The Definitive List of Tom Hardy's 10 Greatest Film Roles
The most compelling British actor working today, Tom Hardy is a capricious heavyweight who adds personality and presence to any film with his name on the bill.
Having graduated from growly hard man cameos to locked-on leads, we delve back into the archives and select our 10 favourite Hardy roles, from playing Leo's deranged Oscar foil in The Revenant, to embodying the strong and silent type in, well, a lot of films.
But does anyone do it better?
10 | Bane - 'The Dark Knight Rises' (2012)
Playing a big, scary, asthmatic beefcake in Christopher Nolan's final Dark Knight feature, Tom Hardy's mainstream legend was essentially born with his embodiment of Batman's nemesis, Bane.
Punctuated with moments of real, intimidating menace and charisma, Hardy is ultimately shackled by having to act behind a massive steel grate. Although we'll never get bored of saying "You merely adopted the dark, I was boooorn in it!" at any given notice.
9 | Forrest Bondurant - 'Lawless' (2012)
With that now signature wild-eyed stare and twitching demeanor, Hardy is one of the few bright spots in the ambitious, but fundamentally messy Depression-era drama, Lawless.
Showcasing his aptitude for blue collar American accents and sudden, brutal violence, Hardy's time on screen is riveting as he delivers crackling monologues in dark and dusty taverns and moonlit backroads... that inimitable intensity hard to turn away from.
8 | Ivan Locke - 'Locke' (2013)
The most polarizing film in the Hardy canon, as well as the Esquire office, Locke sees our man play a construction foreman whose life unravels over the course of a car journey and several phone calls, as news of infidelity and career disaster fall all around him during a lonely drive down the M4.
Many praise Hardy's ability to carry an entire 90 minute indie feature that never leaves the confines of a BMW, while others struggled to get past the slightly Fireman Sam Welsh accent and repeated use of the word 'concrete'. Regardless of your stance, we can't think of another actor who could bring more life to such a challenging role.
7 | Ronnie and Reggie Kray - 'Legend' (2015)
Thanks to the inexplicable voodoo of modern special effects, Hardy is able to play both of the East End's most notorious brothers in the 2015 Kray Biopic, flitting between the suave, calculated menace of Reggie and the teetering, unreadable psychosis of Ronnie, a character in whose head Hardy thrives.
Unfortunately another film that is let down by those around him, with a fairly haphazard second half, Legend nevertheless showcases the best of Hardy, allowing him to dominate the screen and steadily build both tension and momentum, particularly in the moments leading up to a confrontation or brawl, of which there are many.
6 | Eames - 'Inception' (2010)
Proving he is much more than a man fated to play nothing but charming cockney lunatics and tobacco-chewing hustlers, Hardy's convivial fixer in Inception allows Leo's lead to take the spotlight while he shows a subtlety and humour that can sometimes be buried under his more frantic centre-stage roles.
His first of a number of projects with Christopher Nolan, Hardy's onscreen rapport and rapid wit with both DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt stops the more mind-bending elements of Inception from getting bogged down too much in its own self-assured cleverness.
Great wardrobe, too.
5 | Max - 'Mad Max' (2015)
A high-octane acid trip of a film, Mad Max is essentially one long engine oil and dust covered car chase, but what a f*****g car chase!
At his best when working within boundaries, Hardy's frenetic and damaged portrayal of an essentially mute Max forces him to work without words, his body, face and jagged mannerisms making up for a conspicuous lack of dialogue.
4 | Bob Saginowski - 'The Drop' (2014)
James Gandolfini's final appearance on screen, in our opinion The Drop didn't get the love it deserved on initial release, with Hardy in particular delivering one of his greatest performances as a reclusive barman in possession of a fraught backstory and a very solid Brooklyn accent.
Despite falling off ever so slightly due to a convoluted final third, Hardy takes a character that could so easily be wooden in the wrong hands, infusing him with pain and tenderness, as well as a foreboding, silent menace that looms large throughout.
We reckon Casey Affleck definitely watched him a couple of times in this for his role in Manchester by the Sea.
3 | Tommy Riordan 'Warrior' (2011)
Eating nothing but grilled chicken and broccoli for six months in order to get into cage fighting shape (there are 719,000 results for 'Tom Hardy traps' on Google), Warrior is a beast of a movie that allows Hardy to thrive as a bit of a mad, hard bastard.
A taciturn Iraq veteran who sees MMA as a chance to escape a grim, post-war existence, the film's fight scenes are some of the best in recent memory, with Hardy exploding into life beneath the bright lights of the octagon, as well as in the handful of poignant, contemplative scenes away from the ring.
That closing scene, too...
2 | John Fitzgerald - 'The Revenant' (2015)
Although the headlines and plaudits went to Leonardo DiCaprio for his mastery of grunting and dragging himself around a lot, Hardy's turn as a villainous, backstabbing trapper added a moral ambiguity to what could have been a beautiful but fairly by-the-numbers revenge and redemption story.
Simultaneously deplorable and intriguing, the cold pragmatism of John Fitzgerald keeps you guessing throughout, as well as making you question whether you'd do exactly as he does if put in the same position. A conundrum that can be attributed to Hardy's skittish brilliance in the role.
1 | Charles Bronson - 'Bronson' (2008)
"My name is Charles Bronson, and all my life I've wanted to be famous." Tom Hardy muses in the opening scene of his greatest role. Funnily enough, this was to be the film that helped the actor become just that.
Older, lower-budget and a lot less Hollywood than some of his later adventures, Hardy's rough embodiment of Britain's most notorious prisoner was, nevertheless, a unanimous choice for us when it came to picking the top slot of his best roles.
Brutal, hilarious, outlandish and, frankly, pretty weird; the role was made for Hardy. Allowing him every opportunity to indulge that scattered talent, as he darts from cold prison beatings to actually quite poignant moments performing on stage. The only man we can think of who could make a crime drama/comedy/musical work.
"Tom looks more like me than I look like me," Bronson himself said upon seeing the film.
Praise indeed, Tom.
This story originally appeared on Esquire.co.uk.
* Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.