they just saw his name in the credits of a film and automatically marked him down. And the Twilight sequels certainly weren’t very good, but being fanboy misogynists, the voters went out of their way to nominate them year after year even though there were numerous worse films out there (all four sequels on Rotten Tomatoes earned 25%-49% Rotten ratings, meaning the members ignored countless flicks with 0%-10%).

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