19 Movies And TV Shows Where One Actor Literally Carried The Entire Thing On Their Back

1.Florence Pugh as Alice in Don't Worry Darling

Florence Pugh driving a car

No spoilers because this just came out, but watching the movie, it's so clear that Pugh is the best part. Pine and Chan aren't bad, either, but this movie really feels like a star vehicle for Pugh, which is unfortunate considering both the script and the marketing did not take advantage of this. I would love to see Pugh in another domestic suspense film that actually feels catered to her.

Warner Bros. / Courtesy Everett Collection

2.Christian Bale as Gorr the God Butcher in Thor: Love and Thunder

Christian Bale as Gorr the God Butcher

I don’t know what movie Bale thought he was in, but it was a far, far better movie than Thor: Love and Thunder. The humor of the film fell flat, and just felt tired. And the drama, overall, just didn’t feel real, partly due to the lack in chemistry between Jane and Thor and the slight sidelining of Valkyrie (thought her few scenes with Jane were a highlight). But Bale was a believable and frightening villain — most of all, though, you actually understood his point completely. He deserved a better film than this.


3.Jerry Trainor as Spencer on iCarly

Jerry Trainor opening his mouth in surprise

I'm not trying to trash the other actors here, but I will say that overall, it was very much just a Nickelodeon quality show. But Trainor's character and comedic timing literally transcended Nickelodeon — like, I'm shocked I haven't seen him on other things. He's incredible at physical comedy, but he also was able to carry more emotional moments and wasn't just the butt of the joke. It was actually believable that he was Carly's guardian and could take care of her, and he was by far the best "parent" on a Nickelodeon show. I'm happy to see him back on the reboot, but people — start putting Jerry in more shows!!!


4.Similarly, Phill Lewis as Mr. Moseby in The Suite Life of Zach and Cody

London calls the gear shift the PRNDL based on its letters and then gets flustered when Mr. Moseby gets angry, so he suggests they turn on the radio and asks if she wants ammmm or fmmmm

It's hard to make the overworked stick-in-the-mud character the best one in the show, and yet Phill Lewis 👏👏 DID THAT👏👏. That's not to say the other actors were bad, but Lewis was really on another level with his comedy. Although I do also want to give a shoutout to Adrian R'Mante as Esteban, who also had very good comedy chops — though I wouldn't say he carried the show like Lewis.

Disney Channel

5.Matthew Lillard as Shaggy in Scooby-Doo and Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters

Shaggy and Scooby-Doo looking scared

I know these movies were panned, but I loved them. They were just so camp and over the top. Honestly, I think everyone was perfectly cast, but Lillard still just blows everyone else out of the water. He IS Shaggy to me — like, he is more Shaggy to me than the cartoon is. He fully committed and was just so, so good.

Warner Brothers. Courtesy Everett Collection

6.Dylan O'Brien as Stiles on Teen Wolf

Dylan O'Brien as a werewolf sayinghe can't be killed

Teen Wolf was cheesy as heck, even by teen drama standards. I actually adored the camp of the show, and how over the top and comedic it was. But O'Brien was actually a bona fide superstar in a campy teen show. He carried the emotional heart of the show, his physical comedy and comedic timing were stellar, AND he played by far the show's best villain. Like, I truly believe Dylan O'Brien deserves an Emmy for Teen Wolf, and I'm sad he's not returning for the movie.


7.Tom Cruise as Stacee Jaxx in Rock of Ages

Tom Cruise singing onstage

Who knew Tom Cruise could sing??? Frankly, I never really got the hype with Tom Cruise until I saw this movie. He's by far the most interesting actor to watch onscreen, and almost makes the mess that is the movie adaptation of Rock of Ages worth it. He's perfectly over the top yet still believable as Jaxx, and he's just so much fun in the movie.

David James/Warner Bros. Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

8.Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in Suicide Squad

Harley Quinn saying the voices are telling her to kill everyone, then saying that she's joking – that's not really what they said

Robbie's really the only good part of this movie (besides maybe Viola Davis, who shines much more in its reboot/sequel/remake or whatever we're calling The Suicide Squad). She came in knowing exactly who her character was, and imbued her with the violence, fun, pain, and innocence that Harley should have. She was so much fun to watch, and the way that she's had to changed little about the way she plays the character for Birds of Prey, and The Suicide Squad just proves that she was always great as Harley, even in this terrible movie.

Warner Bros.

9.Rachel Bloom as Rebecca on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

I mean, there is no show without Rachel as Rebecca. She IS the show. The energy and comedy Rachel brings while still being grounded and emotionally resonant is something I haven't seen on a sitcom in a long, long time. She truly carries the show, and while the cast of characters around her is good, they only work as well as they do because of Rebecca.

I mean, there is no show without Rachel as Rebecca. She IS the show. The energy and comedy Rachel brings while still being grounded and emotionally resonant is something I haven't seen on a sitcom in a long, long time. She truly carries the show, and while the cast of characters around her is good, they only work as well as they do because of Rebecca.

Greg Gayne/The CW Network / courtesy Everett Collection

10.Troian Bellisario as Spencer on Pretty Little Liars

"i fell down and ... aid to myself 'if this is the last thing that you ever see, I can handle that.' it wasn’t the last thing that I saw. I kept going. How do you keep going when the worst thing has happened? What do you have to change inside to survive?"

In a show as ridiculous as Pretty Little Liars, it's hard to keep things grounded, but Troian always managed to do just that — even when she had to deliver ridiculous lines like, "Bitch chipped us!" She always sold Spencer's trauma and had some great deadpan humor at times. Honestly, the only part not even Troian could handle was the twin reveal at the end. Frankly, I think that's the twist they decided on because they wanted to give the final twist to the most capable actor, but the writing there was just...too much.


11.Amy Adams as Giselle in Enchanted

Amy Adams dressed as Giselle and yelling out of a window

You've seen all the "Amy Adams could do [insert critically acclaimed movie here], but [the star of that movie] couldn't do Enchanted" tweets, I'm sure. They joke, but they also have a point. Amy Adams is truly one of the best actors of our generation, and the fact that she was able to do a role this silly and over the top so well is honestly very impressive. I mean, can you imagine Leonardo DiCaprio, or even Jennifer Lawrence, doing Enchanted as well? Amy Adams IS a Disney princess, and that's that about that.

Buena Vista Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

12.Jennifer Hudson as Effie in Dreamgirls

Hudson singing "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going"

This is another one where I really think all the actors were good (Beyoncé singing "Listen" is a highlight), but Jennifer still blew them all out of the water. I think I was especially impressed because Hudson is primarily known as a singer, and Dreamgirls was her first-ever onscreen role. Also, historically, most American Idol singers didn't make it all that far (with the exception of Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson — neither of whom have had a film career — and Hudson herself), so this felt like a really big deal. She clearly has the vocals to play Effie (I mean, just listen to "I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," but her acting is powerful, too. She just gives such a stellar performance in this film.

DreamWorks Pictures / Paramount Pictures

13.Tatiana Maslany as Sarah, Beth, Rachel, Cosima, Alison, Helena, Krystal, Mika, and more in Orphan Black

Tatiana Maslany as various characters

I truly believe that NO ONE could do what Tatiana did. She played the majority of the characters on the show completely distinctly, so that it was obvious which one she was playing, even if she was dressed as one of the other clones. Not only that, but the fact that she had so many scenes with just herself meant that she had to film a ton of scenes without even having the other actor to work off of, which really is so much harder if you've ever acted. They tried to recapture the magic with the guy clones, but it just wasn't the same. That show would've really been nothing without Maslany's genius — and I actually mean genius.

Ken Woroner / John Medland / BBC-America / Courtesy: Everett Collection

14.Jim Carrey as the Grinch in How the Grinch Stole Christmas

the Grinch talking to himself

Personally, I think Carrey is the best part of pretty much every movie he's been in, but that might just be me. Still, this is one of his most iconic roles — so much so that it's hard for me to accept anyone else even voicing the Grinch. Carrey's one of those actors who can so easily play larger-than-life, and that's exactly what the role required here. He's magnetic and hilarious to watch, and makes the role so much more than just a heartless villain.

Universal Pictures

15.Emma Stone as Olive in Easy A

Emma Stone smiling and looking at something in a high school hallway

Let’s be real — without Emma Stone, this is just another teen comedy. But Emma’s humor makes this film genuinely one of the best teen movies out there. She completely sells her character, and she stands out amongst the rest of the cast. Although I will say that Patricia Clarkson and Stanley Tucci were also excellent, but because these felt like minor roles I'm still going to say Emma carried this one.

Adam Taylor/Screen Gems/Courtesy Everett Collection

16.Joseph Morgan as Klaus on The Vampire Diaries

Klaus yelling

Klaus was by far the best villain on TVD, and honestly, probably the best character. There's a reason he got his own spinoff. He can turn from mocking to sad to charming to furious to lonely in a second, and it's absolutely magnetic. He's completely unhinged, but you actually do feel for him and understand his code of ethics and his motivations. Beyond that, he's just fun to watch.

The CW

17.Amanda Bynes as Viola in She’s the Man

Viola eating chicken with a furious look on her face

Amanda Bynes was really a force to be reckoned with in the 2000s. She was so, so talented, and this has got to be my favorite project of hers. Now, is this movie good? No. It's ridiculous. But she is utterly hilarious in it, and she commits fully. Her facial expressions alone make this movie hilarious, and I wish she'd done more in the years following.

DreamWorks / courtesy Everett Collection

18.LiIi Reinhart as Betty on Riverdale

Betty talking to Jughead

Similarly to Troian, Reinhart manages to give a grounded performance through even the most ridiculous storylines and dialogue, and I'm not even sure Meryl Streep could do that. Of course, Reinhart probably couldn't do Doubt, but it's still a really impressive skill, and I'm excited to see where Lili's career goes. She easily plays the Girl Next Door and brings an emotional gravitas to the role that grounds it, but she's also great at playing darker and more unhinged versions of Betty. I'd love to see Lili play a villain in the future. As for the other actors, it feels more like they're embracing the camp, more like the actors (besides Dylan) on Teen Wolf.

The CW

19.And finally, Mark Hamill as The Joker in Batman: The Animated Series and a TON of other stuff

the Joker smiling with sad eyes

There's a reason he's been voicing this role for so long!!! And that he's the only one in an animated role on this list. It's hard to make your mark acting without showing your face or body language, but Hamill's voice alone is enough to make his iteration of the Joker one of the best. This role is more iconic than Luke Skywalker, IMO — and he really steals every single scene he's in.

Warner Home Video /Courtesy Everett Collection