In Praise of Gary Oldman

In Praise of Gary Oldman

Everyone loves Gary Oldman, right? Whether he is playing a super-villain or ... a super-villain. There are so many great Oldman roles to choose from — from some high-ticket features to little-known gems. There are even a few that are appropriate to watch with the kiddies. Here are some of my favorite Oldman movies.

Sid and Nancy (1986) — Oldman played the Sex Pistols' Sid Vicious and made him both a caricature and human at the same time.

Nancy, "I hate my fuckin' life."

Sid, "This is just a rough patch. Things'll be much better when we get to America, I promise."

Nancy, "We're in America. We've been here a week. New York is in America, you fuck."


I have to admit that I found the much-lauded Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) a bit of a yawn (even with Benedict Cumberbatch), but there is no denying that Oldman's George Smiley is a brilliant performance.

The Harry Potter Series — Oldman brings both menace and poignancy to his role as Sirius Black. He also looks pretty darn cool in the beard and 'stache and longcoat.


1997's The Fifth Element is a love it or hate it movie for many. I love its crazy, over-the-top energy. Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, and Chris Tucker are all a lot of fun, but Oldman, as the villain Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg (with very unusual taste in hairstyle and headwear) steals every scene he is in.


1983's Meantime, directed by Mike Leigh, may be hard to track down, but it is worth it. Set in Thatcher's 1980s Britain, it tells the story of a struggling family, most of them on the dole. It is really Tim Roth's film, but Oldman is memorable as the skinhead Coxy.

Francis Ford Coppola's stylized version of Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) is probably Oldman's most well-known film. The actor pulls out all the stops and makes his Vlad Dracula evil and frightening as well as seductive and sexy.

"I have crossed oceans of time to find you."


Oldman plays crooked cop Stansfield who is after Mathilda (Natalie Portman), who is under the protection of hit-man Léon (Jean Reno), in Luc Besson's wonderful Léon: The Professional (1994).

Honorable mentions:

Oldman plays Carnegie, a post-apocalyptic Wild West-style outlaw who goes up against Denzel Washington (bad idea) in 2010's The Book of Eli.

1994's Immortal Beloved is full of music and romance, a wonderful Oldman as Ludwig van Beethoven, as the film chronicles his prodigious amount of lady-loves.

Oldman brings both delicacy and menace to his voice role as the evil (of course) peacock Shen in 2011's Kung Fu Panda 2.

Playing another corrupt cop, Oldman matches wits with gorgeous assassin Lena Olin in 1993's Romeo Is Bleeding.

Tony Scott's True Romance (1993, written by Quentin Tarantino) hosts a very eclectic cast of characters (Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette, Christopher Walken, Brad Pitt, Val Kilmer), but Oldman manages to stand out as pimp Drexl Spivey.

Sounds like it's time for another movie marathon!

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