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Top 10 Out of the Ordinary Movie Performances

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script Written by Derick McDuff. There's ordinary and then there are these. Join as we count down our picks for Top 10 Out of the Ordinary Performances. For this list, we’re looking at actors who appear in a role vastly different from their usual performances. If you want to see actors who went on to do similar roles afterwards, check out our list for Top 10 Actors Who Broke Type-Casting. Special thanks to our user Daniel John for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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There’s ordinary and then there are these. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for Top 10 Out of the Ordinary Performances.

For this list, we’re looking at actors who appear in a role vastly different from their usual performances. We’re excluding actors who found continued success in a new genre; this list is strictly one time out-of-genre roles. If you want to see actors who went on to do similar roles afterwards, check out our list for Top 10 Actors Who Broke Type-Casting.

#10: Michael J. Fox
“Casualties of War” (1989)

“Casualties of War” could not be further from Michael J. Fox’s usual fare. The likable actor is best known for lighthearted roles, with less than serious subject matter. None of those adjectives can be used to describe this gripping and powerful Vietnam War drama based on the infamous incident on Hill 192. The film touches on the darker side of war, including rape and murder. Although Fox has avoided such dark material for the rest of his career, he received praise from critics and audiences alike as Private Max Eriksson.

#9: Ralph Fiennes
“The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2014)

Ralph Fiennes is perhaps best known for his iconic villainous roles including, but not limited to, a dark wizard, a Nazi war criminal, a serial killer, and even the god of the underworld himself. Even in his more heroic roles, Fiennes often appears stoic and incredibly serious, which makes his appearance as a foul-mouthed hotel concierge with a tendency to sleep with his older patrons all the more hilarious. In this movie, Fiennes’ comedic timing and wit is perfectly suited to Wes Anderson’s quirky directorial style and the role of M. Gustave is a brilliant departure for the actor.

#8: Ashton Kutcher
“The Butterfly Effect” (2004)

Ashton Kutcher is known both for being a goofy stoner on film and a goofy prankster in real life. That’s why his foray into serious science fiction territory is so jarring. Kutcher attempts to give a stirring and philosophical performance in the time travel flick “The Butterfly Effect,” but failed to impress many in this lackluster outing. More recently, Kutcher has primarily stuck to romantic comedies, and although he has occasionally ventured into the dramatic and biopic genres, he wisely has not given sci-fi another try.

#7: Gwyneth Paltrow
“Shallow Hal” (2001)

Beautiful and classy are a few words that can aptly describe Gwyneth Paltrow, who often plays stunning and sophisticated leading women. In “Shallow Hal,” Paltrow plays a somewhat less classy character. In certain parts of the film she even appears in a fatsuit, a stark contrast to her usual very skinny, health nut appearance. The contrast is made even more obvious in the scenes where Paltrow appears without prosthetics, and may make her big screen time as Rosemary Shanahan one of the actress’ most endearing roles.

#6: Val Kilmer
“MacGruber” (2010)

Images of the “Danger Zone,” a very forgettable Batman, and an epic gunfighter are sure to bring Val Kilmer to mind. Years after these iconic roles and many pounds later, he played a very different part in this action comedy based on an “SNL” sketch: the villainous Dieter Von Cunth. The character is just as crude as his name would imply, and is a complete parody of arch villains, with his actions including killing MacGruber’s fiancée on their wedding day and stealing a nuclear missile. It’s very obvious that Kilmer is having a blast hamming it up the entire time and we can’t help but enjoy it too.

#5: Steve Carell
“Foxcatcher” (2014)

Funnyman Steve Carell rose to prominence in the mid-2000s by appearing in “The Office” and “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and continued to star in a string of hugely successful comedies thereafter. In 2014, Carell took on his first solely dramatic role playing an eccentric and troubled millionaire in the biographical film “Foxcatcher.” The film also stars Channing Tatum giving an out of the ordinary performance, breaking from his usual rom-com and action fare. The gamble paid off especially for Carell, with “Foxcatcher” securing five nominations at the Academy Awards, including one for him as best actor as well as a slew of other award nods.

#4: Will Ferrell
“Everything Must Go” (2010)

Will Ferrell is without a doubt one of the funniest guys around. He appears in a number of iconic films, usually as a bumbling idiot who’s frequently shouting, but in “Everything Must Go,” Ferrell gives an unusually reserved performance. His natural comedy still comes through, however this time around, outlandishness has been replaced with subtlety in a depressing and somber role as a man who has lost everything. Ferrell won well-deserved critical praise as Nick Halsey, and even many of his detractors point to this film as his shining performance.

#3: Hugh Grant
“Cloud Atlas” (2012)

In this science fiction epic, Hugh Grant actually has six out of the ordinary performances for the price of one. The film, which is split into six segments across six time periods, featured several actors in multiple different but related roles. Grant’s roles had a common villainous thread, which could not be more different than the usual romantic comedy blokes he’s most known for. Grant’s villainous faces include a corrupt businessman and traitorous brother, but perhaps the most memorable is the leader of a cannibalistic tribe.

#2: Marlon Wayans
“Requiem for a Dream” (2000)

Marlon Wayans makes a serious departure from his usual less than spectacular comedies, including “White Chicks” and “A Haunted House,” in the critically acclaimed Darren Aronofsky-directed “Requiem for a Dream.” The film’s themes of addiction and desire are in sharp contrast to the shallow parodies Wayans is known for. As Tyrone C. Love, he plays a much deeper character than he has before or since, and he makes a brilliant turn as a drug dealer and heroin addict.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Sylvester Stallone
“Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot” (1992)
- Mary Tyler Moore
“Ordinary People” (1980)
- Phillip Seymour Hoffman
“Mission: Impossible III” (2006)
- Vin Diesel
“The Pacifier” (2005)

#1: Tom Cruise
“Tropic Thunder” (2008)

Tom Cruise is at times an action hero and at times a dramatic star, but no matter what, his good looks and star power as a leading man are a constant. That is, except for the time he appeared in a supporting role in a farcical comedy, almost unrecognizably bald, hairy, and with enormous arms. Cruise’s performance and appearance in this satire were so different that many moviegoers were shocked when his name appeared in the closing credits letting us all know that he was in fact the actor playing the bombastic and foul mouthed Les Grossman. Looks like the risk paid off as it even earned Cruise a Golden Globe nod for Best Supporting Actor!

Do you agree with our list? Which out of the ordinary performance is your favorite? For more unique top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to

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