charlie bronson

Who are the top 20 most intense actors of recent times?

I do like an intense character and performance when I’m watching a film. Someone who literally rivets and welds you to the screen, look away at your peril. Some people probably like their films bright and breezy. I don’t mind those too, but there’s something about intensity that leaves a lasting impression. You remember those performances.

As such I thought I’d offer a couple of lists of actors and actresses that have had me mesmerised, entranced and – at times – a little frightened. I’ve most likely left off a lot of vintage performances and characters, but this is MY list so I’m allowed. Let me know your thoughts. Who would you have liked to have seen included?

In these lists I’ve put links to clips from some performances you might not have seen before, or maybe just want to revisit. Remember though, best not watch alone though, these lot are intense!

The guys

  1. charlie bronsonDaniel Day Lewis (Bill ‘the Butcher’ Cutting, Gangs of New York; Daniel Plainview, There will be Blood)
  2. Heath Ledger (The Joker, The Dark Knight)
  3. Tom Hardy (Charles Bronson, Bronson)
  4. Christian Bale (Patrick Bateman, American Psycho; Batman, The Batman Trilogy)
  5. Kevin Spacey (John Doe, Seven)
  6. Christopher Walken (Vicenzo Carcotti, True Romance; Frank White, King of New York)
  7. Javier Bardem (Anton Chigurh, No Country for Old Men)
  8. Christopher Waltz (Col. Hans Landa, Inglourious Basterds)
  9. Vincent Cassel (Jacques Mesrine, Mesrine)
  10. Liam Neeson (Bryan Mills, Taken)
  11. Jeremy Renner (Sergeant William James, The Hurt Locker; Jem Coughlin, The Town)
  12. Gary Oldman (Drexel, True Romance)

The gals

  1. helena bonham carter harry potterHelena Bonham Carter (Red Queen, Alice in Wonderland; Bellatrix Lestrange, Harry Potter)
  2. Cate Blanchett (Galadriel, Lord of the Rings)
  3. Marion Cotillard (Mal, Inception)
  4. Angelina Jolie (Lisa Rowe, Girl, Interrupted)
  5. Melanie Laurent (Shosanna Dreyfus, Inglourious Basterds)
  6. Charlize Theron (Aileen Wuornos, Monster)
  7. Famke Janssen (Xena Onotopp, Goldeneye; Jean Grey, Xmen: The Last Stand)
  8. Noomi Rapace (Lisbeth Salander, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)

So, there’s my list. You’ll notice there’s more men than women, I’m not sure why. I think, perhaps, there’s a tendency – particularly in Hollywood – for studios to shy away from films with intense, female leads. I wonder if they are more of a risk commercially? I don’t think that’s the case. I think it’s more to do with a lack of decent scripts for women, ones that don’t play to stereotypes.

One thing I’ve noticed is how top actors portray intensity – for me – it’s in the eyes. I think it’s what separates great actors and actresses from the rest. If you allow yourself to be drawn into their gaze, there’s so much depth there. Depending on the character they’re playing, it can be equally exciting, captivating and terrifying. Watch Pacino in The Godfather, making the decision to kill with his eyes. A lesson in intensity.

Right, I need to go watch some comedy now to level out. It’s all got too much. I’ll finish with artwork of Marion Cotillard, not because it’s intense, but because it’s simply beautiful – and that’s all the reason you need.

Marion Cotillard artwork

11 thoughts on “Who are the top 20 most intense actors of recent times?

  1. That list of men is basically comprised of all my favorite actors but the list of women is not. Apparently intense makes me favor the men but not the women. Hm,somehow that sounds sort of shallow.

    1. I don’t think that’s shallow, you favouring the male actors probably just reflects how Hollywood tends to create more intense parts for male actors. The ladies just don’t get as much choice when it comes to intensity. At least, that’s what I consider to be the case.

  2. As soon as I started reading I thought, “I better see Tom Hardy on this list!”

    Then I scrolled down, saw his picture and thought, “Hell, yeah!!!”

    Nice touch adding Famke in Last Stand. You’re the first to agree with me on that.

    Wolverine: “Let the professor help you. He can fix it.”

    Phoenix: “I don’t wanna fix it!”

    Still gives me a chill.

  3. Glad you liked the post. Yes, the women in the list were harder. Given more time, perhaps I’d add more to the list. It’s just my thoughts at the time really, and Famke made the cut!

  4. Usually women characters who are disturbing are pointedly kept in the home/’mothering’ roles. Louise Fletcher was superb in both ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ and ‘Flowers In The Attic’ as Kate Winslett was superb in ‘Revolutionary Road’. However, when women play said roles they’re usually ‘hysterical’ or ‘evil’ versus this larger than life personae that the super heroes and serial killers and historical figures are. You rarely see female paedophiles depicted on-screen, or female murderers, or psychopaths OUTSIDE of the ‘evil mother’ role.

    P.S. Add William Forsythe to that male list, he’s mesmerizing.

  5. You can’t forget Dennis Hopper in ‘Blue Velvet’. Just amazing. I also like the Arquette sisters from ‘Crash’ to ‘Lost Highway’ but I guess ‘intense’ women roles again are not of the ‘larger than life variety but of the ‘exceptional in real life’ mold 🙂

    1. Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet is a good shout. There’s lot of intense actors out there I guess. I just went with ones that I felt I wanted to include in my list at the time. Perhaps mentally I blocked out some of the super intense ones to avoid nightmares!

  6. Hilary Swank can be great, fantastic in ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ but again, it’s the son who got to be the psycho (and he did well, that leer whilst he masturbated in front of the mirror was pretty full on)

  7. Fucking TILDA SWANSON not Swank! Sorry, I am a little over-burdened mentally this past week with assignments ;P

  8. The first ones that come to mind in the category of actors with intense eyes, regardless of color are as follows: Yul Brynner, Peter O’Toole, Paul Newman, George Peppard, Clint Eastwood, Sean Connery, Daniel Craig, and the rest.
    In Brynner, it’s that awesome expressive look of intensity or authority that can’t be matched. Peter O’Toole with those clear blue piercing eyes especially as Lawrence of Arabia ( El Aurens ) when he says, ” Never do that again! “. The quiver of his face and lips when he says it leave a stamp of uniqueness etched in memory forever.
    It’s not just the eyes but the expression overall that’s worth noting.

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