Jon Voight's Best Movies
In this week's Total Recall, we count down the best-reviewed work of the Getaway star.
What do you get when you take a train in the Alaskan wilderness, put an insane Jon Voight on it, give him Eric Roberts for a sidekick, and throw in a little Danny Trejo for good measure? The answer lies in this '80s action classic about a violent lunatic (Voight) who escapes from prison with the help of a dimwitted convict (Roberts) and ends up stowing away on a train that just happens to be on a collision course...with DEATH! Ahem. The cast and the premise suggest cheesy B-movie thrills, but Runaway Train boasts a surprisingly impressive pedigree -- the script was based on a Kurosawa screenplay, and director Andrei Konchalovsky was still years away from succumbing to the nonsense of Tango & Cash. As Geoff Andrew wrote for Time Out, "Somehow one leaves aside the blatant implausibilities, the coincidences, even Eric Roberts, and takes great pleasure in a breakneck ride to the end of the line."
It's kind of a bit part, but we'd be remiss if we left Voight's appearance in Michael Mann's Heat off this list -- if for no other reason than that his presence among this impeccably assembled cast of marquee titans and sterling character actors (including Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Danny Trejo, William Fichtner, Hank Azaria, and a young Natalie Portman) indicates the dependability (and stature) he'd acquired by the 1990s. Although he certainly filmed his share of duds during the decade (he appeared in Anaconda two years later), Heat proved he was still capable of spotting a good script. As Kenneth Turan observed for the Los Angeles Times, "Michael Mann and a superlative cast have taken a classic heist movie rife with familiar genre elements and turned it into a sleek, accomplished piece of work, meticulously controlled and completely involving."
The blackest of pitch-black war comedies, Mike Nichols' Catch-22 arrived during the thick of the Vietnam War, adapting the classic Joseph Heller novel about the absurdity of war into an acidic argument against armed conflict that -- despite its World War II setting -- underscored the futility of the country's overseas imbroglio. Although it suffered no small measure of Vietnam blowback with audiences -- who turned out for MASH and Patton the same year -- it resonated strongly with critics, thanks in part to an impressive cast that included Orson Welles, Alan Arkin, Martin Sheen, Charles Grodin, and (of course) Jon Voight. The end result was, wrote the New York Times' Vincent Canby, "Quite simply, the best American film I've seen this year."
Voight has spent a substantial portion of his career (especially of late) playing deliciously nasty bad guys, but as the Best Picture-winning Midnight Cowboy proves, he's also capable of conveying characters from the opposite extreme. As the haunted and heartbreakingly naive Joe Buck, Voight filled up every bit of the screen not occupied by Dustin Hoffman's fast-talking Ratso Rizzo -- no mean feat -- and offered a ray of hope among the movie's clouds of misanthropy. "What has happened to Midnight Cowboy," reflected Roger Ebert, "is that we've done our own editing job on it. We've forgotten the excesses and the detours, and remembered the purity of the central characters and the Voight and Hoffman performances."
The movie that forever changed the popular concept of a purty mouth, Deliverance depicted the American South as an inbred horror show populated by banjo-plucking troglodytes and sodomizing hillbillies -- and yet it somehow managed to pick up three Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture and Best Director) and accrue heaps of critical acclaim. What elevates Deliverance from others of its ilk -- aside from director John Boorman's agonizingly taut work -- are the efforts of a terrific cast. Playing four city-dwelling friends on what's supposed to be a fun weekend in the wilderness, Voight, Burt Reynolds, Ronny Cox, and Ned Beatty imbued their characters' grueling ordeal with poignant humanity. "It doesn't all hold together," admitted Luke Y. Thompson for New Times, "but when it does, it scares you into never ever wanting to vacation down South."
In case you were wondering, here are Voight's top 10 movies according RT users' scores:
1. Heat -- 91%
2. Midnight Cowboy -- 86%
3. The Champ -- 82%
4. Rosewood -- 81%
5. The General -- 81%
6. Glory Road -- 80%
7. Deliverance -- 79%
8. Coming Home -- 79%
9. National Treasure -- 75%
10. Enemy of the State -- 75%
Finally, here's proof that Voight really sinks his teeth into a role, no matter how small: