© 2018

Blockbuster Performances

How Actors Contribute to Cinema’s Biggest Hits


Table of contents

About this book


This book examines performances in the American film industry’s highest-earning and most influential films. Countering decades of discourse and the conventional notion that special effects are the real stars of Hollywood blockbusters, this book finds that the acting performances in these big-budget action movies are actually better, and more genre-appropriate, than reputed. It argues that while blockbusters are often edited for speed, thrills, and simplicity, and performances are sometimes tailored to this style, most major productions feature more scenes of stage-like acting than hyper-kinetic action. Knowing this, producers of the world’s highest-budgeted motion pictures usually cast strong or generically appropriate actors. With chapters offering unique readings of some of cinema’s biggest hits, such as The Dark Knight, Pirates of the CaribbeanStar WarsIron Man and The Hunger Games, this unprecedented study sheds new light on the importance of performance in the Hollywood blockbuster. 


stars pop culture popular films Hollywood American big-budget Star Wars Pirates of the Caribbean independent film acting

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.Saint Mary’s College of CaliforniaMoraga, CAUSA

About the authors

Daniel Smith-Rowsey teaches Communication Studies at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, California. He is the author of Star Actors in the Hollywood Renaissance: Representing Rough Rebels (2013) and a co-editor of The Netflix Effect: Technology and Entertainment in the 21st Century (2016).

Bibliographic information

  • Book Title Blockbuster Performances
  • Book Subtitle How Actors Contribute to Cinema’s Biggest Hits
  • Authors Daniel Smith-Rowsey
  • Series Title Palgrave Studies in Screen Industries and Performance
  • Series Abbreviated Title Palgrave Studies in Screen Industries and Performance
  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2018
  • Publisher Name Palgrave Macmillan, London
  • eBook Packages Literature, Cultural and Media Studies Literature, Cultural and Media Studies (R0)
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-1-137-51878-1
  • Softcover ISBN 978-1-349-70457-6
  • eBook ISBN 978-1-137-51879-8
  • Edition Number 1
  • Number of Pages XIV, 211
  • Number of Illustrations 0 b/w illustrations, 22 illustrations in colour
  • Topics Screen Performance
    American Cinema and TV
  • Buy this book on publisher's site


"Daniel Smith-Rowsey fills in the gaps in our understanding of acting in contemporary blockbusters. Many accomplished film actors gladly take the shuttle between prestigious independent films and vastly popular action, fantasy, and superhero franchises. Do large scale spectaculars call for a kind of acting different from that required in an intimate character study? With well-chosen case studies and intricate analysesthe author answers these questions and many others in a book that should become a standard in the studies of performance and Hollywood cinema." (Dennis Bingham, Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, USA)