The romcom queen is back this week with Second Act, in which she plays a single mum whose friends fiddle with her CV so she can land a promotion. Our critic calls it ‘truly terrible’ – but how does it compare to The Back-Up Plan?
Stuart Heritage– The Guardian
- Gigli (2003)
Could it have been anything else? Gigli wasn’t just a lead balloon; it was the Hindenburg. It’s widely considered to be one of the worst films ever made. It made a 10th of its budget back. It derailed the careers of Lopez and Ben Affleck (who were engaged but split up shortly after it was made) and the director, Martin Brest, who never directed again. To quote one of the great poets, “gobble gobble”.
- Jersey Girl (2004)
How did Lopez bounce back from this historic flop? By making the second-worst film of her career, also with Affleck. A sludgy Kevin Smith melodrama, Lopez’s role was pruned for fear it would remind people of Gigli, which it did anyway. The best thing about it is that Lopez dies quite quickly.
- Jack (1996)
One of those films where every detail makes you question whether or not it even existed. It stars Robin Williams as a schoolboy who looks like a middle-aged man. The poster features the title written in crayon. Bill Cosby is in it. Francis Ford Coppola directed it, for crying out loud. Lopez isn’t bad in Jack – she has a relatively small, sweet part – but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that she’s in it.
- Bordertown (2007)
Booed at its Berlin premiere, Bordertown is a witless would-be thriller that obliterates every one of its good intentions with sheer turbo-powered boneheadedness. Lopez plays a hardbitten news reporter on investigating a spate of murders on the US-Mexico border in a film that contains a genuinely confusing musical number by the Colombian pop star Juanes for literally no reason at all.
- The Back-Up Plan (2010)
By far the worst J-Lo romcom of all time, The Back-Up Plan sees Lopez playing a woman who falls in love with an anonymous boy actor three seconds after being artificially inseminated with twins. Will they stay together? Will he raise her kids? Who decided this film was a good idea? Fun fact: Lopez vomits into a bin at the end.
- An Unfinished Life (2005)
AKA what happens when Lopez takes a dumb swing at Oscar bait. There’s grief, there’s domestic abuse, there’s a car crash, there’s endless hokey small-town Americana, there’s a bear attack. Robert Redford is in this; if it wasn’t for Lions for Lambs, this would be his worst film.
- El Cantante (2006)
Gigli and Jersey Girl taught Lopez important lessons about the dangers of working with your romantic partner. But she clearly never listened, because in 2006 she made this entirely generic vanity project of a music biopic with her new husband, Marc Anthony. It is just as miserable as you would expect.
- Lila & Eve (2015)
Last year, Viola Davis railed against her unfair treatment as a black woman in Hollywood. Looking at Lila & Eve – a direct-to-VOD vigilante crime drama co-starring Lopez from 2015, in which she recites the Alcoholics Anonymous serenity prayer to avenge her son’s death – it’s hard to disagree.
- Angel Eyes (2001)
A mystical jazz musician-turned-hobo walks the streets of Chicago performing kind acts for strangers. One of these kind acts, inexplicably, involves stopping the world’s most beautiful cop from being shot in the head with a machine gun. Then they fall in love. I promise I am not making any of this up.
- Shall We Dance? (2004)
Richard Gere plays Richard Gere from Pretty Woman, Jennifer Lopez plays Jennifer Lopez from 70% of all Jennifer Lopez films and Susan Sarandon slowly realises that she made a terrible mistake by agreeing to appear in such a soggy wad of a film.
- The Boy Next Door (2015)
In which Lopez’s teenage neighbour gives her a suspiciously new-looking first-edition copy of the Iliad, sleeps with her, then goes bananas and ultimately gets stabbed in the eye with an EpiPen. Not anywhere as fun as I’ve made it sound.
- Second Act (2018)
A film that only exists by sheer dint of J-Lo’s effort. It borrows the hacky romcom premise of her other films (low-class woman is mistaken for high-class woman), gives itself a title that’s clearly meant to be seen as a future delineation point in Lopez’s filmography, then spaffs itself raw trying and failing to justify its own existence. You will watch this on a plane and then instantly forget about it.
- Parker (2013)
On paper, this should have been Lopez’s nadir – playing a supporting role in a Jason Statham film, for God’s sake – and yet it isn’t completely awful. It’s a little anonymous, and entirely forgettable, but she’s made much worse.
- Anaconda (1997)
True, sequels such as Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid, Anaconda 3: Offspring, Anacondas: Trail of Blood and Lake Placid vs Anaconda might have taken the shine off the original a little. However, this is still fun and stupid, especially if you like watching Owen Wilson get swallowed by a snake.
- Enough (2002)
A film that Lopez could only have made at the height of her fame. It’s a sort of Karate Kid remake, but about a woman who learns krav maga in order to kill her abusive husband. It’s a drama (sort of), it’s issue-led (sort of) and it’s actually quite good (sort of).
- U Turn (1997)
A dumb – extraordinarily dumb – mid-90s Tarantino-ish thriller from Oliver Stone that wants to be Chinatown but ends up hitting Doc Hollywood. Lopez is literally the only good thing about this.
- Maid in Manhattan (2002)
One of J-Lo’s best-known roles, playing a hotel chambermaid who gets mistaken for a millionaire socialite by a clot. It’s Pretty Woman without any sex work, and only really let down by Ralph Fiennes, who bungles his potential mainstream breakout by generally coming off like a witness protection serial killer.
- Monster-in-Law (2005)
Maligned upon release, this romcom succeeds purely for one reason: Jane Fonda. Everyone else in this film plays it straight from the J-Lo romcom rulebook, but Fonda is coming from an entirely different universe. She hadn’t made a film for 15 years before Monster-in-Law, and attacks her role like an exploding volcano. Seriously, watch it just for her.
- The Cell (2000)
Has Lopez ever made a more visually arresting film than this? No. The Cell is a work of art. Every frame of Tarsem Singh’s debut has clearly been agonised over. But has anyone who has ever watched The Cell figured out what it’s about? Again, probably no.
- The Wedding Planner (2001)
The definitive J-Lo romcom in a field packed with them. In fact, probably the platonic ideal of what a romcom should be. Two beautiful leads (the other is Matthew McConaughey). A love story packed with obstacles. A demented belief in the undying sanctity of marriage. Judy Greer in a supporting role that she’s clearly overqualified for. This film has everything, and in the middle of it is Lopez.
- Selena (1997)
The film that put Lopez on the map, and the lighter flipside to El Cantante. It’s another musical biopic, but one that plays to all of Lopez’s early strengths. She’s radiant, restless and determined here. She’s so good, in fact, that Selena gives all of her subsequent films a slightly bitter aftertaste. What could she have achieved, you wonder, if she had stayed this loose and free instead of hardening into J-Lo?
- Out of Sight (1998)
Lopez’s best film by a country mile. She, George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh have never been better than in this stylish, sexy, unquestionably cool Elmore Leonard adaptation. The whole thing is like taking off your shoes and wriggling your toes in a thick carpet, and it’s propelled by the crackling chemistry between the two leads. It did badly at the box office and Lopez never went near anything like this again. Which is an extraordinary shame.