Total Recall

Ed Harris' 10 Best Movies

In this week's Total Recall, we count down the best-reviewed work of the Run All Night star.

by | March 11, 2015 | Comments

A prolific character actor with leading-man chops and four Oscar nominations under his belt, Ed Harris has been entertaining audiences for decades — so when we saw his name in the credits for Run All Night, we knew exactly what we needed to do with this week’s list. From supporting parts to leading roles, from action to comedy to drama, Harris has done just about everything — and done it well. The Tomatometer agrees, giving us a top 10 that bottoms out at an impressive 88 percent. Which of your favorites made the cut? It’s time to find out, Total Recall style!


10. The Abyss (1989) 89%


1989’s underwater epic The Abyss required the construction of the world’s biggest tank of filtered fresh water, as well as newly designed watertight cameras and bleeding-edge special effects work from Industrial Light & Magic. It also required a lot of patience on the part of its cast (including Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, both of whom suffered emotional breakdowns during the grueling six-month shoot) and crew (including director James Cameron, who spent hours at a time under 50 feet of water) — and the studio had its own cross to bear, enduring millions of dollars in cost overruns and weeks of delays. In the end, The Abyss wasn’t as profitable as Cameron’s other epics, only bringing in around $90 million against a $70 million budget, but critics were generally kind, particularly to the longer version that eventually surfaced on home video (Widgett Walls of Needcoffee.com called the theatrical release “an abomination” and wrote, “For God’s sake, make sure you have the director’s cut”).


9. Swing Shift (1984) 87%


It endured an infamously bumpy production period — during which stars Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell went over Jonathan Demme’s head to arrange edits and reshoots with a different director — but even if Swing Shift didn’t end up fulfilling Demme’s original vision, critics still felt it effectively told the story of a war bride (Hawn) who enters the workforce (and starts an affair) during WWII while her husband (Harris) is overseas. Although more than a few viewers have taken issue with its soft-focused treatment of adultery, the picture’s rich detail and well-written script impressed writers like Filmcritic’s Pete Croatto, who observed, “Sofia Coppola and Wes Anderson could learn a few things watching this. Or maybe they already have.”


8. Sweet Dreams (1985) 90%


Although it was roundly criticized for taking liberties with the facts of its subject’s brief, fascinating life, the Patsy Cline biopic Sweet Dreams makes for a solidly compelling — if at times frustratingly inaccurate — film about the country star’s (played by Jessica Lange) early years, short career, and tragic death, as well as her tumultuous marriage to the unfortunately named Charlie Dick (Harris). Earning Lange a Best Actress nomination for her work, Dreams won praise from critics like Time Out’s Geoff Andrews, who wrote, “The two main performances are excellent: Lange plays the singer without a hint of condescension to her dreams of ‘a big house with yellow roses’, while Harris is persuasively menacing, with an inventively foul mouth.”


7. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) 95%


You think the dynamic at your company is brutal? Try swimming with the sharks of Glengarry Glen Ross, a pitch-black, deeply profane case study in how quickly an office will disintegrate when a sales team is told that it’s about to enter a competition — and everyone who winds up lower than second place is going to lose his job. The result, as you might expect, is a bile-drenched free-for-all, brilliantly scripted by David Mamet (adapting his own Tony- and Pulitzer-winning play) and brought to painful life by an ace cast that included Harris, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey, Alan Arkin, and Al Pacino (who earned an Academy Award nomination for his work). It isn’t for the faint of heart, and it might provoke a few winces of recognition, but it is, in the words of Filmcritic’s Christopher Null, “An utter masterpiece.”


6. The Truman Show (1998) 94%


Is it science fiction? A comedy? A drama? A psychiatric syndrome? Actually, 1998’s The Truman Show is all of the above. Jim Carrey stars as Truman Burbank, the unwitting star of a wildly popular reality series engineered by a producer named Christof (played by Harris), in which Truman’s life — complete with fake wife, fake friends, and a whole fake town — is lapped up by eager audiences. It didn’t net Carrey the Academy Award that many were anticipating, but The Truman Show has endured over the last 10 years, and predicted the overwhelming popularity of reality television in the years to come. In the words of Hollywood Report Card’s Ross Anthony, “this is clearly one of the decade’s cleverest, most original pictures.”


5. Gone Baby Gone (2007) 94%


Ben Affleck made his directorial debut with this pitch-black thriller, adapted from the Dennis Lehane novel about a private investigator (Casey Affleck) who finds himself mixed up in the exceedingly shady case of a kidnapped girl. As he works with the cops (including Harris and Morgan Freeman) and his girlfriend/partner (Michelle Monaghan), it becomes clear that things are not what they seem. It’s a basic framework that pretty much any filmgoer will be familiar with, but in Affleck’s hands, Gone Baby Gone came alive; as Bruce Westbrook wrote for the Houston Chronicle, “A love-tolerate valentine to the city, it feels more real than the gangster-gorged mean streets of Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, and just as tortured as Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River.”


4. Apollo 13 (1995) 95%


This dramatization of NASA’s aborted 1970 lunar mission combined one of star Tom Hanks’ biggest personal passions — space travel — with Hollywood’s favorite thing: a blockbuster prestige picture. With a cast that featured a number of similarly prolific actors (among them Harris, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, and Gary Sinise), Apollo probably would have made decent money even if it had played fast and loose with the real-life details of the launch, but director Ron Howard and his crew strove for verisimilitude, going so far as to shoot portions of the film in actual zero gravity. The result was a summertime smash that restored some of space travel’s luster for a jaded generation — and made for an exceedingly good filmgoing experience according to most critics, including Roger Ebert, who called it “a powerful story, one of the year’s best films, told with great clarity and remarkable technical detail, and acted without pumped-up histrionics.”


3. Snowpiercer (2014) 95%


A little more than 15 years after he played a powerful man who manipulates lives in service of his own warped version of the greater good for The Truman Show, Harris offered a variation on that theme for Snowpiercer. One of the best-reviewed movies of 2014, it found director and co-writer Bong Joon-ho exploring the outer reaches of bizarro mainstream sci-fi with a dystopian class warfare thriller about the conflict between the unwashed masses (led by Chris Evans) against their pampered overlords (featuring Tilda Swinton acting as Harris’ cartoonishly awful enforcer) on a train hurtling non-stop around the post-apocalyptic ruins of planet Earth. Bracingly original during a summer season crowded with blockbuster fare, Snowpiercer earned raves from the vast majority of critics, including Slate’s Dana Stevens, who wrote that it “seems to have been sent back to us from some distant alternate future where grandiose summer action movies can also be lovingly crafted, thematically ambitious works of art.”


2. Places in the Heart (1984) 93%


Sally Field won a Best Actress Oscar and John Malkovich earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination for their work in this 1984 drama, which tells the story of a widowed woman (Field) who struggles to keep her Texas farm afloat during the Great Depression while her sister (Lindsay Crouse) deals with her crumbling marriage to a carousing husband (Harris). The kind of film whose plot doesn’t seem to cover a lot of ground, but which deals with some unmistakeably weighty themes (in this case racism, adultery, and family commitment), Places in the Heart wasn’t necessarily one of the most exciting pictures of the year, but it was an Academy favorite — Field’s Best Actress win prompted her oft-lampooned “you like me” speech — and a source of admiration for critics like Vincent Canby of the New York Times, who wrote, “Out of the memories of his boyhood in Waxahachie, Tex., during the Great Depression, and within the unlikely tradition of the old-fashioned ‘mortgage’ melodrama, Robert Benton has made one of the best films in years about growing up American.”


1. The Right Stuff (1983) 98%


It’s based on one of America’s most inspiring true stories, it features an ace ensemble cast, and it earned rave reviews from critics — so why did audiences turn their backs on The Right Stuff during its 1983 theatrical run? The fact that it’s more than three hours long probably had something to do with it, but in writer/director Philip Kaufman’s defense, it’s hard to think of a better way to tell the story of NASA’s famed “Mercury Seven.” As astronaut John Glenn, Harris held his own against talented co-stars such as Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn, and Dennis Quaid; together, they helped create the four-time Oscar winner that Combustible Celluloid’s Jeffrey M. Anderson recommended by writing, “Along with Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America it’s the last great American epic — the kind of film that couldn’t be made today.”

 


Finally, here’s the trailer for Harris’s directorial debut, Pollock, which also earned him a Best Actor Oscar nomination:

Tag Cloud

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