Gerard Butler has had a career that’s now spanned over two decades, which seems longer than it should. After all, he only really became a household name after 300 in 2007—and, as far as I’m concerned, has largely coasted off that success since then. He’s not had a lot of great roles, quite frankly, and has since been relegated into a B-movie action hero. He’s got a new movie coming out shortly, though, so let’s take a look at the best films he has been a part of.
300 is the movie that really propelled Gerard Butler into the big time. Before that, he’d had some decent roles, but it was 300 that allowed him to become genuinely famous. He stars as King Leonidas, a man with chiseled abs and a few great one-liners. Also he’s a king. And he fights some evil guys. 300 is a dumb-fun movie, one where 25% of the footage is in slow-motion.
This is Sparta!
Ralph Fiennes made his directorial debut with an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, a tragedy based on the life of the Roman leader Caius Marcius Coriolanus. Butler plays Tullus Aufidius, commander of the Volscian army. If none of that means anything to you, perhaps you should read up on the play before watching the movie—which has updated the setting to modern times. It also contains what is probably Butler’s best performance.
How to Train Your Dragon
DreamWorks’ animated How to Train Your Dragon sees a teenager befriend a dragon and … I’ll say no more. It’s a wonderful movie you should watch for yourself. Butler voices Stoick, the chieftain of the Viking tribe and the father of the protagonist. Butler’s pretty good at voiceover work, and it’s surprising that he hasn’t done more of it. Maybe it’s because there’s a lack of Scottish characters in animated movies—and we all know Butler’s American accent is rubbish.
How to Train Your Dragon 2
In a surprising turn of events, How to Train Your Dragon 2 is right on par with its predecessor in terms of quality. Animated sequels frequently feel lazy and undercooked—kids don’t care about quality anyway and just want to see their favorite characters go on another adventure. But How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a surprisingly impactful movie. Butler reprises his role as Stoick.
Law Abiding Citizen
Law Abiding Citizen puts the audience in an interesting position. The film presents Butler’s character as the villain, but opens up with us seeing his family get murdered—meaning we sympathize with him and we’re put in his corner. It gives us a little bit to think about—and helps distract us, a touch, from the implausible plot. It starts off really strong and loses steam a little as it goes, but it’s a solid thriller and Butler is sold in it.
Machine Gun Preacher
Machine Gun Preacher tells the story of a gang biker who turns into a preacher and defender of orphans in South Sudan—a based-on-a-true-story movie in which Butler plays the lead. Its story is good enough to make the movie worthwhile, and it’s got a solid supporting cast and a good heart.
Olympus Has Fallen
Olympus Has Fallen is a “Die Hard in the White House” movie. Why is it “a” Die Hard in the White House movie and not “the” Die Hard in the White House movie? Another one called White House Down came out the same year (and was better). But Butler fans still have this version, which sees him as the Most American Man Ever (except for his accent) almost single-handedly take out the terrorists, because this is America and that can happen.
It was followed by London Has Fallen, which unsurprisingly takes place in London. A third film is also being planned.
The Phantom of the Opera
Gerard Butler played the Phantom in Joel Schumacher’s The Phantom of the Opera. That’s … crazy, right? The film is a solid adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, and Butler was nominated for a Satellite Award for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical. And, hey, his singing isn’t as bad as Russell Crowe’s in Les Miserables, so it’s got that going for it.
Reign of Fire
Back before the How to Train Your Dragon movies, Butler had a not insignificant role in Reign of Fire, which also had dragons. It’s a post-apocalyptic film set after we awakened dragons and they wiped out most of the humans. It’s a silly movie but it has some camp value and, I mean, it has dragons. Dragons make most things better.
Director Guy Ritchie tried to recapture the glory of his first couple of films with RocknRolla, a crime comedy with an ensemble cast. It has lots of lies and double-crosses and tricks and it keeps the audience on its toes. And because it’s an ensemble cast, Butler doesn’t have to carry the load—something that suits most actors, really. They get to shine in brief moments and then fade into the background for a bit. It’s a breezy crime film, and while it might not live up to Snatch or Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, it’s a comfortable third.