Tom Hardy has enjoyed an astonishing rise to fame in recent years to become a fan favorite. Hardy, 38, has established himself as one of the great modern actors through regularly choosing incredibly challenging and demanding roles, both physically and mentally. He has been universally praised for the level of commitment he brings to these transformations, and his undeniable talent has resulted in many breathtaking performances. On top of this, nobody can pull off the “tough but sweet” persona better than the Brit. To celebrate his recent Oscar nomination for The Revenant, here are 10 of his other greatest performances.
What better way to showcase your acting skills than by playing the two lead characters in one film? A few eyebrows were raised when it was announced that Tom Hardy would be playing both Kray twins in Brian Helgeland’s 2015 crime thriller Legend, and although the film received mixed reviews, there is no denying that Hardy is compelling as both Reggie and Ronnie and they are impressive performances. For those unfamiliar, the Kray twins are infamous East London gangsters and identical twins with their gang, The Firm, who terrorized the capital in the ’50s and ’60s. The film explores their rise and the gruesome crimes that they committed, all the way through to their downfall and imprisonment in 1969. Both frightening and fascinating characters who also contrast one another, they also shared a special relationship which Hardy impressively managed to capture.
9. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
2011 proved to be a huge year for Hardy, and one film which brought him plenty of recognition was in Tomas Alfredson’s Tinker Tailor Solider Spy (based on the novel). This is a Cold War espionage film which follows the hunt for a Soviet double agent at the top of the British secret service. Hardy plays Ricky Tarr, a British spy thought to have defected, who claims that there is a mole in a senior role in the Secret Service. It is a complex, weaving and gripping storyline and Gary Oldman is phenomenal in the lead as George Smiley (earning an Oscar nomination). Hardy manages to steal the show in a few fantastic scenes, despite not having a tremendous amount of screen time. He has developed a reputation for his brilliant supporting roles (most evident with The Revenant), and it is clear to see in this excellent spy film.
It seemed only a matter of time until Hardy got cast in some kind of Western, as his ruggedness and gritty acting seemed perfect for the genre. This came in the form of John Hillcoat’s Lawless in 2012, which was written by Nick Cave (who based it on Matt Bondurant’s novel The Wettest Country in the World). The film follows the life of the Bondurant Brothers, who run a Prohibition-era moonshine business. Hardy plays one of the brothers, Forrest, alongside Shia LaBeouf and Jason Clarke as the other brothers, with Deputy Charles Rakes (Guy Pearce) attempting to shut their business down. Extremely violent and gritty, Hardy was in his element as the stoic, intimidating and grizzled brother Forrest, who appears to be invincible having survived an illness that killed his parents, having his throat slit and being shot several times.
Locke is an incredibly powerful and compelling film set in near real-time, and it is powered entirely by the absorbing performance of Tom Hardy. Essentially a one man show, it follows construction worker Ivan Locke (Hardy), who learns that a co-worker he had a one-night stand with seven months earlier has gone into premature labor. Locke, who never forgave his father for abandoning him, does not want to make the same mistake and drives from Birmingham to London, leaving his job, wife and sons behind him. His life begins to crumble around him on this two hour drive, where he holds 36 phone calls as he explains to his wife, colleague and boss. Almost entirely comprised of Hardy’s face, it is a microscopic examination of his skills and he incredibly makes it a tense and gripping watch throughout. There are not many actors that could excel in such a role.
One of the most discussed and debated films in modern times, Christopher Nolan’s Inception is a mind-bending story which is also packed with a host of Hollywood’s brightest, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard and of course Tom Hardy. For many this was their first exposure to Hardy, who excels in the supporting role of Eames, the sharp-tongued and sharply dressed associate of Cobb (DiCaprio), and he specializes in forgery and identity theft with the ability to impersonate others inside the dream world. Working alongside such Hollywood heavyweights, Hardy shines brightly and even steals the show in several scenes—rightfully earning him the Rising Star Award at the BAFTAs. With such an assured performance in a fantastic and immensely popular film, Hardy garnered a lot of international attention and many see this as his breakthrough role.
5. Mad Max: Fury Road
In quite possibly the best film of the year and the most entertaining action film in a very long time, Hardy shines as the titular Max Rockatansky. He had huge Mel Gibson-sized shoes to fill (Hardy was just six weeks old when the original Mad Max filmed), but his performance was universally praised. His dialogue consists of little more than grunting and one syllable words, but he has phenomenal screen presence and the lack of dialogue furthers this. Although the titular character, it is Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa who is the star of the show and one of the great modern heroines. Between the two of them, and Immortan Joe’s Wives, they manage to kick an enormous amount of butt in what is a breathless, exhilarating and visually stunning edge of your seat action film which is a must-see (it earned a whopping 10 Academy Award nominations).
4. The Dark Knight Rises
Although Hardy has proven on multiple occasions that he is a brilliant protagonist, he is also adept at playing a villain. His greatest performance in such a role is in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises, where he takes on the role of Bane. This was another role that required Hardy to undertake an enormous body transformation, seeing him add 30 pounds (14 kg), taking him up to an imposing 198 pounds (90 kg). Although famously difficult to understand thanks to a mask over his face (making him even more menacing), Hardy’s Bane had formidable screen presence and was a brilliant foe to Christian Bale’s Batman. Due to not being able to express emotion with his face, it saw Hardy have to act purely with his body language, movements, eyes and voice. Whilst Heath Ledger will always be the standout villain in Nolan’s trilogy, Hardy’s performance should not be overlooked.
Hardy had gained some recognition stateside following his memorable performance in Inception, but it was 2011’s Warrior that saw him become gain a huge following in the U.S. A role in which Hardy had to endure a vigorous training routine and add some serious muscle, he plays the role of U.S. Marine Tommy Riordan, who returns home to his haunted past and enters an MMA tournament. Here, he has to face his estranged brother (Joel Edgerton) and consequently his troubled past. A muscular, tough and imposing character who also has inner demons, this is the type of role that Hardy has perfected over the years. Brutal, moving and full of heart, this leading role enabled Hardy to showcase his exceptional acting skills whilst impressing with his transformation, fighting skills and Pennsylvanian accent.
2. The Drop
If you like Tom Hardy and you like dogs, this is the perfect film for you. The Drop is also an excellent crime drama where Hardy once again showcases his talent. He plays the lead role of Bob Saginowski, a quiet and mild-mannered bartender who finds himself caught up in the world of crime following a robbery gone wrong at the bar. This is also the late James Gandolfini’s final appearance in a film, and as usual he has a commanding screen presence and excellent chemistry with Hardy. Gandolfini plays Bob’s controlling cousin, Marv, who now operates the bar after ceding ownership to Chechen mobsters. There are plenty of twists and turns along the way like most crime films, but the excellent performances by Gandolfini and Hardy ensure that this is a cut above your average crime film (plus the pit bull puppy “Rocco” earns bonus points).
Back when Hardy was relatively unknown, he took on the enormously challenging and daunting role of Charles Bronson, England’s most violent criminal. Not only did Hardy have to put on an astounding 42 lbs., but he also had to capture the notorious criminal’s larger than life and unpredictable personality. The film sees Bronson sentenced to seven years in jail, but his terrifying violent streak leads him to spend most of his adult life in solitary confinement. Narrated also by Bronson, the film is a strange blend of drama, comedy and horror. It is a truly astonishing performance from Hardy, who manages to capture the character’s unique, fascinating and alarming personality. It was also a striking visual transformation, where in addition to the weight gain he also sported a shaved head and moustache. In preparation, Hardy spoke to Bronson who was very impressed with his portrayal.