Australian actor Chris Hemsworth is best known as the God of Thunder, Thor, in the expansive Marvel Cinematic Universe, but what does one need to do to be considered for such a legendary role, besides getting into Thor-like shape and having the right heritage? The guy has acting chops.
Hemsworth has acted in an array of roles, from comedy to thriller all the way to drama and, of course, more sci-fi. His filmography features more roles than most would expect, and not even all of them are included in this list. However, given that his most prevalent character is Thor, and that accounts for a whopping seven out of 25 movie roles, I’ve decided to rank his top performances that don’t include the hammer swinging, emotion-bottling demigod. These movies overall range from subpar to great, but the rankings are based on Hemsworth’s performances alone.
A pretty awesome war movie overall, 12 Strong is not exactly Hemsworth’s best role. Based on a true yet pretty unbelievable story, 12 special forces operatives are the first U.S. retaliation after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Obligated to join forces with the Northern Alliance of Afghanistan, the 12 initiate an unlikely and outnumbered assault to destabilize the Taliban’s power center in Mazar-i-Sharif. Hemsworth’s portrayal of Capt. Mitch Nelson is noble and brave — as it should be — but it didn’t seem like a role in which Hemsworth could truly shine. His accent also is inconsistent in this role. But his macho manliness is apparent as ever — it just doesn’t quite convince. In the end, I don’t blame Hemsworth as much as I do the lazily constructed backstory and writing surrounding the main plot, but he could have given the character more depth in the few emotional scenes provided.
Director: Nicolai Fuglsig
Main Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon, Michael Peña
Runtime: 130 minutes
IMDb Rating: 6.6
A fun and CGI-driven adventure, Men in Black: International is a somewhat campy tale within the canon of the original, imaginative Men in Black films. We discover that the Men in Black have been operating for a long time all over the world, but now they find a mole in their ranks bent on destroying the organization that polices alien activity on Earth. Hemsworth plays Agent H, a womanizing, socializing, satirizing macho Man in Black. So, basically he’s Thor, but replace god-like strength and a hammer with fancy toys and chrome laser guns. The script has some good comedy, and Hemsworth plays well with them, but International doesn’t quite live up to the original three films and their snappy young gun/grumpy old veteran dynamic. This movie isn’t just about his character — he’s really the supporting character to Agent M (Tessa Thompson) — but this movie makes me want to see Hemsworth in a vastly different role to see the true range of his performances.
Director: F. Gary Gray
Main Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Kumail Nanjiani
Runtime: 114 minutes
IMDb Rating: 5.6
A continuation of the classic National Lampoon films, Vacation is an all-out adventure of idiocy and sexual jokes that don’t quite match the originals. Rusty Griswold (Ed Helms) remembers his days of traveling to Walley World with his family as a child. Determined to create memories with his own family as his father did, they drive across the country and run into all sorts of mishaps. Hemsworth shows up in the film — getting maybe 10 minutes of screen time — as an exaggerated personification of his physical traits, which are all referenced or shown in his short cameo. Though his is not a big part of the movie, Hemsworth has got to be the absolute highlight. Hair coiffed, abs out, evenly tanned, Hemsworth fully dives into the role as the hunky, southern a-hole with hilarious magnificence. The film, overall, is lowbrow and crude with little to take away, but Vacation does have some great moments if you want to sit for two hours and turn your brain off.
Director(s): John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein
Main Cast: Ed Helms, Christina Applegate, Skyler Gisondo
Runtime: 109 minutes
IMDb Rating: 6.1
Overshadowed by needless violence and explosions, Extraction turns the tables and tries to focus more on emotional depth in a less conventional movie. When black-market mercenary Tyler Rake (Hemsworth) is hired to save an imprisoned warlord’s son, the stakes rise exponentially as more and more local gunrunners and traffickers learn of the situation. Playing a rogue agent who has nothing to live for, Hemsworth has a better script from which to work for this role. The emotional narrative in his character’s evolution is a much better opportunity to show his strengths, not just his physicality. His success in fulfilling the vision of veteran stunt coordinator/first-time director Sam Hargrave was mostly what impressed me about Hemsworth’s performance. He also had to do most of the fighting/free-running takes all in one go, back to back.
Director: Sam Hargrave
Main Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Bryon Lerum, Ryder Lerum
Runtime: 116 minutes
IMDb Rating: 6.7
A gritty and cutting racing story, Rush is the best Ron Howard sports movie and his only one since Cinderella Man. In the 1970s, James Hunt (Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) begin their bitter rivalry, pushing each other to obsessive lengths to be the best. The performances in this film are fantastic, both Hemsworth and Brühl shine in their opposition and emotional performances, but Brühl a bit more so. For somebody who was hoping for a bit more subtlety, it was a bit disappointing to see Hemsworth show up in the very first scene shirtless and womanizing, despite the promising writer and director. Though this does play on Hemsworth’s strengths and later ends up working well for the character, I wish it wasn’t so simple as that. I was glad to see later that Hemsworth’s role included a dark period with alcoholism and sadness, leaving him with nothing else but racing, but even that was a bit lacking. Seeing him begin to stretch his arms in a new type of role is exciting, which increases anticipation for the upcoming Hulk Hogan biopic he has been cast in.
Director: Ron Howard
Main Cast: Daniel Brühl, Chris Hemsworth, Olivia Wilde
Runtime: 123 minutes
IMDb Rating: 8.1
Seemingly a run-of-the-mill slasher flick, The Cabin in the Woods — brought to you by director/writer Drew Goddard and veteran co-writer Joss Whedon — is a lovely surprise for thriller/dark comedy fans all around. A group of college friends decides to go on vacation out in the deep dark woods, but something foul is at play when they start to be attacked by supernatural forces. The cast of characters for this film was excellent and truly comedic, however — they stray from their character tropes almost instantly. Hemsworth plays Curt, the hard-headed jock who is dating the popular cheerleader, and he obviously succeeds with ease, as we’ve seen him with a similar demeanor before. Don’t let the letterman jacket fool you, though. Hemsworth is a well-read and educated sociology major and a spirited team leader. His character’s narrative arc is badass and heroic throughouty. Hemsworth shows some real depth in his portrayal, especially when you see it from start to finish.
Director: Drew Goddard
Main Cast: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Anna Hutchison
Runtime: 95 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.0
From director/writer Drew Goddard comes the twist-happy, storyline pileup, Tarantino-esque mystery film Bad Times at the El Royale, which is bloody, witty, and also somehow a bit confused. Seven complete strangers check into the eerily tidy yet desolate El Royale hotel on the border of Nevada and California, all for their own reasons, which will be revealed in thrilling and bloody fashion. Hemsworth, though not one of those seven strangers, is the highlight of the film in a role I had never expected him to shine in. Without getting too far into spoiler territory, he plays an unsettlingly charming leader of what can only be described as a cult, inspiring his followers to stay with him to any end. In this role, Hemsworth is, of course, very alluring as usual, but with a sort of Woodstock meets Manson family energy. Again, I don’t want to give too much away, but the scene where he dances — button-up fully open revealing his impeccable physique — sensually and terrifyingly to Deep Purple’s Hush is definitely the scene that stood out most in the entire film.
Director: Drew Goddard
Main Cast: Jeff Bridges, Cynthia Erivo, Dakota Johnson
Runtime: 141 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.1
An unforgettable, exhilarating, and witty revival of the classic sci-fi series, Star Trek is an absolute blast from start to finish. Acting as a stand-alone origin story, we see the beginnings of the Starship Enterprise and its crew, led by its fearless captain, James T. Kirk (Chris Pine). Right from the beginning, audiences are sucked into the action and story as though by a tractor beam from a Borg cube. Most of the instant appeal starts in the opening performance from Hemsworth as Kirk’s father, the proud and honorable Capt. George Kirk, doing what captains do best and sacrificing himself. Though his screen time is short and the rest of the movie is uniformly excellent, his emotional performance connects instantly with the audience. Hemsworth’s turn here says a lot about his potential in any role.
Director: J.J. Abrams
Main Cast: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg
Runtime: 127 minutes
IMDb Rating: 7.9
Yet again a movie that rehashes an already stellar franchise, Ghostbusters stars a hilarious all-female cast, except for Hemsworth. Attempting to prove that ghosts are real and a threat, a paranormal researcher and a physicist form a team to fight the evils that come to prey on New York City. Composed of such comedians as Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, and the underrated Kate McKinnon, Hemsworth is just the bow on the box that ties the story together. Though not a main character, he takes his direction — flipping the script by being a sexy but stupid male secretary — and gives it an extra boost. His comedic timing and utter lack of common sense are genuinely hilarious and original, making this my favorite of his non-Thor performances. The funniest scene in the movie — where Hemsworth interviews for the secretary job — was 100% improvised. That was shocking and outstanding to discover, making any viewer more excited to see what kind of performance he can come up with next.
Director: Paul Feig
Main Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon
Runtime: 117 minutes
IMDb Rating: 6.6
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