Total Recall: Christopher Walken's Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Seven Psychopaths star.
Walken earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his work in this Michael Cimino classic, which takes a grueling look at three Pennsylvania steelworkers (played by Walken, Robert De Niro, and John Savage) whose lives are irrevocably altered by their experiences serving in the Vietnam War. As Nick, the soldier whose introspective nature finds him ill-equipped for the horrors of combat, Walken provided the film with some of its most haunting moments; as Vincent Canby argued in his review for the New York Times, "Its feelings for time, place and blue-collar people are genuine, and its vision is that of an original, major new film maker."
For fans of Walken's nuttier script choices, 2007 proved a banner year -- not only did he appear as an evil ping-pong crimelord named Feng in Balls of Fury, he played loving husband to a cross-dressing, prosthetic-laden John Travolta in Adam Shankman's hit Hairspray. A screen adaptation of a Broadway musical that was itself an adaptation of John Waters' 1988 comedy, Hairspray certainly had tangled roots -- but even if its origins made it look like a cash grab, the end result proved to be a sweetly effervescent musical comedy with a better-than-average cast. "Enjoyable movies are released every week," conceded the San Francisco Chronicle's Mick LaSalle. "But movies that have the capacity to delight -- movies like Hairspray -- are few and far between."
The 1990s found Walken evolving into something of an indie/direct-to-video mainstay, appearing in cult flicks like Suicide Kings far more often than he managed to make it to the big screen -- and that wasn't necessarily a bad thing, given that his higher-profile projects at the time included stuff like MouseHunt. But with 1998's Antz, Walken made his first foray into animated voicework, appearing alongside the disembodied vocals of an eclectic cast that included Woody Allen, Sharon Stone, Sylvester Stallone, Gene Hackman, and Jennifer Lopez. While it's arguably best-remembered today for being overshadowed at the box office by A Bug's Life, it was well-received by critics like Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum, who enjoyed "the relief felt by star actors freed from the constraints of their physical selves and the egos that go with them."
2. Pulp Fiction
Walken took a one-scene appearance in True Romance and pretty much walked away with the movie -- so when Romance screenwriter Quentin Tarantino came calling with another small-but-memorable role in Pulp Fiction, he wasn't about to say no. Again, Walken only appears in one scene, but it's a doozy: As Captain Koons, a returning soldier who brings young Butch Coolidge a watch owned by the boy's killed-in-action father, he delivers a monologue that provides one of the most memorable moments in a film with more than enough to go around. "Tarantino's dialogue, with its densely propulsive, almost lawyerly fervor, its peppery comic blend of literacy and funk, has more snap and fight than most directors' action scenes," pointed out Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman.
By the early aughts, we'd been conditioned to look for Walken in strange places (e.g. Joe Dirt and The Prophecy 3), where he could generally be found doing strange things -- things that, it bears mentioning, tended to liven up otherwise dull movies (Last Man Standing). With 2002's Catch Me If You Can, however, Steven Spielberg brought Walken back down to Earth -- and helped him nab his second Oscar nomination -- with the small-but-important role of Frank Abagnale, Sr., the man whose financial ruin and shattered marriage inspires his son Frank, Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) to embark on a legendary life of crime. Robert Denerstein called the result "Precisely what a mainstream movie should be: fleet, savvy and, like a good con, executed as if it were the easiest thing in the world."
In case you were wondering, here are Walken's top 10 movies according RT users' scores:
1. Pulp Fiction -- 95%
2. The Deer Hunter -- 91%
3. True Romance -- 90%
4. Man on Fire -- 89%
5. Hairspray -- 84%
6. Catch Me If You Can -- 81%
7. King of New York -- 76%
8. Scotland, PA. -- 73%
9. Click -- 72%
10. The Rundown -- 72%
Finally, here's Walken defying gravity in the video for Fatboy Slim's "Weapon of Choice":