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The Essential Tom Hardy Roles

"Before you see 'Mad Max: Fury Road' check out these other Tom Hardy gems"

After a breakout role on the critically acclaimed HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, Tom Hardy quickly won a part in Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down. An unforgettable rising star, Hardy surged to international prominence by playing ‘Shinzon’ in Star Trek: Nemesis. A magnanimous blend of character actor and leading man, Hardy has begun to embody the style of his acting hero, Gary Oldman. With a commanding on-screen presence and pointedly robust delivery, Hardy has rapidly become one of the most prominent actors in the world.

Mad Max: Fury Road is just days away, and how better to pass the time than by crossing off these Essential Tom Hardy Roles from your watchlist. As an actor of the stage, television, and feature films, Hardy’s relatively short career is packed with incredible performances, large and small. Spanning only seven years, these Essential Tom Hardy Roles show an uncommonly dynamic range of character, and display a potent growth and development of talent. While fantastic in various TV movies and miniseries, we are strictly adhering to the realm of feature films for this list.

Inception (2010)

Essential Tom Hardy Roles

Inception brought Tom Hardy to the masses. With a loyal fanbase that exploded with his direction of the rebooted Batman franchise, Christopher Nolan and his pet project garnered plenty of box-office attention. Inception‘s inventive use of CGI and otherworldly imagination were the perfect sandbox in which the ensemble cast could experiment. Hardy’s Eames was the cool and collected center to Cobb’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) assembly of experienced and amateur “dream thieves,” and had some of the most memorable lines in the picture – “You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.” Dryly jocular, Eames is a “battle” hardened expert, completely unaffected by violence or danger in both real and imagined worlds. Most importantly, the role allowed Hardy a chance to work closely with Nolan, who would place him on center stage as ‘Bane’ in his Batman finale, The Dark Knight Rises.

Lawless (2012)

Essential Tom Hardy Roles

When two method actors come together, sparks tend to fly on and off screen. Such was the case for Tom Hardy and Shia LaBeouf in John Hillcoat’s prohibition gangster film, Lawless. As a war hero-turned bootlegger, Hardy’s Forrest Bondurant is responsible for his two younger brothers – regardless of their actions. Leading to some pretty heated moments, Forrest fights for what he deems right, unhindered by his own mortality. A stoic, scrupulous lawbreaker, his love for his brothers, and a growing infatuation with city-gal Maggie Beauford (Jessica Chastain), shape Forrest’s moral code, leading him to a violent clash with the law.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

Essential Tom Hardy Roles

A cold purposeful espionage thriller, Tomas Alfredson’s John le Carré adaptation was an outright departure from Hardy’s previous role in Inception. Featuring an equally-talented company of actors, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is far more subdued and infinitely more subtle than a Nolan’s film. While Ricki Tarr is a small background character, the part gave Hardy a chance to work alongside his idol, Gary Oldman. Although Tarr may have been a minor role in the film, Hardy’s emotional performance made it a memorable one. Unable to flex his muscle, or become a violent personification of vengeance, Tarr is forced to hide in the shadows and hope Oldman’s George Smiley can rescue the girl he loves. Subdued pain and a tremendous sense of helplessness fill Tarr, setting him apart from the detached spies that surround him, and identifying the role as one of Hardy’s absolute best.

Warrior (2011)

Essential Tom Hardy Roles

Tommy Riordan/Conlon’s forlorn brutality makes him one of Tom Hardy’s most memorable characters. As the ex-Marine son of a boxer, he takes notice of an international MMA tournament, and recruits his estranged, alcoholic, father to train him. Unbeknownst to Tommy, his equally estranged brother, Brenden (Joel Edgerton), has also been training for the tournament, where the two men will eventually have a violent confrontation. Palpable agony filling every scene of Gavin O’Connor’s Warrior, the devastating effects of war are plainly evident on Riordan, who fights like a man without a future, and one trying desperately to forget his past. Never a showoff, never proud in his victories, his only goal is to make amends with a fallen comrade’s wife by winning, and giving, the large purse.

Bronson (2008)

Essential Tom Hardy Roles

Exceptional direction enhances a truly bizarre performance from Tom Hardy as the real-life criminal legend, Charles Bronson. Told somewhat autobiographically via a psychedelic stage show, and partly through intense recreations of life events and prison encounters, Bronson required Hardy to use every ounce of his considerable talent. An undefinable character, Charles Bronson is part insanity, part artist, part sociologically violent madman; he balks at the prospect of being pinned down into a singular explanation. Bronson’s unpredictability is what makes him such a brilliant character, and something Hardy works to capture brilliantly. He never seeks to understand the motivations of the role, only to project the instability outward onto the unassuming audience. Bearing his very soul to the camera, Hardy’s Bronson is one of the most memorable characters of the last decade.

Locke (2014)

Essential Tom Hardy Roles

Locke opens with man getting into his car and driving; we never leave the man or the car. The pinnacle of an actor’s showcase, Steven Knight’s one-man drama shows just how pragmatic Tom Hardy can be. Through an escalating series of phone calls, Ivan Locke redefines what it means to “be a man.” Seeming as though it was being viewed in real time, the 85-minute Locke, despite its lack of physical characters and sets, is compelling from beginning to end. Forced to face the harsh realities of the choices he has made against the injustices he suffered as a child, Hardy’s Locke chooses the path of righteousness over the way of least resistance. A beautiful film about a man doing what he knows to be right, Locke is the perfect vehicle (I get one pun per 1000 words) for Tom Hardy to test his ever-increasing talent.

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