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Iconic Roles That Nobody Else Should Ever, Ever Play

Updated September 21, 2020 4.0k votes 2.0k voters 4.9k views20 items

List RulesVote 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. 

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  • 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.  

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  • Tyrion Lannister - 'Game of Th is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Iconic Roles That Nobody Else Should Ever, Ever Play
    Photo: 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. 

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  • 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. 

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  • Both Steven Weber and Henry Thomas took on the antagonist role of Jack Torrance in different versions of The Shining. However, neither came close to the iconic levels reached by Jack Nicholson in Stanley Kubrick's vision of Stephen King's horror tale. 

    Nicholson played Torrance in the original adaptation of The Shining in 1980. There is a slow, simmering insanity that brews inside of Torrance as he and his family are cooped up at the Overlook Hotel, trapped in the snowy mountain hideaway during the heart of winter. There is tension building beneath the surface, threatening to destroy Jack's sanity. After months of cabin fever and a push over the edge by the ghosts of the Overlook, Jack explodes and tries to take out his wife and son.

    The insanity and rage Nicholson bring to the role are totally believable. After watching him lurk the halls of the grand hotel after losing his grip on sanity, it is clear that Nicholson, and only Nicholson, can capture the heart of Torrance's delusion and destruction. 

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