There’s no detailed introduction necessary here. Quite simply, here are clips of 25 of the very worst line readings ever captured on film. Both famous and unknown actors will be on display, but in each case, you have to ask: “Good God, was this really the best take they had available?!”. But then, some of the dialogue these actors are forced to utter is so awful that I’m not sure Sir Laurence Olivier himself could have made it work. Some of these line readings have become so infamous that they’ve turned into popular Internet memes, so I suppose it’s only appropriate that we start with one which has become a pop culture phenomenon and requires no explanation:
Darren Ewing – Troll 2 (1990):
Line: “OH MY GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!!!!!”
Click below to see the rest…
Eric Freeman – Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987):
Line: “GARBAGE DAY!”
This clip has become such a popular Internet meme that no explanation is necessary and the whole scene speaks for itself.
Nicolas Cage – The Wicker Man (2006):
Line: “OH, NO! NOT THE BEES! NOT THE BEES! AAAAAHHHHH! OH, THEY’RE IN MY EYES! MY EYES! AAAAHHHHH! AAAAAGGHHH!”
This scene has become so infamous that once again, I’m sure no explanation is necessary. Nicolas Cage may get mocked incessantly for this, but I’m not sure ANY actor could have pulled off the scene without causing the viewer to break into hysterical laughter.
Tommy Wiseau – The Room (2003):
Line: “I did not hit her, it’s not true! It’s bullshit! I did not hit her! I did NAWWTT! Oh hi, Mark.”
We all know that the The Room is one of the most popular bad movies of all time and that Tommy Wiseau’s performance may just be the worst piece of acting in cinema history. However, while his “You’re tearing me APAAARRRTTT, Lisa!” line is the most iconic moment in the film, I truly believe that this particular scene features the worst line reading ever captured on celluloid.
Dudley Manlove – Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959):
Line: “You see? You see?! Your stupid minds! Stupid! STUPID!”
Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space is probably the very first film to gain a devoted cult following on the basis of being considered the worst movie of all time. However, given some of the other bad movies that have surfaced since then, history has proven that Plan 9 is far from the worst film ever and it remains one of cinema’s most entertaining and watchable bad movies. One of the most fun parts of Plan 9 is the ultra-hammy performance from Dudley Manlove as an alien who goes on an angry rant about the utter stupidity of the human race.
Tor Johnson – Plan 9 From Outer Space (1959):
Line: All of them!
While we’re on the subject of Plan 9 From Outer Space, Tor Johnson was a famous Swedish wrestler who was often cast by Ed Wood to play the monsters in his films. While Tor may have been perfectly suited to playing a mindless zombie in Plan 9, Wood made the ill-advised decision to give him a full dialogue scene even though English was obviously not his first language and the poor guy is clearly struggling to get his words out.
Arnold Schwarzenegger – Hercules in New York (1970):
Line: All of them!
I’m sure all of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s fans know the story of him making his acting debut in a terrible movie called Hercules in New York, and how his Austrian accent was so thick that his voice was dubbed over when the film was released. Many years later, Hercules in New York was finally released on DVD with Arnold’s original audio track restored and it became apparent that dubbing over his voice was definitely the right call. Arnold’s grasp of English was so bad at this point that virtually all of his line readings are terrible. This clip features Arnold Schwarzenegger’s very first movie scene and it probably would have killed his career forever if the film had been released into theaters like this.
A Female Version of Harvey Fierstein – Hercules in New York (1970):
Line: “He was FLYYINNGGGGGG!!!”
Believe it or not, Arnold Schwarzenegger did not deliver the only atrocious line readings in Hercules in New York. At the 2:16 mark of this clip, an old woman sees Hercules flying outside her airplane window and delivers some of the most hammy and melodramatic overacting I’ve ever seen. I have no idea who this actress is, but if it turned out she was Harvey Fierstein’s mother, I would not be the least bit surprised!
Alan Bagh – Birdemic: Shock and Terror (2010):
Line: “You look fine/divine.”
James Nguyen’s Birdemic: Shock and Terror has quickly become one of the most popular bad movies of all time, based on the fact that virtually every single element of the film is done with complete incompetence. You could probably put every single acting moment from Birdemic on this list, but I’m going to pick leading man Alan Bagh’s hilariously stilted reaction to seeing his girlfriend in lingerie. Because of his awkward delivery and the lousy quality of the sound in this scene, I honestly have no idea if he says the word “fine” or “divine” here.
Adrianna Miles – Werewolf (1996):
Line: “This is absolutely fascinating.”
I’ve already done a feature on Adrianna Miles, whom I honestly believe to be the worst actress in the history of cinema. She starred in a terrible horror movie called Werewolf which was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, and proved herself incapable of delivering one line of dialogue convincingly. Her thick accent from a yet-to-be-determined origin prevented her from even pronouncing the word “werewolf” correctly, and her most infamous moment is probably her completely flat and emotionless delivery of the line, “This is absolutely fascinating”.
Angelika Jager – Robot Holocaust (1986):
Line: “Yes, Dark One.”
While I’m unsure if Adrianna Miles will ever lose her “Worst Actress Ever” title, an unknown actress named Angelika Jager actually gave her a run for her money when she appeared in an apocalyptic sci-fi film named Robot Holocaust. Like Miss Miles, I have no idea where Miss Jager’s thick foreign accent originates from, but it renders her incapable of reciting any of her dialogue convincingly, even a line as simple as “Yes, Dark One”.
John Travolta – Battlefield Earth (2001):
Line: “While you were still learning how to SPELL YOUR NAME, I was being trained to conquer galaxies!”
I’m sure everyone here is familiar with the atrocity that is Battlefield Earth, a film that existed mainly as an excuse for John Travolta to wear a stupid wig while plugging Scientology and chew the scenery as if he were a Hungry Hungry Hippo. Travolta’s standout acting moment has to be the scene where he gets drunk with an unknown brand of alcohol that must have had a very high ham quotient.
Faye Dunaway – Mommie Dearest (1981):
Line: “NO… WIRE HANGERS… EVERRRRRR!!!”
Mommie Dearest, the infamous and critically panned 1981 biopic about Joan Crawford, completely swept the Razzies when it was originally released and has become a popular camp classic, thanks largely to Faye Dunaway’s hysterically over-the-top portrayal of Crawford. When looked at as a whole, Mommie Dearest really isn’t that terrible a film, but the ridiculous scene where Dunaway screams at her children for using wire hangers has always overshadowed any good qualities the film might have.
Robbie Lee – Switchblade Sisters (1975):
Line: “If you go… it’s gonna turn out BAAAAAADDDD!!!”
Switchblade Sisters is a campy grindhouse classic that has developed quite a cult following over the years and even garnered a theatrical re-release in 1996 via Quentin Tarantino’s Rolling Thunder Pictures. However, that doesn’t change the fact that the film’s leading lady, Robbie Lee, delivers one of the most hilariously bad performances you’ll ever see, and you can see her standout acting moment at the 1:05 mark of this trailer when she does her best impression of a sheep while yelling out the word “BAAAADDDD!!!”.
John Lithgow – Santa Claus: The Movie (1985):
Line: “FOR FREEEEEEE?!!!”
Now, I love John Lithgow, but while playing an evil toymaker in Santa Claus: The Movie, Lithgow delivers what may be the broadest piece of overacting I’ve ever seen when Dudley Moore’s elf delivers the outlandish suggestion that he give away some toys for free.
Atlas King – The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies (1964):
Line: I have no friggin’ idea!
Yep, this was actually a real title for a movie! Like many other entries on this list, this bizarre movie was featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000. One of the most hilarious aspects of the film is a Greek actor named Atlas King, yet another poor soul who is saddled with tons of dialogue even though he is clearly uncomfortable with the English language. The low point for him is this particular scene where the quality of the sound recording is so poor that it is literally impossible to understand one word coming out of the guy’s mouth!
Some Guy with a Trumpet – The Hellcats (1968):
The Hellcats is a bizarre biker film which (you guessed it!) was showcased on an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000. In this scene, a guy holding a trumpet is thrown into a lake by the bikers, and he responds by getting up and screaming the most incoherent line of dialogue I’ve ever heard. I shall award a Kewpie doll to anyone who can transcribe what the fuck this guy is saying!
Mark Wahlberg – The Happening (2008):
Line: “WHAT?! No!”
I could spend an entire column writing about all the things that are wrong with M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening, but one of the most ridiculous problems is when Betty Buckley wanders into the plot completely out of left field in the third act as a crazy old lady. However, Mark Wahlberg’s reaction when this lady accuses him of wanting to murder her is just priceless, and he looks like he’s having a hard time keeping a straight face.
Linda Blair – Exorcist II: The Heretic (1977):
Line: “I was possessed by a demon. Oh, it’s okay. He’s gone.”
Exorcist II: The Heretic is truly one of the worst sequels of all time, and NOT ONE THING in the movie makes any damn sense! Even their simple dialogue scenes wind up taking a turn toward the surreal, such as when Linda Blair’s Regan tries to communicate with a young autistic girl. It actually starts out as a pretty decent scene until Regan casually mentions her demonic possession with a big smile on her face. Talk about awkwardly bringing a conversation to a dead halt!
Pierce Brosnan – Taffin (1988):
Line: “Then maybe you shouldn’t be living HERRREEEEE!!!!”
Long before he was 007, Pierce Brosnan starred in an Irish thriller called Taffin, a film which probably would have faded into complete obscurity if not for Brosnan’s hysterical delivery of this line, which has become an extremely popular meme on the Adam and Joe radio show in Britain.
Keanu Reeves – Point Break (1991):
Line: “I am an F… B…. I. agent!”
I am a huge Point Break fan and believe that it features one of Keanu Reeves’ better performances, but his delivery of this line is hilariously bad. It’s almost like he was having a lot of trouble remembering how to say the letters “F.B.I.” in the correct order, and after 20 takes, this was the first time he got it right.
Keanu Reeves – Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992):
Line: “I know where the bastard sleeps. I brought him there. To Carfax Abbey!”
Yep, poor Keanu again. I know the guy gets a bad rap, but come on, no holds a gun to any of these directors’ heads and forces them to cast the guy in roles that are way out of his league. I mean, there ARE other zillions of other actors out there who can speak with a proper English accent!
Jodie Draigie – The House on Sorority Row (1983):
Line: “How do we know she IS alive?”
In this slasher flick from the eighties, an actress named Jodie Draigie makes reciting one very simple line of dialogue look as difficult as quantum physics. Hmmmm, would it surprise you to find out that this is Miss Draigie’s only film credit?
Pia Zadora – The Lonely Lady (1983):
Line: “If I write for anyone, Vinnie, I write for MEEEEEEE!!!!”
I’ve already written about the unparalleled awfulness of The Lonely Lady in a “Robin’s Underrated Crap” column about the film, but you can go to the 0:29 mark of this clip to see Pia Zadora’s most infamous and hilarious line in the film.
Ryan O’Neal – Tough Guys Don’t Dance (1987):
Line: “Oh man… oh God… oh man… oh God… oh man… oh God… oh man… oh God… oh man… oh God… oh man… oh God… oh man!”
And last but not least, we have what may be the world’s most popular “bad line reading” meme and I can hardly believe that it’s taken us this long to post it here at The Back Row. Norman Mailer directed the 1987 screen adaptation of his own novel, Tough Guys Don’t Dance, which has now become infamous for the scene in which Ryan O’Neal reads a letter where he finds out his wife is having an affair, and responds by crying out “Oh God… oh man!” multiple times as the camera spins around. Now, I know Ryan O’Neal is not the greatest actor in the world, but like Nicolas Cage in The Wicker Man, I don’t see how ANY actor could have done this scene without causing hysterical unintentional laughter!
Anyway, Norman Mailer claims that virtually everyone begged him to cut this scene out of the film, but he refused, and Ryan O’Neal still holds a grudge about it to this day. However, Mailer now realizes that the error of his ways and he’s paid for his mistake by becoming a part of “bad movie” infamy.