David Tennant is one of the most prolific and talented actors working today. Whether he’s playing a hero, a villain, or something in between, Tennant is nothing less than fascinating to watch. He fully commits to each role, giving the characters he plays complexity and nuance.
To celebrate the greatness that is David Tennant, we’ve ranked the actor’s 10 best roles. Some are well-known, some not so much, but what they all have in common is they wouldn’t be nearly as noteworthy if Tennant hadn’t brought them to life.
10 CALE ERENDREICH IN BAD SAMARITAN
The 2018 thriller Bad Samaritan saw Tennant playing a psychopath named Cale Erendreich. After a young thief discovers the woman Cale has tied up in his house, the pair engage in a high stakes cat-and-mouse game.
The movie itself is only a middling affair but Tennant’s presence elevates the material. He makes Cale despicable and totally committed to his twisted goals and desires. Like the other villains Tennant has played, Cale is both repulsive and oddly magnetic at the same time.
9 PETER VINCENT IN FRIGHT NIGHT
In the 2011 remake of Fright Night, Tennant depicted the Las Vegas entertainer Peter Vincent. Vincent claims he's an accomplished vampire hunter, so when a vampire moves next door to teenager Charley, Charley tries to enlist Peter’s help against the blood-sucking menace.
Peter turns out to be a fraud and a coward, although he steps up in the end. Meanwhile, Tennant infuses the character with a confident swagger, withering sarcasm, abject fear, and finally tentative bravery, while delivering a decidedly funny performance.
8 BARTY CROUCH JR. IN HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE
Tennant was the true face of Barty Crouch Jr., a follower of Voldemort, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth movie in the blockbuster franchise. However, Tennant himself was barely seen on-screen. Instead, the character spent most of the movie in the guise of Mad-Eye Moody. When he did appear, Tennant made every moment count.
Between his tongue flicking, his desperation, and his madness, Barty Crouch Jr., was a seriously unnerving villain. And Tennant made him truly menacing in his brief appearance.
7 SCROOGE MCDUCK IN DUCKTALES
Tennant isn’t just a talented film, television, and stage actor, he’s also an accomplished voice actor who’s lent his vocals to movies like How to Train Your Dragon and TV series like Star Wars: The Clone Wars. One of his most recent voice roles is also one of his best. In the 2017 revival of the beloved cartoon DuckTales (woo-oo!), Tennant was perfectly cast as Scrooge McDuck.
Tennant turns his natural Scottish brogue up a notch or two to capture all the sides of Scrooge. In a cast stacked with talent, Tennant’s voice work is especially noteworthy for bringing genuine heart and soul to the money-loving duck.
6 WALT JODELL IN CAMPING
HBO’s 2018 series Camping, a remake of a British show, isn’t the easiest thing to watch. It can’t quite decide if it wants to be a brutal satire or a sympathetic portrait of challenging characters. As a result, it isn’t successful as either. What the show does have going for it, though, is some great performances. Especially from Jennifer Garner as the controlling Kathryn and Tennant as her nebbishy husband Walt.
With Walt, Tennant not only pulls off a spot-on American accent but he also successfully captures a person who’s tried too long to accommodate someone who’s impossible to please. Tennant creates a man who, beneath the meek exterior, desperately wants to assert himself and ineffectively lashes out in an effort to be heard. It stands in sharp contrast to many of his best-known characters and shows the breadth of what Tennant is capable of as an actor.
5 GIACOMO CASANOVA IN CASANOVA
Before he became the Doctor in Doctor Who, Tennant played Giacomo Casanova in the BBC miniseries Casanova. As an elderly Casanova, played by Peter O’Toole, told his life story, Tennant brought the character to life in flashbacks.
Tennant is masterful in the role of a man whose fortunes rise as quickly as they fall as he travels through Europe seeking his next opportunity. Whether depicting one of Casanova’s many liaisons, his fantastic triumphs, or his many heartbreaks, Tennant brings weight to what could have been a frivolous character.
4 CROWLEY IN GOOD OMENS
Amazon Prime’s recent original series Good Omens features Michael Sheen as an angel and Tennant as a demon. They’re also the only pair of celestial beings that have been on Earth from the beginning. So with the apocalypse looming, they team up to try to stop it against the wishes of both Heaven and Hell.
Tennant is delightfully quirky as the unconventional demon Crowley. He gives the character a swaggering cool and a knowing wit that makes him highly entertaining. Throughout the series, Tennant fully commits to the zany role, even when executing an uncooperative plant to demonstrate to the other greenery he keeps what happens when they don’t grow as he expects.
3 ALEC HARDY IN BROADCHURCH
For three seasons, Tennant starred as Detective Inspector Alec Hardy on the British crime series Broadchurch. Hardy is a man who seems beaten-down by life but is still determined to do his job by finding the person responsible for ending a child’s life in the tiny seaside town of the show's title. The series is taunt and well-written, but it’s the incredible acting that really makes it work.
Tennant’s Hardy partners with Olivia Colman’s Ellie Miller and their relationship anchors the series. Although Hardy is standoffish and curt, Tennant also gives him an inherent nobility and passion for his job that helps the audience trust him as he and Miller attempt to find the perpetrators of unthinkable crimes.
2 KILGRAVE IN JESSICA JONES
In the first season of Netflix’s Marvel series Jessica Jones, Tennant played the villain Kilgrave, one of the best bad guys in Marvel Cinematic Universe history. Kilgrave has the power to control minds and he uses it to bend the world to his will. This made Kilgrave terrifying. The character revels in his power over others, while the people he targets are violated mentally and often physically.
As the show reveals more about him, Tennant peels back Kilgrave's layers. Behind the villainous impulses, the character is also a wronged child who never learned to have self-control or sympathy. And although Kilgrave is creepy and irredeemably cruel, Tennant infuses him with a certain charismatic charm that makes him intriguing to watch.
1 THE DOCTOR IN DOCTOR WHO
A list of David Tennant’s best roles wouldn’t be complete without his turn as the Doctor in Doctor Who. Tennant played the series’ Tenth Doctor shortly after the show’s revival and consistently tops polls of fans’ favorite Doctor. Tennant brought exuberance and humanity to the role that made his Doctor utterly endearing.
At the same time, Tennant's Doctor had a dark edge that gave him extra depth no matter what emotion the character was experiencing. Given his virtuoso performance in the role, it’s no surprise that it was during Tennant’s tenure that Doctor Who became part of the pop culture mainstream.