Total Recall: Steve Buscemi's Best Movies

We count down the best-reviewed work of the Incredible Burt Wonderstone star.

Steve Buscemi

He hasn't always played the nicest characters, but both onscreen and off, Steve Buscemi has always come across as a pretty interesting person -- a gifted thespian, talented director, and former firefighter who helped clear rubble from the World Trade Center after 9/11, he's one ubiquitous character actor whose Hollywood success doesn't seem to have turned him into anything other than a regular guy from Brooklyn. Of course, in this weekend's The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, he's anything but regular... which is why we decided we couldn't miss the opportunity to dedicate a list to some of Buscemi's best-reviewed roles. It's time for Total Recall!


87%

10. Living in Oblivion

Allegedly inspired by writer/director Tom DiCillo's less-than-wonderful experiences on the set of the early Brad Pitt picture Johnny Suede, 1995's Living in Oblivion starred Buscemi as a put-upon director whose struggles with his emotionally distraught crew (including Dermot Mulroney as the director of photography) and exasperating cast (including Catherine Keener as his difficult leading lady and James LeGros as the buffoonish, possibly Pitt-derived leading man) make it difficult for him -- and the audience -- to keep track of what's illusory and what's real. "So you wanna make a movie?" asked the Washington Post's Hal Hinson. "Well, first, you should see Living in Oblivion, Tom DiCillo's savagely funny satire of the world of independent filmmaking."

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88%

9. Mystery Train

Buscemi picked up his first Independent Spirit Award nomination for his supporting work in this Jim Jarmusch anthology film consisting of three loosely connected stories -- one of which found Buscemi sharing screen time with Joe Strummer, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, and the decade's most in-depth discussion of Lost in Space not involving Matt LeBlanc. "The three-part structure of Mystery Train is still a bit shambling and slight," admitted Entertainment Weekly's Chris Nashawaty, "but there's an undeniable air of deadpan cool that permeates the film and gives it a haunting sense of place."

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90%

8. The Messenger

One on a growing list of 21st century films about American war that American audiences have largely ignored, 2009's The Messenger takes the mounting costs of our conflicts and gives them unforgettably human faces -- including Will Montgomery and Tony Stone (played by Ben Foster and Woody Harrelson, who received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination) as soldiers tasked with delivering casualty notifications to survivors, and Steve Buscemi as a father whose awful grief helps lend the film its gut-punching power before giving it an unexpected twist. "This is a wholly different look at the fallout of the Iraq War and its effect on soldiers and civilians," offered USA Today's Claudia Puig. "It is also a gentle portrait of grief, friendship and solace."

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91%

7. Barton Fink

Generally speaking, we tend to avoid including cameos and smallish roles in these lists, but those rules are bent when it comes to actors like Buscemi, who can steal an entire movie with little more than a few moments on the screen. One of his more memorable minor parts: Chet the bellhop in Barton Fink, a barely-seen character whose friendliness to Fink (John Turturro) adds a bit of light to an oft-gloomy Coen brothers picture that uses the uneasy partnership between art and commerce as a backdrop for a surreal drama about sex, lies, and a shotgun-toting John Goodman. Calling the end result "Gnomic, claustrophobic, hallucinatory, just plain weird," Time's Richard Schickel lauded it as "the kind of movie critics can soak up thousands of words analyzing and cinephiles can soak up at least three espressos arguing their way through."

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91%

6. Miller's Crossing

The gangster drama whose stubborn script eventually prompted the desperate break that birthed Barton Fink, Miller's Crossing blended well-worn genre formula with the Coen brothers' signature style -- and gave Steve Buscemi an early break with the brief but pivotal role of Mink Larouie, a bookie whose illicit affairs draw him into a gang war that proves deadly (giving the Coens the first of many opportunities to cause Buscemi's on-screen death). "While Miller's Crossing is not as messy or inspired as Martin Scorsese's GoodFellas, or as richly suggestive as The Godfather, it accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do," mused John Hartl for Film.com.

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Comments

Dave J

Dave J

Um, Steve Buscemi's role in "The Messengers" was like almost 7 minutes at best and shouldn't even be labelled as a major role! "Ghost World" was one of his best so far!

Mar 13 - 04:15 PM

Jeff Giles

Jeff Giles

With most actors, I focus on major roles. But a guy like Buscemi calls for a different approach, because even his cameos tend to be pretty memorable.

Mar 13 - 04:18 PM

gammellm

Mike Gammell

True. He made Big Daddy almost watchable.

Mar 15 - 07:30 AM

Cole Egner

Cole Egner

That's why Pulp Fiction should be on here!

Mar 17 - 10:12 AM

Mr. Fernback

Gabriel Holzthum

yea but his performance in the messengers in unforgettable. sad and intense

Mar 13 - 06:39 PM

Mathew Jung

Mathew Jung

Agree 100% it's Steve Freakin' Buscemi, and you completely forget it's him as the grieving father, let alone his scene breaks your heart as much as any in the movie. And the writer(s) noted that (as Jeff said a couple comments up) they're including some of Buscemi's minor roles because he can steal a film w a cameo...

Mar 14 - 11:37 AM

Brad and Netflix

Bradly Martin

I concur with Gabriel. He planted that Tree when his son was born. Other than Woody Harrelsons outstanding performance the Young love blooming through tragedy was really Meh.

Mar 14 - 04:03 PM

Rbaldelli7

Michael Baldelli

Well...that's like...your opinion, man...

Mar 14 - 06:48 PM

Holden D.

Holden Drover

You're out of your element Donny..

Mar 17 - 06:10 PM

TJ S.

TJ Seher

It's The Messenger. It's not plural. But yeah honestly I don't even remember him being in it. That film will be remembered for Harrelson and Morton's fine performances more than anything else.

Mar 14 - 07:05 PM

Gary Lima

Gary Lima

Don't remember him in that either.

Mar 17 - 01:03 PM

Steve German

Steve German

Well, that's like, your opinion, man.

Mar 15 - 12:09 AM

Tim Terrell

Tim Terrell

The character is Ghost World was lame. I could see Buscemi literally just walking through that movie like "where's my check"?

Mar 15 - 02:48 PM

Dave J

Dave J

It's very obvious you don't understand any of the characters in "Ghost World" which symbolizes stepping away from society's custom rules!

Mar 15 - 04:13 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

Buscemi is actually good friends with the creator, Daniel Clowse.

Mar 16 - 12:23 AM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

Excellent selection of his work. Until #1.

Lots of good smaller roles: "Life Lessons" (New York Stories), "The Imposters", "King of New York", "Paris, je t'aime". Unfortunately, it won't be long for some boob to mention one of his Sandler or Michael Bay films...

Mar 13 - 04:15 PM

Jeff Giles

Jeff Giles

Janson, you'll be happy to know that we're adjusting our voicework policy for these lists. They'll be included on much more of a case-by-case basis from now on.

Mar 13 - 04:19 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

I actually don't really mind. Plus, you pre-emptively soothed the disappointment in the write-up.

I really wanted to tell you to "shut the f#ck up, Donnie", but it's not your fault that 20% of critics are too thick to appreciate a good Chandler homage.

Mar 13 - 04:23 PM

infernaldude

Infernal Dude

When will we be able to comment on trailers and pictures? Priorities!!

Mar 13 - 05:06 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

Dude, you're out of your element.

Mar 13 - 05:49 PM

infernaldude

Infernal Dude

Janson, if you ever flash a Lebowski quote to me on RT, I will take it from you, shove it up your ass, and press the mouse til it says click.

Mar 13 - 10:38 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

8 year olds, dude.

Mar 14 - 06:21 AM

Rob Conlan

Rob Conlan

He's a major villain in Monsters Inc., I think in this case it works.

Mar 19 - 08:59 AM

Jeff Giles

Jeff Giles

With most actors, I focus on major roles. But a guy like Buscemi calls for a different approach, because even his cameos tend to be pretty memorable.

Mar 13 - 04:18 PM

gammellm

Mike Gammell

True. He made Big Daddy almost watchable.

Mar 15 - 07:30 AM

Cole Egner

Cole Egner

That's why Pulp Fiction should be on here!

Mar 17 - 10:12 AM

Jeff Giles

Jeff Giles

Janson, you'll be happy to know that we're adjusting our voicework policy for these lists. They'll be included on much more of a case-by-case basis from now on.

Mar 13 - 04:19 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

I actually don't really mind. Plus, you pre-emptively soothed the disappointment in the write-up.

I really wanted to tell you to "shut the f#ck up, Donnie", but it's not your fault that 20% of critics are too thick to appreciate a good Chandler homage.

Mar 13 - 04:23 PM

infernaldude

Infernal Dude

When will we be able to comment on trailers and pictures? Priorities!!

Mar 13 - 05:06 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

Dude, you're out of your element.

Mar 13 - 05:49 PM

infernaldude

Infernal Dude

Janson, if you ever flash a Lebowski quote to me on RT, I will take it from you, shove it up your ass, and press the mouse til it says click.

Mar 13 - 10:38 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

8 year olds, dude.

Mar 14 - 06:21 AM

Rob Conlan

Rob Conlan

He's a major villain in Monsters Inc., I think in this case it works.

Mar 19 - 08:59 AM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

I actually don't really mind. Plus, you pre-emptively soothed the disappointment in the write-up.

I really wanted to tell you to "shut the f#ck up, Donnie", but it's not your fault that 20% of critics are too thick to appreciate a good Chandler homage.

Mar 13 - 04:23 PM

SecondBest

This Guy

Great Actor...loved him Reservoir Dogs.

Mar 13 - 04:48 PM

infernaldude

Infernal Dude

When will we be able to comment on trailers and pictures? Priorities!!

Mar 13 - 05:06 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

Dude, you're out of your element.

Mar 13 - 05:49 PM

infernaldude

Infernal Dude

Janson, if you ever flash a Lebowski quote to me on RT, I will take it from you, shove it up your ass, and press the mouse til it says click.

Mar 13 - 10:38 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

8 year olds, dude.

Mar 14 - 06:21 AM

infernaldude

Infernal Dude

Despite his spectacular movie career, he will always be Nucky Thompson to me. Not Steve, or Buscemi, or Steve Buscemi, but Nucky.

Also, his volunteering to help clean up after 9/11 is pretty commendable. Especially cause he didn't ask for or receive any type of media coverage for it.

Mar 13 - 05:16 PM

Erik Haid

Erik Haid

Wtf? No love for Trees Lounge

Mar 13 - 05:30 PM

Bill Van Gieson

Bill Van Gieson

absolutely. Trees Lounge is a secret gem.

Mar 14 - 03:03 AM

BigG ..

BigG ....

totally agree - keep telling people to watch it as no-one has ever heard of it

Mar 14 - 02:10 PM

Paul Preston

Paul Preston

Look for Parting Glances. It is memorable, and he is terrific.

Mar 13 - 05:42 PM

Andrew Werling

Andrew Werling

Yes, a great one

May 23 - 11:33 AM

Zane B

Chum Chum

He's a fuckin professional

Mar 13 - 05:43 PM

Lord Tutweiller

Lord Diego John Tutweiller of Trolldonia

The Dude disapproves of the lack of The Big Lebowski on this list.

Mar 13 - 05:46 PM

Lindsey Holder

Lindsey Holder

Agreed. I'm going with the rt user's list on this one. Well, at least the top 5 haven't seen Mystery Train or Living in Oblivion, and Ghost World has faded from my memory.

Mar 13 - 06:22 PM

Sean D.

Sean D

That's...just like...your opinion...man.

But seriously, yes it is a travesty.

Mar 13 - 06:54 PM

Craig Marks

Craig Marks

STFU Donny!

Mar 14 - 05:11 PM

Janson Jinnistan

Janson Jinnistan

Dude, you're out of your element.

Mar 13 - 05:49 PM

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