Have you ever been watching a movie and thought to yourself, “Wait, haven’t I seen this before?” It’s that same actor, you know, the one who has been in a bunch of movies you have seen and somehow you feel like you’ve seen that same familiar character, just in a different movie.
Many Hollywood actors are often typecast in a certain role and only ever play slight variations of the same character. Sometimes actors are able to break the mold and play a character that breaks their typecast streak. This can be a tremendous thing and opens the door to finding opportunities playing a wider array of characters. Other actors are not so lucky and are never quite able to escape their designated role, instead being doomed to play the same character in every film.
Maybe it’s typecasting Jennifer Aniston into the same rom-com gal role or maybe it’s the ease of playing the same role again and again for Michael Cera. As you’re going to read below, for some actors, staying in their comfort zone might really be for the best.
Or maybe for some, like Morgan Freeman, they’ve just gotten so good at what they do that they don’t want to mess up a good thing. They know what they do best, and they are sticking to it, and we don’t blame them. While the topic is generally up for debate, as it’s largely a matter of personal opinion, the fifteen actors below typically play the same character, though some departures are a little bit stronger than others. This is in no way a commentary on their acting abilities, but rather on the roles audiences continually see them in.
Scroll through the gallery below and you’ll see that if you hang in Hollywood long enough, and you’re bound to be typecast every now and again, and in some cases, again and again.
15. Denzel Washington
For an actor like Denzel Washington, who is both well-known and critically acclaimed, you would think he would play a wider variety of roles in his films. Of his 22 lead movies since 1995’s Devil in a Blue Dress, Washington has played a character that has some sort of police or armed forces authority influence 15 times.
Even factoring in his other roles as a drug lord in American Gangster and a football coach in Remember The Titans, it is still a struggle to see much of a difference in Washington’s character or acting persona at all. The actor is almost always in some sort of authoritarian role and seems to prefer to play such roles.
Maybe he feels that if “it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” After all, all of Washington’s movies are highly rated and he is still considered a great actor today. He just might not be the most versatile guy in the world.
14. Liam Neeson
It seems that every Liam Neeson movie has the exact same formula for his lead character. He certainly has a very particular set of skills, and I bet they’re really good, because he uses them in every movie. Quite frankly, we are over it Liam.
In any Liam Neeson action movie like Taken (or Taken 2…or Taken 3), Unknown, The Grey, Non-Stop and A Walk Among the Tombstones (just to name a few), Neeson plays a slight variation on the same character which is a soft-spoken badass who will kill and take down anyone in the way of whatever he is after.
Another pattern that is noticeable Liam Neeson films is that he seems to like making his threats over the phone. Next time you watch a Liam Neeson movie, take notice. Also, every post-Taken action film he has been in includes some kind of riff on that same infamous speech in Taken. There are only so many times we can see Neeson efficiently dispatch nameless thugs and criminals in his quest to save a loved one. It is time for something new.
13. Kevin Hart
Kevin Hart has been on a great ride for the past couple of years with one comedy box office hit after another. The pint-sized chatterbox is known for his witty lines and he is guaranteed to make an audience laugh, but some would say he tends to play the same character in every movie.
In his four years worth of films, they have all been categorized as similar-type comedies with what all seemed to feature Hart as the same character over and over again.
Hart has even addressed comments from people telling him he needs to mix it up in his movies, saying “I’m not finished winning at doing this s*** yet.” I guess love or hate him, nobody can argue with the fact that he’s currently “winning.”
That being said, he did just star in an animated film (Secret life of Pets) so maybe we can expect to continue seeing a different side of Kevin Hart in one of his upcoming projects. Rumors have it that he is in the midst of considering acting in a “dramedy” next.
One thing is for sure, nobody can deny that Hart was able to forge a successful career for himself and can keep the fans lining up at the movie theaters. Not to mention all of the sold out stadiums to see him perform stand-up. Only time will tell if Hart will make any attempt to expand on his fun-sized, jokester character, but as long as the paycheques keep rolling in, it probably he probably isn’t changing anytime soon.
12. Melissa McCarthy
McCarthy’s 2015 movie, Spy, was the actress’s third team up with director Paul Feig. She previously worked with him on Bridesmaids and The Heat. And while they were funny movies, McCarthy’s role barely differed between the films.
Melissa McCarthy has chosen to play variations of the same sloppy, goofy, comic relief character in the majority of her films. And while the audience does love her hilarious humor, they will eventually, if they have not already, desire to see McCarthy extend herself more as an actress.
Is this a classic case of typecasting? Is it even necessarily McCarthy’s fault? It doesn’t seem to matter, as she is still 100% lovable and hilarious nonetheless.
The actress plays the nutty, loose, loud-mouthed funny woman so perfectly that it is hard to imagine her playing any other type of character. However, those who remember the show Gilmore Girls will recall that Melissa McCarthy did play a more toned-down, normal role as Lorelei Gilmore’s best friend, Suki. We can only hope that McCarthy will be given more roles like Suki in the near future.
11. Adam Sandler
Adam Sandler is the ultimate example of the actor who has been inevitably playing the immature man-child since he began his acting career. Somehow, Sandler always manages to get the girl (an extremely attractive girl, we might add) at the end of the story, despite acting like a total child.
Sandler began his comedy career at the age of 17. He took his first step towards becoming a stand-up comedian when he spontaneously took the stage at a Boston comedy club.
His early movies, like Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison in the ‘90s, made him a star, but nowadays people aren’t so thrilled with him and his last few movies were flops.
Sandler’s movies have all featured the same predictable sarcastic middle-aged man. Sandler’s real-life friends are basically the only characters in his movies anymore; i.e. David Spade, Steve Buscemi, Rob Schneider, Leslie Mann, Nick Swardson, Kevin Nealon, and Peter Dante. Seriously, these people are in all of his movies.
We get it, they are your friends, but we are tired of them. Stop putting them in the movies just so that they can get paid too. You can only recycle the same actors and awful jokes so many times.
10. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
We get it, Dwayne Johnson is a big man, but that doesn’t mean that he needs to play the stereotypical jumbo-sized action figure in every movie he stars in.
It may be more reasonable though, as unlike anyone else on this list, Johnson was never really was a trained actor. Think about it, how many pro-wrestlers have gone on to become successful actors?
In his early credits, he was still going by his wrestler name, “The Rock,” but once he had a toehold in Hollywood, he began to be credited as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Now he’s out of the cocoon and is known to the world simply as Dwayne Johnson. Truly the transformation was complete.
Or is it? Is the beloved Dwayne Johnson the actor, actually a talented actor? Or is he just a wrestler who has meddled his way into movies? In his movie Gridiron Gang, Johnson was practically just improvising on his everyday personality. It was just “The Rock” being The Rock appearing on set for some scenes in a football movie.
It is pretty much expected for a Dwayne Johnson movie these days to include violence, car chases/wrecks, and criminal activity. You can also expect Johnson to be playing some sort of member of the armed forces, cop, first responder, or parent that is out to save someone or do something super important with his big muscular body. At least, like Kevin Hart, Johnson is going to be exploring his animated side with the upcoming Pixar film Moana.
9. Tom Cruise
Some might say that being referred to as a “typecast” actor is just a result of being one of the most visible and successful stars in the world. Is it true?
Well, if Tom Cruise wasn’t a typecast actor, then the following sentence wouldn’t be able to summarize basically every movie he has been in, Tom Cruise plays a mysterious man involved in mysterious activities that end up forcing him to abandon his love interest and run… really fast. Sometimes, you don’t even know what he is running from.
Cruise has been in 37 films since 1981 and should be proud of a resume that’s seen him play a Vietnam vet, an Irish immigrant, a NASCAR driver, among others. So it is not the actual character that makes Cruise always seem the same, it is just his lack of ability to create a distinguishing character from his other roles.
8. Zach Galifianakis
Is Zach Galifianakis, just a one-trick pony? Galifianakis first made a name for himself in the cult-classic hit, The Hangover, as Doug’s wacky new brother-in-law, Alan Garner. But did he ever really stop being Alan from The Hangover?
His other movies Due Date and The Campaign just felt as if we were watching Alan Garner continue on to the stories in these other films. Galifianakis seems to have pretty much cemented himself as the weirdo oddball character, which I mean at least he does play perfectly. However, too much of one thing is never a good thing.
Galifianakis has easily become one of the most recognizable names in comedy. One of his other big breaks into Hollywood was the movie was What Happens in Vegas and honestly, his character is just a version of Alan Garner before there even was an Alan Garner from The Hangover. Since his early days in film, he has been unable to shake his penchant for playing socially awkward and abnormal characters.
7. Jason Statham
Any Jason Statham movie no doubt involves some kind of high-speed car chase as he mumbles angrily while glaring ahead with a perpetually stern face. He is good at killing enemies, driving fast, and somehow managing to get the girl all at the same time.
Statham caught his break when he teamed up with director Guy Ritchie, for the gangster movies Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. Eventually, those films elevated Statham to full-on action stardom status. He went on to star in his infamous roles in both The Transporter and Crank. Both movies spawned several sequels, which definitely did not help Statham open up as an actor.
In any Jason Statham movie, you can expect his character to be some kind of stone cold assassin with a gun in his hand for at least three quarters of the duration of the film. Statham has always been one to typically play the bald, badass protagonist who is not afraid to smack down on the bad guys, and perhaps be a bit more ruthless than he has to be. At the very least he stepped away from the good guy role when he appeared in the Fast and the Furious series.
One of Statham’s most unique character parts was probably before The Transporter was even made. Statham’s role as “Handsome Rob” in the Italian Job displays Statham’s most charismatic, personable role. Unfortunately, if you’re seeing him in a movie today, you can only expect him to be a stoic, emotionally closed off tough guy that always seems to be in a rush.
6. Jennifer Aniston
With the huge success of Friends, Jennifer Aniston‘s career jumped off after the series’ ending. But there is no doubt that Aniston’s part of Rachel Green has had an influence on the type of roles she has been offered.
Once Aniston perfected had perfected her character as Rachel Green so well, it was almost impossible to differentiate her from that image. Aniston became that same character for the films she was being cast in. The working girl, generally blue collar, who is unlucky in love and has troubles finding the perfect man.
If we are giving her some credit though, Jennifer Aniston is actually the only member of the Friends cast to make it with an A-list film career. Aniston stepped out a bit from her typical character norm in films like Wanderlust and last year’s hit comedy We’re The Millers. She also took on a more extreme version of the character in the hilarious movie, Horrible Bosses.
People love Jennifer Aniston and people love watching her in movies. Aniston has perfected the hopeless romantic in Along Came Polly, The Break-Up, Marley & Me, He’s Just Not That Into You, Love Happens, The Switch, and the list goes on. All of her characters seem to have a thing for unconventional guys and trying to find love in all the wrong places.
5. Michael Cera
Will Michael Cera actually ever grow old enough to stop passing for a 16-year-old role? It does not help that as well as movies like Superbad, Cera was outstanding in the highly regarded television series, Arrested Development.
The socially awkward, scrawny, adolescent-looking actor may not be able to escape his typical role, because that is actually who he is in real life. He is a sensitive guy, who wears Vans, plays with his hair nervously and collects vinyl. Basically, Michael Cera is playing Michael Cera in every movie that he is in. The character doesn’t change, only the story and the surroundings do.
You need to admit, even if he’s had some great roles, audiences need to be getting bored of Cera. Thankfully he is getting older now, which means quite possibly it will be any day now that Cera stops looking like he’s 15 years old. When that time comes, we are sure that that audiences cannot wait for Cera to break up his character type a bit and give us something new and unexpected.
4. Vince Vaughn
Vince Vaughn is a motor-mouth joke machine and he will make sure that everyone knows it. Vaughn established his persona very early on in his career, playing an exaggerated version of himself alongside his buddy, Jon Favreau, in Swingers.
Vince Vaughn seemed to quickly define his own act by saying a lot of things super-quickly, calling people “baby,” and making emphatic declarations. Audiences got a kick out of it and Vaughn stuck with it. Vaughn really caught a ride on the fame train after he made Old School with Luke Wilson. He continued playing the same type of role in hit comedy films like Wedding Crashers, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, and The Breakup.
Vince Vaughn is usually very funny, but he’s been riding out the success of his breakthrough role in Swingers for what seems like his entire career. It seems Vaughn has just taken the character he’s created and ran with it. Not to say that it isn’t funny, but again, the same character gets old after a while.
3. Morgan Freeman
Everyone loves Morgan Freeman. Who doesn’t love Morgan Freeman? Personally, I’d want Morgan Freeman to narrate my life. He has the perfect speaking voice that brings a vessel of hope and a comfortable warmth to any movie. Freeman always appears calm, confident, and full of wisdom which he spares to others generously. It also helps when you consider that Morgan Freeman will always sound like the voice of God in your head. After playing God in Bruce Almighty, it became impossible to picture anything else.
Morgan Freeman might just be one of the greatest actors of all time, but being a good actor does not protect you from becoming the victims of typecasting. Freeman plays such similar roles in Driving Miss Daisy, The Shawshank Redemption, The Dark Night, and Million Dollar Baby. Morgan tends to take on roles that build on his established personality of this wise, experienced knowledgeable character.
2. Danny Trejo
Danny Trejo may arguably be the most typecast actor in Hollywood, which is why he lands at #2 on our list. Trejo has made an entire career of portraying the tough-guy character cover in tattoos and a hard exterior. He’s the big dude standing beside the boss man who is there to intimidate and threaten anyone in their path.
Danny Trejo has been in more than 250 movies throughout his career, which began when he was offered a role as an extra in 1985’s Runaway Train. Rarely a leading man himself, he embraced his typecast image and continued to find himself involved in film work year after year.
Notable film credits include parts in Desperado, Machete, Con Air, and From Dusk Til Dawn. Trejo also got a taste for TV when he played Tortuga on Breaking Bad and a cartel boss on Sons of Anarchy.
1. Samuel L. Jackson
Samuel L. Jackson makes it to the #1 spot on this list for the most typecast actor. There is zero doubt that when you are watching a Samuel L. Jackson movie, you don’t much pay attention to any other character other than Samuel L. Jackson. Movies that he stars in are often referred to as “that Samuel L. Jackson movie where…”
Jackson has an incredible on-screen presence that has been capturing audiences for years. From Pulp Fiction, Snakes on a Plane, Die Hard with a Vengeance, and Jackie Brown, Jackson has created a trademark character for himself and there is no second guessing that he is front and center of every film he is a part of.
It is hard to imagine a time in a movie when Samuel L. Jackson wasn’t angry at “the man” or simply being a badass in a crazy, extreme action scene. A talented actor, yes, but you can still always expect Jackson to hold the position of a man with great vengeance and heated emotions. Once in a while it would just be nice if he just took a chill pill!
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