Best Paul Walter Hauser Performances, Ranked
Paul Walter Hauser is a unique character actor who brings a certain energy to his performances. Rather than playing standard roles, he gravitates towards quirky and specific personalities that require a certain level of intensity. Born in Michigan, Hauser began his entertainment career at the age of 16 as a stand-up comedian. He soon transitioned to acting, landing his first role in the Jennifer Connelly drama, Virginia, directed by Dustin Lance Black in 2010.
Hauser’s comedic potential was evident in his early appearances on television shows such as Community, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Key & Peele. He went on to secure larger roles in TV and film, culminating in Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards in 2023. Hauser has said in interviews that he loves to lean into something quirky or menacing, rather than playing the straight man in comedy.
Here are some of Hauser’s finest performances, ranked:
10. Bupkis (2023) – In this guest-starring role in Pete Davidson’s semi-autobiographical comedy series for Peacock, Hauser plays a fictionalized version of himself in rehab with Davidson and fellow guest star Machine Gun Kelly. It’s a small but hilarious role in Davidson’s dark comedy series.
9. Eat Wheaties! (2021) – Hauser appears in this charming indie comedy as an unlicensed lawyer trying to help Tony Hale’s socially awkward character lift a restraining order against him for his misguided attempts to contact Elizabeth Banks. The film is available on several streaming services.
8. Queenpins (2021) – Hauser plays a loss prevention officer for a grocery store chain in this comedy based on the true story of two housewives who make millions with a stolen coupon scam. He teams up with Vince Vaughn’s postal service inspector to solve the case, and their comedic chemistry provides some of the biggest laughs in the film.
7. BlacKkKlansman (2018) – In Spike Lee’s film based on a true story, Hauser plays a member of the Ku Klux Klan who is duped by the film’s protagonists, two cops played by John David Washington and Adam Driver. Hauser brings ironic comedy to the role, taking what could have been a one-dimensional stereotype and making it memorable.
6. Kingdom (2014) – Hauser’s first major role in a TV series, he plays an ex-con who befriends a fighter and causes trouble for everyone around him. Hauser’s affecting performance sets the tone for the series about a family of MMA fighters.
5. Cruella (2021) – While the live-action film adaptation of the classic animated film is uneven, Hauser shines as Horace, Cruella’s thieving sidekick. He brings a solid Cockney accent to the role, inspired by Bob Hoskins’ performance as Smee in Hook.
4. Cobra Kai (2019) – Hauser’s over-the-top performance as Raymond Porter (aka Stingray) in this entertaining throwback sequel to The Karate Kid film series of the 1980s quickly made him a fan favorite. He’s equal parts hilarious and frustrating, providing the perfect comic foil.
3. I, Tonya (2017) – Hauser’s performance as Shawn Eckardt, a friend of Tonya Harding’s husband and accomplice in the infamous Nancy Kerrigan attack, is so unhinged it borders on parody. But the real footage of Eckardt at the end of the film shows just how spot-on Hauser’s portrayal was.
2. Richard Jewell (2019) – Hauser gives a heartbreaking portrayal of Richard Jewell, the Olympic Park Bombing hero whose life was destroyed by unfounded allegations from the media and FBI. The film is a scathing indictment of today’s mainstream media and their tabloid-like methods. Kathy Bates earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her role as Jewell’s mother.
1. Black Bird (2022) – Hauser’s standout performance in this Apple TV+ true-crime miniseries stars Taron Edgerton as an incarcerated drug dealer who befriends a suspected serial killer (Hauser) to reveal the locations of his victims’ bodies. Hauser’s portrayal of the killer is chilling and unforgettable.
Hauser’s unique brand of comedy and dramatic acting has made him a standout character actor in both television and film. His performances are always memorable and worth watching.
Paul Walter Hauser loves playing characters, just not in the standard sense that every role is a “character.” He gravitates to unique personalities that require a certain energy. In that sense, Hauser is the quintessential character actor, taking on extraordinary roles it seems he was born to play. He’s a born entertainer, starting with stand-up comedy at the age of 16 in his home state of Michigan. In 2010, he had his first acting job with a small role in Virginiaa Jennifer Connelly drama from director Dustin Lance Black (Milk, J. Edgar), and he was soon cast in small roles on television.
Appearances on Community, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Key & Peele early in his career showed his comedic potential, something that served him well in the roles that followed. He had his first major role in the television series Kingdom in 2014, and larger roles in TV and film followed, culminating in Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards in 2023. “I don’t love playing the ‘straight man,’ as they call it in comedy,” he told the Vanity Fair podcast Little Gold Men in a June 6 interview. “I very much like to lean into something that’s quirky or overly specific or menacing.”
Following are Paul Walter Hauser’s finest performances in both television and film, ranked.
10 Bupkis (2023)
In the Season 1 finale of BupkisPete Davidson’s semi-autobiographical comedy series for Peacock, Hauser plays a fictionalized version of himself, who is in rehab with Davidson and fellow guest star Machine Gun Kelly. It’s a small but hilarious guest-starring role in the Saturday Night Live alum’s dark comedy series. It’s not a show for everyone, but if you’re a fan of Davidson’s brand of humor, it’s definitely worth checking out.
9 Eat Wheaties! (2021)
Eat Wheaties!a charming indie comedy from writer/director Scott Abramovitch (The Calling), features Tony Hale as a socially awkward guy determined to prove to his co-workers that he was friends with actress Elizabeth Banks in college. His misunderstood attempts to contact her through social media result in a restraining order, and Hauser enters the picture as an unlicensed lawyer who tries to get the order lifted. Hauser is hilarious in a film filled with misfit characters, and it’s a movie worth discovering, as it is currently available on several streaming services.
8 Queenpins (2021)
The comedy Queenpins is based on the true story of two housewives (played by Kristen Bell and Kirby Howell-Baptiste) who make millions with a stolen coupon scam. Hauser plays a loss prevention officer for a grocery store chain determined to find the persons responsible for the bogus coupons coming into his stores. He teams up with a postal service inspector (Vince Vaughn) to solve the case, and it isn’t long before they are on the ladies’ trail. Vaughn and Hauser have great comedic chemistry, and their characters’ contrasting styles provide some of the biggest laughs in the film.
7 BlacKkKlansman (2018)
Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman is based on a true story of an African American cop (John David Washington) who partners with a Jewish cop (Adam Driver) to infiltrate a Colorado chapter of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1970s. Hauser plays “Ivanhoe,” a member of the Klan duped by the cops. He takes what could have been a one-dimensional stereotype and elevated it with ironic comedy, and it’s a great performance in a film that’s overflowing with great actors. Highlighted by Lee’s unconventional direction, BlacKkKlansman earned six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Supporting Actor (Adam Driver). It won one Academy Award, for Best Adapted Screenplay.
6 Kingdom (2014)
Kingdom is a dramatic series about a family of MMA fighters led by former champ Alvey Kulina (Frank Grillo) who struggle to build their brand in the highly competitive sport. Hauser plays Keith, an ex-con that befriends Ryan Wheeler (Matt Lauria), a fighter and close friend of the Kulina family. Keith has personal and mental issues and ends up causing trouble for everyone around him. Hauser gives an affecting performance in the first major role of his career.
5 Cruella (2021)
Disney doesn’t exactly have a great track record when it comes to their live-action adaptations of their classic animated films, and Cruella is one of their major disappointments. Way too dark and mean-spirited for children, it’s a very uneven film. On the plus side, however, the film features Hauser as Horace, Cruella’s thieving sidekick, a character from the original classic cartoon. For the live-action film, Horace gets more of a backstory and a much larger role, and Hauser plays it to the hilt, with a genuinely funny performance. Hauser delivers a solid Cockney accentwhich he admits is inspired by Bob Hoskins’ performance as Smee in 1991’s Hook.
4 Cobra Kai (2019)
Cobra Kai is an entertaining throwback sequel to the The Karate Kid film series of the 1980s, with a cast of engaging characters that feel like they’re still living in the best decade ever. That includes Hauser’s Raymond Porter (aka Stingray), a man-child spending his life role-playing as a tough guy. Hauser’s over-the-top Stingray is the embodiment of the pseudo-macho ’80s mentality, and he quickly became a fan-favorite character in the highly popular series, even though he has only appeared in 13 episodes in the first five seasons. His popularity with viewers continued even when his character took on a more antagonistic turn in recent seasons. He’s equal parts hilarious and frustrating, a perfect comic foil in this Emmy-nominated series.
3 I, Tonya
I, Tonya is part-tragic comedy, part-ironic drama, and tells the true story of the life of disgraced Olympic skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie, in an Oscar-nominated performance). Incredibly, the filmmakers didn’t have to take much artistic license with the story or the individuals involved. When it came to the infamous Nancy Kerrigan attack in 1994, the facts are so insane, the movie didn’t need much embellishment. That included Hauser’s depiction of Shawn Eckardt, a friend of Harding’s husband Jeff Gillooly, who eventually became the skater’s bodyguard and accomplice in the attack.
As seen in the film, Eckardt had a shaky grip on reality, and claimed to be a government operative and security expert, although he was neither. Hauser’s performance is so unhinged, you’ll think he is exaggerating the role to the point of parody. The end of the film includes real footage of Eckardt, however, and viewers will realize that Hauser was eerily spot-on with his portrayal. Allison Janney won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, playing Harding’s heartless mother.
2 Richard Jewell (2019)
Clint Eastwood’s fantastic direction and Hauser’s incredible performance in Richard Jewell gives the Olympic Park Bombing hero the justice he deserved. Based on Marie Brenner’s book American Nightmare: The Ballad of Richard Jewellthe film is a scathing indictment of the tabloid-like methods of today’s mainstream media and the FBI’s rush to judgment. As the film depicts, the allegations against him absolutely destroyed Jewell’s life, and to this day, many forget he was completely exonerated
Hauser depicts Jewell as a well-meaning but naive guy who was a bit too eager to be helpful, which triggered suspicions among some cynical FBI investigators. It’s a heartbreaking portrayal, and he is the emotional center of one of Eastwood’s better films of recent years. The Hollywood Critics Association nominated Hauser for Best Breakthrough Performance, and Kathy Bates earned a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination as Jewell’s mother.
1 Black Bird (2022)
Black Bird is an outstanding Apple TV+ true-crime miniseries, and stars Taron Edgerton as Jimmy Keene, an incarcerated drug dealer who can get an early release from prison if he agrees to befriend a suspected serial killer (Hauser) and get him to reveal the locations of his victims’ bodies. Edgerton is quite good in the lead role, but Hauser steals the show, and their scenes together are electric in this must-watch series.
Based on true events, the series is surprisingly faithful to the real-life story. Hauser won a Critics Choice Award and a Golden Globe (Best Supporting Actor, Television Limited Series or Picture) for his performance as Larry Hall, and he is genuinely disturbing in the role. The series leaves you guessing (for a time) whether Hall is actually a serial killer or just a disturbed person who liked to confess to crimes he didn’t commit. He shows an incredible range not seen in some of his lighter, more comedic roles. The series also features the final television role of Ray Liotta, who passed away in 2022.