In response to this thread, let’s go in the opposite direction. What bad movies were made tolerable by one actor’s performance.
My choice would be Teen Wolf. The movie is nothing much for the most part, but Jay Tarses is terrific as the coach. Every time he speaks, it’s one of the funniest lines in the movie. I’m certainly Tarses wrote his own dialog: He was a writer for for The Bob Newhart Show,The Carol Burnett Show, and many sitcoms.
Here’s a favorite example:
There are three rules that I live by: never get less than twelve hours sleep; never play cards with a guy who has the same first name as a city; and never get involved with a woman with a tattoo of a dagger on her body. Now you stick to that, and everything else is cream cheese.
Invisible Agent. The grandson of the Invisible Man becomes an undercover agent in World War II. Mostly boring. But Peter Lorre is an excellent villain.
Starcrash. Low-budget Italian rip-off of Star Wars. Caroline Munro, Marjoe Gortner, and David Hassellhoff all give very bad performances. Christopher Plummer is obviously just phoning it in for a quick paycheck. And yet he still gives a better performance than the rest of the cast combined.
Transylvania 6-5000. Truly awful. Yugoslavian film financed by Dow Chemical to release frozen assets best known today for being the movie where 80s couple Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis met. Even the normally reliable Carol Kane wasn’t funny. And yet, every time a pre-Seinfeld Michael Richards was on screen as the haunted castle’s butler who really wanted to become a slapstick comic, I cracked up. I think his scenes were the only amusing things in the entire film.
Yes, he makes parts of the film a absolute delight. “That’s it then. Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings, and call off Christmas.” Guy of Gisborne Why a spoon, cousin? Why not an axe?
Raul Julia in Street Fighter fits in that “Alan Rickman in Robin Hood” category. His last movie role and something people would think is beneath his talents. Nevertheless, he hammed it up splendidly while still acting circles around his costars.
Not really a “bad” movie, but Zach Braff starred in a decent but forgettable love-triangle dramedy called The Last Kiss in 2006.
In a subplot, Blythe Danner and Tom Wilkinson played Braff’s parents, who were having marital difficulties of their own. They were both outstanding, Danner especially. I wished the movie had been just about them.
1982 film, the Scarlet Pimpernel. The premise is that a high society fop is secretly involved in a dangerous mission to rescue the Dauphin during the French Revolution, his foppishness is just a cover. His evil enemy is played by a young Ian McKellen, who is the only bright light in the whole movie, everyone is painful to watch. He mops the floor with them all.
Soak the Rich (1936) is an awful “comedy” from any number of perspectives, not the least in that it isn’t very funny. Nevertheless, Lionel Stander delivers a stand-out performance as crazed anarchist Muglia. He kidnaps the heroine – daughter of a conservative tycoon - disses Stalin (“I don’t recognize Russia. I sent Stalin a note to that effect. It must have annoyed him tremendously; he never sent an answer.”) and demands $100 million ransom in order to fund the establishment of the utopian state of “Muglia.” Mr. Stander is in the film for maybe 5 or 6 minutes, yet delivers almost all of its entertainment value.
Chauvelin is a great meaty role for a villain. If you ever get the chance to see the 1934 version with Leslie Howard and Merle Oberon (“what shoulders!”), who are both excellent, and watch them duel with Raymond Massey as Chauvelin, jump at it without any hesitation.
Tastes differ I guess. Feminine beauty doesn’t move me just on its own. And perhaps the premise of the fop who is secretly a hero is difficult to pull off as there has to be a moment where the mask falls away. I don’t remember this happening effectively.