8. Dracula (1992) Directed by Francis Ford Coppola
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
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
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
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
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. Romeo Is Bleeding (1993) Directed by Peter Medak
Gary Oldman has been one of the most productive actors of the last 30 plus years, putting in one great supporting performance after another, but rarely does he get a lead role. “Romeo Is Bleeding” is a fine example of what he is capable of doing when he is given the lead. He plays a corrupt police detective on the downswing who bites off more than he can chew when he gets involved with Russian hit woman played by Lena Olin.
Oldman is the center of the movie, and you cannot imagine anyone else playing the part; he is never boring and is able show emotion without uttering a word. But what makes him unique is that he is willing to step aside and let other actors steal scenes from him. Olin does this several times and almost steals the entire movie from his grasp. Her character doesn’t hide her evil and with a Joker-esque smile, she screams to stay away.
She is also sultry, sexy, and smart, like a medusa – once you lay eyes on her, she owns you. She has no problem getting her way with Oldman and he is willing to sacrifice what little he has left for her. This is a fun movie from beginning to end, and worth catching when they do show it.
2. Leon:The Professional (1994) Directed by Luc Besson
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
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.