The 10 Greatest Performances of Daniel Radcliffe’s Career (So Far)

7 minute read

By Jonny Hughes

Daniel Radcliffe first rose to fame as a very fresh-faced 11-year-old boy when he was cast as Harry Potter from J.K. Rowling’s immensely successful book series, but he is now a highly respected and experienced actor who has proven himself to be much more than a young wizard. While he is still best known as Harry Potter after starring in all eight films over ten years, he has also spread his wings and appeared in a diverse range of productions – both on screen and stage.

In celebration of the actor’s 30th birthday, here are 10 of Radcliffe’s greatest on-screen performances to date.

10. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)

Where better to start than his first major role? At just 11-years-old, the virtually unknown Daniel Radcliffe beat out thousands of hopefuls to land the titular role in the adaptation of the hugely successful J.K. Rowling book Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone (renamed to Sorcerer’s Stone in some places). Alongside Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, the young trio took their first step to superstardom by landing roles in the film. It turned out to be a brilliant casting decision, as all three excelled in their roles and any inexperience was overshadowed by the tremendous visuals and performances from several England’s elite actors playing the adult roles, including John Cleese, Richard Harris, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, and Julie Walters. A young star was born and he would only improve as time went on. Fortunately, Radcliffe and co. have managed to stay grounded and not let early fame go to their heads. Via pluggedin.caSource: Screenshot via Warner Bros. Pictures

9. Horns (2013)

Although Horns may not be the greatest film, it is powered by an impressive performance from Radcliffe and provides enough horror and comedy for fans of the genre. Released in 2013 and loosely based on Joe Hill’s novel of the same name, Horns is a dark fantasy horror-comedy which sees Ig (Radcliffe) accused of raping and murdering his girlfriend. After a heavy night of drinking, Ig awakens to find a pair of horns protruding from his head. These horns then begin to force people to reveal their darkest secrets and desires to Ig, who then uses this power to attempt to track down the real killer and clear his name. Quite unlike anything he had done before, credit must go to Radcliffe for branching out and he delivers a powerful performance which keeps you gripped as the story unfolds.

Source: Screenshot via Dimension Films

8. December Boys (2007)

Starring as Harry Potter took up an entire decade of Radcliffe’s life, so it is understandable that halfway through he wanted to branch out and take on a new role. This Australian drama is an adaptation of the Michael Noonan novel of the same name and sees Radcliffe take on the role of Maps – the eldest of four orphan boys from an orphanage in the outback of Australia in the 60s. As they are all born in December, they are sent on a beach holiday to stay with a couple as a birthday present and the film follows how each of their lives changes over this Christmas period. For Maps, he meets a girl, falls in love, and loses his virginity. For Radcliffe, it proved that he could take on other roles and it also showed how far he had come since taking on the Harry Potter role. Via moviefancentral.comSource: Screenshot via Warner Independent Pictures

7. Extras (2005-2007)

This list is dominated by Radcliffe’s big-screen performances, but it’s impossible to not talk about his great performances without mentioning his appearance in Ricky Gervais’ Extras. In this fantastic television series, celebrities appear as distorted versions of themselves (often polar opposite). Daniel appears in Season Two, in an episode where Andy (Gervais) lands a role in a new fantasy film which stars Daniel Radcliffe. Instead of finding him to be a kind and polite person (as he is known to be), Daniel fancies himself as a “bad boy” and spends time between takes chatting up all the women on set and smoking. In a hilarious scene, Daniel invites himself to lunch with Andy and Maggie where he begins talking about sex, only to flick a condom onto the head of Diana Rigg. When his act backfires, Daniel is shown to be just a young boy trying to be cool.

6. The F Word (2013)

Turning his hand to the romantic comedy genre in 2013, The F Word (released in some countries as What If) is directed by Michael Dowse and based on the play “Toothpaste and Cigars.” In The F Word, Radcliffe plays the lead as Wallace – a young man living with his sister and nephew in Toronto after dropping out of medical school following the discovery of his girlfriend cheating on him. After becoming reclusive, he is forced to attend a party where he meets a bubbly girl called Chantry (Zoe Kazan). They strike up a friendship and Wallace develops feelings for her, but she has a boyfriend. After her boyfriend moves to Ireland for six months, things get complicated as they struggle to define their relationship. There is excellent chemistry between Radcliffe and Kazan and witty dialogue which helps to make this a cut above most rom-com. Via thegate.caSource: Screenshot via Entertainment One

5. Kill Your Darlings (2013)

A biographical drama directed by John Krokidas, Kill Your Darlings follows the college days of the earliest members of the Beat Generation. This includes Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster), Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) and Allen Ginsberg (Radcliffe). Ginsberg is the central character as he wins a place at Columbia University in the 40s as an inexperienced freshman, but he soon meets the others and becomes involved in their wild escapades, resulting in a killing in Riverside Park, Manhattan. Not only is it a fascinating story about the origins of America’s first literary counterculture of the 20th century, but Radcliffe and the other cast members turn in assured performances. It is again another great example of how Radcliffe can embody his character and shine in a role very different to the one which he is best known for. Via totallydublin.ieSource: Screenshot via Sony Pictures Classics

4. The Woman in Black (2012)

It is not too often that a horror film commands much attention outside the genre, but there was a lot of buzz surrounding 2012’s The Woman in Black. This is partly due to the popularity of the original novella by Susan Hill and the very successful stage play, but also because it was Daniel Radcliffe’s first performance after finishing the final Harry Potter film. Set in the late 1800s, he plays the lead character of Arthur Kipps – a widowed lawyer and father. He is sent to a creepy English village to orchestrate the sale of a huge estate on marshland following the death of the owner – Alice Drablow. It soon becomes apparent that the townsfolk are harboring a dark secret and that the house is haunted by an evil spirit. Genuinely chilling and creepy, Radcliffe also shines as the grieving widow unlocking the mystery. Via thefilmstage.comSource: Screenshot via Momentum Pictures

3. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire is a standout installment in the series, largely due to the sophistication of the plot, writing and acting from the lead actors. The 2005 film is the fourth installment and it continues the darker tone from the previous installment, The Prisoner of Azkaban. The film follows Harry in his fourth year at Hogwarts, where he is suspiciously selected by the Goblet of Fire to compete in the Triwizard Tournament, despite being underage. This tournament sees three separate magic schools compete against one another by selecting wizards to face three extremely dangerous and deadly challenges. Radcliffe stands out for his acting, as his character is dragged through a wide range of emotions, with many stating that this was the film where Harry, Ron, and Hermione became real teenagers. The film also benefits from a whole host of new characters, including Brendan Gleeson as the colorful Mad-Eye Moody. Via hotflick.netSource: Screenshot via Warner Bros. Pictures

2. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)

Radcliffe may have excelled in The Goblet of Fire, his first real standout performance in the series came in the prior installment – The Prisoner of Azkaban. The third installment of the series, from this story onwards there was an increasingly darker tone introduced. Many fans consider this to be the greatest Harry Potter movie. The film sees Harry enter his third year and discover that an escaped prisoner named Sirius Black is out to kill him, leading to dementors guarding the school. However, the plot thickens when Harry discovers that Sirius is his godfather. Deeper, darker, and more complex than previous films,  this one required Radcliffe and the cast to step up their actions and they all certainly delivered. Particularly Radcliffe, whose character undertakes a large emotional arc as more of his family history is revealed, all while facing his biggest fear and undertaking plenty of action and adventure. Via Screenshot via Warner Bros. Pictures

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)

It was important for Radcliffe and the entire series to finish strongly after ten years of fantastic films. They did a fantastic job with the final installment in 2011, which provided a satisfying conclusion to the saga. We had witnessed Harry (and Radcliffe) grow into a young man in this decade, and this was certainly evident with this last chapter. It continues Harry’s quest to locate and destroy Voldermort’s Horcruxes to defeat him once and for all. Twists, death, tragedy, romance, epic action sequences, and a show-stopping showdown ensure that this is an extremely compelling installment and a very assured performance from Radcliffe powers this. With this, it was clear that he had evolved into a more than capable leading man and this has paved the way for him to go on and have a very successful career in the industry.

Source: Screenshot via Warner Bros. Pictures

Jonny Hughes


Jonny Hughes has been writing about movies and TV for Goliath since 2015.