Oscar year: 2007
His Norbit: Norbit. Murphy is the origin of this pop-culture euphemism for a lightweight popcorn flick that is released in the throes of awards season — when the timing can be awkward at best and Oscar poison at worst.
How it went down: Murphy was the Best Supporting Actor front-runner for Dreamgirls. He won the Golden Globe and the SAG award, but then came ads for the how-low-can-you-go-brow Norbit.
Did it hurt him? Yes. Murphy lost the Oscar to Little Miss Sunshine‘s Alan Arkin.
Oscar year: 1989
His Norbit: Punchline
How it went down: Even before the shorthand was coined, actors were turning out ”Norbits.” And who better to look back to than Oscar golden boy Hanks, who earned his first nomination and catapulted to stardom with 1988’s Big. Columbia Pictures hoped to capitalize on Big‘s box office by releasing another Hanks comedy, Punchline, four months later — just as awards season was beginning to heat up. Who could have predicted a movie about stand-up comics would be so unfunny?
Did it hurt him? Nope. Hanks went on to win back-to-back Academy Awards (for 1993’s Philadelphia and 1994’s Forrest Gump). In 1989, though, he was up against Dustin Hoffman, whose performance in Rain Man was pure Oscar bait.
Oscar years: 1996 and 2010
Her Norbits: Before and After and It’s Complicated
How it went down: Meryl Streep may be better at acting than you are at being yourself, but even the reigning Oscar queen isn’t immune to movie missteps. And because La Streep doesn’t do anything in half-measures, she has a whopping two ”Norbits” to date. The first came when she earned a Best Actress nod for The Bridges of Madison County in 1996 only to have the forgettable drama Before and After hit theaters a month before the ceremony. Then, in 2009, she dinged her nomination for Julie & Julia with mixed (okay, mostly negative) reviews for Nancy Meyers’ infidelity rom-com It’s Complicated.
Did they hurt her? Unlikely. The woman’s got 17 nominations to date. With these two, the Academy probably just wanted to level the playing field.
Oscar year: 2004
His Norbit: Along Came Polly
How it went down: Baldwin killed it as a Shangri-La casino boss in 2003’s The Cooler, receiving rave reviews from critics everywhere and ultimately scoring a Best Supporting Actor nod — his first and (thus far) only Oscar nomination. But the accolade was bittersweet thanks to Baldwin’s role in January 2004’s abysmal Along Came Polly, a film that would later earn its own recognition in 2005 as a Razzie nominee.
Did it hurt him? Probably not. It was unlikely that Baldwin would trump Mystic River‘s Tim Robbins anyways. Just remember to stay away from Ben Stiller comedies in the future, m’kay Alec?
Oscar year: 2009
Her Norbit: All About Steve
How it went down: Bullock’s work in The Blind Side earned her her first Oscar nod. But two months before that movie came out, there was this goofy misfire about a crossword puzzle writer who travels halfway across the country hunting down a guy with whom she only had one date (Bradley Cooper).
Did it hurt her? Hardly. Bullock took home Best Actress — and that same weekend accepted her Worst Actress Razzie for Steve in person.
Oscar year: 2009
Her Norbit: Bride Wars
How it went down: Two weeks before earning a Best Actress nod for Rachel Getting Married, Hathaway starred in this hateful comedy about dueling bridezillas that set feminism back 60 years.
Did it hurt her? No. Hathaway didn’t win, but she was never going to beat Kate Winslet that year anyway.
Oscar year: 2010
His Norbit: St. Trinian’s II: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold
How it went down: At the 2010 Oscars, Colin Firth earned his first nomination for his role in Tom Ford’s A Single Man. In December 2009, though, he appeared in the tiny overseas release St. Trinian’s II: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold, part of a long-running U.K. slapstick adventure franchise. Its Rotten Tomatoes rating? 10 percent. Ouch.
Did it hurt him? No. St. Trinian’s mercifully never reached U.S. audiences. That year, Jeff Bridges — who had five nominations and no wins — was long overdue for an Oscar. In 2011, Firth received his make-good, picking up the trophy for The King’s Speech.
Oscar year: 2011
Her Norbit: No Strings Attached
How it went down: Portman was just about to revel in the glory of a Best Actress nomination (for Black Swan) when along came this poorly reviewed rom-com about friends with benefits.
Did it hurt her? Nope. She won. (And Strings grossed $71 million to boot.)
Oscar year: 2011
Her Norbit: Just Go With It
How it went down: Kidman followed up her third Best Actress nod (this time for Rabbit Hole) with a turn in Adam Sandler’s arrested-development comedy.
Did it hurt her? No. Kidman’s nomination was the reward. That race was between Portman and Annette Bening.