In the first of our ‘Beyond’ series, we took a look at some of the best non-MCU movies starring the actors who portray Marvel’s ‘Big 6’ hero characters. Now it’s time to check out some of the stars who play the series’ villains.
For each, I’ve picked out a couple of their best roles outside the MCU.
Firstly, which villains to pick? Unlike the heroes, the villains – with a couple of notable exceptions – don’t tend to recur, which means there’s a lot to choose from. So, honestly, I’ve gone with those who I like and who have been in high-quality stuff.
We may well take a look at some more in a future edition of ‘Beyond’.
Hugo Weaving (Red Skull)
The Lord Of The Rings (2001-2003)
Little known trilogy from Kiwi director Peter Jackson, Weaving plays Elrond. Elrond is an elf and Lord of Rivendell who hosts the meeting where the fellowship is formed and the quest is forged. As an immortal elf, Elrond is the link between old and new and gets amazing lines like “I was there 3000 years ago…”. I love these films and any superlative you can think of will not do them justice. He reprised the role in The Hobbit trilogy which isn’t good but you have to see it for completeness.
V For Vendetta (2006)
Weaving plays the V of the title, a mask-wearing anarchist who wants to bring down the government via a series of terrorist acts. He drags a young girl into his plot (played by fellow MCU’er Natalie Portman) as he plans to blow up Parliament on the 5th of November.
Tom Hiddleston (Loki)
The Night Manager (2016)
I think it’s fair to say that the Marvel films are definitely the peak of Hiddleston’s film career. His best work away from the MCU is actually a BBC TV series, an adaptation of a 1993 John Le Carre novel. A complex story sees Hiddleston as the hotel night manager of the title. A former soldier, he gets dragged into a police investigation and goes undercover in crime boss Hugh Laurie’s organisation. The series has tension, violence and a dash of romance.
Guy Pearce (Aldrich Killian in Iron Man 3)
L.A. Confidential (1997)
James Elroy’s labyrinth crime novel gets an epic adaptation with Pearce starring as Ed Exley, one of three LA cops the film focuses on. He’s a by-the-book officer forced by circumstances to work alongside those played by Russell Crowe (a brutish man) and Kevin Spacey (more interested in celebrity). These are hard-working officers who, throughout the film, investigate domestic violence, drugs, murder, police corruption, and prostitution. The film earned nine Oscar nominations and has a 99% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. One of the best of the ’90s.
Lock Out (2012)
Pearce does sci-fi. Set in 2079, he plays a wrongly convicted criminal who is offered freedom if he will rescue the president’s daughter (Maggie Grace, yes she’s been taken again) from a space prison which has been overtaken by inmates. Lots of action, lots of fun.
The other essential film starring Guy Pearce is Memento, but we’ll cover that another time.
Josh Brolin (Thanos)
The Goonies (1985)
A group of kids go off on a treasure hunt that sees them get mixed up with some local criminals. Brolin is the older brother of one of the kids who gets dragged into the goings-on against his wishes. He has a few humiliating ordeals along the way, as he tries to keep the gang under control. With adventure, laughs and a celebration of friendship, it’s the ultimate autumnal Sunday afternoon film.
No Country For Old Men (2007)
The Coen brothers have made a lot of very good films. This adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel may be the best. It won Oscars for Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor (Javier Bardem) and Adapted Screenplay. Brolin is Llewelyn Moss, a Vietnam veteran who stumbles across a vast sum of money after a drug deal gone wrong. Bardem’s character is after that money. Tommy Lee Jones is the sheriff who is always seemingly a step behind. The three all give masterful performances, in a cat and mouse thriller. Notable for the lack of score which adds to the tension and for Bardem’s weapon of choice, one of the most unusual and effective seen on screen.
Michael B. Jordan (Killmonger)
The Wire (2002 – 2008)
In his teenage years, Jordan plays a boy on the streets of Baltimore who is very much involved in the City’s drug scene. What makes him different to some of the other kids is a feeling that he has a heart, not necessarily seen as an asset in that world. Where’s Wallace?
Jordan teams up with his future Black Panther director, Ryan Coogler, to play Adonis Creed. He is the son of Apollo from the early films, in this sequel to the Rocky movies. Main man Rocky Balboa returns to act as a mentor to young boxer Creed. It repeats a lot of the same beats, there’s adversity to overcome and training montages to show the toil needed to be a success in the ring.
Just Mercy (2019)
The most recent film on the list sees Jordan play real-life lawyer Bryan Stevenson who helps inmates on death row. It’s a quiet, authoritative performance opposite a feisty Jamie Foxx as the main beneficiary of the assistance offered.
Jake Gyllenhaal (Mysterio)
Directed by David Fincher, this film follows the hunt for the real-life serial killer calling himself Zodiac. Zodiac wrote letters to several newspapers detailing his crimes. Gyllenhaal plays Robert Graysmith, a cartoonist at the San Francisco Chronicle, one of the papers to which the killer wrote. He becomes slightly obsessed with the case and it costs him dearly. He went on to write a book about the case which remains something of a mystery. As an MCU bonus, this also features Robert Downey Jr and Mark Ruffalo.
Gyllenhaal plays Detective Loki (yes really) who investigates the disappearance of two young girls. Whilst trying to find them, he has to deal with the increasingly wild father (Hugh Jackman) of one of the missing children. Directed by Denis Villeneuve this is enthralling and disturbing, with Gyllenhaal on top form as the slightly awkward and unconvincing police officer.
Have I missed anything really good from these stars? Let us know!
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Shaun is FinalBoss’ most prolific cinephile. If he hasn’t seen it, it ain’t worth watching. You’ll find him writing about everything from blowout blockbusters to small-screen splendours as he waits impatiently for Lord of the Rings to be released by Amazon. Catch up with Shaun and see what he’s been watching on www.letterboxd.com/shaun_1982.