In Hollywood, it’s great to win awards, but being a star that studios can safely bet on is even better. The divide between the opinions of professional critics and general audiences can sometimes be vast, which is how you end up with actors critics hate being some of the most successful figures in the movie business.
Many times, overwhelmingly negative reviews can greatly affect a movie’s take in theaters, but some entertainers are so beloved by their fans that audiences will literally see anything with the actor’s name attached. The actors on this list have been major stars that audiences have overwhelmingly supported at the box office, despite the fact that most of their movies have been trashed by critics.
Adam Sandler was probably the first person who came to mind when you read the title of this list. Perhaps no actor in Hollywood history has consistently raked in cash at the box office while churning out movies that got no respect from critics. His films have grossed nearly $3 billion total at the domestic box office alone, making him one of the 25 highest-grossing actors ever. Of his 10 top-grossing movies, only one holds a positive critical score at Rotten Tomatoes and that was “Hotel Transylvania 3.”
Just like her former co-star Adam Sandler, Jessica Biel only has one “fresh” Rotten Tomatoes score among her 10 highest-grossing movies. That lone bright spot was 2006’s “The Illusionist,” which was a rare case of critics and audiences equally enjoying one of her films. Other movies she starred in, like “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry” and “Valentine’s Day,” made hundreds of millions in theaters but were brutally panned.
Perennial critical punching bag Marlon Wayans has only acted in two movies this century that got “fresh” grades at Rotten Tomatoes but his career is going strong. His signature brand of wacky comedies like “White Chicks” and “Scary Movie” raked in cash at the box office despite being thumped by critics. He’s clearly got a loyal group of fans who keep showing up for his projects. Of Wayans’ 10 highest-grossing movies, only one has a positive score at Rotten Tomatoes, and that was 2013’s “The Heat.”
Kevin James is another reliable star of comedy blockbusters, despite the fact that critics seem to hate his work. His star vehicles like “Zookeeper,” the Paul Blart series and the aforementioned “I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry” were massive hits with moviegoers but got uniformly awful reviews. Just like his friend and frequent collaborator, Adam Sandler, “Hotel Transylvania 3” is the only positively reviewed movie among James’ 10 most popular films — and one of only two he’s acted in since 2010.
Jennifer Love Hewitt
She may not be a major movie star today, but Jennifer Love Hewitt led some high-grossing movies in the late 1990s and 2000s. Films like “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” “The Tuxedo” and “Garfield — The Movie,” made millions in theaters, despite those three movies having an average Rotten Tomatoes score of 26%. Since moving into TV roles in the last decade, Hewitt has continued to be popular with audiences and has earned slightly better reviews in shows like “The Client List” and “9-1-1.”
There’s no question that Tyler Perry is an incredibly hardworking and talented entertainer but critics have almost zero respect for his hustle. The actor, who often writes and directs his own films as well, has built a very loyal audience that seems to support his new projects on a yearly basis. His many Madea comedies are the best example of this, as they’re always bankable and always panned. Of Perry’s 10 highest-grossing movies as a lead actor, only 2009’s Madea outing “I Can Do Bad All By Myself” has a “fresh” score at Rotten Tomatoes.
It sounds ridiculous but Josh Duhamel’s most critically acclaimed role may have come in those ads for Taco Bell’s Nacho Fries. The ruggedly handsome actor played up his reputation for cheesy roles in those commercials, continuing to pad his bankroll in the process. Duhamel has only made three movies in his entire career that hold “fresh” grades at Rotten Tomatoes, with many of his vehicles being given dismal grades before earning plenty in theaters. The four Transformers movies he starred in hold an average score of 32% at that site but they were some of the most popular movies ever.
Would it shock you to know that Chris Farley’s movies were universally panned by critics when they first came out? The late actor has become so beloved among comedy fans that it’s hard to believe the four films in which he had a starring role hold an average score of 23% at Rotten Tomatoes and that not a single one is graded “fresh.” In fact, the only two films in which Farley appeared that got positive reviews were “Wayne’s World” and its sequel, in which he had bit parts. Critics may not have been impressed but legions of fans still consider Farley to be one of Hollywood’s funniest stars.
Before her role in NBC’s acclaimed series “This Is Us,” Mandy Moore’s acting career wasn’t exactly full of critical darlings. To be fair, though, it seems more like critics hated her choice in scripts more than her actual performances. Of the eight starring roles she’s had on the big screen, only two have positive grades at Rotten Tomatoes, with the majority earning terrible marks. Her role as Rapunzel in Disney’s 2010 animated film, “Tangled,” is by far her most acclaimed film role, being her only movie to earn the “Certified Fresh” distinction at the review aggregate website.
If you put Zac Efron in the lead role of a film, you can virtually guarantee he’ll make audience members swoon and critics groan. The former teen heartthrob has had big roles in acclaimed movies like “Hairspray” and “Neighbors,” but his resume mostly includes a lot of action and comedy filler, at least according to the reviews. Efron vehicles like “Baywatch,” “Dirty Grandpa” and “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” made millions in theaters but hold average scores of 22% at Rotten Tomatoes. Even the massive hit that was “The Greatest Showman” failed to get a “fresh” grade.
It’s pretty tough to dislike Jennifer Garner but critics sure have found it easy to hate her movies. She’s actually played a supporting role in quite a few acclaimed movies, like “Juno,” “Dallas Buyers Club” and “Love, Simon,” but the films she’s starred in have mostly been buried. In fact, the 10 highest-grossing movies in which Garner was a lead player hold an average score of 36.7% at Rotten Tomatoes, with only two earning positive scores. Still, most audience members are always thrilled to see her on screen.
Jessica Alba is another fresh-faced actor to whom audiences are attracted but critics loved to bash. Incredibly, of all the movies she’s made in her career, only three have a positive score at Rotten Tomatoes and only one of those is among her 10 highest grossers. In fact, some of her most popular films, including “Little Fockers” and the Fantastic Four movies, are some of her worst reviewed. Critics are probably thankful that her business venture outside of Hollywood is doing so well!
You might not consider Ashton Kutcher to be one of the most beloved actors in Hollywood but the fact is that his movies have grossed nearly $2 billion worldwide and he consistently gets enviable roles. This is all despite the fact that he doesn’t have a single film on his resume that holds a positive grade at Rotten Tomatoes, aside from a 2015 documentary. Regardless of how critics felt about them, Kutcher comedies like “Dude, Where’s My Car?,” “Just Married” and “What Happens in Vegas” were easily box office hits.
He might not be such a big deal anymore but Pauly Shore was a reliably bankable star in the 1990s. Audiences flocked to see him in silly comedies like “Encino Man,” “In the Army Now” and “Son in Law,” despite the fact that they were all mocked by critics. Every single movie Shore made in the 1990s holds a “rotten” score at Rotten Tomatoes, even the animated Disney flick “A Goofy Movie.” The average score held by his five biggest live-action star vehicles at that website is a stunning 9.2%.
It might be a bit harsh to say that critics hate Vince Vaughn but they’ve slammed the majority of his most popular films. Movies like “Anchorman,” “Dodgeball” and “Wedding Crashers” were acclaimed by critics and beloved by audiences but those are the exceptions to the rule. Only four of Vaughn’s 10 highest-grossers have a positive grade at Rotten Tomatoes, with popular comedies like “The Break-Up,” “Couples Retreat” and “Four Christmases” raking in ticket sales but being dismantled by reviewers.
Like Jessica Alba, Kate Hudson has proven herself a great entrepreneur in recent years, giving critics fewer opportunities to take her down in movie reviews. She has a couple of roles on her resume that got solid reviews in the dramatic films “Almost Famous” and “Deepwater Horizon,” but the rest of it is mostly filled with romantic comedies that were panned. Regardless of what critics thought of films like “You, Me and Dupree,” “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days” and “Fool’s Gold” (they hated them), those three films alone made more than $400 million combined worldwide in theaters.
A reporter once broke down the data between critics’ ratings and audience ratings of David Spade movies and found that he might be the best example of an actor who divides those two groups. The numbers showed that average viewers tend to really enjoy Spade’s films while critics have done nothing but trash them across the board, even more so than his friend, Adam Sandler. Of the 10 most popular films that Spade has made, in terms of box office performance, only two have passing Rotten Tomatoes scores and both are animated features. Apparently, if the critics don’t have to see Spade, they enjoy his acting a lot more.
Action star Gerard Butler has never been a critical darling but audiences have clearly shown a love for his work by throwing their money at him. His entire “Fallen” trilogy got terrible reviews but collected about $500 million worldwide while another recent action vehicle, “Geostorm,” made more than $220 million worldwide after earning a 16% grade at Rotten Tomatoes. Even in other genres, like romantic comedies (“The Ugly Truth”) and musicals (“The Phantom of the Opera”), critics have showed their disdain for Butler while audiences have lined up for tickets.
Steve Guttenberg was one of the most in-demand comedy stars of 1980s Hollywood and it certainly wasn’t because he got great reviews. Movies like “Cocoon” and “Three Men and a Baby” were decently liked by critics but the rest of his filmography was pretty much trashed. The Police Academy movies were all panned but the franchise was so loved by audiences that Guttenberg starred in four of them. Amazingly, two of the 10 highest-grossing movies that he led hold 0% grades at Rotten Tomatoes in “The Big Green” and “Police Academy 4.”
It might be a stretch to say critics completely loathe Diane Lane, because you’ll rarely read reviews specifically trashing her performances, but the majority of her most enduring films have been slammed. From 1987-2000, only one movie in which Lane starred got a positive grade at Rotten Tomatoes and her films this century haven’t been much more acclaimed. Whether it was romantic pictures like “Nights in Rodanthe” and “Must Love Dogs,” comic book blockbusters like “Man of Steel” or more serious fare like “Unfaithful,” Lane’s most popular movies have mostly earned bad grades from critics. Meanwhile, audiences continue to love her charming appeal.
Critical disdain of Nicolas Cage is well known at this point, but it wasn’t always that way. He is the only person on this list to have won an Oscar for acting, which came during the 1980s, when he was routinely getting strong marks for his work. However, when Cage became a major box office star in the late 1990s, the acclaim of his films took a nosedive, with vehicles like “Con Air,” “Gone in 60 Seconds” and “National Treasure” being ripped by critics. Regardless of what the reviews said, all three of those films were major hits, making nearly $800 million combined worldwide.
In fact, Cage ranks among the 30 highest-grossing actors in Hollywood history despite routinely being thumped for chewing the scenery.
There’s no question that Kevin Hart is one of the top leading men in Hollywood today, especially in comedy, but that doesn’t mean he’s a critical darling. The movies he’s done with Dwayne Johnson have been well received, but many of the comedian’s other popular star vehicles have been hammered in reviews.
Movies like “Think Like a Man,” “Get Hard” and “Night School” were all panned despite making more than $100 million each in ticket sales. The two “Ride Along” films he made collected nearly $300 million combined despite average grades of 16% at Rotten Tomatoes, proving that many of Hart’s fans couldn’t care less about critical opinion.
Dakota Johnson is still carving out her place in Hollywood, but she’s proven to be a box office star since her first starring roles. Her performances as the lead of the Fifty Shades trilogy were universally panned — those films earned average scores of 16.3% at Rotten Tomatoes — but audiences seemed to like what she did enough to fill theaters around the world.
Those three movies alone made more than $1.3 billion worldwide, becoming one of the most successful trilogies in history. Since then, she’s appeared in more acclaimed films but, of the 10 highest-grossing movies of Johnson’s career so far, only four have positive grades.
According to legend, Chuck Norris is such a badass that he could make millions at the box office despite almost never getting anything close to a good review. His time as a top box office attraction in the 1980s was littered with movies that were panned but still beloved by action fans. Movies like “Invasion U.S.A.,” “The Octagon” and “Missing in Action” got smacked down by critics but were hits with audiences, ensuring that he would star in nearly 20 movies that decade.
Like Chris Farley, Paul Walker is an example of an actor whose reputation among fans really surfaced after his untimely death. The handsome leading man was mostly known for making films that critics found silly and overwrought while he was alive. In fact, of his 10 highest-grossing films where he played a starring role, four of the Fast and the Furious movies are the only ones with positive marks at Rotten Tomatoes. Walker was never on the short list for any awards from critics, but the devotion of his fans was clear when, after his passing, “Furious 7” became one of the highest-grossing movies in history, partly because it was his last role.