Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Top Ten Lesser-Known Films from Game of Thrones Actors

Note: there are no spoilers in this post for Game of Thrones, regardless of how little of the show you may have seen.

As I write this the fifth season of the TV show Game of Thrones has one episode left to air.  Once again several new characters were introduced.  It was the addition of two of the performers – Keisha Castle-Hughes and Jonathan Pryce – that got me thinking about a couple of great movies they did.  I then started mentally wandering through other cast members and I soon realized that there were quite a few good movies out there that the actors and actresses on the TV show had been involved in.  I decided to build a Top Ten list.

I felt I needed some parameters to guide me.  Someone showing up in a single Game of Thrones episode wouldn’t count.  I started with recurring cast members who had been on at least a half a season (five episodes).  And for the movies to be included the performer had to have more than just a quick appearance in them.  In addition, the film had to have been done before the person joined the Game of Thrones cast.  There are a ton of movies that have come out with GoT cast members in them in the last couple of years.  Once they gained some fame from the show movie studios couldn’t wait to cast them.  I was looking for movies they did before they became better known from the show.

Once I started I quickly realized that it wasn’t just Sean Bean in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) who had had a role in a very well-known movie.  Since the show primarily uses performers from the U.K. many of them have been involved in the biggest British movie franchises, from James Bond to Harry Potter to Pirates of the Caribbean.  Julian Glover (aka Grand Maester Pycelle) had been in a Bond film, The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), and for good measure the Dr. Who TV show in the 1970s and Oscar Best Picture winner Tom Jones in the 1960s.

Even those folks who had not been in a franchise movie still managed to show up in a wide range of well known standalone films.  Aside from the PotC movies Jonathan Pryce (aka the High Sparrow) was the star of Brazil (1985); Lena Headey (aka Cersei Lannister) was the Queen in 300 (2006); Charles Dance (aka Tywin Lannister) was the villain in Last Action Hero (1993); Thomas Brodie-Sangster (aka Jojen Reed) was the boy with a crush in Love Actually (2003); Stephen Dillane (aka Stannis Baratheon) played Horatio in the Mel Gibson version of Hamlet (1990).  There are many other examples.

Because recommending The Lord of the Rings, 300, or Love Actually to people would be mostly pointless (anyone who wants to see them already has), I decided to focus on lesser known films instead.  Of course, “lesser known” is subjective, so tell me if you feel I left out something great.  I may or may not have felt it was too well known.  Maybe I’ve never seen it and should.

Speaking of which, I have not yet watched the 2006 Dutch film Black Book which has both Carice van Houten (aka Melisandre aka the Red Witch) and Michiel Huisman (aka Daario Naharis #2) in it.  I’ve heard good things about the movie, though.

It took quite a while to do the research for this.  Believe it or not, there are currently 115 different people who have appeared in at least five episodes of Game of Thrones.  Even if I had limited it to people in at least ten episodes that would still have been 71 different people whose film credits would need to be examined. One thing that made the hours more fun were the discoveries of some of the small roles that now well known performers had.  For example, Michelle Fairley (aka Catelyn Stark) played Hermione’s mother in one Harry Potter movie.  Rory McCann (aka Sandor Clegane aka the Hound) had a small role in Hot Fuzz (2007).  Noah Taylor (aka Locke aka the man who got a hand from Jaime Lannister) played the young version of David Helfgott in Shine (1996) – the character that won Geoffrey Rush a Best Actor Oscar and made him a star.

And then once the research was done I had to pick only ten films and rank them.  I set one final parameter in that I picked only one film for a performer.  Admittedly I did get around this restriction once with Peter Dinklage (aka Tyrion Lannister) because another GoT performer was in one of his films I wanted to recommend.  (See #2 and # 4.)

While some people probably enjoy making ranked lists, I always struggle with the positions.  The ones near the top are clearly better than the ones near the bottom, but what’s the difference between 2 and 3?  Between 7 and 8?  Even once I had it down to a dozen films it still took me a few hours to finalize the order and go with the Top Ten.  An example of one that just missed the cut was Swimming Pool (2003), which had Charles Dance in it.

If you’ve read this far you may be wondering if I’m ever going to get to the list.  The answer is yes.  Here they are ranked from 1 to 10.  The titles of the films are links to my reviews and ratings of them.  Those titles that are not yet links will be reviewed in the coming days and I will then come back and add the links for them.  In addition, I’ve included the performer(s) and their GoT’s character(s) with each film.

The Top Ten Lesser-Known Films from Game of Thrones Actors:

  1. Whale Rider (2002) – Keisha Castle-Hughes (aka Obara Sand)
  2. Death at a Funeral (2007) – Peter Vaughan (aka Maester Aemon) and Peter Dinklage (aka Tyrion Lannister)  Note that this is the original British film, not the Chris Rock 2010 American remake that also had Peter Dinklage in it.
  3. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988) – Jonathan Pryce (aka the High Sparrow)
  4. The Station Agent (2003) – Peter Dinklage (aka Tyrion Lannister)
  5. Head-On (2004) – Sibel Kekilli (aka Shae aka “Shae the funny whore”)
  6. Possession (2002) – Lena Headey (aka Cersei Lannister)
  7. Casanova (2005) – Natalie Dormer (aka Margaery Tyrell) and Eugene Simon (aka Lancel Lannister)
  8. Tonight You’re Mine (aka You Instead) (2011) – Natalia Tena (aka Osha aka the wildling woman with Bran and Rickon Stark)
  9. Circle of Friends (1995) – Aidan Gillen (aka Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish) and Ciaran Hinds (aka Mance Rayder)
  10. Sirens (1993) – Tara Fitzgerald (aka Selyse Baratheon)
If you’ve never seen Game of Thrones and would like a spoiler-free introduction to it, you can read that here.


  1. Neat list.
    I can add that Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) has had an extensive career in both American and Danish movies. His probably best known movies were Kingdom of Heaven and Black Hawk down, but the movie that really made him was when he starred in Nattevagten, the far superior Danish version to the later remake as Nightwatch.

    1. I saw those two movies on his resume, but didn't remember him in either (and wasn't that impressed with Kingdom of Heaven). The one I did remember his performance from was Enigma (2002), and while I liked it, that movie wasn't good enough to make the Top Ten.

      Thanks for the recommendation on his Danish film.

  2. I've seen five of these; as it happens, your top five. I'd probably put them in a different order, but I enjoy all five.

    Charles Dance was a major part of the film The Last Action Hero. I think the film is crap, but Dance is fantastic in it.

    1. Years later I saw Dance in something else and it took me quite a while to finally realize he looked familiar because I had seen him in Last Action Hero.

      I actually like that movie and feel it was 15 years ahead of its time in regards to being meta with movies. If I had not considered it to be too well known it might have made the bottom of my list.

      You mentioned you had seen the top 5. I hadn't realized it, but the bottom five all deal with romantic relationships in one way or another. I believe that's a genre you don't seek out as much as other genres. Actually, number 5 is about a romantic relationship, too, but that was on the 1,001 Movies list.

    2. I don't specifically seek out romances, but I like a lot of them, so I'm hardly opposed to watching them. I admit I'm not a fan of Romeo & Juliet, but I also don't think I'm alone in that.

      I might put The Station Agent first. I like that film a lot and wish more people knew about it.

    3. I love it, too. And I clearly remember thinking, "That guy's a great actor. It's too bad his height is going to keep him from getting too many other roles." Shows what I know. I'm looking forward to writing my review for it.

  3. Great list. I love Head-On. A brutal but important film, and Kekilli is fearless in it. Really need to watch that one again actually.

    1. Thanks.

      Head-On is probably the best, most realistic example I've ever seen of the phrase "Can't live with him/her, can't live without him/her."