I come not to damn Eternals (as I haven’t seen it yet), but the mixed reviews so far suggest that it could well be the film that dulls our collective love affair with Marvel movies. We’ll see: Chloé Zhao is as good a director as superhero movies are ever likely to see, and the cast here is probably the best that Marvel has ever assembled (pun absolutely intended). It’s also already been banned in much of the Persian Gulf, presumably because of the film’s gay couple — so extra points there.
But seriously. This cast. Eternals features an international cast of relative newcomers alongside veterans, with even 16-year-old Lia McHugh (Sprite) having racked up five years of solid credits. On the other end of that spectrum is Harish Patel, with dozens of credits going back decades. In between are a few people you might have heard of, like Angelina Jolie and Salma Hayek.
Maybe you’re not crazy about Eternals, or maybe you’re just tired of superhero action movies. Fair enough. Or, perhaps, you loved the movie and want to see more of these stars. And so you say to yourself: Where can I see these very fine actors in movies that don’t involve aliens and space gods? Relax. Got you.
Movie: Changeling (2008)
Though she’s as A-list as A-list gets, Jolie’s acting career has had her spending an awful lot of time as the most watchable element in entertaining, but otherwise middling movies (think Tomb Raider or The Good Shepherd). In Clint Eastwood’s Changeling (written by J. Michael Straczynski), Jolie drops any action-movie artifice in favour of an emotional, but understated performance as the real-life Christine Collins, whose son was kidnapped in 1928. Under the weight of intense criticism, the LAPD “reunited” Collins with a child — just not her child — and then convinced the world that she was delusional.
Where to stream: Netflix, Prime Video, Binge
Also watch: Girl, Interrupted, with Jolie’s Oscar-winning performance as a manipulative, but wildly charismatic, mental patient. I’m also rather partial to her revisionist Disney villain in Maleficent (Disney+).
Movie: Frida (2002)
Hayek’s unmatched career includes impressive work both in front of and behind the camera, from an early leading role in a popular telenovela to running her production company, Ventanarosa, while executive producing Ugly Betty. For film acting, though, her Academy Award-nominated performance as painter Frida Kahlo in Frida is a good place to start. It would be easy to get lost in a film with such a striking visual palette, but nothing is lost in Hayek’s performance, capturing Kahlo’s glamour and vivacity.
Where to stream: Binge, Stan
Also watch: Desperado. Hayek’s collaborations with Robert Rodriguez (see also Once Upon a Time in Mexico or From Dusk till Dawn) are worlds apart from her more “serious” dramatic work, but well worth watching if you don’t mind something with a bit more action.
Movie: Crazy Rich Asians (2018)
Much of Chan’s best work, so far, has been in television (Secret Diary of a Call Girl, Humans), but her real breakout came with her scene-stealing performance as Astrid in the surprise blockbuster Crazy Rich Asians. Of all the film’s characters, Chan has perhaps the toughest haul: she’s playing an impossibly wealthy socialite and fashion icon who also, somehow, manages to be one of the movie’s most sympathetic characters. It’s a performance that’s as impressive as it is entertaining.
Where to stream: Binge, Paramount Plus
Also watch: Let Them All Talk. It would be easy to get lost in a cast that includes Dianne Wiest, Candice Bergen, and Meryl Streep, but Chan more than holds her own as Streep’s long-suffering literary agent.
Movie: Rocketman (2019)
When we’re talking about Richard Madden, we’re still generally talking about Robb Stark and Game of Thrones. That’s slowly changing, though, with leading TV performances in Medici and Bodyguard, and in films, as well. In the Elton John biopic Rocketman, Madden plays villainous manager John Reid, making a big impression with relatively little screen time.
Where to stream: Netflix
Also watch: In 1917, Madden again makes a big impression with a bit less screen time playing Joseph Blake, the brother around whom the entire film turns. He’s pretty good in the 2015 live-action Cinderella, as well.
Movie: The Big Sick (2017)
Silicon Valley made Nanjani a star, but it was The Big Sick that confirmed him as an artist with talents beyond plain comedy. Co-written with his wife, Emily V. Gordon, and loosely based on their lives, the film follows a Pakistani-American comedian and a white psychology student whose very new relationship is complicated when Emily becomes unexpectedly ill. It’s smart and funny, and Nanjani is great in it.
Where to stream: Netflix, Stan
Also watch: Nanjani has been good in several pretty decent rom-cons, and 2020’s The Lovebirds with Issa Rae is probably his best in that genre.
Brian Tyree Henry
Movie: The Outside Story (2021)
Henry’s been all over the place in the last few years, with several memorable film appearances alongside his leading role on Atlanta. He plays a very different type of character in The Outside Story, about a man who gets accidentally locked out of his apartment and is forced to confront the world around him. The quirky, sitcom-ready premise is elevated by thoughtful writing and an array of impressive character performances from the various neighbours, with Henry as the glue that holds it all together.
Where to stream: N/A on streaming in AU.
Also watch: In Widows, Henry shows his range in playing the crime boss looking to retrieve the money stolen by Viola Davis’ husband.
Movie: Train to Busan (2016)
Ma Dong-seok (aka Don Lee) has an impressive filmography and a slate of awards — unfortunately for American audiences, not all of his South Korean work is easily available stateside. Nevertheless, he gives a memorable, scene-stealing performance in the smart zombie blockbuster Train to Busan. Initially presented as a jerk, at least, if not a bully, Ma’s character evolves into the unexpected heart of the film, as well as the main conduit for its ideas about class.
Where to stream: Prime Video, ABC iView, SBS On Demand
Also watch: 2018’s Unstoppable sees Ma as a former gangster trying to live on the straight and narrow…until he’s pushed too far.
Movie: Testament of Youth (2014)
As with Richard Madden, Kit Harington inevitably brings know-nothing Jon Snow and Game of Thrones to mind. Eternals might (or might not?) change that, but he’s had some impressive success beyond Westeros — specifically in his native England. I’m a sucker for a period drama, myself, and here Harington plays real-life poet and soldier Roland Leighton, part of a love triangle surrounding the film’s lead, Alicia Vikander. It’s the kind of thing that lives or dies based on its performances, and here they’re great all around.
Where to stream: SBS On Demand
Also watch: I’m going out on a limb to say Pompeii. It’s an incredibly stupid movie, but still fun if you’re in the mood for a Paul W. S. Anderson disaster movie set amidst a historical tragedy. Harington gives it his all.
Movie: Sound of Metal (2019)
For all the problems surrounding Marvel movies and representation, we’ve barely discussed disability — and so it’s welcome that a deaf superhero, played by a deaf actress, appears in Eternals. Ridloff made her mark with a Tony-nominated performance in Children of a Lesser God on Broadway before moving on to a regular role in The Walking Dead. Her most important film role, though, is almost certainly as ASL teacher Diane in the great Sound of Metal, who helps Riz Ahmed’s character adjust to hearing loss…in exchange for drumming lessons.
Where to stream: Prime Video
Also watch: Ridloff’s role is tiny, but 2017’s Sign Gene (available for rental on Prime) is a wildly inventive sci-fi film about deaf superheroes whose powers manifest via regional sign languages.
Movie: The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
Barry Keoghan is terrifying as Martin, the mysterious teenager who insinuates himself into the life of a doctor, played by Colin Farrell and his wife (Nicole Kidman). Everything is off about the kid, and, as it turns out, he’s there for revenge in a particularly sinister manner. He’s so good here that it’s almost hard to see him in anything else without getting a little bit creeped out.
Where to stream: Digital rental
Also watch: Keoghan earned a BAFTA nomination for his performance in Calm with Horses (Netflix) as a bully in the crime drama set in rural Ireland.