The Ten Best Gerard Butler Performances

Gerard Butler may be the most man’s man in all of Hollywood.  He is gruff, charming, violent, has a severe accent, and stars in some of the most crowd-pleasing movies out there.  If there is a sword & sandal epic out there to be made…Gerard Butler will be there. If there is a gritty R-rated action film to be made…Gerard Butler will be there.  When any kind of film calls for machismo, testosterone, and gravitas, who better than Butler?

However, he is not all sweat, blood and explosions.  Gerard Butler has also pulled off a bit of Shakespeare, an iconic musical, and several romantic comedies.  One might say that he is a jack-of-all-trades. Here are the ten best Gerard Butler performances.

Mike Banning in Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

Gerard butler’s role of Mike Banning is his bread and butter.  Olympus Has Fallen was the first of two White House taken over thrillers of 2013, and it is the far superior film.  Directed by Antoine Fuqua and appropriately rated R, the film follows the disgraced Secret Service Agent Banning when he gets caught in the White House during a terrorist takeover.  

One of the most cliched action film stories is Die Hard in a … idea.  Sure, this film is Die Hard in the White House, but Butler is sublime.  The man has a ferocity that totally makes you believe he has the ability to violently and single-handedly take out a squad of terrorists.  Fuqua can do this stuff in his sleep and Butler is a great tool for him to use. This kind of high-octane thriller doesn’t always work for butler (2018’s Den of Thieves and Hunter Killer flopped).  So it depends on what kind of director is holding Gerard Butler’s reigns.

Kable in Gamer (2009)

That is unless you have directors that are batsh*t insane.  Directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor are the psychopaths behind the Crank movies, the Ghost Rider sequel.  In 2009, they made the equally absurd, and equally entertaining Gamer.  The film is about a futuristic dystopia where prisoners are outfitted with body-controlling technology and video gamers control their bodies in real-life first-person shooters.  If Gerard Butler’s Kable survives 30 sessions of play, he will be set free. The problem is that he is being controlled by a teenage, though proficient, gamer.

Gerard Butler is the kind of talented action star who has the ability to pull a movie like this off.  Not only does he have to do all the gunplay, combat, and action sequences with believability, but he has to make it seem he is not controlling his own body.  The crazy minds of Neveldine and Taylor are pretty much the only ones that would attempt this movie. It is a good thing they tapped Butler, who might be just as crazy.

One Two in RocknRolla (2008)

To clearly explain the convoluted plot of Guy Ritchie’s RocknRolla would be a complete act of futility.  However, RocknRolla is the Guy Ritchiest Guy Ritchie film ever made.  It is dirty, over-saturated, full of heavily accented actors playing worse and worse thugs.  You feel like you have to take a shower after just watching the film.

Gerard Butler plays One Two, who is one third of a trio of gang punks that includes Handsome Bob (Tom Hardy) and Mumbles (Idris Elba).  They are the men who Tom Wilkinson is trying to rip off, but who in turn are trying to rip him off. The story is almost irrelevant, and with star power like that, does that matter?  Gerard Butler in RocknRolla is more or less equivalent to the coolness of Jason Statham in Snatch.  So you know he is going to be a riot.

The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera (2004)

This one may be a bit hard to defend, but it is going to be done anyway.  In 2004, Joel Schumacher attempted an opulent, $70 Million film adaptation of the long-running Broadway show.  In the titular role, somehow, Schumacher landed on Gerard Butler. To that point, he wasn’t quite a household name, hadn’t proven his ability to carry a tune, or really honed his acting craft.  However, in the thankless role of the Phantom that was never going to live up to Michael Crawford’s Broadway original, he is perfectly fine. Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music in The Phantom of the Opera is some of the hardest to perform, no matter who you are.  With the exception of Emmy Rossum, who is exceptional, Butler is the best singer in the cast.

This may be an indictment of the film instead of an endorsement, but let us move past the singing.  The movie is a delight to look at and listen to (Three Oscar nominations: Cinematography, Art Direction, Original Song).  But most important, music ability aside, Gerard Butler definitely has the seductiveness, gravitas, and intensity that the Phantom needs.  Christine needs to simultaneously fear and be lured to the spectre beneath the Paris Opera house, and in THAT regard, Butler more than succeeds.

Tullus Aufidius in Coriolanus (2011)

Richard Loncraine dazzled with his 1930s adaptation of Richard III with Ian McKellan.  What Ralph Fiennes did with Shakespeare’s Coriolanus is equally dazzling.  Fiennes transplanted the story of a banished Roman leader who enlists his mortal enemy to seek revenge in the modern day.  Gerard Butler plays Tullus, Fiennes’ Caius’ equivalent warmongering leader of the adjacent city whom Caius has been fighting for years.

The praise of this film can go on and on, touching on the design and the wonderful supporting cast.  However, the focus is on Butler, and it is for this reason. Ralph Fiennes is truly an acting thespian.  Few actors can outperform him on a one by one basic. Also, Coriolanus is Shakespeare.  So that is what Gerard Butler is up against.  He is playing opposite one of the greatest living actors in a Shakespeare movie.   It must be said. He holds his own!

Clyde Shelton in Law Abiding Citizen (2009)

F. Gary Gray’s Law Abiding Citizen is a spectacular action thriller.  At first, it feels like any Death Wish style revenge thriller.  Clyde Shelton’s (Gerard Butler) wife and daughter are violated and murdered right in front of him.  He waits for the justice system to do their job because it is an open and shut case. Jamie Foxx is the ADA and he cuts deals with the perpetrators.  Shelton is having none of that, and the audience is not prepared for what happens next.

Butler plays Shelton as calm and collected.  He has suffered greatly but to make the Justice System pay for failing him and his family, he realizes that he has to be focused.  The entire film, Butler is the smartest guy in the room. He is always one step ahead, and he is leaving a lot of bodies in his wake.  But how on Earth is he doing it from prison? A very effective scene comes too late in the film, but it is when Michael Kelly informs Jamie Foxx of who Shelton actually is and what he is capable of.  Clyde Shelton may be the scariest role of Gerard Butler’s career.

Gerry in P.S. I Love You (2007)

Gerard Butler is many things, but the one thing he is not is a romantic comedy lead.  His starring roles in The Bounty Hunter and The Ugly Truth are pretty atrocious.  However, he has shown he can do romantic drama.  In the massive tear-jerker P.S. I Love You, Butler plays Gerry, the delightful Irish husband of Hilary Swank’s Holly.  The couple has the perfect, blissful life. That is, until a sudden illness takes Gerry’s life.  This tragedy, understandably, destroys Holly’s life. However, on her 30th birthday, a cake arrives with a recorded note telling Holly to get out and Celebrate herself.

Apparently, Gerry being the perfect husband, anticipated how terribly Holly would take his death.  So, he wrote a series of 10 notes to help her cope. For the entire film, the tears will never stop flowing.  P.S. I Love You is certainly Swank’s film, but Butler has so much charisma and is so infinitely likable, it goes a LONG way in making this sappy melodrama actually work.

Stoick in How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

How to Train Your Dragon is one of Dreamworks Animations best films.  It tells the story of a Viking/Scotland land where dragons are real and affect everyday life.  The Island of Berk is constantly under the threat of being raided by dragons, so the young Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) wants to assist the town in fighting them off.  His father, Stoick, who is also the village leader refuses to allow this because Hiccup is too clumsy.

When you create a Scottish-accented chieftain whose village must have the might to fend of dragons, is there really anyone else that can voice him other than Gerard Butler?  Sure, when Butler leans into that heavy accent, he is almost impossible to understand. However, it kind of works perfect in his performance as Stoick. Stoick is a grandiose character, with a grandiose yet cartoonish voice.  Dreamworks Animation hit that nail right on the head.

Set in Gods of Egypt (2016)

Yes, Gods of Egypt makes you think What on Earth has happened to Alex Proyas?  Proyas is the man who brought us Dark City and I, Robot.  Who knows what inspired him to make this movie that digitally makes Gerard Butler and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau effectively giants.  And the hero of the film is Brenton Thwaites, and he is tiny in comparison. Gods of Egypt is a ridiculous mess, but it is sort of a guilty pleasure of sorts.

 The production design is so perfect that it is totally fake. The special effect of the size difference is so well done that is looks absurd.  Gerard Butler plays Egyptian god Set, who has seized power on high, So a mortal teams up with Horus, Set’s deity nephew, to stage a coup against him.  Credit has to be given to this silly movie because it seems to know it is silly. Gerard Butler chews so much scenery that it is amazed that the walls are still standing.  Is this a GOOD performance? Probably not. Is is a memorable one? Absolutely!!

Leonidas in 300 (2007)

In the introduction, Gerard Butler’s manliness and machismo were discussed.  Well, if you were to dial his manliness and machismo up to eleven, you would come close to the extraordinary 300.  Zack Snyder was the hot new director after pulling of a surprising zombie film success with 2004’s Dawn of the Dead.  However, nobody expected that he had the sword-and-sandal, blood-soaked ballet showing the Battle of Thermopylae up his sleeve.

At the center of this marvelous epic is Gerard Butler as King Leonidas.  Few muscle-bound, Hollywood leading men could have pulled off this absurd role.  King Leonidas is almost pure id.  Living his life as a warrior and yearning for glorious death.  Butler portrays him as a kind of megalomaniacal madman whom you can’t help but root for.  To watch the 300 spartan warriors fend of wave after wave of the encroaching Persians is an absolute work of art.


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