Total Recall: Anthony Hopkins' Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Wolfman star.
Some actors struggle with typecasting for their entire careers -- and some, like Anthony Hopkins, get to do pretty much whatever they want. Since making his film debut in 1968, Hopkins has dabbled in everything from Merchant Ivory period dramas to horror, moving from television to film -- and picking up an Academy Award, and several nominations, along the way. He's battled a bear in The Edge, walked away unscathed from the misery of Joel Schumacher's Bad Company, and even survived Freejack, but he's never been given the Rotten Tomatoes Total Recall treatment -- so in honor of his supporting turn in The Wolfman, we decided now would be the perfect time to look back at the 10 best-reviewed films in his distinguished career.
A name like The World's Fastest Indian doesn't exactly conjure up images of a Kiwi in his late 60s, but don't let the disorienting combination of Anthony Hopkins' face floating over the title on the poster keep you from watching. For one thing, Hopkins has called this his favorite performance; for another, the real-life adventures of New Zealand motorcycle tinkerer Burt Munro, who topped 200 MPH on his souped-up Indian Scout, make for one of the most entertaining, albeit unusual, biopics you've probably never seen. While it never enjoyed much more than a limited run here in the States, critics were kind to Indian -- among them the Boston Globe's Janice Page, who wrote, "History dictates that you know how the story ends. Still, the heart beats no less fast when you watch Munro's Indian rocketing across those salt flats. You can see how it might be enough to justify a journey halfway around the world."
By 1992, the world had seen enough Dracula adaptations -- many of them sadly subpar -- that the character was in desperate need of a fresh, suitably creepy start. Enter Francis Ford Coppola and his lavishly mounted Bram Stoker's Dracula, which pit Gary Oldman as the titular vampire against Hopkins as his arch-nemesis Van Helsing -- and threw in a marquee cast that included Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves, as well as an Annie Lennox song over the closing credits, for added megaplex appeal. Given its impeccable pedigree, the fact that Coppola's Dracula was a financial success didn't come as much of a surprise -- but unlike a lot of previous adaptations, particularly those of recent vintage, it was also a success with critics, many of whom welcomed the opportunity to see a director as talented as Coppola interpret the vampire's classic tale. In the words of the Washington Post's Hal Hinson, "It is Coppola's most lavish and, certainly, his most flamboyant film; never before has he allowed himself this kind of mad experimentation."
The first of three collaborations between Hopkins and director Richard Attenborough, 1978's Magic is one of the stranger entries in Hopkins' admittedly eclectic filmography -- a horror movie about an unsuccessful magician named Corky (Hopkins) whose professional expansion to ventriloquism masks a worsening case of multiple personality disorder. Doing a sort of double duty as both Corky and the voice of his murderous dummy "Fats," Hopkins added to his burgeoning horror resume as part of a stellar cast that included Ann-Margaret, Burgess Meredith, and David Ogden Stiers. While Magic wasn't a huge commercial success, most critics expressed admiration for the puppet-driven tragedy, and it remains one of the stranger entries in a filmography heavy with big-budget productions and period dramas. As Rory L. Aronsky of Film Threat wrote, "Because of Hopkins, because of Ann-Margret (who hardly looks like that Ann-Margret, adeptly proving herself as an occasional dramatic actress), and because of Burgess Meredith as well as Fats the dummy, Magic is one of the top-notch films of the 1970s."
For decades, the legend of Zorro held a reliable grip on film audiences, but by the 1990s, Hollywood seemed to have forgotten his appeal; the most recent movie to feature the swashbuckling bandit, 1981's Zorro, the Gay Blade, was a broad parody starring George Hamilton as both the black-clad hero and his gay twin brother, Bunny. On the surface, Hopkins may have seemed an odd choice for The Mask of Zorro, which presented him as an aged version of the title character, in search of a man capable of assuming his legend and defeating the villanous Don Rafael Montero. Ultimately, however, neither audiences nor critics had much trouble accepting Hopkins as the Spanish swordsman who trains his much younger successor (Antonio Banderas); in fact, despite an ungainly running time of 136 minutes and some rather clumsy stunt editing, Zorro provoked a surprising amount of applause from critics, among them Almar Haflidason of the BBC, who gushed, "There are no clever ground-breaking effects, just lashings of good clean fun with desperately devilish baddies, and good guys so fantastic, so clever and witty, that they make you want to weep with pleasure."
6. Howards End
Immediately after collecting a bushel of awards for his portrayal of the despicable Hannibal Lecter, Hopkins made an about face to play a different kind of villain in Howards End -- the well-heeled but irredeemably flawed Henry Wilcox, whose casually classist attitudes represent the dark side of early 20th century British capitalist reform. At bottom, Henry is really sort of a cad, but Hopkins infuses him with ambiguity the way only he can; it's another finely layered performance in a career full of them, and during the era of commercial ascendancy that found Hopkins starring in fluff like Freejack, it served as a gentle reminder of the talent that made him famous. And even if Edwardian dramas generally aren't your thing, don't dismiss Howards End out of hand; as Matt Brunson of Creative Loafing wrote, it's "The best of the countless Merchant Ivory productions -- and arguably the most appreciated by those who don't even like Merchant Ivory movies."