Jennifer Lopez's Best And Worst Movies

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Jennifer Lopez's Best And Worst Movies
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Though she doesn’t always get the respect she deserves when it comes to her acting, Jennifer Lopez has made some truly great movies. She’s also made some truly awful clunkers, which is at least partially an explanation for that lack of respect. Though she started off making interesting choices, there was a period when Lopez was lost in a sea of formulaic romantic comedies and forgettable action flicks. In recent years, she seems to have struck a balance between commercial projects that do little to stretch her acting chops, and more evolved fare.

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Lopez’s first movie role was in “My Little Girl,” per her IMDb. She then transitioned to television, first as a “Fly Girl” on “In Living Color” and then on the show “Second Chances” and its short-lived spin-off, “Hotel Malibu.” She jumped back into movies with “My Family/Mi Familia” in 1995 and has not really stopped since — not even after launching a hugely successful music career with her 1999 album “On the 6.” 

Though her films are not always good, it is hard to debate the fact that Lopez is a natural-born movie star, with stunning looks, oodles of charisma, and an inherently likable quality. Here are some of the best and worst feature films in her oeuvre.

Best: Out of Sight

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Jennifer Lopez's Best And Worst Movies
Universal Pictures

The movie may not be one of her biggest box-office dynamos, but “Out of Sight” is some of Lopez’s finest work, and definitely her best movie to date — it’s her top-rated film on Rotten Tomatoes, with a critic score in the 90s. The 1998 film is a dark crime comedy directed by Steven Soderbergh, and based upon a 1996 novel written by legendary crime scribe Elmore Leonard. The film centers on bank robber Jack Foley (George Clooney), who is trapped in a trunk with U.S. Marshall Karen Sisco (Lopez) when he makes his escape from prison. Afterward, things turn into a game of cat-and-mouse, in which Sisco chases after Foley, who quickly gets up to his old tricks. The plot is thickened by the obvious romantic tension between the two main characters, which comes to a head just before a big heist.

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“Out of Sight” was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Editing at the Oscars, and received many critics’ nominations and awards, including a few for Best Picture. And though Lopez was not nominated for anything other than an MTV Movie Award, she really rose to the occasion. “The real revelation here is the versatile and gifted Lopez, who manages to be sexy, bright and tough-talking all at the same time,” wrote Variety in their review. “Her poise and boundless energy make her a natural as a major Hollywood action heroine.”

Worst: Gigli

Jennifer Lopez's Best And Worst Movies
Sony Pictures Releasing

We are all here for Bennifer 2.0,  but please, Lord, do not let them make any movies together. Lopez appeared in two movies alongside Ben Affleck the last time they dated, and both were clunkers. But since “Jersey Girl” was both slightly better and also featured Lopez in a rather minor capacity, we wanted to set our sights on the bigger offender, “Gigli.” In fact, with a critic score below 10%, “Gigli” is Lopez’s worst-reviewed film of all time according to Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences did not love it either, if we are judging by the 13% audience score, or the embarrassing $7.2 million worldwide grosses (per Box Office Mojo). With a reported $54 million budget, “Gigli” often makes lists of the biggest box office flops of all time.

Affleck plays mobster Louis Gigli in the film, and he is paired with Lopez’s Ricki when a higher-up does not trust him to complete a kidnapping. Crime elements — which include a plot about cutting off a thumb — aside, the ickiest part of the movie is the fact that lesbian Ricki “changes” her sexual orientation once Gigli confesses his love to her. The plot is bad to boot, and Lopez and Affleck have very little onscreen chemistry, considering their offscreen love. In his Rolling Stone review, legendary critic Peter Travers said “the stars display zip chemistry,” while the San Francisco Chronicle’s Mick LaSalle called them the “dullest onscreen duo of the year.”

Best: Hustlers

Jennifer Lopez's Best And Worst Movies

There was widespread speculation that Lopez would receive an Oscar nomination for her work in the 2019 crime dramedy “Hustlers.” It didn’t happen, but she did earn nominations at the Golden Globe Awards, Independent Spirit Awards, and Screen Actors Guild Awards, as well as from many critics’ groups and associations. Perhaps more importantly, Lopez earned some much-warranted respect from naysayers who had long ago dismissed her as an actor incapable of succeeding in more “serious” roles. “As an actor and overall performer, Jennifer Lopez has always been charming. In Hustlers, she’s also great — as if two translucent hues spontaneously overlapped to make a new color,” wrote critic Stephanie Zacharek in Time.

Written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, the film itself — just not Lopez — is a gem. Constance Wu plays Destiny, a young stripper that seasoned vet Ramona Vega (Lopez) takes under her wing. The two lose touch after Destiny leaves the club and, when she returns after a few years away from the sex-work industry, the lucrative opportunities that existed have all but vanished due to the 2007-2008 financial crisis. This is when Destiny becomes involved with Ramona’s “hustle” — she and a few other strippers now take advantage of wealthy clients by flirting with them, drugging their drinks, and then bringing them to their club to rack up charges on their credit cards. The film begins and ends with Destiny talking to a reporter who is covering the story — likely an allusion to the New York Times story on which the film is based.

Worst: The Boy Next Door

Jennifer Lopez's Best And Worst Movies
Universal Pictures

Lopez’s bread and butter is the romantic comedy, and, even when her rom-coms are mediocre, she is generally still able to make them moderately enjoyable (see: “Maid in Manhattan,” “The Wedding Planner,” “Monster-in-Law”). But outside of that genre, Lopez is rarely able to save a bad movie — and “The Boy Next Door” is a good example. This erotic thriller is quite simply a terrible movie, and we have to question why Lopez wanted to do it in the first place. “There are many grades of terrible in Hollywood, and this is pretty nearly the worst,” wrote critic Andrew O’Hehir in Salon. Then again, the film pulled in more than $52 million at the box office (per Box Office Mojo), so we suppose things could have been worse.

“The Boy Next Door” stars Lopez as Claire Peterson, a high school teacher who has recently separated from a cheating husband, Garrett (John Corbett). When a hunky 19-year-old named Noah Sandborn (Ryan Guzman) moves in next door, he immediately sets his sights on Claire, while at the same time befriending Claire’s teenage son Kevin (Ian Nelson). Noah becomes a student at Claire’s school, but that does not stop the two from sleeping together. Claire is regretful in the aftermath of their night of passion; Noah (given the genre) reacts violently. He then spirals into a deep obsession that escalates until it reaches murderous heights.

Best: Selena

Jennifer Lopez's Best And Worst Movies
Warner Bros.

“Selena” marked the first time Lopez really shone in a movie, and is actually an example of her elevating the material. The 1997 film starred Lopez as Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez, who was tragically shot and killed by Yolanda Saldivar, her former fan club president and manager of her boutiques. Lopez earned her first Golden Globe Award nomination for the role, and nearly 25 years later, it remains one of the highlights of her resume. “What makes this movie work is Jennifer Lopez’s electric performance as Selena, capturing the charismatic aspects of Selena’s stage persona and the essence of her maturity as a growing woman,” wrote Duane Byrge in the Hollywood Reporter.

The film covers multiple time periods in the life of Selena and her family, beginning with a sold-out 1995 concert at the Houston Astrodome, and then recounting Selena’s father Abraham’s (Edward James Olmos) own failed music career in the ’60s. The movie then transitions to the main section, 20 years later, when Abraham pushes his three children — Selena, A.B. (Jacob Vargas), and Suzette (Jackie Guerra) — into starting a band, named Selena y Los Dinos. The movie traces their rise to fame, Selena’s romance with guitarist Chris Pérez (Jon Seda), and her transition to English music. Selena’s developing success included a line of boutiques, which Saldivar (Lupe Ontiveros) managed until she was caught stealing money from the fan club. Selena’s death is covered in the film, but the actual murder is not depicted.

Worst: Money Train

Jennifer Lopez's Best And Worst Movies
Sony Pictures

We have to cut Lopez some slack when it comes to “Money Train.” It was one of her first films, and not so much a “Jennifer Lopez movie” as it was a “movie that Jennifer Lopez probably took on so that she could eat.” But even through the lens of best intentions, “Money Train” is still a dud. The film has low scores with both reviewers and audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, which may actually be generous. “Lopez, seen previously in ‘My Family’ and the short-lived TV series ‘Second Chances,’ is quite appealing, but has to overcome an ill-defined role that features too little motivation and too much makeup,” wrote Variety in their review.

The 1995 action-comedy stars Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson as two foster brothers, transit cops John and Charlie Robinson. They work on the New York City subway lines, where one of the trains — the titular Money Train –- is designated to transport the transit authority’s daily revenue. One of the brothers has gambling debt, and attempts to rob the train, which they have been tasked to guard alongside a decoy train overseen by transit officer, Grace Santiago (Lopez). There is also a serial killer named “The Torch” (Chris Cooper) that, for some reason. operates down in the subway, and a romantic plot wherein Grace hooks up with both brothers. “Audiences enthusiastic about a Wesley Snipes-Woody Harrelson re-teaming had better lower their expectations, as this latest vehicle bounces along with a lame script and inconsistent pace,” wrote Variety.

Best: My Family

Jennifer Lopez's Best And Worst Movies
New Line Cinema

In 1995, Lopez appeared in the drama “My Family,” also known as “My Family/Mi Familia.” It was only her second feature film (after 1986’s “My Little Girl”), and her first as an adult. “My Family” is positively rated by both critics and audiences on Rotten Tomatoes, and its depiction of Mexican-American familial life was unique for the time period. The movie follows three generations of a Latino family living in East Los Angeles, as narrated by oldest son Paco Sánchez (Edward James Olmos). “This is the great American story, told again and again, of how our families came to this land and tried to make it better for their children,” wrote Roger Ebert in his Chicago Sun-Times Review.

It all starts when Paco’s father José’ (Jacob Vargas, and later Eduardo Lopez Rojas) decides to move to Los Angeles, after which he starts a corn farm with a distant relative, and meets undocumented immigrant María (Lopez). They have two daughters before María is deported; when she returns a couple of years later, it is with a new baby, Cucho, in tow. The film then skips ahead 20 years to the late 1950s, when the family has added multiple other children, including Jimmy (Jimmy Smits/Jonathan Hernandez). Finally, the film skips ahead again to the 1970s and 1980s to show the third generation of the family. Lopez appears solely in the early section, as Jenny Gago plays the older versions of Maria.

Worst: Angel Eyes

Jennifer Lopez's Best And Worst Movies
Warner Bros.

Romantic drama “Angel Eyes” might not be Lopez’s all-time worst, but it is not a good movie. It has a slightly higher audience score than critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, but both scores are rather poor. It also reportedly cost $38 million to make, but only grossed $29.7 million worldwide (per Box Office Mojo). Lopez earned a Golden Raspberry Award nomination for Worst Actress (shared with “The Wedding Planner”), and the film probably helped contribute to her 2010 nomination for Worst Actress of the Decade.

Lopez plays yet another cop in “Angel Eyes,” this one named Sharon Pogue. Sharon becomes fixated on a mysterious man, Steven “Catch” Lambert (Jim Caviezel), who wanders the Chicago streets doing good deeds in a depressed trance. After Catch saves her life, they have a drink and begin a romantic entanglement. Sharon begins to notice some odd things about the man — he does not share about himself; his apartment is nearly empty, and he recoils when they kiss. It turns out that he is dealing with a deep trauma — one to which she has a connection. They eventually fall in love and get together, but the whole thing is a giant slog. “Lopez fails to bring her usual vitality to a moribund melodrama which starts intriguingly before becoming utterly banal,” wrote the BBC in their review.

Best: U-Turn

Jennifer Lopez's Best And Worst Movies
Sony Pictures Releasing

Lopez had not yet locked herself in as a leading lady in 1997, but this may have actually been a good thing, as some of her best work is in these early films where she plays a supporting role in a larger ensemble. “U-Turn” is one such instance, a neo-noir in which Lopez shines under the direction of Oliver Stone. The crime thriller received mixed reviews, but it is head and shoulders above many other Lopez that followed in the decades after its release. With a critic score in the 60s on Rotten Tomatoes, it is also one of Lopez’s best-reviewed films, tying for fifth place amongst all of her live-action pictures.

“U-Turn” is a weird movie, in which Sean Penn plays a drifter named Bobby Cooper, whose car breaks down in small-town Arizona. Bobby gets caught up in a messy scene when married couple Jake (Nick Nolte) and Grace McKenna (Lopez) both ask him to kill the other. Bobby wavers, but he and Grace end up killing Jake — though that is far from the last murder in this warped movie. Though some critics loathed “U-Turn” (Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert ranked it among the 10 worst films of 1997), others responded quite favorably. “Exceedingly raw, imaginative, daring and energized, this rare straight genre exercise by Oliver Stone is loaded with twisted motives, brazen amorality, double dealing, incestuous relationships, subversive intent and hilariously surreal asides,” wrote Variety’s Todd McCarthy.

Worst: Anaconda

Jennifer Lopez's Best And Worst Movies
Sony Pictures Releasing

It is a shame that Lopez’s stellar 1997 movies “Selena” and “U-Turn” were far less commercially successful than her third film that year, “Anaconda,” which was absolutely terrible. But no one ever said that the moviegoing public had good taste, and we do understand the appeal of giant killer snakes. Still, while “Anaconda” and its direct-to-video sequels were horrid, we have high hopes for the reboot — which is being written by “Snow White and the Huntsman” scribe Evan Daugherty, per The Hollywood Reporter.

The original “Anaconda” focused on a film crew making their way through the Amazon rainforest to capture footage for a documentary about an ancient Amazonian tribe, the Shirishamas. The crew of seven, nominally led by director Terri Flores (Lopez), happens upon a stranded snake hunter named Paul Serone (Jon Voight), whom they allow to join them with the promise that he can help them track down the long-lost tribe. Serone takes over the boat, and forces everyone on board to help him track down a giant green anaconda. Half the crew dies in the process, and Serone is eventually swallowed whole — and the regurgitated — by the anaconda.

Cameraman Danny Rich (Ice Cube) manages to kill the snake with an ax and, even though this is a horror film, the three surviving crew members somehow stumble upon the tribe they were pursuing (and the tribe helps them). As Variety’s Joe Leydon wrote, the movie is “a silly and plodding ‘Jaws’ rip-off about a 40-foot man-eating snake on the prowl in the Brazilian rain forest.”

Best: Blood and Wine

Jennifer Lopez's Best And Worst Movies
Fox Searchlight Pictures

“Blood & Wine” might only have a critic score in the 60s on Rotten Tomatoes, but when it comes to Lopez’s track record, that is actually relatively good. A box-office dud, the 1996 movie centered on a heist gone awry when personal relationships interfere. Jack Nicholson plays Alex Gates, a wine merchant with a strained relationship with his wife, Suzanne (Judy Davis), and stepson Jason (Stephen Dorff). Lopez plays Alex’s mistress, Gabriela, who works as a nanny for a wealthy Miami family. Alongside his partner Victor (Michael Caine), Alex plans a scheme to steal a diamond necklace from the family’s home, which he does successfully.

But then things get complicated. Suzanne attacks Alex when she thinks he is cheating yet again, and is later killed in a car accident after a chase, while Jason attempts to win over Gabriella without the knowledge that she is sleeping with his stepdad. Though Lopez’s character is subjected to some old-school media stereotypes regarding Latinas –- positioned as both the Latina domestic as well as the fiery sexpot or “harlot” stereotype –- she is good in the role. The film itself is an enjoyable neo-noir, and was worthy of more of an audience. “‘Blood & Wine’ is a richly textured crime picture based on the personalities of men who make their living desperately,” wrote Roger Ebert in his review. “It’s a morality play, really, but dripping with humid sex and violence.”

Worst: Enough

Jennifer Lopez's Best And Worst Movies
Sony Pictures Releasing

Though her biggest hits were yet to come, Lopez was already very much a star by the time “Enough” came out in 2002. She had box-office successes like “The Wedding Planner” and “The Cell” under her belt, as well as a thriving music career, and a fascinatingly public romantic life. But as we know, star power alone cannot save a movie, especially one as bad as “Enough.” And as much as we love to see Lopez in a good thriller, this is not a good thriller. “It’s a loathsome movie, it really is and it makes absolutely no sense,” said acclaimed critic Richard Roeper.

Lopez plays affluent Slim Hiller, a mom whose husband is cheating on her and who becomes violent when she threatens to leave (the husband Mitch is played by Billy Campbell). When the police do nothing to help and the abuse continues, Slim runs off with her daughter Gracie (Tessa Allen). Lopez reaches out for whatever help she can get — from former boyfriend Joe (Dan Futterman), from estranged father Jupiter (Fred Ward), from a convent — and is continuously thwarted by the efforts of her ex. Jupiter later sends Slim enough money to start over under a new identity, which she does, before sending Gracie away, going into hiding, and training in krav maga with the hopes of killing her abuser. “Sure, Lopez kicks major ass but there’s something reprehensible about a film less concerned with the plight of abused women than it is with beating them up for cheap thrills,” noted Ed Gonzalez in Slant.

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