15 Actors Whose Career Is Way More Than Their One Big Role

Over 100 Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of 15 Actors Whose Career Is Way More Than Their One Big Role
Voting Rules
Vote up the actors who are much more than a one-trick pony.

Playing a fan-favorite character is both a curse and a blessing for an actor. On one hand, it brings recognition and opportunities, but on the other, it may box the performer in to being known for that one big role.

Everyone knows Carrie Fisher from her famous role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise - yet fewer are aware that Fisher is a brilliant writer with several best-selling memoirs as well as screenwriting work under her belt. Even actors with a wide filmography often get pigeonholed according to their most well-known character. Mark Hamill is more than just Luke Skywalker, and Jennifer Aniston has done a lot more than just Rachel Green. It's important to acknowledge the range of work done by these brilliant performers who are much more than a one-trick pony. 

  • 1
    101 VOTES
    Heath Ledger
    Photo: The Dark Knight / Warner Bros. Pictures

    Not many actors win an Academy Award for playing a comic book character, but Heath Ledger accomplished that feat with his haunting performance as the Joker in The Dark Knight

    Well before the Australian actor donned the smeared face paint, he had an array of impressive Hollywood performances, like his big breakout in the teen comedy 10 Things I Hate About You. From there, he landed roles in big-budget films like The Patriot and A Knight's Tale.

    Perhaps Ledger's most impressive dramatic performance came in Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain. Ledger starred as a ranch hand named Ennis Del Mar who has a secret long-running affair with a fellow cowboy played by Jake Gyllenhaal. Ledger earned an Oscar nod for Best Actor for his tender performance.

    Ledger passed away in 2008 from an accidental prescription overdose at the age of 28. Though the Joker remains one of his most famous roles, he accomplished so much more in his life that ought to be remembered as well.

    101 votes
  • Robert Downey Jr.
    Photo: Iron Man / Paramount Pictures

    Robert Downey Jr. will forever be known to a younger generation of movie fans as Tony Stark AKA Iron Man. However, Downey had a prolific acting career well before he put on the superhero suit. 

    In the 1980s and early '90s, Downey was considered one of the top acting talent for his performances in Less Than Zero and the biopic Chaplin, which earned him an Oscar nomination.  Unfortunately, starting in the mid-90s, Downey became notorious for his off-screen troubles. He was arrested several times and subsequently fired from multiple film and TV projects.

    After serving time and entering recovery for his substance abuse, Downey returned to acting in multiple independent films. His performance in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang got the attention of Jon Favreau, who fought for him to become Iron Man in the series that would go on to kick-start the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

    Downey also took on another highly recognizable character, playing the lead in Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes and the sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

    84 votes
  • 3
    83 VOTES
    Carrie Fisher
    Photo: Star Wars / 20th Century-Fox

    Carrie Fisher was famous before she could walk, thanks to the highly-publicized relationship between her parents, crooner Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds. Fisher followed in her mother's career footsteps, landing the role of Princess Leia in 1977's Star Wars, whom she played in four additional installments of the franchise.

    Though deserved, the sheer reputation of Princess Leia has overshadowed Fisher's other work. As an actor, she appeared in several popular films, including The Blues Brothers, Hannah and Her Sisters, When Harry Met Sally, and Soap Dish. On top of that, Fisher was a prolific writer, documenting her struggles with mental illness and addiction in the bestseller memoirs The Best Awful There Is, Wishful Drinking, and Shockaholic. She published her first novel, the semi-autobiographical Postcards from the Edge, in 1987, which she then adapted into a 1990 movie starring Meryl Streep. Fisher was also well-known to those in Hollywood as script doctor; she is credited with revising the scripts for The Wedding Singer and Outbreak, among other films. 

    Though Leia is certainly not a bad character to be remembered for, her breakout role is only one small piece of Fisher's impressive creative work.

    83 votes
  • Daniel Radcliffe
    Photo: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix / Warner Bros. Pictures

    Daniel Radcliffe will always be known to the general public as the boy wizard in eight Harry Potter films over a 10-year span. However, it's clear that the English actor has made it a point since then to take on different types of movie roles and prove his range. 

    Radcliffe played Beat poet Allen Ginsburg in Kill Your Darlings. In the supernatural thriller Horns, he took a darker turn as man suspected of raping and murdering his girlfriend. He broke out his rom-com charm in the indie What If, following it up with survival thriller Jungle and the musical parody biopic Weird: The Al Yankovic Story

    Beyond film, Radcliffe has also enjoyed a successful stage career, including multiple stints on Broadway in shows like Equus and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.

    88 votes
  • 5
    75 VOTES
    Daniel Craig
    Photo: No Time to Die / United Artists Releasing

    Any actor who portrays the seminal secret agent James Bond becomes known for that role. Daniel Craig is no exception, having played 007 in five Bond installments: Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall, Spectre, and No Time to Die. However, the English actor is much more than a suave spy. 

    In recent years, Craig has led another film series as sleuth Benoit Blanc in Rian Johnson's Knives Out and Glass Onion. Blanc is the perfect detective protagonist, smarter than everyone else in the room, though delightfully humble.  

    Craig also played reporter Mikael Blomkvist in David Fincher's dark thriller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a southern criminal in Steven Soderbergh's Logan Lucky, and Lara Croft's (Angelina Jolie) love interest in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. Though Craig excels in action thrillers, Bond is not his only character worth remembering.

    75 votes
  • 6
    52 VOTES
    Danny Glover
    Photo: Lethal Weapon / Warner Bros.

    Lethal Weapon became an essential entry in the list of buddy cop movies, leading to several sequels and widespread recognition of Danny Glover as Detective Roger Murtaugh.

    Though Glover deserves the acclaim, his career goes far beyond the grizzled detective. Glover didn't start acting until his early 30s, after working for the city of San Francisco as an evaluations specialist and program manager. Once he settled into performing, Glover appeared in numerous popular films including The Color Purple, Predator 2, and Angels in the Outfield.

    Fans of his movies may be unaware that Glover is also an avid political activist. He has brought attention to numerous global issues like human rights, the AIDS crisis in Africa, social justice, and climate change. His work is so impactful that UNICEF named him a Goodwill Ambassador in 1998. He's received several other esteemed recognitions, including an NAACP Image Award, a Pioneer Award from the National Civil Rights Museum, and the BET Humanitarian Award. While Hollywood fame is fun, Glover's humanitarian work ought to be remembered among his accomplishments as well.

    52 votes