Christian Bale is handsome, successful, and a master of shocking physical transformation—from buff, sculpted superhero in “Batman,” to emaciated insomniac in “The Machinist,” to his latest role as a pudgy con artist in the critical hit “American Hustle,” there is no doubt Bale is a talented method actor who’s on top of his game. In honor of his 40th birthday on January 30, we’ve picked Christian Bale’s 10 worst movie flops in his acting career.
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001)
In this cringe-worthy period piece, Bale stars alongside Nicholas Cage and Penelope Cruz—an oddly matched couple, who come together after Bale’s character heads off to war. The story is bland and the acting even more dull, earning it a critical audience rating of only 44 percent. Ouch.
While it may not have been a box office flop, “Shaft” is easily one of Bale’s worst films. Bale plays an uneventful and familiar role in this modern ‘blaxploitation’ remake, typecast as a sociopathic villain to Samuel L. Jackson’s character. While this crime-action drama received fairly positive reviews, Bale delivers a predictable, less-than-stellar performance.
Reign of Fire (2002)
Alongside Matthew McConaughey, Bale battles dragons that have been unleashed in London and are now bent on taking over the world. While Bale takes the lead in this film as Quinn, the heroic organizer of an attack against the dragons, the film is ultimately a waste of his talent; despite Bale’s capacity and best efforts, this sci-fi fantasy flick falls flat.
Harsh Times (2006)
“Harsh Times” earns a spot on this list mostly due to bad directing. While Bale remains dedicated to his role—though his Hispanic accent is far from credible—the blame lies mostly on director David Ayes, whose first venture into film was a little too dismal. The relentlessly bleak plot, entirely unlikeable characters, and predictable ending make this movie a dud, earning a spot as one of the worst in Christian Bale’s career.
The Portrait of a Lady (1996)
Using a combination of box office gross, number of awards, critical scoring and audience rating, “The Portrait of a Lady” earned the lowest spot on a list of 28 of Christian Bale’s films. This movie adaption of Henry James’ classic novel is elegant yet painfully slow, and Bale regretfully only makes a minor appearance in this period piece. Due to such a small and unimpressive cameo, this film is among Bale’s worst forays into film.
Mary, Mother of Jesus (1999)
Bale plays Jesus of Nazareth—a departure from his typical intensity—in this movie about Mary’s important function in Jesus’ life and work. Unfortunately, the role isn’t really suited to Bale’s capacity as an actor, nor is he the best choice for such a part. Ultimately, this made-for-TV Christian movie reached a small audience and earned Bale little acclaim, making it one of his career’s biggest duds.
Terminator Salvation (2009)
While the special effects are still incredible, this fourth installment of the “Terminator” series falls short. Though a new director was partly to blame, one of the biggest culprits was Bale himself—or rather, Bale’s ego. Rather than play the lead, Marcus Wright, as the director suggested, Bale was drawn to the character of John Connor. Only problem? The original script gave Connor a mere 3 minutes of screen time. The script was thus re-written to please Bale, but ended up leading to a messy, unremarkable, and mindless big budget flop.
Secret Agent (1996)
In this film adaption based on the novel by the same name, Bale plays the mentally retarded brother to Patricia Arquette’s character. Naturally, playing a disabled person came as a struggle for Bale, and the film earned a pathetic single star rating from famed critic Roger Ebert. The film is dull, un-stimulating and a terrible example of Bale’s potential as a method actor.
This futuristic sci-fi drama borrows a little too heavily from similar contemporary hits such as “Blade Runner” and “The Matrix.” In addition, while the film is loaded with thrilling action scenes, the excessive amount of violence ultimately overshadows Bale’s acting. In the end, the movie just seems derivative and unspectacular, while Bale’s performance is nothing to write home about.
This Disney musical was an embarrassing box office flop, earning the spot of the lowest-grossing Disney film of all time upon release. In the film, Bale plays Jack “Cowboy” Kelly, a newsboy who organizes his fellow comrades to strike against unfair wage cuts. While the film is based on real-life events in 1899, the musical format and surplus of song and dance numbers made it unappealing—and frankly, cheesy—for most audiences. Bale has even spoken out against the film, condemning it as a regretful and humiliating career choice to sources such as “Esquire” and “Entertainment Weekly.”