Top 10 Gary Oldman Performances

He is Hollywood's most talented and criminally under-appreciated method actor. Able to transform himself and his accent at will, this Brit has been everything from a leopard-skin wearing pimp to Lee Harvey Oswald, Dracula and even punk rocker Sid Vicious... just to name a few. However, most movie goers would probably best associate him with such roles as Commissioner Gordon in The Dark Knight Trilogy and Sirius Black from Harry Potter. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our Top 10 favorite Gary Oldman performances.
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Top 10 Gary Oldman Performances

He’s one of the few gifted actors who are able to re-invent themselves with every role. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’ll be counting down our Top 10 favorite Gary Oldman performances.

#10 – Jean-Baptiste Emmanuel Zorg: “The Fifth Element”


Kicking off our list is one of Gary Oldman’s most memorable villainous roles. In this 23rd century sci-fi spectacular, he plays the flamboyant head of a tech corporation who moonlights as an arms dealer, and sports a southern accent, soul patch and keen fashion sense. Even with the bright colors, he manages to make this eccentric character menacing.

#9 – James Gordon: “The Dark Knight Trilogy”


Oldman adds depth to the long-established comic book character, and seamlessly transitions from honest beat cop to police commissioner. As Gordon, he comforts a young Bruce Wayne after he loses his parents, and bravely teams up with the Dark Knight before sorrowfully agreeing to hunt down his friend to keep Gotham from falling into chaos. Don’t let the subdued performance and well-trimmed moustache fool you: Oldman brings heart to the series.

#8 – Congressman Sheldon Runyon: “The Contender”


In this politically charged role, the famously apolitical Oldman plays a zealous and balding cigar smoking republican congressman who is out to destroy the life of a female Democratic vice presidential nominee. As a ruthless politician and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Oldman spreads disturbing rumors while opposing the candidate’s liberal ideology and proves he is able to play anything.

#7 – Sid Vicious: “Sid and Nancy”


In his breakout role, Oldman gives a fierce and captivating tour-de-force as Sid Vicious, the hooligan and punk rocking bassist of the Sex Pistols. Oldman presents an unapologetic madman and force-of-nature who is destructive and passionate, both on stage and off. Admit it: you wouldn’t have recognized Oldman if we didn’t point him out. And that’s just the way this cinematic chameleon likes it.

#6 – Joe Orton: “Prick Up Your Ears”


Oldman seamlessly transitions from a punk rocker to his next role, as a witty and gay playwright. Our star takes on the personality and appearance of Orton, who is both incredibly charming and painfully unfeeling. As he cruises subways and public bathrooms for his next sexual thrill, Oldman’s character convincingly tortures his lover and collaborator, who comes to resent Orton’s very existence. Few actors could portray this eccentric character, let alone inhabit his unusual lifestyle.

#5 – Norman Stansfield: “Léon: The Professional”


Oldman plays a crooked addict and DEA agent who has no qualms about gunning down entire families while listening to classical music. As a twisted suit-wearing psychopath, he spouts memorable lines, and makes us believe he’s unhinged and unpredictable…yet oddly charming at the same time. This is one of the greatest bad guy roles ever put to celluloid.

#4 – Count Dracula: “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”


As a boogeyman that comes for his victims in the dark, Oldman is completely mesmerizing under his terrifying cinematic mask. His characterization of this literary legend is based on the original screen vampire “Nosferatu,” and deserved an Oscar. Not only does Oldman reinvent the legendary role, but he makes it his own with subtle eccentricities that shine through the makeup. Seriously though…what’s up with the hair curlers?

#3 – Rosencrantz: “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead”


Oldman gives one of his lighter and more comedic tours on screen as one of two minor actors in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” He plays a character that bubbles with hilarious monologues and deep contemplations about fate, and is always game for a coin flip. This genius eccentric inadvertently invents such things as the hamburger and paper planes, plus he enjoys playing made-up philosophical sports like “questions tennis.”

#2 – Lee Harvey Oswald: “JFK”


As with most of his roles, Oldman goes underappreciated here as the man who commits one of the greatest crimes in United States history. This is among Oldman’s favorite screen roles, as he was given carte blanche to recreate the character on his own. After studying fiercely for the part of Oswald, Oldman plays the infamous figure as a coy rat pleading his innocence. His physical similarity to Oswald is astonishing, but Oldman also nails the many subtleties of the character.

#1 – Drexl Spivey: “True Romance”


Taking the top spot on our list are the six minutes of screen time that we feel best showcase this actor’s pure talent. Oldman transforms himself into a scarred, ghetto-talking, dread wearing pimp who is both funny and ferocious. With his foul mouth, leopard skin robe and gold teeth, anyone else would have presented a mere stereotype. Oldman takes the persona to new places, without ever letting it become laughable.

Do you agree with our list? Which Gary Oldman performance is your favorite? For more great Top 10s, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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