The Most Overqualified Performances In YA Fantasy Movies

Voting Rules
Vote up the actors who classed up the YA fantasy genre.

Great actors often love to make important movies, but sometimes they just want to kick back and have some fun on-screen by making something fantastical. Whether it's The Twilight Saga or the Percy Jackson series, fantasy films offer these actors a chance to experiment by playing eccentric or larger-than-life characters. Plus, instead of going to heavy emotional places, they can venture into the realm of things that don't actually exist, letting their creativity run wild in the process.

The list of “overqualified” actors who have appeared in fantasy movies based on young adult book series is as lengthy as it is impressive. Some of the most highly skilled performers of our time have lent their considerable talents to these adaptations. As a result, younger audiences have been introduced to them, leading to expanded fan bases. But most importantly, their presence in these pictures has added an important element of quality. 

  • Judi Dench - 'Artemis Fowl'
    Photo: Disney+

    Artemis Fowl tells the story of a child prodigy whose father is a master thief. When Artemis Sr. is kidnapped by an evil force, his son sets out to find him. The key to doing so involves locating a magical object that has the power to open doors between dimensions. For help, the boy turns to LEPrecon, a police force comprised entirely of fairies. Judi Dench plays Root, the commanding officer of that force.

    Dench has about as impeccable a background as you could find. Her career began in 1957, when she played Ophelia in the Old Vic production of Hamlet. She joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in the '60s, tackling another of the Bard’s best-known roles, Lady Macbeth. These performances, along with other stage work, established her as one of the best actresses in Britain. Once she entered movies, a string of literate, artistic works followed, among them A Room with a View, 84 Charing Cross Road, and Belfast. She won an Oscar for Shakespeare in Love, and has been nominated seven other times. A Tony and six BAFTA awards also line her shelves.

    Even in a ridiculous green fairy outfit, Dench brings class to Artemis Fowl, playing Root as a competent leader who cares deeply about keeping the peace. The plot is chaotic, but her work is as rock-solid as ever. 

    416 votes
  • Jeremy Irons plays Macon Ravenwood in the screen adaptation of the novel Beautiful Creatures. When teenage witch Lena must make a choice about how she will use the powers she's about to receive, Macon is there to compel her to choose the righteous path. His competition is fierce, as the girl's mother is pulling her in the exact opposite direction. The movie is elevated by Irons's long-standing reputation for excellence. Even in a teen fantasy, he refuses to phone it in. 

    Having trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, he honed his acting skills performing in Shakespeare plays before moving to Broadway. There, he won a Tony award for his work in Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing. After diving into the movies, Irons quickly became a favorite of both audiences and critics. He won an Oscar for best actor for 1990's Reversal of Fortune, in which he played notorious real-life figure Claus von Bulow. One of his most impressive traits is versatility. There are no genres in which he can't excel. Irons has been in everything from David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers to Zack Snyder's Justice League. An actor with less dignity would not have been nearly as credible in the role of Macon Ravenwood. He guarantees the character has influence over Lena.

    298 votes
  • In The Golden Compass, Christopher Lee plays the First High Councilor of the Magisterium, a shadowy organization devoted to protecting its own power. To that end, they kidnap children and put them through a brainwashing process designed to keep them compliant. Part of this process entails destroying the kids’ “daemons” - human souls that have taken animal form and follow them wherever they go. To call the group heinous would be an understatement.

    Lee clearly landed the role because of the shadow he casts. A veteran of Hammer horror films, much of his career was spent playing bad guys, most notably Dracula, whom he played nine times. But that famous vampire wasn't the only baddie he brought to life. Lee was Count Dooku in the Star Wars prequels, Francisco Scaramanga in the James Bond adventure The Man with the Golden Gun, and, perhaps most famously, Saruman in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings series. When you think of all-time great screen villains, it's impossible not to think of him. Most astonishingly, he always found new ways to play evil characters. Lee understood how to create a menace that would leave audiences unnerved. The Golden Compass benefits from having a performer of his stature. 

    349 votes
  • The main character in Beautiful Creatures is Lena Duchannes, a teen girl who is approaching her 16th birthday. Because she is a “caster,” she will gain great power when this milestone arrives. However, the gift comes with a complication. Lena will have to decide whether to use her power for benevolent or malevolent purposes. Emma Thompson plays Lena's mother Sarafine. She, too, is a caster, and she chose the dark path. Now she wants her daughter to follow in her footsteps.

    To make that idea credible, it's vital to have a star of Thompson's caliber. We have to believe Sarafine is both intelligent and persuasive enough to convince Lena to choose a bad road. The actress is no stranger to film adaptations of popular novels, having starred in and won an Oscar for writing Sense and Sensibility. She additionally appeared in screen versions of Shakespeare's Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing. Aside from her Oscar, Thompson also has a BAFTA and an Emmy. Skilled at both comedy and drama, she lends the film her inherent charisma, making Sarafine a character to be reckoned with. Even though we know Lena should run the other way, it's understandable why she might be inclined to follow her manipulative mother. 

    277 votes
  • As its title suggests, Vampire Academy is set at a school for the bloodsucking creatures. A band of evil vampires, the Strigoi, are looking to wreak havoc. It's up to Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch), a human/vampire hybrid, to lead the charge in taking them on. Every bit of her education will be needed. Gabriel Byrne plays Victor Dashkov, a terminally ill vampire who finds himself on the periphery of this drama.

    Byrne began acting on the stage in his native Ireland, then became a member of the Royal Court Theater in London. He crossed over to film in John Boorman's 1981 fantasy Excalibur, and things skyrocketed from there. Directors loved his intense, brooding quality that nevertheless conveyed an enormous depth of feeling. Well-received roles in A Soldier's Tale, Into the West, and Miller's Crossing gave him a much-needed boost, putting him in front of larger viewing audiences. A central role in The Usual Suspects raised his profile even further. Byrne works in both independent and studio productions, but he's had success on television, too, earning two Emmy nominations for his work on HBO's In Treatment

    As Dashkov, Byrne brings his trademark gravitas to the role, providing a little grounding to a story that's rather far-out. 

    201 votes
  • Michael Sheen - The 'Twilight' Saga
    Photo: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 / Lionsgate

    In The Twilight Saga, Aro is a vampire and one of the founders of the powerful coven known as the Volturi. His biggest power is being able to make physical contact with a person and then read their thoughts. It's no wonder he's got an ego. This guy has the power to make people's lives miserable. Aro is the villain that heroes Bella Swann and Edward Cullen have to contend with. 

    Actor Michael Sheen portrays the character in the saga. A graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, he appeared in plays written by such luminaries as William Shakespeare and Harold Pinter. Later, he played Mozart in a revival of Amadeus. Sheen made his screen breakthrough playing former Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2003's The Deal. Important directors have scrambled to work with the actor. His resume includes Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven, Stephen Frears's The Queen, and Ron Howard's Frost/Nixon, among others. He has established himself as a reliable actor who always does something interesting on-screen. Twilight is a silly - if wildly popular - teen romance. Rather than looking down on that, Sheen embraces it, giving an over-the-top performance that's always great fun to watch. Even when he just shows up to play, he is incapable of being anything less than fascinating. 

    417 votes