Total Recall: Gary Oldman's Best Movies

We count down the best-reviewed work of the Lawless star.

Gary Oldman

Shia LaBeouf and Tom Hardy are the stars of this weekend's Prohibition drama Lawless, and we don't have anything against either of them -- but we're just as intrigued by the involvement of a certain Mr. Gary Oldman, whose (by most accounts too-brief) appearance adds another chapter to one of Hollywood's most fascinating careers. From indie flicks to blockbuster franchises, Oldman's done it all, and we knew we couldn't pass up the opportunity to look back on some of his filmography's brightest critical highlights. It's time for Total Recall!


81%

10. Kung Fu Panda 2

It somehow seems sort of... wrong to make room on this list for the sequel to an animated comedy about an overweight martial arts warrior who also happens to be a talking panda. But it's also absolutely fitting -- Gary Oldman's filmography is nothing if not eclectic, and although he's made quite a name for himself playing villains and assorted shadowy characters in critically respected dramas, he's also capable of being pretty funny, as evidenced by his role as a cretinous, power-hungry peacock named Lord Shen in Kung Fu Panda 2. "It may not tread new narrative ground," argued USA Today's Scott Bowles, "but Panda echoes some worthy tales that parents heard a long time ago at a theater far, far away."

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83%

9. State of Grace

Director Phil Joanou opened his career with a better-than-average teen comedy (Three O'Clock High) and a well-intentioned, albeit indulgent rockumentary (U2: Rattle and Hum) -- which is to say that few could have expected that he had it in him to helm a drama as tense and gripping as 1990's State of Grace. Starring Sean Penn as an undercover cop whose latest case tests his loyalty to his best friend (played by Oldman) -- not to mention his affection for his friend's sister (Robin Wright) -- Grace exploited an instantly recognizable formula while transcending it thanks to outstanding acting from its leads. Janet Maslin of the New York Times singled Oldman out in particular, writing that he "gives an electrifying performance that both establishes a tragic, terrifying character and explains why that character's world is such a perilous place."

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83%

8. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Nearly 30 years after making his film debut, Gary Oldman earned his first Academy Award nomination for his work in Tomas Alfredson's impeccably cast adaptation of the classic John le Carr novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Alfredson's comma-free screen version surrounded Oldman with an impressive array of talented actors, including Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones, and Mark Strong -- and while its languid pace and 127-minute running time annoyed critics accustomed to a little more bang for their spy-thriller buck, the majority agreed with the Philadelphia Inquirer's Steven Rea, who enthused, "Just watching Gary Oldman and his trenchcoated brethren march down the damp, ill-lit streets of Cold War London is enough to make you shiver."

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85%

7. JFK

Oldman has made a habit of playing real-life people during his film career, but none of them have been more notorious than the role he took in Oliver Stone's JFK. Just one in a series of famous faces to pop up during the 189-minute political conspiracy epic, Oldman appeared as Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin whose bullet murdered our 35th president. ... Or did it? Stone's undeniably well-crafted film may not have answered any questions, but it was an unqualified hit at the box office and the Academy, where it garnered eight Oscar nominations. Observed Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman, "If Stone hasn't exactly solved the Kennedy assassination, he has captured -- with a dark cinematic flair that leaves you reeling -- why it still looms like a sickening nightmare."

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85%

6. Batman Begins

After a few fallow years that saw him taking roles in little-seen indie films in order to stay close to home, Oldman resurfaced at the megaplex in the middle aughts with roles in two of the young century's biggest franchises: Harry Potter and Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. Starring as Jim Gordon, a key figure in Batman's life and career, Oldman rounded out a stellar cast -- and helped wipe off the Day-Glo coating left behind from the last couple of entries in the series. "Here's how any great franchise should start," pointed out Desson Thomson of the Washington Post. "With care, precision and delicately wrought atmosphere."

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Comments

Kevin Barton

Kevin Barton

The fact that Leon: The Professional is absent, makes this list completely obsolete. I mean, that's one of his best performances!

Aug 29 - 05:04 PM

Whereis Reemaal

Whereis Reemaal

EEVEEEEERRRRRRYYYYYYOOOOONNNNNEEEEEEEE!!!!

Aug 29 - 05:33 PM

Steve Moseley

Steve Moseley

ROFL!

Aug 29 - 10:43 PM

Derek Lucas

Derek Lucas

Awesome..... LOL!

Sep 1 - 03:56 AM

ChristophMiddle

Christoph M

It's hard to believe that the same man who played the quiet, contemplating police commissioner in batman also played one of the most deranged madmen ever seen on screen (on par with Batman's own Joker I would argue) in The Professional. Those two performances exemplify the two polar opposite extremes of his acting career, but it's what lies in between that makes up the meat of his career. This is an actor I've literally never seen a bad performance from. Even in the occasional bad film he's been in, he provides a silver lining. His performances are eminently inquiring and worth watching.

Aug 29 - 08:20 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

I thought you were talking about Sid Viscious until I read "In The Professional". In retrospect though, with either description you could have probably have been referring to a half dozen Oldman roles each. Would have like to see Brams Stoker's Dracula in there too. I though Oldman knocked it out of the park in that and perhaps more impressively carried Keanu Reeves into respectability in a non-Neo role. One of the few actors where I think you could have justified going with 20 picks and not been out of line.

Aug 29 - 11:13 PM

Dmitriy Kropivnitskiy

Dmitriy Kropivnitskiy

Many people tend to forget his very short, but memorable role in True Romance, but since we are talking about Oldman playing a psychopath...

Aug 30 - 05:07 PM

Michael Hernandez

Michael Hernandez

Add his small role in TRUE ROMANCE as further depth to his range.

Aug 31 - 04:59 PM

todd123

Todd Garry

I am amazed that The Professional is not on this list. Man did that performance stick with me for months after I saw it. I just think back to the scene in the bathroom when he encounters Natalie Portman. I will never get the scene out of my head when he pops the pill and turns his head and bites down on it. Some of the best acting ever.

Aug 29 - 09:06 PM

Connor Johnson

Connor Johnson

This list appears to only be concerned with the Tomatometer scores of Oldman's films. RottenTomatoes is usually like that, but sometimes it decides to throw curve-balls.

Aug 29 - 09:33 PM

Anthony Pittore

Anthony Pittore

That's all these lists EVER consist of. They only go by Tomatometer score, obviously.

Aug 31 - 12:08 PM

Peter Leahy

Peter Leahy

I agree. And how about Romeo Is Bleeding? I thought that was an excellent film, and one of his craziest. A wild performance for Lena Olin as well.

Aug 31 - 11:02 AM

Eddie Griffin

Eddie Griffin

True Romance and Romeo is Bleeding. Kung Foo Panda?! Come on...

Aug 31 - 11:44 AM

Ebony Williams

Ebony Williams

I agree with you wholeheartedly. It was top notch acting without even saying a word in that moment and scared the hell out me. True psychopath. JFK was one of my all-time favorite movies when i was like 18. I watched it more than 50 times. HE didn't have much to say in the movie, but he was memorable. Whoever did this article rated the movie and not Gary Oldman. The Professional should have most definitely been on this list.

Aug 31 - 06:27 PM

Jason Wilkerson

Jason Wilkerson

There are so many great Oldman performances that it's guaranteed not all of the favorites can make the list. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, The Fifth Element, The Professional, True Romance, Immortal Beloved, Nil By Mouth, etc. None of those made the list, and he was brilliant in them all, but they only have so much space here...

Sep 4 - 09:54 AM

Will Bigelow

Will Bigelow

The Fifth Element and True Romance are also absent while all three Batman movies are there (they are good movies, but Gary Oldman doesn't really showcase his acting).

Aug 30 - 10:11 AM

ap sirius

karl anderson

I agree... I think we would have got the point with one Batman...they could have skipped 2 of them and thrown in True Romance , My Immortal Beloved or even Dracula....... Very hard to believe that Tinker Taylor was his first Oscar nom. though...Wow

Aug 30 - 06:04 PM

Dave J

Dave J

I find it funny that users scream for Oldman's performance in "The Professional" but it is mentioned on another list on the second page and that everybody act like they've seen everything Oldman has done!

Aug 30 - 04:31 PM

Lulie Swanepoel

Lulie Swanepoel

Have to agree with you Kevin. Also, where is Immortal Beloved?

Aug 31 - 02:34 AM

Broderick VanHelsing

Broderick VanHelsing

Well, it was a couple tomatoes short of making the list. If only Kung-Fu Panda wasn't so darned good.

Aug 31 - 07:07 AM

Robert May

Robert May

Could not agree more

Aug 31 - 10:03 AM

Jordan DiPalma

Jordan DiPalma

These lists are always based entirely on the movies' critical ratings, and in this case Léon's rating is just shy of the tenth place score (it has 79%, KFP2 has 81%). You may notice, though, that at the end there is a list of Oldman's best movies based on audience ratings, and in that list Léon: The Professional is in second.

Aug 31 - 01:51 PM

Paul King

Paul King

For me, his role in Leon was the most enjoyable to watch. Absolutely superb.

Sep 1 - 07:13 AM

John Sherman

John Sherman

EVERYONE!!!!!!!

Sep 1 - 06:32 PM

Ryan Wilkins

Ryan Wilkins

I guess you missed the part where this is Gary Oldman's "Best Reviewed Movies" and not the list of the movies that YOU liked best.

Sep 2 - 06:49 PM

Adam Shindler

Adam Shindler

What? they didn't?
I am sick and tired of this mickey mouse Bullshit!

Sep 3 - 12:11 PM

Bye bye

Steven Bailey

I had no idea that was Oldman in the Professional. Great film and an incredible performance!

Sep 3 - 07:40 PM

Bye bye

Steven Bailey

Also shout out to Portman's performance in that film as well.

Sep 3 - 07:40 PM

Jason Wilkerson

Jason Wilkerson

It doesn't make it obsolete at all, this is a man who has had many brilliant performances over his career. I think Sid Vicious was his best role, and his role in Leon is probably my second favorite, but I can't argue for any of these films to be absent from the list either.

Sep 4 - 09:50 AM

Christopher Herrera

Christopher Herrera

The Professional? Romeo is Bleeding? Two great roles falling by the wayside ><

Sep 7 - 03:58 PM

olivier b.

olivier boitel

Am I the only one that just realized he was Sirius Black? haha

Aug 29 - 05:08 PM

Garner Montgomery

Garner Montgomery

So far, yes.

Aug 29 - 05:10 PM

Valmordas

Val Mordas

Yes.

Aug 29 - 06:15 PM

olivier b.

olivier boitel

I was 12 when I first saw Prisoner of Askaban and never saw him in anything else at that point. I never made the connection between Sirius and Gordon because they looked so different. I saw harry potter on the list and in my mind it was something like ''who the hell was he....OMG''

Aug 29 - 07:30 PM

ChristophMiddle

Christoph M

This is a testament to how phenomenal an actor he is. He's a chameleon. He often isn't the big star of the films he's in, but he is often the most interesting character. I recently rewatched Air Force One and was struck by how riveting a villain he made as a terrorist who takes over a plane. He was more than capable of holding his own on the screen with a Harrison Ford still in the prime of his career. Even in a well crafted if rather conventional 90s thriller, he turned in an oscar worthy performance. In a different movie he probably would have earned such a nomination.

Aug 29 - 08:00 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

and he did it with a Russian Accent. Amazing how hard it is for a villain to be convincing with a Russian accent. See K-19 from the aforementioned Ford if you want to see how hard it is to be dramatic with that accent.

Aug 29 - 11:16 PM

Brad H.

Brad Hadfield

Regarding his chameleon abilities, he was unrecognizable (and horribly grotesque) as Mason Verger in Hannibal.

Aug 30 - 05:51 AM

ChristophMiddle

Christoph M

Haha yes K-19 The Widowmaker. Decent enough movie but Ford's accent fluctuated back and forth from pretty good to non-existent almost as though he'd forget to do it sometimes and the director somehow didn't notice. But hey, at least he tried. If I recall Liam Neeson didn't even bother and merely went with his native accent, I guess assuming American audiences don't differentiate between accents. Hey it's an accent right, so it must be a Russian one! :P

Aug 30 - 09:22 PM

olivier b.

olivier boitel

He really is a great actor. I really liked him in Book of Eli too.

Aug 30 - 10:56 PM

Garner Montgomery

Garner Montgomery

So far, yes.

Aug 29 - 05:10 PM

Lowell Renold

Lowell Renold

Man what a great actor! My favorite role of his is Commissioner Gordon in Nolan's Batman trilogy!

p.s. Shouldn't Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 be on this list? He has a brief cameo in it as a ghost. And it's the highest rated Harry Potter movie in the franchise with a 96% rating.

Aug 29 - 05:14 PM

Zeppo1

Steve Smith

I think they are looking at films where Oldman had a bit more involvement in the story.

Aug 31 - 01:53 PM

Dre M.

Dre M.

If I had a list of living actors who I think deserve Oscars for acting, both he and Johnny Depp would be near the top.

Aug 29 - 05:15 PM

ChristophMiddle

Christoph M

Completely agree. Lesser actors with far less eclectic careers actors have won Oscars.

Aug 29 - 08:03 PM

ChristophMiddle

Christoph M

Forget robots fighting other robots for 2 hours, it's for performances like Oldman regularly turns in that we go to the movies. Or at least it's why I go. ;)

Aug 29 - 08:05 PM

todd123

Todd Garry

Johnny Depp maybe 10 movies ago. He seems like the same character in every movie now.

Aug 29 - 09:04 PM

Daniel Morris

Daniel Morris

Agreed. In a way, I'm almost glad Gary Oldman still hasn't gotten a lot of widespread recognition like Johnny Depp... it's kept him out of the spotlight just enough that he hasn't been bombarded with cheesy roles and made a lot of people bored of him.

Aug 30 - 04:47 AM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

OK. I know. RT scores. Fine. But seriously. Let's just breathe, be calm adults, and wake the hell up. Oldman is one of the most electric actors of his generation and yet we get (no offense) a bunch of kids movies. Sure, great to see "Sid and Nancy", "Prick Up Your Ears", "State of Grace" and his great turn as Lee Harvey Oswald. But any honest evaluation of his acting talents has to acknowledge that "Leon" is iconic.

This is not to complain, but to inform. "Meantime", "Track 29", "Criminal Law", "Chattahoochie", and his role in "Rosencrantz and Gildenstern" with Tim Roth (also in Meantime) show what a talented, explosive young man he was. He's played Dracula and Beethoven (both excellently). His villains, from "Leon", "Air Force One", and "Book of Eli" are alive and eccentric. Even his bad films (Romeo is Bleeding, Nobody's Baby, Scarlet Letter, arguably "Fifth Element" because I actually really like his Fudd/Perot performance) feature more involved, interesting acting work than a hundred young-stars-of-the-moment.

I love Nolan's films as much as anyone, but these are hardly the best place to see why Gary Oldman is such a legend in many circles of film fans.

Aug 29 - 05:32 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

PS: I guess it still isn't White Boy Day... despite the RNC...

Aug 29 - 05:36 PM

Snake Plissken

Snake Plissken

+1

Aug 30 - 11:17 AM

ChristophMiddle

Christoph M

Commissioner Gordon is a great character for the subtleties of Oldman's performance (similar to his role in Tinker Taylor First Time I Ever Fell Asleep At The Theater Soldier Spy), but I agree that there are far better showcases of his acting prowess out there.

Aug 29 - 08:09 PM

Zane B

Chum Chum

You'll get over it

Aug 29 - 09:29 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

You'll grow up.

Aug 30 - 12:07 AM

Zane B

Chum Chum

I guess you didn't get over it yet :(

Aug 30 - 02:42 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

Over what? Oldman's awesomeness? Not going to happen. Don't let it affect your love of Kung Fu Panda, squirt.

Aug 30 - 04:45 PM

Brad H.

Brad Hadfield

I disagree with Romeo is Bleeding. I really liked that movie (though I haven't seen in since it was in the theater - '93 I think). Great cast and cool neo-noir story with a haunting ending. At least, that's what I remember.

Aug 30 - 05:52 AM

Whereis Reemaal

Whereis Reemaal

EEVEEEEERRRRRRYYYYYYOOOOONNNNNEEEEEEEE!!!!

Aug 29 - 05:33 PM

Steve Moseley

Steve Moseley

ROFL!

Aug 29 - 10:43 PM

Derek Lucas

Derek Lucas

Awesome..... LOL!

Sep 1 - 03:56 AM

David McKenzie

David McKenzie

What about Dracula?

Aug 29 - 05:34 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

PS: I guess it still isn't White Boy Day... despite the RNC...

Aug 29 - 05:36 PM

Snake Plissken

Snake Plissken

+1

Aug 30 - 11:17 AM

Damien Hayes

Damien Hayes

ummm fifth element?

Aug 29 - 05:43 PM

Mark Cea

Mark Cea

I second that, his acting in the fifth element is what sticks to me

Aug 30 - 01:01 AM

Mark Cea

Mark Cea

I second that, his acting in the fifth element is what sticks to me

Aug 30 - 01:02 AM

Superzone

Link O'Fett

Can't argue with Captain/Lieutenant/Commissioner Gordon being Oldman's best role to date.

Aug 29 - 05:54 PM

Bane vs Randy

Bane vs Randy

He was good in the Batman movies, but I wouldn't call it memorable. I think he was better in other movies (Like, The Professional, True Romance, The Fifth Element.)

Aug 30 - 12:56 PM

Kevin DeLoughry

Kevin DeLoughry

I think he was just a beat cop in the flashback

Aug 31 - 07:58 PM

Will Tanner

Will Tanner

If they were going by pure performance, The Professional would be #1. And maybe The 5th element...

Aug 29 - 06:02 PM

David Ruth

David Ruth

why the hell isn't True Romance on here?!?!

Aug 29 - 06:15 PM

Brad H.

Brad Hadfield

Forgot about that one. Awesome movie and performance, albeit a brief one.

Aug 30 - 05:53 AM

Valmordas

Val Mordas

Yes.

Aug 29 - 06:15 PM

olivier b.

olivier boitel

I was 12 when I first saw Prisoner of Askaban and never saw him in anything else at that point. I never made the connection between Sirius and Gordon because they looked so different. I saw harry potter on the list and in my mind it was something like ''who the hell was he....OMG''

Aug 29 - 07:30 PM

ChristophMiddle

Christoph M

This is a testament to how phenomenal an actor he is. He's a chameleon. He often isn't the big star of the films he's in, but he is often the most interesting character. I recently rewatched Air Force One and was struck by how riveting a villain he made as a terrorist who takes over a plane. He was more than capable of holding his own on the screen with a Harrison Ford still in the prime of his career. Even in a well crafted if rather conventional 90s thriller, he turned in an oscar worthy performance. In a different movie he probably would have earned such a nomination.

Aug 29 - 08:00 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

and he did it with a Russian Accent. Amazing how hard it is for a villain to be convincing with a Russian accent. See K-19 from the aforementioned Ford if you want to see how hard it is to be dramatic with that accent.

Aug 29 - 11:16 PM

Brad H.

Brad Hadfield

Regarding his chameleon abilities, he was unrecognizable (and horribly grotesque) as Mason Verger in Hannibal.

Aug 30 - 05:51 AM

ChristophMiddle

Christoph M

Haha yes K-19 The Widowmaker. Decent enough movie but Ford's accent fluctuated back and forth from pretty good to non-existent almost as though he'd forget to do it sometimes and the director somehow didn't notice. But hey, at least he tried. If I recall Liam Neeson didn't even bother and merely went with his native accent, I guess assuming American audiences don't differentiate between accents. Hey it's an accent right, so it must be a Russian one! :P

Aug 30 - 09:22 PM

olivier b.

olivier boitel

He really is a great actor. I really liked him in Book of Eli too.

Aug 30 - 10:56 PM

Michael Cherrington

Michael Cherrington

"what's a Drexel?" Exactly... True Romance... Solid

Aug 29 - 06:25 PM

Coach M.

Coach McGuirk

My personal Top 5:

1. Leon The Professional
2. True Romance
3. Bram Stoker's Dracula
4. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
5. The Fifth Element

Aug 29 - 07:07 PM

Jay P.

Jay Pennington

YES!

Aug 29 - 08:51 PM

ap sirius

karl anderson

good list....I would replace Fifth Element with My Immortal Beloved...If you havent seen it, check it out....he breaths new life into Beethoven

Aug 30 - 06:13 PM

olivier b.

olivier boitel

I was 12 when I first saw Prisoner of Askaban and never saw him in anything else at that point. I never made the connection between Sirius and Gordon because they looked so different. I saw harry potter on the list and in my mind it was something like ''who the hell was he....OMG''

Aug 29 - 07:30 PM

ChristophMiddle

Christoph M

This is a testament to how phenomenal an actor he is. He's a chameleon. He often isn't the big star of the films he's in, but he is often the most interesting character. I recently rewatched Air Force One and was struck by how riveting a villain he made as a terrorist who takes over a plane. He was more than capable of holding his own on the screen with a Harrison Ford still in the prime of his career. Even in a well crafted if rather conventional 90s thriller, he turned in an oscar worthy performance. In a different movie he probably would have earned such a nomination.

Aug 29 - 08:00 PM

Bigbrother

Big Brother

and he did it with a Russian Accent. Amazing how hard it is for a villain to be convincing with a Russian accent. See K-19 from the aforementioned Ford if you want to see how hard it is to be dramatic with that accent.

Aug 29 - 11:16 PM

Brad H.

Brad Hadfield

Regarding his chameleon abilities, he was unrecognizable (and horribly grotesque) as Mason Verger in Hannibal.

Aug 30 - 05:51 AM

ChristophMiddle

Christoph M

Haha yes K-19 The Widowmaker. Decent enough movie but Ford's accent fluctuated back and forth from pretty good to non-existent almost as though he'd forget to do it sometimes and the director somehow didn't notice. But hey, at least he tried. If I recall Liam Neeson didn't even bother and merely went with his native accent, I guess assuming American audiences don't differentiate between accents. Hey it's an accent right, so it must be a Russian one! :P

Aug 30 - 09:22 PM

olivier b.

olivier boitel

He really is a great actor. I really liked him in Book of Eli too.

Aug 30 - 10:56 PM

Dustin Reynolds

Dustin Reynolds

Where the HELL is True Romance????

Aug 29 - 07:42 PM

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