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Top 10 Actors Who Could Never Be Replaced in a Movie Role

Top 10 Actors Who Could Never Be Replaced in a Movie Role
VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
Recasting these iconic roles would be cinematic blasphemy! For this list, we'll be looking at beloved live-action movie roles that could never be performed by another actor. Our countdown includes Arnold Schwarzenegger, Robin Williams, Robert Downey Jr., and more!

Top 10 Actors Who Could Never Be Replaced in a Movie Role


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 actors who could never be replaced in a movie role.

For this list, we’ll be looking at beloved live-action movie roles that could never be performed by another actor.

Who do you think is the most irreplaceable? Let us know in the comments below!

#10: J.K. Simmons

“Spider-Man” franchise (2002-07; 2019)
J.K. Simmons was born to play J. Jonah Jameson. It was just one of those casting decisions that seemed to come from the movie gods. In fact, the casting proved so perfect that Simmons briefly reprised his role as Jameson in “Spider-Man: Far From Home,” making him the first live-action actor to cross superhero universes. Perhaps it was a loving acknowledgment that he can never be replaced. The gruff voice, the mannerisms, the dripping sarcasm - all are played to absolute perfection by Simmons, and all helped audiences fall in love with the character...despite the fact that he is less-than-kind to poor Peter Parker.


#9: Kathy Bates

“Misery” (1990)
Stephen King enjoyed a resurgence in cinema in the late 2010s, yet despite being one of his most popular stories, “Misery” was never remade. There’s probably a good reason for that, and that reason is Kathy Bates. At the time the movie was released, Bates was an accomplished stage actress who had yet to make her breakthrough in film. “Misery” changed that and made her a star. Annie Wilkes is one of the most infamous villains in movie history, and Bates gives one of her finest performances playing the unhinged psychopath. In fact, it has proven Bates’s only Academy Award-winning performance, despite a total four nominations. It’s impossible to read the book without envisioning Bates, and it will be impossible for anyone to replace her in future remakes.


#8: Arnold Schwarzenegger

“The Terminator” franchise (1984-)
Arnie was famously not the first choice to play the cyborg assassin at the center of this film, with contemporaries like Mel Gibson, Sly Stallone and O. J. Simpson all considered before him. What’s more, Mr. Schwarzenegger himself was not particularly enthused about the project. But after he managed to charm director James Cameron, Schwarzenegger became an integral cog in the “Terminator” franchise - and conversely, the franchise became a key moment in Schwarzenegger’s career. Why you’d program a “cybernetic android” to have an Austrian accent, we’re not quite sure, but now that the T-800 has one, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

#7: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint & Emma Watson

“Harry Potter” franchise (2001-11)
Let’s give a big hand to the casting team of this franchise, because they absolutely nailed it. Every single character is impeccably cast, from the iconic professors down to the insignificant students who make one-time appearances. But the biggest task of all was finding the actors to embody the three main characters. The books were widely adored and enormously popular, and finding performers who could satisfy millions of imaginations must have proven an incredibly stressful task. In fact, the original casting director, Susie Figgis, reportedly quit in frustration. The results were well worth the trouble, as Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson made the perfect Harry, Ron, and Hermione. Whatever the future holds for “Harry Potter,” these three will remain irreplaceable.


#6: Robin Williams

“Mrs. Doubtfire” (1993)
Robin Williams starred in some memorable films throughout his career, but no one else could as brilliantly do what he did in “Mrs. Doubtfire.” Williams plays Daniel Hillard, a divorced man who undergoes a massive physical transformation and pretends to be an elderly nanny so he can spend time with his children. Williams shines as both Daniel and Mrs. Doubtfire, with most of the movie’s humor being derived from his antics as the sweet old woman. The simple comedy was the second highest-grossing movie of 1993, which is a testament to the incredible drawing power of Williams. The performance would also earn Williams his final Golden Globe, minus the Cecil B. DeMille Award in 2005. It’s a legendary performance from a legendary actor.


#5: Jim Carrey

“The Mask” (1994)
Speaking of legendary actors, only one person could play the manic Mask, and that man is Jim Carrey. This role was tailor made for Carrey’s brand of outlandish and wacky humor, and it proved so successful that it largely shaped Carrey’s comedic career. After “The Mask,” he was often typecast as frantic characters who would make weird faces, do silly and exaggerated voices, and bounce around the room with the energy of a ten-year-old on a sugar rush. Jamie Kennedy tried his hand at The Mask in 2005’s “Son of the Mask,” and if nothing else, he proved how easy Carrey makes it look. There is, and forever will be, only one Mask.

#4: Robert Downey Jr.

Marvel Cinematic Universe (2008-)
Robert Downey Jr.’s take on Tony Stark proved so charismatic and so funny that he essentially kickstarted the MCU by himself. Well, the incredible talents of director Jon Favreau and the filmmaking team certainly helped. 2008’s “Iron Man” was so good, and so unlike any other superhero film of the time, that Phase One of the MCU was announced after its staggering $98 million opening weekend. A large part of the movie’s success comes down to Downey’s performance as Tony Stark. He was incredibly entertaining and personable as Stark, but also very sweet, very flawed, and even a little vulnerable. He commanded the MCU for the next decade-plus, and while Marvel may try in the future, they will never replace Downey as Iron Man. He. Is. Iron Man.

#3: Anthony Hopkins

“The Silence of the Lambs” (1991)
Jodie Foster made for a spectacular Clarice Starling, and there may never be a better one, but we know there will never be a better Hannibal Lecter than Anthony Hopkins. Brian Cox played Lecter in Michael Mann’s “Manhunter,” and Mads Mikkelsen did an exceptional job in “Hannibal.” But neither compares to Hopkins. Lecter was named the greatest movie villain of all time by the American Film Institute, and his legendary status is undoubtedly due to Hopkins’ exceptional performance. The manner in which he speaks is simply magnetic, and his eyes always seem to be watching, analyzing, and critiquing. He commands attention with even the simplest dialogue, and he makes a grotesque character irresistible. It’s one of the all time greatest movie performances given by one of the all time greatest actors.


#2: Harrison Ford

“Star Wars” franchise (1977-) & “Indiana Jones” franchise (1981-)
It’s rare for an actor to play one legendary character. Harrison Ford has played two. Ford broke onto the scene in 1977 by playing Han Solo in the first “Star Wars” film. Four years later, he created another icon by playing Indiana Jones in “Raiders of the Lost Ark”. Both characters are quite similar, and both play into Ford’s strengths as an actor - snarky, cool, and more than a little badass. Ford established himself as one of the funniest, one of the most charismatic, and one of the toughest actors of his time, and he later reprised both roles in “The Force Awakens” and “The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”. Both characters are irreplaceable cinematic legends.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Ian McKellen, “The Lord of the Rings” franchise (2001-03)
McKellen’s Performance as Gandalf Was Magical

Sigourney Weaver, “Alien” franchise (1979-)
One of the Most Badass Female Protagonists to Ever Grace the Screen

Will Ferrell, “Elf” (2003)
No One Will Ever Match Ferrell’s Childish Enthusiasm

Christopher Lloyd, “Back to the Future” franchise (1985-90)
Great Scott! What a Performance!

#1: Marlon Brando

“The Godfather” (1972)
It’s unlikely that “The Godfather” films will ever be remade, considering their monumental stature. But if they are, then the next Vito Corleone certainly has his work cut out for him. Considered one of the greatest actors of all time, Marlon Brando stole the show as Don Corleone, complete with his now signature, whispery voice. Vito’s intonation, mannerisms, and dialogue all became iconic pieces of movie history, and he remains one of the most parodied and recognizable movie characters. Brando won his second and final Academy Award for playing Vito Corleone, and while Robert De Niro did an exceptional job as a younger Vito in “The Godfather Part II,” the elderly iteration will forever belong to Brando.
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