From Light to Dark: 14 Comedic Actors Who Found Recognition in Dark and Disturbing Characters

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Sometimes, actors can escape their typecasting and give a performance we never expected. These are some of our favorite actors who typically starred in comedic roles and impressed audiences with their abilities to break out of their inner darkness. 

1. Robin Williams

Robin Williams in One Hour Photo (2002)
Photo Credit: Fox Searchlight.

Williams was a brilliant and complicated man, capable of making us laugh hysterically one moment and rendering us speechless with emotion the next. Some films where he truly brought out his inner demons include One Hour Photo (2002) and Insomnia (2002).

2. Patrick Stewart

Green Room, Patrick Stewart
Image Credit: A24.

Patrick Stewart slayed his role in Green Room. It's unusual for this actor to deviate into villainous roles, but movie audiences get a kick out of Patrick Stewart as a bad guy in this 2015 film. 

3. Jim Carrey

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Image Credit: Focus Features.

We've seen Jim Carrey in several hilarious films, but he's also great at playing severe roles. From Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind to Dark Crimes to The Bad Batch, he does a great job of playing both someone who can make you laugh and someone who can make you cry.

4. Javier Bardem

Javier Bardem No Country for Old Men
Image Credit: Paramount Vantage/Miramax.

What's one of the scariest performances in cinematic history? Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh in No Country For Old Men. His mere presence in the film is terrifying.

5. Tom Cruise

Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, Tom Cruise
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Ent.

Tom Cruise is capable of being more than an action star. Some of his darker roles include Interview With a Vampire, Magnolia, and Tropic Thunder.

6. Steve Carell

Foxcatcher, Steve Carell
Image Credit: Scott Garfield / Fair Hill, LLC. / Sony Pictures Classics.

He may be best known as Michael Scott, but Steve Carell's performance in Foxcatcher and The Way Way Back proves he's a powerhouse actor when the role calls for it, and he can step away from his comedic roles and do something darker.

7. Anthony Perkins

Psycho Anthony Perkins
Image Credits: Shamley Productions.

Before Psycho, Perkins was best known for his roles in romantic comedies. After the release of the classic Hitchcock film, it's hard to think of him in anything other than his terrifying role.

8. Jake Gyllenhaal

Nightcrawler Jake Gyllenhaal
Image Credit: Open Road Films.

While Jake Gyllenhaal is no stranger to dramatic performances, he turns it up to eleven in Nightcrawler. He brings back this anger in Ambulance, too. Something about Gyllenhaal has always been a little creepy to me- I think it's his expressions- and it seems the actor can tap into this side of himself with ease. 

9. Anthony Hopkins

The Silence of the Lambs Anthony Hopkins
Image Credit: MGM.

Anthony Hopkins is at his best in dark movies. Before playing the role of Hannibal Lecter, Hopkins was best known for starring in war movies, like A Bridge Too Far and The Elephant Man.

10. Henry Fonda

Once Upon a Time in the West, Henry Fonda
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Henry Fonda famously went against his type to play the villain Frank in Once Upon a Time in the West. Critics feel Fonda did great in the film, and it's wild to see how different he was in that film versus his role in Twelve Angry Men.

11. Bryan Cranston

Malcolm in the Middle, Bryan Cranston
Image Credit: Satin City Regency Television / Fox Television Studios.

People grew up with Cranston being the dad in Malcolm in the Middle. His turn as Walter White is the opposite, blowing everyone away. Since Breaking Bad, we've seen him in comedic and serious roles, proving how well he can flip back and forth between the two types.

12. Robert Pattinson

Robert Pattinson in Good Time
Image Credit: A24.

A far cry from Edward Cullen, Pattinson has been able to show his action chops in recent memory. Good Time was when audiences realized he was more than just a sparkly vampire.

13. John Goodman

10 Cloverfield Lane,
Image Credit: Michele K. Short / Paramount Pictures.

The beloved actor creeped us out when he starred in 10 Cloverfield Lane, but we prefer to think of him in happier movies like his voicework in Monsters, Inc. and The Conners.

14. Rodney Dangerfield

Natural Born Killers, Rodney Dangerfield
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

It may be a small part, but the legendary comic nails his performance in 1994's Natural Born Killers. Generally known for much funnier roles, it's nice to see he had the chops for darker and more serious roles.

Author: Julia Fisher

Title: Editor

Expertise: Mental Health, Books, and Video Games


Julia Fisher is a writer and editor who has loved reading and writing since childhood. She has a bachelor’s degree in Clinical Counseling Psychology from Houghton University and is pursuing a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy from Northcentral University. She is fascinated with the psychology behind fandom and how people are influenced and shaped by the media they consume. Julia is a Tolkien aficionado who also has Dungeons and Dragons, Pokemon card collecting, and all things RPG in her geek repertoire. When she’s not working, Julia can be in the kitchen, watching Bills football and working on her unpublished novel series. She resides in Buffalo, New York, with her two chocolate labs and hundreds of books.