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The 12 Best Performances from Comedians in Dramatic Movies

24 February 2015 | Features, Other Lists | by Jason Zoblin

best dramatic performance from comedians

Being a good actor takes dedication and willingness to accept risks. Part of these risks that an actor must take is to pick roles that will allow them to grow in their craft, even if the part does not prove commercially successful.

A comedic actor switching to a dramatic role could prove to be either a good career movie or a catastrophic business decision, depending on that actor’s talent. However, the truly great actors are able to play any type of role, comedic, dramatic, action, what have you..

 

12. Jack Black in King Kong (2005)

king-kong-2005-jack-black

Jack Black has always been the hilarious actor whom everyone loves whether if it’s been for a stoner film like Tenacious D: in the Pick of Destiny or a family comedy like School of Rock.

In 2005, right after his success of School of Rock, he took on the role of Carl Denham in the remake of King Kong. This was a very different role for him, and with this success, it lead to other great dramatic roles for him. He is a decent actor who really shines if he prepares for his roles. He has been in many different commercial flops, but he has made a decent career for himself.

These roles give him a chance to breakout of his comedic glory and finally step out of his comfort zone. He has done a number of other dramatic roles after this film, including Bernie, Margot at the Wedding, and many others. He is not only hilarious in his comedic roles; he really does a great job in these dramatic roles as well.

 

11. Bill Murray in Lost in Translation (2003)

lost-in-translation-2003

Bill Murray has always been a popular actor in the comedy realm, whether it is Ghostbusters, Stripes, Caddyshack, or Groundhog Day he has been making us laugh with his dry, sarcastic humor for decades.

In Lost in Translation, he plays a popular actor staying in Japan after having problems with his wife. It is a depressing tale that shows how powerful Bill Murray can be. He is so passionate, yet subtle at the same time in this film. He really delivers in this film, and it is considered one of his best roles. It is depressing and exciting to watch what happens to his character in this film. He also works so well with Scarlett Johansson. They are broken souls in this film.

They both are like puppy dogs, because of how innocent they seem, Murray especially, because he is still so damaged, and we can see this through his indifferent and gloomy outlook on life. He is such a broken character you feel sympathy for him throughout the film, but it is also beautiful to watch. He is extremely funny in his iconic roles, but it is a treat to see him so powerful in this role. It is an incredible film and a well deserved Oscar nomination for Bill Murray.

 

10. J.K. Simmons in Whiplash (2014)

J.K Simmons - Whiplash

J.K. Simmons has always been a supporting role kind of actor. However, he is still an amazing actor. Last year his role in Whiplash has proved that he is a force to be reckoned with, because he is spectacular. This film is terrifying because of his incredibly gripping role. He plays a music teacher who leads a big band. He brings in a young drummer who has a lot of potential (Miles Teller). Simmons’ character has a cutthroat, intense program that is extremely emotional to watch.

Simmons has been great being a supporting character for years, and is a shame that he is not in many different lead roles. He is an incredible actor who is taken for granted it seems. However, this role is by far his best. He transforms himself into a menacing and frightening teacher who is so intimidating. Simmons also gained muscle for this role, which only makes him seem even more intimidating.

However, he also shows his sensitive side throughout the film, portraying such a dense and complicated character. His Oscar win for this role is well deserved because he delivers so highly. It is both exciting and horrifying to watch, but like a car wreck, you cannot turn away.

 

9. Jonah Hill in Moneyball (2011)

moneyball

Jonah Hill is known for being the overweight funny guy. His roles in Superbad, Knocked Up, and Get Him to the Greek are just a few of his great comedic roles. Over the past few years, his weight has fluctuated and so have his roles.

One of the best roles he has had is Peter Brand in Moneyball, who is very serious and determined and wants everything perfect, not only for his team, but also for his mentor, Billy Beane, played by Brad Pitt. This role has skyrocketed his career into the mainstream, and with his Oscar nomination for this role, and his Oscar nominated role in The Wolf of Wall Street, his career will reach new fame.

This role was lampooned in This is the End, but this role was crucial for his career. He played Peter Brand so well. He essentially became Peter Brand. Also, he worked so well with the amazing Brad Pitt. They were a perfect pair together for this film, and they fed off each other so well in this film. It was hardly a surprise when they both were nominated for their roles. Nevertheless, Hill hits a home run in this film, and it has helped his career so much.

 

8. Seth Rogen in 50/50 (2011)

Seth Rogen in 50 50 (2011)

Seth Rogen is known for his comedic roles with James Franco and Paul Rudd. However, he changed his comedic ways to play a loveable, caring best friend in this film. It is heartwarming to see how great the friendship between Rogen and Joseph Gordon Levitt’s characters is depicted in this film. Yes, Rogen is funny in this film, but he is very compassionate, caring, and helpful towards his best friend who is diagnosed with cancer.

Seth Rogen is used to being the loudmouthed, comedic relief in most of his roles, but is it a pleasure to see him caring and wanting to help Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character in this film. He has made a name for himself in Hollywood being obnoxious, but in this film, he shines.

 

7. Josh Peck in The Wackness (2008)

Josh Peck in The Wackness (2008)

Josh Peck skyrocketed his career as Josh on the hit Nickelodeon show, Drake and Josh. He was the overweight, funny brother of Drake Bell who was loveable. In this film, he plays a drug dealer trying to help his parents pay the rent. He is also going to therapy. After becoming friends with his psychiatrist, he starts spending time with his doctor’s daughter, played by Olivia Thirlby. It is a coming-of-age tale that really shows how well Josh Peck can act.

This actor started out on Nickelodeon and then completely does a 180 and plays a drug dealer, cursing, having sex, and smoking. It is a big change for an actor, but it works. After watching him grow up on a children’s television show, it is great to see how much he has grown as an actor in The Wackness. He really displayed many different emotions, and he was utterly convincing as a drug dealer dealing with all of these emotional problems and giant issues about growing up. He delivers on so many levels and it is fascinating to watch his transformation throughout the film.

 

 

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  • John C Reilly actually had 13 years’ worth of quality dramatic roles before getting into comedy.

  • ben

    this was such a terribly written article it’s almost a shame the author was right in his listography

  • Armando De La Cruz

    Greenburg ben stiller? ???

  • Guest

    How about Jim Carey in The Number 23

  • Dillon Curren

    Adam Sandler in Reign Over Me? I thought his performace was fantastic in that.

  • CatfishJohn47

    More than half of these people aren’t even comedians, and Jack Black is neither a comedian NOR an actor.

  • Michel Muñoz

    Everything Must Go it’s a decent film…but Will Ferrell in Stranger Than Fiction should’ve made a spot in the top 5 on this list.

  • Josh Peck over Bill Murray? Fuck that shit.

  • Bintang Lestada

    I hope you would add some female comedians here like Kristen Wiig in The Skeleton Twins, Maya Rudolph in Away We Go, Melissa McCarthy in St. Vincent, Julia Louis Dreyfus in Enough Said… Where is Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls? Patton Oswalt in Young Adult?

  • CBCOCKROACH

    would Jack Lemmon in Days of Wine and Roses count?

  • Andrew Trump

    Nothing before 2002? Really? How about Jerry Lewis in King of Comedy? Dick van Dyke in The clown or Oliver Hardy in Northwest Passag?

    • Bryton Cherrier

      The King of Comedy is more of a Black Comedy than Drama.

  • Elisabeth White

    nice list.. I think there’s a lot more though.. Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka ? Peter Sellers in Being There and Dr Strangelove.. Eddie Murpjy in Dreamgirls.. some comedians make great actors..

    • Elisabeth White

      Whoopie Goldberg Colour Purple anyone?

      • Mikey O.

        Actually Whoopi’s screen debut was in “The Color Purple”, so it doesn’t count (as marvelous as it was).

  • Gerald Martin

    Don Rickles in X– The Man With the X-Ray Eyes (1963).

  • Qualiarella18

    plz, join this cinema forums…

    http://www.welikecinema.com/

  • Juan Carlos Ojano

    Mary Tyler Moore in Ordinary People – she was amazing in that, and that’s the first time I saw her. I was surprised to find out that she was a comedic actress in TV before that film.

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