Iconic Roles That Nobody Else Should Ever, Ever Play

Over 2.5K Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of Iconic Roles That Nobody Else Should Ever, Ever Play
Voting Rules
Vote up the performances that are so great, no one else should even try them again.

Imagine someone other than Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods, or Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump. It’s impossible because those are two actors perfectly cast in movie roles. Can you see another actor besides Danny DeVito stepping into the role of Louie De Palma, or Jack Donaghy not being played by Alec Baldwin? 

There are just a handful of movie and television roles so iconic that they could only be played by one person. Several actors have put on the Batsuit or donned Superman’s red cape, but no one could ever replace Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man. 

Which performances are so perfect that it would be blasphemous if they were played by another actor? Vote up the most iconic roles that nobody else should ever play. 

Most divisive: Jack Donaghy - '30 Rock'

  • Tom Hanks won his second consecutive Oscar playing the titular Forrest Gump. John Travolta and Bill Murray are among the rumored actors who were also up for the role. However, it seems safe to say that the movie would not have been the same without Hanks.

    The story of a simple man with limited mental abilities who somehow manages to become a war hero, millionaire, champion ping-pong player, and shrimping boat captain despite his affliction could have easily caused audiences to shrug their shoulders in jest. It is an outrageous story that is unbelievable. But Hanks brought his signature everyman quality to the character of Forrest. We genuinely believe in the story because we believe in Hanks. And without that belief, there is no way that Forrest Gump could have possibly succeeded.  

    446 votes
  • Tyrion Lannister - 'Game of Thrones'
    Photo: Game of Thrones / HBO

    Tyrion Lannister is wittier, smarter, and more honest than anyone in Westeros. The Game of Thrones character could have easily come across as unsympathetic, maybe even pathetic. His family didn't respect him and no one ever gave him credit; he had to earn it. And thanks to his talents, Peter Dinklage turned Tyrion into the most well-liked and interesting character on the long-running series. 

    Tyrion is flawed. He's a drunken womanizer with little ambition when we first meet him in the HBO adapted series. Dinklage was able to make the audience believe in Tyrion's transformation from spoiled Lannister to hand of the queen and war strategy master. A Game of Thrones fan could perhaps see another actor as Jon Snow (Kit Harington) or Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke), but no one could replace Dinklage as Tyrion. 

    379 votes
  • No actor will be forever linked to the Marvel Cinematic Universe like Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man launched the MCU, which turned superhero movies into the biggest blockbusters of the 21st century. Downey is equally impressive as superhero Iron Man and master inventor Tony Stark.

    Prior to his Marvel casting, Downey had a rocky past with repeated jail stints and a public battle with controlled substances. His on-screen alter ego Tony Stark is also a flawed man. It's his imperfections that make him so relatable despite the fact that he's a genius billionaire with an inclination to save the world. Several actors have successfully played Batman and Superman. No other actor could ever take on Iron Man.

    467 votes
  • Bruce Willis played Detective John McClaine in five Die Hard movies, and for good reason. What makes Willis so appealing as the wise-cracking hero is his everyman quality. He makes saving the Nakatomi Plaza from the villainous likes of Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman) almost look fun. (If he only had a pair of shoes that fit, things would have gone a lot smoother.)

    Willis may not look like the typical action hero, especially in contrast to other '80s action stars like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone, but that's exactly why he's perfect for the part of McClaine. His opponents underestimate his street smarts and penchant to never give up. 

    348 votes
  • Quentin Tarantino's 1994 non-linear masterpiece in and of itself has become so iconic that it's hard to imagine any other actor cast in any role of the movie. But try and picture another person playing gangster Jules Winnfield other than Samuel L. Jackson. Impossible. 

    Winnfield has a moment of zen during the diner scene in the movie. He and his partner Vincent Vega (John Travolta) are sitting ducks in a barrage of bullets and shouldn't make it out alive. But through luck, or perhaps divine intervention, they are not even grazed. Jackson convinces us that Jules's ruthless ways are behind him. And because this is a Tarantino movie, he looks super cool doing it. 

    306 votes
  • Sigourney Weaver played Ellen Ripley in four Alien movies. And at the time of the first film in 1979, cinema audiences had never seen a heroine like Ripley in modern cinema: brilliant, brave, and able to outsmart a crafty Xenomorph when the rest of her crew failed. 

    Weaver's turn as Lieutenant Ripley changed the entire landscape of female characters on film. To even ponder another actress taking on the role of Ripley is inconceivable. Weaver went on to play other parts in other movies, but the science-fiction icon remains her most successful role to date. 

    303 votes