Top 10 Gary Oldman Films

Gary Oldman is perhaps the greatest living actor to never win an Academy Award. Neal Damiano takes a look at this uniquely talented man.

10. Interstate 60

Interstate 60, Gary Oldham, FilmThis is the second time Interstate 60 has appeared on one of my lists, a very entertaining film that did not receive much publicity or promotion. The film stars Gary Oldman as a devious but lovable leprechaun that may or not be real. He guides the main character (James Marsden) on a road trip through all sorts of twists and turns, while meeting
some rather quirky people. Oldman is not known typically for playing comedic roles, but he knocks it right out of the park here.

9. Basquiat

basquiat_gary-oldmanBasquiat is an excellent biopic on Jean Michel Basquiat the graffiti artist turned Andy Warhol protege. At the young age of 27 he met an early death due to drugs. Oldman plays Albert Milo, a loose portrayal of fellow artist and director Julian Schnabel, although a small role Oldman owned it, capturing the intense love Schnabel has for art and the friendship he had with Basquiat.

8. Murder In The First

murder-in-the-first_gary-oldmanA very well made film based on a court case in the 30s about three convicts that escaped from Alcatraz. Gary Oldman’s performance as a brutal prison warden is so intense and right on. After viewing do not be surprised to dislike Oldman for only a brief second.

7. Dracula

dracula-1992-gary-oldmanFrancis Coppola’s rendition of Bram Stoker’s famous novel is truly astonishing, but it was Oldman’s dark and sensual performance as Dracula that stole the show. I feel this was the best portrayal of Dracula ever on film. He completely hypnotizes the audience with his voice and persona. A truly frightening display of a blood sucking iconic monster.

6. The Fifth Element

fifth-element_gary-oldmanOldman is fascinating as the film’s villain, Zorg. Never has “silly acting” been so entertaining and interesting. Though by no means the most dangerous or frightening cinematic villain, Oldman’s performance is a blast to watch, and you can’t help but smile whenever his presence emerges onscreen.

5. State Of Grace

state_of_grace_gary-oldmanOldman plays Jackie Flannery in this electrifying gangster film of the early 90s. First off this is one of the best gangster films I have ever seen. It includes an all star cast of amazing actors portraying the violent Irish mobsters of Hell’s Kitchen in the 80s. What makes State Of Grace so great: the acting. Oldman radiates with charisma and ferocious violence through the whole film.

4. Sid & Nancy

sid-and-nancy_gary-oldmanGary Oldman’s portrayal of punk legend Sid Vicious is spot on. He must have channeled Sid’s spirit in a séance. He plays the iconic punk right down to the clothes and mannerisms. Oldman’s balance is quite exceptional, he doesn’t lose his signature self in the role, but maintains in character fearlessly.

3. True Romance

True-Romance-1993_gary-oldmanWhat can I say about this film? True Romance is probably my favorite Tarantino film to date, mainly because of the characters. A lot of that has to do with Gary Oldman’s performance as Drexl, a pimp/drug dealer sporting dreadlocks and gold teeth, complete with a scar on his face. Oldman has some of the funniest one liners including “He must have thought it was white boy day, it ain’t white boy day is it?”

2. Romeo Is Bleeding

romeo-is-bleeding_gary-oldmanRomeo Is Bleeding is my favorite modern day film noir. Oldman plays Jack Grimaldi a crooked cop giving up witnesses to the mob. Oldman plays this role with such greed and intensity, becoming the ultimate anti hero. He has so much charisma and bravado, one can’t help but develop a love/hate relationship with the character. I really enjoyed this film’s exceptional story line.

1. The Professional (Leon)

leon_the-professional_gary-oldmanThis is Oldman’s sleaziest character to date, and happens to be my favorite performance by him. He plays Stansfield, a corrupt agent, who pops pills and listens to Beethoven. There’s no question this role is psychotic but Oldman almost plays it with a humorous appeal. His dialogue is outrageously funny, throwing tantrums as a kid would, if they did not get what they wanted. He is so convincing as a dirt bag, it’s literally scary. I feel no one could have played this role better. One memorable line “I like these calm moments before the storm”. Oldman should have won an Oscar here!

Written and compiled by Neal Damiano.

About the Author
Neal Damiano calls himself “an unhip film geek” who mixes his passion for movies with an enthusiasm for travel, music and journalism.

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  1. Colin Biggs Reply

    Oldman played villains so well for so long, it was nice to see him get to play a good guy in Nolan’s Batman movies.

    • Dan Reply

      That’s true. He’s great at playing the bad guy (as is so perfectly exampled by this list’s number one) but he’s such a versatile actor he seemed to move quite seamlessly into the good-guy persona.

  2. ruth Reply

    Nice to see Dracula and The Professional, the latter is essential Gary Oldman. I’d include his role in Immortal Beloved. I even liked him in Harry Potter films!

    • Dan Reply

      I liked him in the Harry Potter movies too. It was a shame they only really used him for one movie (with a bit-part in two others).

  3. Neal Damiano Reply

    @Colin, true, not a big fan of Batman films, sorry

    Thanks for reading man.

    Neal

  4. Neal Damiano Reply

    @Ruth, again…….I can’t stand the Harry Potter series so have not even seen him in those films. Thanks for the read!

    • Dan Reply

      Unsurprisingly, the best of the Harry Potter series (in my opinion) is the Prisoner of Azkaban (which is the one Oldman features in most prominently).

  5. Rodney Reply

    I can do little but agree with you on all points, Neal. A terrific list, and a terrific actor. Goddam, somebody give him an Oscar already!!!

  6. Neal Damiano Reply

    @Rodney, I know …..if there’s any actor deserving of an Oscar!! It’s hard to go over on Oldman.

    Thanks for reading, buddy

  7. Mark Reply

    Interesting you can’t stand Harry Potter … my kiddie grew up watching the films and reading all the books, yet refused to watch the last screen installment because they had become too dull and tedious(plus he had outgrown them). Wouldn’t go for old time’s sake; didn’t go for closure; wouldn’t even go when I offered to pay for his ticket.

    Great list … although I probably would have put Romeo at the top as Oldman’s so funny in it (plus I have a leaning towards the film’s absolutely superb neo noir cinematography).

    Also, I would have found a place for him as Oswald in JFK – he should really have won best supporting Oscar for that one. He steals every scene he’s in, and the black and white court room reactment of the assasination/theatre arrest/Ruby murder upstages the rest of the movie.

  8. Neal Damiano Reply

    @Mark, I know Potter is a popular series, but just wasn’t my thing. As for Romeo Is Bleeding, I agree it’s a fantastic underrated film and it is high up on my list (laughing). It is number 2.

    Thanks for the read buddy.

  9. Dan Reply

    Totally agree with Leon taking top spot. His maniacal cop is one of the most memorable things about a film filled with memorable moments.

    The sheer range of characters he has portrayed, as exampled by the ten featured above, shows just how great an actor he is.

  10. Evan Crean Reply

    Gary Oldman is one of my all-time favorite actors as well. The guy is a total chameleon. So glad that a lot of my top Oldman roles from True Romance, The Professional, and The Fifth Element. I don’t remember him that well from Murder in the First since I saw the movie a while ago, but I’m sure he was good there too. That said, there are a surprising number on here that I haven’t watched, which makes me excited. My Netflix queue now has some exciting new additions with Mr. Oldman. Thanks for sharing!

  11. Neal Damiano Reply

    @Evan, Romeo is Bleeding is a must see, Oldman radiates on screen here! Definitely see this movie.
    If you haven’t seen State of Grace , also a must!!

    Thanks for the read

  12. Pete Turner (@ilovethatfilm) Reply

    Disturbed by how many of these haven’t seen. Must give Interstate 60 and romeo and Bleeding a go one day. Wonder how he’ll fare in the Robocop remake.

  13. Neal Damiano Reply

    @Pete, thanks for the read………nice blog you have. Yes you do have to see Romeo is Bleeding, truly a great film noir! It is in my top 50 must see films list. My guess Oldman will be good in Robocop remake, he rarely ever isn’t, more a concern on how well the film is?

  14. Dan O. Reply

    I thought it would be so hard to get 10 of his best flicks out there, but somehow, someway, you pulled it off pretty well, my friend. Nice list!

  15. Alex Withrow Reply

    Great list. Man, Murder in the First rocked me to the core the first time I saw it. In addition to your great picks, I’d throw The Contender in there. Oldman is such a bastard in that one.

  16. Neal Damiano Reply

    @Dan O, it took some time and thought for this list! Thanks

  17. Neal Damiano Reply

    @Alex, yes that is what other film enthusiasts recommended as well – The Contender…..I’m embarrassed to say I was not familiar with this film at the time of making the list, I have to be honest, never saw it. As big a film fanatic ad I am, anyhow I will definitely check it out.

  18. Dan Grant Reply

    Great list of course, Neal. I haven’t seen a few of them but the ones I have he is certainly a chameleon in every film he does. Good call with Murder in the First.

    If I had to pick my top 5 it would be:

    5) Murder in the First
    4) True Romance
    3) The Contender ( a true sleezy politician)
    2) The Professional
    1) JFK (I’m convinced he was Oswald, perhaps he is, perhaps Jack Ruby never did kill him and they put him away for 30 years in chryogenesis (sp) and when Stone was ready to make JFK, they just gave him the name Oldman).

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