Shakespearean actor Edmund Kean once said: “dying is easy; and comedy is hard.” Perhaps that is why so many comedic actors are such talented performers. In fact, many comedic actors have given masterful performances in dramatic roles. It likely takes as much talent to be a stellar comedian than it does to be a great dramatic actor.
There are a number of actors in the history of Hollywood that have straddled the line of comedy and drama so perfectly. These versatile thespians almost always prove to be entertaining no matter what type of roles they take on. Tom Hanks and Bill Murray are equally at home doing comedy or drama, and the late Robin Williams proved that a stand up comedian could not only star in the biggest comedy hits of all time, but some of the best dramatic films, too. Here’s a look at the ten best dramatic performances from comedic actors.
10 Kristen Wiig in The Skeleton Twins
9 Will Ferrell in Stranger Than Fiction
8 Jim Carrey in The Truman Show
Jim Carrey tried his hand at many dramatic performances, but unlike his comedic roles not all of them worked. One of the ones that proved to be critically successful was the Truman show, and now the film has become somewhat of a cult hit.
7 Robin Williams in Insomnia
Robin Williams was not only one of the greatest stand up comedians and comedic actors of all time, but he was also one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood history. Williams particularly excelled at playing creepy villains like he did in the underrated Christopher Nolan film Insomnia.
6 Steve Carell in Foxcatcher
Who knew Michael Scott had such range? The Oscar nominated film Foxcatcher depicted the sordid life of murderer John du Pont and his obsession with the wrestlers he purported to be training. Carell’s stunning turn as this vicious monster earned him an Oscar nomination. After his run on The Office ended, Carell’s career took a dramatic turn.
5 Adam Sandler in Punch Drunk Love
Movie fans have been desperately pleading for Adam Sandler to do something more serious for years. Sadly, Sandler seems content to star in mainstream comedies like Grown Ups 2.
4 Robin Williams in The Fisher King
Robin Williams’ role in the Fisher King played to all of the late actor’s strengths. There were moments where the heartbreaking story of his character made you cry, but then there were moment of pure elation when Williams would act just plain silly.
3 Michael Keaton in Birdman
Michael Keaton gave the performance of his life in Alejandro Inarritu’s Birdman last year. The performance was so breathtaking and groundbreaking that it earned him an Oscar nomination. Many thought he would win, but it was a tough race between him and Eddie Redmayne, who played Stephen Hawking in the Theory of Everything. Keaton’s portrayal of a washed up superhero actor not only mimicked his real life situation, but resulted in one of the best comebacks in Hollywood history.
2 Bill Murray in Lost in Translation
Many people feel that Bill Murray was robbed of an Oscar for his role in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. Murray plays an aging actor called Bob Harris who is in Japan to film a whisky commercial for Suntory. There he meets Scarlett Johansson’s Charlotte, who is the young girlfriend of a photographer.
1 Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting
Robin Williams’ best performance earned him the Oscar that he so wholeheartedly deserved. Good Will Hunting is a great movie, but it is Robin Williams that makes the movie a masterpiece.
Without him, the movie simply wouldn’t have the emotional resonance. His sarcastic delivery and caring attitude made his character, Sean Maguire, the one audiences could connect to and relate with the most.
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