12 Actors Who Have Surprising Choices For Their Favorite Roles

Over 500 Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of 12 Actors Who Have Surprising Choices For Their Favorite Roles
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Vote up the personal favorites that surprised you the most.

Samuel L. Jackson’s favorite film role has to be Jules from Pulp Fiction or Nick Fury from the MCU... right? Nope, he is just one major actor who has a surprising personal favorite character.

If most actors are asked about their favorite film roles, they will most likely abstain from the question altogether. They wouldn’t want to offend the other filmmakers they’ve worked with. Or perhaps the actor will select their most popular film - or the movie that won them a prestigious honor like an Academy Award.

However, sometimes it’s not about the box office or the accolades. Actors become attached to certain characters because they identify with them, or in Jackson’s case, because he just thinks his private detective character from the 1996 cult classic The Long Kiss Goodnight is a “fun-loving guy.” Make your voice heard. Vote up the personal favorites that totally surprised you the most.

Photo: Universal Pictures / The Cannon Group, Inc.

  • Frank Langella earned his lone Academy Award nod for his performance in 2008's Frost/Nixon. The talented thespian is considered one of the finest stage actors ever and has two Tony Awards to prove it. 

    Langella has over 100 acting credits on his filmography. He's played villains like Count Dracula and hopeless romantics like Cyrano de Bergerac. 

    In the 1980s, He-Man became a ubiquitous superhero featured in multiple animated series, comic books, and action figures lines. In 1987, He-Man got his very own live-action movie called The Masters of the Universe. The film starred Dolph Lundgren as He-Man. But who would play his arch-enemy, Lord Skeletor?

    The most unlikely of actors, Mr. Langella, chose to battle He-Man over Castle Grayskull. Langella took the villainous role because his son was a fan of the Overlord of Evil. The movie turned out to be a total box office flop and critical punching bag. However, Langella loved playing the half-human antagonist. 

    "That's one of my favorite parts," said Langella. "My son was four years old and he was He-Man, running around with the sword. When they offered me Skeletor, I couldn't resist. I couldn't wait to play him."

    Many critics felt that the veteran actor was the only bright spot in the movie. Roger Hurlburt from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel wrote, "If not for the superb villainy of Frank Langella, who plays the evil Skeletor, Masters of the Universe would be as barren as an asteroid."

    274 votes
  • From being a seven-time Mr. Olympia to one of the biggest movie stars in the world to the governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger has never shied away from challenging himself. The action star made his name in Hollywood with his muscles and ability to find the perfect starring vehicles.

    In 1988, the Terminator villain co-starred with Danny DeVito in the box office hit comedy Twins. Arnold liked showing off his funny side and then agreed to star in another comedy, 1990’s Kindergarten Cop. That film also became a box office smash. 

    Surprisingly, the comedy genre not only suited the bodybuilder with a thick Austrian accent, but the Ivan Reitman movie also became Arnold’s personal favorite. 

    "I think Kindergarten Cop [is my favorite]," Schwarzenegger revealed in 2015 on The Late Late Show with James Corden. “I think one of the comedies [would be my favorite] because for so many years, I tried to get into comedy and I couldn't. The studios made all this money from the action movies. They said, 'Why would we go and change the mold? We're making a lot of money with you. We keep giving you action scripts.' Then, when I finally met Ivan Reitman, and when we did Twins, and then we did Kindergarten Cop, I was in heaven. It was such a great director - and working with Danny DeVito. It was really great.”

    375 votes
  • Tom Hanks made 1980s audiences laugh out loud in mega-hit comedies like Big and Splash. Then, against all odds, he transitioned to serious dramatic roles. Hanks won back-to-back Oscars for Best Actor for playing an AIDS patient in Philadelphia and a developmentally disabled man in Forrest Gump. He also earned Oscar nods for Saving Private Ryan, Cast Away, and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Additionally, he voices Woody from the enormously successful Toy Story series. 

    But which of his characters would Hanks most like to revisit? During a 2019 interview, he did not bring up one of his critically acclaimed roles, nor one of his most popular. Instead, Hanks talked about his supporting role in 1996's That Thing You Do! He also wrote the screenplay and made his directorial debut in what would be a box office disappointment.

    "If I could go back and play another character again and again and again though, the one that I had a great amount of fun with was Mr. White - Mr. Amos White, who is the manager of The Wonders - and he worked for Play-Tone Records," revealed Hanks. "He was a mercurial and mysterious beast. I'd like to go back and plumb the depths of him a little bit more."

    277 votes
  • Samuel L. Jackson has nearly 200 acting credits on his esteemed filmography. From being the captain of cool in the Tarantino Universe to Mr. Glass in Unbreakable to Nick Fury in the MCU - Jackson has shone in nearly every film genre. 

    During a 2019 interview with Jimmy Fallon, The Tonight Show host asked the prolific actor to name his five favorite movie roles. His initial response: "Just five?"

    The Pulp Fiction star put his washed-up, ex-detective character Mitch Henessey from the 1996 neo-noir The Long Kiss Goodnight at the very top of his personal list. "I love that movie, man. I had such a good time with Geena Davis," said Jackson. 

    Additionally, The Undefeated asked Jackson to rank his top 20 favorite roles. Once again, Jackson put The Long Kiss Goodnight in first place. He explained: 

    I love that movie so much. A movie way ahead of its time. Geena Davis - awesome Charly Baltimore character. The studio didn’t know how to market that film because they didn’t know that women like seeing themselves as bad*sses. I kept saying, "You need to advertise this thing during the day when women are watching soaps." Whatever. They were like, "I don’t know what you’re talking about." But it’s gone on to be like this really great cult classic because Geena is so good.

    And the Mitch character in the original iteration got killed. When they did a test screening, the audience, like, lost its mind. Like, no, you cannot kill Mitch Henessey. So we went back and we redid those [shots] with Larry King. We did that like three days before the movie opened. And they stuck it in the movie. But I just loved Mitch because he’s got such a big heart. He’s a fun-loving, kind of profane guy that wants to be this thing that he’s not. But he’s not afraid to step into the space for somebody that he cares about.

    239 votes
  • Morgan Freeman can thank Christopher Reeve for his first major film role. Following Superman III, the chiseled movie star was ready to hang up his cape and leave the Man of Steel behind forever. However, Reeve wanted to make a crime drama called Street Smart. He agreed to do Superman IV only if the studio greenlit Street Smart.

    Enter relatively unknown actor Morgan Freeman, who scored the role of a pimp named Fast Black/Leo Smalls. Street Smart turned into a box office flop, but it also gave Freeman the platform to finally show off his acting chops. 

    “The problem with Chris was that he didn’t realize how good Morgan was, and when he saw Morgan, he wanted me to change the film to lessen Morgan’s part, and I wouldn’t do it,” reveals director Jerry Schatzberg. “Morgan was sensational, and no matter what you do, Morgan would probably be sensational.”

    In 2014, the prolific Academy Award-winning actor named his breakout role as his favorite one. HitFix asked The Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby star about his favorite performance. He quickly revealed that it was his Armani-wearing, flashy pimp character in Street Smart. Freeman earned his first Oscar nod for his role in the 1987 crime thriller. 

    166 votes
  • It's hard to go up against Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. However, some actors, like Viggo Mortensen, enjoy working on lower-budget prestige movies like A Dangerous Method and Green Book.

    In 2016, Captain Fantastic became a moderate box office success and indie film circuit critical darling. In the dramedy, Mortensen takes on patriarch Ben Cash. The single father of six is an anarchist survivalist who lives in isolation with his children in the Washington mountains.

    When asked where Captain Fantastic ranks in his esteemed filmography, Mortensen said his Academy Award-nominated role was at the top. 

    "It's like picking your favorite child. I love all the characters I play," said Mortensen. "It's my job to understand the person and fall in love with them in a way... But I would say that Captain Fantastic stands above most of the things I've done in the past 35 years."

    182 votes