The highs and lows of Jennifer Lopez’s movie career

Sam Ashurst
Jennifer Lopez arrives for the gala presentation of Hustlers at the Toronto International Film Festival 2019. (REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)

Jennifer Lopez is in UK cinemas this week with Hustlers, a critically acclaimed crime drama that tells the true story of a gang of strippers who decide to embezzle money from stock traders and CEOs who visit their club.

It’s being tipped for Oscar glory, which places it firmly in the ‘highs’ section of Lopez’s career.

Lopez has a rollercoaster CV, with some of the greatest movies ever made, and also some of the very worst. We’ve compiled the hits and misses from a career that’s never been boring.

But it’s probably quite important to bear in mind that Lopez isn’t just an actor, she’s a hugely successful singer (with estimated global sales of 80 million records) and entrepreneur (including clothing lines, fragrances, and a production company), so maybe the lows can be forgiven for being part of a fairly busy schedule. Let’s see, shall we?

High - U-Turn (1997)

Jennifer Lopez and Sean Penn in U-Turn (credit: TriStar Pictures)

This sun-bleached noir is surreal, gripping, and sexy, with Lopez playing the femme fatale to Sean Penn’s gangster drifter after she hires him to kill her father / husband (we told you it was surreal), before the dad / groom hires him to do the same to her.

Oliver Stone’s stylish direction helps bring out the best in Lopez, who’s a magnetic presence throughout.

Low - Gigli (2003)

Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck in Gigli (credit: Sony Pictures)

Not just one of Lopez’s worst films, Gigli is considered one of the worst films ever made, with a series of truly bizarre characters / narrative choices combining to create a movie that’s rated at 6% on Rotten Tomatoes.

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Of course, it’s not all Lopez’s fault, but her relationship with Ben Affleck (her co-star in the film) gave the film extra attention / media hype, which probably didn’t really help. Watch it, and you’ll never look at a turkey the same way again.

High - Out Of Sight (1998)

Jennifer Lopez in Out Of Sight (credit: Universal Pictures)

If there’s one thing that’s clear from Lopez’s highs, it’s that she should try to stick with working with cool independent directors who make crime thrillers; she followed up U-Turn with Steven Soderbergh’s stunning Out Of Sight, which is basically one of the coolest films ever made.

Lopez’s chemistry with co-star George Clooney is part of what makes the film so special, but her character, Karen Sisco, is so compelling she should have had a spin-off series of her own.

Low - Jersey Girl (2004)

Raquel Castro, Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck (credit: Miramax Films)

We really can’t blame this one on Lopez; her role may drive the plot, but she’s little more than a cameo. That’s because she plays the wife of Ben Affleck’s lead, who receives his call to action when she dies in childbirth at the start of the film.

Again, the (very public) relationship added pressure to the film, with Jersey Girl becoming yet another punchline for talk show hosts in the US, and the film was one of the final nails in the Bennifer coffin.

High - The Cell (2000)

Jennifer Lopez in The Cell (credit: New Line Cinema)

Despite mixed reviews, Tarsem’s The Cell is a jaw-dropping visual experience, mixing the plot of David Fincher’s Se7en with the style of European arthouse cinema.

Lopez plays psychotherapist Catherine Deane, who’s able to go into her patients’ dreams. When the FBI hires her to go into the brain of a serial killer in a coma, she finds herself having to survive his damaged mind.

Lopez’s performance stands-out amongst some truly astounding production design and costume, and impressive feat.

Low - El Cantante (2007)

Jennifer Lopez in El Cantante (credit: Picturehouse)

The 2000s truly were a dark time for Lopez. Perhaps not learning her lesson from the Bennifer situation, she chose to appear alongside new beau Marc Anthony, in this true life story of Hector Lavoe, the man who started the salsa movement in 1975, bringing the dance style to the United States. It was not her finest hour.

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As The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw’s one star review put it at the time: “There is something entirely dead about Lopez's performance.”

“No matter how superficially lively she makes it, she is always simply mouthing the lines. Never mind Jenny from the block. Jenny is the block. Of wood.”


High - Antz (1998)

Jennifer Lopez and Woody Allen in Antz (credit: DreamWorks Pictures)

A key supporting player in the brilliant Antz, Lopez continued her excellent ‘90s run with a brilliant example of vocal characterisation, putting in a charming performance as Azteca, a self-assured worker ant.

Overshadowed by Pixar’s A Bug’s Life on release, Antz is worth a re-visit (if you can ignore the fact the lead is played by Woody Allen).

Low - The Boy Next Door (2015)

Jennifer Lopez in The Boy Next Door (credit: Universal Pictures)

Lopez plays a high school teacher who, while going through a divorce, has a one-night stand with a teen neighbour, who turns into her stalker when she rejects him.

It’s a fairly generic set-up for a fun erotic-thriller, but the po-faced tone drains all of the entertainment out of the premise, making it a fairly arduous watch. Lopez tries her best, but is heavily weighed down by the preposterous plot.

Thank goodness for Hustlers, which is in UK cinemas now.