The Bikeriders. Photography: Focus Features

IT’S BEEN A BIG few years for Hollywood’s man of the moment, Austin Butler. Not too long ago, Butler wasn’t much more than a boyishly good looking Nickelodeon and Disney stalwart. Now, he’s one of the most sought-after actors in the movie-making business, even coming close to winning an Oscar in the Best Actor category for his role in Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis biopic.

At one point in Elvis, Butler’s eponymous character embarks on an ill-fated venture into acting, as he longs to become the next James Dean. He didn’t, but Butler has triumphed where Elvis failed. Butler’s character in The Bikeriders – which hits Australian screens from today – is exactly the kind of greasy, rebellious and undeniably cool man James Dean would’ve played (we actually compared Butler’s Bikeriders persona to Dean’s in our review of the film). But Butler has been busy elsewhere too. He brought an unhinged magnetism to 2024’s second highest grossing film so far, Dune: Part Two, and has been widely praised for taking to the skies in Masters of the Air.

So, where does newly released The Bikeriders rank among Butler’s filmography? To find out, we’re taking a look back at the actor’s still-burgeoning career. For the sake of brevity, we’ll be leaving out minor roles and cameo appearances, because while Butler might be one of the most prolific Nickelodeon and Disney actors of all time, we can’t lay claim to having watched them all. We hope you’ll understand why.

What are Austin Butler’s best movies and TV shows?

10. Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure

Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure

What? Is this a mistake? A High School Musical spin-off? We hear you. Allow us to preface this entry with an explanation: despite the fact that he’s already landed a number of blockbuster roles, Austin Butler’s career is only just getting started, so he doesn’t have the densest filmography just yet. That’s why a middling direct-to-video film centring on a notoriously troublesome High School Musical character appears in this list. For what it’s worth, Butler fulfils his role as Sharpay’s enthusiastic new filmmaking friend admirably.

9. The Intruders

The Intruders

It may not be too memorable in hindsight, but The Intruders was a turning point in Butler’s career. Alongside another former Nickelodeon star in Miranda Cosgrove, Butler broke out of his family-friendly mould in this psychological thriller, which wasn’t overly successful but at least laid the groundwork for his later ascension.

8. Dude

Back in 2018, Butler lent his talents to Netflix coming of age comedy Dude. This was still deep in the period where Butler was trying to shed his teen actor image – he was already 26, after all. Dude features plenty of mildly inappropriate jokes about sex and drugs – you know, the stuff that makes teenagers laugh and critics grimace – and was thankfully the last hurrah of Butler’s teen idol era.

7. Aliens in the Attic

Aliens in the Attic

We love a good family-friendly comedy, and Aliens in the Attic typifies the genre. The film stars Butler as a 14-year-old braggadocio who must defend his holiday house – and planet earth – from an alien invasion. Need we say more?

6. The Dead Don’t Die

The Dead Don’t Die

2019 film The Dead Don’t Die is what Butler would likely call his first ‘grown-up’ movie, and it’s what Screen Rant calls “the end of Austin Butler’s bad movie streak”. The film is an absurdist comedy about the citizens of a rural town – creatively named Centerville – who must fight off a sudden outbreak of zombies. Butler plays a rebellious young traveller caught in the middle of the zombie epidemic alongside an all-star ensemble cast featuring Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton and Selena Gomez. As you’d expect from an over-the-top zombie flick, The Dead Don’t Die delivers on its promise of offbeat humour, ostentatious action sequences, and of course, plenty of brain-hungry zombies.

5. The Bikeriders

Butler’s new revved-up historical drama about a 1960s motorcycle gang’s growth from social club to a haven for sinister outlaws has finally been released, and assuredly, it ranks among the best of Butler’s cinematic CV. Butler plays the smouldering, taciturn, frayed leather-wearing Benny, a younger member of the crew who is being groomed to eventually assume its leadership – much to the dismay of his wife.

Benny spends much of the film intensely staring off into the distance, or contemplating his life with a pensive expression slapped across his face. When he does speak, it’s in fleeting bursts. When he’s called to action, Benny is similarly unpredictable. The Bikeriders likely won’t be the film that lands Butler his Oscar, but it continues an upward trend for the actor.

4. Elvis


When news broke that Austin Butler had been tapped to play the ‘King of Rock’n’Roll’, spectators were initially apprehensive. Here was an actor, already in his thirties, whose CV to that point only included relatively minor roles in bigger projects, an extensive body of work on Nickelodeon and Disney channel, and a poor box office track record with feature films. Director Baz Luhrmann took a risk though, and it paid off.

Butler was a revelation in his role as Elvis, with his full-on method-acting approach – which required a dialect coach to help him break out of – landing him widespread praise, launching his career prospects into the stratosphere, and almost delivering his first Oscar. The film itself is solid, but it’s not Butler’s best.

3. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

It’s easy to forget that Austin Butler is even in Quentin Tarantino’s 2019 purposely historically inaccurate historical drama, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which is the definition of a slow burn. In case you’re in need of a refresher (we won’t hold it against you), Butler plays Tex Watson, a literal cowboy and real-life member of the Manson family who has some homicidal tendencies.

Butler’s portrayal of the unassuming Tex becomes crucial for the final, climactic pay-off, and it showed audiences that the serious Austin Butler had well and truly arrived.

2. Masters of the Air

2024 really has been the year of Austin Butler so far. In addition to roles in The Bikeriders and Dune: Part Two, Butler somehow found the time to get back on the small screen in Masters of the Air. The war drama series, which acts as a companion piece to Band of Brothers and The Pacific, follows the actions of a heavy bomber unit during World War II. Expect the series to win a few Emmys, and for leading man Butler to be front and centre receiving those Emmys.

1. Dune: Part Two

Dune: Part Two

The most commercially successful film of 2024 until it was overtaken by Inside Out 2 just last week, Dune: Part Two will go down as one of the best films of all time, and perhaps the best sci-fi film ever. Austin Butler played an important role in helping the film earn that praise. As the film’s secondary villain and natural opponent to Timothée Chalamet’s Paul Atreides, Feyd-Rautha Harkonnen immediately establishes himself as a genuinely terrifying antagonist, despite being absent from the first film. Butler’s portrayal of Feyd-Rautha only enhanced the actor’s reputation for going all-out in his roles, expect more of the same in the future.


‘The Bikeriders’ review: easy riders, easy watching

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