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Top 10 Best Tom Hardy Performances

Tom Hardy

Tom Hardy. What exactly do we think of him? Well, love him or hate him (and evidently, not many seem to dislike him), and without personally fawning over his talents too much, a series of performances within film — and TV, mind you — have cemented his gigantic identity in the film industry very uniquely.

Even the most accomplished and respected thespians are subject to huge career mishaps and box-office flops. But how is it that Hardy has virtually dodged every career damaging bullet thus far? Sure, he’s had a few averagely mediocre ‘nothing’ movies whereby its underwhelming results weren’t magnified, such as This Means War or Child 44 for brief examples. With Venom crawling its way to an October release, many have heavily speculated its potential for insurmountable failure. But Hardy’s Fonzo, currently in post production, by which he portrays the legendary Al Capone, may garner Oscar buzz in the coming year or two.

This list is purely based on the merit of acting performance. Films such as Mad Max: Fury Road, Dunkirk and Warrior are, unfortunately, excluded from this inspection. Having said films geared towards a holistic quality of an ensemble piece, he acts as just one cog in a massive machine, as Hardy puts it himself. This is film and film alone — with the exception of one humble TV movie. So, class those mentions as honorable ones. Right, enough fawning.

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#10: RocknRolla (2008)

‘Handsome Bob’ is a character that Tom Hardy clearly glows with enjoyment while playing. The exuberant, flirtatious bad boy is a low-key breath of fresh air in a film that examines a group of charismatic criminals. Guy Ritchie’s gritty movie delves into the underworld of scammers and con artists. Handsome Bob is a fan favorite and a performance from Hardy that’s highly fun to watch. A Guy Ritchie film where the genre is quite typically overdone, never quite stepping out-of-bounds of Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, may be bothersome. But this crime comedy shows Hardy in a tongue in cheek fashion to the extent where he oozes flamboyant hilarity.

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#9: The Revenant (2015)

The role that earned him prestigious award recognition at the highest level, his Oscar nominated performance in The Revenant. Inspired by Tom Berenger’s Sgt. Barnes in Platoon, Hardy played Fitzgerald as a reprehensible character with despicable selfishness. The cowardly antagonist can arguably be seen as the logically cruel survivor. Based on Michael Punke’s novel, it’s a fictional retelling of Glass’s vengeful journey. Probably the most disgusting aspect of him is that he murders the young son of Glass in cold blood, directly in front of him. It’s certainly one of the more subtle roles for Hardy, but definitely one that showcases his physical prowess. Shooting out in the freezing temperatures of Calgary for seven months, he proved to be no pushover.

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#8: Inception (2010)

Inception was decidedly the Christopher Nolan blockbuster that made the average viewer ask, ‘Who is this guy?’ Once again, opposite Leonardo DiCaprio, Hardy carries Eames in this supporting role with an almost 007, suave quality. Cocksure and sophisticated, this naughty bandit is evidently experienced while spewing cool quips and one-liners. ‘You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling,’ is a defining quote. He operates with the ability to shape-shift from person to person within dreams in order to persuade the target accordingly. One might suspect that the character is playfully bisexual too. This role earned Hardy a Rising Star BAFTA award that’s voted for by the public.

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#7: Lawless (2012)

John Hillcoat’s crime drama, set in the midst of the depression era, allowed Hardy to flex his talents once again. Following the three bootlegging Bondurant brothers in the troublesome prohibition stages of the early 1930s, Hardy plays Forrest. With an impressive cast including Jessica Chastain, Shia LaBeouf, Guy Pearce and Gary Oldman, he possesses the most interesting aura. He portrays Forrest in a droll fashion that shows his domineering attitude towards the family as a masculine figure. Playing this simple country man with a major dislike for stinky corruption in conjunction with the law, Tom Hardy does a worthy job at turning this potentially amoral delinquent into a likeable loyal leader. It’s almost as if Hardy plays him as a much older grumpy curmudgeon with the hilarious grunting at serious scenarios.

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#6: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Perhaps his most universally famous role, ironically with his face covered for the whole movie, Bane is an iconic part. Following in the footsteps of the late Heath Ledger’s legendary, Oscar winning Joker, the pressure was certainly on for Hardy. To be told by Nolan that you’ll be playing the main villain in The Dark Knight sequel while having your face buried is crazily daunting. Hardy said that the mask actually helped him in delivering poignancy as he was able to ‘hide’ behind this mask, privately accessing the creative chunk of his ‘brain’, which is something actors attempt to do invariably while unmasked.

Tom Hardy is an extremely physical actor and this part demonstrates how physically malleable and hulking he can be. Gaining 30lbs at just 5’9″ and weighing over 200lbs, his dedication is exceptional. He manages to pull off a surprisingly beguiling, originally voiced, quote riddled feat while pitted against Bale’s Batman. And, might I add, an emotional revelation to the villain in the third act plants this performance as truly unforgettable.

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#5: The Drop (2014)

Potentially his most subtle role, his monosyllabic portrayal of quiet barman, Bob Saginowski, is a highly careful, controlled characterization. When a dog is cornered, it bites back — that was the basic, fundamental motto of this character. Opposite the late James Gandolfini, Tom Hardy delivers a subdued and, at times, scarily dark interpretation of this man shown in the short story Animal Rescue. But, understandably, this oddball emits symptoms of a man who isn’t playing with the full deck. With some strange behavioral humor, Hardy once again is able to add a layer of peculiar comedy — this is sort of a staple in many of his roles. This is, in my opinion, his most compartmentalized performance in one of his lesser known movies.

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#4: Stuart: A Life Backwards (2007)

Playing the real life subject to Alexander Masters’ book, Hardy embodies a very interesting man, Stuart Clive Shorter. Being partially disabled with muscular dystrophy and suffering with a personality disorder, his homeless life in Cambridge is grim. Although he is a petty criminal, Hardy shines a kind and altruistic essence on him as he pairs up with Benedict Cumberbatch’s Masters, forming a meaningful friendship. Casting aside his many self-destructive flaws, as Hardy describes him as ‘very damaged,’ he was also one of the most prominent activists in fighting against homelessness in England. Bringing The Big Issue into Cambridge, a street newspaper dedicated to promoting places to live for the homeless while granting them more rights to stay in city centers, his work is duly admirable. Without Masters documenting his tribulations, and Hardy pulling off a brilliantly bittersweet performance, nobody would have ever heard of Stuart.

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#3: Legend (2015)

The Kray twins were notorious, almost mythical gods in 1960s England and Hardy did a phenomenally great rendition of the two. His fine tuned work, juxtaposing the differences between them, is his major achievement here. Hardy said that it was difficult and problematic in terms of shooting scenes where both shared the screen. But also admitted to the amount of fun it was. Particularly a bar fight scene that was cleverly shot using stunt doubles was an arduously drudging and confusing ordeal. His efforts in these two roles is clearly mesmerizing as he makes us entirely forget that this is, in fact, just the one actor. From the flamboyant, aggressively homosexual loose canon that is Ronnie Kray, to the conservatively mature, handsome, level-headed Reggie Kray, the dynamic is hugely uproarious to watch.

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#2: Locke (2013)

Entombed in the claustrophobic confinements of a moving BMW SUV-X5, Hardy plays Ivan Locke, a man whose life is tragically falling through his fingers tips in one journey to the hospital. Admittedly, Steven Knight’s tight film is a one-man show. But Hardy is able to effortlessly convey the seriousness and emotional gravity of this guy’s life in tatters.

Being the only visible actor in the film, it could have been the case where we’d become tired of him for 90 minutes. It could have been a very self-indulgent, unbalanced performance. However, when the film premiered at the 70th Venice International Film Festival and Sundance, people were weeping by the end as Knight said. Hardy’s skills in this film create a very, very real atmosphere. He carries the movie wholeheartedly as he says so much without saying a single word in terribly gut-wrenching, sad segments.

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#1: Bronson (2008)

This is an open and shut case; Tom Hardy’s portrayal of Britain’s most violent prisoner, Charlie Bronson, is his finest performance. The sheer madness of Nicholas Winding Refn’s film, and its influence taken from A Clockwork Orange, is a psychopathic undertaking. Putting on insane weight, eating pizzas, drinking coca-cola and doing a thousand push-ups a day, Hardy was able to amazingly achieve this brutally threatening image. Apart from reading Bronson’s book, in order to really get into the mind of this madman, incarcerated for 40 years (many of those years spent in solitary confinement — and loving it), Hardy had made numerous visits to the Wakefield prison to talk to Bronson himself. Not just in person but also phone calls, back and forth, were permissible.

Charlie Bronson is a true anti-hero shown through the uber-stylish lens of Refn and Hardy does an exquisitely authentic job at channeling his inner beast. He’s funny, likeable, unlikable petrifying, complicated, artsy, talented and above all, extremely violent. The ironic aspect about this man is that he has surprisingly never killed anyone and locked up to this day for his unpredictable outbursts. But for the past decade or so, he has allegedly remained calm and peaceful, and many believe he should be freed. Hardy often reiterates that the film does not intend to glorify or was ever a crusade in influencing Bronson’s release. But whenever someone who isn’t aware of Tom Hardy’s acting chops, as a knee jerk reaction, I personally refer to Bronson. Its his crowning Raging Bull-esque masterstroke. Bronson is the movie that shows Tom Hardy at his unequivocal, absolute best.

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Stephen Finlay

Writer for Movie Babble and Journalism & Media graduate from Dublin Business School, Ireland. Interests of all things entertainment such as film, TV, gaming, books, podcasts and combat sports. Follow me on Twitter @Stephen_Finlay !

13 Responses

  1. Though Bronson is of course number one due to its Gonzo Vaudevillian nature, I think Warrior was one of my favorite performances from Tom Hardy. His portrayal of damaged veteran Tommy Riordan was exposed-nerve raw, and though he could be considered the antagonist of the film to an extent, Hardy also makes him a very sympathetic character. A highly-underrated and highly-recommended film!

    • That’s true. There were a few underappreciated parts that I unfortunately had to exclude from this list, and Tommy Riordan was one of them. Another role that shows how physical and powerful he can be on screen.

  2. Great choices. But I also think his performance in Star Trek Nemesis was a great villain performance – more so than Bane in DKR.

  3. annatobey says:

    He is phenomenal actor!!

  4. “Locke” is bloody brilliant and Hardy just was amazing….glad to see you agree as well….now I want to see “Bronson”.

  5. Rakkelle says:

    Who doesn’t love Tom Hardy??!! One of the best out there now.

  6. raistlin0903 says:

    Tom Hardy has fast become my favorite character: pretty much every role he plays turns to gold. I don’t know if you have seen that one yet, but he is also amazing in the television series Taboo. Terrific (and also very dark) performance. Can’t wait to see how he is going to perform in Venom 😊

    • raistlin0903 says:

      Character=of course actor 😂

    • Stephen Finlay says:

      It was tough excluding his TV performances, believe me. That’s also a good shout out. He’s great in The Take too, as well as Peaky Blinders. It’s cool how he never neglects TV as Band of Brothers was actually his very first acting job – fun fact.

  7. Tom Hardy is a wicked actor! I loved seeing him as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. My favourite film with Hardy is Legend, because I really liked how he portrayed the two brothers and I think that was one of his best performances! Every time I see him in a film, he keeps getting better and I look forward to seeing him in Venom!

  8. Tom Hardy is my favorite actor working today. This is an excellent post and I agree 110% that Bronson is his best work.

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