The 10 Actors Who Currently Transition Between Two Mediums, TV and Film, Better Than Anyone
film / tv / lists / guides / news / love / celeb / video / think pieces / staff / podcasts / web culture / politics / dc / snl / netflix / marvel / cbr

The 10 Actors Who Currently Transition Between Two Mediums, TV and Film, Better Than Anyone

By Dustin Rowles | Seriously Random Lists | March 13, 2014 | Comments ()


As has been written countless times, television is beginning to, or already has, surpassed the film world in terms of respect and prestige, and it likely won’t be long before The Emmys are a bigger draw than the Oscars. As Vulture recently wrote, TV Actors don’t need a movie career to be well respected anymore. Indeed, we are finding that many actors have as much respect for their television work than great actors have for their film work.

Still, despite relatively even levels of respect, there’s not a lot of actors who are transitioning between the two incredibly well, and in part — as Vulture wrote — it’s not really that necessary anymore. Nevertheless, Hollywood continues to pluck from the television world its next big stars, and Hollywood stars who aren’t racking up blockbuster hits one after another often seek out television work to regain a footing on their career. But simultaneous two-sport players are something of a rarity, at least in significant roles. Adam Driver, of course, is beginning to show up in good film roles, Olivia Munn is doing well with smaller film parts, Taylor Kitsch and Michael B. Jordon are finding their footing with mixed results, and Aaron Paul is going to try his hand at the transition this weekend with Need for Speed.

But actors that are great in both mediums? Not that common. In fact, here are the ten best:

Bryan Cranston — Cranston may be considered the best actor on television, but he’s been holding his own in a variety of supporting character roles in film, too, from Argo to Drive and even a fun role in Rock of Ages. He’ll get a chance to impress even more this summer with a meatier role in the blockbuster, Godzilla.

Jon Hamm — The only reason Jon Hamm doesn’t have a string of Emmy Awards himself is because Cranston keeps blocking him, but in the movie world, Hamm is outgunning Cranston with strong performances in dramas (The Town) and comedies (Bridesmaids) and killing it on other TV shows like 30 Rock, Saturday Night Live, and his British series, A Young Doctor’s Notebook..

Lena Headey — Headey has been around in the film world for over two decades, but it was her role as the title character in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and now Game of Thrones that essentially relaunched her Hollywood career as really one of the best B-movie actresses around in movies like 300: Rise of an Empire, The Purge and Dredd.

Benedict Cumberbatch — If this were a ranking, I think Cumberbatch would probably hold the top position, having excelled obviously in Sherlock and even Parade’s End while scoring with huge Hollywood roles in blockbusters (Star Trek: Into the Darkness, Oscar-winning films (12 Years a Slave) and even impressive voice work in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

Melissa McCarthy I wouldn’t exactly call Melissa McCarthy’s work on MIke & Molly impressive, but she has been good on Saturday Night Live, she was lovely in Gilmore Girls, and she is mad crushing it at the box office with movies like Identity Thief, Heat and probably this summer’s Tammy. She really does make the most of her sitcom breaks.

Vera Farmiga — Farmiga actually began as a television actress (she’s had four series in her career) and earned an Emmy nomination last year for her role in Bate’s Motel. She’s also very good in a variety of films, including one in which she received an Oscar nom (Up in the Air) and a decent number of popular horror and indie films like The Conjuring and Joshua (in the film world, she’s like the female Patrick Wilson).

Jason Bateman — Bateman is an excellent two-tool player, who skillfully alternates between television (Arrested Development, where he has two Emmy nominations, and voice work on Growing Up Fisher) and movies, where he plays the straight man in comedies (Horrible Bosses, Identity Thief) or in dramas (Up in the Air, Juno). He’s also terrific in Bad Words, which opens this weekend.

Matthew McConaughey — Basically, no one has ever made the transition back and forth between movies and television as well as Matthew McConaughey did in 2013-2014, earning an Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club, crushing it in this site’s second favorite movie of the year, and making himself a shoo-in for the Emmy win later this year on True Detective. If this were an annual contest, he’d have won this year.

Peter Dinklage — Dinklage has three Emmy nominations (and one win) for his role in Game of Thrones, but he may have never landed that job had he not gained notoriety for his amazing work in Station Agent and even a brilliant comic turn in Elf. He has five more films coming out this year (blockbusters and awards contenders) to continue to make his case for one of the best actors in both mediums.

Martin Freeman — Over the course of his career who has bounced between television and movies better than Freeman? No one. He does amazing comedies with Edgar Wright, he’s the freakin’ Hobbit, and he’s been in two of the best TV series of all time, Sherlock and the UK’s The Office. Fargo, which comes out next month, may make that three.

40-Year-Old Cameron Diaz Would Like to Apologize to Jerkbags for Not Looking 25 Anymore | True Detective Deleted Scene: What Happened to Laurie?

Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Sharon Samples

    What about Idris Elba?

  • jjjoy

    how bout Kyle Chandler

  • Pawesl

    You say transition like mentioning people who go back and forth repeatedly like Melissa Mccarthy, Cumberbatch and maybe Cranston. Then you throw in people who have been on one season of television.

    Look I know you all have issues with obsession but this list reeks of trying to throw Mcconaughey onto another list just so you can talk about that overrated piece of dreck true detective. Out of all the people who have done both THIS is the list you choose? Really?

    Are you going to do Actors who have transitioned well into music next and put Matthew on that one because he played bongos naked in his living room once? Anything to squeeze another True detective mention in again I suppose

  • Ben

    I think the fact that Cranston was in both, John Carter and the Total Recall remake should void him from this list. Great actor, terrible terrible films.

  • Daniela

    I'm gonna put in some love for Chris Messina.

  • e jerry powell

    Confess: in Bad Words, Jason Bateman has reverted back to his best days as a child star, returning to Derek Taylor.


    Also, I know we're not really so much about Ryan Murphy often here, but The Dinklage gettin' busy with Joely Richardson? LEGENDARY.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Yeah, that was my first thought when he was mentioned. That was some fun stuff.

  • Ponytail

    Cumberbatch also does pretty well on radio - the very popular Cabin Pressure (I'd have KILLED to get tickets for the last episode's recording), Neverwhere, the Young Rumpole programmes/series and (not sure if this counts as radio) the Ngaio Marsh detective fiction where he narrates.

  • grr arrgh

    I LOVE Cabin Pressure! Sad it's ending, but I can accept Finnemore's fear of series decay. Always nice finding other fans.

  • Sean

    You might be the only person who ever used the words "fun" and "Rock of Ages" in the same sentence.

  • Yeah, that Kevin Spacey guy ain't shit! (dripping with astonished sarcasm). COME ON DUSTIN!
    btw...I'm super geeky excited for Fargo.

  • Parsnip

    Like THE most obvious...missed that one.

  • Bert_McGurt

    Poor guy Kint get a break...

  • luthien26

    I will never forget the first place I saw Vera Farmiga, in the short-lived and cheesy-but-awesome FOX series "Roar." That's also the first place I remember seeing Heath Ledger. *sniff*

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Whoa. Did not realize she was in that.

  • Parsnip

    Simon Pegg for me. Loved Spaced (my all time favourite tv programme) and then he does the Cornetto trilogy, all co-written with Edgar Wright.

  • Arran

    He hasn't exactly been jumping back and forth, though. Since Shaun it's been almost all film for him. All he's done since then outside of a couple of voice jobs has been a small role in Mob City.

  • kinoumenthe

    Cumberbatch was pretty good in Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy. It's not all flashy (and insubstantial) roles for big franchises.

  • Three_nineteen

    He was far and away the best thing about that movie - and I am in awe of Gary Oldman and basically in love with Colin Firth.

  • John W

    Glad you included Lena Headey, I'm a huge fan of hers.

  • Bert_McGurt

    /pours one out for Woody

  • zeke_the_pig

    And there we see the young Cumberbatchling, emerging from its amniotic sac, deep in orbit around Planet Earth. The young Cumberbatchling only has two weeks in which to stretch its limbs and practice its human expressions before heeding its instinctual call and descending down to his host planet, where, if it is lucky, it will be cast in wildly popular British television shows and terrible sequels to otherwise enjoyable sci-fi reboots.

  • John G.

    Earth's cumberbatchling is different, no expiration date. The Tyrell corporation says that he will be beautiful, strong, and scarved forever.

  • zeke_the_pig

    Cumberbatchling is from the Tyrell corporation? Man, they've really gone back on that 'more human than human' thing in that case. I mean there's nothing wrong with uncanny valley, but, jeez, false advertising.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    The Times magazine had an interview with him the other day -

    I'm sure there aren't enough pictures to truly satisfy the hardcore fans though.

  • PDamian

    Damn skippy there aren't enough photos. I need more photos.

  • barcia

    Must be they used up all the photoshop on those and couldn't risk printing unretouched photos of him, I guess.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I was kinda surprised they didn't have a more extensive fashion spread.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Oh sure, while you're riffing in your trademark zeke fashion, all I can see is what my brother must look like in the shower. I don't need to know that. Have I mentioned recently that Cumberbatch looks like the unholy love child of my mother and brother? He does. He really, really does and it never stops creeping me out. The only upside was telling my mother and brother about it when I was home for Christmas and watching them squirm. That part was delightful.

  • zeke_the_pig

    Oh that is... That is grim. And a little bit hilarious. You have my utmost sympathies.

blog comments powered by Disqus