10 Actors Who Were Born To Play Their Iconic Roles
Looking at this list, it's kind of fascinating how many great actors and iconic roles we were blessed with.
Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf (The Lord of the Rings series, 2001-2003, The Hobbit series, 2012-2014)
Now, speaking of iconic roles, you have to admit, Sir Ian McKellen's portrayal of Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies was quite the revelation, wasn't it? While Tolkien's vast and sprawling universe is teeming with fascinating characters, it was McKellen's performance that infused Gandalf with a grandeur and weight that were hard to ignore. Many would argue that it's more or less impossible to visualize anyone else wearing that grey cloak, wielding that staff, and uttering those unforgettable words, "You shall not pass!" McKellen managed to embody Gandalf's wisdom and his fierce, fiery spirit, and frankly, it's an act that will be hard to follow for future Gandalfs, if there are any.
Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly (The Devil Wears Prada, 2006)
And then there's Meryl Streep, who stepped into the stilettos of Miranda Priestly, the terror of the fashion world, in The Devil Wears Prada. Streep's turn as the frosty fashion editor was so spot-on that it's hard to shake the feeling that she was the only one who could've nailed this role. I mean, can you picture anyone else delivering those icy retorts and withering put-downs with such poise and precision? No, right? The film was a critical and commercial success, with a solid 75% on Rotten Tomatoes and a global box office haul of over $326 million. And, let's be honest here, a lot of that was down to Streep's spellbinding performance, wasn't it?
Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool (Deadpool series, 2016-present)
Who else could bring the "merc with a mouth" to life with as much charm and snarky wit as Ryan Reynolds? Come on, admit it, the moment you saw him suited up and firing off one-liners in Deadpool, you knew this was a match made in cinematic heaven. Reynolds' turn as the irreverent, fourth-wall-breaking Wade Wilson was just the shot in the arm that the superhero genre needed, and the audience couldn't get enough of it. With a respectable 85% on Rotten Tomatoes and a worldwide box office gross of $782.6 million for the first film, it's safe to say that Reynolds' quirky performance hit the bullseye, wouldn't you agree?
Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean series, 2003-2017)
Imagine anyone else donning that iconic pirate getup and swaggering around the screen like a tipsy rockstar, could you? The answer's probably a resounding "no". When Johnny Depp was cast as Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Caribbean series, I bet even he didn't realize how this eccentric, somewhat effeminate, rum-loving and eyeliner-rocking pirate would go on to become one of cinema's most beloved characters. The first film in the series, The Curse of the Black Pearl, garnered a respectable 80% on Rotten Tomatoes and a staggering $654 million at the box office. That's no small feat. Depp's inspired performance – a mix of Keith Richards and Pepe Le Pew – made Jack Sparrow a character for the ages.
Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter (The Silence of the Lambs, 1991)
Who could forget Anthony Hopkins' chilling portrayal of the erudite, yet cannibalistic, Dr. Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs? Despite having limited screen time, Hopkins' performance left such an indelible mark that when you think of memorable movie villains, Hannibal Lecter is likely one of the first that comes to mind. The film was critically acclaimed with a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and snagged five Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Hopkins. The box office wasn't too shabby either, raking in $272.7 million worldwide. Now, that's what I call leaving a mark, don't you?
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa (Mad Max: Fury Road, 2015)
Just remember that one scene from Mad Max: Fury Road when Charlize Theron's Furiosa peers out into the wasteland, removes her prosthetic arm, and screams in despair. Now, try telling me that wasn't the performance of a lifetime. Theron's interpretation of the battle-hardened Furiosa was intense and unforgettable, with her toughness and vulnerability perfectly balanced. The film was a surprise critical darling with a 97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a global box office take of $375.2 million. However, it was Theron's Furiosa who truly drove the film to its iconic status, don't you agree? We'll just have to wait and see what Anya Taylor-Joy brings to the role, but for now, the only Furiousa for me is Charlize Theron.
Ah, Harrison Ford, the epitome of rugged charm and swashbuckling heroics in the Indiana Jones series. The whip-cracking archaeologist-adventurer is as synonymous with Ford as, well, Ford with Indiana Jones. From Raiders of the Lost Ark to Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and now a somewhat disappointing but still memorable Dial of Destiny, Ford's charisma and physicality ensured that audiences around the globe were hooked to Indiana's thrilling escapades. Raiders, the first film, snagged a 93% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and hauled in $389.9 million worldwide, securing Ford's place in the pantheon of Hollywood action heroes. And, let's be real here, no one else could pull off that fedora and leather jacket quite like him. Disney just gotta put the franchise to rest, without Ford's Indy it's not going to work, period.
Jamie Foxx as Ray Charles (Ray, 2004)
If there ever was a biopic performance that transcended the genre, it was Jamie Foxx's portrayal of the legendary musician Ray Charles in Ray. Foxx didn't just play Charles – he seemed to become him, immersing himself in the role so completely that you forgot you were watching a performance. Foxx's brilliant acting, combined with a knack for piano playing and a uncanny vocal resemblance to Charles, made this a truly breathtaking performance. The film received critical acclaim, a Rotten Tomatoes score of 79%, and Foxx was rewarded with an Oscar for Best Actor. It's not every day you see an actor capture the essence of a character so perfectly.
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter ( Harry Potter series, 2001-2011)
When Daniel Radcliffe was cast as the bespectacled boy wizard Harry Potter, who would have thought that this unknown child actor would carry the weight of J.K. Rowling's magical world on his young shoulders? But Radcliffe, along with his co-stars, rose to the challenge, growing up on screen and embodying Harry's evolution from a wide-eyed Hogwarts newbie to a battle-hardened hero. The film series became a worldwide phenomenon, with the first film alone grossing a whopping $974.8 million worldwide. And let's be honest, could you ever picture another actor under that iconic lightning bolt scar? I didn't think so. HBO's Harry Potter TV reboot has some pretty big shoes to fill, now.
Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara (Gone with the Wind, 1939)
Vivien Leigh's timeless portrayal of Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind is a thing of beauty. Leigh's fiery performance as the resilient Southern belle brought a complexity and tenacity to Scarlett that continues to captivate audiences to this day. Despite being a British actress, Leigh's depiction of this quintessentially American character was so convincing, it's hard to imagine anyone else in the role. The film was a staggering success, with a box office gross of $400 million when adjusted for inflation. That, I have to say, is the power of a truly iconic performance.