18 Comedic Actors Who Completely Pulled Off Dramatic Roles

It seems as if every great comedian, if they live long enough, eventually gets the itch to test their acting range. While not every comedian can pull off a dramatic role, these funny men (and women) absolutely crushed it.

1. Robin Williams, Good Will Hunting (1997)

Photo Credit: Miramax

For an actor whose stardom is so inextricably linked to his comedy, films like Dead Poets Society, Insomnia, and Good Will Hunting prove that Robin Williams was very much in touch with the spectrum of human emotion.

2. Steve Carrell, Foxcatcher (2014)

Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Classics.

Known by most for his comedic roles as Michael Scott in The Office, Brick Tamland in Anchorman, and the 40-year-old virgin named Andy, Carell's chilling role in Foxcatcher caught many of his fans by surprise.

3. Vince Vaughn, Brawl in Cell Block 99 (2017)

Brawl in Cell Block 99
Photo Credit: RLJE Films.

Vince Vaughn was once a steady-as-they-come cleanup hitter in classic comedies like Old School, Dodgeball, and Wedding Crashers, but he has not shied away from grittier roles, especially later in his career. Brawl in Cell Block 99 casts Vaughn as a drug runner who has to fend for himself in prison, a role for which he received critical acclaim.

 4. Adam Sandler, Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

Punch Drunk Love
Photo Credit: Sony Pictures.

Adam Sandler's popular brand of comedy has never been described as highbrow, which made his captivating role in Paul Thomas Anderson's Punch-Drunk Love so unexpected. While technically a comedy, Sandler played a far more layered character than he had ever before, displaying a range that his early comedy films never hinted at.

5. Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)

Trial of Chicago 7
Photo Credit: Netflix.

Sacha Baron Cohen catapulted into stardom as Ali G, Borat, and even Bruno. His trademark over-the-top comedic style is a stark contrast to his role in The Trial of the Chicago 7, a based-on-a-true-story film written and directed by Aaron Sorkin.

6. Jonah Hill, Moneyball (2011)

Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing.

Jonah Hill left his indelible mark on cinema through his role as Seth in Superbad, and also played memorable parts in films like Knocked Up and This Is the End. With Moneyball, Hill crushed his turn in an Oscar-nominated sports drama, establishing that he could play roles well outside of his comedy niche.

7. Jim Carrey, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Eternal Sunshine
Photo Credit: Focus Features.

It's a common theme: Massive comedic stars make a few blockbuster films, then get the leeway to try more dramatic roles. Carrey followed this formula on his way to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a Charlie Kaufman-penned film that explores the complexity of love in a wholly unconventional way.

8. Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul (2015-2022)

Better Call Saul
Photo Credit: AMC.

One of the rare shows that captures much of the public's attention during the streaming saturation era of television, Bob Odenkirk and Saul Goodman (or Jimmy McGill) are synonymous. But fans of his semi-dramatic roles in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul may be unaware of Odenkirk's illustrious comedy background on programs like Mr. Show.

9. Whoopi Goldberg, The Color Purple (1985)

The Color Purple
Photo Credit: Warner Brothers.

Before she was a mainstay on The View, Whoopi Goldberg was a comic. That is, until she played Celie Johnson in the period drama The Color Purple. The critically acclaimed film from Steven Spielberg grapples with stomach-turning themes and earned Goldberg an Oscar nomination.

10. Seth Rogen, Steve Jobs (2015)

Steve Jobs 1
Photo Credit: Universal Pictures.

Danny Boyle's take on Apple founder Steve Jobs' life story was far more serious and effective than a prior biopic, and Seth Rogen's turn as Steve Wozniak was a critical piece of the film. It was a far cry from Pineapple Express and The Green Hornet, that is for certain.

11. Will Ferrell, Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

Stranger Than Fiction
Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures.

Stranger Than Fiction constituted a hard break from Will Ferrell's run of late 90s-early 2000s comedies. Even if there were comedic elements to the film, Ferrell's role as IRS employee Harold Crick tested the limits of his range as a thespian. Though those used to Ferrell's outrageous comedy did not love this movie, Stranger Than Fiction was generally well-received by critics.

12. John Goodman, 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

10 Cloverfield Lane
Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

John Goodman has flexed his comedic chops time and again, playing bombastic characters in The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and The Flinstones. And while 10 Cloverfield Lane was hardly Goodman's first serious role, his unsettling role as a disaster prepper is distinctly unique from his prior roles.

13. Bill Murray, Lost in Translation (2003)

Lost in Translation 1
Photo Credit: Focus Features.

Bill Murray has carved out an illustrious comedy career with roots in the heyday of Saturday Night Live. Murray's role as an aging movie star who finds himself in an unexpected dalliance with a young Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation remains a standout within his vast filmography.

14. Eddie Murphy, Dreamgirls (2006)

Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

A consummate showman throughout his career as a standup comedian, Eddie Murphy's role as James “Thunder” Early in Showgirls was a logical progression. Murphy plays the founder of a record label that falls on hard times and holds his own alongside fellow scene-stealer Jamie Foxx.

15. Chris Rock, Fargo (2020)

Photo Credit: FX.

One of the most respected stand-ups of his era, Chris Rock added 1950s-era gangster to his list of acting roles in Season 4 of Fargo. It was a far cry from Rock's usual comedic roles, but he absolutely owned it.

16. Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018)

Can You Ever Forgive Me
Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Far from the big-budget blockbuster spinoffs you'll find playing at a cinema near you, Can You Ever Forgive Me is a sl0w-burn biopic featuring Melissa McCarthy as disgraced author Lee Israel.

A portrait of self-destruction and the domino effect of deceit, McCarthy expertly exuded the desperation of a past-their-prime writer struggling to afford life in New York City.

17. Steve Coogan, Philomena (2013)

Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox.

British funnyman Steve Coogan is a living legend across the pond, and his role in 2013's Philomena showed that he can hold his own in a dramatic role. Starring alongside Judi Dench, Coogan plays a disgraced politician who returns to his journalistic roots in the name of reuniting long-lost loved ones.

18. Aubrey Plaza, The White Lotus (2022)

The White Lotus
Photo Credit: HBO.

White Lotus has become one of the best television shows of 2022, and its casting of established stars in unconventional roles is no small part of its winning formula. Plaza kept viewers on their toes in Season 2, displaying her trademark coyness while exposing a vulnerability that led to serious drama.

This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.