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Bill Skarsgård's 13 Best Movies Ranked

Very few actors can convincingly portray bug-eyed monsters and charming romantic foils, but Bill Skarsgård makes it look easy. This chameleonic performer has more than established himself as a uniquely quirky screen presence, capable of making audiences swoon, gasp, and recoil in terror. 

Though he really broke through to the mainstream playing the darkly comic Pennywise in "It" and "It Chapter Two," Skarsgård actually got his start in a number of Swedish dramas. Many of these productions saw him work with his own family members: He made his debut in the 2000 thriller "Järngänget" alongside his brother Alexander, and teamed up with his father Stellan and siblings Gustaf and Valter in the 2008 period epic "Arn: The Kingdom at the End of the Road." Once he caught Hollywood's eye, he was off to the races. 

Skarsgård has managed to churn out quite an impressive body of work, spanning a wide variety of films. But which stand out as especially stunning?  We're here to answer that question by ranking Bill Skarsgård's 13 best movies.

13. Allegiant

In the wake of wildly successful franchises like "Harry Potter" and "The Hunger Games," studios were desperate to adapt more young adult book series into hit films. One of the more curious products of this era is the "Divergent" series, based on the novels of the same name by Veronica Roth. Like the movies it wants to emulate, these flicks feature a bunch of then up-and-coming young actors like Shailene Woodley and Theo James in leading roles, alongside overqualified veterans including Kate Winslet, Jeff Daniels, and Octavia Spencer. Love triangles and rebellion against oppressive systems proliferate in the series' dystopian Chicago.

The third film in the series, "Allegiant" introduces Bill Skarsgård to the franchise as Matthew, a member of the sinister Bureau of Genetic Welfare. Over the course of the film, he turns against the Bureau and aids the heroes in their bid to escape. Any hopes of seeing the story continue beyond this film were dashed by its dismal box office return. Critics weren't much kinder: "Allegiant" was brutally panned as dull, overlong, and silly. Though much has been written about exactly why the "Divergent" film series fell apart, the blame can't be laid at Skarsgård's feet — he puts in a solid performance as the complex Matthew.

12. Naked Singularity

It's easy to see the initial appeal of bizarre legal thriller "Naked Singularity," which is based on Sergio De La Pava's novel of the same name. It comes from acclaimed source material and features the kind of colorful characters performers love to play with. The story focuses on Casi (John Boyega), a struggling yet idealistic public defender working out of New York City, who has become increasingly disillusioned with the legal system. When a former client (Olivia Cooke) comes to him for help with a heroin deal she's been blackmailed into by an ex-lover (Ed Skrein), Casi concocts an elaborate heist in order to turn the tables.

Casi's partner in crime is the similarly exasperated Dane, played by Bill Skarsgård. This role reunited the actor with screenwriter Chase Palmer, who worked on "It" and made his feature-length directorial debut here. Though the impressive cast does their best to elevate the material, the film's hodgepodge of heavy themes, attempts at humor, and psychedelia weigh the story down. As The San Francisco Chronicle put it, "It's not until halfway through the movie that the complex, mildly amusing heist mechanics begin to kick in; by then, viewers' investment in the proceedings will probably have drifted off into space."

11. Assassination Nation

"Assassination Nation," written and directed by "Euphoria" creator Sam Levinson, explores a town torn apart by a hacker's massive data dump of their dirty secrets. Humiliated by revelations of clandestine trysts and scandalous affairs, the town's men take to the streets and target the people they consider responsible: women. But a group of female high schoolers take matters into their own hands and start to fight back, leading to all kinds of bloody chaos.

One of these girls is Lily (Odessa Young), whose boyfriend Mark (Bill Skarsgård) discovers she's been seeing an older man (Joel McHale) behind his back. His ugly reaction is a vivid example of the film's message, but the preachy delivery, combined with outrageous levels of violence, loses said message in the mix. As The Independent declared, "With so much noise, every point the film wants to make has to be roared via lengthy speeches and declarations made straight down the lens. Any deeper meaning becomes lost."

10. Eternals

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the omnipresent juggernaut of the modern multiplex. But with so many hits under its belt, it was inevitable that the MCU would eventually produce something that failed to connect critically or commercially. That film ended up being "Eternals." Introducing a new, previously unseen race of immortal beings tasked with protecting the Earth from hostile aliens known as the Deviants, "Eternals" does its best to juggle 3000 years' worth of flashbacks, as well as more than a dozen major characters. But its best just isn't good enough.

One of those characters is a somewhat evolved Deviant named Kro (Bill Skarsgård), who has developed enough intelligence to recognize the horrors that have been done to his people. Sadly, the character is muddled and ultimately extraneous, failing to make the most of the actor's talents. Richard Roeper summed things up in his review for The Chicago Sun-Times when he wrote, "['Eternals'] features some groundbreaking and/or relatively unusual elements ... Regrettably, that's not nearly enough to overcome the usual mix of sitcom bantering about cell phones and respective personality quirks alternating with ponderous debates about free will and genocide."

9. Anna Karenina

Joe Wright is one of the most prolific directors of period dramas working today. Ever since he made his feature-length directorial debut with 2005's lushly realized "Pride & Prejudice," the filmmaker has delivered one heartfelt historical epic after another, including "Atonement," "Darkest Hour," and "Cyrano." Among his more divisive films, however, is hisadaptation of Leo Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina." Wright tackles the legendary story in a highly theatrical way: Much of the film appears to take place in and around a frequently transformed playhouse.

As the film contains one of Bill Skarsgård's first English-language roles, it's unsurprising that it's on the smaller side. Indeed, he only makes a brief appearance as Makhotin, one of Vronsky's (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) horse racing rivals. This might be a blessing in disguise, given the film's middling reviewsThe Chicago Tribune summed things up by noting, "Like most alleged love-it-or-hate-it propositions, the new film version of 'Anna Karenina' is neither. Rather, it's a half-success — a baldly conceptual response to the Leo Tolstoy novel, with a heavy theatrical framework placed around the narrative of girl meets boy, followed by girl meets train."

8. The Devil All the Time

There are many ways to explore religion through film. A creator can look at it through an individual lens or that of a community. They might examine it as a source of uplift and meaning, or portray it as a corrupting force that drives humanity's darkest impulses. Director Antonio Campos decided to go with the darkest options in his sprawling ensemble thriller "The Devil All the Time," which depicts a rural Midwestern town teeming with violence and desperation. This leads its characters to do horrible things in the name of what they believe to be right.

Bill Skarsgård plays Willard Russell, a deeply traumatized World War II veteran who becomes obsessed with the idea that he can save his cancer-stricken wife by pouring blood onto a prayer log. His troubled worldview is eventually passed down to his son (Tom Holland), who finds himself tempted by darkness. "The Devil All the Time" is rife with complex characters and existential bleakness, which proves effective for some viewers and off-putting to others. This left many critics impressed but wanting more: As Reelviews wrote in their review, "The resulting production is engrossing but conventional — a well-told story whose evocative setting and vivid performances combine to produce a grim and lurid tableau."

7. It Chapter Two

Stephen King adaptations are basically their own genre. But for every instant classic like "The Shining" or "The Shawshank Redemption," you're just as likely to find something as forgettable as "Dreamcatcher" or "The Dark Tower." Andy Muschietti's "It Chapter Two," the sequel to the smash-hit "It," falls somewhere in the middle. It can't quite capture the highs of the previous film, but its flair for horrifying spectacle and top-notch cast (which includes James McAvoy, Jessica Chastain, and Bill Hader) make it far more than watchable. This entry tackles the adult section of King's novel, in which the now-grown members of the Losers Club must reunite and stop the evil that has plagued their hometown once and for all.

Bill Skarsgård returns to what is easily his most iconic role, Pennywise the Dancing Clown, in this installment. RogerEbert.com lavishly praised his performance, declaring, "With a performance that's as physical as it is verbal, [Skarsgård] consistently manages to find that sweet spot between being terrifying and hilarious." Indeed he does: The actor takes Pennywise to extremes of terror, pity, humor, and sheer viciousness in this film, without ever losing touch with the character's essential absurdity.

6. Deadpool 2

You could be forgiven for forgetting that Bill Skarsgård was even in the cameo-stuffed "Deadpool 2." Following the runaway success of the first film, director David Leitch and star/producer/co-writer Ryan Reynolds decided to up the ante with bigger dramatic stakes, crazier action, and more super-powered characters than most movies would know what to do with. That's in addition to the titular character's anarchic humor, which breaks the fourth wall as frequently as it flaunts cultural taboos. The resulting concoction may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it clearly suits many others: "Deadpool 2" was an enormous hit.

Skarsgård plays the mutant Zeitgeist, who can vomit acid. He's part of one of the film's most effective gags, which involves the assembly of an elite super team (also including cameos from Terry Crews, Rob Delaney, and a blink-and-you'll-miss-him Brad Pitt) that gets immediately defeated by strong wind gusts. It's one of many standout moments in a film that's not afraid to lampoon genre conventions while finding room for genuine heart. The Atlantic sums this all up in their review, where they wrote, "The movie ... is at least as funny as the original 'Deadpool,' and better in virtually every other respect."

5. Villains

Bill Skarsgård is a man of many talents, and those talents often see him covered in makeup or playing a small but memorable role among a bigger cast. How refreshing, then, to find something like "Villains," which allows the actor to appear front and center as himself. A comedic crime thriller directed by Dan Berk and Robert Olsen, "Villains" stars Skarsgård and fellow genre luminary Maika Monroe as a couple of amateur criminals who break into a suburban house, only to discover that the homeowners (Jeffrey Donovan and Kyra Sedgwick) have a twisted secret they'll go to any lengths to keep hidden.

Largely set in and around the house, "Villains" allows its lead actors to really shine as they lean into the film's increasingly macabre humor. Skarsgård's performance earned particular praise: As The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "Skarsgård and Monroe bring a spunky sweetness to the film, making the most of the script's little glimpses into the relationship." Though comparisons to "Thelma and Louise" or the diner-robbing couple from "Pulp Fiction" are apt, the review concludes that the film stands on its own two feet. This is thanks, in no small part, to Skarsgård's impressive work.

4. Atomic Blonde

Following the incredible success of the "John Wick" films, there has been a rush to craft new action thrillers built around beloved stars. These have ranged from the tired ("The Gray Man") to the inspired ("Nobody"). Perhaps the most interesting among them features a star who's no stranger to intense action filmmaking: Charlize Theron, whose work in "Mad Max: Fury Road" proved her credibility in the genre. Her presence is one of the many highlights of the Cold War-era spy film "Atomic Blonde."

MI6 agent Lorraine Broughton (Theron) is investigating the death of a fellow operative in Berlin and attempting to recover a critical dossier days before the Berlin Wall's fall. One of her most useful contacts is Merkel (Bill Skarsgård), who plays a major role in her attempt to get a Stasi defector (Eddie Marsan) out of East Berlin. Though the overly complicated plot occasionally weighs down the spectacle, "Atomic Blonde" is a true delight. Empire put it best in their review: "It's cool and brutal, but with such impressive action credentials you almost wish there were fewer plot devices to distract you as Charlize gets up and at 'em."

3. Nine Days

Bill Skarsgård is closely associated with the horror genre, even outside of playing Pennywise. But don't think for a second that he can't bring necessary emotional weight to straightforward drama when the opportunity comes his way. That's exactly what he does as part of the ensemble in "Nine Days," a low-fi parable that takes place in a sort of limbo. The story follows a number of souls (played by Zazie Beetz, Tony Hale, and Skarsgård, among others) who arrive at a small house in the middle of this place, where an imposing but gentle individual (Winston Duke) interviews them for the opportunity to be born.

It's a cerebral concept to be sure, and while the film could stand to explain how its world works just a little bit more, the quality of the performances more than makes up the difference. Skarsgård, whose character gradually emerges as one of the top contenders for the position of life, gives a grounded performance that's all the more compelling for how un-showy and normal it is. As The Washington Post observed, "Writer-director Edson Oda, making an auspicious feature debut, has devised a deliberately stagy — yet surprisingly effective — device to make his point: Life should not be taken for granted."

2. Barbarian

Given that mainstream audiences largely associate him with a demonic clown, it's easy to assume that typecasting is a significant obstacle in Bill Skarsgård's career. However, it's also an asset, especially when it brings him to a movie like "Barbarian." Here, viewers' assumptions actually work in service of both Skarsgård's character and the film as a whole. Largely set around a suburban rental home in an otherwise desolate neighborhood in Detroit, "Barbarian" starts with two strangers (played by Skarsgård and Georgina Campbell) who discover they've unintentionally double-booked the same rental property in the middle of the night. Unsure of what to do, Skarsgård's Keith, who got there first, suggests they both stay the night.

Much of the film's early tension comes from the fact that we have no idea whether Keith is a genuinely nice guy caught in an unusual situation, or a depraved lunatic waiting for his chance to strike. He raises plenty of red flags, but evokes such an earnestly charming persona that it's difficult to get a read on him. Skarsgård walks this tightrope beautifully. Rolling Stone praised the unpredictable film, noting, "[Director] Cregger ... knows exactly how to conjure up dread, utilize jump scares, and play the tension-and-release-and-oh-hey-here's-even-more-tension game that characterize best-in-show creepfests."

1. It

To be honest, there wasn't much competition for this top spot. "It," the film that put Bill Skarsgård firmly on the map, remains one of his best. This is especially impressive, given Tim Curry's iconic performance as the first on-screen Pennywise in the 1990 TV adaptation of Stephen King's terrifying novel. Those are some seriously big clown shoes to fill. Fortunately for us, Skarsgård and director Andy Muschietti (alongside a talented cast of young actors) were more than up to the challenge.

Skarsgård's version of Pennywise is distinctly his, an effect bolstered by instantly memorable makeup and costume design. The clown's wide variety of verbal and physical tics take things to a truly visceral place, much like Skarsgård's insistence on doing his own stunts. The result is one of the most distinctive horror performances of the past decade. Vulture spoke for many cinephiles when it declared that this "It" is miles better than the 1990 incarnation, and Skarsgård is a key reason why.