10 Unlikely Action Leads That Blew Audiences Away With Their Performance

10 Unlikely Action Leads That Blew Audiences Away With Their Performance

The summer blockbuster season is upon audiences and from Benedict Cumberbatch to Charlize Theron, there are plenty of actors demonstrating their action talents, who might have otherwise been underestimated. Across cinema history, that’s quite a common occurrence, with performances putting the audience’s doubts to rest.

These actors likely established themselves in comedy, sitcom, drama, or romance roles and thus were deemed unable to move into the realm of the action blockbuster. Yet, in every case, they have proven those opinions completely wrong and are now held up as icons of the genre, or at the very least, actors who really can do anything.

Keanu Reeves

John Wick 3 Keanu Reeves

Keanu Reeves is usually seen as one of the best action stars of the modern age. The Matrix truly helped to define him in that position, but John Wick has only further established the actor’s talents when it comes to mastering complex choreography and adding genuine emotional depth to a blockbuster role.

RELATED: 10 Action Movies Turning 10 In 2022

Keanu Reeves shot to fame thanks to the success of Bill And Ted. He was largely seen as a comedic actor; goofy and certainly not a serious lead in any capacity. He managed to completely shift that perception and while he continues to take on hilarious parts, he doesn’t shy away from grit and drama as well.

Bob Odenkirk

Bob Odenkirk in Nobody

Bob Odenkirk’s Nobody has established the actor in a new light. It very much feels in the style of a John Wick, although combines gritty realism with a little bit of Hollywood edge. Ultimately it’s a fantastic flick with Odenkirk transforming himself for the part and embodying physicality audiences hadn’t seen from him.

Odenkirk’s comedic work already speaks for itself, but his time as the slightly cowardly con-man, Saul Goodman, in the Breaking Bad universe, really led to him being typecasted. Nobody would have thought that Odenkirk had this kind of skill set in his arsenal, but he’s proven those doubters wrong.

Helen Mirren

Helen Mirren in Red 2

Helen Mirren has leaped into every genre, picking up plenty of awards along the way. From Shakespearean plays to portraying the Queen, Mirren has done it all. There’s one aspect of her career that people wouldn’t have ever thought would surface; a set of action roles. But Mirren has somehow established herself in that realm as well.

She’s even part of major franchises like The Fast And The Furious, because of her ability to shift into any character. It’s RED and RED 2 that probably demonstrated that despite what may be perceived about her, Helen Mirren is entirely capable of launching into successful action series, taking on everything expected of her and more.

Ryan Reynolds

Deadpool and Colossus movie featured

Ryan Reynolds is a major face in the blockbuster industry. His time as Green Lantern catapulted his potential even if the film itself wasn’t well received. After a few missteps, he is now in his element, from portraying Deadpool, to fast-past flicks like Red Notice, Free Guy, and The Adam Project. 

RELATED: 10 Best Intelligent Action Movies, According To Ranker

Reynolds has found his niche in the action genre and has the filmography to prove it. But movies like The Proposal demonstrate why no one would have thought he had it in him. He was the goofy romantic lead, an American Hugh Grant for instance. Grant never found his way into action flicks but Reynolds did and thrives.

Anne Hathaway

Anne Hathaway as Catwoman speaking with Batman on a rooftop in The Dark Knight Rises

Anne Hathaway’s turn as Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises was an action-star-making performance in a way that many who have crossed the Batman franchise have experienced. Her time in the genre is limited, but each time she moves into it, she demonstrates just how perfect the role she is.

Hathaway’s career has spanned many territories. Chick flicks like The Devil Wears Prada or even musicals like Les Misérables are examples of her range. No one would have thought that stunt choreography would be added to that list, but Hathaway has a future in that position if she’s looking for those roles.

Michael Cera

Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Romona Flowers in Scott Pilgrim vs The World

Michael Cera doesn’t give off the presence of an action star. The unassuming character has taken advantage of his vibe and has portrayed all kinds of hilarious, slightly awkward, personalities. Arrested Development is a perfect instance of what Cera’s preferred roles are all about.

His casting in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World was completely inspired. Not only did he match the hero fans had seen on the page, but he embraced the action elements and thrived in that position. He’s not a typical leading man but should be given the opportunity far more often.

Colin Firth

Colin Firth and Taron Egerton in Kingsman

Kingsman helped, in part, to redefine what action could be within the spy and espionage genre. It involved bizarre comic book elements and wacky humor with genuinely hard-hitting sequences to create a beloved hit. Colin Firth wasn’t the typical choice to star in that kind of picture.

RELATED: 10 Best Action Movies On Netflix, According To IMDb

Firth has largely spent his time as a war general or a slightly awkward, yet charming love interest. There are of course plenty of exceptions including The King’s Speech, but dramas and romcoms are all over his filmography. Kingsman is so outside of Firth’s traditional path and yet he is perhaps one of the most celebrated aspects of the hit.

Will Smith

Will Smith as Steven Hiller in Independence Day

Will Smith is a massive action star. Suicide Squad, Men In Black, and Bad Boys are just a couple of examples of just how many classics and culturally significant pictures the actor has produced. But The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air followed the rapper around for years.

Smith portrayed a largely goofy and comedy-driven character. His position in the likes of Independence Day and as Agent J helped to change the perception audiences had of Smith. He can still jump into comedy roles, but he has the seriousness needed to be a leading man in a high-stakes action piece.

Tobey Maguire

Tobey Maguire in Spider-Man No Way Home

Tobey Maguire takes on genuinely intriguing roles. His filmography has been a little sparse recently as the actor is taking a break from the industry. However, drama and comedy are very much in Maguire’s wheelhouse; perhaps that’s why he’s such a good Peter Parker.

Maguire was absolutely an outside choice as a casting for Spider-Man. Indeed, there were plenty of well-known action names that might have been chosen in other scenarios, but it’s clear that Maguire broke any expectations and has become one of the most well-respected webheads of all time.

Scarlet Johansson

Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow in 2012's Avengers

Scarlett Johansson started life on screen at a relatively young age. The roles she took on were varied but hadn’t crossed into the action territory much. Pictures like The Prestige and We Bought A Zoo largely played into the image of Johansson’s regular parts.

But her time as Black Widow has cemented her as an action icon. She has appeared across the Marvel Universe in numerous movies and this has allowed her to try several other solo projects, like Lucy and Ghost In The Shell where she continues to take advantage of her complex range of abilities.

NEXT: 10 Underrated Action Movies Of The 2010s (Ranked By IMDb)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *