Total Recall: Steve Buscemi's Best Movies
We count down the best-reviewed work of the Incredible Burt Wonderstone star.
5. In the Soup
1992 was really Buscemi's year at Sundance -- not only did he make a big splash as part of Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, but he was also an integral part of Alexandre Rockwell's highly regarded In the Soup, an offbeat low-budget dramedy about a struggling screenwriter (Buscemi) who desperately teams up with a con man (Seymour Cassel) in order to find financial backing for his meandering 500-page script. Unfortunately overshadowed by some of the higher-profile festival favorites of the year, Soup remained a critical favorite for writers like Combustible Celluloid's Jeffrey M. Anderson, who admitted, "Yes, it's an old story that has been told a thousand times before and since, but Alexandre Rockwell's little film has a home movie charm and a streetwise wit that make it a must-see sleeper."
4. Ghost World
Buscemi's ability to imbue even the most unlikable characters with some shred of humanity (think Garland Green in Con Air) has made him a favorite for directors who need someone to play a multi-dimensional cretin. A notable exception: Terry Zwigoff's Ghost World, a bleakly funny adaptation of the Daniel Clowes comic book about a pair of teenage misfits (Scarlett Johansson and Thora Birch) whose casually mean-spirited prank on a lonely middle-aged man (Buscemi) has unforeseen consequences on their friendship. A cult and critical favorite, Ghost World resonated with scribes like Angie Errigo of Empire, who wrote, "This is 'teen comedy' of startling sophistication -- with horribly funny bits as well. A true original, with sharp humour, subtle detail and painfully realistic characters."
After filming small-but-pivotal parts in the Coen brothers' Miller's Crossing and Barton Fink, Buscemi was rewarded with a role written specifically for him in their 1996 breakthrough, Fargo. A seven-time Academy Award nominee (and two-time winner) that now resides in the National Film Registry, it tells the increasingly unpleasant tale of a car dealership manager (William H. Macy) who tries to get out from under his financial woes by hiring a pair of small-time crooks (Buscemi and Peter Stormare) to kidnap his wife so he can fool his wealthy father-in-law into paying the ransom. A grisly comedy of errors ensues, with the kidnappers leaving a trail of death in their wake and a tenacious cop (Frances McDormand) in hot pursuit. "To watch it is to experience steadily mounting delight," smiled Roger Ebert, "as you realize the filmmakers have taken enormous risks, gotten away with them and made a movie that is completely original, and as familiar as an old shoe."
A heist movie without the heist -- but with a far sharper (as well as gorier and more profane) script than most movies of its kind, Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs helped kick off the indie film boom of the 1990s with a tightly wound, beautifully cast look at what happens when a group of really bad guys try to pull off a big score and it all goes wrong. Working with a scarily talented group of character actors, Tarantino -- who was making his feature debut -- made it count by giving Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Chris Penn, and Buscemi (as the weaselly Mr. Pink, a role Tarantino originally planned to take for himself) some of the most memorable scenes of their careers. "It's unclear whether this macho thriller does anything to improve the state of the world or our understanding of it," admitted the Chicago Reader's Jonathan Rosenbaum, "but it certainly sets off enough rockets to hold and shake us for every one of its 99 minutes."
It's always a bit of a disappointment when an animated film ends up at the top of an actor's Total Recall list -- and we know more than a few of you think voice roles shouldn't count at all -- but if it has to happen, then it might as well be a movie as wonderful as Monsters, Inc. Starting from a rich premise (what if the monsters in your kid's closet are real...and they're scared too?), Pixar's fourth feature used its universal concept as the framework for a thoughtful, ecologically conscious rumination on the journey from childhood to adulthood. Plus, it was exciting and really funny, thanks to a stellar voice cast that included Billy Crystal and John Goodman (as monster pals Mike and Sulley), James Coburn, Jennifer Tilly, and (of course) Steve Buscemi as the nasty monster Randall Boggs. It all added up to a massive box office hit -- and a movie that, in the words of Melanie McFarland of the Seattle Times, acts as "A marvelous combination of lollipop visuals, brilliant screenwriting, sharp comedic timing and, above all, overflowing amounts of heart."
In case you were wondering, here are Buscemi's top 10 movies according RT users' scores:
1. Reservoir Dogs -- 93%
2. The Big Lebowski -- 93%
3. Fargo -- 91%
4. Miller's Crossing -- 88%
5. Barton Fink -- 87%
6. Mystery Train -- 86%
7. Monsters, Inc. -- 84%
8. Living in Oblivion -- 84%
9. Ghost World -- 80%
10. Desperado -- 79%
Finally, here's the trailer for Trees Lounge, Buscemi's feature directorial debut: