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The 15 Best Gary Oldman Movies You Need To Watch

19 November 2014 | Features, Film Lists | by Neil Evans

8. Dracula (1992) Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Again displaying his versatility and skill, Oldman plays one of the most iconic of characters, that of Dracula. Seductive and evil at the same time, he achieves a really nice balance, never becoming hammy or pantomime in his approach.

While this film itself has its fair share of flaws, such as the painful British accent adapted by actor Keanu Reeves, Oldman is one of the film’s true strengths and goes a long way to making it work better than it should.

 

7. The Fifth Element (1997) Directed by Luc Besson

The Fifth Element

Working with Besson, “The Fifth Element” was a wild and woolly, almost comic book take on science fiction. Oldman plays General Jean-Baptiste Emmanual Zurg, a cruel and greedy businessman.

Strikingly dressed with an asymmetrical haircut, this is one Oldman’s most ‘out there’ performances, with suits the chaotic, colourful and utterly over the top style of the film perfectly. While nothing deep and meaningful, “The Fifth Element” is a hell of a lot of fun to watch.

 

6. The Batman Trilogy (2005, 2007, 2012) Directed by Christopher Nolan

the dark knight

Over the course of director Christopher Nolan’s revision of the Batman franchise, Oldman played Commissioner Jim Gordon. A pillar of what’s morally right in a world gone wild, he was the one character that, as a viewer of the trilogy, you had complete trust in. Proving that he can do more than just play bad guys, Oldman totally nailed Gordon’s initial suspicion and later trust of Batman and how Gotham’s alliance with The Bat was forged.

After the Batman franchise unfortunately became something of a joke due to its mistreatment by director Joel Schumacher, it was nothing short of joy to see it treated with the decency and respect that it deserved. Oldman was only but one piece of this, along with quality actors like Christian Bale, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine.

 

5. Sid And Nancy (1986) Directed by Alex Cox

SidAndNancy

The second film from British director Alex Cox, director of the brilliant and utterly unique 1984 film “Repo Man”, this is an explosive and powerful biopic on Sid Vicious, bass player for infamous British punk band The Sex Pistols.

While it does, at times, play fast and loose with the facts of the story of the band and Vicious, Oldman brilliantly captures the essence and spirit of this lost man child who experienced too much too soon in his life, dying at the tender age of twenty-one.

It is a compelling and unforgettable performance, receiving the highest compliment from Sex Pistols front man John Lydon AKA Johnny Rotten, who described Oldman as ‘a bloody good actor’. Grabbing the attention of Hollywood, this was only a hint of what Oldman would be capable of in years to come.

 

4. True Romance (1994) Directed by Tony Scott

Drexl (True Romance)

Directed by Tony Scott and based on a script by Quentin Tarantino, Oldman’s work in “True Romance” is proof positive that it’s not about the amount of screen time you have, but what you do with it that counts.

In what amounts to a handful of scenes, Oldman, almost unrecognisable with one eye blinded and a head full of dreadlocks, plays pimp and drug deal Drexl Spivey. This character is total psychosis on screen, a truly mad, bad and dangerous to know individual.

In a rogue’s gallery of characters on display in this film, Oldman is an absolute standout. His confrontation with Clarence (Christian Slater) is one for the ages, with its sheer aggression and intensity, all pure Oldman. Besides, you have to love a film where Dennis Hopper plays the most ‘normal’ character in the story, don’t you?!

 

3. Nil By Mouth (1997) Directed by Gary Oldman

Nil By Mouth

In his only stab at directing so far in his career, Oldman, not acting and staying on the other side of the camera, created this shattering and brutal examination of domestic violence. Exorcising some of the demons of his less than positive childhood, this is an unflinching look at alcoholism and drug abuse and how it affects the family unit.

Featuring astounding and committed performances from Ray Winstone and Kathy Burke, this is confronting and disturbing cinema at its finest. “Nil By Mouth” is an incredibly difficult film to watch, such is its intensity and the way that it gets in your faces as a viewer.

The cinematic equivalent of a brick to the face, this is one of Oldman’s finest achievements in his career.

 

2. Leon:The Professional (1994) Directed by Luc Besson

Norman Stansfield (Leon The Professional)

Working with French director Besson for the first time, Oldman plays Stansfield, an amoral and severely corrupt policeman responsible for the death of the family of main character Mathilde (Natalie Portman).

Quietly spoken, this is a different type of psychotic from those we had, up till this point, seen Oldman play. This was an unnerving performance of a truly despicable character. Another gem in the Oldman back catalogue.

 

1. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) Directed by Tomas Alfredeson

tinker-tailor-soldier-spy-review

Swedish director Alfredeson, best known for the stunning vampire film “Let The Right One In”, makes it two for two with his remarkable take on the classic Cold War spy novel by author John Le Carre. There is a beautiful sense of control and feel for the material, wonderfully illustrated by the exceptional work from Oldman in this film.

Tense and brooding, he plays George Smiley, an espionage veteran forced out of retirement to flush out a Soviet agent working within British MI6.
After one incredible performance after another, this was the one that finally got Oldman an Oscar nomination. Here, in a large cast, he really is the glue that holds the story together.

Like fine wine, Oldman is one of those actors that seems to be getting better with age.

Author Bio: Neil is a journalist, labourer, forklift and truck driver. In a previous life, he was a projectionist for ten years. He is a lifelong student of cinema.

 

 

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  • missannthrope

    My favorite is, “We Think the World of You.”

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  • Ted Wolf

    I’m kind of surprised Immortal Beloved is not here.

    • Hosaka

      Great list but I too was hoping to see Immortal Beloved.

  • Jonathan Brand

    Sirius is Harry’s Godfather, not Uncle

  • Bryan Stardust

    U fUckin didn”t Mention rOmeo”s Bleeding !

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  • Alex Nasaudean

    No love for The Contender? Gary Oldman stole the show, while being part of an impeccable cast!

    • CQ617

      Love this movie. This author probably did not recognize him in that role which he played excellently. Great movie too. I was surprised its not on the list, but my guess is that he was unrecognizable as Shelly Runyon creepy politician do anything to win.

      • Annabelle

        I’ve heard that Oldman does not like the way this performance turned out because of the way the role was edited. Apparently there were parts cut where Runyon is depicted as a more fleshed out/complex character instead of just becoming the stock villain. He’s still terrific in his scenes though!

  • Minz

    Nobody’s Baby, there are just way to many amazing performances to name. In my opinion, Oldman is the greatest actor around.
    It kind of bugs me that everyone goes crazy about DiCaprio not having an Oscar.

  • Nathaniel Poe

    Where in the Hell is “Immortal Beloved”?! Or “Romeo is Bleeding”?

  • Silje Mari Mo

    Sirius Black was HPs godfather, not uncle though

  • Sharon J.

    He’s absolutely wonderful in “We Think the World of You” which was regretfully overlooked on this list.

  • Janine Feczko

    And Basquiat is not here either. bummer.

  • mkonezw

    Umm, nothing. (edit)

  • Gary Oldman’s mum

    Meantime!

  • ColinK

    Agree Immortal Beloved belongs on this list.

  • billinga

    If you like him in Leon, you can’t miss Romeo Is Bleeding.

  • Valasaki Irene

    C’mon guys …..where is Romeo is Bleeding and Immortal Beloved!!

  • CQ617

    Did you not see the Contender or did you miss him in that as he was barely recognizable. Great, great movie. He was fabulous in that as was Joan Allen. He played the conservative hypocritical senator and should have been nominated as best supporting actor for that role.

  • wecandobetter758

    Nobody’s Baby.

  • Bharathy Singaravel

    Ah, Sirius is Harry’s Godfather.

  • Mark

    While I love Gary Oldman, I cannot watch Tinker, Tailor.. without comparing it to the BBC series of this book with the late great Alec Guiness as Smiley. I know the film had to deal with time constraints, but I do believe the BBC version to be the definitive potrayal of this amazing book, and Alec Guiness to be the ultimate George Smiley. (The same is true of BBC’s Smiley’s People with Guiness again.)

    • John Addey

      Guiness was brilliant as Smiley as well as all aspects of the novel’s adaption. Brilliant supporting cast as well.

    • Paul Golonski

      I thought they were both great in their own slightly different way.

  • abbynrml

    who are the “Cohen” brothers?

  • abbynrml

    How is Prick Up You Ears the “sophomore effort from director Stephen Frears”? It was his fourth feature film after Gumshoe, The Hit and My Beautiful Laundrette.

  • John Addey

    Just read the comments and see how much this actor is respected and loved. Give us more Gary Oldman.

  • lucky gmail

    I gotta admit “True Romance” was really great, but Gary was only PART of the reason why. Lest we forget Walken and Hopper!

  • Hedge685

    Instead of …’An incredibly ambitious look at the assassination of American president John F. Kennedy,’ you should describe the film as ‘a completely fictionalized look’ at the JFK shooting by Oliver Stone.

    • bourgeoisie scum

      some of it is fictionalized (like the Mr X character which is a conglomerate of several people that Jim Garrison allegedly talked to) but the main story actually happened. The DA of New Orleans DID make these claims and DID prosecute those people using the story presented as the basis for the trial. I don’t recall the movie ever saying “this is how it really happened” it says “this is what Jim Garrison SAYS really happened”

  • Paul Golonski

    I agree with Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

  • Yolanda Anne Brown

    Why is “Romeo Is Bleeding” off the list? That is a dark film noir tribute that is criminally neglected from a lot of lists, with a heartbreaking ending that you never see coming.

  • Carl Edgar Consiglio

    “Meantime”

  • Pete

    dracula?

  • Yolanda Anne Brown

    “ROMEO IS BLEEDING ” ISN’T HERE?????

  • Sharon Townsend

    Does anyone know the name of a movie that is similar to Brubaker that stars Gary Oldham?