The Lists: Top 10 Gary Oldman performances
Tomas Alfredson's "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" might seem like it's been on the way for some time at this point in the season, considering an early-September world premiere, followed shortly by a UK theatrical release. But nearly three months later, the film is making its way to domestic theaters this weekend and everyone here will finally get a load of another Gary Oldman performance in a long line of versatile, chameleonic portrayals.
The occasion seemed an obvious one for dedicating an installment of The Lists to the actor's work. Indeed, this was the first list I jotted down as a must when preparing the season's coverage a few months ago; Oldman is easily one of my favorite actors, an impeccable performer who has managed to do something fresh with every new endeavor.
Roger Ebert once wrote of Oldman that "like a few gifted actors, he is able to re-invent himself for every role." If you can believe it, that was in his May 1987 review of Stephen Frears' "Prick Up Your Ears." And Oldman has proved the point over and over again in the years since.
Oldman's work has never been recognized by the Academy. It's fair to call him one of the greatest actors to never receive an Oscar nomination, I think (which may change this year), but even if you can argue with that, you can't really argue with the output.
The performances are varied and lived-in, rarely if ever a false note struck. He's settled into pimps and dwarfs, rednecks and clergymen, kingpins and gangster pawns, punk rockers and classical musicians, crooked cops and noble detectives, political villains and Gothic monsters with equal aplomb. And while whittling the list down to 10 was itself a chore (an understatement), the ranking of the list was equally challenging. I think it's the most interchangeable collective I've ever assembled in this space, but of course, a stand had to be taken.
With that in mind, the exclusions were heartbreaking. I wanted to find a place for Oldman's under-seen, commanding work in films like "Chattahoochee" and "Track 29," but the movies built around them often failed to serve the performances.
Outstanding work in good films ("Murder in the First") and bad ("The Fifth Element") were ultimately just too fleeting for consideration, though that's being a bit hypocritical, considering the presence of one show-stopping cameo portrayal.
Meanwhile, much as I appreciate what he brought to the Beethoven biopic "Immortal Beloved," and much as I love the emotional anchor he has provided Christopher Nolan's "Batman Begins" and "The Dark Knight," I couldn't find room. And on the latter, I sense his best work on the franchise is still to come.
Nevertheless, believe me, virtually every at-bat was considered. What a fruitful and abundant career it's been so far.
Have a look at what I settled on in our new gallery. I imagine everyone who takes in all of his work could turn up a different list. So considering as much, feel free to list your favorites in the comments section below.
For year-round entertainment news and awards season commentary follow @kristapley on Twitter.
1988 | Fantasy | PGSummary: 'Toon star Roger is worried that his wife Jessica is playing pattycake with someone else, so the studio hires detective Eddie Valiant to snoop on her. But the stakes are quickly raised when Marvin Acme is found dead and Roger is the prime suspect.Director: Robert Zemeckis
Cast: Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, Joanna Cassidy, Charles Fleischer
2012 | Action | PG-13Summary: Daniel Craig makes his third outing as James Bond in a story that pits him against a madman played by Javier Bardem, and which reveals crucial details of Bond's history.Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: Daniel Craig, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris
1940 | Musical | GSummary: From Mickey Mouse to the evolution of life to the battle between good and evil, Disney animation majestically combines with classical music in this ballet of iconic images.Director: Norman Ferguson
Cast: Leopold Stokowski, Deems Taylor, Corey Burton
1968 | Adventure | GSummary: An eccentric professor invents wacky machinery, but can't seem to make ends meet. When he invents a revolutionary car, a foreign government becomes interested in it, and resorts to skulduggery to get their hands on it.Director: Ken Hughes
Cast: Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes, Lionel Jeffries, Gert Fröbe
2014 | War | RSummary: After returning home from an extended tour in Afghanistan, a decorated U.S. Army medic and single mother struggles to rebuild her relationship with her young son.Director: Claudia Myers
Cast: Michelle Monaghan, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Pablo Schreiber, Ron Livingston
2002 | Adventure | PGSummary: When space galleon cabin boy Jim Hawkins discovers a map to an intergalactic "loot of a thousand worlds," a cyborg cook named John Silver teaches him to battle supernovas and space storms. But, soon, Jim realizes Silver is a pirate intent on mutiny!Director: Ron Clements, John Musker
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, David Hyde Pierce, Emma Thompson, Roscoe Lee Browne
2002 | Documentary | NRSummary: The astounding rise, fall and rise Hollywood producer Robert Evans is packed with insider stories about Hollywood personalities and films like The Godfather and Rosemary’s Baby.Director: Nanette Burstein, Brett Morgen
Cast: Robert Evans, Eddie Albert, Peter Bart
1946 | Drama | NRSummary: A widower gives his daughter Anne a colt, which she names Black Beauty, so that she may learn to care for herself as she cares for the horse.Director: Max Nosseck
Cast: Mona Freeman, Richard Denning, Evelyn Ankers
2003 | Adventure | PGSummary: Disney animation centering on a Native American hunter who, after being killed by a bear, is transformed into a beast himself, which leads to a new understanding of the workings of his world.Director: Aaron Blaise, Robert Walker
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Jeremy Suarez, Rick Moranis
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