Total Recall

Definitive Ron Perlman Roles

In this week's Total Recall, we look back at ten roles that helped define the Hand of God star's career.

by | September 2, 2015 | Comments

If you’re casting a television series about a judge who suffers a breakdown and thinks he’s receiving messages from God that put him on a path of vigilante justice, you need a guy with both gravitas and imposing menace — and fortunately Amazon’s new Hand of God series, debuting this week, found a leading man with both of those qualities in Ron Perlman, occasional Hellboy and character actor supreme. Whether he’s appeared au naturel or under makeup, worked live action or voiced animated characters, Perlman’s distinctive talent has been entertaining audiences for 30 years, and he’s assembled an eclectic filmography along the way. It’s about time we honored Mr. Perlman with the Total Recall treatment, wouldn’t you say?


Amoukar, Quest for Fire (1981)

Quest for Fire

A latex-covered Perlman got his big break in this award-winning adaptation of the 1911 novel, about a Neanderthal war for fire — and the dangerous quest undertaken by a small band of tribesmen who are forced to find another source after their clan’s fire is stolen by a rival tribe. An hour and 40 minutes of grunted dialogue and dirty caveman sex obviously isn’t what most filmgoers have in mind when they head out for a night at the cineplex, but Quest for Fire managed to perform relatively well at the box office, and became something of an early ‘80s cult favorite — as well as a hit with critics like Janet Maslin of the New York Times, who said it was “more than just a hugely enterprising science lesson, although it certainly is that. It’s also a touching, funny and suspenseful drama about prehumans.”

Watch Trailer


Vincent, Beauty and the Beast (1987-1990)

Beauty and the Beast

Going under heavy makeup for Quest for Fire helped Perlman launch his career, so perhaps it’s fitting that things didn’t truly take off for him until he put on prosthetics again — this time for Beauty and the Beast, an unlikely-seeming hit drama that aired for three seasons on CBS between 1987-’90. A modern retelling of the oft-adapted fable, this Beauty posited our hero as a member of a secret community below New York City whose disfigurement masks a noble warrior’s heart — as evidenced when he rescues a lawyer (Linda Hamilton) from a brutal attack, saving her life and starting one of the era’s most swoonworthy TV love affairs. The show burned bright but fast — ratings started fading in the second season, and Hamilton’s departure the following year cemented its fate in the third and final batch of episodes — but it earned Perlman a Golden Globe and a whole new lease on his professional life.

Watch Videos


Angel de la Guardia, Cronos (1993)

Cronos

Perlman started his continuing association with Guillermo del Toro in this 1993 horror movie, about the gruesome series of events that unfolds after an old man (Federico Luppi) discovers an ancient scarab that injects him with a mysterious substance — one which restores his youthful vitality, but leaves him with a thirst for blood. Perlman stars in a supporting role as the ironically named Angel de la Guardia, a hoodlum sent on a quest by his elderly uncle, who craves the scarab’s restorative powers; the path of violence he carves in pursuit of his goal sets in motion some of Cronos’ most memorably horrific sequences. It barely registered a blip on the U.S. box office, but Cronos was an instant hit with critics; as an appreciative Ken Hanke wrote for the Asheville Mountain Xpress, it is “one of the most intelligent — and strangely moving — horror films ever made.”

Watch Trailer


One, The City of Lost Children (1995)

City of Lost Children

Perlman’s work with Guillermo del Toro has placed him within some pretty remarkable cinematic worlds, but his sojourn into Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro’s City of Lost Children might be the most visually striking of them all: a dense, whirring dystopia where an evil scientist (Daniel Emilfork) steals the dreams of kidnapped children. Their only hope is One (Perlman), a circus strongman whose younger brother is among the lost — and for whom he’ll set out on an arduous journey to rescue. Rife with sights that will haunt the viewer long after the credits roll, City won praise from critics like Peter Stack of the San Francisco Chronicle, who recommended it as “a dark phantasmagoria so visually amazing and provocative — yet dense and confusing — that viewers may need to see it more than once to take it all in.”

Watch Trailer


Norman Arbuthnot, The Last Supper (1996)

Ron Perlman
Witty equal-opportunity political humor has become something of a lost art on the big screen over the last decade or so, but thing’s weren’t always this way. For proof, simply look to 1995’s The Last Supper, an ensemble indie comedy about a group of young liberals (including Cameron Diaz, Ron Eldard, and Annabeth Gish) who begin poisoning conservative dinner guests as part of a misguided campaign to save the world. While the murder victims aren’t terribly sympathetic, their murderers aren’t especially likable either — so by the time they cross paths with a Limbaugh-esque conservative pundit (played by Perlman), loyalties to either ideological extreme have been tested. “In today’s divisive political climate, where compromise is a dirty word,” observed Leslie Rigoulot of Film Scouts, “The Last Supper raises not only timely questions but moral dilemmas as well.”

Watch Trailer


Marshal Nalhober, Happy, Texas (1999)

Happy Texas

A goofy Steve Zahn comedy with a minuscule budget and a box office tally that wasn’t much bigger, Happy, Texas gave Perlman the opportunity to steal scenes in another supporting role: Marshal Nalhober, a straight-shooting cop in hot pursuit of three escaped prisoners (Zahn, Jeremy Northam, and M.C. Gainey) posing as the organizers of a local beauty pageant. Eminently quotable and buoyed by a smart, rootsy soundtrack, Happy provoked appreciative guffaws from critics like Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times, who called it “a hoot, a hilarious comedy that’s smart and caring, yet sexy and ingenious enough that it just might stir up some of that elusive Full Monty-style box-office appeal.”

Watch Trailer


Hellboy, The Hellboy Franchise

Hellboy

Perlman went back under the makeup — and reunited with his Cronos and Blade II director, Guillermo del Toro — for 2004’s Hellboy, an adaptation of the popular Dark Horse Comics title. Grossing under $60 million in the U.S., it was something of a disappointment at the box office, but Perlman and Del Toro were a natural fit for the franchise; four years after the first Hellboy, Perlman teamed up again with Guillermo del Toro for another round of supernatural fun — and while the original Hellboy earned mostly positive reviews, the sequel was an even bigger critical winner. A gleeful blend of popcorn thrills and uniquely del Toro visual splendor, Hellboy II: The Golden Army reunited the original cast for an epic battle between the forces of good and an irate elven king (Luke Goss) who wants to reignite the long-dormant war between elves and humans. While it was overshadowed at the box office by The Dark Knight and Iron Man, it still earned over $160 million — and earned the admiration of critics like Colin Covert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, who called it “the biggest, richest, most imaginative superhero movie of the summer.”

Watch Trailer


Ed Pollack, The Last Winter (2006)

The Last Winter

A sort of cross between An Inconvenient Truth and The Thing, this wintry thriller found writer/director Larry Fessenden returning to the themes of isolation he explored in Wendigo, while adding an ecologically conscious twist: at a remote ANWR drilling base, a team of workers (led by Perlman) starts dying off, casualties of “sour gas” released as a side effect of global warming — or are they under attack from vengeful spirits of the Earth? Though it screened in extremely limited release, The Last Winter received more than a few positive reviews from critics, including Aaron Hillis of Premiere Magazine, who called it “A richly drawn, ambitious character piece both socially relevant and genuinely suspenseful” before concluding, “This is filmmaking both gorgeous and deeply unsettling.”

Watch Trailer


Father Duffy, I Sell the Dead (2008)

I Sell the Dead

Perlman and his Last Winter director, Larry Fessenden, re-teamed for this 2008 black comedy — only this time, they were both on the same side of the camera. Helmed by Glenn McQuaid (who also worked behind the scenes on The Last Winter), I Sell the Dead recounts the story of a pair of Irish grave robbers (played by Fessenden and Dominic Monaghan), as told to a jailhouse priest (Perlman). A bizarre mashup of 19th-century period thriller and zombie/alien comic gore, Dead had a blink-and-you-missed it theatrical run, playing on only two screens, but even some of the critics who couldn’t recommend it found the film impossible to dislike — such as Ty Burr of the Boston Globe, who mused, “If it’s not actually a good movie, on some level you have to admire the chutzpah of a film set in 1850s Ireland but shot on Staten Island.”

Watch Trailer


Clay Morrow, Sons of Anarchy (2008-2014)

Sons of Anarchy

Perlman stayed busy on television in the years after Beauty and the Beast, consistently booking voice work and episodic guest spots on shows even as his film roles continued to pile up — and putting him in a uniquely enviable position as the small screen’s new golden age made the prospect of snagging a regular series gig increasingly appealing to a widening circle of Hollywood vets. It paid fresh dividends with Sons of Anarchy, the 2008-’14 FX hit that spun circles of tightly woven (and increasingly dark) drama out of the inner lives of a California motorcycle gang whose second-generation vice-president (Charlie Hunnam) finds himself increasingly at odds with the gang’s morally ambiguous leader (Perlman). Consistently critically acclaimed, Sons set ratings records for the network — and offered Perlman an opportunity to prove he could help anchor a series without a lion-shaped prosthetic covering his face.

Watch Videos


Finally, here’s one of Mr. Perlman’s first television appearances — the role of Dr. Bernie Marx on a 1979 episode of the daytime serial Ryan’s Hope:

  • VinsVinyl

    Ron is truly a great actor, I’ve been a fan since “Beauty and the Beast”! To be honest, “Hellboy” is my favorite role for him!

    • Joolio Giolivera

      I was a huge fan of Beauty and the Beast as a child, but I haven’t given it much thought ever since, so I *never* realized it was Ron Perlman (which is obvious when I look at him now.)

  • Buttpoo

    Here’s another pick: 2014’s ‘Before I Disappear’.

  • Horatio Hufnagel

    My first encounter with Ron Perlman was as Salvatore in “The Name of the Rose” (reuniting him with director Jean-Jacques Annaud).

    While a box office hit in Europe, it seems to be a somehow obscure title in the US. Which is a shame, as it is a highly entertaining and intelligent adaptation of the Umberto Eco-novel.

    • Exactly i can’t understand how they forget this 1983 classic movie who include Connery and a very young Christian Slater… instead they’ve chosen this beauty & the beast…
      In fact i ‘ve not seen beauty & the beast…but my intuition tells me that it do not seems so great.
      They forget also :
      “Ennemy at the Gates (Stalingrad)” by Annaud (1997)
      “Drive” (2011) …I can’t understand how they missed this one !
      “Pacific Rim” (2013) by Guillermo Del Toro
      “Before I Disappear” (2014)
      “Kid Cannabis” (2014)
      All those movies have very good reviews so (in my opinion) they deserve to be seen

      • Scott Jackson

        Your intuition of “Beauty and the Beast” is correct in my opinion. Your list of films left out mirror my own, well done!

      • Too Slow Jo

        The first Beauty and the Beast shows were actually quite good and the premise was new too. Granted, the love thing was more appealing to women. But soon, as always happens, instead of going into new territory it started being the same thing every week. Someone bothered the girl and out came the lion-side and a lot of off-screen yelling. Then it was a huge rapid downhill plunge with a final crash and burn.

      • Missy Buckingham

        Well, just so you know , Beauty and the Beast to this day, has a HUGE following still.

        • Ok ok but it is for those who lived it back in the day… it’s based on nostalgia… i do not think that there’s young people in the following

    • FunnyFaceKing

      Salvatore invented his own language in “The Name of the Rose”.

      Ron’s acting deserved an Oscar nomination for that one.

    • Zed68

      I was surprised that “The name of the rose” wasn’t included here… but yeah, some movies that we see as classics didn’t really cross the atlantic.

  • Farty Fartsalot

    Perlman looks like an albino black dude.

  • AlbinoRhino

    He was good in Desperation and Pacific Rim too. Those should have been on the list.

  • Dag Dahlo
  • behemoth

    “The name of the rose” where is? I really don’t understand this list!

  • Nickname

    Where is Empire in your list I just want to enderstand

  • Too Slow Jo

    I have been a fan of Ron Perlman forever it seems. Back when I didn’t even know his name yet but referred to him as “you know, that guy who is in everything. You know him when you see him.” I have never once been disappointed in his acting – whether a great good guy or an even better bad guy, he does it all well.

    There are so many other roles where he was a smaller character but he stole the scenes he was in every time. With his sling-shot one-liners, he is more memorable than the movie. He seems to be a humble actor who just loves his job and that alone is refreshing. You can keep all your flash-in-the-pan pretty boys. This guy is the real deal.

  • G SC

    Beauty & The Beast is vintage 80s tv with him riding on top of the subway! In Name of The Rose he’s a huge monk! Drive quote “You’re not very good at tnis are you?!”
    Kid Cannibis he has a crazy accent!!

Tag Cloud

Mary poppins Summer Trivia fast and furious YouTube Premium Logo vampires The Arrangement Pop halloween tv YA hidden camera blockbusters Spring TV suspense period drama basketball Alien Pixar canceled See It Skip It Sundance worst Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Esquire cancelled 2016 cars Comics on TV TV Land television critics SDCC casting Amazon Prime Video TV One Trailer what to watch Netflix Christmas movies rom-coms dragons Interview MSNBC Opinion Film dark Pride Month adventure Anna Paquin Masterpiece james bond Marathons Character Guide festival Heroines dogs cancelled TV shows HBO Max ID popular Western WGN Marvel Studios comics 45 razzies Country universal monsters OneApp Stephen King finale Warner Bros. nfl Mystery Spectrum Originals archives true crime serial killer biography Drama The CW OWN Musical animated Rocky nbcuniversal spanish language Chernobyl football ViacomCBS stoner History australia Disney+ Disney Plus FXX strong female leads Shudder Polls and Games IFC Films Teen robots Travel Channel 1990s Turner Classic Movies Apple TV Plus VH1 Epix First Look tv talk Kids & Family SXSW Pirates Horror zero dark thirty werewolf TruTV Sony Pictures new york TCA 2017 cops deadpool natural history fresh Superheroe richard e. Grant Crackle Ellie Kemper Brie Larson obituary Holiday blaxploitation spain TIFF mutant supernatural superhero Mudbound jamie lee curtis Holidays RT History news Musicals BET kong Food Network Universal USA Network new zealand Broadway Nat Geo golden globe awards zombie japan chucky 2020 crime thriller stand-up comedy king kong BBC One Women's History Month olympics saw unscripted a nightmare on elm street screenings Fox Searchlight 2021 New York Comic Con Lifetime NYCC X-Men trailers transformers Star Trek Syfy Endgame live action DC Universe singing competition BET Awards Rock E3 BBC PBS Hallmark Christmas movies TLC scene in color sitcom Mindy Kaling Reality Competition Disney Channel doctor who Hallmark psychological thriller directors south america Sci-Fi 72 Emmy Awards ESPN The Walking Dead El Rey comedies thriller Oscars asian-american Trophy Talk blockbuster Adult Swim kaiju Disney Plus joker nature Wes Anderson scary movies discovery disaster crossover Amazon Studios war WarnerMedia concert comiccon social media anthology GIFs Elton John halloween movie hist Winners Binge Guide festivals Premiere Dates Academy Awards Sundance TV GLAAD technology CW Seed ratings Peacock elevated horror emmy awards Rom-Com comic books lord of the rings satire telelvision USA Grammys Super Bowl Podcast composers cinemax docudrama kids Comedy Nickelodeon Tokyo Olympics GoT batman Crunchyroll BBC America Showtime Tarantino Star Wars First Reviews toy story Year in Review Lionsgate hispanic foreign Action Paramount Network Biopics indie Thanksgiving international Pet Sematary cancelled TV series Tumblr franchise teaser ghosts travel dceu Fall TV Lucasfilm FOX green book romance new star wars movies romantic comedy FX zombies Box Office DGA theme song facebook 20th Century Fox 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards crime drama Apple sequel aliens Pacific Islander ABC Family RT21 mockumentary Infographic series hollywood best ABC Signature The Purge spanish 90s TCA Awards TV Columbia Pictures Baby Yoda Music Amazon stop motion name the review boxing Amazon Prime TV movies 4/20 Black History Month movies Winter TV harry potter classics target 2019 italian TBS National Geographic cults Sneak Peek breaking bad dc adenture child's play Extras parents DC streaming service 2015 HBO Go DirecTV canceled TV shows sag awards venice Comedy Central E! crime Turner FX on Hulu rt archives Best and Worst renewed TV shows award winner Starz justice league Christmas psycho APB LGBTQ indiana jones dramedy TV renewals children's TV Image Comics remakes Television Critics Association The Witch binge films 93rd Oscars prank superman CMT Cartoon Network Vudu police drama aapi Acorn TV Valentine's Day Apple TV+ Awards Tour worst movies Bravo Photos VICE Avengers Tubi comic AMC Disney streaming service game show MTV Walt Disney Pictures VOD boxoffice spinoff Ghostbusters cats 24 frames science fiction Paramount Plus Britbox Nominations NBC A&E CBS All Access LGBT twilight medical drama Film Festival 99% Spike rotten movies we love Marvel Countdown pirates of the caribbean Comic-Con@Home 2021 talk show IFC Legendary Animation Mary Poppins Returns miniseries toronto streaming latino NBA cancelled television women documentary Song of Ice and Fire documentaries Hear Us Out heist movie CNN Discovery Channel independent Hulu sports Election Marvel Television Ovation reviews book adaptation slashers BAFTA screen actors guild Quiz Pop TV Family golden globes Creative Arts Emmys Captain marvel Martial Arts streaming movies 2017 Toys Watching Series Black Mirror witnail video on demand Rocketman Netflix Fantasy The Academy criterion TCA A24 21st Century Fox Tomatazos based on movie adaptation DC Comics all-time Freeform black die hard PlayStation video high school Classic Film game of thrones japanese book Writers Guild of America know your critic marvel cinematic universe Set visit SundanceTV free movies Schedule Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Paramount politics french HBO docuseries versus Video Games Disney Television Academy The Walt Disney Company Cannes San Diego Comic-Con jurassic park Fox News TNT ABC YouTube rotten Red Carpet 71st Emmy Awards Superheroes 007 cartoon political drama quibi Cosplay Awards YouTube Red spider-man sequels diversity monster movies godzilla Lifetime Christmas movies Funimation mission: impossible TCM scorecard PaleyFest anime Arrowverse American Society of Cinematographers Reality laika Emmy Nominations Sundance Now revenge Dark Horse Comics reboot cooking Certified Fresh Calendar Mary Tyler Moore CBS ITV Exclusive Video Emmys historical drama Shondaland President TCA Winter 2020 spy thriller space 2018 Comic Book MCU christmas movies