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Andy Serkis is one of the few actors out there that could literally show up in anything and we wouldn’t be surprised. Since becoming a worldwide sensation as Gollum in Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, Serkis has appeared in dozens of films and other projects where sometimes he steps out of his motion-capture suit and shows the world his real face.
Over the years, the talented actor, writer, director, and motion-capture artist has thrilled audiences around the globe by popping up in some of the most random movies. I mean, looking at his filmography, you see Serkis in blockbusters like Black Panther and then small features like 24 Hour Party People. And that’s not even mentioning his stellar work in most recent Planet Of The Apes trilogy or Star Wars. Seriously, the guy is everywhere.
All of this got me thinking - what are the 10 best Andy Serkis movies? After going through his extensive list of roles - remembering the ones I’d forgotten and realizing that he was in certain movies - I think I’ve put together a great, varied list of Andy Serkis performances. Let’s take a look, shall we?
10. Long Shot (2019)
To be completely honest, I didn’t know that was Andy Serkis under all the makeup in his portrayal of Parker Wembley, a wealthy media mogul who attempts to blackmail U.S. Secretary of State Charlotte Filed (Charlize Theron) with a video of her secret boyfriend/speech writer Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen), but yeah that’s him.
The premise of the film is pretty far-fetched, and Serkis is a little bit over the top in all of his scenes, but he makes the most of what he is given and puts on a stellar performance that is only made better by his dedication to losing himself in his characters. Although Long Shot probably won’t be remembered as the most iconic Serkis role, it’s definitely one worth checking out.
9. 13 Going On 30 (2004)
You might not remember, but Andy Serkis is also in the 2004 fantasy romantic comedy 13 Going On 30, starring Jennifer Garner as Jenna Rink, a 13-year-old girl who wishes to be an adult. Serkis portrays Richard Kneeland, Jenna’s boss at Poise magazine after she is transferred into a 30-year-old. The big moment for Serkis comes about halfway through the film when Jenna is trying to save a nearly-dead Poise party by getting everyone to dance to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” At first, Kneeland stands back and watches in a state of defeat, but as more and more people join in, his mood shifts and we see him jump into the lead spot in the dance routine and take over the show.
This was Serkis’ first film after the release of the third and final The Lord Of The Rings movie, and it was a departure from his menacing take on Gollum in that series, but you still see some of the mania that lies behind his eyes in practically every scene where he is featured.
8. The Adventures Of Tintin (2011)
By the time Andy Serkis was cast as Captain Archibald Haddock in Steven Spielberg’s 2011 computer-animated action-adventure film The Adventures Of Tintin, he has already made a name for himself for his motion-capture work in a number of executive producer Peter Jackson’s films (more on those in a bit). Throughout the film about Tintin (Jamie Bell) trying to find the secret of the lost ship the Unicorn, Serkis provides a great deal of comedy and tragedy as the drunken sea captain who doesn’t remember much of his past.
As his adventure plays out alongside Tintin and Tintin’s dog, Snowy, Haddock begins to learn more about his past and his infamous ancestor Sir Francis Haddock who sank the Unicorn to protect the treasure from pirates. In addition to exploring Haddock’s family’s past, the once drunken sea captain learns more about himself and pulls himself out of haze he’d been living in before coming across Tintin. It’s in Serkis’ performance that we see the humanity of the character brought out.
7. 24 Hour Party People (2002)
Between the first two The Lord Of The Ring movies (I promise we’re going to get there ), Serkis took on a different type of role than that as Gollum, though still quite strange and unhinged. The role I’m talking about is that of real-life Martin Hannett in the 2002 biopic 24 Hour Party People about the Manchester music community between 1976 and 1992. The film primarily follows the life of Tony Wilson (Steve Coogan) head of Factory Records as he covers bands like Joy Division and New Order.
Hannett’s character comes in as the producer who is tasked with recording Joy Division during the “Unknown Pleasures” and “Closer” sessions. Those recording sessions give us some pretty explosive outburst from Serkis, including the “faster, but slower” bit. And not unlike his motion-capture performances in other movies, Serkis is covered in a mask of bushy hair and tinted glasses in 24 Hour Party People, but you can still see his distinctive menacing smile throughout.
6. King Kong (2005)
Following his The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, acclaimed director Peter Jackson turned to one of the first Hollywood monster movies and gave it the facelift of all facelifts for the 2005 retelling of King Kong. The film was essentially the same as the 1933 original, but this time it had a massive, 25-foot computer-generated monster that was brought to life by none other than Andy Serkis.
At the time, there really wasn’t anyone else who could do a better job than Serkis in this regard, especially after he killed it over the course of three movies as Gollum. In a 2005 Variety piece on the making of the film, it was revealed that Serkis would sit through two hours of makeup every day of shooting, where they would attach 135 markers to the actor’s face in order to capture all of his facial expressions. No wonder Kong, who is fully animated, had so much emotion throughout the film.
5. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
Say what you will about Star Wars: The Last Jedi, but Andy Serkis absolutely killed it as Supreme Leader Snoke. There’s no getting around the fact that Serkis gave us one of his strongest and most menacing characters in Snoke in the first two installments of the Star Wars “sequel trilogy.”
We saw a little bit of Snoke in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, while his performance was limited to a massive hologram, but we saw the Supreme Leader in all his glory when Rian Johnson gave us one of the most polarizing films in recent history. The entire “throne room” scene sticks out especially. There are times throughout Snoke’s monologue (right before he’s cut in half) where you forget that you’re watching a digitized character and that Snoke is nothing more than a massive computer file brought to life. Serkis is that captivating in the role. No wonder Serkis wishes the character survived the film.
4. Black Panther (2018)
Over the course of his career, Andy Serkis has been a major player in The Lord Of The Rings, Star Wars, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which so happen to be three of the most successful franchises in all of box office history. Serkis first entered the MCU in the 2015 crossover film Avengers: Age Of Ultron where he appeared as the South African black-market arms dealer Ulysses Klaue, but it wasn’t until the 2018 blockbuster giant Black Panther that he was given a lot of time to shine.
Featured heavily in the first half of the Film, Klaus is the character that serves as a bridge between Wakanda and the outside world as he helps Eric “Killmonger” Stevens enter the hidden civilization to take the crown from his cousin, T’Challa. Before his character is killed off, Serkis gives much more of the character that introduced three years earlier, this time with an explosive arm. In addition to his physical prowess, Serkis brings a lot of humor and unhinged energy to the smuggler and gangster that really helped set up just how evil Killmonger would end up being later on in the film.
3. The Prestige (2006)
Christopher Nolan’s 2006 The Prestige is another one of those movies that you forget Andy Serkis was in until you watch it again. I am not trying to take away from Serkis’ performance as Nikila Tesla’s assistant, Mr. Alley, but his small role is often overshadowed by those of Hugh Jackman as Robert Angier and Christian Bale as Alfred Borden.
We don’t see much of Mr. Alley throughout the film, though his arrival comes at a major point in the story where Angier wishes to meet with Tesla (David Bowie) to build an invention that would give his show the upper hand over his rival Borden. In order for Angier to get to Tesla, he has to go through Alley, which is something that Serkis took into consideration when bringing the character to life. In an interview with indieLONDON, Serkis described his character as being the combination of a gatekeeper and a conman, and that by combining those two elements he crafted a fully-realized character.
2. Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes (2014)
Andy Serkis will be teaming up with Matt Reeves in The Batman where he will play Bruce Wayne’s longtime caregiver and confidant Alfred Pennyworth when the film hits theaters in 2021, but this won’t be the first or second time the two have worked together. That honor goes to the 2014 summer blockbuster Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, where Serkis shined as Caesar, the leader of the tribe of evolved apes.
The film picks up 10 years after the events of Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes and throws the audience into a world that has been devastated by the Simian Flu pandemic. Humanity is fractured and left to rot in the remnants of a former society while the evolved apes begin to take more and more ground. The story is highlighted by Serkis’ masterful performance that really brings the character of Caesar to life better than anyone else could even dream of doing. If it weren’t for a certain character in a fantasy trilogy, this would have been Serkis’ most memorable performance.
Speaking of which…
1. The Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King (2003)
We were first introduced to Andy Serkis’ version of Gollum in The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring in 2001, and we saw him again the next year in The Two Towers, but it wasn’t until The Return Of The King that we saw the true potential of the character and the performance by the masterful actor that brought him to life.
With the third and final installment of the Middle Earth saga, we were shown elements of Gollum that we hadn’t seen before. This is highlighted by the heartbreaking opening scene where we see Sméagol Trahald slowly transform into the wretched Gollum as all traces of humanity are stripped away in the deep, dark pit of misery and obsession. You can’t help but feel a great deal of pity for the character that, up until that point, was constantly trying to get his “precious” from Frodo Baggins. The performance is so outstanding that you still feel bad for Gollum when he bites Frodo and steals the ring before ultimately dying in the lava of Mount Doom.
No one besides Serkis could have brought the character to life over the course of three films, and no one besides Serkis could give us such a fulfilling sense of closure for the character. By the end of the film, we all realized just how great of an actor Andy Serkis really was, and we couldn’t wait to see more.