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The 10 best Gary Oldman movies, ranked

He's more than just the Sirius Black actor

Gary Oldman speaking
starbright31 / Flickr

Gary Oldman’s willingness to take on franchise roles and artistic storytelling has allowed him to create a career unlike almost anyone else in the business. Virtually every movie fan has seen Oldman in something they love. To kids of the 2000s, he’s the Sirius Black actor. To history buffs, his portrayal of Winston Churchill might come to mind first. Whatever type of Gary Oldman movie you enjoy the most, we’ll make sure it’s covered on our list. Here are the 10 best Gary Oldman movies, ranked.

10. The Book of Eli (2010)

10. The Book of Eli
Genre Action, Thriller, Science Fiction
Stars Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis
Directed by Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes
The Book of Eli uses a fairly common dystopian trope to tell its story. Denzel Washington navigates a barren planet on foot looking for salvation when he runs up against Oldman’s character, Bill Carnegie. The movie follows their battle for control of a Bible that seems to be the key to unlocking the answers to humanity’s despair. The plot is a little loose, and it’s not viewed as one of the best post-apocalyptic movies ever made, but Oldman is fantastic as the villain, flexing his ability to play characters on both sides of the moral spectrum.

9. Air Force One (1997)

9. Air Force One
Genre Action, Thriller
Stars Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Glenn Close
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen
Another antagonist role for Gary Oldman in this thriller about a President of the United States who uses his own charisma and fighting skills to combat terrorism when Air Force One is taken over by Russian enemies, led by Oldman’s character, Egor Korshunov. The Commander in Chief is played by Harrison Ford, so expect a lot of star power packed into this action film. Air Force One is a patriotic and hopeful bit of American propaganda set against the backdrop of cool special effects and a decent enough story to entertain a large swath of audiences.

8. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

8. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Genre Science Fiction, Action, Drama, Thriller
Stars Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman
Directed by Matt Reeves
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes remains one of Gary Oldman’s best appearances in a long-standing franchise. He plays a human survivor who doesn’t get along with the genetically evolved apes that have started to take control of the planet after a pandemic starts to wipe out most of humanity. Oldman does a fantastic job of not only depicting the way his character disagrees with the other human leaders, such as Jason Clarke’s character, but also how most of real-life humanity would feel if chimpanzees became our overlords. In this way, his character may be a villain, but he’s also eerily representative of our truest motives.

7. Mank (2020)

7. Mank
Genre Drama, History
Stars Gary Oldman, Amanda Seyfried, Lily Collins
Directed by David Fincher
Oldman has found biographical films to be a strong suit of his persona in the 2010s and 2020s, with Mank being one of the top selections for those who enjoy film history. Oldman plays Herman J. Mankiewicz, a screenwriter most famous for writing Citizen Kane. The movie gives a great rundown of how Mankiewicz’s life helped play a major role in the formation of the definitive movie of the first half of the 20th century.

6. The Fifth Element (1997)

6. The Fifth Element
Genre Adventure, Fantasy, Action, Thriller, Science Fiction
Stars Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, Gary Oldman
Directed by Luc Besson
Another villain role for Oldman in The Fifth Element, a science-fiction classic with Bruce Willis at the helm. The movie follows Willis in his attempt to prevent Oldman’s character from taking over the world with an industrialized and futuristic space weapon. There aren’t too many contemplative themes in The Fifth Element, just a lot of sci-fi and action fun.

Sid and Nancy (1986)

Sid and Nancy
Genre Drama, Romance
Stars Gary Oldman, Chloe Webb, David Hayman
Directed by Alex Cox
One of Oldman’s earliest roles, Sid and Nancy is tough to watch because of the authenticity in which it depicts rock stars and addiction. Oldman plays Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols, one of the most troubled, violent individuals in the history of 1970s rock. Oldman gives a startlingly realistic performance, one that gives an inside look at the years leading to Vicious’ death in 1979 and his abusive relationship with Nancy Spungen.

4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Genre Adventure, Fantasy
Stars Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban upped the stakes of J.K Rowling’s fantasy world with the introduction of Sirius Black, a mysterious father/brother/confidant figure to Harry. Gary Oldman was the perfect casting for the character, mixing his heroic and evil characterizations to keep audiences guessing as to which side of the coin Sirius falls under. Oldman would appear in the ensuing three films in the franchise, but this first one is where the magic truly happens. Oldman had never been a part of franchise movies before this one, so Prisoner of Azkaban should be credited with the actor’s inclusion in future roles in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy and the aforementioned Planet of the Apes sequel.

3. Darkest Hour (2017)

3. Darkest Hour
Genre Drama, History
Stars Gary Oldman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ben Mendelsohn
Directed by Joe Wright
If there’s one politician the Western world can’t get enough of, it’s Winston Churchill. Despite controversial decisions better left to be discussed at another time, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom navigated Europe through World War II when Nazi Germany was attempting a takeover of the Western world. Oldman nails every idiosyncrasy of the famous world leader, and he won an Academy Award for this role.

2. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

2. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Genre Drama, Thriller, Mystery
Stars Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy
Directed by Tomas Alfredson
Gary Oldman plays George Smiley, a secret agent trying to take down Russian double agents in one of the most popular spy films of the 21st century. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy gives audiences a different look at the British espionage genre, with some fans preferring Smiley to James Bond as a protagonist. Oldman got one of his Oscar nominations for this film.

1. The Dark Knight (2008)

1. The Dark Knight
Genre Drama, Action, Crime, Thriller
Stars Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Michael Caine
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Whether you love Batman or not, The Dark Knight enthralls and haunts fans of all demographics. Oldman plays Detective Jim Gordon, one of Bruce Wayne’s main confidants in law enforcement. While Heath Ledger deservedly gets most of the shine for his performance in this film playing Joker, Oldman’s supporting work binds the movie together, creating a moral compass for audiences to align themselves with.

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Shawn Laib
Shawn Laib is a freelance writer with publications such as Den of Geek,, Edge Media Network, diaTribe, SUPERJUMP…
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