The dreaded 'turkey' is something that shoots an arrow of fear through the soul of even the most sturdy leading man or woman. But sometimes, just sometimes, a project can be so unutterably turgid, so absolutely stinking that it can smash a hard-earned reputation to smithereens, never to recover. And sometimes, they can reduce a burgeoning career to rubble...
'Batman & Robin' - Chris O'Donnell
Remember Chris O'Donnell? Exactly. For a while, he could have been a contender until that fateful day he got a call from director Joel Schumacher to join the A-list cast of 'Batman & Robin'. It must have sounded like such a good move. Schwarzenegger, Thurman and Clooney (even with his infamous batsuit with nipples) were famous enough to claw themselves from the wreckage. But poor Chris couldn't shake off the stink, the remainder of his career becoming inextricably linked to the small screen rather than the big one.
'Swept Away' - Madonna
Love can do funny things to your judgement. You can (in this case literally) get a bit swept away by it all, thinking that anything is possible. So following the multi Oscar-winning feature musical 'Evita' - after which Madonna might have thought she could make a decent fist of this acting lark after all - came 'Swept Away', made with her new director husband Guy Ritchie. So terribly received, it hammered a final nail in the coffin of Madonna's acting career. Never to be seen on the big screen again, she decided that any future dalliances in the movie business would be made behind the camera.
'Gigli' — Martin Brest
Of all the casualties from 2003's 'Gigli' (it lost nearly $67 million), it was its director Martin Brest who appeared to suffer the most. Sure, Ben Affleck's burgeoning leading man status took a near terminal battering, and Jennifer Lopez, after able performances in films like Steven Soderberg's 'Out Of Sight', was barely considered for major roles for many years. But Brest, who had impressive form having directed 'Beverley Hills Cop', 'Scent Of A Woman', 'Meet Joe Black' and the classic 'Midnight Run' with De Niro, hasn't worked again after 'Gigli', one of the most critically derided films of all time.
'The Conqueror' — Howard Hughes
Millionaire eccentric Howard Hughes threw a staggering amount of money at producing films through the 1930s, '40s and '50s, but 'The Conqueror' would prove catastrophic. A large scale epic - as Hughes was generally wont to make - it starred a woefully miscast John Wayne as Genghis Khan and Susan Hayward as a Tartar princess. Tragedy surrounded it too. Filmed downwind from a nuclear testing site in Utah, it's thought the shoot contributed to the deaths of Wayne, Hayward and director Dick Powell, all of whom later died of cancer. Hughes hated the finished film so much, he spent $12 million buying up every single copy. It was the last he produced.
'Basic Instinct 2' - Sharon Stone
Those who live by the sword, die by the sword. And so the sequel to the film that, ahem, exposed Sharon Stone to the world would prove ultimately to be her undoing. Shimmering jewels on her CV like her brilliantly addled performance in 'Casino' and a great turn in Jim Jarmusch's 'Broken Flowers' were few and far between through the '90s and Noughties, but the inexorable decline was signalled with the risible 'Basic Instinct 2', a film which had the audacity to pollute otherwise brilliant actors like David Thewlis and David Morrissey with its putrid stench. Oddly, Stan Collymore emerged seemingly unscathed from his acting debut.
'Battlefield Earth' - John Travolta
Every ounce of invaluable, career-resurrecting kudos John Travolta clawed back when his junkie hitman Vincent Vega twisted with Mia Wallace at Jackrabbit Slims in 'Pulp Fiction' was promptly fired into space on the release of 'Battlefield Earth'. An ill-conceived adaptation of an L. Ron Hubbard novel, the founder of the Church of Scientology of which Travolta is a member, it dissolved his credibility instantly in a hail of appalling reviews. To retire immediately after 'Pulp Fiction' would have been honourable. What he continued to do looked simply ungrateful.
'The Postman' — Kevin Costner
A string of box office smashes littered Kevin Costner's CV through the '90s. In fact, for a time, he was arguably the world's most famous leading man. This changed following a career-stunning one-two of turkeys, the first being the legendary box office bomb that was 'Waterworld', and the second being 'The Postman', the tale of a post-apocalyptic postal worker. If you listen carefully, you can still hear it being panned. Sure, Costner continued to work, but the blockbusters swiftly dried up.
Which other stars ended their career with a spectacularly awful film?