Which Comedy Movie Star Had the Worst 2023?

Not every film can be a hit. Let’s take a look back at the actors whose movies most stunk up this year
Which Comedy Movie Star Had the Worst 2023?

It’s that time of year when we celebrate the best and the brightest of the last 12 months — the great films and memorable performances that made 2023 so special. But what about all the stinkers? When do they get their day in the sun? We shouldn’t forget the utter pieces of crap that sucked away two hours of our lives, leaving us depressed and angry. The worst needs to be commemorated as much as the best does.

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But rather than doing a list of the year’s most terrible films, I decided to focus on ranking the five comedy stars who had the worst 2023. What’s funny is that, sometimes, the star wasn’t really responsible for their bad year — it’s just that the movies they picked ended up being excruciating. Hey, it happens. Still, I imagine these five actors will be thrilled to turn the calendar to 2024, ecstatic to put this miserable year in the rearview mirror. 

When coming up with this final five, I chose to leave off actors who aren’t exactly big movie stars. The beloved Charlie Day’s directorial debut, Fool’s Paradise, was among 2023’s worst-reviewed flops — that said, it’s not as if he’s some massive A-lister laying an egg. He just made a small indie that nobody saw. Same goes for Bert Kreischer and Sebastian Maniscalco, two successful stand-ups who learned that it’s not easy to parlay that into movie stardom: Their respective starring vehicles, The Machine and About My Father, barely made a ripple. None of these misfires were prominent enough to make the cut — to get on my list, you needed to be a marquee name who took a tumble. 

But don’t feel too bad for these famous folks: For most of them, a bounceback seems highly likely. 

Jennifer Lawrence

Sometimes, you can put your everything into a project, and it’s still a disappointment. Such was the case with Jennifer Lawrence, who starred in and produced No Hard Feelings, which was billed as both an outrageous R-rated sex comedy and a renaissance for an actress who hadn’t done a lot of funny fare since winning an Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook. Unfortunately, although she was game as the sarcastic, going-nowhere Maddie hired to “date” a nerdy, virginal teen (Andrew Barth Feldman), the film was a disappointment, rarely being as gutsy or inspired as its star’s go-for-broke performance. Initially labeled a box-office bomb, No Hard Feelings had decent-enough legs to nearly reach break-even status. But even so, it was a setback for an underrated comedian who needs to find a better vehicle for her raunchy DGAF energy.

Will Ferrell

On the one hand, it might seem silly to put Will Ferrell on this list. After all, he was in Barbie, the year’s biggest hit. But on the other, how many people went to see that blockbuster because he was in it? Playing the clueless head of Mattel, Ferrell had only a small role, but the truth is, despite the movie being really funny, he’s one of the least-good parts of it. The Anchorman star was more prominently featured in Strays, where he voiced the main dog — but that one-joke film bombed this summer. He also cameoed in the lackluster Awkwafina/Sandra Oh comedy Quiz Lady, which he produced. Honestly, 2023 was another so-so year for a comedic giant who’s had more duds than hits in recent times. Fingers crossed his 2024 comedy You’re Cordially Invited, with Reese Witherspoon and Geraldine Viswanathan, is a return to form.

Nicolas Cage

It was tempting to have high hopes for the Oscar-winner’s 2023. In April, Nicolas Cage enjoyed his biggest studio role in years, playing Dracula in the horror-comedy Renfield. But the film flopped. Then there was his much-praised A24 dark comedy Dream Scenario, in which his dorky professor discovers that he’s popping up in everybody’s dreams, making him a celebrity. I confess I wasn’t a fan — Cage was good in the role, but the movie’s satiric targets didn’t work for me — and the film has struggled at the box office, failing to nab any nominations or critics awards in the run-up to the Oscars. In between those two films, he starred in The Retirement Plan, a crime comedy that sank without a trace. If all that wasn’t enough, he also appeared briefly in The Flash as Superman, a nod to the aborted Man of Steel project he was attached to decades ago. You know you’re having a bad year when even the movies you’re barely in are commercial failures.

Chris Pine

The misses kept coming for Chris Pine. Lots of people liked Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, from Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley, the geniuses behind Game Night, but the would-be franchise-starter failed to make enough money to justify its hefty price tag. I was a little less high on Honor Among Thieves than others were, but I certainly don’t blame Pine, who continues to corner the market on tongue-in-cheek action heroes. Unfortunately, his 2023 only got worse from there. He was one of the voices in Wish, the weakest Disney animated film in years, which is going to have a hard time reaching profitability. 

And then there was Poolman, his directorial debut which premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. This mystery-comedy, which Pine co-wrote and starred in alongside Annette Bening, Danny DeVito and Jennifer Jason Leigh, got poisonous reviews. (Writing for Variety, film critic Owen Gleiberman declared, “I take no vicious pleasure in saying that Poolman … is not only the worst film I saw during the fall festival season but would likely be one of the worst films in any year it came out.”) The movie has yet to find a U.S. distributor, despite all that star power. If Pine could have one wish, he’d probably use it to pretend 2023 never happened.

Zachary Levi

When we look back at 2023, we may judge it as the year that superhero movies finally lost their stranglehold on the popular imagination. Ant-Man and the Wasp: QuantumaniaBlue BeetleThe Marvels and The Flash all disappointed to different degrees — especially commercially — with hits like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 happy exceptions. Perhaps the biggest dud, though, was Shazam! Fury of the Gods, the meh sequel to the meh 2019 original. 

When Shazam! came out four years ago, it felt like a lighthearted, none-too-serious counterpoint to the super-heavy superhero movies that DC was producing at the time. (It, blessedly, lacked that Zack Snyder self-importance.) And Zachary Levi as Billy Batson (aka Shazam) was charming as a Big-like crimefighter who is just a kid with powers. But once Warner Bros. handed the reins of DC over to James Gunn and Peter Safran, it was inevitable that they would rethink the comic-book franchises. That made Shazam! Fury of the Gods, which was a leftover from the old regime, a lame duck, the character’s future in doubt. 

It didn’t help that Fury of the Gods stunk, tanking at the box office, but Levi made things exponentially worse by pouting all year long. The Chuck star complained about critics who didn’t like the sequel. He pushed back at fans who had issues with the movie. He petulantly took a swipe at studios, saying, “I personally feel like the amount of content that comes out of Hollywood that is garbage — they don’t care enough to actually make it great for you guys.” (For the love of god, man, don’t call movies “content.”) And, in response to James Gunn casting his brother Sean Gunn as DC supervillain Maxwell Lord, Levi said, “Listen, when you’re the brother of the guy who runs DC, I guess you get to play whoever you want,” which superhero-cinema fans took as a passive-aggressive dig from someone who was pissy that he’s not going to be part of the DC universe anymore.

Levi had other films in 2023 — Spy Kids: Armageddon, the underwhelming Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget — but Shazam! Fury of the Gods defined his year, specifically because he wouldn’t let it go. Everybody has commercial and critical misfires, but his inability to get over Fury of the Gods’ failure ensured that his bad 2023 stood out from anyone else’s. The movie was utterly unmemorable, but Levi’s self-pitying, unchill response made it impossible for us to forget it.

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