Gary Leonard Oldman is considered one of the best actors ever. He was born on March 21, 1958, in New Cross, London. His parents were from a working-class background. After finishing school, Gary worked at a sports shop. He then got a scholarship to study theatre arts at a college in Kent. After completing his degree, Oldman acted in several plays.
He started his acting career in the movie Remembrance in 1982. A few years later, he appeared in Mike Leigh’s film Meantime. However, his role as an impulsive junkie in the Gary Oldman Movies Sid and Nancy in 1986 made him famous. After that, he became highly sought after in British and Hollywood films because of his incredible talent on screen.
Surprisingly, despite his outstanding performances, he did not receive an Oscar nomination until 2011. However, this was corrected six years later when he was recognized for his portrayal of Churchill in the movie Darkest Hour.
“I once saw a funny comment on Reddit that said, “I do not think Gary Oldman is real. I have seen his name in many movies but never actually recognized him in any of them.” This comment highlights how Gary Oldman is incredibly skilled at completely transforming himself for every role he takes on. He is not just a showy actor who wants attention; he can disappear into his characters with skill and grace. Even though he has played some over-the-top villain roles, Gary Oldman can effortlessly become different characters with depth and sophistication. Whether portraying a troubled musician, a corrupt politician, a scary pimp, or even a vampire, he always delivers a believable performance without making any mistakes, despite playing various roles.
Let us quickly go through a list of the top-rated Gary Oldman Movies:
Best Gary Oldman Movies And TV Shows
14. Air Force One (1997)
At number 14 is the movie Air Force One from 1997. It is like “Die Hard on a Plane with the President.” In this action-packed American movie, Gary Oldman plays the Russian villain named Ivan Korshunov. The strong and capable President, played by Harrison Ford, is the one you are supposed to support. However, I secretly wanted the menacing villain, Mr Oldman, who always brings a charmingly wicked vibe to his roles, to win for a change.
Ivan, along with his armed friends, takes control of the President’s fleet to demand the release of a grumpy Communist General who is imprisoned in America. Unfortunately, Gary Oldman’s character, Ivan, falls into the stereotype of the “evil Russian.” The story itself is unique and clever. However, the intense confrontation between President Ford and Oldman’s terrorist character is enjoyable to watch.
Oldman’s powerful performance in his words and actions creates gripping moments with the American characters. He skillfully uses his intense gaze to portray the unpredictable nature of his character. He even manages to make the typical death scene of a villain more compelling and engaging.
13. Dracula (1992)
This film is based on Bram Stoker’s classic novel and takes inspiration from F.W. Murnau’s unauthorized adaptation called Nosferatu from 1922. Vampire stories have always been popular in horror movies, and it was thrilling to see Francis Ford Coppola’s interpretation of Bram Stoker’s story. The film is visually stunning and offers a thrilling cinematic experience. Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Vlad Dracula is outstanding and deserves to be recognized among the best screen vampires.
In the movie Dracula, Gary Oldman’s portrayal of the character is both sad and frightening. Dracula is a tragic figure who experiences a love that is never returned, and Oldman’s performance evokes feelings of both pity and fear. The film’s impressive production design and skilled direction are essential, but it only succeeded with Oldman’s acting.
He convincingly shows Dracula’s transformation from a handsome young man to a creepy old one. Oldman is known for fully immersing himself in his roles, and for this film, he worked closely with makeup effects specialist Greg Cannom. However, there was an incident where Oldman had an allergic reaction to the makeup and had to be rushed to the hospital. It is worth mentioning that Cannom won an Academy Award for his work on Dracula.
12. True Romance (1993)
Directed by Tony Scott and based on a script by Quentin Tarantino, the film gained little attention when it was initially released. However, as Tarantino’s popularity grew, the movie developed a dedicated fan base. It boasts a talented ensemble cast, each actor delivering an entertaining performance.
One standout is Gary Oldman, who gives a remarkably satisfying portrayal of the character Drexl Spivey in Tony Scott’s fast-paced story. Oldman’s performance exemplifies the famous quote by Mr Stanislavski: “There are no small parts, only small actors.”
Drexl is a pimp from Jamaica portrayed by Gary Oldman in the movie True Romance. The main character, Clarence, played by Christian Slater, confronts Drexl to rescue his girlfriend, Alabama, played by Patricia Arquette. Even though Oldman’s screen time is less than 10 minutes, his portrayal of Drexl is so hysterical and twisted that his villainous presence stays with you long after the movie ends.
The actor’s eyes have a special sparkle that adds excitement to his performance. Oldman not only focused on mastering the Jamaican accent but also worked on creating Drexl’s appearance. In addition, True Romance has many other villains, and Dennis Hopper and Christopher Walken have a fantastic confrontation scene.
11. State of Grace (1990)
At number 11 is the movie State of Grace from 1990. It was released just five days after Martin Scorsese’s acclaimed film Goodfellas. Although this crime drama by Phil Joanou is better than average, it received little attention. The story is inspired by a real-life gang from the Hell’s Kitchen area in Manhattan.
The film stars Sean Penn, Robin Wright, John C. Reilly, and Ed Harris, and it follows the journey of an undercover police officer named Terry as he returns to his Irish-American neighbourhood in New York City to capture a mob boss. However, the most memorable aspect of the film is Gary Oldman’s character, Jack Flannery. He portrays the wild brother of the crime above the boss.
Gary Oldman’s character, Jackie, in The State of Grace, is not portrayed as a psychotic villain. Instead, he is a messy and rebellious character who is misguided by his loyalty to his brother. Despite this, he remains fiercely devoted to his friends. Oldman’s performance makes Jackie both vulnerable and scary at the same time.
Sean Penn, also known for playing intense and hotheaded characters, reportedly had some conflicts with Oldman during filming. However, the scenes between these two talented actors, who were in their prime then, are still incredibly captivating.
10. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
If you have read the books, you might have thought Gary Oldman was not the best choice to play Sirius Black. This is mainly because the Sirius Black we imagined was different, and Oldman was too old to portray a character in his thirties.
Also, the on-screen version of Sirius Black did not seem as rebellious or eccentric as the one described in the books. However, after a few scenes in this third Harry Potter film, Gary Oldman truly impresses us with his performance. The actor brings a warm and kind-hearted quality to the character, which makes his relationship with Harry Potter even more charming and likeable.
Sirius Black, also known as The Prisoner of Azkaban, is a character who initially instils fear in the Wizarding World and is even compared to the evil Voldemort. He is also believed to have been involved in the tragic killing of Harry Potter’s parents.
However, as the story unfolds, we gradually discover that Black was framed and wrongly imprisoned. The heartbreaking fate that befalls Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Sirius Black is genuinely saddening.
9. The Contender (2000)
In this film, Gary Oldman impressively transforms himself into the character of Shelly Runyon, a thin and glasses-wearing Republican Congressman. Runyon is someone who enjoys playing political power games and is involved in investigating a sex scandal related to Vice-Presidential nominee Laine Hanson, played by Joan Allen. The portrayal of Washington politics in the movie is not simply good versus evil; it is more complex than that.
Oldman’s mesmerizing performance creates a supremely intelligent and intimidating character who is different from the typical stereotype of a politician in DC. Runyon is not an antagonist but a man who firmly believes that Hanson is unfit for the high office she aspires to.
Even though Gary Oldman became famous for his exaggerated and over-the-top villainous roles, in The Contender, he delivers a more controlled and subtle performance. He skillfully portrays Shelly Runyon with an underlying sense of awkwardness and frustration hidden beneath his calm exterior.
Despite his outstanding performance, Oldman did not receive his first Oscar nomination for this role for various reasons. He had to wait another 11 years until he finally received an Oscar nomination for his Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy role.
8. Slow Horses (2022 – )
Based on John le Carré’s spy thriller novels, the show explores the realistic and less glamorous aspects of espionage. In the movie Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Gary Oldman gave a brilliant performance as George Smiley, a character created by Le Carré. He portrayed the moral complexity of Cold War-era spymasters. In Slow Horses, a series available on Apple TV, Oldman once again takes on the role of a deeply cynical spy.
However, this time he plays Lamb, a smart but disgraced spy. Lamb is assigned as the leader of a sidelined spy team whose run-down office is humorously called Slough House.
Gary Oldman brings multiple dimensions to the character of Lamb in Slow Horses. At first glance, Lamb appears to be a tired and foul-mouthed individual. However, Oldman’s portrayal reveals that Lamb possesses a strong sense of morals and unexpectedly proves to be the most intelligent person in the room.
Slow Horses is based on a series of espionage novels by Mick Herron that occur after the end of the Cold War. Gary Oldman will continue to portray the character of Jackson Lamb in the upcoming seasons of the show.
7. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
During the 2000s, Gary Oldman took on less brooding and unpredictable roles. He portrayed characters like Commissioner Jim Gordon in the Batman franchise and Sirius Black in the Harry Potter franchise, which had a more subdued tone. However, in the fantastic adaptation of John le Carré’s novel by Tomas Alfredson, we saw the remarkable Gary Oldman in all his glory.
His performance as the intelligent and enigmatic George Smiley is genuinely magnificent. Oldman’s portrayal is subtle and quietly menacing, showcasing power without ever being aggressive.
In Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Gary Oldman’s performance as George Smiley is so impressive that it surpasses Alec Guinness’s portrayal of the same character in the 1979 TV adaptation. The film features a talented ensemble cast of British actors, including Colin Firth, John Hurt, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Tom Hardy.
The story revolves around the challenging mission of uncovering a traitor within the British Intelligence Service. Unlike the flashy and unrealistic James Bond films, John le Carré’s espionage thrillers are known for their realistic and intense portrayal of the world of spies.
6. Sid and Nancy (1986)
Directed by Alex Cox, this intense drama depicts the tragic true story of Sid Vicious, the bass player of the Sex Pistols, and his lover Nancy Spungen. The film explores the vibrant personalities of the iconic punk rock band members. However, the band faces challenges when Sid and Nancy become deeply entangled in drug addiction.
Interestingly, Gary Oldman, who played Sid Vicious, reveals that he initially had no interest in taking on the role and did not particularly like his performance in the film.
Regardless of his initial reservations, Gary Oldman dedicated himself to portraying Sid’s volatile and self-destructive nature. He went to great lengths to physically transform into the drug-addicted Sid, following a strict diet and even recreating Sid’s live performances, including singing.
Chloe Webb, who played Nancy, supports Oldman’s intense acting. Oldman’s portrayal of Sid is just as captivating and revealing of dysfunction as Robert De Niro’s performance as Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull. The film, expertly shot by renowned cinematographer Roger Deakins, is filled with visually striking and expressive scenes.
5. Darkest Hour (2017)
Gary Oldman’s portrayal of Winston Churchill in this biopic has received widespread praise from movie enthusiasts and award voters. Directed by Joe Wright, the film showcases Churchill’s leadership qualities and the challenging circumstances of World War II that called for them.
Despite the heavy makeup, Oldman skillfully embodies the essence of this renowned political figure. The movie portrays Churchill as a resolute politician who convinces a hesitant British political class to stand up against Adolf Hitler, even when the odds seem insurmountable.
Gary Oldman’s roles can be divided into two categories: loud and expressive, like in Leon and True Romance, or subtle and nuanced, like in Immortal Beloved and Tinker. In his portrayal of this particular character, Oldman combines both aspects of his acting range. He delivers powerful and flamboyant speeches while also incorporating subtle mannerisms and gestures.
The character has been played by actors like Michael Gambon and Brian Cox in the past, but Oldman’s rendition is undeniably exceptional. For this performance, Oldman received an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and a Screen Actors Guild Award, solidifying the recognition and acclaim he received for his portrayal.
4. Prick Up Your Ears (1987)
In this often overlooked and underappreciated film directed by Stephen Frears, the story revolves around the tragic life of Joe Orton, a talented British playwright who was gay. Gary Oldman portrays Orton, who had a rebellious and free-spirited nature that embodied the spirit of the 1960s.
The film explores Orton’s close relationship, both romantically and creatively, with Kenneth Halliwell, played by Alfred Molina. However, Halliwell, who also had ambitions of his own as a writer, became consumed by jealousy and frustration. Tragically, he took the life of his lover, Joe Orton.
Gary Oldman and Alfred Molina deliver powerful performances in Alan Bennett’s outstanding screenplay based on Joe Orton’s diaries. Oldman, known for his fearless acting, portrays Orton with great energy and brings to life the witty personality of a man who thrived in London’s underground gay community.
Despite his seemingly carefree demeanour, Oldman skillfully conveys the hidden layers of anxiety and despair that Orton carries within. This role departs from Oldman’s breakthrough performance in Sid and Nancy, highlighting his exceptional ability to transform and fully embody a character.
3. Mank (2020)
After winning an Oscar for his role in The Darkest Hour, Gary Oldman returned with another substantial role in Mank. This time, he portrayed the notorious and brilliant screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz. The film, directed by David Fincher, takes us back to the glamorous era of Hollywood, where Oldman’s Mank wrestles with writing the script for Citizen Kane.
Mank was a personal project for David Fincher, inspired by a script written by his late father, Jack Fincher. The black-and-white film delves deep into the character of Mank, who struggles with alcoholism and self-loathing as he pursues his craft.
David Fincher is known for his meticulous directing style, often requiring numerous takes from his actors. However, Gary Oldman was not bothered by Fincher’s perfectionism and was unfazed by the repeated attempts.
Oldman delivers an outstanding performance in Mank with a raw and authentic portrayal. He took the initiative to conduct his research on the screenwriter and the world he inhabited. As a result, Oldman’s exceptional work in the film earned him his third Oscar nomination.
2. Immortal Beloved (1994)
In Bernard Rose’s historical drama, the story takes place just after the death of the famous composer Beethoven. The film follows Beethoven’s friend and assistant as he tries to uncover the identity of Beethoven’s mysterious lover, known only as the ‘Immortal Beloved’. Through flashbacks, we get a glimpse into Beethoven’s life and his impact on the women he was involved with.
Despite his distant and aloof demeanour, Beethoven’s relationships have left a lasting impression on a few women. The film incorporates a storytelling style similar to Citizen Kane, where we learn about Beethoven’s life through these flashbacks.
Despite some issues with the storytelling style of the flashbacks, Gary Oldman’s performance in the film is flawless. He portrays Beethoven with incredible depth and brings out the complexities of his character, showcasing both his eccentricity and deep-seated bitterness.
Oldman’s interpretation of musical genius is impeccable and multi-dimensional. In his dedication to the role, Oldman reportedly spent over six weeks practising the piano for six hours daily to prepare himself.
1. Leon: The Professional (1994)
Gary Oldman’s portrayal of the ruthlessly violent antagonist in Luc Besson’s action film, “Leon: The Professional,” made him an iconic actor. Although the leading roles are played by French actor Jean Reno and young Natalie Portman, Oldman’s character, Stansfield, steals the spotlight.
Stansfield is a corrupt and deranged DEA agent who exhibits a captivatingly sinister charm before unleashing his murderous rampage. The character is inspired by the exaggerated villains of old gangster movies, but Oldman’s exceptional acting prevents it from becoming a shallow caricature.
However, Gary Oldman’s performance is genuinely disturbing. While taking a pill, Stansfield reflects on enjoying the calm before unleashing chaos. He brutally kills an entire family with a shotgun, displaying a disturbing energy reminiscent of a talented composer. Another unforgettable moment (improvised brilliantly by the actor) occurs when he angrily shouts at a thug, emphasizing, “Everrrryyyyyoooooone!”
In conclusion, Gary Oldman Movies will portray former American President Harry S. Truman in Christopher Nolan’s upcoming biopic about scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer. Also, he will continue playing Jackson Lamb in future seasons of Slow Horses. Oldman has expressed his desire to collaborate with filmmakers Paul Thomas Anderson and Paolo Sorrentino. With a career spanning four decades, the 64-year-old actor will likely bring us various roles.Read More: 14 Best Gary Oldman Movies And TV Shows, Ranked
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