Iconic Roles: The Best Gerard Butler Action Movies

By | January 12, 2023

Iconic Roles is a look at some of the best performances in film and television by actors and actresses.

Gerard Butler’s next on-screen assignment sees the Scottish actor portraying a pilot forced to deal with a sticky situation in the upcoming Plane movie. The 53-year-old Butler has several action film credits on his résumé, but the role that gave him worldwide recognition is undoubtedly Leonidas in 300. Butler always looked comfortable being the guy who saves the day and it seems the character he portrays in Plane will have plenty of occasions to do that.

Here’s a list of the best Gerard Butler action movies to rewatch ahead (or after) Plane.

Leonidas in 300 (2006)

It’s impossible to list the best Gerard Butler action movies without including the Zack Snyder-directed blockbuster on the epic battle featuring a bunch of Spartans taking on the whole Persian army. The end of that clash is well-known since it is actual history, although 300 added plenty of color to the historical accuracy (after all, 300 is the adaptation of a graphic novel by Frank Miller and not of a history essay). Butler put on a charismatic performance as the Spartan king preparing to face his fate, in addition to showing an enviable physical shape. To date, 300 is Butler’s biggest box-office success in a live-action project, grossing more than $450 million. Butler also appeared as Leonidas in some flashback sequences in 300: Rise of an Empire. Butler’s epic scream, ‘This is Sparta!’ will echo through the ages.

One-Two in RocknRolla (2008)

Director Guy Ritchie is a specialist in British gangster films, so it wasn’t a big surprise when he called Butler to portray a violent yet likable Scottish mobster. The linear plot features gangsters taking on other mobsters in the never-ending war for power. Butler acted as the leader of the Wild Bunch, a rising London-based cockney criminal group. The ensemble cast featured Tom Wilkinson, Thandiwe Newton, Mark Strong, Idris Elba, and Tom Hardy, among others. RocknRolla dominated the U.K. box office on its release but never became a cult movie like Ritchie’s Snatch. Still, fans appreciated the comfortable way Butler handled himself like a small-time criminal leader.

Clyde Shelton in Law Abiding Citizen (2009)

Butler played the hero for most of his career, but he proved he could be an attention-grabbing bag guy too. Butler worked side-by-side with Jamie Foxx in a story where a corrupt criminal justice system takes a man to make his own justice. 10 years after his family is murdered in front of his eyes, Shelton hunts down the responsible, who had escaped justice. Prosecuting attorney Nick Rice (Foxx) is the man who failed to sentence the murderer of Shelton’s family to death, a decision that never sat well with Shelton. The situation gets even tenser when Shelton threatens Rice’s family. Law Abiding Citizen didn’t meet the critics’ taste, but it passed the audience test with nearly $130 million at the box office.

Mike Banning in Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

Antoine Fuqua knows how to shoot a thrilling action movie, proof is his filmography. In their first collaboration, Fuqua and Butler gave their best to portray on the screen the efforts of former Secret Service Agent Mike Banning to save the U.S. President from a North Korean terrorist group. The result is a pop-corn movie that keeps the audience on its toes until the credits. Butler shared the screen with Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, and Robert Forster, among others. Olympus Has Fallen was successful enough to start a franchise, with Butler portraying Banning in London Has Fallen (2016) and Angel Has Fallen (2019). The Scottish actor will also return in the already-planned Night Has Fallen.

Nick “Big Nick” O’Brien in Den of Thieves (2018)

Den of Thieves was a pleasant box-office surprise in the early days of 2018, performing above expectations and grossing $80.5 million. The story follows the attempt of detective “Big Nick” to bring to justice a gang of criminals who put on one of the most unlikely heists in Los Angeles County. Fans can always expect an intense on-screen performance from Butler, and that’s also the case for Den of Thieves, where his character doesn’t always play by the rules to keep up with the criminals. The cast included Pablo Schreiber, O’Shea Jackson Jr., and Curtis Jackson, a.k.a. 50 Cent. A sequel titled Den of Thieves 2: Pantera is currently in production, with many actors reprising their characters, including Butler.