On March 29th at 8:44 a.m., a tweet was fired off into the void.
It was a harmless thing. A photo of a Hollywood actor smiling jovially into the camera. Its owner, one @JoeyMulinaro, captioned it thus: “Another famous guy we all know but absolutely refuse to know his name.”
That “guy” was Kyle Chandler.
Before this tweet, we just assumed everyone knew America’s hazel-eyed sweetheart. After all, Chandler has been steadily booking gigs for decades, playing some of TV and film’s most memorable characters. He’s remembered by younger millennials on Tumblr platforms and Reddit forums as the beloved Coach Taylor of NBC’s sports drama, Friday Night Lights. If you were a ’90s kid, you probably saw him cutting his teeth on shows like Homefront and Tour of Duty. Even if you were new to the Kyle Chandler fandom, you still should’ve been aware of his most recent acting credits — Hulu’s Catch-22, Netflix’s Bloodline, and that George Clooney-helmed space movie that dropped late last year.
And yet, reading some of the replies left us as gobsmacked as we were when we first encountered the post.
One commenter admitted they often confused Kyle Chandler with Ron Livingston (Boardwalk Empire, Office Space). Another recognized him as the guy who got blown up on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. “Bomb Guy is his name,” they wrote. Still, most disturbing was the person who simply dropped a picture of Jon Hamm into the thread with the query, “This guy?”
Had our faith in humanity taken a severe hit? Sure. Were we now terrified of a future that might be populated with people who couldn’t recite the “Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can’t Lose” slogan if a gun were pointed to their head? Of course. But at the end of the day, this Kyle Chandler slander falls back on us. We are the stewards of these great mediums known as television and film and if we don’t teach the children about history’s on-screen heroes, heroes like Kyle Chandler … well, then, we deserve to see him cataloged in the annals of history as one Twitter commenter labeled him, “Attractive White Man #406.”
So we’ve decided to rank some of the best performances by Chandler on TV and film. This list is not exhaustive — for an actor as prolific, how could it be? But it does serve as a guide to where you can stream some of the man’s greatest hits, a gateway if you will, into the Chandlerverse. Here are the best Kyle Chandler performances you probably forgot about.
Honorable Mention: King Kong (2005)
Peter Jackson’s interpretation of this classic monster verse story would introduce Chandler to that oversized ape nearly 20 years before he played an out-of-his-depth dad just trying to convince his daughter not to listen to trashy podcasts in Godzilla Vs. Kong. Baxter was a rather unlikeable character but Chandler’s charm — and a particularly heroic rescue scene — made him memorable nonetheless. Whoever thought to have this man swing down on a vine with a machine gun in hand like some old Hollywood glamorous Tarzan knew what they were doing.
Stream on: Hulu
10. The Midnight Sky (2020)
We give George Clooney major kudos for finally giving fans what we’ve so longed for: a movie with Kyle Chandler, in space. The action is split between Clooney’s Earth-dwelling heroics — he plays a scientist trying to warn the last manned flight mission from returning to their uninhabitable home — and the happenings onboard the Aether, a ship meant to uncover whether one of Jupiter’s moons may be conducive to human life. Chandler’s pilot, Tom Mitchell, is a calming presence in the background for most of the film, but it’s his final few moments on screen that pack a punch. In Mitchell’s decision to embrace certain death by returning to a radioactive Earth with the hope he might find his family, Chandler plays on his greatest strengths: his family-man status, and the ability to convey incredible emotion through those searing puppy-dog eyes.
Stream On: Netflix
9. The Wolf Of Wall Street (2013)
Martin Scorsese’s bombastic retelling of stockbroker and scam artist Jordan Belfort’s meteoric rise on Wall Street — and his subsequent downfall — is chock full of over-the-top performances by well-known stars. Everyone from Leonardo DiCaprio to Jonah Hill and Margot Robbie delivers darkly comedic turns that will live in Gif-able infamy. In comparison, Chandler’s every-man FBI agent feels tame, like the acting equivalent of a light helping of Quaaludes, which makes his eventual victory all the more interesting to watch. Chandler goes toe-to-toe with DiCaprio’s delusionally self-confident millionaire playboy, dishing out cutting insults and pairing them with a jovial smile. He’s laser-focused on bagging the bad guy but detached enough to not make this cat-and-mouse game personal. His final subway ride has fans questioning who really won, despite Belfort eventually serving time and Chandler’s agent scoring the biggest bust of his career.
Stream on: Amazon Prime
8. Carol (2015)
Harge Aird is not the hero of Carol. In fact, he’s one of the film’s driving antagonists, an of-the-era businessman who refuses to let his failing marriage go quietly into the dark night of divorce. The fact that his wife (Cate Blanchett giving a tour-de-force) just happens to be in love with another woman only adds to Harge’s embarrassment and devastation. Despite the role being an obvious foil to the doomed romance at the heart of this film, Chandler manages to make us sympathize with his stereotypically masculine breadwinner type. Harge is awful, yes, but he’s also mourning his chance at achieving the “American Dream,” and that grief pushes him to act callously, even vindictively, towards the woman he believes is responsible for the death of his happiness. It’s a tough task to convey the nuance of this supporting character, one Chandler manages to do with very little screen time.
Stream on: Amazon Prime
7. Godzilla: King of Monsters (2019)
Godzilla has been in two Kyle Chandler movies now — technically, so has King Kong — but this film gives the actor the most to do. And by “most” we mean he plays the conventional lead as an ex-scientist and grieving father who holds Godzilla responsible for the death of his son. That family conflict fuels Chandler’s performance as Mark Russell, who spends most of the film searching for his missing daughter (Millie Bobby Brown) and ex-wife (Vera Farmiga). Once he finds them, he’s charged with saving the planet, which means working alongside his ancient enemy. Chandler’s screen-time is full of loaded exposition and melodramatic one-liners, but it still works and it adds stakes to a film that risks feeling too massive in scale to be at all relatable. Oh, and no one — we mean no one — can aggressively whisper as good as this man.
Stream on: HBO Max
6. Early Edition (1996 – 2000)
One of Chandler’s earliest breakout roles, this fantasy sitcom imagined a world where Chandler’s former stockbroker Gary Hobson is delivered tomorrow’s newspaper every morning and tasked with changing the future. It’s a fairly inventive premise given the show’s timestamp, and Chandler’s Hobson is the kind of virtuous, aww-shucks hero audiences root for. There’s humor, usually at Hobson’s expense, and an overarching mystery that poses some interesting questions. Oh, and cats. Kyle Chandler acts opposite a divinely-powered tabby cat in this thing. What more incentive do you need to watch?
5. Grey’s Anatomy (2006 – 2007)
A guest-starring role normally represents the chance for a semi-known actor to reach a new level of recognition, but Chandler said “to hell with that” when he took on the role of bomb squad hero Dylan Young over the course of a few episodes of ABC’s hit medical procedural. Instead, Chandler’s fresh-faced hunk earned his own fabled legacy within the Grey’s universe. Fanfictions were written about him. Many hoped he’d show up on Ellen Pompeo’s beach this season. When diehard fans unite to discuss their favorite episodes, his appearance almost always makes the cut. Young was selfless and snarky, willing to cradle a bomb surgically removed from a patient in order to save the lead of the show. The fact that Chandler so impressed creator Shonda Rhimes with his minuscule screen time that she encouraged him to audition for another TV series that ranks even higher on this list, should tell you all you need to know.
Stream on: Netflix
4. Bloodline (2015 – 2017)
Is Kyle Chandler’s tortured police detective the best thing about Bloodline? No, that would be Ben Mendelsohn. Is Kyle Chandler’s tortured police detective the second best thing about Bloodline? No, that would be Sissy Spacek. But is Kyle Chandler’s tortured police detective the third best thing about Bloodline? Well, it’s a tie between him and Linda Cardellini, but for a show as good as this Netflix crime-drama, being tied for third is really an accomplishment. Chandler plays John Rayburn, the good son, the upstanding community member, the man who cleans up the messes of his siblings while shouldering all of the blame from his biased mother. Eventually, that stress gets to him — as does his contentious relationship with his older brother, Mendelsohn’s Danny — and watching Chandler spiral, shedding his good-guy facade to reveal the complex, morally dubious man underneath is thrilling, even though you just know things won’t end well.
Stream on: Netflix
3. Game Night (2018)
Game Night was not supposed to be a comedy vehicle that proved just how funny a certain dramatically inclined actor could be for Kyle Chandler. No, that honor should’ve been reserved solely for Rachel McAdams. But dammit, Kyle Chandler’s charisma is just too powerful to play second-fiddle, especially in this action-comedy where he plays Jason Bateman’s older, cooler brother named Brooks. Brooks is a scumbag, a suave, well-coiffed, incredibly rich scumbag whose black-market dealings interrupt a scheduled game night and cause the whole evening to go straight to hell in a handbasket. And yet, Brooks ends up being a lovable buffoon just trying to connect with his sibling and clean up his act while making a quick buck off Faberge eggs and Witsec lists and the like. You’ll end this movie actually rooting for the man, despite everything which just proves how potent Chandler’s likability really is.
Stream on: Amazon Prime
2. Catch-22 (2019)
This may come as a shock to hardcore Chandler stans, but he plays a really good bad guy. Like, almost too good. In this hilariously bleak dark comedy about a World War II bomber trying to escape service after the war is already won, Chandler inhabits the role of the show’s main antagonist, a paranoid, arrogant a**hole named Colonel Cathcart. He’s unhinged to the nth degree, forcing his men to go on more missions in order to impress his superiors and bolster his own self-worth. He’s wildly narcissistic, a bit idiotic, and callous in his treatment of others. And you can tell, you just know, Kyle Chandler is having the time of his life playing the dude.
Stream on: Hulu
1. Friday Night Lights (2006 – 2011)
Few TV shows are remembered accurately. Either nostalgia paints them as something precious and creatively unattainable or more modern societal shifts cause their jokes and storylines to age badly. But Friday Night Lights is a bit of a unicorn in terms of beloved TV fare — a family drama that’s as good as you thought it was upon second, third, and fourth viewing. Most of that can be attributed to Kyle Chandler, who plays the stalwart Coach Taylor, a man with deep roots in his community who’s just trying to provide a better future for his family and the boys on his high school football team. He’s a categorial “nice guy” but Chandler brings layers to him, deftly switching from jealous husband to exasperated father to disappointed coach and back again. And the speeches? Creator Peter Berg must have a touch of omniscience to him because how else would he have known that Kyle Chandler would one day become the king of locker room pep talks?
Stream on: Hulu