Total Recall: Ed Harris's Best Movies

We count down the best-reviewed work of the Man on a Ledge star.

Ed Harris

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 Man on a Ledge, 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 87 percent. Which of your favorites made the cut? It's time to find out, Total Recall style!


87%

10. A History of Violence

Can a life of violence ever really be left behind? Does a person who has committed violent acts deserve the chance to move beyond them -- even if he's tried to atone for his past? In his tense, gory adaptation of John Wagner and Vince Locke's A History of Violence, David Cronenberg asks these questions and comes away with a handful of suitably ambiguous answers -- but not before pitting seemingly ordinary restaurant owner Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) against a mobster (Ed Harris) who claims he has arrived to collect a debt from Stall's surprisingly shady past. "It's rare to find a filmmaker who can deliver such a message and keep us riveted every minute of screen time," wrote Bill Muller of the Arizona Republic. "But Cronenberg manages it, making A History of Violence one of his best, and most realistic, films ever."

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88%

9. The Abyss

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").


92%

8. Swing Shift

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."


94%

7. Sweet Dreams

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."

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94%

6. Gone Baby Gone

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."

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Comments

Geoff Travagline

Geoff Travagline

Ahh. I find it funny that in today's day and age, and growing up as a child in the 90s the first thing that pops into my mind when I see the name "Ed Harris" is Apollo 13. Personally, that movie trumps all others in my opinion. But non-the-less, I was shocked to find out that he's only been nominated for 4 Oscars. The man has had an impressive career--no doubt. And has much more to come. Cheers Mr. Harris.

Jan 25 - 03:51 PM

bigbrother

Bigbrother .

Think it's because he works with good people, there are a ton of great ensemble pieces on his list and when you work with great people you run the risk of going unnoticed whereas if you work with Channing Tatum or Ashton Kutcher you shine like a pearl, but people generally think less of you.

Jan 26 - 07:15 AM

Rameez Arif

Rameez Arif

BROTHA GEOFF!!!!

Jan 27 - 01:18 PM

Geoff Travagline

Geoff Travagline

Dang. Look at Brotha Rameez kicking it up in RT. ;)

A Harris fan possibly? ;)

Jan 27 - 03:32 PM

Rameez Arif

Rameez Arif

hes a good actor been in plenty of good movies apollo 13 was great

Jan 31 - 07:17 PM

Dave J

Dave J

More than half of Ed Harris roles are secondary behind someone else and is not as memorable, only that he's in some of those movies and that is basically it!

Jan 25 - 04:03 PM

Roman Zolanski

Gaylord Focker

Case in point: Jacknife.

Jan 26 - 09:53 AM

Noah James

Noah Kinsey

Heaven forbid an actor isn't front-and-center, but instead makes a good movie better by supporting the story.

Jan 26 - 02:01 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

Anyone who thinks Ed Harris is wallpaper does not understand the importance of the 'anchor' character actor or the discipline that's required for that essential role.

Jan 26 - 11:05 PM

Philippe

Philippe Ostiguy

Oh, the thankless job of a supporting role!

Jan 27 - 11:16 AM

club r.

club rella

Y'all be one of them hacks demanding twenty mil for a month of work then? Fair enough you'd be upset.

Jan 29 - 01:30 PM

Taylor McCampbell

Taylor McCampbell

Uh, Where's Pollock?

Jan 25 - 04:16 PM

Dave J

Dave J

"Pollock" only got 82 % rating and a 73% on the critical mass meaning that it wasn't high enough. at least higher than A History Of Violence which has 87%!

Jan 25 - 05:11 PM

Nate Mills

Nate Mills

Pollock was good, but it was not a great movie IMHO.

Jan 28 - 07:52 PM

redrooster0

Charlie Voelker

I love Ed Harris. My personal favorite performance of his was in Gone Baby Gone, too bad hes in such a shitty movie

Jan 25 - 04:17 PM

Armond White Sucks

Michael Baldelli

Gone Baby Gone is a good movie. Not sure why you didn't like it. Probably more Affleck hate.

Jan 27 - 12:07 PM

Brantastic16

Brandon Williamson

I think he's referring to Man on a Ledge as the "shitty movie"

Jan 28 - 12:22 PM

Paul Herbert

Paul Herbert

Little known gem with him and Robert De Niro and Kathy Baker called "Jacknife"

Jan 25 - 04:26 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

Great film. Another acting paradise.

Jan 25 - 06:17 PM

tgibfo

Matt Ritchey

great flick!

Jan 25 - 08:56 PM

Ron Taylor

Ron Taylor

He plays John Glenn excellently in "The Right Stuff"

Jan 25 - 05:04 PM

Dave J

Dave J

"Pollock" only got 82 % rating and a 73% on the critical mass meaning that it wasn't high enough. at least higher than A History Of Violence which has 87%!

Jan 25 - 05:11 PM

popyea

nick mckergow

Was the video attached to The Abyss intentional? It's even there on the movie's page.

Jan 25 - 05:16 PM

Nickolaus Wing

Nickolaus Wing

I don't know if it's intentional but it definitely has nothing to do with the movie.

Jan 26 - 06:28 AM

Jeremi Bourassa

Jeremi Bourassa

Lol, I guess there was a mistake while choosing the preview because this is a movie called "creatures from the abyss" (A.K.A. Plankton -- an Italian movie from the '90s).
Don't waste your time watching it, it's not worth it. :P

Jan 26 - 08:42 AM

Jason H.

Jason Huang

in my opinion, gone baby gone and a beautiful mind was his best... the truman show is also really good... so was apollo 18

Jan 25 - 05:34 PM

John Matrix

John Matrix

Man, Ed Harris is awesome.

Jan 25 - 05:45 PM

Marshall Rieth

Marshall Rieth

He was great in Milk Money too but the most convincing (and creepy) part he played was in Just Cause, these two are my favorites because they showcase the broad spectrum of his talents. A great actor indeed! He should have gotten a statue for Just Cause!

Jan 25 - 05:49 PM

Gordon Franklin Terry Sr

Gordon Terry

CREEP SHOW;
THE STAND;
and NEEDFUL THINGS (it must be Ed Harris is a Stephen King fan TOTALLY!)

GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS is AMAZING!

Jan 25 - 05:51 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

AH! You beat me to the Father's Day Cake!!!!

Jan 25 - 06:05 PM

bigbrother

Bigbrother .

Who did Ed Harris play in The Stand? I don't remember him in that.

Jan 26 - 07:17 AM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

AH! You beat me to the Father's Day Cake!!!!

Jan 25 - 06:05 PM

Chris Girard

Chris Girard

I love Ed Harris. Seeing him on screen always grabs my attention. He's definitely one of my favourite actors ever.

Jan 25 - 06:11 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

Great, powerful actor. He doesn't get the best moments in "Glengary Glen Ross" (though his exit is appropriately macho-pathetic) or "Right Stuff", he really showed some steam in "Gone Baby Gone" and "History of Violence". His "Appaloosa" is a very good entry in the recent spat of realistic westerns.

For the uninitiated, "Knightriders" is an awesome cult classic, he gets a little boogie going in "Creepshow", "State of Grace" (with Sean Penn and Gary Oldman) is an actors paradise, plus he got to portray both Beethoven and E. Howard Hunt (which is very funny if you're familiar with the latter's photograph.)

Jan 25 - 06:16 PM

dethburger

dethburger hates Flixster

Knightriders is one of my favorite "lesser known" films.

Great call.

Jan 26 - 11:39 AM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

Great film. Another acting paradise.

Jan 25 - 06:17 PM

Myron

Myron Kinsey

Fantastic Actor! One of my all time favorites! I personally think he reached the peak of mastering his art when he made Pollack, that was truly a wonderful film. I also like when he constantly slaps the shit out of Mary Elizabeth Mastranton when they try to resuscitate her near the end of The Abyss lol.

Jan 25 - 06:38 PM

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