Paul Bettany is an incredibly talented actor who has given us several memorable characters throughout the years. His theater background gives him an incredible presence on camera. His performances are always filled with sheer emotions, and he is able to play several types of characters. Recently, we have seen Bettany enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Vision. He has also entered the Star Wars Universe, playing Dryden Vos in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Bettany can play a hero just as easily as a villain, which is not an easy feat for an actor. He has an on-screen presence that makes him a joy to watch in all of his films.
Bettany was born in London to parents who worked in theater and drama. At an early age, Bettany dropped out of school to perform on the streets of London until enrolling in the Drama Centre. He made his stage debut in the play, An Inspector Calls, and appeared in several more productions after that. Eventually, Bettany made his film debut in the Holocaust drama Bent alongside Jude Law and Clive Owen. His television and film work gained momentum, and he landed his first major Hollywood role in A Knight’s Tale. Since then, Bettany has become an acclaimed character actor, receiving praise from critics and fans alike. Let’s take a look at his best films, ranked.
8 A Knight’s Tale
In Brian Helgeland’s A Knight’s Tale, Paul Bettany plays the charismatic Geoffrey Chaucer opposite the late Heath Ledger. Chaucer is a confident ring-announcer and writer who also struggles with gambling. Bettany is very entertaining in the role and his physicality and voice match perfectly for someone portraying an announcer for the knight battles. At the same time, he gives an honest depiction of someone with sheer confidence and intelligence who is also battling inner demons and struggles.
7 Margin Call
Paul Bettany plays a top player in the financial industry in the acclaimed drama, Margin Call. His character, Will Emerson, discovers that the stock market is going to crash, affecting the lives of millions. Bettany gives a subtle yet convincing performance of an intelligent stockbroker who is dragged into this terrible predicament. The stress of the situation is clear through Bettany’s performance. At the same time, he has fantastic chemistry with Stanley Tucci, and the rest of the cast.
6 Uncle Frank
Paul Bettany gives a fantastic performance in Uncle Frank, as an intelligent and caring man who has been hiding the fact that he is gay from his entire family. After the death of his father, Frank (Bettany) is forced to go home with his niece (Sophia Lillis) and eventually introduce his partner, Wally (Peter Macdissi) to his family. Bettany gives a heartfelt and honest performance of a man struggling to connect with his family, while keeping his life a secret. It is a moving dramatic performance of a man learning the importance of self-acceptance.
In the Marvel miniseries, WandaVision, Bettany reprises his role as the android superhero Vision. In this series, which is arguably the MCU’s best 2021 release, Bettany plays different interpretations of his character in the different timelines of the series. He is dynamic, versatile, and entertaining from beginning to end, proving that he was a fantastic addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. At the same time, his chemistry with Elizabeth Olsen is top-notch.
In Lars Von Trier’s groundbreaking film, Dogville, Paul Bettany plays Tom Edision, Jr. opposite Oscar-Winner Nicole Kidman. Bettany plays Tom, who begins as a friend to the main character, Grace (Kidman), who, in turn, is on the run from gangsters. Unfortunately, he betrays her in the end, giving us a very interesting character arc. It is hard to entertain in a dialogue-based film, but Bettany does it with ease, creating a fascinating and layered character through his emotions.
3 Manhunt: Unabomber
Bettany plays the infamous Ted Kackynski in this miniseries focusing on the FBI hunt for the Unabomber. Bettany plays the complicated character of Kackynski masterfully through his emotions and physicality. We see a character who is equally brilliant as he is insane. It is a riveting story, portraying the tormented and evil Kackynski, and Bettany was the perfect actor for the job.
2 A Beautiful Mind
In A Beautiful Mind, Paul Bettany plays Charles Herman, a long time friend of John Nash (Russell Crowe), who we find out is actually an illusion due to Nash’s mental illness. Although it is a supporting role, Bettany steals every scene that he is in. He convincingly plays a brilliant, yet immature man, who lives life to the fullest and drinks too much. Bettany gives both comedic and dramatic moments during his performance and his chemistry with Russel Crowe is fantastic.
1 Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World
Bettany reunites with Russel Crowe in the war-drama, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, playing Stephen Maturin. During the Napoleonic Wars, Maturin is a brilliant doctor who is a dear friend of Captain Jack (Crowe), while also questioning some of Jack’s motives. Bettany portrays a man of sheer intellect who is always fascinated by the world around him. His emotional range is top-notch from beginning to end in his fantastic portrayal of an intuitive doctor in the middle of war.