Pity the poor Hollywood actor: it is, after all, very few of their species who make it through B-movie purgatory to the A-list. But it is an extremely rare creature indeed who makes it all the way to the top and fails to make even one, solitary movie of value (even Adam Sandler managed one). What follows is a minor compendium of this lesser spotted breed; if I've missed something, if one of these shallow Gods actually has a hidden gem of depth, feel free to let me know in the comments section with the intelligence and good grace for which the internet is renowned.
Transformers started as trashy fun but at the turn of a trilogy looks like more of an advert for the US military than Top Gun, and that's saying something. These are not Good movies. Indiana Jones? Even without the aliens it functions as a stout slap in the face to a younger George Lucas. The list goes on, reaching a debatable peak with Constantine, and you know your career is not heading for an Oscar when that's the case.
Jean-Claude Van Damme
You may think he's a shoe-in for this list but there's something quite impressive about having 50 films under your belt and not a single one close to the border of Quality. From Street Fighter to Timecop, Universal Soldier to Bloodsport, even his greatest hits read like a 'how not to choose a good script' list. The curse of brawn over brains hits hard in Hollywood.
A quick scan through Mr Seagal's recent career will produce such literary gems as Pistol Whipped, Flight of Fury, Today you Die and Out for a Kill; with a small twist of meme history it's not hard to imagine him taking the place of Chuck Norris as source-of-all-humour-for-2005; clearly, this is not a man to be trifled with. But he makes awful movies, let's be quite clear about this. Even Under Siege, the snappy actioner he pretty much built his career on was filled with moments of such cheap hamminess that they wouldn't have looked out of place on Dallas. No-one's denying his abilities as a martial artist, it's just a shame he can't form facial expressions outside the range of 'mean' or 'perplexed'.
That an actor of such startling banality could stumble into the mainstream should be a mistake, but in truth the mainstream welcomes banality as long as it looks good driving fast cars. The 'butterfly effect' (small actions creating large changes in history) would predict that the emergence of something as culturally important as a Hollywood star should have a knock on effect in all our lives, but the truth is if Paul Walker didn't exist we would all be continuing as usual. So ignore this paragraph (and the profits of Fast Five) and move along folks, nothing to see here.
Ah, the Skywalker curse. The moment you don a toga, gather up your midi-chlorians and start investigating daddy issues it's a sure sign you'll never work in quality films again. Ask Mark Hamill. Perhaps it's also something to do with Mr Lucas casting leads from an acting pool of somewhat... limited range, but Hayden should have realised as soon as he strapped on the lightsaber that this was a career high. And let's be honest, bar a few scenes, it wasn't that high at all.
I have very little to say about this man. An effective second-foil to Mr Smith in the Bad Boys flicks and effectively second-foil to his ego in every other film he has done, Lawrence manages to blend into the comedy background without ever making an impression stronger than 'oh, yeah, that guy'.
Don't fear the reaper: fear the wrath of Twilight fans, there are so damned many of them. But I care not, Robert's staying on the list because Twilight is just catnip for Tweens and sooner or later they'll grow out of it. There is of course the wrath of Harry Potter fans to cope with, but hey – Goblet of Fire was one movie out of eight and I suspect nobody's real favourite. So keep looking pretty, Robert, there's bound to be an Palme D'or for that soon.
The 'also rans'
I wanted to put Arnie on this list, I really did. But then I remembered Predator. And then I remembered The Terminator. Then Terminator 2. So really, no. I also wanted Orlando Bloom, but those Lord of the Rings fans have teeth (albeit cosplay teeth); besides, he looks too damn cool sliding down that Oliphaunt trunk. Keira Knightley however... possibly. Brendan Fraser? Gods and Monsters and The Quiet American, so no. Am I missing anyone?