3 Defining Movies in Gary Oldman's Career

Photo Credit: Columbia TriStar Home Video
July 8th, 2014

Gary Oldman is a versatile actor who has played everything from a wizard in "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" to the infamous assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in "JFK." Even with his impressive resume, there are three films within his body of work that have defined Oldman's career and helped solidify his reign as a true movie star.



gary-oldman-sid-and-nancy.jpgPhoto Credit: The Criterion Collection
Photo Credit: The Criterion Collection
Photo Credit: The Criterion Collection

Gary Oldman shot to fame in 1986 when he landed the starring role of Sid Vicious in the cult classic "Sid and Nancy." Critics consider his stunning portrayal of the musician a masterpiece. The British biopic depicts the life of Vicious, the talented but troubled bass guitarist and vocalist for the British group the Sex Pistols, and his girlfriend Nancy Spungen. Oldman gives a knockout performance and received critical acclaim for his haunting depiction of the deceased star. The film describes how Spungen, a groupie, travels to London to meet the band. Soon thereafter, Vicious and Spungen fall in love. This relationship changes the trajectory of the guitarist's life, because Spungen introduces him to heroin. As a result, Vicious becomes addicted to the drug. His relationship with Spungen leads to a rift between him and his fellow band mates, causing the band's demise. The story chronicles Vicious' futile attempts to start a solo career with Spungen as his manager. This dream is never realized, as the lovebirds both meet with untimely deaths. Spungen dies in Manhattan's Hotel Chelsea, hours after being stabbed by Vicious following a drug-induced fight. Vicious himself dies soon thereafter from a heroin overdose. Oldman plays the role with such heart that the tragedy of Vicious' life leaps off the screen. The famous film critic Roger Ebert praised Oldman's performance. He referred to the couple as "punk rock's Romeo and Juliet" and describing Oldman as "the best young British actor around." Premiere magazine rated Oldman's role as Vicious at number 62 on its list of the 100 greatest performances of all time.

dracula.jpgPhoto Credit: Columbia TriStar Home Video
Columbia TriStar Home Video

Oldman landed another major role as the legendary Count Dracula in the 1992 horror classic, "Bram Stoker's Dracula." The film was well-received by industry critics and moviegoers as well. It debuted at number one at the box office and took in over $82 million domestically and over $215 million worldwide. It also won three Academy Awards. Oldman's rendering of the legendary vampire was a scintillating performance. Oldman brought to life the anguish of Vlad Dracula, who learns his wife Elisabeta has committed suicide following an erroneous belief that he died in battle. Her death, and Dracula's belief that her soul is forever damned, causes Dracula to curse God. It sets off a chain of events that leads Dracula to pursue and subsequently wed Mina, a woman who is the reincarnation of Elisabeta. Pursued by vampire hunters, Dracula is ultimately killed, but not by the slayers. Instead, his life ends at the hands of his bride, Mina, who stabs and decapitates him as an act of mercy in the very chapel where he initially renounced God. Oldman's heart-wrenching performance was both bigger-than-life and emotional, recasting the way the character of Dracula had been portrayed in the past with a version that was simply unforgettable. Oldman won the Saturn Award for Best Actor for the role.



gary_oldman_tinker_tailor_soldier_spy.jpgPhoto Credit: Focus Features

Not one to rest on his laurels, Oldman wowed critics and fans yet again in the 2011 espionage film, "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy." The movie follows the hunt for a Soviet double agent working within the Circus, the pet name for British intelligence. Here, Oldman plays George Smiley, a British intelligence officer. The film opened to both critical and commercial success, and it was the top-grossing film at the British box office for three consecutive weeks. It grossed over $80 million worldwide and further solidified Oldman's innate ability to bring strong characters to life. In the film, Oldman showcases the plight of Smiley, who is forced into early retirement after a mission in Hungary goes awry. He is later brought out of retirement and discovers that the Hungary mission was actually a ploy to flush out the true identity of the spy, a suspect list that he himself was on. Smiley ultimately learns that the spy is Haydon, a high ranking deputy in British intelligence and the man who seduced his wife. Before the Circus can turn Haydon over to the Soviets, he is shot dead by Prideaux, the agent and friend he betrayed. As his reward for unearthing the spy, Smiley is reinstated at the Circus and named its chief. Oldman's classical style of acting allowed him to play the role with such credibility that he was nominated for an Oscar in the Best Actor category. Critics pointed out that he brought believability to the role and brilliance in his delivery of it. The film itself received three Oscar nominations.

Gary Oldman began a stunning film career back in the late '80s with "Sid and Nancy" and has remained a phenomenal actor ever since. His chilling performance in "Bram Stoker's Dracula" and his Oscar-worthy performance in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" have left a lasting legacy of cinematic greatness and forever cemented him as one of Hollywood's master thespians.