The name Rowan Atkinson conjures many characters – Mr. Bean, Johnny English, Edmund Blackadder – all of whom charmed us with their comedic talents. And while we love Atkinson’s preternatural slapstick capabilities, WGBH is delighted to be presenting the rare drama from the multi-talented actor: Maigret, now airing on WGBX 44, Mondays at 9pm.

But Atkinson’s excellent turn in this Parisian detective thriller got us thinking – what other iconic comedians have delivered dramatic performances that took our breath away? Below we have an excellent selection, curated from fellow WGBH-ers, Boston film curators, and viewers like you.

"A recent favorite is Melissa McCarthy in Can You Ever Forgive Me? In comedy, McCarthy has a glorious prowess in all things physical, profane and unanticipated. But in her latest film about real-life writer turned literary forger, Lee Israel, she deftly quiets that propulsive energy—channeling it into a lifetime of burden that shrouds her like a cloak. In her Israel, we find a woman who has been wrecked by the unrelenting toll of a life unfulfilled. She is governed by sadness and anger. It is a performance so honest and mesmerizing, one can’t help but wonder what really roils in the deep, deep well of her comedy."
- Jared Bowen, Host, Open Studio

Hugh Laurie in The Night Manager. His performance is a mesmerizing combination of effortless charm and utter ruthlessness.
- Ron Bachman, Senior Director of Programming

Bryan Cranston – from Hal on Malcolm in the Middle to Breaking Bad!
- Jeanette, Boston

I was absolutely astounded when I saw Jackie Gleason, the over-the-top Ralph Kramden, on our black and white TV as Gigot. He never spoke in the film. Gene Kelly directed. This comedian knew how to “move” … and to move his audience.
- Bob, Brookline

Will Ferrell in Everything Must Go… There’s a certain darkness to the down-on-his-luck character that is so counter to his usual Old School/Step Brothers-self. While the movie didn’t crush at the Box Office, I actually think it’s a very impressive and applaud-worthy departure from the usual funny guy Ferrell we’re used to seeing on the big screen.
- Zack Waldman, WGBH Digital Social Producer

Zero Mostel in Martin Ritt’s The Front (1976) With films like The Producers we are accustomed to Mostel’s over the top larger than life characters. In The Front he shows the other side of it as he is blacklisted and grows weary. His final scene is a masterfully acted poignant scene. It breaks your heart.
- Skip Shea, Director of the Shawna Shea Film Festival

Terri with John C Reilly. This was the first dramatic role that I saw him in that showed me that this goofy dude can still pull at those heartstrings – and pull off just about any role he wanted.
- Jack, Milford

Rodney Dangerfield - Natural Born Killers. That guy has made me laugh my entire life. From corny stand-up to vulgar raunchy adult humor. But after seeing this movie… he made my skin crawl.
- John, Dorchester

Double the trouble: Kristen Wiig really branched out of comedy with her SNL co-star Bill Hader, playing estranged twins going through a family crisis in The Skeleton Twins. Although the film deals with difficult subjects like death, suicide and dysfunctional marriages, I appreciated that the story is centered around a realistic yet tender portrayal of a sibling relationship, something we often don’t see on screen.
- Meghan Smith, WGBH Digital Producer

Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Jim does an incredible job being so vulnerable and being in such pain. Every time I watch it, no matter how many times I’ve seen it, I’m there with him. I’m there with that anguish. Gondry is so wildly creative, and I love so much of the script, but it’s Jim’s performance that takes the cake.
- Jason, Medford

Robin Williams in The Fisher King. Possibly because I saw it when I was young. But seeing Mork playing this mentally disturbed, yet sublime character... it just hit me.
- Tim, Revere

WARNING: This clip contains moments that may not suitable for children under 17.

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon in The Trip – I like the film because they both are really funny and there’s a lot of fun parts, but everything in between is pathos. There’s a ton of range, and they both do a great job of portraying loneliness and personal failure.
- Jackie Bruleigh, WGBH Digital Marketing Manager

Marilyn Monroe in The Misfits. Monroe was frequently pigeonholed in comedic roles, but The Misfits was one of the few opportunities she had to show off her dramatic range as an actress.
- Shayne, Montreal

WARNING: This clip contains moments that may not suitable for children under 17.

Will Ferrell in Stranger than Fiction. It reminds me of Leslie Nielsen's pre-comedic performances, like he was channeling him in Airplane, only without the slapstick dialogue. it seemed like he was treating it as a comedic role that he had to play straight, as if the joke was all on him. which, technically it was... he held completely his own next to Hoffman and Thompson.
- Manny, New York

Daveed Diggs, [who I know from] a minor comedy roles, like in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. However, with Blindspotting, I was really surprised with the emotional depth that he could portray... I feel like [when] I get to know more about [the characters] as people, it dimensionalizes them.
- Audrey Wang, Co-Op

Stanley Tucci in The Lovely Bones was absolutely terrifying. I am so used to seeing him in more lighthearted, slightly tongue in cheek fare 90% of the time, so that performance gave me the chills all the more for it.
- Laura, Atlanta

One of my all time favorite movies is The Apartment. While there are a few light moments and a happy ending… it's the fragility of life – and the ability of the spirit in us to love again – that gives us hope for our own hearts in this story. Fred [MacMurray] is icy cold and unfeeling in this one – a far cry from the comedy dad character he usually plays.
- Redd, Worcester

Robin Williams in One Hour Photo. It was unsettling to see someone so recognizable and likeable in a performance where they're playing a potentially dangerous psycho/stalker in the periphery. And doing it so well!
Mark Anastasio, Director of Special Programming at the Coolidge

I recently watched Molly Shannon playing Emily Dickinson in Wild Nights with Emily – it was incredible. She has such a stoic face & really brought the character to life. I could see the tension of not being born in the right era on her face throughout the whole film.
- Dalya, Medford

Adam Sandler in Punch Drunk Love… is unique. [He’s] really leaning into the same type of persona that he plays in his comedy films. We're just seeing the sad side of it.
- Kevin Monahan, Curator for Boston Underground Film Fest

WARNING: This clip contains moments that may not suitable for children under 17.