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Despite their best wishes, every performer will end up acting in at least one bad movie in their career. Some are wise enough to notice this going in, and decide to have fun while getting paid for it (lucky bastards). Not this guy though. He acts with sincerity and conviction for an overproduced, over-hyped, and shoddily written movie. The reasons for this vary: they may have extreme professionalism in every role they take to keep their reputation, or there was Executive Meddling afterwards that hurt the film, or they honestly couldn't tell from ground level that the movie wasn't True Art but a glorified B-Movie.

The net effect is very Narmlike, with audiences becoming amused that this guy is putting so much effort into a flat role for a dud movie. This makes the actor/character stand out and seem out of place: they aren't like the other bad actors on set with their dull detachment, but they aren't hamming it up either. They may even seem to be overacting by comparison, because they're the only ones really acting. If enough of the cast do it, the movie itself may become So Bad It's Good as it crosses the threshold from bad to surreal with actors giving Oscar grade performances for a throwaway summer Action Movie.

This is the cousin of Ham and Cheese, which features a Large Ham in a bad movie; they give a good performance in a bad movie.

Examples of Took the Bad Film Seriously include:


Anime & Manga

  • Takehito Koyasu and the rest of the Weiss Kreuz cast, likely because Koyasu created it as a way for himself and his cool seiyuu friends to show off. This accounts for a good bit of the arguable charm of the series.
  • Saban Moon, as the infamous North American live-action adaptation of Sailor Moon has come to be known, was actually the handiwork of Toon Makers Incorporated. As noted by its presenter in the private showing, and as can be seen even through the distorted perspective of the camera that captured it all, the people doing the computer graphics special effects really do seem to have given it their best effort. (See especially Sailor Moon's live-action-to-animation transition near the end.) The writers evidently just didn't care and went with a horrific Totally Radical approach to the show and especially its opening theme. Much to the company's regret and everyone else's relief, as noted, the adaptation was scrapped in favor of just dubbing the original show. The video of it however, continues to circulate on the internet, much to the amusement of everyone who sees just how bad it was.


Film

  • According to Nathan Shumate's review of Chatterbox: "Everyone involved gave their all to make a film that they must have thought was wonderful, witty, daring, provocative, and all those other good adjectives. They put the finishing touches on, stepped back, and suddenly realized:

 “We just made an entire movie about a talking vagina.”"

  • A review of Deep Blue Sea said the film works because everyone isn't taking it seriously. Except Saffron Burrows, who "behaves as it was an art film" (and unlike most of the examples here, gives a bad performance).
  • Sean Connery in Zardoz. The poor guy is trying his best, though he's clearly embarrassed by the costume.
    • It's been said he did the movie to avoid being Typecasting as James Bond. So it's possible he wasn't even considering the role itself so much as what it wasn't.
  • James Marsters didn't appear to take his role of Piccolo in Dragon Ball Evolution too seriously in practice; however, he did give several long winded speeches on the character's motivations, referencing Shakespeare in one of them and basically treating the role as a Composite Character of Piccolo and Kami (who were technically the same being anyway, but still.) Still, he gives a downright subtle and restrained performance compared to most everyone else in the film.
    • His descriptions are hilarious in how incoherent and nonsensical they are.

  "He used to be a force of good, but he was imprisoned, making him very angry, and then he escapes... The cool thing is anybody who's seen Dragon Ball knows that Lord Piccolo transforms into THE Piccolo, and that is a whole other ball of wax; heroic wouldn't be the wrong term, but it's a long journey."

    • Perhaps a better fit for this trope is Justin Chatwin as Goku. Holding back other considerations of how his character's motivation are changed from Anime to Film, his performance of Goku as an insecure teen is pretty good, even adding some character development as he becomes self confident to the point of gaining Heroic Willpower.
  • Thora Birch in the Dungeons and Dragons movie. (Unlike Jeremy Irons, who just had fun going over the top with his role.)
  • Ed Speelers in the title role of Eragon. You can tell that he wants to act so badly (he succeeds in acting so badly!), but his delivery combined with an atrocious script makes for Narm heaven.
    • Sadly Jeremy Irons did not reprise his spastic, perpetually-near-orgasm performance from Dungeons and Dragons, playing Brom in a genuinely convincing way despite the scriptwriters’ best efforts to the contrary. Tragically, all he really accomplishes is making everyone else look even worse in comparison.
      • Despite this, Irons still manages to out ham everyone with his eyebrows.
  • Timothy Dalton in Flash Gordon, especially considering the film also starred Brian Blessed.
    • Max von Sydow gives a fairly restrained and subtle performance as Ming the Merciless, a character you'd expect the actor to chew the scenery for, and it works extremely well. Or perhaps von Sydow just succeeds in the rare art of playing a character over the top (you can hear the sheer enjoyment of what he is doing whenever he speaks) WITHOUT having to pick bits of the scenery out of his teeth.
      • Given that von Sydow was capable of hamming it up when required, (Prepare her for our pleasure!!, anyone?) it's probably the latter.
  • Anything Ed Wood's ever done. Glen or Glenda, especially.
  • Pretty much everyone in In The Name of the King takes it seriously, even the hammy villain. You have to wonder if the all-star cast noticed that their director was Uwe Boll. Regardless, everyone makes a fine effort... we even get to see Gimli John Rhys-Davis as a wizard! And Mathew Lillard try to be a menacing corrupt royal.
    • Jason Statham was probably the only actor in the movie to make an genuine effort at good acting. Ray Liotta, Leelee Sobieski, Burt (freakin') Reynolds, Kristanna Loken, Mathew Lillard, Ron Perlman...none of them even attempted to give the movie a common accent. At least Liotta and Rhys-Davis did give a fair amount of Ham & Cheese to show that they knew how bad the movie was.
  • Although it isn't a strictly bad film, Roger Ebert noted that in The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Pete Postlethwaite was the only cast member who seemed "convinced that he is on an island with dinosaurs, and not merely in a special-effects movie about them." Unsurprisingly, his character is arguably the most memorable. After working with Postlethwaite, Steven Spielberg called him "the best actor in the world".
  • Gina Gershon in Showgirls, an immensely campy movie that she comes close to salvaging.
    • Elizabeth Berkley could be said to have taken Showgirls too seriously. This is why she received the majority of the backlash from it. At least everyone else gave the impression that they were trying to distance themselves from it.
      • Kyle McLachlan was rumored to have stormed out of a screening because he was told by Paul Verhoeven that they were making a serious art film and not... well, Showgirls. McLachlan himself claims no such event took place.
    • If you watch the "Making Of" featurette included in the DVD, it seems like EVERYONE involved the film took it way too seriously. It's downright surreal, hearing people go on about "complex emotional bonds" and making serious attempts at character interpretation for a movie that turned out to be... Showgirls.
  • If anybody's watched the documentary "Best Worst Movie", then they know that Claudio Fergasso of Troll 2 infamy takes his film VERY seriously.
  • John Carradine in practically anything. The man made a career out of this trope, in fact.
  • Everyone not named "Michael Clarke Duncan" in Street Fighter the Legend of Chun Li.
  • Jeroen Krabbe in the '80s version of The Punisher.
  • Roger Ebert's review suggests Guy Pearce in The Time Machine.
  • Just about everyone in X-Men Origins: Wolverine did this, with Ryan Reynolds and Danny Huston being possible exceptions.
  • In the opinion of Richard Roeper and A.O. Scott, Denzel Washington in Deja Vu.
  • Due to its extremely dysfunctional production and many competing explanations for what went wrong, we may never know exactly why Peter Sellers underplayed the role of Evelyn Tremble in James Bond spoof Casino Royale 1967, but his work (while funny) certainly clashes with that of the hammy stars brought in to make up for his being fired from it. The Life and Death of Peter Sellers suggests he underplayed it deliberately so he could be taken seriously.
  • Later Sellers toplined the 1979 comic version of The Prisoner of Zenda. According to biographer Alexander Walker, it was upon reading the completed script that Sellers desperately tried to get out of it, but couldn't because his only-recently revived career and his plans to finally make his dream project could not withstand the legal morass it would result in. In the finished film he does a fine (though not hilarious) job with the roles of hero Syd and goofier Prince Rudolf, again in contrast to some hammier supporting actors, but there's an air of defeat hanging about him throughout; one can tell he knew he couldn't save the movie no matter what he did on- or off-screen. (He got to do that dream project next, and thankfully, it worked out much better for everyone involved.)
  • Laurence Luckinbill (Sybok) is unique among the Star Trek V: The Final Frontier cast in that he's seemingly the only one doing his darnedest to do an earnest acting job. Well, Shatner also takes it seriously, in his own way. Most of the rest of the cast are clearly enjoying their Ham and Cheese, with the notable exception of Leonard Nimoy, whose groans you can see and eyerolls hear.
    • On that note, Tom Hardy in Star Trek Nemesis - which goes a long way to making that movie at least somewhat watchable.
  • Hounddog has the following critical consensus (by and large): Dakota Fanning's acting - excellent. Other children's acting - very good. Adult acting - good (from most) to average. Script, directing, editing and post-production - horrible.
  • Skin Walkers (2007) a now all but forgotten werewolf film notable for only two things. 1) The Gun-Toting Werewolf Granny. 2) The entire cast and crew play the extremely silly plot and spout off the absolutely atrocious lines dead-set-seriously. In the entire film, there's only one intentional joke, but it's nowhere near as funny as the hilarious stuff played absolutely straight elsewhere. (Even the Gun-Toting Werewolf Granny is meant to be taken seriously!)
  • Street Fighter suffered from this...though oddly enough, it wasn't because of the actors (especially Raul Julia, who made Ham and Cheese a gourmet delicacy with his portrayal of General M. Bison); it was because of the director, Stephen E. De Souza, who directed it as a super-serious action movie instead of the campy Movie Of The Game it was supposed to be. This is in fact, what made Mortal Kombat successful where Street Fighter failed.
  • Starship Troopers: Played straight by most of the main cast. In fact, Michael Ironside seems to be the only person who knows what kind of movie he's doing.
  • An example of making the film better: Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove played his role absolutely straight as he thought it was a dramatic film (which, to be fair, it was originally until it was realized that a lot of lines and scenes, while they made sense, were just too hilarious to be taken seriously). This is due to Enforced Method Acting--Stanley Kubrick only gave him his parts of the script and told him it was serious.
  • Morgan Freeman and Kevin Spacey in Edison don't phone in their performances. As a result, any scenes featuring them (and lacking Justin Timberlake and Dylan McDermott) are much more suspenseful than the rest of the film.
  • Chiwetel Ejiofor in 2012.
  • Hilary Swank in The Core, especially in contrast to the screaming Ham and Cheese provided by co-star Stanley Tucci and the visible amusement of Delroy Lindo. Aaron Eckhart is a borderline case in that his performance is fairly straight-faced, but he recounted in a later interview that he and Tucci nearly peed themselves laughing during certain scenes because the movie was SO ridiculous.
    • Hilary Swank again in The Affair of the Necklace, which ensnares much of its principal cast in this trope. The only exception is, naturally, Christopher Walken.
  • Wild Things isn't necessarily a bad movie. While the film seems to be trying to be a Stealth Parody of the erotic thriller genre, the cast doesn't seem to agree on how seriously to take the script. As a result, many see it as unintentionally hilarious.
  • Alec Guinness in the original Star Wars film (A New Hope). He thought the film was bad but gave it his best. The rest is history.
    • Natalie Portman is generally considered a very good actress. The exception is Star Wars. When she's in Star Wars, she's considered to be dreadfully wooden. But if she's in a film that's not Star Wars, she's a critically-acclaimed Academy Award winner. It's actually very similar to Kristen Stewart's relationship with Twilight (see below).
  • According to Mel Brooks' commentary on Blazing Saddles, this occurred with Frankie Laine when he recorded the title song. He simply didn't realize the film he was singing for was a parody, and Mel didn't have the heart to tell him after he recorded this gem.
  • Daniel Day Lewis in Nine. The film was considered by many to be a catastrophe, but the man, who's a notorious method actor, delved into his character just as much as he has in any other character he's ever played. Many critics wondered if it would hurt his mostly unblemished career at all.
  • According to this review by Charlie Jane Anders, Shaun Toub plays General Iroh this way in The Last Airbender, and to a slightly lesser extent, Dev Petel plays Zuko seriously for the most part.
  • Reviews of Reign of Fire mentioned that this movie about dragons conquering the earth would have been greatly improved if the director had realized he was dealing with a Camp story, not a dark story that should be set in a serious Crapsack World.
  • Morgan Freeman's sheer presence and awesomeness is the only interesting thing in the otherwise entirely unremarkable Along Came a Spider.
  • Jackson Rathbone is actually an awesome actor. His role as a split-personality unsub in the Criminal Minds episode "Conflicted" put this beyond doubt. Unfortunately he got the role as Jasper in Twilight.
    • It Got Worse with The Last Airbender, when he played Sokka as Jasper with a boomerang.
    • Dakota Fanning arguably gives the best performance of anyone in the whole Twilight series. Kristen Stewart, who is critically acclaimed in pretty much anything that's not Twilight, tries for a serious performance as well. Her interviews indicate as much, but ultimately she just makes Bella come off as wooden (to be fair, though, you'd be hard-pressed to find one character in the Twilight books with an actual personality). Much like Tina Louise below, Stewart also seems to the cast member most resentful of her Twilight fame.
    • Billy Burke consistently gives an emotionally honest performance in the role of Bella's concerned father Charlie. If Fanning's performance isn't the best in the series, then his is without a doubt.
  • Armand Assante in Judge Dredd. He looks like he's actually about to cry when he gets to the "That's your family! I'm your family! I'm the only family you ever HAD!" Careers are built on less sincere performances.
  • Just about everyone in Battlefield Earth plays it straight. Even the Psychlo's, who come from a World of Ham, seem to be taking their ham very seriously. Only Forrest Whittaker seems to be having fun with his role, and he stated that the only reason he did the role was Money, Dear Boy, and even later came to regret that.
  • While its "badness" is debatable (as there's a lot of indicators that it was meant to be silly), the movie A Knight's Tale would have been a lot more hysterical if Heath Ledger had taken the Ham and Cheese route, but he took his character dead seriously.
  • Michael Gough was literally the only actor in Batman and Robin who wasn't given horrid one-liners for dialogue or forced to act like a ham-crazed clown. Consequently, his scenes end up being the closest thing to sincerity that the film has.
  • The Expendables is essentially a knowingly-cheesy pastiche of every action film made in the 80's, to the point of exaggerated gunfights, ridiculous contrivances and Ham and Cheese acting by all the main cast...except Mickey Rourke, who seemed to think he was in a totally different film and gave a nuanced performance as an ex-member of the team who waxes poetic about their past missions. He also gives the best speech in the film (about how he felt dead inside after doing that job for so long). It's totally at odds with the subject matter, but his performance works brilliantly.
  • Christopher Reeve had to have known that the Superman film franchise was on its last legs when he signed up (with stipulations) for Superman IV: The Quest For Peace. To note, Reeve would only take the film if several conditions were met, one of them being a strict anti-nuclear message. While other members of the cast understand how bad the script is (Gene Hackman was there for a check and Jon Cryer was camping it up), Reeve gives it his all and delivers the only emotionally honest performance in the film, which is especially evident in the scenes where he prepares to sell the Kent family farm, and the sequence where he delivers a stirring speech to the United Nations. It's enough to make the viewer wish that the film wasn't screwed over with the most ridiculous villain ever seen in a comic book film (Nuclear Man).
  • Ryan O'Neal in An Alan Smithee Movie: Burn Hollywood Burn.
  • In the utterly terrible In Name Only adaptation of The Dark Is Rising, the only actor who seems to be taking it at all seriously is Alexander Ludwig, who plays Will. He's so earnest and such an awful actor that it's hilarious when it's not cringeworthy.
  • And of course, in the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker series of film comedies, this is done on purpose. If it weren't, the "stories" (such as they are) simply wouldn't be as funny.
  • Sienna Guillory spent ages studying Jill Valentine's movements and mannerisms for her role in Resident Evil Apocalypse and as such is one of the better things about it.
  • Joan Crawford started to act like this towards the end of her career. After What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Crawford starred in a string of B-horror films that included Strait Jacket (playing a psycho ex-wife), Berserk! (as a circus ringmistress accused of murder), TV anthology shows and her final film Trog, which had Crawford playing a researcher who discovers a man (running around in a ratty ape suit) that's supposed to be the missing link between man and ape - reportedly, she only did this final film as a favor to a director friend. However, she still acts as though she's doing Mildred Pierce or The Women, and indeed, eyewitnesses remember her promoting Trog as a piece exploring humanity towards nature. She would later admit how awful her horror films were.
    • In the same vein, Faye Dunaway's performance as Crawford in the adaptation of Mommie Dearest. She genuinely believed the script and film would be hard-hitting, provocative and would win an Academy Award. Unfortunately, most of the unintentional humor is mined from her overwrought, ridiculously serious performance that borders on campiness - the rest of the cast seemed to be in on the joke and hammed up their performances. The production studio turned its back on Dunaway and starting promoting the film in daily papers as a comedy once word got out about her performance.
  • Honor Blackman in the original Jason and the Argonauts promptly steals the show in a movie that has stop motion skeletons fighting Greek soldiers and mermen holding clashing rocks apart, mainly because she's the only one with well written lines that don't sound forced or hammed up in the delivery.
    • Similar case with the original Clash of the Titans; you feel like you're watching a different movie when you see the scenes with the deities on Olympus. Not surprising given they're played by Laurence Olivier and Maggie Smith.
      • And in the remake, everyone not named Ralph Fiennes.
  • Non-actor example: Alan Menken is a celebrated living acolade of Disney, having done the music for over half the movies of the Renaissance era, so many people consider the songs and music of Home on the Range to be the only saving-grace of the film. In a behind-the-scenes interview, he talks about how 9/11 happened during the film's production, and the song, "Will the Sun Ever Shine Again?" was meant to aid the embalmed and go out to the people who suffered.
  • Kirsten Storms in Zenon: Girl of the Twenty-First Century and sequels. For that matter, most of the actors; the films wouldn't have worked if the actors had betrayed even a hint of irony or self-awareness. (Though Phillip Rhys going for Ham and Cheese didn't hurt.)
  • Paul Giamatti in Lady in the Water. Despite the film's general badness, Giamatti is good enough to make his climactic monologue a legitimately emotional moment.
  • Many people, fans, critics and regular movie-watchers alike, agree that the only saving grace that the A Nightmare On Elm Street 2010 remake has is Jackie Earle Haley's awesome portrayal as Freddy Kruger. While the movie has a lazy written story and dull characters and overall is just seen as a cheap attempt of the company to get some extra cash, Haley does his hardest to make his Freddy as menacing, as dark, as so no-nonscence and as evil as he can. This gives us an an extremily horrifying and monstrous Freddy that perhaps even surpress Robert England's Freddy in the question of sheer evilness (not in acting though) and maybe is the only thing that makes the movie tolerable to watch.
  • Peter Cushing has said of his Hammer Horror career that, no matter how cheesy the script was, he would treat it with as much dignity as he would Hamlet..
  • Late composer Elmer Berstein made a living during his later years by scoring comedies. By suggestion of Animal House director John Landis, the comedy would be much more effective if the music sounded dead-serious. For example, the theme for the ZAZ parody Airplane! features a main theme that sounds as if it belonged to an actual thriller.
  • Catherine Tate in her almost cameo appearance in the Jack Black film Gullivers Travels. She gets very little to work with as the Queen, but she does her best to make it funny. Compare with Billy Connolly, who's practically sleepwalking through the movie.
  • Tron: Legacy isn't bad but it is a film Starring Special Effects with less of an story and acting emphasis. However, Olivia Wilde gives a rather touching Skilled but Naive portrayal of her character Quorra, who could have easily ended up just another Shallow Love Interest.
  • Ciaran Hinds in Race to Witch Mountain.
  • Henry Fonda provides a heart-wrenching dramatic performance in, of all things, the Thomas the Tank Engine movie. It's not that his acting was bad, it was just out of place. Like he really thought this movie would win an Oscar. This is to contrast Alec Baldwin's obnoxiously happy not-at-all-serious character and a teenage Mara Wilson's lazy acting. As the Nostalgia Critic puts it so eloquently:

 NC: (after HF's dramatic monologue) It's Thomas the fucking Tank Engine!


Live Action TV

  • In-universe, Gary Oldman's character on Friends, the one that was in Joey's overbudget (and nonexistent budget) World War I epic.
    • Additionally, in a first season episode, Joey was supposed to play Al Pacino's butt, but was fired for acting too much.
    • There's also the episode where Joey was going to work in a film with the basic "driver meets a hitchhiker, gives her a ride, she disappears, then he's told that she was Dead All Along" as its whole plot, which he insists will be his big break.

 Chandler: It doesn't even sound like a real movie!

  • Robert Reed of The Brady Bunch did this as long as he could, before finally snapping and firing off an angry memo to producer Sherwood Schwartz when the show finally became too silly for him.
  • The entire cast of Robin Hood in the third season, bless them. What had been a silly, campy show for its first two seasons (and which somehow managed to pull it off, thanks to the dignity of the actors) was now asking to be taken deadly seriously...whilst still including ridiculous scenarios such as a lion so old that it couldn't even walk in a straight line and Robin hang-gliding from the castle parapets. In fact, Allan-a-Dale's WTF reaction to the hang-gliding is clearly the moment when the actor decided he was quitting.
  • In the DVD commentary for the Farscape episode "Jeremiah Crichton" (subtitled "When Bad Things Happen to Good Shows"), the four people commenting (two actors and two producers(?)) generally agree that too many people involved took an ultimately goofy episode too seriously, which contributed to its epic badness.
  • The Star Wars Holiday Special: Bea Arthur and Art Carney. They may not have belonged in a Star Wars related work but they were the only ones turning in nuanced and engaging performances (Arthur moreso than Carney as Carney was expected to do schtick to fill long stretches of the special.)
    • That was probably because Bea Arthur had no clue she was doing the Holiday Special. Several times afterwards, she said she had no clue she was doing anything related to Star Wars, and just thought she was singing to people with funny looking heads. She probably just did what any professional would do, give it her best effort, and didn't realize it would become what it was.
  • Tina Louise, who played Ginger, on Gilligan's Island. Not by the standards of any other show, mind you, but she's still downright kosher compared to her castmates. This may be part of the reason that she became so resentful of it in her later years.
  • Francia Raisa on The Secret Life of the American Teenager especially after her character Adrian loses her baby. Her more dramatic scenes are quite jarring compared to everything else on the show.
  • Patrick Stewart personifies this trope so completely that it's been called his greatest strength as an actor: he can deliver bad dialogue with utter conviction. Sometimes this allows him to elevate the material above what it could have been otherwise, but not always.
  • Even during the weakest seasons and episodes of 24, Kiefer Sutherland was constantly praised for delivering great performances and making Jack Bauer a sympathetic, well-rounded character (no mean feat, considering that Jack is a Memetic Badass Torture Technician).

 Ken Tucker: [reviewing the series finale] Lead actors in good TV dramas have to pace themselves, knowing that a season has a shape, and that it’s a smart idea to avoid keeping the same tone or intensity hour after hour. But the very nature of 24 didn’t give Sutherland that artistic option... [he] probably portrayed intensity with more shades and variations than any TV actor. He rarely went overboard; he never succumbed to melodrama. The plots around him may have, but not Jack.

    • Similar comments were directed at Cherry Jones for her consistantly brilliant performance as President Allison Taylor during season 8.
  • Lorne Greene in Galactica 1980. As one of the few members of the main cast that came back at all, and the only one who agreed to still BE in the main cast, armed with a genial new santa beard, he tries hard to convince the audience they're still watching the same show, but...


Music

  • Richard Harris manages to sing the ridiculous lyrics of MacArthur Park with sincere passion and conviction. The result is one of the most infamous Narm performances in music.


Video Games

  • The Fight: Lights Out is a near launch Playstation Move fighting game that had a very negative reception, mostly due to bad controls, lousy hit detection and boring gameplay. The highlight of the game is the tutorial which features FMV of Danny Trejo doing his best "tough-as-nails" act as your trainer. However, he also does this incredibly intense performance while clutching the rather silly looking Move controllers and at one point equally intensely warns the player to not move his feet because otherwise the game breaks. It's so ridiculous it becomes awesome.
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