There's no other movie star quite like Gerard Butler.

The 51-year-old Scot occupies a unique spot in Hollywood. He doesn't make $200 million movies, he hasn't donned a cape (at least not a superhero one), and he's never chased award-type roles... yet there aren't many actors as consistent.

In a world where the mid-budget action film is disappearing, Butler owns the space, churning a few out every year, and even shockingly turning some into franchises (Olympus Has Fallen being on the verge of having three sequels is almost unexplainable).

Gerard Butler Best Performances
Credit: Everett Collection; Warner Bros. Pictures; Everett Collection

Ahead of Butler's villain turn in Copshop (out Sept. 17), we're counting down the action hero's top 10 performances.

Gerard Butler Best Performances
Credit: Jonathan Hession/Disney

10. Reign of Fire (2002)

Say what you want about this post-apocalyptic box office bomb, but as Creedy, the sidekick to Christian Bale's dragon-slaying hero, Butler fits in nicely next to future Oscar-winning stars Bale and Matthew McConaughey.

Gerard Butler Best Performances
Credit: DreamWorks Animation

9. How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

The How to Train Your Dragon franchise, which earned three Best Animated Feature Oscar nominations, has given Butler the best reviewed films of his career, and probably a nice recurring paycheck as well. It also might be the most perfectly cast he's ever been, as Stoick the Vast, the stern leader of a Viking tribe.

Gerard Butler Best Performances
Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

8. 300 (2007)

The role of King Leonidas in Zack Snyder's historical epic catapulted Butler to true stardom. And while he walks the walk, looks the look, and roars the roar, 300 is much more interested in visuals than performances, hence why the most popular film of Butler's career isn't higher on our list.

Gerard Butler Best Performances
Credit: Everett Collection

7. RocknRolla (2008)

As you go through these rankings, you'll notice that none of Butler's attempts at straight comedy made the cut, which makes sense since his short-lived run as a rom-com lead left a lot to be desired (looking at you, The Bounty Hunter). But Butler finds both fun and success as criminal One Two in Guy Ritchie's often forgotten caper, RocknRolla. There's some good flirty chemistry between Butler and Thandiwe Newton, but the film is at its best and most entertaining when Butler, Tom Hardy, and Idris Elba are committing heists and busting each other's balls. Plus, their group is called the Wild Bunch, which is how we like to think that trio acted together offscreen as well.

Credit: STXfilms

6. Greenland (2020)

This recent disaster thriller might best symbolize the power of Gerard Butler. Released in December 2020, in the midst of the pandemic's second wave, Greenland managed to not only make $50 million at the box office and another $30 or so from PVOD, but STX has already forked over $75 million for distribution rights to a sequel. Oh, and to top things off, Greenland is pretty good! The smaller budget meant that special effects take a backseat to the human element of this impending doom, as structural engineer John Garrity goes from trying to save his marriage to trying to save his family from a comet.

Finley Jacobsen and Gerard Butler in Olympus Has Fallen
Credit: Everett Collection

5. Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

It's easy to forget that 2013 marked the great arms race to be the first "the White House is invaded by terrorists and the president can only be saved by a ruggedly handsome white man" movie released. On paper, White House Down seemed like the obvious hit, between the bigger budget ($150 million to Olympus Has Fallen's $70 million) and bigger stars (Channing Tatum was as hot as can be, while Aaron Eckhart is no Jamie Foxx). Yet, here we are, eight years and two sequels later, and Butler has his James Bond, his Ethan Hunt, his Dominic Toretto, in Secret Service agent Mike Banning. In this "Die Hard in the White House," Butler believably plays the all-American hero while delivering quintessential action movie lines like, "My advice: Save the last bullet for yourself."

Gerard Butler Best Performances
Credit: Everett Collection

4. Angel Has Fallen (2019)

Despite the success of Olympus and London Has Fallen, Butler wanted to "freshen" things up for the threequel, previously telling EW, "We could have just made Tokyo Has Fallen and people would have had a blast, but what else would we have been saying?" So he and director Ric Roman Waugh (Shot Caller) decided to keep the huge set pieces and added a "deeper, darker journey" for Banning in exploring the physical and emotional toll that repeatedly saving the president takes. And Butler rose to the challenge, with a little help from his experience working on the series. "Mike's gone through a lot, and I've gone through a lot," he told EW with a laugh. "I went through this movie pretty beaten up, so it wasn't hard for me to portray that character, because it felt I was kind of living it. I don't know how many more of these I have left." Well, he hasn't fallen off yet.

Gerard Butler Best Performances
Credit: John Baer/Overture

3. Law Abiding Citizen (2009)

It's not often that Butler truly goes for it. He usually prefers to stay in his good guy wheelhouse, but that is far from the case in F. Gary Gray's insane, deliciously bad, and extremely watchable film that feels like it was made specifically to constantly replay on TNT. Starring opposite Jamie Foxx, Butler plays Clyde Shelton, a family man who becomes a psychotic vigilante following the murder of his wife and daughter. Butler is off his rocker in the best way, and no sequence better showcases that then an all-time rant where he goes from arguing a judge should give him bail to berating the judge for giving him bail. It's hall of fame hamminess that is worth the price of admission, which actually won't you cost anything, since, like I said, just turn on TNT and this will come on eventually.

Credit: Saban Films

2. The Vanishing (2018)

You are forgiven for having never heard of this British psychological thriller that I don't believe ever got a release in the U.S. (see a clip at the top of this story). To be honest, I only know about it because Butler himself asked me to check it out and let him know what I thought. And it was a welcome relief when I did and discovered a performance unlike anything else that Butler has done in his career. Fellow Scot Peter Mullan (Top of the Lake) is arguably the lead in this tale of three lighthouse keepers, but Butler is the clear standout. After learning that he's just killed a young boy, Butler's James Ducat immediately becomes unhinged, going completely dead in the eyes. It all builds to a heartbreaking final scene in which a remorseful James asks his only surviving companion (Mullan) to drown him. "It's okay," he repeats, as Butler nails the verbal and facial emotions in giving the final permission. It may seem like this film has vanished, but the 85 percent on Rotten Tomatoes proves that it's worth the search.

Gerard Butler Best Performances
Credit: Everett Collection

1. Den of Thieves (2018)

All hail, Big Nick. The only guarantee for me when starting this assignment was that this extremely underrated heist film would easily be my No. 1 pick. Playing Det. "Big Nick" O'Brien (a.k.a. "the original gangster cop"), Butler beefed up and exhibited a new kind of swagger, seemingly almost combining his hero types with a bit of his Law Abiding Citizen craziness. Some might argue that 140 minutes is too long for a film like this, but I'd call the cops on them because I would have happily watched 280 minutes. Thankfully, Butler and O'Shea Jackson Jr. are reuniting for a sequel, which better include a return trip to Benihana for Big Nick. 

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