9 Roles You'd Completely Forgotten Tom Holland Once Played

The Spider-Man star has serious range…
Tom Holland
Tom Holland
via Associated Press

Ever since he swung into the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Peter Parker in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, Tom Holland has emerged as one of the most in-demand movie stars in the world.

But before his big Spider-Man moment, the British star had shown off his range, notching up plenty of roles in period pieces, psychological thrillers, YA dramas and one of the most acclaimed British TV series of the decade (after he’d already made a successful all-singing, all-dancing West End debut in the musical adaptation of Billy Elliott).

If you’ve made your way through Tom’s more recent work and need a refresher on his back catalogue, here are some of his earlier roles that might have escaped your memory, but are certainly worth re-visiting…

In The Heart Of The Sea

Tom Holland in In The Heart Of The Sea
Tom Holland in In The Heart Of The Sea
Warner Bros

Tom first worked alongside his future MCU colleague Chris Hemsworth in the 2015 maritime adventure In The Heart Of The Sea, based on the story of the sinking of the American whaling ship Essex, which is thought to have partly inspired Herman Melville’s classic novel Moby-Dick.

Tom played a cabin boy, who in one scene must – gulp – journey into a whale’s belly in order to retrieve oil. Director Ron Howard was keen on using practical effects rather than CGI magic, the actor later revealed to The Independent. “[Ron] had a plastic whale head built and I had to cover myself in Vaseline and clamber in,” he said. “The worst part was trying to get back out again because it was so slippy… It was like being born, over and over again, all night long.”

In The Heart Of The Sea is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

Wolf Hall

Tom Holland in Wolf Hall
Tom Holland in Wolf Hall

As far as TV debuts go, a part in the critically acclaimed BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning novel (as Mark Rylance’s on-screen son, no less) surely ain’t bad.

In Wolf Hall, Tom plays Gregory, the only surviving child of Thomas Cromwell, right hand man to King Henry VIII. A then-teenage Tom held his own on screen alongside the likes of Damien Lewis, Claire Foy and Thomas Brodie-Sangster.

The BBC has confirmed plans to bring The Mirror And The Light, the final instalment in the Cromwell series, to the screen – but we’ll have to wait and see whether Tom reprises his role.

Wolf Hall is available to stream on BBC iPlayer.

How I Live Now

Tom Holland and Saoirse Ronan in How I Live Now
Tom Holland and Saoirse Ronan in How I Live Now

Raise your hand if you were left slightly traumatised after reading How I Live Now, Meg Rosoff’s YA novel about a teenager who falls in love with her cousin against the backdrop of World War Three, in the 2000s?

Almost a decade after the book was released, How I Live Now got the big screen treatment, featuring three rising stars who you might have heard of: Saoirse Ronan, George MacKay and Tom Holland. Saoirse played protagonist Daisy, an American teen who is packed off to her aunt’s farm in the British countryside when fighting breaks out; George played her cousin Edmond, and Tom appeared as Isaac, his quiet twin brother.

How I Live Now is available to rent on Amazon Prime Video.

The Impossible

Naomi Watts and Tom Holland in The Impossible
Naomi Watts and Tom Holland in The Impossible
Warner Bros

Tom’s breakout role came in The Impossible, the 2012 film which explores how one family survived the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 2004. He played Lucas, the eldest son of Naomi Watts’ Maria and Ewan McGregor’s Henry, and his performance was singled out for praise by film critics, who (rightly) suggested that he’d go on to big things.

“[Tom] matures before our eyes, navigating the passage from adolescent self-absorption to profound and terrible responsibility,” the New York Times wrote, hailing him as “a terrific young actor”.

The Impossible is streaming on Netflix.

The Lost City Of Z

Tom Holland in The Lost City Of Z
Tom Holland in The Lost City Of Z

This period adventure is something of a hidden gem – it received rave reviews when it was released in 2017, but underperformed at the box office and didn’t get much awards attention, despite its seriously impressive cast.

Tom starred alongside the likes of Robert Pattinson, Charlie Hunnam and Sienna Miller, and the film is based on the true story of the Edwardian explorer Percy Fawcett (played by Charlie).

Fawcett was sent out to Brazil by the Royal Geographical Society to survey the jungle near the border with Bolivia. He became captivated by the idea of discovering a “lost city” near the Amazon, known as “Z”, and eventually set out on a mission to find it with his eldest son Jack (played by Tom).

The Lost City Of Z is streaming on Netflix.

Edge Of Winter

Joel Kinnaman and Tom Holland in Edge Of Winter
Joel Kinnaman and Tom Holland in Edge Of Winter
Independent Edge Films

In this psychological thriller, Tom played Bradley, the teenage son of Joel Kinnaman’s Elliot, a divorced dad whose attempt to bond with his children on a winter hunting trip seriously backfires when snowy weather leaves them stranded in the countryside.

As they take shelter in a remote cabin, Bradley and his brother Caleb (played by Percy Hynes White) soon realise that their father is a man on the edge, who might be putting their lives in danger.

“The younger actors are skilled and engaging, with Mr. Holland effortlessly conveying quiet internal activity,” one review in the New York Times said.

Edge of Winter is available to rent on Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV+.


Tom Holland's character in Arrietty
Tom Holland's character in Arrietty
The Walt Disney Company

Before he landed his first live action film role, a 14-year-old Tom provided the voice for Sho in the English-speaking version of Arrietty, a Studio Ghibli spin on The Borrowers.

Sho is a young boy who moves into a house in the suburbs while he is awaiting medical treatment in the city; his life changes when he meets Arrietty, the tiny ‘borrower’ who lives with her family underneath the floorboards, voiced by Saoirse Ronan.

Arrietty is available to stream on Netflix.


Tom Hardy is the only person who appears on-screen in this low-key psychological drama from Peaky Blinders creator Stephen Knight, which takes place over the course of a car journey from Birmingham to London. However, during that time, Locke takes phone calls from colleagues and family members including his son Eddie, played by Tom Holland, who keeps him updated on the football score.

Locke is available to stream on Lionsgate+ or rent on Amazon Prime Video.


Tom Holland in Pilgrimage
Tom Holland in Pilgrimage
Savage Productions

Shortly before he joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Tom donned a cassock to play a novice monk in the historical drama Pilgrimage, set in medieval Ireland.

His character, Brother Diarmuid, is one of a group of monks who must escort a holy relic to Rome, but their journey across Ireland is far from simple, thanks to run-ins with Norman soldiers and Gaelic warriors.

Tom starred alongside the likes of Richard Armitage, Jon Bernthal and The Fall’s John Lynch.

Pilgrimage is available to rent on Amazon Prime Video, Google Play and Apple TV+.


What's Hot