Total Recall: James Woods's Best Movies

We count down the best-reviewed work of the Straw Dogs star.

81%

5. Cop

A rare showcase in a résumé full of supporting roles, 1987's Cop finds Woods playing, well, a cop -- albeit one whose unconventional style and general disdain for rules costs him his badge while he's in the middle of the case of his career. Writer/director James B. Harris, who previously worked with Woods on 1982's Fast-Walking, adapted the script from James Ellroy's novel Blood on the Moon -- and although the result proved less than arresting for audiences, who mostly ignored Cop while it was in theaters, it impressed critics like Roger Ebert, who wrote simply, "Woods was born to play this role."


83%

4. The Onion Field

After spending the better part of a decade toiling in bit parts in films and TV movies, Woods scored his breakout role in Harold Becker's The Onion Field. A dramatization of the Joseph Wambaugh novel inspired by the real-life case of two homicidal maniacs who dragged a pair of cops into a field to kill them, it was probably too profoundly disquieting to attract major mainstream success -- but Woods' performance as the charming psychopath Greg Powell earned him a Golden Globe nomination, and Variety concurred, writing that "James Woods as the near-psychotic Powell is chillingly effective, creating a flakiness in the character that exudes the danger of a live wire near a puddle."


89%

3. Once Upon a Time in America

With an original cut weighing in at nearly four hours, Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America is a true epic -- and if Leone had been able to convince his producers, it would have been split into two three-hour films. But unlike a lot of sprawling dramas, America justifies its extended running time; Leone, working from Harry Grey's novel The Hoods, had a lot of story to tell -- and with Woods helping anchor a large cast that also included Robert De Niro, Tuesday Weld, and Elizabeth McGovern, he had the actors to tell it. Studio interference resulted in a bowdlerized American cut that reportedly infuriated Leone, but the end result still haunted critics like Dave Kehr of the Chicago Reader, who was moved to write, "Every gesture is immediate, and every gesture seems eternal."

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92%

2. Salvador

Woods received the first of his two Academy Award nominations for his work in Oliver Stone's Salvador, a 1986 war drama about a rather unlikable American journalist who's burned so many bridges that his only professional recourse is to head to El Salvador with his unemployed DJ buddy (Jim Belushi) to try and find stories in what they initially regard as a relatively inconsequential war. Like a lot of films that try and shine a light on war while shots are still being fired, Salvador bombed at the box office -- but it found an appreciative audience with writers like Rob Gonsalves of eFilmCritic, who called it "One of Oliver Stone's best films, and absolutely James Woods' best performance."

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95%

1. True Believer

Loosely inspired by a case from the fascinating files of real-life attorney Tony Serra, 1989's True Believer gave Woods a chance to go toe-to-toe with rising star Robert Downey, Jr. in a courtroom thriller about a pair of lawyers who uncover a deep, dark conspiracy behind the imprisonment of a young Korean (Yuji Okumoto) accused of a gang-related murder. The role of bruised idealist Eddie Dodd called for a magnetic, finely layered performance -- and Woods responded, according to Time's Richard Schickel, who wrote that "Woods' angry energy is clarifying as well as terrifying, and when he unleashes it (usually without warning), the effect is to focus our attention where it belongs, not on a suspense story but on the mysteries of human behavior."

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In case you were wondering, here are Woods's top 10 movies according RT users' scores:

1. Once Upon a Time in America -- 92%
2. Casino -- 91%
3. John Q -- 83%
4. Salvador -- 83%
5. The Virgin Suicides -- 80%
6. Videodrome -- 79%
7. Contact -- 74%
8. Nixon -- 72%
9. Any Given Sunday -- 70%
10. Diggstown -- 70%


Take a look through Woods's complete filmography, as well as the rest of our Total Recall archives. And don't forget to check out the reviews for Straw Dogs.

Finally, here's Woods moonlighting at a Kwik-E-Mart in Springfield:

Comments

Dave J

Dave J

Best ones coming out of James Woods in my opinion has got to be "Once Upon A Time In America" and "True Believer". I also liked "Cops" and "Best Seller" as well, but they both more production values!

Sep 14 - 04:33 PM

Dave J

Dave J

I meant to say that "Cops" and "Best Seller" need more production values!

Sep 14 - 04:59 PM

John Matrix

John Matrix

James Woods is awesome. Videodrome and Once Upon a Time in America are all-time favorites of mine.

Sep 14 - 04:48 PM

david h.

david hurlburt

Sadly I've not seen any of these films. I have only seen the first 30 minuits of Nixon. However the two films I really like him in is Hercules and the Ghosts of Mississippi. To bad they didn't make the list. And of course his parts in Family Guy, to bad they killed his character off.

Sep 14 - 04:51 PM

BLBnow

Brad Barfoot

Maybe its just because I like everything Denzel Washington is in, but I dont get the critical hate of "John Q".

Sep 14 - 04:57 PM

Brad H.

Brad Hadfield

Neither did I. It was a solid movie.

Sep 15 - 05:50 AM

Brad and Netflix

Bradly Martin

John Q got what he wanted by being a terrorist. Then the film pointed the finger at hospitals and insurance companies. I don't like Insurance company policy or health care either, but they aren't Terrorists. John Q being a hero for acting like a terrorist sends a conflicting message that a lot of people just don't like.

Sep 15 - 07:01 AM

w@velength

In Your Dreams

Americans got what they wanted by being terrorists. Then the colonies pointed the finger at the English and taxation without representation. I don't like taxation or imperialism either, but they aren't terrorists. America being a hero for acting like a terrorist sends a conflicting message that a lot of Europeans just don't like.

Sep 15 - 03:59 PM

Brad H.

Brad Hadfield

I think you stated what I wanted to say...but I'm not sure. If your use of terrorist would work better in quotes, say "terrorist," I think you nailed it.

Sep 15 - 10:35 PM

Brad and Netflix

Bradly Martin

Come on now, you are comparing The American Revolution to John Q?

What happens is John Q doesn't commit an act of Terrorism. His son gets the heart from the reckless female driver. If John Q would have sat and done nothing and trusted in the system he was against, his son still would have lived and he would not have gone to Jail for a federal crime.

Where is the sense in this ridiculous movie?

Sep 16 - 07:24 AM

infernaldude

Infernal Dude

One mans terrorist is another mans freedom fighter.

Sep 16 - 07:34 PM

infernaldude

Infernal Dude

I love the Simpsons episode with Woods. Classic.

Sep 16 - 07:36 PM

Dave J

Dave J

I meant to say that "Cops" and "Best Seller" need more production values!

Sep 14 - 04:59 PM

Wisenheimer

Joshua Dinsmore

I haven't seen any of these films, but I will one of these days. To be honest I have a crap load of other really good films that I have yet to see as well. I have a lot of work on my hands. :/

Sep 14 - 05:00 PM

Irukandji

Chris Skoufis

Dude, see a movie with James Woods in it! He steals the show and never gives it back. He's friggin' incredible!

Sep 15 - 05:17 AM

Beau R.

Beau Ryker

Best Seller ought to be in there somewhere. Good hitman movie.

Sep 14 - 05:20 PM

DJ A.

DJ Adams

I've only seen Casino and The Virgin Suicides which are both good films, but why is none of his voice-over work on here? He did a great job as Hades in Hercules and it has an 84%.

Sep 14 - 05:26 PM

nongshim

Kathryne C

yeah. he was the best part of hercules.

Sep 14 - 05:33 PM

King Crunk

King Crunk

I loved him as Hades in that flick! That entire movie is fairly underrated in my opinion.

Sep 14 - 05:40 PM

Myerla

Elliot Newton

He also did voice overwork for Grand Theft Auto San Andreas.

Sep 15 - 03:21 AM

DJ A.

DJ Adams

Stuart Little 2 also has an 84% and isn't up there.

Sep 15 - 04:23 PM

nongshim

Kathryne C

yeah. he was the best part of hercules.

Sep 14 - 05:33 PM

Movie Monster

Bentley Lyles

Hope this dosen't offend but this is so funny!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wd_TJZKiHDQ

Sep 14 - 05:33 PM

Gordon Franklin Terry Sr

Gordon Terry

Once Upon a Time a America;
The Onion Field;
Stephen KIng's Cat's Eye;
John Carpenter's Vampires;
The Hard Way (with Michael J. Fox);
THE BOOST (TOTALLY! with Sean Young---they are waaay coked-up) . . .

(Whatever happened to Sean Young ????. . . she didn't like following The Rules and Jumping Through The Hoops of Hollywood and disappeared.)

This list is AWESOME Rotten Tomatoes !!!!!!!!

Sep 14 - 05:34 PM

BLBnow

Brad Barfoot

She was recently on "Celebrity Rehab"....which is a guilty pleasure of mine.

Sep 14 - 06:29 PM

Brad H.

Brad Hadfield

Cat's Eye was a favorite of mine back in the day. Woods and Hayes stories were great; Barrymore's less so, but still decent.

Sep 15 - 05:50 AM

King Crunk

King Crunk

Once Upon a Time in America and Videodrome are my favorites. James Woods is awesome and has a one of a kind presence in all of his films.

Sep 14 - 05:40 PM

King Crunk

King Crunk

I loved him as Hades in that flick! That entire movie is fairly underrated in my opinion.

Sep 14 - 05:40 PM

EDWARD R.

Edward Rodriguez

I LOOOOOOOOVE Videodrome and another thing:Wheres Hercules?

Sep 14 - 06:25 PM

BLBnow

Brad Barfoot

She was recently on "Celebrity Rehab"....which is a guilty pleasure of mine.

Sep 14 - 06:29 PM

Noah James

Noah Kinsey

What, no John Carpenter's Vampires or The Hard Way? Haha!

Sep 14 - 06:58 PM

ritesh s.

ritesh sharma

cars for sale

Sep 15 - 12:21 AM

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