What Rotten Tomatoes data tell us about the best, worst, and most bizarre Hollywood trajectories.

Arts, entertainment, and more.
June 6 2011 7:04 AM

Slate's Hollywood Career-O-Matic

What Rotten Tomatoes data tell us about the best, worst, and most bizarre Hollywood trajectories.

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Worst Director:Dennis Dugan. This honor goes to one of the more successful auteurs  in American cinema, the man responsible for Problem Child(7 percent), Happy Gilmore(59 percent), Beverly Hills Ninja(14 percent), I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry(14 percent), You Don't Mess With the Zohan(36 percent), and Grown Ups(10 percent), all of which earn Dugan an average rating of 23.6 percent. (There are surely worse directors out there—again, this list only includes directors who made at least 10 movies since 1985.)

Most Improved: Josh Brolin, Dakota Fanning, and Ken Loach. If the average Hollywood career is a slow decline into mediocrity, an actor or director whose films actually improve deserves special recognition. Among actors with at least 20 films in the Rotten Tomatoes database since 1985, Brolin has seen the greatest increase in average rating from the first half of his career to the second half—an improvement of 28.4 percentage points. Despite Brolin's early appearance in The Goonies(63 percent), the first half of his career was marred by abominations like The Mod Squad(4 percent), and Hollow Man(27 percent). His later transition into gems like No Country for Old Men(95 percent), Milk(94 percent), and True Grit(96 percent) is a tale of redemption that not even Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (54 percent) could derail. The most improved actress is Fanning, with a 20.1-point increase from such duds as I Am Sam(34 percent) to critical darlings like Coraline(89 percent). Among directors, the award goes to Ken Loach, the British filmmaker whose reviews went from great in the first half of his career (80 percent) to stunning in the second half (88.1 percent). *

Best Actor in Worst Movie: David Strathairn in Twisted. Strathairn, best known for playing Edward R. Murrow in Good Night and Good Luck, has had a blessed career, with an average rating of 70 percent. That is, if you don't count Twisted(2 percent), the 2004 thriller-in-name-only starring Ashley Judd as a cop who might actually be the killer she herself is hunting, in which Strathairn plays Judd's shrink. Honorable mention goes to Laurie Metcalf (average: 70 percent) for her role as Rebecca Frazen in 1996's Dear God(12 percent).

Corrections, June 6, 2011: This article originally stated that Ararat came out in 1992. (Return to the corrected sentence.) This article also misidentified Ken Loach as an Irishman. (Return to the corrected sentence.)

Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.

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