Even the best movies can have moments that are uninspired and aggravating.
However, what drives fans nuts more than anything aren’t mistimed flashbacks or incoherent ramblings, its characters who pop up in a scene, stick around for a moment and then proceed to carry on without impacting the plot at all.
Without their existence, the movie would play out the same and you’d be a lot better off without the unnecessary distraction of seeing Johnny Depp for three minutes (see: Platoon) and thinking he’s about to play an integral role in what happens next.
While it’s difficult to hone in on what exactly makes a movie character “useless,” it is pretty clear that they have to have a certain set of traits: the first being that they are very, very annoying. Second, and perhaps of most importance, they don’t do anything like create tension or alter the mood in anyway (instead, they only take away from it). And finally, they have to appear as if they are important to what’s going on when in reality the completely opposite is true.
Fair warning, to correctly assemble this list I had to converge two distinct categories: movie characters who are inherently weak, and therefore suck, and movie characters who are carelessly inserted into what would otherwise be perfect films for no apparent reason.
With that said, let the count down begin:
10. Madolyn (Leo’s Shrink)
Movie: The Departed
Actress: Vera Farmiga
Martin Scorsese has always masterfully created films that run on an unorthodox concoction of brutal male machismo and doing what’s right. The moral compass in his movies is reliably always skewed, which makes for a great viewing pleasure.
Like anybody, the man does miss from time to time, specifically when he tries to insert female characters into these heavily masculine and violent underworlds. Now don’t get me wrong here: it worked in Casino, it worked in Taxi Driver and it somewhat shockingly worked in the Wolf of Wall Street.
However, in the Departed he tried this trick again with Leonardo DiCaprio’s shrink/Matt Damon’s girlfriend, Madolyn, and it backfired. In what otherwise is a perfect movie, you can’t help but asking why she’s even in the movie at all — other than being the token female distraction. It doesn’t help that Farmiga is no Sharon Stone, too.
9. Jar Jar Binks
Movie: Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
Actor: Ahmed Best (voice)
To be fair, this could be any character from either of the first two installments of the new Star Wars trilogy, but Jar Jar is just so memorable for the fact that he became this movie’s shining star despite not doing anything at all really.
While this poorly developed and generally weak character has lived on in infamy, you can’t disagree that we’d all be a lot better off if he never existed at all. And, for that matter, the same goes for if Phantom or Attack of the Clones never did either.
Actor: Orlando Bloom
Now, one could argue this isn’t the only time Orlando Bloom has played a useless/weak character in a movie (yea, he’s the guy who falls from the chopper in Black Hawk Down). However, what makes Paris perfect for this list — and not Will Turner, Legolas or Blackburn — is the fact he’s the weakest, brashest and stupidest of all Bloom’s characters combined. He does nothing that is likeable in the entire film and by the end of the movie you’re rooting for him to get his head cut off, not sling an arrow throw Brad Pitt’s ankle.
Of course, the movie has to be somewhat historically accurate so the ending stayed true to the story (or so we think). Nonetheless, one could argue that Paris (and the abysmal actor playing him) damn near ruined the movie — and not in a “he was such a monster” type of way.
Movie: The Dark Knight (and Batman Begins)
Actress: Maggie Gyllenhaal (Katie Holmes, in Begins)
OK, so Rachel does play an integral to the plot of The Dark Knight so she’s not “useless” in the strictest definition of the word but she does sidetrack us from what otherwise is pristine film.
No matter which way you cut it, you can’t really defend her because 20 years from now when we think about TDK, we’re going to think first about how perfect Heath Ledger was as the Joker and how close Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character came to ruining the whole damn thing.
It’s shocking that director Christopher Nolan could be so lackadaisical with what could have been one of more iconic female characters in recent movie history. Oh well, clearly it wasn’t meant to be with this character (see: Katie Holmes)
6. Titus Telesco
Movie: I Still Know What You Did Last Summer
Actor: Jack Black
A horrendous sequel amplified only by this horrific cameo performance. Fortunately for Black the role went un-credited so if you watch it in theaters in 1998 you wouldn’t know it was him. Unfortunately, he’s blossomed into a quasi star and is unmistakable now when the movie airs at 2 a.m. on AMC.
Honorable (?) mention: Black’s stupid cameo in The Jackal and his moronic leading role in King Kong.
Actually, scratch that, anything with Jack Black period.
5. Jimmy Sanderson
Movie: Any Given Sunday
Actor: Bill Bellamy
Probably the most likable character on this list, this stereotypical performance was nothing but a bunch of hot air and fresh jewelry. Sanderson was LL Cool J’s running partner on the devilish Miami Sharks football team so he did serve some sort of purpose, I guess.
But I don’t think you can’t argue that he needed to be included in a movie that was already staring the likes of Jamie Foxx, Lawrence Taylor, Terrell Owens and, yep, you guessed it, LL Cool J.
Within a few minutes, you get the point of what Oliver Stone is trying to do with this film. Bellamy’s presence just beats you over the head with it. He adds nothing.
Movie: X-Men (franchise)
Actress: Halle Berry
Has an Academy Award winning actor or actress ever been relegated to the sidelines as much as Halle Berry in the X-Men series? Seriously, what does she do? I can’t even seem to remember her power. More important, she ruins every scene she’s in which is never a good sign.
All I can recall is the acting was terrible (like worse than her less qualified peers) and her dialogue sounded like it was written by a 12 year old who scribbled it using a Crayon. Not only a waste of space, a total waste of talent — hence, the No. 4 ranking above the likes of Jar Jar Binks and Jack Black’s career.
3. Willie Scott
Movie: Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom
Actress: Kate Capshaw
To this day I am convinced that Temple of Doom would have been the best of the Indiana Jones trilogy without this character — talk about serving no purpose!
Capshaw’s Willie makes the rest of this look like an All-Star roster of Hollywood’s greatest characters. Not only is she terribly annoying, she lacks any sort of believability as the damsel-in-distress. Worse off, she has no chemistry with the lead actor (Harrison Ford) and never really makes sense to the films plot (why would a smart guy like Indy fall for such a wench?).
Luckily, for all of us, she’s sacrificed by the film’s villain and we’re spared, but by that time the damage is already done.
Note: I could have made several digs at the fourth Indiana Jones movie but refrained because I’d rather pretend that that piece of shit doesn’t exist.
Let’s move on before I get angry…
2. Corporal Upham
Movie: Saving Private Ryan
Actor: Jeremy Davies
Too late — I’m already seeing red at the thought of this cowardly character. I know he’s fictional, but am I wrong to say that this translator-turned-soldier is an abomination on our country? Instead of trying to save his fellow soldier’s life, he stands by idly as a Nazi wrestles a knife into his chest. Not cool, man.
Sure, Corporal Upham plays a somewhat substantial role in the film’s plot — and somehow survives its conclusion, but there’s nothing here other than complete and utter disappointment. A job not well done, sir.
Movie: Pulp Fiction
Actress: Maria de Medeiros
The shining example of useless movie characters! Bruce Willis’ girlfriend in Pulp Fiction never needed to exist at all but for reasons I’ll never understand Quentin Tarantino felt otherwise. Every time I watch the film (one of my all time favorites), I fast-forward the dialogue between the two lovers in the motel room. It literally makes me sick.
How could a movie that was such a crowning achievement also double as the home for the most worthless character in the history of storytelling? The question boggles my mind to this day.