We take a look back at Liam Neeson’s ten best films, from Taken to Schindler’s List, over the course of his illustrious career.
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It’s been over four decades since Liam Neeson has been acting. Every genre has been covered by blockbuster giant, from drama to horror to musicals and romantic comedy and action. Because Liam Neeson continues to widen his comfort zone, he has retained his A-list star status, even becoming a bona fide action hero in 2008 with Taken.
Because the actor is so versatile, he attracts followers from a wide spectrum of backgrounds, which is why he’s so popular. We decided to take a look at the iconic actor’s career and narrow it down to the ten best films he has made since 1978.
As someone who has appeared in 137 films, picking just ten isn’t easy. Every frame of Neeson’s film demonstrates that he’s a workaholic. Because he has worked with some of the world’s greatest directors, like Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese, it’s no surprise. This list illustrates Liam Neeson’s appeal to everyone and every genre.
In Darkman, Liam Neeson portrayed a superhero of Frankenstein-esque proportions before he acted in Batman Begins. Neeson plays Dr. Peyton Wilder, a doctor who takes on the role of Darkman in Sam Raimi’s homage to Universal monster flicks. Due to the popularity of Raimi’s TheEvil Dead franchise and the success of Tim Burton’s Batman, Universal decided to take a risk and hire Neeson. In contrast to Schindler’s List, which came out three years later, Dr. Wilder, played by Liam Neeson, is exuberant, unpredictable, and full of energy. It’s a nice show to revisit.
2. The Grey
Is this a Liam Neeson action movie or an introspective look at mortality and the ephemeral essence of life? The answer is both. For his debut action film, The Grey, Neeson used the same horrific conditions for filming as the wolves’ attacks on the characters. After seven hours of filming in subzero temperatures, Neeson was able to deliver a captivating performance despite the persistent freezing of the cast, crew, and equipment. At one point, “Once again into the fray,” is the film’s vocal motif. Into the final good fight I’ll ever be able to participate in. On this day, we live and die. On this day, “live and die.” Because of the attention to detail, it’s as if you’re in the middle of a snowstorm in the middle of Alaska.
3. A Monster Calls
Liam Neeson’s gruff, grunting voice lends itself perfectly to the role of the monster in A Monster Calls. It’s as close as any picture on our list gets to being a family film, with Neeson’s tree monster, simply referred to as “The Monster,” serving as a sounding board and vehicle for the youngster in the film to deal with his dying mother during her chemotherapy treatments. Neeson gives one of his best performances yet in this tale of allegory, childhood fantasy, and escapism.
I bet you’ve heard your friends, acquaintances, or pop culture parodies repeat Neeson’s iconic “I will find you” monologue from this film. Neeson plays a man with a unique set of skills who goes on a one-man killing spree to save his kidnapped daughter in Taken. In this picture, Neeson became a household name as an action star, and it spawned two sequels. It’s hard to argue that this film isn’t the best of the trilogy, simply because audiences hadn’t seen Neeson’s raw physicality, furious vocal tone, and exploding fury in action movies before.
5. Honest Thief
Liam Neeson stars in the FBI controversy in Honest Thief. Neeson’s character, Tom Dolan, a bank robber wanted by the federal authorities, agrees to a deal with the FBI, only to be double-crossed by the officers who catch him. The excitement of breaking the law was more important to Dolan than the money. All the components for a fantastic Neeson action movie: fist fights, car chases, and surprising explosions. Of course, the seasoned actor always comes out on top. Neeson was widely praised for his performance in the picture.
6. The Marksman
Liam Neeson stars in The Marksman, a political thriller about a former marine turned farmer in Arizona who takes on the role of protector for a young Mexican boy fleeing the clutches of the drug cartels. In order to come to terms with the damage he’s done, Jim decides to take the young boy to his family in Chicago, where he’ll spend time with them. The Marksman is a somber tale of deceit, betrayal, and atonement. Neeson is normally strong as the quite farmer-turned-badass guardian, eager to put his life on the line for justice – a frequent motif throughout his action characters.
7. The Ice Road
Someone was bound to make a thriller about ice road truckers, about which an extremely popular show has been made. And fans and critics alike were glad they did it with Liam Neeson leading the cast. The Ice Road tells the tale of an ice driver who embarks upon an impossible rescue mission after a diamond mine collapses in a remote region in Canada. Neeson must cross a frozen ocean in order to save the lives of miners trapped in the accident, all while the ocean thaws and the threat of corrupt insurance company agents close in on him. Neeson plays a subdued, if resolute character with both PTSD and aphasia, admirably conveying mental illness.
8. Batman Begins
The first film in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy, Batman Begins took an entirely new, gritty direction in the superhero genre – one that films like it would attempt to emulate in years to come. Liam Neeson brought the popular villain Ra’s al Ghul to life from the DC comics with both compassion and shrewd intelligence. Standing at 6’4″, Neeson’s screen presence even intimidates the youthful Bruce Wayne throughout the film. It also helps that Neeson’s performance is laced with a healthy dose of fighting prowess and biting one-liners. In the last installment of the trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, he would reprise the role of Bruce Wayne.
When Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver star in Liam Neeson’s next picture, Silence, based on the actual story of a group of 17th-century Jesuit priests who set out to rescue their mentor in Japan, it is the actor’s second collaboration with director Martin Scorsese. Neeson’s acting is understated. As a cautionary story about the dangers of missionaries overstepping their bounds, Scorsese’s character, who rejected Jesus, became a Buddhist, and inherited a Japanese family from killed Japanese Christian men, is depicted in the film. During the grueling shooting schedule, Neeson lost approximately twenty pounds. Despite the fact that Silence isn’t one of Scorsese’s most successful films, the fact that he cast Neeson as one of its primary characters speaks volumes.
10. Schindler’s List
Schindler’s List, based on the true tale of Oskar Schindler, is one of Steven Spielberg’s most critically acclaimed films, making Liam Neeson a star. An enamelware factory that employed Jewish essential workers was created by Schindler in order to prevent them from being sent to concentration camps. He had a close relationship with the SS Nazis but later changed his mind in an effort to save as many Jews as possible. Finally, he was able to prevent Jews from being transported from Brünnlitz to Auschwitz. Spielberg underlines Schindler’s change of heart with the use of black, white, and crimson, which Neeson conveys so well. Neeson’s nuanced facial gestures and soft-spoken tone perfectly convey the ambiguity of his character’s moral compass.