11 Best Performances by Non-Jewish Actors Playing Jews in the Movies

Christian Bale and Leonardo DiCaprio Inspire Our List

Kafkaesque Performance: Anthony Perkins on the set of ‘The Trial’ with Jeanne Moreau and director Orson Welles.
AP Photo
Kafkaesque Performance: Anthony Perkins on the set of ‘The Trial’ with Jeanne Moreau and director Orson Welles.

By Adam Langer

Published February 20, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

8. Cate Blanchett as Bob Dylan in “I’m Not There” (2007)
Apart from the terrific soundtrack, Todd Haynes’s meditation on the Bob Dylan myth seems more film school exercise than full-fledged film. Nevertheless, the performance Blanchett turns in as the Bard during his “Like a Rolling Stone” period marks the one segment where the film goes electric.


9. Tom Cruise as Les Grossman in “Tropic Thunder” (2008)
The rumor is that Harvey Weinstein was the inspiration for Cruise’s turn as a bald, bearded, loud-mouthed Hollywood producer who suggests a maniacal version of Christian Bale’s performance in “American Hustle.” Either way, this is one of Cruise’s most engaging comic roles, and even if much of the movie wasn’t totally worth the price of admission, the Les Grossman dance sequence certainly was.


10. Barbara Sukowa as Hannah Arendt in “Hannah Arendt” (2012) and Rosa Luxemburg in “Rosa Luxemburg” (1986)
As one of the leading voices of New German Cinema, director Margarethe von Trotta has distinguished herself as one of the great interpreters of German history and culture. And, her collaborations with Barbara Sukowa seem every bit as significant to us as the one between, say, Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro.


11. Ben Cross as Harold Abrahams in “Chariots of Fire” (1981), and Anjelica Huston as Tamara Broder in “Enemies: A Love Story” (1989)
Leaving some names off this list was easy — John Turturro as Moe Flatbush in “Mo’ Better Blues” comes to mind. But there were too many to keep this as a simple 10. Score the last one as a tie.

Adam Langer is the arts and culture editor of the Forward.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.