What makes a good actor? For many film fans, a good actor is a professional who seems to effortlessly flow from one role to another, completely encompassing the persona of the characters they play. Most of the time, these Hollywood icons find the genre that best fits their acting styles and accept roles that correspond with their strongest acting abilities.
Every now and then, actors known for a specific niche dare to expand their portfolios by taking entirely out of character roles. Though it undoubtedly takes talent to move into a different genre effortlessly, comedic actors in drama films face incredible levels of risk and uncertainty. Comedy actors in dramatic roles have to completely nail their serious character's emotions while enveloping themselves in the storyline. If they don't nail the part, an intentionally serious movie can quickly become another joke at the actors' expense.
A lot of times, these films end up flopping. But every now and then, great comedic performers prove to the world that they aren't just there for laughs – they are actually incredible actors who can seamlessly move from comedy to drama. Below are some of our favorite comedic actors who ended up being pretty good at drama, too.
- Photo: Good Will Hunting / Miramax Films1164 VOTES
From Redditor u/phred_666: His performance in One Hour Photo is creepy as hell. The dude was absolutely a phenomenal actor no matter the genre. Insomnia has another great performance of his as well.
From Redditor u/GhostOfTheSerpent: He was a magnificent actor. I loved his voice acting as the Genie in Aladdin (1992). He was also amazing in Good Will Hunting (1997) and The Fisher King (1991). I'm so glad he won a well-deserved Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance in Good Will Hunting.
- Photo: Cast Away / 20th Century Fox2139 VOTES
From a former Redditor: Tom Hanks. If you remember him from his early career in the early 1980s, he was a talented comedy actor... but no way would I have imagined him doing dramas, let alone starring in them, let alone a string of hits.
From Redditor u/TheOvy: This is the best answer. He started on a sitcom and went on to a decade of comedy films -- Splash, The Money Pit, Big, The 'Burbs, Turner & Hooch, Joe Versus the Volcano. Hell, he even plays a stand-up comedian in Punchline. Then the '90s came, and bam, Oscar for Philadelphia. Bam, Oscar for Forrest Gump. A League of Their Own, Apollo 13, Saving Private Ryan, Green Mile. He closed out the decade with his physically transformative performance in Cast Away. All of Gen Z and the younger half of millennials might think he's only a drama actor, but it was a complete 180º for him.
- Photo: The Highwaymen / Netflix3127 VOTES
From Redditor u/SafewordisJohnCandy: Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri is one of my favorite Woody movies and he is great in The Highwaymen. It's still funny to watch old episodes of Cheers where is plays dimwitted Woody Boyd and then seeing him in some of his roles now.
From Redditor u/BookzNBrewz: I remember watching Out of the Furnace for the first time, and being absolutely f*cking terrified of him. I was stunned that he could be that intense on screen, compared to what I knew him as.
- Photo: Breaking Bad / AMC4100 VOTES
From Redditor u/helpmelearn12: I remember thinking the casting in Breaking Bad was a bit weird. After the first episode or two, I was like, “Oh. That Hal-style energy actually works for this even though it's more serious.” A bit further in it was just, "Oh. Bryan Cranston is just a ridiculously good actor and can probably play just about any role he wants."
From Redditor u/PrinceRory: He also played Howard Beale in a Broadway version of Network and won a Tony for that too. He was amazing in it.
From Redditor u/oldmatelefty: First thing that came to mind. I called this watching some reruns with friends long before Breaking Bad, some of his scenes were just perfect. Obviously he cracked me up as a kid but [after I'd] grown up a little I was like man this dude's actually very talented.
- Photo: Pacific Heights / 20th Century Fox5122 VOTES
From Redditor u/amcarls: The fact that he was seen as a comedian was precisely why fans of the comic book version of the Batman character (NOT the much too campy Adam West TV version) were initially extreme ticked off that Keaton was selected to play Batman - they thought it was going to be another 'Adam West'-type performance. Needless to say, Keaton easily won them over with his broody performance.
From Redditor u/NJdeathproof: He scared the absolute crap out of me in Pacific Heights.
- Photo: Boardwalk Empire / HBO6116 VOTES
From Redditor u/InfuriatedBadger: His performance in Boardwalk Empire was superb. Definitely disappoints me that he doesn't get more dramatic roles. Shook.
From Redditor u/pervy_roomba: Between Boardwalk Empire and Death of Stalin, I did not have ‘Steve Buscemi becomes Dramatic Powerhouse’ in my 2010s Bingo Card.
From Redditor u/SmrtGrl86: Yes. His cameo in The Messenger stuck a chord with me. I used to work in funeral service, the grief, rage, and pride in that tiny role sucked the oxygen out of the room.