10 Amazing Dramatic Roles by Comedy Actors

Our rundown of 12 amazing dramatic performances from comedy actors.

Shaun Munro


One thing we love watching is an actor playing against type, be it someone known for playing serial killers taking a comic approach, or perhaps more notably, the other way around; comedians trying something a little more serious and less wacky. It’s a tough trick to pull off, and frequently falls flat, but when it works, the results can be unforgettable, and as in the examples below, they generally elevate the actor’s stature considerably.

Here are ten amazing dramatic roles from comedy actors…


1. Bill Murray – Lost in Translation (2003)

Bill Murray made a name for himself in the late 70s through to the 1980s working on Saturday Night Live, Meatballs, Caddyshack, Stripes and, of course, the Ghostbusters films. By the 90s, racking up classic comedies like Groundhog Day and fashioning a strong working relationship with Wes Anderson, Murray was cemented as a mainstay of comic cinema, and that all changed when he starred in Sofia Coppola’s 2003 drama Lost in Translation. Playing Bob Harris, a despondent American film star in Tokyo to shoot a whiskey advert, his mid-life crisis is up-ended when he meets Charlotte (Scarlett Johnasson), a young American woman who is similarly struggling with her station in life.

Though the film is an uproariously funny examination of the experience of a culture clash, the film is more potent and stirring as a character-driven drama, propelled forward by Murray’s brilliantly subtle turn in the lead role, which went on to earn him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. To many, it opened their eyes to Murray’s range as an actor, and subsequently, he has turned to more dramatic fare, notably starring in the likes of Broken Flowers and Get Low, both of which were released to considerable critical acclaim.