What makes a great actor? Is it their ability to disappear into a role? Or is it their range, their ability to play different types of roles convincingly?
Great actors have the ability to transform themselves into a variety of characters. They make it look easy, but it’s really a result of hard work, dedication, and talent. Some even result to extremes, like method acting, to better show their craft.
The truth is, it’s a combination of both. And that’s why we are so impressed with the actors on this list. They have the range to play a wide variety of roles, and they disappear into each one completely.
Check out this list of versatile actors that reinvent themselves successfully role after role. If you have any suggestions for other great films featuring amazing acting performances, please let me know in the comments!
#1 Anne Hathaway
Anne Hathaway was among the world’s highest-paid actresses in 2015, having received several awards, including an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a Primetime Emmy Award. Her films have earned more than $6.8 billion globally.
Becoming Jane (2007) — Jane Austen, the daughter of a village priest who dreams of becoming a writer
Les Misérables (2012) — Fantine, a young grisette in Victor Hugo’s novel of the same name
The Witches (2020) — Grand High Witch Eva Ernst
#2 Sharon Stone
Sharon Stone has received several honors, including a Primetime Emmy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and an Academy Award nomination. In 1995, she earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and in 2005, she was appointed Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters in France (Commander in 2021).
Total Recall (1990) — Lori, the main character’s false wife
Last Dance (1996) — Cindy Liggett, a woman on death row
Ratched (2020) — Lenore Osgood, an eccentric and cunning heiress
#3 Rami Malek
He has won several awards, including an Academy Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award, a BAFTA Award, and a Golden Globe.
Night at the Museum (2006) — Ahkmenrah, The Egyptian pharaoh
Buster’s Mal Heart (2016) — Jonás Cueyatl, a mountain man and a former concierge,
Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) — Freddie Mercury, the frontman of Queen
#4 Cate Blanchett
Cate Blanchett is regarded as one of the best actors of her time, having worked in indie films, blockbusters, and on stage. This includes:
Cinderella (2015) — the evil Lady Charmaine
Thor: Ragnarok (2017) — Hela, the Asgardian goddess of death
Don’t Look Up (2021) — a glamorous TV presenter
#5 Matthew McConaughey
McConaughey’s depiction of Ron Woodroof, a cowboy stricken with AIDS, in the biopic Dallas Buyers Club (2013) gained him international acclaim and multiple awards, including the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Dallas Buyers Club (2013) — Ron Woodroof, Texas cowboy with AIDS
Interstellar (2014) — Joseph A. Cooper, a farmer, widowed engineer, and former pilot
The Beach Bum (2019) — Moondog, a weird poet
#6 Sarah Jessica Parker
Sarah Jessica Parker has received several honors, including six Golden Globes and two Primetime Emmy Awards. Time magazine named her one of the world’s 100 most important people in 2022.
Hocus Pocus (1993) — Sarah Sanderson, one of the sister witches
Ed Wood (1994) — actress Dolores Fuller
Mars Attacks! (1996) — ambitious journalist Nathalie Lake
#7 Kathy Bates
Throughout her five-decade career, Kathy Bates has garnered several honors, including an Academy Award, two Golden Globe Awards, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, and two Primetime Emmy Awards, as well as nominations for a Tony Award and two British Academy Film Awards.
Misery (1990) — a fan of a famous writer, Annie Wilkes
Titanic (1997) — Molly Brown, an American socialite and one of Titanic’s passengers
American Horror Story (2011–2022) — satanic henchwoman Ms. Miriam Mead
#8 Matt Damon
Matt Damon has won an Academy Award and two Golden Globe Awards, as well as nominations for three British Academy Film Awards, six Screen Actors Guild Awards, and seven Primetime Emmy Awards.
The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) — Tom Ripley, a witty swindler,
The Martian (2015) — astronaut Mark Watney
The Last Duel (2021) — Knight Jean de Carrouges
#9 Julianne Moore
Julianne Moore has won multiple awards, including an Academy Award, a British Academy Film Award, two Golden Globes, and two Emmys.
Safe (1995) — housewife Carol White is diagnosed with a strange disease
Far from Heaven (2002) — a flustered housewife who faces a marital crisis when she learns her husband’s secret
The Glorias (2020) — feminist icon Gloria Steinem
#10 Eva Green
Eva Green received international acclaim for her performance in Kingdom of Heaven (2005). The following year, she got the BAFTA Rising Star Award for her performance as Bond girl Vesper Lynd in the James Bond film Casino Royale (2006).
Kingdom of Heaven (2005) — Sibylla, Queen of Jerusalem
Cracks (2009) — Miss G, a mysterious teacher at an elite boarding school for girls.
Dark Shadows (2012) — Angelique Bouchard, a jealous witch
#11 Renée Zellweger
Renée Zellweger was one of the world’s highest-paid actresses by 2007, having won two Academy Awards, two British Academy Film Awards, and four Golden Globe Awards.
Jerry Maguire (1996) — 26-year-old widow and single mother Dorothy Boyd
Cold Mountain (2003) — active peasant Ruby Thewes
Judy (2019) — American actress and singer Judy Garland
#12 Carrie-Anne Moss
She has appeared in Memento (2000), for which she received the Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Supporting Actress, Red Planet (2000), Chocolat (2000), Fido (2006), Snow Cake (2006), for which she received the Genie Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role.
The Matrix (1999) — Trinity, a hacker, and officer of the hovercraft, Nebuchadnezzar
Fido (2006) — Helen Robinson, a housewife, comes across a zombie
Silent Hill: Revelation (2012) — Claudia Wolf, the high priestess of the religious cult, the Order
#13 Jennifer Jason Leigh
Jennifer Jason Leigh gained critical praise in 2015 for her voice work as Lisa in Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa, as well as her portrayal as Daisy Domergue in The Hateful Eight, for which she got Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress.
Dolores Claiborne (1995) — Selena St. George, a New York journalist and the daughter of a housemaid accused of murder
The Machinist (2004) — Stevie, the only friend of the main character
The Hateful Eight (2015) — criminal Daisy Domergue
#14 Geoffrey Rush
Geoffrey Rush is one of 24 persons to have received the acting Triple Crown: an Academy Award for film, a Primetime Emmy Award for television, and a Tony Award for theater.
Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007) — Sir Francis Walsingham, principal secretary to Queen Elizabeth I of England
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) — pirate captain Hector Barbossa
The King’s Speech (2010) — Lionel Logue, an Australian speech and language therapist who helped King George VI manage his stammer
#15 Stanley Tucci
Stanley Tucci has four Emmy Awards; he was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play for his portrayal in Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune (2003), as well as a Grammy Award for Best Spoken Word Album for Children for The One and Only Shrek!, which he co-wrote with Meryl Streep.
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) — Dr. Abraham Erskine
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) — the host of the Hunger Games
Beauty and the Beast (2017) — Maestro Cadenza
#16 Milla Jovovich
Milla Jovovich appearances in various science-fiction and action films earned her the title of “reigning queen of kick-butt” in 2006, according to the music channel VH1.
The Fifth Element (1997) — redhead alien Leeloo
Joan of Arc (1999) — French warrior Joan of Arc
Paradise Hills (2019) — the eccentric Duchess, Paradise Hills’ headmaster
#17 Catherine O’Hara
O’Hara has a Genie Award, a Golden Globe Award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, two Primetime Emmy Awards, and six Canadian Screen Awards to her name. In 2018, she was named an Officer of the Order of Canada, and in 2020, she received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award.
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992) — Kate McCallister, the mother of the inventive boy, Kevin, who is always left alone
For Your Consideration (2006) — actress Marilyn Hack who finds out that she was probably nominated for an Oscar
Schitt’s Creek (2015–2020) — Moira Rose, the wife of a billionaire who went broke
#18 Vivien Leigh
Vivien Leigh received the Academy Award for Best Actress twice, for her iconic roles as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939) and Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire (1951), which she previously portrayed on stage in London’s West End in 1949. She also received a Tony Award for her performance in the Broadway musical adaptation of Tovarich (1963).
Gone with the Wind (1939) — Scarlett O’Hara, a flirt and an heiress of a rich family who has to work through the terrors of the Civil War
Caesar and Cleopatra (1945) — The Egyptian queen, Cleopatra
Ship of Fools (1965) — a middle-aged rich woman
#19 Frances McDormand
Frances McDormand has garnered several honors, including four Academy Awards, two Primetime Emmy Awards, and one Tony Award, making her one of just a few actors to have won the “Triple Crown of Acting.” She has also won two Golden Globes, three British Academy Film Awards, and four Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Fargo (1996) — a fearless police officer, Marge Gunderson, who is 7 months pregnant
Burn After Reading (2008) — Linda Litzke, a fitness club administrator who dreams about having plastic surgery
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017) — Mildred Hayes, a desperate mother who lost her daughter