Gary Oldman is widely considered as a chameleon actor, somebody who has lost himself in countless roles that it seemed he could do anything requested from him on the big screen.
Fans of the Harry Potter franchise have a special part of their hearts saved for Gary Oldman. The actor took on the beloved role of Sirius Black, the godfather of Harry Potter, who gave his life to save the Boy Wizard in one of the franchise’s most heartbreaking moments.
He has become one of the most prolific actors in the film industry for his ability to embody a wide variety of characters. He is also known as Hollywood’s Greatest Shapeshifter, and we have compiled his 16 greatest performances that support this statement.
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1) The Dark Knight Trilogy – The Honest Cop
In the Batman movies, Gary Oldman played one of the most crucial roles — that of Commissioner Jim Gordon, the man tasked with keeping the law in Gotham City while also working with Batman. Oldman helped audiences connect to Gordon very quickly and helped audiences see a new side of the character.
2) The Harry Potter Franchise – The Noble, Unlikely Ally
In the Harry Potter franchise, Oldman plays Sirius Black, He’s arguably the character that pulled at the heartstrings the most of every fan of both the book and film adaptations of the Harry Potter franchise, and Oldman was one of the driving reasons behind why the film iteration of Sirius Black was so well-loved. He initially seems like an antagonist, but ultimately turns out to be an ally in the fight against Voldemort.
He makes his first appearance in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, which marked a turning point in his career. Oldman did well to portray Sirius with such a warm and human approach that it flawlessly transferred the character from the pages of the books to the frames on the screen.
3) The Fifth Element – The Megalomaniacal Space Villain
In The Fifth Element, Oldman plays the industrialist Zorg, who is recruited by an alien race to find a collection of elemental stones that could be used to defeat the great evil they are working for, while also fighting against a former special forces operative-turned-taxi driver Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis). In a role that mixes political parody, brutal villainy, and a touch of unpretentious self-mock, Oldman conveys heaps of snickers and a solid scalawag that makes it charming to watch.
4) Hannibal – The Sadistic Monster
In Hannibal, the sequel to The Silence of the Lambs, Oldman took an uncredited role (Totally unrecognizable under disturbing prosthetic makeup for the character’s disfigured face) as Mason Verger, the only person to have survived an attack by the notorious Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter. He now makes an elaborate plan to find him and avenge himself.
Despite being the poorest-received entry into the Hannibal Lecter franchise, one of the few things that earned the 2001 sequel Hannibal some praise was Oldman’s incredible performance.
5) Bram Stoker’s Dracula – The Enigmatic Vampire
Viewers had mixed opinions about Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula but the one area no one can deny the casting nailed, was with Gary Oldman, who portrayed Count Dracula himself. Oldman lost himself in the role, both as the ancient Dracula and as his younger self once he feeds and regains his youthful appearance.
6) Leon: The Professional – The Maniac Cop
Following a seasoned hitman in New York who agrees to make a 12-year old his protégée after her family is murdered by a corrupt DEA agent, the film featured some beautiful storytelling and action. But what really made the film a thrill to watch was Oldman’s deliriously-manic performance as corrupt DEA agent and drug addict Norman Stansfield. He delivers every line and kills every victim in such a cold and psychotic manner that it still to this day is one of his most powerful performances of his career.
7) Darkest Hour – The Transformative WWII Hero
For his brilliant performance in Darkest Hour, Gary Oldman won the Oscar for best actor for his performance as Winston Churchill. The prosthetic job was on point making the actor look like Churchill. In fact, if you didn’t know who was playing the role in advance, you might not even realize it was Oldman. If a good prosthetic job was all there was to the performance, though, it wouldn’t have won anything, much less an Oscar. Darkest Hour needed a star who could both disappear into character and convey the historical figure’s commanding presence, and Oldman was one of the few who could have pulled it off.
8) Sid and Nancy – The Tragic Rock Star
Sid and Nancy is the movie that made Gary Oldman a star. This was his second movie role, and Alex Cox cast Oldman to portray real-life rock legend Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols. Sid and Nancy told the story of Sid’s volatile relationship with Nancy Spungen (Chloe Webb), a relationship that led to their deaths.
It takes a skilled actor to tell the devastating story of Sid and his damaged psyche and humanity and his struggles with falling in love with Nancy and the tragic end of their relationship, in which he stabbed Nancy to death. Oldman brought the real character of Vicious to life with power and created a sympathetic and thought-provoking image of the punk rocker that both appeased fans of the band, as well as opened up new people to being fans of the late artist.
9) JFK – The Paranoid Assassin
Oliver Stone’s masterpiece is arguably JFK, he worked to open audiences’ minds to the conspiratorial possibilities behind the assassination of beloved President John F. Kennedy and the ensuing investigation that stemmed from it regarding the alleged cover-ups and theories related to it.
Gary Oldman played one of the essential characters in the assassination — Lee Harvey Oswald. Oldman brought Oswald to life with a cold and calculated approach that helped to further engage the audiences’ suspicions of whether he did or did not do it, as well as whether he acted alone or in a group.
10) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – The Quiet, Genius Spy
One of the best espionage movies of all-time is the 2011 film Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. Based on the John le Carre novel, Oldman starred in the film as George Smiley, a former agent in the British Intelligence (The Circus). He is brought out of retirement to investigate a possible mole in The Circus. Oldman was nominated for Best Actor as part of a fantastic cast that also included Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, Mark Strong, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Ciaran Hinds.
Tell us about your favorite character played by Gary Oldman in the comment section below!