Very few actors can disappear into a role completely like Gary Oldman. The astonishing British thespian brings something different to every part he plays, and unlike many big names – he’s unafraid to totally mask his appearance to build a character.
Add in the fact that he’s a marvel with accents and body language, and you have one of the most intriguing (and in my opinion, underrated) screen presences of our generation. Because of his versatility, he’s taken on a gigantic range of parts in movies of every genre. Even when the film he’s in isn’t exactly high quality, Gary Oldman consistently gives it his all, and is always a blast to watch.
So with that said, our picks of the 10 best roles the talented Mr. Oldman has ever played:
10. The Fifth Element (1997)
Oldman plays a first-rate villain in this science fiction film directed and co-written by Luc Besson. Supposedly, he only agreed to take on this role as a personal favor to Besson. Reason Being? Besson produced Oldman’s directing debut, Nil by Mouth which was released earlier that same year. Even so, this ridiculous comedic-evil portrayal is probably the best part of the whole movie, seemingly inspired by a combination of Dracula and Daffy Duck. Which if you think about it, creates a character along the lines of Martin Shkreli.
9. Immortal Beloved (1994)
Bernard Rose’s period drama is set immediately after the death of perplexing musical genius Beethoven. Here, Oldman plays the famous composer with much courage and complexity – capturing both the eccentricity and insuperable bitterness. With that being said, the movie as a whole takes too long to get going, as if the whole production was in dire need of a Cialis. Immortal Beloved is not to Beethoven what Amadeus was to Mozart, but Oldman is still compelling with his interpretation of the famed maestro.
8. Bram Strokers Dracula (1992)
Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of the classic story was met with mixed reviews. I think part of the film’s problem is actually Keeanu Reeves. He hadn’t come into his own yet as an actor, and scenes that he’s in seem more like a Bill & Ted horror spoof than anything else. LOL. Oldman, however, is restrained and devilish as the famed bloodsucker. Pretty much, he fucking kills it… literally and figuratively in this role. What’s even more impressive is that he does so while camouflaged under immense prosthetic makeup for most of the feature.
7. JFK (1991)
Oliver Stone’s commanding hypothesis on the GRAND-DADDY of all conspiracy theories clings on Oldman’s performance as presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. I’m sorry, ALLEGEDLY *Michael Jackson voice* the man who assassinated our Cuban Missile Crisis hero and Marilyn Monroe swooner. After much extensive research and countless trips to Dallas, Oldman effortlessly disappears into the role, capturing Oswald’s neurotic mannerisms and wiry physicality with pinpoint accuracy.
(Curious if anybody will get the point of this GIF. See previous word in bold)
6. True Romance (1993)
Based on an early Tarantino screenplay, director Tony Scott’s incredible pulp-noir thriller features quite possibly the greatest cast ensemble EVER. In what I consider one of the greatest films in existence, Oldman takes on the role of Drexl Spivey, a white pimp/drug dealer who thinks he’s black. His character is crucial to what transpires throughout the film’s duration – As Oldman has cited this bizarre, audacious, dreadlocked performance as a personal favorite.
5. Sid and Nancy (1986)
After work on the British stage, Oldman bursts onto movie screens in this biopic of Sex Pistols front-man Sid Vicious. Good ol’ Gary is incredible as the highly unstable, volatile, and drug addicted rock star. The film chronicles Vicious’ dive into heroin addiction along with his violent relationship with his then-girlfriend Nancy Spungen. Him as Vicious comes to my mind more than the hundreds of real life clips I’ve seen – whenever I indulge in my 70’s punk pleasures. This grandiose performance is what introduced Oldman to American audiences and helped launch the career he has today. And I suppose… this very article.
4. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
Oldman surprisingly has only received one Oscar nomination thus far, which is batshit crazy if you think about it. That will change this year though, as he will undoubtedly be nominated for his portrayal of Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. Number #4 on our list comes from an adaptation of John Le Carre’s spy novel. This astute yet menacing role as intelligence officer George Smiley is mesmerizing at ever turn. Starring many great British actors (Colin Firth, John Hurt, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Tom Hardy) here, we have a remarkably well-acted and enjoyable film – A dazzling work of art in almost every facet.
3. Batman Trilogy (Particularly The Dark Knight Rises) (2005-2012)
In his recurring role as police commissioner Jim Gordon in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy, Oldman revels playing a rare hero after a long run of homicidal misfits and manic freaks. In what I believe to be his most underrated character, Oldman is the consistent voice of reason, a moralistic everyman who stands between Christian Bale’s psychologically-scarred crime fighter and his villainous foes. You know what, fuck it, the superhero nerds and comic book lovers may hate me, but I’m just going to come out and say it. After Heath Ledger’s Joker, I think Oldman as Jim Gordon is the best role in the whole entire franchise. From Batman Begins to DKR, he is as pivotal as anybody. The mothafuckinn Elmer’s Glue that holds it all together – he never falls short of fascinating.
2. Darkest Hour (2017)
In the performance that SHOULD get him that coveted first Oscar, Oldman channels Winston Churchill better than anybody before him, and perhaps anyone who will attempt to do so after. Faced with a choice of surrendering to Germany or fighting on, Churchill leads his nation into its darkest moments, whilst never giving up – fighting until they ultimately prevail under his leadership. Oldman is virtually unrecognizable, resembling Churchill eminently. He’s brash, bold, and embodies the man BBC voted the most important Brit of all-time with uncanny perfection. This really is a one-man show. And although, because of that reason the movie is good – not great… Oldman shines as bright as ever.
1. Léon: The Professional (1994)
Gary Oldman as this casually brutal villain in his first collaboration with Luc Besson elevated him to iconic status. Yes, Jean Reno and young Natalie Portman play the central roles, but Oldman’s Norman Stansfield character steals every scene he’s in. A corrupt, psychotic DEA agent who’s also a killer – it’s one of the best villainous personas to ever be projected on the big-screen. Oldman is truly chilling throughout, shotgun in hand – murdering a family after saying “I like these calm moments before the storm.” Everrryyyyoooone should acknowledge this performance as not only his best, but one of the finest acting jobs this past half century.
By Brandon Colón