Gary Oldman

Gary Oldman’s Latest 10 Movies vs. Greatest 10 Movies

Gary Oldman
Latest vs. Greatest looks at directors, actors, actresses, screenwriters and composers to assess the state of their career as it stands.  We’ll look back at the latest 10 movies the artist has done, rate them and then average them out to see where they stand today.  We’ll also rank their 10 greatest movies and give them the same treatment to compare what they have been doing to their very best work.  (A quick side-note: if an artist is/has been a regular on a TV show we’ll also grade the seasons individually; artists need 10 projects to qualify).

Gary Oldman, Sid and Nancy

In the age of the franchise, perhaps no actor’s career has benefitted more than Gary Oldman.  As a leading man, Oldman’s career is extremely checkered.  A lot of his appeal from the early portion of his career depends on how you view two or three films, but even pre-franchise, Oldman’s best roles were as a supporting character actor.The first film that launched Oldman into the public eye was his incendiary turn as Sid Vicious in Sid & Nancy in 1986 that won him the BAFTA award as Most Promising Newcomer.  Oldman co-starred in the stellar adaptation of Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead that, if you haven’t read it, will manage to make Hamlet an even better experience.  In 1991, Oldman played an affecting Lee Harvey Oswald in Oliver Stone’s controversial JFK (which, no matter what you think of it, you have to admit is a character actor showcase).

Gary Oldman, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead

That brings us to 1992 and Oldman’s starring role in Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula.  It’s a bit of an understatement to say this is a polarizing film.  I know people who think it’s brilliance and I know people who think it’s utter crap.  I tend to fall in the middle.  I admire a lot of the film’s design, but I think Oldman hams it up as the uber vamp and overall it’s not a film I feel works.

Bram Stoker's Dracula, Gary Oldman

The next five years would find Oldman taking leading roles with extremely mixed results.  Leon – excellent.  Immortal Beloved and the exceedingly bizarre The Fith Element – not so much.

In 1997, Oldman took the part of the Russian terrorist who hijacks President Harrison Ford’s plane in Air Force One and helped turn what could have been a formulaic film into an action classic.  Oozing real menace and unpredictable charisma that flashed into instant murderous rage, Oldman was outstanding and his scenes with Ford have become classics.

After Air Force One, Oldman’s career again seemed to dip.  He was the villain in the horrible Hannibal and he starred in a number of forgettable films.  The most notable thing he did during the period was garner an Emmy nomination for guest starring on Friends.

Gary Oldman, Air Force One

Then came the two franchises that would launch Oldman into the upper echelon of character actors and cement his place in Hollywood history: Harry Potter and The Dark Knight.

The Harry Potter film series is so epic that it seems odd that Oldman is the first actor we’ve profile who participated in the eight-film brilliant realization of JK Rowling’s fantasy saga.  Oldman shows up in four of the eight films, most pivotal in films three and five.  He is Sirius Black, Harry’s godfather, wrongly imprisoned for over a decade for murder in the wizard’s prison of Azkaban and he’s not altogether all together for the experience.  Instead of treating the role as a lark, Oldman lost so much weight he’s skeletal and threw himself into the part, stealing the best film in the series: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  Serving as a surrogate father for Harry, his death in the fifth film, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, I felt was actually handled better onscreen than on the page (the reverse of what happened with Dumbledore’s demise).  I can still see the “WANTED” posters for Sirius posted with him in a straight jacket laughing like a lunatic in Cuaron’s masterpiece.  Oldman is part of a giant ensemble, but one of the best members of it in my opinion.

Sirius Black, Harry P;otter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Gary Oldman

The other franchise that Oldman was part of (at the same time he was making the Potter films) was Christopher Nolan’s re-imagining of Batman in The Dark Knight Trilogy.  You can say good things about Burton’s Batman and I’ll listen and agree on a lot of points, but his treatment of the character of Commissioner Gordon was unforgivable.  Treating him, as best, as a buffoon, Burton relegated to joke status one of the most important characters in the Bat-mythos.  Jim Gordon is every bit Batman’s partner as Alfred and any of the costumed Bat-family.  Oldman brought dignity back to the role and especially in The Dark Knight, made Gordon a believable cop; the point of view character for the audience through a flawless three film exploration of comics’ best character.

Commissioner Gordon, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Gary Oldman, Batman, The Dark Knight Trilogy

Since the end of both franchises, Oldman received his first Oscar nomination for the adaptation of John Le Carre’s spy novel Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy and was the best part of a possible new franchise in RoboCop.  Oldman will be joining the reborn Planet of the Apes franchise with this summer’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and has been rumored to be in line for a role in the Star Wars sequels.  In other words, Oldman knows full well he’s best as a supporting player in a strong genre ensemble and he’s not abandonning the efforts just because Sirius Black and Jim Gordon are in his past.

Let’s look at Oldman’s last ten films:

1. RoboCop (2014)……………………………..7.00
2. Paranoia (2013)………………………………4.00
3. Guns, Girls and Gambling (2012)…4.00
4. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)………10.00
5. Lawless (2012)………………………………….5.75
6. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011)….5.50
7. Harry Potter and the
Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 (2011)…………….9.75
8. Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011)…………………7,00
9. Red Riding Hood (2011)…………………3.00
10. The Book of Eli (2010)………………….4.50

I happen to think Tinker, Tailor is one of the dullest films I’ve ever seen and for all the good films Oldman has made, he’s made some truly awful stuff.  I watched Red Riding Hood and Guns, Girls and Gambling for you people.  I’m out there taking bullets!  Even balanced with the back-end of his old franchises, it barely keeps his numbers at a 6; not reflective of what he can do.

RoboCop, Gary Oldman, Joel Kinaman

1. The Dark Knight (2008)…………………………………………………10.00
2. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)…..10.00
3. Batman Begins (2005)…………………………………………………….10.00
4. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)……………………………………….10.00
5. Air Force One (1998)………………………………………………………10.00
6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2 (2011)…..9.75
7. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)…………………9.50
8. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)……9.00
9. Leon: The Professional (1994)………………………………………..8.25
10. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (1990)………8.00

This is the benefit of sagely picking some of the best franchises in film history: you have a greatest score right in-between George Clooney and Robert Downey Jr.  With these in the bank, Oldman has a chance to climb to the top in terms of full body of work.

Time will tell if the success Oldman has seen in the last decade will translate into future hits, but just in Sirius Black and Jim Gordon alone, Oldman has created characters that will be remembered fondly as long as people watch movies.

Gary Oldman

13 thoughts on “Gary Oldman’s Latest 10 Movies vs. Greatest 10 Movies”

  1. The problem with Oldman’s Dracula performance is that he was miscast (just for the record, I lean towards the “brilliance” camp when it comes to that movie). He was the one bright spot in Hannibal, despite being completely unrecognizable under prosthetics. He can be over-the-top (as in Fifth Element, which is goofy yet wonderful) but depending on the film he is perfectly happy to underplay while letting others ham it up. I suspect that he has a very practical, pragmatic view of his job, but that does not mean he coasts. Whatever the movie, he’s there 110%. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead is one of my favorite movies BTW, and my favorite Oldman performance. His speech about being dead in a box is one of the funniest comic monologues of all time.


    1. I remember reading R&G Are Dead for the first time and being blown away by the concept and the movie doesn’t disappoint at all. I think right now, you can’t do much better than add Oldman to an ensemble. I think he raises everyone’s game.


  2. I love this article and the enter Latest vs Greatest concept. Brilliant! You have a new follower!
    As far as Oldman goes I couldn’t agree more. I’m a bit older but used to be an English teacher so I read the Harry Potter books. Sirius Black is my favorite character and Oldman nailed it. When it came to Dark Knight, Batman is my favorite hero, and Oldman played the sympathetic side kick to a tee. Never thought about how he took to new levels as a franchise actor.
    Looking forward to more.


    1. Well, welcome, first of all to our little madhouse of time killing and thanks for such kind words. These particular pieces take a LONG time to prep since I have to have watched at least 20 usually movies from the person. I have them working several months out so I can tell you Christian Bale and Tim Burton are coming soon. I think Oldman’s Black is better than the book or takes the best facet of the book’s Black and brings it to the fore. Book five can be dodgy on its own, but Oldman really helped (along with Luna) glue that film together. I think his particular brand of submerging into a character is so well-suited for franchises that is why he’s seeking them out. He can play far-out, varied characters in the company of a bunch of great actors and know the core material is solid. It’s an argument for any actor to seek out franchise work, but he seems to really have taken it to heart. Again, welcome, I’m so happy you dropped by.


  3. Can NOT wait for Tim Burton. You will be hard pressed t convince me he has a bad movie! Pee Wee’s Big Adventure! Come on!!!


      1. If all bad movies looked as gorgeous as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, I would be going to a lot more bad movies. Burton gets a lot of flak these days, but we are living in a cookie-cutter age, and IMO he deserves a medal, even for his misfires. I cannot wait for your column.


      2. I’ll medal most of his misfires, but that movie was an abomination. I’m looking forward to writing about his career though. Lot of great stuff there.


  4. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead hands down for me, as Roth, Oldman & Stoppard makes for a perfect trio of greatness. I’ll always love Oldman (skinhead) & Roth in Meantime, and Oldman in True Romance. However, best hair in a film goes to Oldman in Dracula.


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