238 voters

16 Serious Actors Who Have No Business Being As Funny As They Are

Updated February 13, 2021 1.3k votes 238 voters 59.4k views16 items

List RulesVote up the most surprisingly funny dramatic actors.

It’s shocking enough when comedians like Robin Williams and Steve Carrell manage to shed their funnyman persona and deliver knockout dramatic performances in films like Good Will Hunting and Foxcatcher, respectively. But just as impressive is when actors known for their onscreen gravitas pull a reversal and manage to make the audience laugh by playing the fool every once in a while. And frankly, it's borderline unfair that some of Hollywood's best-looking, most-respected stars just happen to be funny too.

Vote up the best funny serious actors who made you laugh just as much as those who specialize in comedy.

  • Photo: Avengers: Endgame / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

    It was a bold maneuver indeed to transform the steely-eyed, grim-visaged God of Thunder from the first movies in the Thor franchise into a wise-cracking goofball in Thor: Ragnarok. And turning him into a disheveled drunkard in Avengers: Endgame would have surely made most good-looking actors balk. But Chris Hemsworth loved the idea of his character looking like a grubby burnout so much that he fought against a return to his chiseled, lord of the (non-alcoholic) six-packs look in favor of keeping his character a sad mead-guzzler throughout the film.

    Dealing with the required prosthetics wasn't easy, as Hemsworth explained: "People just kept coming up and cuddling me like a big bear or rubbing my belly like I was pregnant. Or trying to sit on my lap like I was Santa Claus. And then you get sick of it when people come up and grab your belly."

    Surprisingly funny?
  • For the guy who burst on the scene in movies like Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, then scared the next generation of theatergoers in The Untouchables and Goodfellas, who would have thought the twilight stage of his career would be so notable for his ability to get audiences to laugh? Yet Robert De Niro gave us plenty of unexpected silliness in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown. And playing a former CIA official who's intrinsically suspicious of Ben Stiller's nurse with the unfortunate name of Greg Focker in Meet the Parents has become one of De Niro's most memorable roles.

    It was definitely a profitable career choice, but he should probably quit while he's ahead and stay away from a fourth installment. Unless, of course, he can't resist the (rather easy) challenge of beating Little Fockers' 9% Rotten Tomatoes approval rating.

    Surprisingly funny?
  • After much of the world’s population collectively swooned as the shirtless Brad Pitt sexed it up in 1991’s Thelma and Louise, you could have been forgiven for thinking he was merely a ridiculously good-looking dude with little in the way of real talent. Yet he ended up evolving into an A-lister’s A-lister, mostly appearing in films with a serious tone. However, it was a comedic role - the quotably manic Jeffrey Goines in Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys - that landed him his first Oscar nomination.

    Since turning heads in that role (for which Pitt prepared by spending significant time at a psychiatric hospital), he's shown himself to have reached certifiably god-level in comedy, from his turn as an unintelligible bare-knuckle boxer in Snatch to the dopey gym rat in the Coen Brothers' Burn After Reading. In regard to the latter, he was hailed for his bravery in playing "a character that dismantles Pitt's star power by destroying it."

    Surprisingly funny?
  • The tragic loss of Philip Seymour Hoffman to addiction didn't only deprive us of his intense, unique ability to inhabit the personalities of tortured souls and complex characters in films like Magnolia and Capote. We've also been deprived of watching his less celebrated but equally skilled capacity for playing eccentric kooks in comedies. His supporting character of Sandy "Sasquatch Basketball" Lyle was one of the few redeeming factors in the Ben Stiller/Jennifer Aniston rom-com Along Came Polly.

    More enduringly, his participation in the Coen Brothers masterpiece The Big Lebowski as Brandt, personal assistant to Lebowski (the big one), will ensure that his comedy chops will endure just as long as his more serious endeavors.

    Surprisingly funny?