Top 10 Movie Portrayals
Over the years, many great actors have portrayed many great people. There’s also been a good few movies produced which focus on those most evil and notorious. It’s incredibly tedious a task to shortlist just 10 such performances as being the best, but something that must be done.
10. Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs in ‘Almost Famous’
An under-rated actor taking up the role of an under-rated literary and pop culture figure. Although not the lengthiest or most central role in the movie, Hoffman portrays rock writer Lester Bangs with an even mix of humour, insight, tragedy and radicalism. Acting as a mentor for the young protagonist, Hoffman’s role brings to life an important figure in music criticism in a very imaginative and effective manner.
9. Jesse Eisenberg as Mark Zuckerberg in ‘The Social Network’
In this movie marking the rise to prominence of the ominous and all-consuming Facebook, the role of creator Mark Zuckerberg is played authentically by a young man at the top of his game. Although the real Zuckerberg denies the likenesses (in most cases very forcefully) put forward by the film, it is non-the-less a very entertaining watch- documenting the rise of a modern wonder from day one until now.
8. Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin in ‘The Last King of Scotland’
Whitaker tackles this role as 1970’s Ugandan dictator/psychopath Idi Amin as though he was born to. Doing extremely well to animate a repressor who gained notoriety worldwide for his apparent charm and fondness of genocide in equal measure, Whitaker really made his mark with this joint lead shared by an up and coming James McAvoy- even snatching an Oscar for Best Actor in the process.
7. Ray Liotta as Henry Hill in ‘Goodfellas’
Who doesn’t love a good gangster flick? Who doesn’t love said gangster flick even more if it’s based on true events? Exactly. Ray Liotta made his breakthrough with this portrayal of mob foot-soldier Henry Hill, who was active in New York’s famous criminal underworld during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Far from being the only outstanding performance to be seen in this movie (Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci co-star, of course) Liotta pulls off Hill as a purely charismatic and self-justified hoodlum, getting into all sorts of trouble with his equally intriguing friends and foes alike. Excellent role, excellent film
6. Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Abegnale Jr, in ‘Catch Me If You Can’
Steven Spielberg directs this biographical crime film which tells the story of the famous Frank Abegnale Jnr. A teenage con-artist who successfully passed himself off as a Pan-Am pilot, a doctor and a lawyer, turning over millions of dollars in fraudulent cheques in the process- all the while on the run from the law. DiCaprio captures the precarious nature of Frank with stunning vividness, giving a performance which contrasts the extreme confidence and insecurity of the character effectively. Tom Hanks and Christopher Walken co-star as the cop chasing his paper trail and the estranged, perhaps responsible father.
5. Adrian Brody as Wladyslaw Szpilman in ‘The Pianist’
In this story of pure human adversity, Adrian Brody makes a career defining performance as a Jewish musician hiding from the Nazi’s in an occupied Warsaw. Documenting the Fuhrers first steps towards his ‘final solution’, the film shows with striking realism how restraints were placed on the Jews in occupied countries during these first stages of the war. Leading first to their imprisonment in impoverished ghetto’s and culminating finally with transportation to concentration camps, Brody enacts the true story of the defiant Szpilman, hiding out in the ruins of a once vibrant city- forced to live like a nomad.
4. Brad Pitt as Jesse James in ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford’
Few men could pull off the role of infamous bandit and gang leader Jesse James. Brad Pitt is one of the exceptions however- as he proved with a stunning performance in this psychological, biographical mega-drama. Starring alongside an also excellent Casey Affleck, Brad portrays James as a man true to his legend. Both outlaw and family man, there is an abundance of interesting dialogue to be discovered here. Capturing Jesse James in the final chapters of his life, he reflects exhaustively on a criminal existence- all the while contemplating his reputation.
3. Bruno Ganz as Adolf Hitler in ‘Downfall’
Focusing equally on the story of Traudl Junge, one of Hitlers secretaries- Downfall is the tale of the final days of the Third Reich. Set primarily inside the Fuhrers besieged Berlin bunker, a series of flashbacks coupled with the skills of Ganz help to construct an intense image of Hitler and indeed his intentions. The fact that the movie is entirely in German of course adds authenticity, making it a very dark yet fascinating and necessary watch from start to finish. Bruno Ganz does not only look strikingly similar, but does well to capture the inherent passion and eventual madness and denial of this infamous historical figure.
2. Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash in ‘Walk the Line’
A godfather of modern music, Johnny Cash is captured brilliantly by a precise Phoenix in this truly inspirational biopic. Capturing Mr Cash from his troubled beginnings, through his troubled rise to fame and during his troubled glory years, this drama sheds light on the many demons haunting a seminal figure in music. Joaquin Phoenix does well to portray the troubles faced by JC without distracting from the genius of his work at all, and his chemistry with co-star Reese Witherspoon (as June Carter) is simply phenomenal. A hard hitting yet at times comical and joyous watch, more movies should be made like this.
1. Johnny Depp as Hunter S. Thompson in ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’
And here it is, my top movie portrayal of all time. The fabulous Mr Depp taking on the role of influential journalist/madman Hunter Thompson. The movie is based on Thompsons book of the same title and tells the tale of a journey, shared with his attorney (vigorously portrayed by a hilariously intense Benicio Del Toro), ‘to the heart of the American dream’. The story is one of total deabauchery and chemical fuelled madness, which makes this a hilarious yet substantial and worthwhile watch. Terry Gilliam directs in a fashion which keeps true to the beatnik, sparse nature of Thompsons writing- and the man himself even makes a small appearance. Excellent soundtrack also.
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