In case you haven’t heard, Jack Nicholson, citing problems with memory loss, unceremoniously retired this week. His last film was 2010’s blandly-titled romcom How Do You Know. Besides there being no question mark in the title, which annoys me to no end, the film features Owen Wilson as a baseball player… yep.
Obviously, with films like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Easy Rider, Chinatown, The Shining, and the Departed, Nicholson isn’t in any danger of ruining his street cred by going out on a utterly forgettable Reese Witherspoon movie; in fact, he wouldn’t be the first one to end a long, great career with a stinker.
5. Gene Hackman
Final Film: Welcome to Mooseport
Personally, I feel Gene Hackman doesn’t get the credit he deserves. He often gets lost in the shuffle when people talk about actors of his generation. They go to the Nicholsons, the De Niros, the Pacinos, and the Hoffmans before any mention of Hackman, and while they are all great actors in their own right, Popeye Doyle shouldn’t be forgotten. Watch The French Connection, The Conversation, or even Scarecrow to see him in his prime. And let’s not forget that he gave one of his best performances much later, in the 1993 Best Picture Unforgiven.
All of that paved the way for Gene Hackman to hang it up after the 2004 Ray Romano vehicle, Welcome to Mooseport. Now, I’m not saying that the fact he had to star alongside Ray Romano is what made Hackman re-evaluate his life and decide that life was too short to act under the shadow of the nose of certain TV comedians, but I get it. Welcome to Mooseport isn’t an overly terrible movie, but it’s hardly deserving of a theatrical release. At least Gene got to sling woo at the cute nurse from ER. Plus, there’s always a chance he decides to give it one last go; maybe another Wes Anderson movie? Please?
4. Bela Lugosi
Final Film: Plan 9 From Outerspace
In its own right, Plan 9 From Outerspace is a classic. Without the “so-bad-it’s-good” charm of it, we wouldn’t have Sharknado. Personally, I don’t see it. I love the crappy movies SyFy Channel shows on the weekends, but I never felt the same way about Plan 9. It’s like making a RiffTrax for a student film. It’s too pathetic and sad to get ironic fun out of it.
Lugosi is a horror legend and deserved better than to finish off his career hitched to Ed Wood’s hacky (though well-meaning) star. This is Dracula we’re talking about and he went out like a clown.
3. Sean Connery
Final Film: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
I can’t really imagine that this was a great fit. There’s just something about a postmodern adventure film starring Dorian Gray and Tom Sawyer based on an Alan Moore graphic novel that doesn’t seem like it would be something Sean Connery would be all about. I imagine, through my own fantasy world admittedly, that he stood there on set just getting increasingly confused and annoyed and the experience solidified his notion that Hollywood and its “bollocks” was becoming increasingly full of “knobs” and “sonnyjims”. I’m pretty positive he spends his days getting day drunk on scotch, cold-calling middle-aged women and talking them off for about ten minutes at a time. That’s what I’d do if I was James Fucking Bond.
2. Raul Julia
Final Film: Street Fighter: The Movie
You may know him as Gomez Addams, but before he starred as the patriarch in the criminally underrated Addams Family movies, Raul Julia was a serious Broadway performer, nabbing four Tony nominations in the 1970s and 1980s. He also had success in the TV movie genre (when that was an actual thing and not a soapy time-waster on Lifetime), earning a Golden Globe and an Emmy for his role as political activist Chico Mendes in The Burning Season.
But then, Street Fighter: The Movie happened. To say this is one of the worst video game adaptations ever is discounting its place as one of the worst movies of all-time. It nearly killed the career of the Muscles From Brussels; all it did to Raul Julia was give him a stroke at the relatively young age of 54.
1. Gene Kelly
Final Film: Xanadu
There’s a certain inherent embarrassment that comes with being associated with Ed Wood, weird comic book adaptations, and Street Fighter: The Movie, but nothing quite compares with the embarrassment of disco. Let’s face it, outside of Saturday Night Fever, there’s nothing worth talking about when it comes to disco unless you’re giving me statistics on how much cocaine they found up Steve Rubell’s nose during his autopsy. Unfortunately, somehow, dance legend Gene Kelly got himself wrapped up in this unseemly footnote of American history and wore roller skates in the process.
The film was Xanadu and to just put it in a very foreign place, it was supposed to be a star vehicle for Olivia Newton-John. Gene Kelly went on to live another 16 years after Xanadu, but the experience must have really freaked him out because he never acted again. That’s what happens when you take an aging legend and put him in a movie about disco and roller skating and pretty Australian disco roller skaters. Shame on you, Hollywood. Gene Kelly deserved better.