Total Recall

Rank Woody Harrelson's 10 Best Movies

We count down the best-reviewed work of the War for the Planet of the Apes star.

by | July 12, 2017 | Comments

Woody Harrelson has come an awfully long way since he joined the cast of Cheers in 1985, originating the role of hayseed bartender Woody Boyd and kicking off a career that has grown to encompass one of the more eclectic, unusual, and just plain interesting filmographies in modern Hollywood. Comedies? Dramas? Thrillers? Harrelson’s done ‘em all — and with his turn as the Colonel in War for the Planet of the Apes making its way to theaters this weekend, we figured now was the perfect time to take a look back at some of the critical highlights in the Harrelson oeuvre, Total Recall style!


1. The Edge of Seventeen (2016) 94%

(Photo by Murray Close/STX Entertainment)

The Edge of Seventeen is unquestionably Hailee Steinfeld’s show, and for good reason — the Oscar-nominated star capably shoulders the dramatic burden of writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig’s coming-of-age story, ricocheting between prickly moodiness and relatable angst as believably as any anguished real-life teen. But many of this acclaimed dramedy’s best lines belong to Harrelson as Mr. Bruner, the history teacher whose grouchy personality makes for a handful of truly memorable quips — and masks a willingness to go above and beyond for his young charge when she needs it most. “Pick a god, any god,” wrote IndieWire’s David Ehrlich, “and thank them for this movie.”

Watch Trailer


2. No Country for Old Men (2007) 93%

(Photo by Miramax)

For a guy who made his name playing a harmless bumpkin on a beloved sitcom, Woody Harrelson can come across as pretty menacing when he wants to. But you know who does that trick even better? Javier Bardem, whose character in No Country for Old Men, the terrifying bounty hunter Anton Chigurh, gets the drop on Harrelson’s character, a competing hitman and former acquaintance named Carson Wells — and after a few minutes of deeply disquieting banter, offs Wells with a bolt gun. It’s one of many shudder-worthy moments from the Coen brothers’ Oscar-winning adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel, which earned over $170 million at the box office and unqualified praise from critics like Tom Long of the Detroit News, who called it “A cold, rough look at the dissolution of just about everything” and added, “It will bother you afterward. It should.”

Watch Trailer


3. Transsiberian (2008) 91%

(Photo by First Look International courtesy Everett Collection)

Four strangers on a train barreling across the Trans-Siberian Express. What could go wrong? That’s the slowly unraveling mystery at the wintry heart of writer/director Brad Anderson’s Transsiberian, starring Harrelson and Emily Mortimer as a pair of missionaries whose return trip from China takes a series of unexpected turns after they find themselves sharing a train cabin with another couple (played by Eduardo Noriega and Kate Mara). It’s the kind of movie that’s better the less you know going in, so we won’t spoil any further plot details here; suffice it to say that, in the words of Colin Covert of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Anderson gives us an artful, shifty-eyed take on human strengths and weakness; his film delivers the pleasure of a conventional tale well told, with clever twists and complex characters.”

Watch Trailer


4. Zombieland (2009) 89%

(Photo by Glen Wilson/Columbia Pictures)

With the number of zombie movies that have been released, any new entry in the genre really has to do something different in order to stand out — and that’s just what Ruben Fleischer did with Zombieland, starring Harrelson as a cynical survivalist prowling post-outbreak America in search of a Twinkie, Jesse Eisenberg as a college student whose meek exterior masks a surprisingly effective zombie killer, and Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin as a pair of sisters who join them on their journey to a California amusement park that’s rumored to be zombie-free. Toss in one of the most excellent celebrity cameos in recent memory, and it all added up to a $100 million hit — and the movie Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel described as “the funniest zombie movie since Shawn of the Dead, funnier even than Fido” as well as “a 28 Days Later played for laughs — lots of them, endless jokes, one-liners and sight gags.”

Watch Trailer


5. The Messenger (2009) 90%

(Photo by Oscilloscope Pictures courtesy Everett Collection)

Harrelson earned his second Oscar nomination for his work in this thoughtful war drama, which centers around a pair of Army officers (played by Harrelson and Ben Foster) saddled with the impossible task of telling the family members of fallen soldiers that their loved ones have died in combat. The directorial debut of screenwriter and former journalist Oren Moverman, The Messenger was ignored at the box office, where its minuscule $1.5 million gross offered further proof that audiences weren’t interested in seeing anything that would remind them of the wars in the Middle East — but it earned almost universal praise from critics like the Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips, who observed, “Some jobs are dirtier than others, and after seeing director and co-writer Oren Moverman’s beautifully acted new film, you’ll be better acquainted with some of the most grueling work a human being can be called upon to perform.”

Watch Trailer


6. The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996) 88%

The idea of making a biopic about one of America’s most infamous pornographers might have seemed like some kind of joke in 1996, but The People vs. Larry Flynt — starring Harrelson as Hustler publisher Flynt and helmed by One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest director Miloš Forman — actually ended up being one of the more serious, thoughtful dramas of the decade. Though it wasn’t a huge box office success, Flynt earned Harrelson his first Academy Award nomination (and scored Courtney Love a Golden Globe nomination in the bargain), as well as heaps of praise from critics like Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle, who quipped that it was “a modern-day Capra film, about an unorthodox businessman who’s persecuted for his originality but eventually is recognized for the lovable, rugged American individualist he truly is.”

Watch Trailer


7. Wag the Dog (1997) 86%

(Photo by New Line Cinema)

Harrelson took a small but pivotal role in this black political comedy — playing a deranged former soldier whose untimely demise complicates a Presidential adviser’s complicated, daffy, and eerily prescient plans — and although it didn’t amount to much in the way of screen time, it provides a vivid demonstration of Harrelson’s ability to deliver a memorable performance in just a few moments. Calling it “A wicked smart satire on the interlocking worlds of politics and show business,” Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times said “Wag the Dog confirms every awful thought you’ve ever had about media manipulation and the gullibility of the American public.”

Watch Trailer


8. Seven Psychopaths (2012) 83%

(Photo by Chuck Zlotnick/CBS Films courtesy Everett Collection)

Harrelson’s knack for portraying unpredictably violent characters made him a perfect pick for 2012’s Seven Psychopaths, a black comedy from writer-director Martin McDonagh in which some desperate people do some bad things for the wrong reasons — and ultimately run afoul of a gangster (Harrelson) who comes out guns a-blazing after his dog is kidnapped. Bloody, funny, and as narratively dense as the best Tarantino-inspired efforts, it made the most of a talented ensemble that was rounded out by Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, and Christopher Walken — and earned effusive praise from critics like USA Today’s Claudia Puig, who wrote, “Seven Psychopaths is about seven times more clever than most Hollywood comedies. And way more demented.”

Watch Trailer


9. A Prairie Home Companion (2006) 81%

(Photo by Picturehouse courtesy Everett Collection)

One of America’s longest-running radio programs celebrated its 31st birthday in style with this Robert Altman-directed ensemble dramedy, an artful blend of fact and fiction that dramatizes one very important night behind the scenes. Completed mere months before Altman’s death, it provided a worthy closing statement for one of Hollywood’s most dignified careers — and gave Harrelson an opportunity to rub shoulders with a cast that included Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Tommy Lee Jones, John C. Reilly, and Kevin Kline. “It sparkles with a magic all its own as an engagingly performed piece of Midwestern whimsy and stoicism,” wrote Andrew Sarris for the New York Observer, adding, “Mr. Altman’s flair for ensemble spectacle and seamless improvisation in the midst of utter chaos is as apparent as ever.”

Watch Trailer


10. Welcome to Sarajevo (1997) 80%

Filmed on location in war-torn Sarajevo and Croatia, Michael Winterbottom’s gritty, enraged Welcome to Sarajevo aimed a lens at the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina — in some cases using footage of actual war atrocities — and finds plenty of condemnation to go around. Harrelson co-stars here as Jimmy Flynn, a hotshot journalist whose quest for a story puts him in the midst of a hellish war zone — and a friendly rivalry with fellow reporter Michael Henderson (Stephen Dillane), who embroils Flynn in his efforts to smuggle orphans out of the country. Calling it “Messy and visceral, with an articulate, pointed anger that’s recognizably British,” Salon’s Charles Taylor praised Sarajevo for “[hitting] with an impact that’s not diminished by the fact that Sarajevo’s uneasy peace has held.”

Watch Trailer

Pages: Prev 1 2

Tag Cloud

Action screen actors guild spanish SDCC 93rd Oscars Image Comics Netflix Film NYCC political drama game of thrones NBA rt labs critics edition adventure 79th Golden Globes Awards DC streaming service razzies cancelled TV shows Writers Guild of America comiccon robots chucky TCA Winter 2020 Drama MCU Comedy obi wan TIFF El Rey casting Mary Poppins Returns The Arrangement HBO Max hist MGM movie A24 Valentine's Day theme song thriller Set visit First Look VICE directors Mystery deadpool Super Bowl gangster italian breaking bad prank Avengers Apple TV+ cancelled Best and Worst richard e. Grant Binge Guide South by Southwest Film Festival batman Awards child's play movies 20th Century Fox obituary feel good cinemax art house new zealand Calendar dreamworks BBC One reboot fresh YA Tumblr Sony Pictures period drama Amazon Studios 45 Rocketman Tokyo Olympics OneApp Grammys TruTV jamie lee curtis See It Skip It FOX Election posters documentaries Alien 72 Emmy Awards 99% ITV crossover 2020 transformers comedies ABC Signature adenture 94th Oscars FXX FX on Hulu cancelled television Rocky Crunchyroll YouTube Premium CMT anthology The Walt Disney Company kids The Academy revenge critic resources miniseries Trailer Emmy Nominations serial killer harry potter boxoffice Christmas cats hispanic heritage month ghosts royal family OWN Spring TV women Vudu The Walking Dead comic books Film Festival black comedy CNN Black Mirror zombies new york mockumentary Podcast TNT TV Land genre biography facebook Discovery Channel live event Photos A&E marvel comics animated Fox News trophy Arrowverse biopic godzilla Musicals golden globe awards screenings ESPN space war Comics on TV Best Actress Winners cooking diversity dogs TCA Awards halloween tv Animation 007 Hulu 2018 films adaptation Anna Paquin ID elevated horror Lionsgate Reality Competition stop motion VH1 halloween twilight PaleyFest Pixar Neflix spain Marvel video on demand Martial Arts fast and furious Trophy Talk Women's History Month zero dark thirty Ellie Kemper BBC Masterpiece RT21 NBC disaster debate 2017 Music IMDb TV Song of Ice and Fire 73rd Emmy Awards Amazon Prime Video south america MSNBC pirates of the caribbean Pet Sematary singing competition DGA spider-verse Tarantino 71st Emmy Awards anime lord of the rings joker GLAAD docudrama dragons spanish language mission: impossible Columbia Pictures Amazon Infographic stand-up comedy romantic comedy ViacomCBS Sundance TV WarnerMedia psycho king arthur Stephen King leaderboard Reality indie 2016 rotten movies we love USA Network Mudbound rt archives Superheroes Pride Month Paramount Plus 2021 king kong Superheroe young adult CW Seed Star Wars 4/20 discovery Heroines scary movies TV renewals Chernobyl streaming movies President Teen japanese rom-coms hidden camera canceled TV shows Adult Swim Shudder Nat Geo Syfy blaxploitation technology Peacock The Witch reviews hispanic worst Premiere Dates Hallmark Winter TV Rock 90s 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards Spectrum Originals comic slasher GoT SundanceTV crime San Diego Comic-Con blockbuster Amazon Prime scary Legendary dexter Watching Series superhero VOD Best Actor Broadway quibi boxing Paramount Network worst movies franchise werewolf 2019 blockbusters Esquire Starz Fall TV versus APB Prime Video book adaptation zombie legend Comic Book Showtime Video Games supernatural Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt DirecTV scene in color Disney+ Disney Plus Britbox Turner AMC Plus Sundance Classic Film natural history Sneak Peek PlayStation Best Picture politics Crackle best Best Director live action docuseries Interview Polls and Games dark book australia TCA E3 Lifetime Christmas movies all-time Captain marvel 21st Century Fox Television Critics Association Biopics unscripted vampires strong female leads AMC BET wonder woman classics Cannes game show video spy thriller BBC America teaser The Purge Western news children's TV Hollywood Foreign Press Association Comedy Central GIFs Toys Summer travel Lifetime know your critic hollywood Family nbcuniversal Food Network Elton John stoner IFC Films streaming Creative Arts Emmys trailers Funimation Freeform Brie Larson Comic-Con@Home 2021 Sundance Now spinoff Academy Awards TCM Epix tv talk Rom-Com satire American Society of Cinematographers Box Office Endgame high school renewed TV shows target Exclusive Video heist movie Universal Marvel Television football series RT History Paramount Emmys Baby Yoda Logo DC Comics festival comics CBS Oscars Black History Month sequel Year in Review mob die hard TV rotten indiana jones sag awards Musical HBO Oscar black Disney Channel canceled BET Awards Mindy Kaling mutant independent Mary Tyler Moore comic book movie based on movie james bond kong Trivia X-Men Disney japan Kids & Family what to watch mcc Cosplay foreign First Reviews Character Guide sports romance french vs. New York Comic Con YouTube dceu nature PBS cartoon crime drama Turner Classic Movies sopranos Pop TV Instagram Live Wes Anderson ABC true crime Country toronto emmy awards Holidays Awards Tour telelvision FX National Geographic TV movies golden globes television WGN psychological thriller comic book movies Marvel Studios criterion crime thriller popular ratings DC Universe talk show universal monsters TLC TBS Nickelodeon archives E! Nominations Star Trek Pacific Islander toy story HBO Go sequels LGBT cars The CW police drama Opinion Universal Pictures aliens HFPA USA documentary Bravo ABC Family Lucasfilm finale historical drama History Pirates basketball Sci-Fi Schedule green book Quiz Tubi Mary poppins dc festivals Countdown Tomatazos Travel Channel MTV Fantasy Ghostbusters saw monster movies 2015 Acorn TV kaiju action-comedy suspense jurassic park Apple venice Warner Bros. slashers 24 frames concert Tags: Comedy asian-american cults streamig Apple TV Plus Chilling Adventures of Sabrina christmas movies witnail Netflix Christmas movies critics name the review award winner Horror Disney Plus new star wars movies 1990s SXSW 2022 a nightmare on elm street Marathons Disney streaming service Thanksgiving Shondaland marvel cinematic universe Television Academy international justice league binge TV One Hear Us Out olympics scorecard Hallmark Christmas movies cops doctor who TCA 2017 SXSW BAFTA Extras Spike Cartoon Network Fox Searchlight rt labs Ovation science fiction composers Walt Disney Pictures medical drama nfl parents Fargo YouTube Red remakes spider-man IFC Dark Horse Comics superman CBS All Access latino social media laika free movies Pop Holiday aapi LGBTQ dramedy Certified Fresh sitcom cancelled TV series Red Carpet