Total Recall

Gary Oldman's 10 Best Movies

In this week's Total Recall, we look back at some of the best-reviewed work of the star of The Space Between Us.

by | February 1, 2017 | Comments

Young Asa Butterfield embarks on an interplanetary quest in this weekend’s The Space Between Us, but we’re just as intrigued by the involvement of a certain Mr. Gary Oldman, whose appearance adds another chapter to one of Hollywood’s most fascinating careers. From indie flicks to blockbuster franchises, Oldman’s done it all, and we knew we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to look back on some of his filmography’s brightest critical highlights.  It’s time for Total Recall!

Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) 73%

By 1992, the world had seen so many Dracula adaptations — many of them sadly subpar — that the character was in desperate need of a fresh, suitably creepy start. Enter Francis Ford Coppola and his lavishly mounted Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which pitted Oldman as the titular vampire against Anthony Hopkins as his arch-nemesis Van Helsing and threw in a marquee cast that included Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves, as well as an Annie Lennox song over the closing credits, for added megaplex appeal. Given its impeccable pedigree, the fact that Coppola’s Dracula was a financial success didn’t come as much of a surprise — but unlike a lot of previous adaptations, particularly those of recent vintage, it was also a success with critics, many of whom welcomed the opportunity to see a director as talented as Coppola interpret the vampire’s classic tale. In the words of the Washington Post’s Hal Hinson, “It is Coppola’s most lavish and, certainly, his most flamboyant film; never before has he allowed himself this kind of mad experimentation.”

Watch Trailer

Air Force One (1997) 76%

By the late ’90s, the “action movie in a confined space” subgenre looked like it was pretty much played out, but as Air Force One forcibly demonstrated, there were still thrills yet to be wrung from its seemingly played-out premise. In this case, all it took was adding one last novel twist — namely, putting the action on a moving plane and making the sitting President our terrorist-bustin’ hero — and building the whole thing around a stellar cast led by Harrison Ford as the POTUS and Oldman as the villainous, perfectly named Ivan Korshunov. It all adds up, in the words of ReelViews’ James Berardinelli, to “a roller coaster ride for those who prefer not to think once the theater lights have dimmed.”

Watch Trailer

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) 83%

div class=”content-image”>

Nearly 30 years after making his film debut, Gary Oldman earned his first Academy Award nomination for his work in Tomas Alfredson’s impeccably cast adaptation of the classic John le Carré novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Alfredson’s comma-free screen version surrounded Oldman with an impressive array of talented actors, including Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, John Hurt, Toby Jones, and Mark Strong — and while its languid pace and 127-minute running time annoyed critics accustomed to a little more bang for their spy-thriller buck, the majority agreed with the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Steven Rea, who enthused, “Just watching Gary Oldman and his trenchcoated brethren march down the damp, ill-lit streets of Cold War London is enough to make you shiver.”

Watch Trailer

State of Grace (1990) 84%

Director Phil Joanou opened his career with a better-than-average teen comedy (Three O’Clock High) and a well-intentioned, albeit indulgent rockumentary (U2: Rattle and Hum) — which is to say that few could have expected that he had it in him to helm a drama as tense and gripping as 1990’s State of Grace. Starring Sean Penn as an undercover cop whose latest case tests his loyalty to his best friend (played by Oldman) — not to mention his affection for his friend’s sister (Robin Wright) — Grace exploited an instantly recognizable formula while transcending it thanks to outstanding acting from its leads. Janet Maslin of the New York Times singled Oldman out in particular, writing that he “gives an electrifying performance that both establishes a tragic, terrifying character and explains why that character’s world is such a perilous place.”

Watch Trailer

JFK (1991) 84%

Oldman has made a habit of playing real-life people during his film career, but none of them have been more notorious than the role he took in Oliver Stone’s JFK. Just one in a series of famous faces to pop up during the 189-minute political conspiracy epic, Oldman appeared as Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin whose bullet murdered our 35th president… Or did it? Stone’s undeniably well-crafted film may not have answered any questions, but it was an unqualified hit at the box office and the Academy, where it garnered eight Oscar nominations. Observed Entertainment Weekly’s Owen Gleiberman, “If Stone hasn’t exactly solved the Kennedy assassination, he has captured — with a dark cinematic flair that leaves you reeling — why it still looms like a sickening nightmare.”

Watch Trailer

The Harry Potter Franchise

After helming the first two films in the Harry Potter series, director Chris Columbus departed — leaving the chair empty for Alfonso Cuarón, who stepped in just in time to take the reins for what was then the franchise’s darkest installment yet, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Introducing Oldman as the mysterious Sirius Black, whose prison escape sets the events of the movie’s plot into motion, Azkaban marked the first of four Potter appearances for Oldman while establishing a new critical benchmark for the franchise. Salon’s Stephanie Zacharek was just one of many to praise Azkaban, calling it “The first true Harry Potter movie — the first to capture not only the books’ sense of longing, but their understanding of the way magic underlies the mundane, instead of just prancing fancifully at a far remove from it.”

Watch Trailer

The Dark Knight Trilogy

Part of the same career resurgence that found Oldman appearing in the Harry Potter franchise after a few fallow years, Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy made fine use of Oldman as Jim Gordon, the Gotham policeman whose rise to commissioner dovetails with Batman’s arrival as the city’s protector. Offering an everyman’s moral compass and sense of virtue to counterbalance the Caped Crusader’s vigilantism, Oldman’s Gordon helped shine a light in an increasingly bleak franchise — and eventually paid the price for going against his own conscience in the blockbuster finale. Calling The Dark Knight Rises “A disturbing experience we live through as much as a film we watch,” Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times wrote, “this dazzling conclusion to director Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy is more than an exceptional superhero movie, it is masterful filmmaking by any standard.”

Watch Trailer

Sid and Nancy (1986) 88%

One of rock’s most infamous love stories got the biopic treatment with Alex Cox’s 1986 drama Sid & Nancy, starring Oldman as former Sex Pistol Sid Vicious and Chloe Webb as his equally ill-fated girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. Initially largely ignored by audiences — and derided by former Pistol John Lydon, who described himself as “appalled” by its many alleged inaccuracies — Sid & Nancy has acquired a cult audience over time, thanks to film fans lured in by its titular duo’s enduring mystique. Derailed by heroin, unfolding in a series of squalid apartment buildings and motel rooms, and ending with Sid being hauled off by police after Nancy’s stabbing death, their tale wasn’t exactly cheerful — but it resonated with critics like Rita Kempley of the Washington Post, who observed, “Though dark and harrowing, explicit and unsparing, the movie proves a riveting biography of these burnt-out icons and their iconoclastic half-decade.”

Watch Trailer

Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2014) 91%

CG spectacle is great, but it can only take a movie so far. To really make audiences feel something, it helps to have some recognizably human drama on the screen — and part of the genius of Matt Reeves’ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is the impressive array of old-fashioned acting talent brought to bear on the mo-cap heavy second installment in this rebooted post-apocalyptic saga. Oldman spearheaded the cast’s human contingent as Dreyfus, leader of the frightened band of survivors who find themselves in a life-or-death struggle for survival with the planet’s newly advanced simian civilization, helping anchor all the incredibly lifelike action with palpably poignant emotional stakes. “This,” marveled Richard Roeper, “just might be the most engrossing, the smartest and the most daring Apes movie ever put on film.”

Watch Trailer

Prick Up Your Ears (1987) 94%

Oldman earned a BAFTA Best Actor nomination for his widely acclaimed work in Prick Up Your Ears, director Stephen Frears’ biopic about British playwright Joe Orton — and his tragic murder at the hands of his mentor-turned-lover, Kenneth Halliwell, played here by Alfred Molina. Neither the subjects nor the subject matter had much draw for American audiences, but for critics, it presented an irresistible collection of acting talent, working at their peak. “The great performances in the movie are, of course, at its center,” argued Roger Ebert. “Gary Oldman plays Orton and Alfred Molina plays Halliwell, and these are two of the best performances of the year.”

Watch Trailer

Tag Cloud

Fox News Arrowverse Premiere Dates Ellie Kemper Animation Shudder crossover Country green book stand-up comedy series name the review foreign Sneak Peek Trivia kids SDCC YouTube Red E3 Freeform Super Bowl spain television versus Reality Competition Summer IFC Films disaster Star Trek Pop slashers E! YA quibi ghosts CNN Film Festival Turner Classic Movies period drama BBC America Valentine's Day discovery aliens Disney+ Disney Plus cops golden globes TIFF Television Academy Vudu TV renewals A24 WarnerMedia FOX Marvel toy story ABC Family Cartoon Network Mindy Kaling political drama Fall TV cooking American Society of Cinematographers strong female leads sports SundanceTV zombie Interview teaser politics renewed TV shows Starz comiccon Anna Paquin Lifetime Christmas movies Warner Bros. Netflix GIFs The Purge nature Character Guide Year in Review rotten movies we love south america sitcom 2016 USA Fantasy MTV robots AMC MCU vampires Turner video comics 007 2015 A&E Apple TV Plus X-Men space Best and Worst social media CW Seed talk show USA Network what to watch WGN zero dark thirty New York Comic Con medical drama mutant spinoff breaking bad docudrama TBS Pixar Tarantino Star Wars justice league DirecTV Winter TV elevated horror Masterpiece TNT 45 Superheroes war Disney Channel Writers Guild of America Mary poppins Britbox Hulu Kids & Family diversity Election christmas movies Film natural history Red Carpet OWN crime drama Countdown spider-man cancelled TV series Disney Food Network RT History game of thrones Song of Ice and Fire National Geographic BET cancelled TV shows Elton John Trophy Talk Crunchyroll ITV Musicals Amazon award winner hist Sci-Fi sequel Pirates Rocky miniseries Captain marvel Oscars Lifetime ABC Ovation Rocketman Comedy Spike casting Western Video Games Musical canceled crime dragons Hallmark Logo werewolf Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Mary Poppins Returns HBO Max BBC Peacock TV Land Nominations police drama Emmys TV CBS All Access binge Set visit boxoffice Martial Arts revenge finale blaxploitation Marvel Television blockbuster technology cars Sundance Now Biopics transformers Heroines Disney streaming service dceu Brie Larson LGBT Amazon Prime Video El Rey Lionsgate Pride Month Women's History Month Pet Sematary singing competition The CW Dark Horse Comics Chernobyl spy thriller historical drama Spectrum Originals Spring TV biography YouTube Grammys 2017 See It Skip It NBC romantic comedy History richard e. Grant Columbia Pictures Polls and Games thriller Hallmark Christmas movies Showtime travel Bravo Esquire PaleyFest Nat Geo TruTV The Witch mockumentary Adult Swim movies Schedule spanish language facebook FXX DC streaming service zombies free movies festivals 21st Century Fox Creative Arts Emmys Music Binge Guide Photos 2018 Marathons Opinion Christmas Endgame tv talk 2020 Emmy Nominations 2019 Drama First Look TLC theme song Sundance joker animated Infographic children's TV FX Mystery Walt Disney Pictures harry potter Apple TV+ true crime serial killer Winners Awards batman cults anime game show cancelled unscripted Syfy President supernatural witnail Ghostbusters screenings DC Comics Box Office streaming science fiction LGBTQ TCM Reality Rom-Com Comedy Central Crackle YouTube Premium comic Apple dramedy GoT Lucasfilm GLAAD cartoon Holidays hispanic Calendar cats Podcast Classic Film Tumblr Family composers IFC halloween doctor who CBS ratings adaptation Teen The Walking Dead Action Superheroe Comic Book Quiz DC Universe Universal CMT The Arrangement Holiday SXSW Avengers Extras MSNBC cancelled television Disney Plus 24 frames HBO First Reviews Acorn TV TCA 2017 Thanksgiving Amazon Prime Trailer cinemax 71st Emmy Awards Awards Tour Marvel Studios PBS Nickelodeon Certified Fresh VICE TCA VH1 Stephen King adventure Toys Sony Pictures psycho psychological thriller anthology Comics on TV Paramount Watching Series Cannes Netflix Christmas movies ESPN San Diego Comic-Con Epix latino Cosplay Rock Horror Tomatazos APB Shondaland Paramount Network Chilling Adventures of Sabrina independent based on movie dc indie crime thriller canceled TV shows Mudbound Mary Tyler Moore romance NYCC DGA jamie lee curtis Black Mirror 20th Century Fox RT21 book