Essential Viewing: Top Gary Oldman Performances

As of late, many know Gary Oldman for his roles in the Batman and Harry Potter films, but here are a few of his top performances outside of those blockbusters…

Drexl Spivey (True Romance-1993)

“Now I know I’m pretty, but I ain’t as pretty as a couple of titties.”

Sid Vicious (Sid & Nancy-1986)

“You know, I was so bored once that I fucked a dog.”

It’s been said before, but Gary Oldman played Sid Vicious better than Sid Vicious could play himself. A then 28 year old barely known actor, Oldman bursts onto the scene as the leather-clad Sid Vicious, in all his chaotic glory, being a rebel for the joy of rebelling.

Ivan Korshunov (Air Force One- 1997)

“Your national security advisor has just been executed. He’s a very good negotiator. He bought you another half hour.”

See a pattern? If anyone can play a psychotic bitch’s bastard then it’s Gary Oldman. Here he’s a terrorist that has just hi-jacked Air Force One and clashes with President Indiana Jones. As Ivan, Oldman is cold, passionately devoted to success, and ruthless without being a cartoon character.

Shelly Runyon (The Contender- 2000)

“Greatness is the orphan of urgency, Laine. Greatness only emerges when we need it most… in time of war or calamity. I can’t ask somebody to be a Kennedy or a Lincoln. They were MEN created by their times. What I… What I can ask for… is the promise of greatness. And that, Madam Senator… you don’t have.”

Shelly Runyon is a politician that can kill his prey with verbal bullets, and be as calm as night. As Runyon, Oldman is sharp, and devoted to what he wants to prove. He’s like a battering ram to the skeletons hiding in your closet.

Dracula (Bram Stroker’s Dracula- 1992)

“I have crossed oceans of time to find you.”

As the boss of all vamps himself, Oldman projects sex-appeal and eerie terror, making for a well-rounded take on Dracula. Throughout the film, Oldman evolves from love-hurt furious warrior, to creepy old man, to a seducing bachelor, to a terrifying monster. His transitions are smooth and distinct, all while never losing the essence of the character. Twilight lovers—this is a vampire movie.

Stansfield (Leon: The Professional- 1994)

“I take no pleasure in taking life if it’s from a person who doesn’t care about it.”

This is the film that introduced many to the talent of Gary Oldman, and what an introduction it is. Oldman plays Stansfield, a corrupt Detective that is quirky and deranged—which happens to be a perfect combination. Stansfield becomes a character that viewers will love to hate because he’s so purely fucked up, but so good at it.

Ludwig van Beethoven (Immortal Beloved- 1994)

“It is the power of music to carry one directly into the mental state of the composer. The listener has no choice. It is like hypnotism.”

Playing the villain is Gary Oldman’s specialty, but that doesn’t mean he can’t do anything else. Oldman plays the legendary Beethoven with enormous conviction and a wealth of passion. With every note Oldman plays as Beethoven, it’s as if he is truly transforming his emotions into musical sound. Oldman as Beethoven is rage and bliss rolled in gold.

Need more Oldman films?

Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (The Fifth Element- 1997)

Lee Harvey Oswald (JFK- 1991)

Joe Orton (Prick Up Your Ears- 1987)

One more? Okay.

Here he plays a midget. Yes, it’s a horrible film, but I’ll give him props for trying.

[Feature Image by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images]

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