Actors sure do love the spotlight, but they can also enjoy remaining hidden where people are less likely to see or recognize them. This happens in a variety of films where leading men and women have played multiple roles, unbeknownst to a large majority of the population. Here are the best films where you may not have noticed that a star was actually playing more than one character.
1. Ben Mendelsohn – Captain Marvel (2019)
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has become an absolute film phenomenon over the last decade. One of the latest entries in their pantheon of films was Captain Marvel, led by rising star Brie Larson, who plays the eponymous super-heroine. Opposite this heroine was the sinister Talos, played by Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn.
Talos is a Skrull, a species that we first believe to be the “bad guys” until some plot twists change all that and we realize they’re not as bad as they’re cracked up to be. But with all that makeup and prosthetics on, you might not realize Mendelsohn is doing more than portraying the green Skrull. He also plays Keller, Nick Fury’s boss, who Talos actually shape-shifts into while going undercover.
2. Jonathan Hyde – Jumanji (1995)
Jumanji is one of the most era-defining action films of the ’90s. The gleefully frightening jungle adventure stars the exuberant Robin Williams in his heyday as well as a young Kirsten Dunst before her fame fully skyrocketed. But there’s another actor in this film who deserves a heck of a lot of praise: Jonathan Hyde.
Hyde put in the time and energy to learn two wildly different roles. At the film’s start, we see him as businessman Sam Parrish, Alan’s loving but domineering father in his childhood in New Hampshire. Later, though, he morphs into Alan’s archrival, the bloodthirsty British poacher Van Pelt. Given that their screen time never collides (their characters live in two separate realities), it’s interesting to observe that Sam Parrish and Van Pelt had similar character arcs.
3. Jason Isaacs – Peter Pan (2003)
There have been plentiful adaptations of the classic Peter Pan tale, from the original Disney cartoon film, to Hook (starring Dustin Hoffman, Julia Roberts, and the late Robin Williams), to the live action Peter Pan film from 2003. It was common in Hook for certain actors to reappear both in Neverland and in the real world, and 2003’s Peter Pan, which came out a decade later, completely followed suit.
Case in point: Mr. Darling and Captain Hook are both played by the same actor, Jason Isaacs. Whether or not there’s a symbolic message placed in there somewhere, who’s to say? Either way, not everyone realized that they were actually the same person.
4. James Remar – Django Unchained (2012)
When iconoclast director Quentin Tarantino unleashed Django Unchained in 2012, it didn’t take long for everyone to see how cutting-edge and iconic the film would become. But behind the main performances, many people missed this actor in multiple roles. Actor James Remar appears in one of the very first scenes, as one of the Speck brothers, whom Dr. King Schultz (Cristoph Waltz) has a matter to settle with.
Later on in the film, we see Remar appear yet again — only this time he’s playing the role of the menacing Butch Pooch. This is significant, because Schultz is the character who originally kills Ace Speck, yet he in turn later gets killed by Butch Pooch — and both characters are played by the same person!
5. Warwick Davis – Harry Potter (2001-2011)
Let’s fly back into the magical world of Harry Potter, where elves and goblins are common to see on a regular Sunday outing. Speaking of goblins, remember Griphook? You know, the one who first took Harry to his Gringotts Bank vault when he was 11, only to help him break into Gringotts six year later — yeah, that Griphook.
Well, he’s played by the expressive Warwick Davis (who you may also recognize from his roles in Star Wars), but that’s not the only role Davis has in the Harry Potter franchise. Davis also portrayed the role of the Hogwarts Charms professor, Filius Flitwick. To make it a hat trick, Davis also played the role of the menacing goblin bank teller at Gringotts in the first movie!
6. Dick Van Dyke – Mary Poppins (1964)
When Disney was still in its early stages of world domination, they stole the hearts of generations with a colorful and optimistic film called Mary Poppins. While Julie Andrews had her film breakout in this seminal movie, her Cockney-accented (debatable?) costar Dick Van Dyke was well-known and respected around the industry at the time.
This musical children’s flick is about a magical Edwardian babysitter who takes two young children on a wild adventure while teaching them right from wrong, and singing a handful of tunes in the process. By her side is the jovial Bert, played by an energetic Dick Van Dyke. But Van Dyke also lent his talents to another popular character: that uptight bank director, Mr. Dawes Sr.
7. Michelle Williams – Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)
There have been many live action adaptations of The Wizard of Oz, and among the most recent was Oz the Great and Powerful, which came out in 2013. Sporting a star-studded cast that included the likes of James Franco, Mila Kunis, Michelle Williams, and Rachel Weisz, the land of Oz truly did shine brightly from the silver screen.
Williams, who played the role of Glinda the Good Witch, brought a burst of positive energy for the tricky role, but that wasn’t the only time we saw her appear on the screen. She also plays the role of Annie, who exists in the “real world”, and who is also revealed to be the future mother of Dorothy Gale.
8. Margaret Hamilton – The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Anyone who watched The Wizard of Oz as a child had to have been scared of the Wicked Witch of the West. From Margaret Hamilton’s stellar performance, to the costume designers tasked with transforming her appearance, the effect was quite stunning at the time. However, don’t forget that Hamilton can be seen elsewhere in the movie.
Before Dorothy gets transported off to Oz, she has a rocky altercation with a grumpy old neighbor who just isn’t a dog person, Miss Almira Gulch. Gulch, of course, is the real-world reflection of the Witch in Dorothy’s eyes — which is why, of course, Hamilton plays the role of both of these nasty characters.
9. Eddie Murphy – Coming to America (1988)
Whether or not you love Eddie Murphy for his legendary stand-ups or his movies, there’s no denying that Coming To America was a classic. It’s arguably one of his best movies, and that’s because he’s simply brilliant in it. His comedic brilliance emanates from every corner of this film, and sometimes from more characters than one.
Although his main role is that of Prince Akeem, the spoiled African monarch who moves to New York to see the world, he also plays multiple characters who hang out at the neighborhood barber shop in Queens, even the old Jewish man. Some of the barber shop scenes are fan favorites, and it’s probably because Eddie Murphy had his stamp all over it.
10. Arsenio Hall – Coming to America (1988)
Coming To America couldn’t have been what it was without Arsenio Hall. Another leading comedian persona of his era, Hall was known well for his talk show, The Arsenio Hall Show. But like Murphy, he also played a multitude of characters in this film. His main role was as Semmi, Prince Akeem’s right-hand man, friend, and servant.
And just like Murphy, Hall played another few characters in the same movie, one of them from that famous barber shop. It’s easy to picture Murphy and Hall just having a blast with each other while shooting those scenes, and letting the jokes fly easily into the air. Together, they were like comedic dynamite.
11. Dean-Charles Chapman – Game of Thrones (2011-2019)
Game of Thrones is obviously filled to the brim with characters rich in complexity and depth, and fans are always picking their favorites. One of the series’ least-tarnished characters was Tommen Baratheon, the 19th Ruler of the Seven Kingdoms and the maniacal King Joffrey’s softer younger brother.
But if you think that Tommen looks familiar at all, it’s probably because you saw his actor, Dean-Charles Chapman, in a separate scene from the show. In fact, Chapman also plays the role of Martyn Lannister, a young character who unfortunately meets his tragic demise at the hand of Lord Rickard Karstark after getting abducted by House Tully.
12. Frances O’Connor – Bedazzled (2000)
There’s nothing quite as fun and exciting as a movie with a main character who gets to make wishes. Think Aladdin, but on steroids. Seriously though, whoever hasn’t seen this Brendan Fraser classic is really missing out. In this remake, we watch as Elliot (Fraser) sells his soul to the devil (Elizabeth Hurley) in exchange for seven wishes, hoping to land Allison (Frances O’Connor), the girl of his dreams.
From Spanish adventures to NBA courts, Elliot learns a lot along the way — and when it’s all over, he starts dating another girl named Nicole. Now, did you happen to notice that his new belle suspiciously looks a whole lot like Allison? Of course, this is because they are both played by the same actress.
13. Benedict Cumberbatch – Doctor Strange (2016)
By 2016, the MCU had reached a great level of success with their myriad of fun superhero flicks. But that year they introduced us to Doctor Strange, a superhero who was just a tad different from the rest of them. For lovers of magic, Doctor Strange likely became their favorite Avenger out of them all.
He truly was quite the odd one, and who better to portray this role than quirky yet frighteningly talented English actor Benedict Cumberbatch? But what most people don’t know is that Cumberbatch provided the voice of another character, Dormammu! You know, that giant cloud-shaped monster thing with the crazy eyes? This is especially interesting, considering Dr. Strange and Dormammu’s bizarre head-to-head battle at the film’s climax.
14. Ben Stiller – Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014)
Ben Stiller has a particular brand of comedy that works perfectly for a zany movie like this. The Night at the Museum film franchise is about night watchman Larry Daley (Stiller), whose job it is to guard the museum in the late hours after patrons have gone home.
His main problem? Everything in the museum comes to life at night, and Daley must deal with talking statues, soldiers, and cowboys (for starters) who are all up to no good. Added to that list in the third installment is Laaa, the Neanderthal who thinks Daley is his father. Perhaps we can’t blame him, considering he’s also played by Ben Stiller.
15. Ryan Reynolds – Deadpool 2 (2018)
Deadpool was a revelation to the public, introducing the world to a superhero who wasn’t quite the squeaky-clean pure MCU type we’d been so used to watching. Deadpool was the epitome of cool, and in the driver’s seat of his character was, of course, the talented and goofy Ryan Reynolds.
Reynolds is the type of actor who can embody a character so thoroughly that we couldn’t possibly imagine it going any other way. Reynolds and Deadpool are one and the same, but there was another huge character in the film who Reynolds contributed his talents to. He actually provided the voice for the menacing Juggernaut, which was particularly cool considering the two went head to head in combat as well.
16. Armie Hammer – The Social Network (2010)
The Social Network is a critically-acclaimed, Oscar-winning biopic following the journey of Mark Zuckerberg inventing Facebook. We have a great reason for believing this film deserves a spot on this list of actors portraying multiple roles in the same movie. This is because when most people watched The Social Network for the first time, they thought the Winklevoss twins were being played by actual twins!
Perhaps there were a handful of folks out there who knew the truth — that they were both in the fact the same actor, Armie Hammer — but many were shocked when they found out. Perhaps it was a shock, considering that people perceived them as twins in the movie, so it may have been difficult to forget that image.
17. Eddie Murphy – The Nutty Professor (1996)
There came to be a point in Eddie Murphy’s career where he stopped barreling into raunchy stand-up routines and started making goofy films for kids instead, in which he had a penchant for playing a handful of different wacky, totally over-the-top characters. One of the most famous of these films was his remake of The Nutty Professor, and Murphy left all of his fingerprints on it.
Let’s tick off the list of characters he played in it: there was Papa Cletus Klump, Grandma Jenson, Ernie Klump Sr., and of course the eccentric Lance Perkins. The entire film is populated by a bunch of oddly distorted versions of Eddie Murphy, spanning body sizes and genders.
18. Sylvester Stallone – Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003)
The Spy Kids franchise was quite fun for young kids, and let’s be real, more than a few adults as well! A film featuring futuristic gadgets up the wazoo, it was riveting to watch young Carmen and Juni interacting with thumb people, riding cutting-edge submarines, and trying to escape the wrath of slizzard creatures (half snake, half lizard).
There have been many unforgettably weird characters in these films, and in their third installment, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, Sylvester Stallone steps on screen as several of them. In fact, he plays a handful of wacky characters in this movie. Many people noticed the old switcheroo, but there were likely a few who didn’t realize it.
19. Michael J. Fox – Back to the Future Part II (1989)
When Doc Brown and Marty McFly hopped into that flying DeLorean and time-traveled to the year 2015, Marty got a strange glimpse into the life of his future family, a reality in which he was the father. In this future timeline, he observes himself married to his high school sweetheart Jennifer, and together, the pair have a couple of kids of their own.
One of these kids — his high school-aged daughter, named Marlene, — makes a brief appearance, and when she does, it’s clear she looks quite a lot like her father. This would be, of course, because she’s actually played by the actor who portrays her father: Michael J. Fox in drag.
20. Hilary Duff – The Lizzie McGuire Movie (2003)
Anyone who watched this Disney movie when they were kids learned what dreams were made of pretty quickly. It was based off the popular Disney show Lizzie McGuire, which allowed us to “get inside Lizzie’s head” as she tries to navigate the social complexities of high school.
The Lizzie McGuire Movie, however, followed Lizzie and her senior high school class as they take a trip to Rome. While they’re there, Lizzie befriends pop star Isabella, and later even winds up taking over her identity. They were, of course, both being portrayed by Hilary Duff, so it’s not surprising that she pulled it off so well.
21. Mike Myers – Austin Powers (1997)
The Austin Powers film series showcased a Transatlantic spy parody combined with ’60s nostalgia and wacky body comedy, and it became a pop culture phenomenon thanks to Mike Myers leading the way. The movies were really a canvas for the talented and eccentric Myers to express himself in a multitude of ways, depending on the specific character.
Given the fact that he portrayed two of the films’ main characters (Austin Powers and Dr. Evil), and another hilarious side character (Fat Bastard), it’s safe to say that Austin Powers was Mike Myers’ baby through and through. From Dr. Evil’s iconic sneer (“One million dollars…”) to Austin Powers’ love of women, to of course Fat Bastard’s earnestness (“Get in my belly”) — this movie is a joy for the entire family (maybe).
22. Tom Hanks – Cloud Atlas (2012)
This may be a bit of an obvious one, but again, there are always bound to be some people out there who don’t notice the multiple roles Tom Hanks portrays here. Through his performances in this film, multiple Oscar winner Tom Hanks proves to us yet again why he’s an absolute master in his field.
He has this unique ability to add character and meaning to a film, and make us care for its stars. In Cloud Atlas, Hanks really outdoes himself by putting himself into the role of six different characters! This, of course, ties into the premise of the movie, which purposely swings from one storyline (and generation) to another.
23. Jake Gyllenhaal – Enemy (2013)
There are some entries on this list where we could look at them and ask ourselves, “How could anyone not know that this actor was clearly portraying both of these characters?” But it most definitely happens — so for the ones in the back who missed it, yes, Jake Gyllenhaal played both Adam Bell and Anthony St. Claire in 2013’s Enemy.
This is significant because the premise of the movie is about how Bell sees St. Claire in a movie and is shocked by their resemblance. His road to learning the truth isn’t without a cost, but Gyllenhaal probably wasn’t complaining about getting double the paychecks.
24. Jesse Eisenberg – The Double (2013)
Jesse Eisenberg is known for a lot of films, from Adventureland to The Social Network to Zombieland. But one of his most underrated roles is in The Double, and that’s probably because he did double the work, playing two roles! One of the characters he plays is Simon James, who is shocked to his core when a new co-worker starts at his office.
This co-worker’s name is James Simon, and he looks identical to him, but strangely and frustratingly enough, no one else in the office can see it. Eisenberg, obviously, hits it out of the park with both of these roles, which is why the film was so successful.
25. Adam Sandler – Eight Crazy Nights (2002)
Adam Sandler’s portfolio of comedies is strong, from Happy Gilmore to Billy Madison to Big Daddy. But there’s one film in his lexicon that doesn’t get talked about as much: Eight Crazy Nights. This could be because it’s a cartoon — but considering the fact that Sandler lends his voice talents for a handful of the main characters, it became a cult classic for loyalists out there.
Not only did Sandler provide the voice for protagonist Davey Stone (who is animated to bear a resemblance to Sandler himself) — but he also gave his voice to Whitey and Eleanor, the comical elderly brother and sister duo who take Davey in when he badly needs help.
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