I haven’t made a list ranking an actor’s best performances yet, and with Tom Hardy’s latest movie Capone out now, I decided that I’d make my first list on him, given that I’ve seen much of his most well known movies/shows.
Hardy’s career was slowly building up in the late 2000s in independent movies like Stuart: A Life Backwards and Bronson, but today he’s a well known name, playing iconic roles like Mad Max, Bane, and Venom, as well as starring in critically acclaimed films like Inception, Dunkirk, and The Revenant. He’s known as one of the best actors working today and for very good reason, usually managing to be one of the best parts of every movie he’s in, no matter how good or bad the movie is. A transformative and exceptional actor, he was the perfect choice for my first list ranking an actor’s performances.
Honourable Mention: Farrier – Dunkirk
Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk isn’t really known as an acting movie, it’s mostly just its characters trying to survive all the way through, but the cast were nonetheless all around great in their parts, with Mark Rylance, Kenneth Branagh, Cillian Murphy and others giving some commendable performances, and that extends to Tom Hardy too. Hardy’s face is (unsurprisingly) covered up for the majority of the movie in the role of a fighter pilot in one of the three main storylines, but he worked well even just when it came to acting with his eyes. It’s a real credit to Hardy that he manages to convey so much with so little, but that’s something that can be seen in almost all of his performances.
15. Ricki Tarr – Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has an incredibly stacked cast, with the likes of Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Mark Strong, John Hurt and other well known and great British actors, all of whom play their parts very well. That includes to Hardy in a minor but notable role as a former spy, who potentially has some information about a potential Russian mole inside the British Intelligence Service during the Cold War. Ricki Tarr is just one of many important players in the movie that the audience has to keep track of in this very complex story, but Hardy also does a lot in his screentime, making himself stand out amongst heavyweights like Oldman.
14. Eames – Inception
Christopher Nolan’s excellent Inception features an all star cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page and more, and they all work in their respective roles. With there being such a large cast, it could’ve been easy for Tom Hardy’s character of Eames to just be forgotten, even if that role play a notable part in the story as an identify forger as part of the heist in planting an idea inside Robert Fischer’s (Cillian Murphy) head, in a attempt at a near impossible process known as Inception. However, Hardy did so much in this movie to make him memorable even among A listers like DiCaprio, he brought such a presence and charisma to every scene that made him quite a memorable on-screen character. The Dark Knight Rises might’ve been where his career really picked up, given that’s when he played a Batman villain, but Inception was really where most audiences had their first look at how great Tom Hardy is as an actor (aside from Star Trek Nemesis maybe).
13. Forrest Bondurant – Lawless
Lawless is a movie that at times comes close to greatness, but yet is quite far away from reaching that level. With that said, one thing that could easily be said is that the acting was good from everyone. Tom Hardy was one of the highlights among the cast unsurprisingly, playing the leader of the Bondurant brothers, bootleggers in the prohibition era who find themselves up against a sadistic and relentless Deputy Sheriff played by a villainous Guy Pearce. Hardy doesn’t really speak much, and grunts a lot (as per usual for him), but he still has quite the effective screen presence. Lawless is very much is very much more focused on Shia LaBeouf’s character and not Forrest, but Tom Hardy nonetheless impresses in his role, and his presence added a lot to the movie.
12. Al Capone – Capone
The most recent entry on this list is probably Tom Hardy’s craziest and most polarising performance to date. As the infamous gangster in the last year of his life, Hardy does the most amount of acting in a single role, and he’s undoubtedly going over the top. From the makeup that makes him look like a zombie to the incredibly raspy voice that makes him sound like a demon rather more than a man suffering from illnesses, you can see why not everyone was on board with his performance here. Indeed, the movie does have some unintentionally hilarious moments related to him, but his acting definitely works better when watching it in the film itself. After a while I got used to his performance, and I do think he’s really good here. Tom Hardy really sells Al Capone (or “Fonzo” as people in the film call him) slowly deteriorating, seeing hallucinations, and ultimately declining. Although I think that the movie had some interesting ideas, it wouldn’t have worked without a strong actor in the lead role, and Hardy is engaging and has a massive screen presence at the very least. While it has a ton of issues, I do think Capone is worth checking out for Hardy’s performance alone, it’s fascinating to watch if nothing else.
11. Alfie Solomons – Peaky Blinders (2014-????)
Peaky Blinder is a tv series (not the only one that’ll be mentioned in this list), and while I haven’t reviewed any of the show, I’ll openly say that I’m a big fan of it, and it’s well worth a watch for sure. Tom Hardy’s character of Alfie Solomons is very much a supporting player in the show, and while he plays a notable part of the plot, he’s not quite as central as much of the main cast. Hardy however makes himself known as one of the highlights among its stacked cast. As the leader of a Jewish gang, he has such an incredible screen presence, every acting choice he makes is just so effective. He’s hilarious, he has some of the best lines of the entire show, and he steals every scene from every other actor in the same scene. Considering the cast of excellent actors involved in the show with the likes of Sam Neil, Adrian Brody, and more, Hardy still comfortably stands as one of the best performers on the show. Despite being a criminal and even betraying lead character Tommy Shelby (Cillian Murphy) more than a couple of times, Alfie remains a fan favourite of the show, and much of that credit goes to Tom Hardy’s scene stealing performance.
10. Max – Mad Max: Fury Road
Mad Max: Fury Road is rightfully recognised as not only one of the best action movies of recent years, but also one of the best action movies of all time. Playing such an iconic character is quite a big task for any actor, especially one made famous by Mel Gibson of all people. Still, Hardy was more than up to the challenging task. Granted he doesn’t speak much, and indeed it felt like it was more the movie of Charlize Theron’s Furiosa’s more, but he was effective nonetheless, doing so much as the titular anti hero with very little. Despite Fury Road mostly being car chases and a whole lot of (great) action, character motivations, emotional resonance, and a compelling story isn’t lost in the movie, and that extends to Hardy’s Max too, despite the lack of lines he gets. At this time there is some uncertainty as to the direction of the future Mad Max movies, but I’d be up for whatever director George Miller does with them, especially if Hardy still get to be a part of that.
9. Bane – The Dark Knight Rises
Following up Heath Ledger’s iconic turn as The Joker is a big task for any actor playing the villain of the next Batman movie, and while most agree he’s not quite on that same level, Hardy’s Bane is nonetheless great and memorable. Granted considering the portrayal of Bane in Batman and Robin, there wasn’t any way to go but up when it comes to on screen portrayals of the iconic Batman villain. With that said, Hardy’s Bane works as an intimidating and powerful foe for the lead hero to combat. Hardy’s face is completely covered up for about 99.5% of the movie, and yet delivers such an iconic and memorable performance, from his incredibly emotive facial expressions, to his iconic and greatly imitated (also admittedly sometimes later dubbed) voice. Tom Hardy’s physicality was believable and he seemed very convincing as someone who could hold his own against the Batman, but his acting with some larger than life moments like the speeches were also effective, leading to some truly memorable moments for him. Even though his face wasn’t really shown, this is the first iconic role which became attributed to Tom Hardy.
8. James Delaney – Taboo (2017)
Not many people have seen the first season of Taboo, even if they may have heard about it at one point. It has its fair share of issues, but I think it’s worth a watch, a slow burn show that had me interested throughout, with the direction, the production design, and especially the acting being particularly great. Hardy in the lead role of James Delaney is exceptional, grounding much of the film, and has immense screen presence that creates an even darker and more sinister atmosphere. Even if audiences might not be sure about the story of the show, he nonetheless absolutely captivates viewers as the mysterious character. It’s been a few years since the first season of Taboo, and I do hope we get to see a second season soon.
7. Bob – The Drop
The Drop is already quite an underrated movie, and the same goes to the acting which is great, with good performances from the likes of Noomi Rapace and James Gandolfini. However, this really is Tom Hardy’s movie through and through. Hardy’s performance is incredibly subtle, probably the most subtle of his career. He plays this soft spoken, unassuming and naïve bartender, certainly not one the intimidating badasses that you might have seen some of in his other movies. However it’s an incredibly powerful performance, much of it due to his facial expressions and reactions, conveying so much with very little. Watch The Drop when you can, not only does it feature yet another great Tom Hardy performance, but it’s also a good movie in itself.
6. Reggie and Ronnie Kray – Legend (2015)
Legend is quite a flawed movie, I probably liked it more than most people, but it could’ve been better considering all the talent involved. The acting was pretty good from everyone, but it’s of course the dual performances from Tom Hardy as both Reggie and Ronnie Kray that stands out, and was really the main selling point behind the movie. Trick shot filmmaking aside, Hardy plays each role very differently, bringing both roles to life very believably, and making each character distinct, with Ronnie Kray being particularly more psychopathic and unstable than his older brother. Legend may be a mixed bag of a movie, but it’s nonetheless worth seeing it for Hardy’s work.
5. Tommy Conlon – Warrior
Warrior was way better than it had any right to be, it was yet another sports movie about fighting, but at its core it was a story about a broken family. Part of what made it work so well were the performances, especially with the three main actors in Joel Edgerton, Nick Nolte, and Hardy. As an Iraq war veteran returning home and deciding to fight in a local fighting tournament, Hardy is believable in his role as Tommy Conlon, both inside and outside the ring. His performance is absolutely electric, raw, and top notch from beginning to end. Additionally, his interactions and dynamic with both Edgerton and Nolte felt very real, which was really needed for this story to work as more than just another fighting movie. Warrior definitely deserves a lot more attention and is really worth seeing, especially for the performances, Hardy’s being one of the standouts.
4. John Fitzgerald – The Revenant
The Revenant is in my mind is Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s best film, it’s an incredibly ambitious film that’s a technical achievement, directed excellently, gorgeously filmed, and is an effectively brutal and haunting movie. While much of the acting could’ve been swallowed up by the technical prowess and scale from Iñárritu, the cast work well incredibly well, and Domhnall Gleeson and Will Poulter also deserve praise for their work in supporting roles. While much of the praise was heaped on Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar winning performance (acclaim that was well deserved), Hardy’s work as the antagonist was just as impressive, and I can’t really disagree with those who say that he gave the better performance. A trapper who betrays DiCaprio’s lead character of Hugh Glass, Fitzgerald was an effectively hateable character, and Hardy not only played him perfectly, but he elevated the role too. During his scenes, you get a peak into who the character is, with him essentially being a survivor at his core and not just a classical evil villain that he looks like at first, and much of that is because of his acting. He’s an absolute scene stealer, you can barely even recognise him in the role. Rightfully earning his first Oscar nomination for his performance here, Hardy once again showed himself to be a force to be reckoned with in front of the camera.
3. Stuart Shorter – Stuart: A Life Backwards
Most people don’t know really about this BBC tv movie, even with the likes of future stars Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch leading it but it’s well worth the watch. It’s a good movie in itself, an emotionally honest movie that is really worth checking out, but Hardy’s work as the titular role is truly extraordinary and the best part of the movie. This remains Hardy’s most difficult role to date, playing a complicated person with a lot of issues and a dark past. Even though you can clearly see that you’re watching Tom Hardy and he hasn’t physically transformed like in The Revenant or Bronson, he feels like a completely different person, and he was beyond exceptional. Definitely find a way to check this movie out, it’s worth it for Hardy’s performance alone.
2. Ivan Locke – Locke
Locke is a movie that heavily relies upon its leading man, with Tom Hardy being the centre of this story, and really the only actor who you only see on screen. Hardy might have some voices to play off with the likes of Andrew Scott, Olivia Colman and more, but that’s all he has, otherwise he’s just acting by himself in a car. The plot of Locke doesn’t sound very compelling by itself, a guy making phone calls in a car, but it’s actually a really good movie, especially considering its premise. Writer/director Steven Knight did some very effective work with both the script and direction, and deserves a lot of credit for pulling it off, but Locke wouldn’t have worked as well without an excellent leading actor, and Hardy really brought it. You are mostly just watching his face from start to finish and he carries it exceptionally. It is such a subtle and complex performance, and I definitely wouldn’t disagree with anyone who say that this is Tom Hardy’s best acting work to date. There are moments where Hardy isn’t even playing off anyone and is just speaking to himself or isn’t saying anything at all, and he’s just incredibly natural. There’s not a single moment here that Tom Hardy dramatically ‘acts’ in a showy way, he perfectly plays the role in a genuine way. Locke is a good movie in itself, but it owes much of its success to Hardy’s excellent performance.
1. Charles Bronson – Bronson
It was very hard deciding which of Tom Hardy’s top 2 performances should be in the number 1 slot, both were very different kinds of performances, but both excellent nonetheless. In contrast to his performance in Locke, his work in Bronson is completely showy, and that was perfect for this movie and role. Now much of what made the movie work was split between two aspects, one is Nicolas Winding Refn’s direction, making this an unconventional biopic that’s far from being normal or boring. The other half is Tom Hardy as real life criminal and prisoner Charles Bronson, who is nothing short of fantastic. Physically he absolutely transforms but even that aside it’s an incredibly transformative performance that you don’t even see in his other roles (maybe a little bit in Ronnie Kray in Legend). He’s full with this electric energy from beginning to end, he’s charismatic, scary, hilarious, and has the screen presence to carry the entire film. While Refn’s storytelling and direction certainly made Bronson stand out as more than just another biopic, it wouldn’t have worked as well as it did had it not been for Tom Hardy’s phenomenal performance.
What are your favourite performances from Tom Hardy?