There is another side to Hardy that shines through in his best parts, such as Capone, which further enhances the actor’s muscular and frightening screen presence.
15. The Reckoning (2002)
Hardy took a risk and trusted in his own resounding masculinity enough to take on the role of a very gender-fluid figure in this bizarre historical drama set in the 14th century. A band of actors, directed by Willem Dafoe, includes Straw, played by Hardy, a cross-dresser who meticulously applies lipstick before performing on stage.
14. Lawless (2012)
In this gonzo-violent Prohibition-era gangster movie, Hardy wears a lot of knitwear, which isn’t something he’s known for. The character he plays is a hooch runner named Forrest Bondurant, and his character’s jumper is in desperate need of a handwash in the film. Jason Clarke plays Howard, and Shia LaBeouf portrays Howard’s nerdy younger brother, Jack. Hardy’s cool, stoic demeanor lends weight to the picture.
13. Warrior (2011)
In its day, this movie was largely regarded as having delivered the smackdown and the action wowsers. Jeremy Hardy plays Tommy, an Iraq War veteran who returns home to Philadelphia with his alcoholic father, Paddy, played by Nick Nolte, to settle a score with his father’s bullying ways. Tommy’s MMA coach is his father, but Tommy’s opponent is his brother Brendan, played by Joel Edgerton, who is just as tense as Tommy. Hardy has a smouldering appeal despite the formulaic nature of his work.
12. Dunkirk (2017)
The return of Hardy to the director who gave him some of his most memorable roles is nothing more than a cameo. The setting is Dunkirk, where a valiant flotilla of small boats saved the lives of tens of thousands of British soldiers stranded on the shores of northern France. Toby Hardy portrays Farrier, the one and only RAF pilot who takes on the enemy at almost-suicidal danger because of the RAF’s perceived inability to provide enough air protection during evacuation.
11. Capone (2020)
Hardy gives a weird but compelling portrayal as a dementia- and syphilis-afflicted Al Capone in the final year of his life who begins to have hallucinations and soils himself when under stress while under house confinement in Florida. Hardy uses Italian and English slurs in his growling and rasping.
10. Bronson (2008)
Many Hardy aficionados believe that the Danish provocateur Nicolas Winding Refn’s film was instrumental in catapulting the actor to stardom. When he was cast as notorious British prisoner Charles Bronson, he had to put on 100 pounds (and develop a new Russell Crowe-like beefiness and solidity). Born Michael Peterson, Charles Bronson is a lifer whose bizarre delusions and propensity for violence in prison have kept him banged up for the past three decades. As if in a droll and dapper music hall role, Bronson speaks directly to the audience. Hardy gives a strong performance in this weird picture.
9. Legend (2015)
Taking on the part of Reggie and Ronnie Kray, the infamous East End gangsters of the 1960s, is a challenge for any actor, and Hardy takes it on with gusto in this dual role that he was clearly born to play. Ronnie, on the other hand, is completely out of his mind, despite the fact that he wears spectacles and is just a few pounds heavier than Reggie. As in the case of a terrifying Tommy Cooper, Hardy’s Ronnie insists on his own gayness with a snarling voice and a permanent pop-eyed gaze of psychopathic condemnation. Reggie, for all his normalcy, is a more likely candidate to be the love lead in the film.
8. London Road (2015)
Taking its cues from the stage play at London’s National Theatre, Rufus Norris’ superb and underappreciated film was one of the most disturbing cinematic experiences of the last decade: a movie opera based on the Ipswich serial killer case from 2006, in a reporting verbatim manner. Mark, a minicab driver with a choric function, sings about his own proficiency in psychopathic homicide while driving about in a taxi. “I’ve studied serial killers, but that doesn’t mean I’m one myself.” Before he says, “I am one,” there is an unsettling silence.”) It’s the closest Hardy has gotten to meeting Travis Bickle so far.
7. Inception (2010)
Hardy plays a member of Cobb’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) team of industrial espionage hackers who specialize in hacking into people’s subconscious minds in order to obtain commercially important secrets in Christopher Nolan’s high-concept intellectual thriller. Or, in this situation, to orchestrate the conception of an idea that will splinter a company empire into smaller entities. Hardy is Cobb’s man Eames, a master of identity theft who can change become whatever person he wants. A more refined and sinister part than most of us have come to anticipate from Hardy is on display in Nolan’s film.
6. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Hardy’s performance in this film was one of the most memorable of his career. Hardy plays Bane in Nolan’s final Dark Knight film, in which he faces battle against Batman. As the leader of a rebel army, Bane is a guy wearing a heavy leather respirator to conceal a horrific affliction. He speaks through his mask in a way that can be difficult to decipher at times, and it’s not always clear what he’s saying. When he plays the bass accordion through a Harley Davidson exhaust pipe, he sounds like Darth Vader screaming. Hardy, on the other hand, always gives it his all.
5. The Revenant (2015)
Although he might just as easily have been cast as the protagonist, this was Hardy’s most successful villainous role to date. DiCaprio portrays Hugh Glass, a 19th-century frontiersman who was part of an expeditionary army sent to Missouri to establish a fur-trapping outpost. For John Fitzgerald, Hardy’s character, it’s all about money. After a warrior tribe attacks, he abandons Glass to his death in order to claim a Christian burial, and later demands an additional payment for doing so. But Glass is still alive, and he intends to exact revenge. For DiCaprio, Hardy represents everything he is battling against: an alpha-adversary who is more than just cruel and deceitful. At the beginning and end of the film, his gloweringly malignant presence hints that we are on the verge of a major showdown.
4. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
It’s a big cry from the romanticized visions of James Bond in John Le Carré’s intelligence thrillers. Dull men in dull suits strive to avoid thinking about shameful compromises and betrayals in his world. Hardy’s character Ricki Tarr, who is surrounded by Ms and Qs, is the closest thing Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy has to a 007 figure in this terrific adaptation. Young, physically fit, derring-do and womanizing, he reports back to Gary Oldman’s Smiley from Istanbul in a dramatic fashion. For the character, Hardy sports a reddish-blond wig, and the sheepskin jacket and denim shirt aren’t posh enough for him. Hardy pulls it off with aplomb, and it’s perfectly in keeping with the time period. With his wits about him, Hardy could be a great James Bond.
3. The Drop (2014)
This is one of the most typically sympathetic and heroic portrayals that Hardy has ever played in a main role. Hardy stars as Bob, a decent, everyday guy in a Boston murder drama based on a story by Dennis Lehane. He works at the bar owned by his glum cousin Marv (James Gandolfini). A drop location for Chechen gangsters’ illegal money can be found here. When Bob saves a puppy from a neighboring garbage can, he puts in motion a chain of tragic events that will change his life forever. Unlike most of Hardy’s other characters, Bob is likeable and relatable, but his face and manner have always been resistant to this kind of ingratiation. A local cop has bullied him and accused him of letting down the church, which makes his character weak. Hardy’s performance in The Drop stands out as an exception, but it could serve as a harbinger of things to come.
2. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Hardy’s most widely-watched movie is undoubtedly this one: A post-apocalyptic Australian outback in which a warlord controls oil, water, firearms, and milk is the setting for George Miller’s internationally acclaimed reboot of his Mad Max franchise. Hardy portrays Max Rockatansky, a former law enforcement officer who is now a lone wolf haunted by the memory of his wife and child that he was unable to save. A ruthless chieftain captures him and takes him to his castle, from where he escapes with Charlize Theron in tow. To lead the fightback against the misogynist regime that oppresses women like farm animals, she and Max will unite in a feminist cause. With his strong, forceful, violent presence and fierce visage – gruff yet sensually full-lipped – Hardy is a living cartoon in the desert sun.
1. Locke (2013)
At a time when all the films that had made him famous seemed to have suppressed the very traits of delicacy and empathy he demonstrates here, this is Hardy’s finest hour as an actor. When Ivan Locke (Hardy), a British construction manager, takes the wheel of his automobile, it’s like a dashcam, and he uses his hands-free phone to communicate to his family and friends. His job was to oversee the pouring of thousands of tonnes of wet cement into the foundations of new buildings in the Midlands, and he was a trustworthy, professional, and unemotional person. Locke, on the other hand, has fled the scene and is on his way to London. Hardy’s great less-is-more acting exposes the terrible human damage that this is causing on him personally, despite his marriage problems and mental collapse being on full display. It is a vocal and physical performance that could be compared to Richard Burton, but is entirely distinctive personal work. In terms of Hardy, this is among the best of the best.