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Home > Top Ten Movies Where Comedic Actors Played Serious Roles

Top Ten Movies Where Comedic Actors Played Serious Roles

comedic actors in dramatic movies

Ten Actors Who Usually Make Us Laugh & Nailed a Dramatic Role

In comedy, there needs to be a precise understanding of timing, subtlety, and expression. The comedian and/or actor has to know when to go all in or pull back a little bit; when the joke calls for a little bit of mystery or a lot of anger. Contrary to popular belief, the jokes just don’t write themselves; the comedy is not always self evident. Oftentimes, it takes a great performance to draw laughs from an audience. Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg were splendid in The Other Guys, using timing and expression for what seems like the successful landing of every single joke in the movie. Steve Carrell’s performance as Michael Scott in The Office always brought tons of energy, but he also knew when to pull back and let the joke land soft. These skills that we see in timing, subtlety and expression are ones that are also used in dramatic roles.

Comedic actors often don’t get enough credit for the skills that it takes to make millions of people laugh. When they use those skills for drama, though, everyone watches and recognizes them. Here are the best movies where those comedic actors made us recognize the brilliant performers they really are. 

10. Dreamgirls

Eddie Murphy’s role and performance in this musical drama was surprising to say the least. Showing off incredible acting and singing skills, Murphy went on to win a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor and was nominated for Best Supporting Actor by the Academy Awards. The movie itself received numerous Academy Award nominations, and won for Best Supporting Actress, and Best Sound Mixing. 

Dreamgirls can be viewed on Hulu or Youtube.

comedic actors in dramatic roles

9. Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Having already been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in Bridesmaids, Mellissa McCarthy tried her hand in this biographical drama and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. Despite not winning any major awards, the film holds a high critical rating and is listed as one of the best films of 2018.

Can You Ever Forgive Me? can be viewed on Youtube, Amazon or Apple TV.

comedic actors in dramatic roles

8. Precious

Mo’nique’s career as a queen of comedy did not stop her from putting in an Academy Award-winning performance for Precious. She also received Best Supporting Actress at the SAG Awards, and won the Special Jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Along with Mo’nique, the film was critically acclaimed as well, winning the Audience Award and Grand Jury prize at Sundance. It received nominations from the academy for Best Supporting Actress (which Mo’Nique won), Best Actress, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Editing. 

Precious can be watched on Max, Prime Video or Apple TV. 


7. Stranger Than Fiction 

Will Ferrell put his comedy hat on the rack for the first time in this drama as Harold Crick, an IRS agent whose life begins to be narrated as if it were a novel. Ferrell’s first try in a more restrained role earned him a Golden Globe nomination. 

Stranger Than Fiction can be viewed on Youtube or Apple TV.

stranger than fiction

6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

In this Charlie Kaufman cult classic, Jim Carrey stars alongside Kate Winslet as a heartbroken ex-boyfriend reeling from the loss of his girlfriend’s memories of his relationship. If that sounds as deep as it is complicated, it is, and Carrey delivers. Carrey himself was nominated for a Golden Globe and the film was nominated for two Academy Awards including Best Actress and it won for Best Original Screenplay. The science fiction romance drama is considered one of the best films of all time. 

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is available on Hulu or Youtube.

eternal sunshine

5. Foxcatcher

This true crime drama features two actors who both took a break from their usual comedic interests, Channing Tatum and Steve Carell. Carell’s performance as the eccentric wrestling enthusiast John du Pont earned him an Academy Award nomination. Both Carell and Tatum earned favorable reviews from critics for their performances. 

Foxcatcher is available on Amazon, Youtube, or Apple TV.


4. Good Will Hunting

Prior to Good Will Hunting, Robin Williams had been no stranger to dramatic performances, including Dead Poets Society (1989), for which Williams was nominated for an Academy Award. For Good Will Hunting, Williams won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and the film also won for Best Original Screenplay. It kick-started the successful careers of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. 

Good Will Hunting can be viewed on Apple TV, Amazon, or Youtube.

good will hunting

3. Uncut Gems

Adam Sandler was no novice to more serious roles before Uncut Gems, and it showed. Sandler played New York Diamond District jeweler Howard Ratner in a roller coaster ride of a performance. While it was unfortunately not nominated for any major awards, Uncut Gems is considered one of the best thrillers of all time. 

Uncut Gems is available on Hulu, Prime Video, or Netflix.

comedic actors in dramatic movies

2. The Truman Show

Jim Carrey won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture for The Truman Show—his first stint outside of comedy on screen. This role and Golden Globe would lead to more adventures outside of comedy for him, including Man on the Moon (1999) and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004). The Truman Show is now considered a classic, making $264.1 million on a $60 million budget. It was also nominated for three academy awards including Best Director, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Original Screenplay. 

The Truman Show is available on Google play, ITunes and Amazon.

comedic actors in dramatic movies

1. Punch Drunk Love

Punch Drunk Love was Adam Sandler’s first serious foray into dramatic acting, and it excelled. As the socially awkward Barry Egan, who falls in love with his sister’s worker, Sandler got great reviews from critics. He went on to be successful in more dramatic roles such as The Meyerowitz Stories (2017), Uncut Gems (2019) and Hustle (2022). The film itself won Best Director at Cannes for Paul Thomas Anderson and has since been considered as one of the best films of the 2000’s. 

Punch Drunk Love can be viewed on Apple TV, Amazon, and Youtube.

comedic actors in dramatic movies

Official Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Trailer

Source: Dead Talk Live

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Leonard studied English at Loyola Marymount University where his short story "Hero in Blue" was published in the 2022 edition of LA Miscellany. He hopes to one day write and direct his own feature films.