Known in the United States for playing all sorts of villains and rogues, Ben Mendelsohn has been a leading man in Australia for over two decades. Known for his professional presentation and distinctive vocal pattern, he is instantly memorable in his roles once he opens his mouth. Recently he’s been seen in everything from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as Director Krennic in charge of the Death Star, to Captain Marvel as the leader of a group of Skrull aliens with a nebulous past.
Despite being considered in the same peer group as other Aussie heavyweight actors like Russell Crowe, Hugh Jackman, and Guy Pearce, it’s only been recently that Mendelsohn has transitioned from intense, troubled teen actor to authoritative leading actor. His ability to totally transform himself into any role he plays give his leading parts added depth and complexity in whatever genre he chooses.
10 King George VI - DARKEST HOUR
This movie belongs to Gary Oldman who, after years of ingenuity and fearlessness in every part he plays, finally won the Academy Award for best actor portraying Winston Churchill. As far as WWII era films go, it’s an incredibly intense film about a particularly riveting moment in time when England was on the verge of giving into Adolf Hitler’s demands for surrender.
Ben Mendelsohn is King George VI, a part he seems to have been born to play given not only how much he looks like him, but how much he sounds like him (George VI had a slight lisp in the same manner as Mendelsohn). Though he doesn’t have much screen time, he conveys in each scene the begrudging respect these two men acquired for one another.
9 Sorrento - READY PLAYER ONE
Set in a not-too-distant future where teens can jack into a digital world full of their favorite pop culture characters, Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One is a kaleidoscopic romp through ‘80s nostalgia. It follows a teen named Wade who, like all of his friends, plays games in the virtual world of OASIS with a digital avatar representation.
When the founder of OASIS dies, he leaves an Easter Egg (clue) hidden in the virtual frontier, and whoever finds it gets the “keys to the kingdom” to preserve OASIS in his memory. Ben Mendelsohn plays Sorrento, the human embodiment of “Get off my lawn!”, who wants OASIS for himself and is the perfect foil for ‘80s obsessed kids who “just want to have fun”.
8 Sheriff of Nottingham - ROBIN HOOD
Continuing his trend of squeezing in as many villains into his filmography of blockbusters in as few years as possible, Mendelsohn took on a role made famous by such other great thespians as the late Basil Rathbone and Alan Rickman; the Sheriff of Nottingham. Trading barbs and blades opposite him is Taron Egerton as Robin Hood, recently the protagonist Eggsy in Kingsman I and II.
Though this modern-retelling of the Robin Hood legend endeavors to be different than its predecessors, it captures neither the grit of the Russell Crowe dramatic version, nor the pomp of the Errol Flynn version. But as the Sheriff, Mendelsohn certainly has as much fun in his role as the Kevin Costner version, and for that reason he saves it from itself.
7 Orson Krennic - ROGUE ONE
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story follows Jyn Erso, daughter of Imperial engineer Galen Erso, as she joins the Rebel Alliance and works to retrieve the Death Star plans her father possessed. As Orson Krennic, Ben Mendelsohn is the Director of Advanced Weapons Research, named the commander of the Death Star project up until the Galactic Civil War.
Once a friend to Galen Erso, Krennic vows to punish him and his daughter for their betrayal to the Empire. Mendelsohn plays him as an ambitious, power-hungry corporate climber with neither the temperament of Grand Moff Tarkin nor the intimidating presence of Darth Vader, but all of their ruthlessness. Plus he gets to wear a cape!
6 Talos - CAPTAIN MARVEL
Captain Marvel chronicles the rise of Captain Marvel, one of the most powerful superheroes in the Marvel Universe. Born test pilot Carol Danvers of Earth, Kree warrior “Vers” has no idea of her origins until she crash lands Earth circa 1995 after a mission gone wrong. As she tries to get back to her own timeline, she encounters Nick Fury, an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., and Talos, a Skrull alien she thinks is trying to kill her.
As the Skrull leader Talos, Ben Mendelsohn is almost unrecognizable under pounds of heavily painted prosthetics. Despite that, he gives a surprisingly nuanced performance as a villain who is more than what he seems, and conveys a depth of personality uncharacteristic for the role.
5 Ned - BEAUTIFUL KATE
In this touching drama about grief and abandonment, Ben Mendelsohn plays Ned, a man struggling with the memories of two deaths in his family. His sister Kate died in a tragic car accident, and their older brother Cliff ended his life shortly after. To cope, Ned drinks too much, works too much, and goes through a laundry list of girlfriends trying desperately to numb himself to the pain.
Living out in rural Australia, Ned’s siblings were his only respite from a life of stagnation. Now finding himself alone, Ned has to learn to cope with the fear of what will happen when he finally moves on from his pain. Not only does he have survivor’s guilt, he’s let it define him for so long he doesn’t know who is without it.
4 Gerry - MISSISSIPPI GRIND
A buddy comedy in the vein of Kingpin or The Big Lebowski, Mississippi Grand follows two partners, Gerry a gambling addict and Curtis, a hot shot card player who inspires him to believe in himself and his card playing abilities. Together, they travel the United States playing the hand they’re dealt at the card table of life.
Opposite Ryan Reynold’s flashy presence as Curtis, Mendelsohn and his laconic charm are perfect in the part of Gerry, a man who isn’t so much addicted to gambling as he’s addicted to the thought of one day being a winner. Curtis finally helps him learn to let go of his desperate need to win (which is really a need for acceptance) and be comfortable in his own skin.
3 Anders Harris - THE LAND OF STEADY HABITS
Feeling stifled in his corporate job, his conservative lifestyle, and his stuffy enclave in Westport Connecticut, Anders Harris abruptly leaves his wife and his career in finance to set off on a journey of self discovery. He quickly realizes that a life spent partying, drinking, and having one night stands doesn’t lead him to any meaningful epiphanies.
As Harris, Ben Mendelsohn channels the troubled intensity of his younger years as an actor and combines it with the sagacity of his older years. It makes his outbursts as a middle aged man faced with the repercussions of ruining his own sense of stability all the more devastating to witness.
2 Andrew Cody - ANIMAL KINGDOM
Putting his menacing stare and patented glower to good use, Mendelsohn plays Andrew “Pope” Cody, the eldest son of Smurf Cody, the ball-busting matriarch of the Pettingill crime family. As her favorite, he would do anything to enforce her will and protect the family, like a loyal attack dog.
Single-mindedly sociopathic, Mendelsohn plays Andrew Cody as an unredeemable monster who would sooner kill you than look at you. But can you blame the survival instincts of an animal who has only known the environment of an inhospitable jungle? It spawned a television series and garnered Jackie Weaver an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
1 Neville Love - STARRED UP
Ben Mendelsohn gives one of his most powerful performances to date as Neville Love, a career criminal who will undoubtedly spend the rest of his miserable life at HM Prison Wandsworth. He has appointed himself something like vice-principal to the other inmates due to his intelligence and kindly advice, though the intellectual facade bellies an aggressive temper.
Neville is a mentor to Eric, a young inmate with a love of boxing (and a hatred for his abusive father) who’s been switched from juvenile prison to the adult prison. This hard-hitting look at prison life poses the question; are some people just destined to be criminals or, with the right guidance, can they become something more?