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Top 10 Times Actors Played Other Actors

VO: Stephanie Ng Wan

Actors and actresses who gave incredible performances portraying classic hollywood icons. WatchMojo presents the top 10 thespians to capture the essence of actors from hollywood and beyond. What took our number one spot? Jim Carrey as Andy Kaufman, Cate Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn, or Robert Downey Jr. as Charlie Chaplin. Watch to find out.

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It takes a great actor to play a great actor. Welcome to and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 movie portrayals of famous actors!

For this list, we’ve looked at the best occasions when one movie star has acted as another. We’re considering both theatrical films and television movies here.

#10: Ben Affleck as George Reeves
“Hollywoodland” (2006)

A tragic and still mysterious story, “Hollywoodland” looks at the life of a 1950s Superman. George Reeves donned the iconic cape for the TV series “Adventures of Superman”, which ran from September 1952 until April 1958. But in this movie Ben Affleck plays the man who plays the hero, and he truly does the role justice. Affleck reportedly watched all 104 Superman episodes in preparation for the part, and the dedication really pays off. “Hollywoodland” has us all feeling desperately sorry for Reeves, but extremely impressed by Affleck.

#9: Amanda Seyfried as Linda Lovelace
“Lovelace” (2013)

Another tale of tragedy, Linda Boreman was universally known as Linda Lovelace in the early ‘70s, amid a short career as a pornographic actress during which she starred in the 1972 hardcore film, “Deep Throat”. Amanda Seyfried steps into the troubled star’s shoes for this biopic, in which Lovelace’s life between the ages of 20 and 32 is played out. A film very much of two halves, initially we’re led to believe all was glitzy, glamorous and generally enviable. But then the uncomfortable truth is exposed, with Seyfried flawlessly tackling both sides of the story.

#8: Ray Liotta as Frank Sinatra
“The Rat Pack” (1998)

Ray Liotta has played some pretty cool roles in his time, but surely no subject has had more style or swagger than Frank Sinatra. For this HBO TV movie, Liotta leads the eponymous Rat Pack on stage, into politics and out on the town. As the Chairman of the Board, Liotta does exceptionally well at imitating the incomparable. Sinatra was a unique personality and an icon of the twentieth century, but with this performance Liotta ensures that Ol’ Blue Eyes lives on and that the swing era keeps on swingin’!

#7: Martin Landau as Bela Lugosi
“Ed Wood” (1994)

Our first Oscar-winning portrayal of another actor, when Martin Landau transformed into the vampiric Bela Lugosi for “Ed Wood” he scored an Academy Award for his effort. A crucial character to Tim Burton’s 1994 film, for which Johnny Depp played the titular role, Landau’s Lugosi oozes an awesome eeriness. From his darkly comic introduction to the rousing final speech, it’s as mesmerizing as if the real Lugosi were on screen. And we simply can’t pay Landau a greater compliment than that.

#6: Geoffrey Rush as Peter Sellers
“The Life and Death of Peter Sellers” (2004)

Peter Sellers was one of the most captivating and controversial personalities of his era. A man widely regarded as one of the best British comic actors of all time, he unfortunately suffered through mental health issues, alcoholism and drug problems in his private life. Geoffrey Rush blends all of these character traits into an on-screen persona that’s not only believable, but also unforgettable. Rush’s Sellers is as idiosyncratic and unpredictable as the real thing, accents and all.

#5: Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe
“My Week with Marilyn” (2011)

A film for which Kenneth Branagh could’ve been included, his irritable Laurence Olivier would’ve made today’s list were it not for Michelle Williams’ Marilyn Monroe. Monroe is arguably the most recognizable Hollywood icon of all time, but Williams, somehow, made this role her own. Always teetering between insatiable and insecure, Williams recreates Monroe during filming of “The Prince and the Showgirl” – a time when she was the world’s most in-demand star. However Williams also brings out Marilyn’s vulnerability, proving that she was as human as the rest of us, and provides a whole new perspective on the legend.

#4: James Franco as James Dean
“James Dean” (2001)

The make-up department for our next movie must’ve been a little quieter than usual, given how much actor and subject look alike. Not only do James Franco and James Dean share a first name, they also boast remarkably similar physical appearances. But Franco more than looks the part in this TV biopic, where he brilliantly brings to life one of the film industry’s most famous sons. Dean’s ‘gone too soon’ story is fairly well known, and Franco’s ‘rebel without a cause’ takes in all its highs and lows. Dean’s is a rock ‘n’ roll tale that Franco was born to play.

#3: Jim Carrey as Andy Kaufman
“Man on the Moon” (1999)

An original, unpredictable, incredible comic and entertainer; that description could fit either of the men involved at third place, as Jim Carrey becomes Andy Kaufman. During the ‘70s and ‘80s, Kaufman established a whole separate sub-genre for his brand of eccentric, interactive humor – a sub-genre which Carrey often works himself. “Man on the Moon” is the story of Kaufman practical joking his way to the top. Carrey won a Golden Globe for his role in the film, which he described as a ‘drama at heart’.

#2: Robert Downey Jr. as Charlie Chaplin
“Chaplin” (1992)

Perhaps the most innately biographical movie to make today’s list – in the sense that it’s told through a series of recollections to a biographer – “Chaplin” sees a young Robert Downey Jr. step into the silent film era. Charlie Chaplin was born into poverty, before making a name for himself as a slapstick, ‘show don’t tell’ comedian, and then successfully adapting to the talkies. Downey Jr. brings the legendary life to the big screen with all the style and silliness that it deserves. In taking the role, Downey Jr. accepted an immense responsibility, and he delivered a pristine performance.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
Faye Dunaway as Joan Crawford
“Mommie Dearest” (1981)
Jessica Lange as Frances Farmer
“Frances” (1982)
Ashley Judd as Norma Jean Dougherty
“Norma Jean & Marilyn” (1996)
Jason Scott Lee as Bruce Lee
“Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story” (1993)

#1: Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn
“The Aviator” (2004)

Though Leonardo DiCaprio takes the lead in the film with his portrayal of aviation tycoon Howard Hughes, Cate Blanchett very nearly stole the show with her portrayal of Hughes’ lover and multiple Academy Award winner, Katharine Hepburn. The ‘nine holes’ golf scene in which Hughes and Hepburn first meet is often cited as this movie’s high point, but almost every moment during which Blanchett’s Hepburn features is a highlight. From her first flight to the couple’s first fight, Blanchett demands the limelight much as her subject would’ve done in reality. It’s a stylish, seamless tribute to a one-of-a-kind woman.

Do you agree with our list? Which on-screen portrayal of a famous actor is your favorite? For more brilliantly biographic top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to

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