Throughout Hollywood, countless actors and actresses have graced the screen to give life to characters in stories about the past. From historical dramas to biopics, these performers rarely get the credit that they deserve. Many people think of well-known and critically acclaimed performances such as Charlton Heston’s Moses in The Ten Commandments, or Meryl Streep’s Margaret Thatcher in the Iron Lady. However, there are many other performances that often get overlooked, due to the vast array of historical movies that have been released over the decades.
In this article, we will be discussing some of the top underrated performances in historical movies. These performances have often been overlooked and overshadowed by the more popular ones. We will be discussing why these performances deserve more recognition, and why they are worth recognizing. Embark on a trip through time and explore these amazing performances!
Top 5 Underrated Performances in Historical Movies
- Jean Gabin as Rene Toulon in The Lower Depths (1936)
This classic drama stars Jean Gabin as Rene Toulon, a destitute war veteran living in a slum tenement at the turn of the 20th century. Gabin’s performance is nothing short of brilliant. He captures Rene’s desperate loneliness in a way that few actors can. Gabin’s performance shows Rene’s resilience and his ability to find joy in his circumstances despite all the hardship he has experienced.
- Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter (1968)
Katharine Hepburn’s performance as Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter is a masterclass in acting. She personifies the complexities of Eleanor’s relationships with her sons and her husband, King Henry II (Peter O’Toole). The emotions and tensions between the characters come to life thanks to Hepburn’s layered performance. She uses her subtle expressiveness to navigate the court intrigues and character dynamics of the movie, making her performance all the more satisfying.
- Jack Nicholson as Mob Boss Johnny Friendly in On the Waterfront (1954)
One of the most compelling performances in On the Waterfront comes from Jack Nicholson as mob boss Johnny Friendly. He manages to make Johnny a sympathetic yet complex character. His performance shows us the power of loyalty and the corrupting influence of money and power. Nicholson’s performance is a stellar example of how effective an antagonist can be in a movie.
- Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939)
Vivien Leigh’s iconic performance as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind is one of the greatest performances of all time. Leigh manages to turn the character of Scarlett, a spoiled southern belle, into a complex individual with depth and many layers. Her performance, with its blend of comedy and tragedy, allows us to connect with Scarlett on an emotional level, making us feel the same emotions that she does.
- Kathy Bates as Annie Wilkes in Misery (1990)
Kathy Bates’s performance as Annie Wilkes in Misery is one of the most terrifying and intense performances ever put to screen. She conveys Annie’s psychological instability and obsession with her favorite author, Paul Sheldon (James Caan), in an outstanding way. Bates’s stellar performance keeps us on edge until the last second of the movie, making it an unforgettable experience.
These performances prove that even some of the most overlooked performance can still remain memorable ones. While they may not have the recognition they deserve, they are still worth recognizing and highlighting.
Whether it be Jean Gabin’s desperation as Rene Toulon, or Kathy Bates’s terrifyingly captivating performance as Annie Wilkes, these 5 performances are among the best that Hollywood has ever seen. They are excellent examples of why history-based movies are always compelling, no matter how long ago they were made.
If you ever have free time, why don’t you watch any of these movies and experience them for yourself? After all, there are few experiences in life more rewarding than seeing a great performance brought to life on the big screen.