One of the many results of film franchises is certain actors becoming synonymous with the characters they play. You can’t think of Daniel Craig without being reminded of James Bond, the same can be said for Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley, and there are countless other examples too. More recently, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has been responsible for creating a whole host of similarly unavoidable actor-character associations, with one of its most notable being Chris Hemsworth and his role of Thor.
Since joining the MCU in 2011, he has starred in his own trilogy and appeared in the ensemble for all four Avengers films. His time spent playing the god of thunder, and his success at doing so, has made his separation from the role feel almost impossible. With the popular comic book character’s fourth instalment, Thor: Love and Thunder set for release this summer, this doesn’t look like it will change anytime soon.
However, despite his striking embodiment of the much celebrated character, he’s also quietly managed to star in an impressive range of films alongside his comic book outings. So when Hemsworth puts his hammer down, what are his best films?
10. Blackhat (2015)
Director: Michael Mann
Hemsworth’s role in Michael Mann’s cyber-thriller Blackhat is probably the most unexpected and intriguing of his career. Portraying cyber criminal Nicholas Hathaway, Hemsworth’s casting certainly challenged audiences’ ideas of what a computer hacker could be. Subverting the shy and nerdy hacker stereotype is the film’s first strength, convincingly portrayed by Hemsworth, and with Mann’s history of action filmmaking it’s not long before he allows him to flex his actual muscles as well as his dramatic ones.
Admittedly, the film itself is slightly too long and its inconsistent pace holds it back from truly excelling. However, when it’s focused on delivering a compelling cyber-thriller or complimenting its main plot with flashes of intense action, it succeeds. Hemsworth is a strong lead and with Viola Davis on hand to deliver her portrayal as a no-nonsense FBI agent too, the top billed talent, as well as the other cast, consistently elevate the film.
9. Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)
Director: Rupert Sanders
Rupert Sanders’ reimagining of the classic fairytale for Snow White and the Huntsman sees Hemsworth take on the titular role. No, not of the famous princess, but the rough and ready drunkard recruited to hunt her. This role is the kind that falls firmly in Hemsworth’s wheelhouse; the hyper masuline, strong man that he can complement with his natural charisma and comedic talent. It’s somewhat the basis for his role as Thor, so it’s no surprise that he has secured other roles playing similar characters.
The film is a darker take on Snow White, with Kristen Stewart playing the princess and Charlize Theron completing the main cast as her evil stepmother, Queen Ravenna. Whilst it’s considerably bleaker than the Disney version of the story that most are familiar with, it’s also incredibly camp thanks to the exquisite costume design for Theron as well as her performance. She brings a theatricality and drama to her portrayal that is captivating to no end. Conversely, Hemsworth and Stewart do well to ground the story and create the necessary balance that allows the film to work.
8. Ghostbusters (2016)
Director: Paul Feig
Paul Feig’s much maligned Ghostbusters movie is divisive, to say the least. However, one element that seems to unite most cinema goers is Hemsworth’s performance. His role as Kevin, the Ghostbusters’ receptionist, offers the film consistent comic relief. Whether it’s his unwillingness to fulfil basic duties such as answering the phone, picking between his ridiculous headshots or just interjecting his unnecessary but often amusing observations, when Hemsworth is centre stage the film thrives.
With the majority of the actor’s roles consisting of action-heavy, alpha male type characters, it’s so refreshing to see Hemsworth fully embrace his comedic side and really let loose. As a result he seems to be having a lot of fun, which allows us viewers too as well. So if your movie is in need of a comedic scene-stealer, who ya gonna call? Chris Hemsworth apparently.
7. Extraction (2020)
Director: Sam Hargrave
For a stunt coordinator’s action-packed directorial debut, there’s few leads more desirable than Hemsworth. Released during the pandemic, Sam Hargrave’s Extraction instantly became a massive hit and is one of Hemsworth’s most convincing showcases as a leading action star yet. The combination of Hargrave’s expertise in stunts with Hemsworth’s ability for all-round action means that Extraction is full of impressive, entertaining and exciting sequences, which highlights the confidence that both of them have in the genre.
Excelling both in the relentless combat sequences, the more elaborate set pieces as well as the quieter dramatic scenes, Hemsworth consistently reminds audiences that he’s capable of adding depth when required to. The success that the film garnered led to the greenlighting of a sequel which is set for release in 2023. Depending on the quality of this sequel, Hemsworth’s Tyler Rake could well become the main character of a new favourite action franchise.
6. Spiderhead (2022)
Director: Joseph Kosinski
Director Joseph Kosinski’s second film of 2022 after Top Gun: Maverick stars Hemsworth as genius Steve Abnesti, who’s in charge of a state-of-the-art prison that also serves as a scientific research facility. Here Abnesti tests newly developed emotion-altering drugs on his prisoners. In what is another departure from some of his past casting, Hemsworth gets to take on a type of character that he’s previously played opposite: the charismatic and powerful intellectual eccentric. Think Robert Downey Jnr’s Tony Stark, but with a villianous streak.
Hemsworth ensures that this sci-fi thriller remains entertaining throughout. As the plot unfolds so does Hemswoth’s character and he makes this gradual revelation the best feature of the film. Whilst the film’s tone is somewhat confused, not always knowing whether to focus on its more lighthearted comedy or delving into its much darker themes, Hemsworth makes his character work in both instances. With his magnetic presence at the forefront and adapting to any tone, Spiderhead owes much of its success to his spirited performance.
5. In the Heart of the Sea (2011)
Director: Ron Howard
In the Heart of the Sea isn’t quite an adaptation of Moby Dick, but instead the story that inspired the famous Herman Melville novel. Ron Howard directs this adventure-drama that boasts an impressive cast including Ben Whishaw, Brendan Gleeson, Cillian Murphy, Tom Holland and of course Hemsworth. He plays the first mate, Owen Chase, of whaleship, the Essex. Having worked his way up in the industry over the years and been promised a captaincy, he’s furious to discover that he’s lost out to an inexperienced man who’s been given the position due to family status alone.
The rivalry between the two is one of the most engaging aspects of the film, as each takes any opportunity to belittle the other and prove their worth for differing reasons. The film also offers Hemsworth another opportunity to demonstrate his athleticism as he mans the ship where much of the film takes place. When the narrative charts its course into its second half and becomes more of a survival flick rather than an epic adventure it does lose some of its appeal. However, the excellent first half, full of aquatic action and strong performances across the board makes it a cinematic voyage well worth taking.
4. The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Director: Drew Goddard
Drew Goddard’s directorial debut, The Cabin in the Woods sees five college students venture to a secluded cabin for a weekend of partying. Sounds clichéd right? Well there’s even all the usual character stereotypes you’d expect from a teen horror flick too. However, upon closer inspection that may not be entirely true. To no-one’s surprise Hemsworth plays the token jock of the group, Curt. But unlike many of his genre predecessors, Curt isn’t portrayed as an idiot, but instead a well-read philosophy major whose brains match his brawn. This subversion of the genre trope gives Hemsworth more to play with and creates an added layer of intrigue to his casting.
Just as the writing for the characters is more playful so is the screenplay, with the film as a whole having its tongue firmly in its cheek. Serving as a satirical look at the overall state of the horror genre, the film has much more to it than may be first apparent. When all of Goddard’s ideas finally collide together on screen, utter carnage ensues in what is easily one of the century’s most memorable directorial debuts so far.
3. Star Trek (2009)
Director: J.J. Abrams
One of the marks of a great actor is being able to make the most of a small part, and that’s what Hemsworth manages to do with his very first film role in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek. Starring as George Kirk, the father of Chris Pine’s James T. Kirk, Hemsworth only features in the opening sequence of the acclaimed reboot. This is an action-packed and emotional scene, one that Hemsworth is able to sell with ease. Taking command both narratively of the Federation starship, and literally as an actor of the scene, Hemsworth immediately proves himself as a blockbuster performer.
Abrams’ film breathes new life into a franchise that desperately needed an update. Beyond Hemsworth, the casting for the remaining characters is excellent and subsequently helps to establish all of the key players of the franchise, setting great groundwork for the sequels that would follow. Of course Star Trek tells its own story too, this is far from just a stepping stone to future films, having inumerable merits of its own such as its action, score and narrative. But if the film series is ever lost for a new direction, a prequel with Hemsworth at the helm could be just the answer.
2. Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)
Director: Drew Goddard
After their first collaboration received such high praise it’s not surprising that Goddard and Hemsworth joined forces once again for the director’s sophomore film. Moving away from horror towards crime and mystery this time, Goddard’s second film sees seven strangers’ paths cross at the El Royale Hotel, situated on the California-Nevada state border. Amongst the group are a priest played by Jeff Bridges, a singer played by Cynthia Erivo and a vacuum salesman played by John Hamm.
Apart from one flashback sequence, Hemsworth doesn’t make his big entrance as charismatic cult leader Billy Lynn until the third act, but it’s certainly worth the wait. The film preceding him is a thoughtful and clever mystery that’s structured in such a way as to get the most out of its story. When Hemsworth is let loose, all the characters and storylines finally meet in a supremely entertaining fashion. This is thanks to the careful writing of Goddard and the sinister turn from Hemsworth, both of which make checking into this cinematic establishment a must.
1. Rush (2013)
Director: Ron Howard
There’s no disputing that Thor is always going to be the character that people associate Hemsworth with, although arguably it should be his portrayal of Formula One driver James Hunt. Starring alongside Daniel Brühl as Niki Lauda in Ron Howard’s sports drama Rush, Hemsworth delivers one of his finest performances in his very best movie beyond the MCU.
Both Hemsworth and Brühl expertly demonstrate the fierce rivalry between the two sporting legends, or at least the rivalry that the media loved to portray. These performances make Howard’s film just as exciting off the track as it is on it, and with such exhilarating racing sequences this is no mean feat. The end result is a film that for Howard, Brühl and Hemsworth finds itself approaching pole position in all three of their filmographies. But it quite comfortably sits atop the first place podium as Hemsworth’s best film beyond his brilliant work as Thor.
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