Charlton Heston's Most Memorable Performances

RT looks at the iconic roles of a Hollywood legend.

With his classically chiseled looks and basso profundo speaking voice, Charlton Heston was an icon of old-school Hollywood. Heston embodied a noble, heroic ideal — small wonder he was the man who injected a sense of gravitas, as well as intelligence and fallibility, to big, bold Biblical epics and historical dramas. And if the kind of grandiosity Heston brought to every role — even Wayne’s World 2! — might seem old-fashioned in these ironic times, there’s still something thrilling in seeing an actor of such rugged intensity giving every role his all. In remembrance of Heston, Rotten Tomatoes has compiled a short list of some of Heston’s most famous and memorable performances.

The Ten Commandments (1956, 96 percent)

With the influx of foreign, arthouse, and indie films in the mid-1950s film market — not to mention the looming threat of television — Hollywood’s answer to attracting audiences involved grand spectacle. Even given the life expectancy of bodies during biblical times, the 34-year-old Heston was strikingly young to play Moses, the legendary leader of the Jews. Yet no other could have outdone his booming voice and security inspiring authority. This is one of the more “pure” of the Biblical epics of the late 1950s early 1960s, for while there’s plenty of political commentary to be found within its dialogue and carefully located intimacies, its greatest strength is its ability to inspire the awe famously associated with Biblical tale. Heston’s Moses certainly contributes. For those less familiar with Cecille DeMille‘s last directing project, The Ten Commandments is one of those films that’s ironically had a longer life due to endless televised repetition.

Touch of Evil (1958, 94 percent)

One of the last of the classic film noirs, Orson Welles‘ Certified Fresh Touch of Evil featured one of Heston’s most driven performances. Heston plays Vargas, a newlywed Mexican g-man who investigates a bombing in a U.S. boarder town; he quickly runs up against the corrupt lawman Hank Quinlan (Welles), who appears to be railroading several Mexicans for the crime. Noirs don’t come much more noir than Touch of Evil, a stark, sinister, gritty, formally daring masterpiece. Though Touch of Evil had a troubled history — the film was taken out of Welles’ hands and recut — it was a favorite of Heston’s. “It was a remarkable experience for me, a great learning experience, one of the most valuable I’ve had in my whole film career,” he said.

Ben Hur (1959, 88 percent)

The downside (or upshot, depending) to the Studio Era was the Production Code, which required that certain subject matter not be broached in studio productions, no matter the relevance or box office draw. One such subject was violence, which is peppered (liberally for 1959) into Ben Hur. This tale of politics and racial tension during Christ’s ministerial rise features sword fighting, swashbuckling, and one of the most famously overplayed sequences in film: The epic chariot race, in which cinematographer Robert Surtees lit Heston in this scene to look like Apollo himself in the Coliseum. Violence notwithstanding, the most controversial elements of the film were the contributions made by notorious (and uncredited) screenwriter Gore Vidal. Suggestions of sexuality (distinct from today’s more common mores), the blacklist (of which Vidal was critical) and backhanded politics were intelligently apportioned but in heed of the Production Code, buried in subtext. Loaded with legendary dialogue (“The world is more than we know”), this multiple Oscar winner is another springtime repeat that’s impressive regardless of how you spend your Easter Sunday.

Planet of the Apes (1968, 88 percent)

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Heston starred in a series of dystopian sci-fi flicks (The Omega Man, 61 percent, and Soylent Green, 73 percent) with more heft than your average futuristic fantasy. Time has taken some of the edge off these films (Phil Hartman unforgettably lampooned the later, portentously intoning, “Soylent Green is made out of PEEEE-POOOLLLLEEE!”), but the Certified Fresh civil-rights allegory Planet of the Apes remains influential — and was elevated by Heston’s intense performance. Heston plays an astronaut who lands on a planet run by sophisticated simians that have enslaved humans. The movie has one of the most iconic endings of 1960s cinema, as well as Heston’s oft-quoted line, “Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!”

And if you need any further proof of Heston’s greatness, we recommend you watch the following clip.

Tag Cloud

unscripted Comedy jamie lee curtis Amazon Prime canceled TV shows indiana jones LGBT Avengers breaking bad Star Trek green book witnail strong female leads Star Wars Mystery cars cancelled television TruTV Sundance TV Western USA Network TCA Winter 2020 GIFs Musical Spring TV ITV Teen mission: impossible crime Watching Series Calendar Hallmark Christmas movies Photos Best and Worst Nickelodeon Netflix Christmas movies Cannes BAFTA serial killer what to watch concert Spectrum Originals directors vampires Adult Swim romantic comedy HBO Drama parents Rocketman Fantasy HBO Go streaming CBS All Access Acorn TV Television Critics Association 2019 Trailer joker Tarantino Pride Month Grammys Valentine's Day Dark Horse Comics batman Black Mirror comic Holiday 45 BBC child's play ratings The Arrangement Trophy Talk Marvel Kids & Family Fox News video on demand E! Pop series facebook halloween based on movie foreign 24 frames Classic Film Year in Review Marvel Television politics game show spain Super Bowl revenge Paramount National Geographic NBC Family Hear Us Out sag awards tv talk Crackle latino History Pixar Emmys Marvel Studios Tumblr Mary poppins medical drama canceled Bravo disaster critics A24 golden globes hispanic Winners blaxploitation Elton John Shudder miniseries independent Biopics Comic Book movie DirecTV Reality Paramount Network crime drama CBS TV indie TBS Women's History Month SXSW Disney Channel Turner Classic Movies VOD Arrowverse slashers 21st Century Fox screen actors guild dc Winter TV quibi Lucasfilm President IFC scary movies Lifetime Christmas movies Animation Amazon sequel Tomatazos transformers Tubi elevated horror animated anime Logo reviews crossover Peacock ghosts all-time science fiction romance aliens toy story Warner Bros. Musicals BET Mindy Kaling NYCC Turner criterion robots DGA FX on Hulu Action Disney PBS die hard Funimation The CW discovery boxoffice Pop TV true crime nature zombie 2017 blockbuster Country Music Columbia Pictures CMT See It Skip It Thanksgiving satire Mary Tyler Moore TNT 4/20 Academy Awards Schedule Disney+ Disney Plus doctor who supernatural Red Carpet dragons stand-up comedy Sony Pictures Fall TV Syfy Pet Sematary spider-man zero dark thirty Disney Plus TCA 2017 political drama Emmy Nominations Rock San Diego Comic-Con 2015 documentaries Extras MCU TV Land PaleyFest cancelled TV shows crime thriller Captain marvel Esquire justice league TV renewals Song of Ice and Fire Christmas Rom-Com Interview twilight YouTube Red binge finale Television Academy GoT Black History Month dogs PlayStation versus Masterpiece Amazon Studios ABC Family news Showtime Anna Paquin police drama YouTube OWN E3 CW Seed Certified Fresh asian-american The Walking Dead Nominations space teaser The Witch thriller Nat Geo YA DC streaming service name the review south america sports LGBTQ game of thrones cancelled cartoon psychological thriller Ovation cooking cats Superheroe franchise New York Comic Con diversity Lionsgate CNN Comedy Central composers Mary Poppins Returns anthology Martial Arts Disney streaming service GLAAD Apple TV Plus adaptation Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Film Festival Amazon Prime Video Cartoon Network Sundance theme song Vudu rotten movies we love cinemax Trivia TCM video Netflix Polls and Games Quiz Superheroes period drama First Look stoner Spike ESPN dceu Film docudrama Hulu dark FX werewolf television renewed TV shows sitcom OneApp TCA Set visit zombies films mockumentary AMC Epix Marathons natural history Pirates Awards Creative Arts Emmys Ellie Kemper X-Men ABC adventure RT History kids documentary spy thriller Summer VICE Reality Competition El Rey Countdown Awards Tour a nightmare on elm street book biography Apple TV+ Writers Guild of America Sneak Peek Food Network Video Games BBC America SDCC 2016 travel casting free movies Cosplay MSNBC American Society of Cinematographers Sundance Now Travel Channel war IFC Films FXX SundanceTV 71st Emmy Awards Lifetime The Purge Shondaland richard e. Grant Box Office 2018 Stephen King DC Comics cancelled TV series Brie Larson cops Rocky WarnerMedia Mudbound DC Universe Universal 007 A&E Comics on TV talk show children's TV Chernobyl Sci-Fi BET Awards dramedy singing competition USA festivals chucky social media reboot mutant Hallmark Oscars TCA Awards movies Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt comics Binge Guide cults Walt Disney Pictures Ghostbusters best comiccon Endgame Baby Yoda VH1 20th Century Fox Heroines MTV Apple Opinion WGN universal monsters Discovery Channel harry potter award winner Britbox Toys TLC Character Guide spinoff Holidays technology historical drama Premiere Dates RT21 2020 YouTube Premium Crunchyroll First Reviews screenings BBC One emmy awards psycho TIFF Infographic Starz spanish language APB Horror christmas movies FOX hist Freeform Election HBO Max comedies Podcast