Ranked: Russell Crowe’s Best Films
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L.A. Confidential and Gladiator are just two of the many Russell Crowe films that have had a lasting impact on both filmmaking and the general public. He has provided some of the most memorable lines, morphed into a completely other person, and put it all on the line in order to give the best performance possible.
Even if you were fortunate enough to have witnessed Russell Crowe’s prime as a Hollywood superstar, it’s hard to pick a favorite of his parts. The fact that Crowe is still putting on fantastic performances year after year after year after year shows just how priceless he is. And with Crowe’s upcoming road-rage thriller Unhinged scheduled for release on July 31, 2020, it doesn’t appear that he intends to stop anytime soon.
10. Romper Stomper (1992)
Russell Crowe, who played the soldier-turned-gladiator in Ridley Scott’s 2000 film Gladiator, may have sprung out of nowhere to some, but he had a notable career for more than a decade before becoming a household name. Romper Stomper, a 1992 neo-Nazi skinhead drama starring Russell Crowe as Hando, the leader of an Australian white supremacist group. Crowe’s portrayal of the tormented and confused gang boss, however violent and ruthless, provided moviegoers a taste of what the skilled and persuasive actor was about to deliver.
However, this visceral Australian drama offers some hope for change as one of the major characters recognizes the mistake in his ways. The subject matter is difficult to swallow in today’s climate, but this visceral Australian drama does provide some hope for change. Hando, Russell Crowe’s character, was stuck in a horrible cycle of hatred and violence, and it was too late to save him.
9. 3:10 To Yuma (2007)
In James Mangold’s action thriller 3:10 to Yuma, Russell Crowe was no stranger to the western genre, and his performance as gang leader Ben Wade was compelling. While Dan Evans, Christian Bale’s character, is assigned to bring Wade to the authorities, the movie is actually about honor and atonement as the two characters overcome their pasts and try to turn a new page. When it comes to Wade, this is especially true, given that the bandit and outlaw has an unusual moral compass that’s unlike anything else in the genre.
In addition to the gripping storyline in 3:10 to Yuma, Russell Crowe’s Ben Wade takes part in a slew of exciting action sequences, including gunfights, horse chases, and plenty of scuffles. Few actors could carry off Crowe’s portrayal of the conflicted gang boss as easily as he does in the film.
8. The Nice Guys (2016)
Seeing Russell Crowe play a strong enforcer in Shane Black’s 2016 neo-noir comedy The Nice Guys versus private eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling) was a breath of new air for someone who’s mostly renowned for dramatic roles in the last 15 years or so. Even though it was unexpected when it came out, the portrayal of Crowe as a hardened criminal in his forties who also happens to have an off-the-wall sense of humor was one of the year’s best surprises.
As entertaining as the first two Lethal Weapon films were, as well as Shane Black’s directorial debut, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, the chemistry between Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling is reminiscent of Shane Black’s buddy cop stories from the 1980s and 1990s. Just by watching the film, you can see that Crowe and Gosling are having a great time riffing on one of Black’s most memorable characters. The Nice Guys is also worth a look, despite the fact that it’s generally overlooked.
7. Mystery, Alaska (1999)
Mystery, Alaska, a 1999 sports comedy, was released in the same year as one of Russell Crowe’s most notable roles at the time (more on that later). Crowe’s portrayal as local sheriff and team captain John Biebe makes the story of a small group of amateur hockey players taking on the New York Rangers in an outdoor exhibition game a worthwhile viewing, despite being overshadowed by bigger and better sports movies of the era..
It’s hard to argue that Russell Crowe isn’t up to par with his subsequent roles, but Biebe, the leader of a gang of outcasts and up-and-comers, is enough to keep the squad and community behind him even when the odds are stacked against him.
6. Cinderella Man (2005)
The historical drama Cinderella Man starred Russell Crowe as Irish-American boxer James J. Braddock, who returns to the ring after an injury to support his family during the Great Depression just six years after his role in Mystery, Alaska. If Renée Zellweger and Paul Giamatti weren’t in the cast, anyone but Russell Crowe would have been overlooked. As a former heavyweight champion of the world, Russell Crowe shines in the Ron Howard-directed sports biography.
As a torn athlete, Russell Crowe is able to portray both the physical and emotional aspects of his character as he tries to put things right for his family in one of the most difficult times in American history. Because of his incredible portrayal by one of Hollywood’s best performers, you can feel every punch, bruise, and shattered bone.
5. Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World (2003)
A sequel to 2003’s epic Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World is unlikely, but Russell Crowe’s stellar performance makes it an essential addition to any Russell Crowe film collection. Crowe’s portrayal of Captain Jack Aubrey, set during the Napoleonic Wars, is light years better than most films largely based on a 19th-century vessel. Throughout the film, Crowe shows off his acting chops as a fictional member of the Royal Navy, and he does so with aplomb.
This performance by Crowe reflects his dual motivations of battling and caring for his crew, especially Dr. Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany), who is eager to see the Galapagos Islands before returning home. When Aubrey’s tenderness is shown in these instances, Crowe’s acting is elevated to a new level.
4. The Insider (1999)
The Insider, directed by Michael Mann and starring Russell Crowe and Al Pacino, is one of the best corporate crime thrillers ever made, despite the fact that it has mostly gone unnoticed in the 21 years since its release in theaters in 1999. The film, based on a 60 Minutes feature on the man who discovered the Brown & Williamson tobacco company’s part in making their cigarettes more addictive, served as a taste of what Crowe would deliver as Dr. Jeffrey Wigand.
Russell Crowe would go on to master the role of a man coping with paranoia in A Beautiful Mind a few years later, but his work in The Insider lay the framework for his portrayal of John Nash. Crowe was nominated for his first Academy Award for the performance, which was one of seven the film garnered ahead of the 72nd annual awards ceremony.
3. L.A. Confidential (1997)
On this list, Russell Crowe’s final three films are strong hitters that laid the framework for everything that would follow. L.A. Confidential, a 1997 noir crime thriller based on the James Ellroy novel of the same name, is first up. As Officer Wendell “Bud” White who is faced with investigating an unspeakably violent homicide case alongside Kevin Spacey, Guy Pearce, Kim Basinger, and Danny DeVito, Russell Crowe’s performance stands out.
No one better than Russell Crowe as he seeks to solve the “Nite Owl” homicides only to unearth a deeper and darker mystery is there for White to ride along with, no matter where that path leads, in the 1950s Los Angeles in quest of truth.
2. A Beautiful Mind (2001)
While playing John Nash in Ron Howard’s 2001 biographical movie, A Beautiful Mind, Russell Crowe seemed to be at his peak performance. From his early days at Princeton until his Nobel Prize celebration in 1994, the film shows Nash’s struggle with paranoid schizophrenia in a tragic and inspirational performance by Crowe.
There was a lot of drama added to John Nash’s mental illness, but Russell Crowe’s portrayal of a crisis-ridden guy in a mental hospital or the Pentagon should not be detracting from the film’s Oscar-winning portrayal of John Nash’s mental illness.
1. Gladiator (2000)
It was Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, starring Russell Crowe, in 2000 that made Crowe a global star. When Maximus Decimus Meridius is forced to fight as a gladiator in order to exact revenge on the man responsible for the horrible murder of his wife and child, Russell Crowe’s performance is legendary. With the classic “My name is Maximus” speech in the midst of the Coliseum, he finally announces himself to the world.
Enslaved gladiator depicted as charismatic and pained throughout the entire film, the audience can’t help but root for him to battle and inspire the thousands of Romans watching from the stands. It’s no surprise that Russell Crowe won the Best Actor Oscar for this performance, which is still unequaled.
Please vote in the poll below if you disagree with my assessment that no Russell Crowe film has yet surpassed Gladiator.