Ranking the 8 Memorable Performances by Actors Playing Victor Frankenstein 

James McAvoy plays the mad scientist's newest incarnation. But who plays him best? From Young Frankenstein to Penny Dreadful, we explore. 

Victor Frankenstein, the OG mad scientist, has intrigued storytellers ever since Mary Shelley first gave him life in 1818. His tragic arc has made him popular with filmmakers, a veritable Charles Foster Kane of the reanimated. Now, he’s back in theaters in the form of James McAvoy, thanks to the new film Victor Frankenstein — a movie that swings the spotlight away from the monster he creates and towards the monster that resides inside of him. McAvoy’s performance is laudable, but it’s not the best ever. Here’s how McAvoy’s take stacks up against other popular performances:

8. Aden Young, I, Frankenstein

With a well-earned 3% on Rotten Tomatoes, I, Frankenstein is true to the spirit of the book only in the meta sense that it haunts its creators and staggers horribly through the world, a bleak visage reminding humanity of its hubris. Aden Young’s performance is not the worst thing in the movie, but that’s only because there are so many terrible things in the movie (the premise, for one).

7. David Anders’ Dr. Whale, Once Upon A Time

There’s nothing wrong per se with this decidedly “meh” version of Victor Frankenstein — his name even pays a neat homage to original Frankenstein director James Whale — but the character’s bro vibes make him unsympathetic.

6. Kenneth Branagh, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Branagh’s interpretation of the man comes in a film that’s been praised for its adherence to Mary Shelley’s original, but his performance is too melodramatic to rank above the best. Also it’s hard to take him seriously when he looks like he stole Tom Cruise’s wig from Interview with the Vampire. Maybe Branagh should stick to Shakespeare and Thor.

5. Tim Curry’s Dr. Frank-N-Furter, The Rocky Horror Picture Show

The only reason he isn’t higher on this list is that he’s too much of a deviation from the original — his name isn’t even Victor Frankenstein. But he’s a spiritual extension of the character, and a classic one at that.

4. Colin Clive, Universal’s Frankenstein

Clive’s take on the good doctor delivers the original “it’s alive!” line. Need we say more?

3.. James McAvoy, Victor Frankenstein

You might think this movie looks questionable as a whole — and it’s actually not! — but there’s nothing questionable about McAvoy’s balls-to-the wall, fabulously unhinged performance as the young scientist in his early days.

2. Harry Treadaway, Penny Dreadful

Treadaway’s drug addicted, brilliant, socially awkward, vaguely creepy yet pitiful take on the iconic character gives him fresh life as the definitive Victor Frankenstein of today. Not to mention, his initial relationship with his monster is the Frankenstein canon’s most unexpected, tender, human portrayal of the dynamic between man and creature. Penny Dreadful nails the spirit of the Frankenstein narrative.

1. Gene Wilder, Young Frankenstein

Come on, what kind of ranking of Victor Frankensteins would this be if this wasn’t #1?

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