Ranking Gary Oldman’s 5 Best Movie Roles – Is Jim Gordon #1?

Gary Oldman
  • Gary Oldman is one of the greatest actors of his generation, but what are his best roles?
  • The famed actor isn’t even recognizable as Drexl Spivey in cult classic True Romance.
  • Numerous roles could contend for the #1 spot, but Oldman’s finest comes in Leon the Professional.

Gary Oldman is an institution. The man has made a living out of being one of Hollywood’s best bad guys – in various forms – and he’s also done quite nicely as a hero.

His ability to effectively dance between those two extremes has played a hand in numerous award nominations throughout his career – including one Oscar win.

But what are Gary Oldman’s best roles? Which characters did he play the best, and which roles had him leaving a lasting mark?

My list of best Gary Oldman movie roles is subjective. I’m just one person curating a top five breakdown of an amazing actor’s career. It arguably diminishes his overall library of art as an actor, but hey, it’s a lot of fun.

With that, join me as I rank Gary Oldman’s best movie roles and offer my reasoning.

5. Jim Gordon – The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005)

It is a tad ironic to begin Gary Oldman’s best movie role rankings off with a trilogy where he’s very much a good guy. After all, the guy initially built a career off of playing different shades of pure evil.

Maybe this was hit attempt at redemption?

At any rate, Oldman’s stoic and flawless portrayal of Jim Gordon only furthers the argument that he can smash literally any role.

Oldman played the consummate good guy with ease, as he teamed up with Batman to do what was necessary to protect and ultimately save the people of Gotham.

This entailed betraying his own family be faking his death and weathering the storm of a mad man like Bane before pulling out all the stops to secure the win.

As good as Gary Oldman was as Jim Gordon, this wasn’t his best role. Gordon was a good dude – and Oldman played him to perfection – but the character was fairly limited.

4. Drexl Spivey – True Romance (1993)

One of Gary Oldman’s best acting performances was actually quite short-lived. If you want to factor on screen longevity into these Gary Oldman movie role rankings, I’d willingly take this one out.

But I didn’t agree to that before writing this up, so the devilishly delightful Drexl Spivey makes the cut.

Okay, so there’s nothing delightful about this Gary Oldman role. However, Spivey is evil personified, and Oldman plays this abusive, reckless, and fearless pimp perfectly.

It’s obviously nice to see him get his in the end, but one can’t help but wonder how much more intense True Romance would have been had Spivey lasted a whole lot longer.

Regardless, Spivey struck a nerve and served as a deserving catalyst for Christian Slater’s murderous bender.

3. Dracula – Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

One of the hardest characters in film history to play has to be Dracula. Or any vampire, really, as they often portray two very different walks of life.

On one hand, you’re a good-looking, high-fashion socialite. You want (or need) people to revere you, and you need to get people close to you without having anyone second guess your motives.

And then you need to be a ruthless god amongst men that only has one goal; to obtain sustenance to continue truckin’ along.

Gary Oldman had some big shoes to fill, as he at the time was taking over for two prior successful Dracula turns. He also was doing it under the nuanced direction of the legendary Francis Ford Coppola.

Oldman hit it on the head on both accounts, as he appropriately played a younger, sophisticated, and charming man, but also played an aged monster at the same time.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula secured a strong 78% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, and is arguably one of Gary Oldman’s best movies. It certainly is worth including in this list of his top movies roles.

2. Winston Churchill – The Darkest Hour (2017)

I’m not sure you can piece together a list of Gary Oldman’s best movie roles without including the gig that earned him his one and only Oscar win.

Yes, whether you like it or not, Oldman’s portrayal of the real-life Winston Churchill rightly won him some hardware.

Churchill was never going to be an easy character to play, but Oldman was lost in this performance. That’s the mark of a true actor; when you don’t just take on a challenging role, but it ultimately takes over you.

Gary Oldman often leaves his own persona at the door with his acting, but he took it up a notch with the real world icon in what was also arguably one of his best films.

1. Stansfield – Leon the Professional (1994)

In my opinion, Gary Oldman’s best role of his career didn’t win him an Academy Award, but easily could have.

It obviously didn’t, but Oldman’s take as the bad guy cop was so eccentric and personalized that it’s hard to look back and realize it wasn’t honored like it should have been.

Instead, Oldman and the rest of us will have to settle for tiny little jolts of “shit, remember how damn good Oldman was as Stansfield?” thoughts running through our brains.

And he really was that damn good.

Stansfield was a pure villain. He was also really good at his job, he had some insane quirks that allowed Oldman to leave his signature on the character.

Anytime a villain can almost be revered in a movie, the actor is doing something right. And you still take joy in his ultimate demise? Yeah, that’s acting masterclass, folks.

What is Gary Oldman’s Best Movie Role of All-Time?

Note the difference between Gary Oldman’s best movie performances, and not just his best movies. Was True Romance his best film? Of course not, plus the fact that he was in it for about 10 minutes.

The goal here is to look back on Oldman’s storied career and highlight some of his most defining efforts.

Top five lists aren’t easy to curate, particularly when an actor could have another five roles smashed into said ranking.

Here, we’re leaving out Oldman’s portrayal of Sid Vicious, Zorg in The 5th Element, and so many others.

But you wanted Gary Oldman’s five best performances in movies, and I provided them. Disagree? Head to the comments below to let me know which career-defining roles deserved to make the cut.

Greg Anderson


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