My Man, Liam Neeson, and his 25 Greatest Roles

Universal

Liam Neeson has almost had two different careers. For a long time, he was a serious dramatic film star, the kind who earned Oscar nominations. Then, one day, he became a middle-aged action star, and somehow it worked. For years, we’ve seen Neeson beat up on bad guys more than anything else, even though he was well into his career before making that switch. Whether it’s drama or action (or the occasional comedy), Neeson has had some memorable roles. Here are 25 of them.

“Excalibur” (1981)

Warner Bros.

In his first film, Neeson played Jesus Christ. No pressure there. However, his first real memorable role was in “Excalibur,” one of many movies about Arthurian legend. Neeson plays Gawain, one of the many Knights of the Round Table. He’s not King Arthur, that role went to Nigel Terry, but he makes an impact in an early performance.

“The Dead Pool” (1988)

Warner Bros.

“The Dead Pool” is the last, and decidedly not the best, of the Dirty Harry movies starring Clint Eastwood. That being said, it is a notable film series, and Neeson has a big role in the movie that ended the run. He plays director Peter Swan, who has a sizeable role in the goings-on that, of course, involves a lot of violence (and an early role by Jim Carrey).

“Darkman” (1990)

Universal

Years before every actor was getting a shot at a superhero movie, Neeson stepped into such a role. However, instead of playing a notable character, Neeson starred in “Darkman,” which was based on a short story that Sam Raimi had written. Raimi directed the film, and while it did not find tremendous success, he would eventually move on to direct the original “Spider-Man” trilogy, which worked out a little better.

“Schindler’s List” (1993)

Universal

In terms of overt Oscar plays, there have been fewer more obvious than “Schindler’s List.” It’s a Holocaust movie shot in black-and-white by Steven Spielberg, after all. Neeson starred as Oskar Schindler, and he earned an Oscar nomination for his efforts. While he didn’t win, Spielberg won Best Director, and “Schindler’s List” won Best Picture as well.

“Nell” (1994)

20th Century Fox

Admittedly, Neeson is being pulled along by Jodie Foster in “Nell” when it comes to our memories. We distinctly remember Foster’s performance as a feral woman who speaks in a way people can’t understand. Neeson plays one of the doctors who works with Nell throughout the film, and he’s key enough to get on the movie poster. Behind Foster, of course.

“Rob Roy” (1995)

United Artists

Sometimes, outlaws become folk heroes. It seems particularly common in Britain. Rob Roy McGregor was an outlaw in 18th-century Scotland who had a legacy built around him. It was enough to get him a biopic many years later, and he even got Neeson to play him. Not too shabby after Neeson had played Oskar Schindler.

“Michael Collins” (1996)

Warner Bros.

Back-to-back biopics? Hey, Neeson was in the world of serious drama at the time. Like “Rob Roy,” “Michael Collins” probably registered with British viewers more. After all, not many Americans have heard of Collins, an Irish revolutionary who helped fight for the independence of Ireland in the early 1900s. It may have felt like a bit of a history lesson, but it was critically acclaimed, and Neeson got plenty of plaudits.

“The Haunting” (1999)

Dreamworks

In 1963, Shirley Jackson’s novel “The Haunting of Hill House” was adapted into a movie that got a ton of love for being a riveting horror movie. Both Scorsese and Spielberg have praised it. A remake in 1999 made sense. It has a truly impressive cast, including Neeson, Owen Wilson, and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Unfortunately, despite all that, it was a flop and actually earned five Razzie nominations. Hey, “memorable” doesn’t necessarily mean “good.”

“Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” (1999)

20th Century Fox

Hey, people were extremely excited for “The Phantom Menace.” It was the first new “Star Wars” movie in well over a decade, and George Lucas was back at the helm. The film was a critical flop, but it was a huge commercial hit. Basically, everybody saw it, which means everybody says Neeson as Qui Gon Jinn, a new Jedi character.

“Gangs of New York” (2002)

Miramax

Martin Scorsese’s story of immigration, the Civil War, and America is primarily about the battle between Leonard DiCaprio and Daniel Day-Lewis. Cameron Diaz also shows up a bit and feels a little tacked on, but we digress. However, DiCaprio’s father “Priest” Vallon is played by Neeson, and his role is pivotal in the film.

“Love Actually” (2003)

Universal

Look, either “Love Actually” is one of your favorite Christmas films or you hate it. At least, that’s what the online discourse indicates. Few people who have seen the ensemble romantic comedy seem to have a tepid response. Even fans of the film have sections they love (or hate) more than the others. That means remembering Neeson’s role, especially since he plays a part in one of the more polarizing story beats of the film.

“Batman Begins” (2005)

Warner Bros.

When Neeson was introduced into the world of Batman as Henri Ducard, member of the League of Shadows, he was already providing gravitas and intrigue. Then, it turned out he was actually Ra’s al Ghul, the leader of said League. Even in a movie with the Scarecrow as a baddie, it’s Ra’s who is the most dangerous person around.

“The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe” (2005)

Disney

Sometimes all you need to do to be memorable is provide a voice. It feels like even people who have never watched “The Chronicles of Narnia” or read C.S. Lewis’ books are aware of Aslan the Lion. He’s pretty key in the religious allegory of the story. In the film, Aslan is voiced by Neeson. We can’t name many of the human actors in the film anymore, but we definitely remember Neeson as Aslan.

“Taken” (2008)

20th Century Fox

Maybe “Taken” is a bit of a geopolitical mess. It’s a nasty, brutish revenge film and those sorts of movies don’t tend to be the most delicate. However, “Taken” completely remade Neeson’s career. His role as a father with a particular set of skills made him a surprise action star, and this film spawned two sequels.

“Clash of the Titans” (2010)

Warner Bros.

Was “Clash of the Titans” good? Not at all. Is it the movie where Neeson, as Zeus, exclaims, “Release the Kraken!?” You’d better believe it! That moment became a meme just based on the trailer, and honestly, it may be the most-viewed moment of Neeson’s career.

“The A-Team” (2010)

20th Century Fox

It took them a while to get an “A-Team” movie together, but it finally happened. While it didn’t quite succeed as they hoped, the adaptation of the iconic action TV show from the ‘80s was still memorable. While “Rampage” Jackson stepping into Mr. T’s shoes probably got the most attention, Neeson is the one who played Colonel Hannibal Smith, the leader of the A-Team and the man who loves it when a plan comes together.

“Life’s Too Short”

BBC

Neeson’s work has been primarily serious, but he’s dipped his toe into comedy occasion. That’s especially true in a couple of small cameos he had as himself on television. First up is “Life’s Too Short,” a sitcom from Ricky Gervais starring Warwick Davis. Neeson plays himself trying to get into the world of comedy and improv, but he’s disastrous at it. Fortunately, it’s in a funny way.

“Key & Peele”

Comedy Central

On the sketch show “Key & Peele” the two titular performers play valets who love the works of Liam Neeson, or as they say his name “Liam Neesons.” They love his films and declare them as their “sh*t” repeatedly. Finally, Liam Neesons himself showed up to meet the two valets, and also it turned out maybe he was a bit supernatural? Regardless, it was a delight, and definitely our sh*t.

“The Grey” (2012)

Open Road Films

Liam Neeson fights wolves. That’s how “The Grey” was pitched to the audience. That’s what the poster and the trailer promised. Many were disappointed with the degree of wolf fighting in the film, but still, this is one of Neeson’s top action films. It’s a little different, and it has that whole survivalist element to it.

“Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues” (2012)

Paramount

Remember how much fun the fight scene in “Anchorman” was? It was hilarious and came out of nowhere. Like most things in “Anchorman 2,” the fight in the movie is decidedly bigger, if a bit less fun. Still, it definitely stands out as a memorable aspect of the film, and Neeson cameos fighting on behalf of the History Channel

“Non-Stop” (2014)

Universal

Which of the slick action movies that Neeson has starred in during the 2010s is your favorite? There are a lot of choices. They are all basically B- movies that kill an afternoon, but that’s exactly what they aim for. It’s the crux of so much of Neeson’s career in recent years. “Non-Stop” seems to stand out among the fray to many, even if you may need to take a second to remember which form of transit Neeson is on looking for a killer

“Silence” (2016)

Paramount

Neeson and Scorsese reunited for another film, this time with a bigger role for the actor. “Silence” is maybe Scorsese’s most overlooked film. It’s not a gangster movie, though it is as violent and brutal as anything else he’s made. This is not a popcorn film, but a drama about religion, another preoccupation of the director. Still, Scorsese devotees have seen it, and you can’t co-star in a Scorese movie and have it not be memorable.

“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” (2018)

Netflix

The Coen Brothers brought us a movie that is a series of vignettes about the Old West that, like many films of this kind, is hit or miss. Personally, we love the titular segment, but afterward, the movie takes a bit of a dip. However, you surely won’t forget Neeson’s section. Honestly, it’s mostly because in a dark movie it is the bleakest of the bunch. When you’ve seen “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” you know that’s saying something.

“Widows” (2018)

20th Century Fox

Steve McQueen’s heist film is centered by Viola Davis and is a showcase for the woman who is front-and-center in the film. That being said, Neeson plays a vital role in the movie. He’s the career criminal who spurs the action, and the one whose death puts Davis’ character in the hole that requires her to consider a life of crime of her own. Then there’s a twist. We’ll leave the movie to reveal that to you.

“Cold Pursuit” (2019)

Summit Entertainment

In 2019, Neeson was in a “Men in Black” reboot most people skipped (or panned) and provided a vocal cameo in “The Rise of Skywalker.” Given all that, his movie “Cold Pursuit” is the most memorable thing that Neeson did personally. He plays a snowplow driver who kills members of a drug cartel. It’s full of snow and blood. It’s exactly the kind of movie we think of when we think of Neeson now, which is not something we would have said 15 years ago.

SOURCE: Yardbarker, Chris Morgan

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