He’s a natural performer, I suppose…
Woody Harrelson has a prominent place in many of my earliest childhood recollections. The thought of watching repeats of Cheers or the White Men Can’t Jump trailer before some odd movie on VHS at my friend’s sleepover when I should have been asleep sounds absurd, but it’s a distinct memory for me. Thus, Harrelson’s work has influenced my life in a significant way ever since. After viewing Natural Born Killers (or at least the most sensational parts of it) at a neighbor’s house after school one day, I became hooked with watching movies over and over again and decided to write for the school paper after watching No Country for Old Men on Thanksgiving Eve. An infinite number of possibilities are possible here.
Now that Venom: Let There Be Carnage has in theaters, I though it would be a good opportunity to take a look back at some of my favorite Woody Harrelson movies and TV episodes and explain why they’re so wonderful.
1. Cheers (1985 – 1993)
Woody Boyd, the Hoosier bartender introduced in Season 4 of Cheers by Woody Harrleson, immediately became one of the show’s most memorable characters despite not being one of the original cast members. It is through Sam Malone (Ted Danson), who informs Woody of the death of former bartender Emile Pantusso (Nicholas Colasanto), that he receives an offer of employment at the Cheers, and the rest, as they say, is history.
In 1989, Woody Harrelson would be nominated for five Primetime Emmy Awards for his Cheers role, winning one for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his performance. He did a pretty good job for his first acting part on television.
2. White Men Can’t Jump (1992)
In Ron Shelton’s sports comedy White Men Can’t Jump, released in the spring of 1992, Woody Harrelson transformed from a well-known TV face to a promising cinematic star. Harrelson plays Billy Hoyle, a white basketball player who takes advantage of his opponents’ misperceptions about his abilities on the court to make a tidy profit. Sidney Deane (Wesley Snipes), who sees the potential in the scheme and teams up with Hoyle to take it all over Los Angeles, meets him during one of these hustles.
If Cheers had established Woody Harrelson as a rising star, White Men Can’t Jump elevated him to the next level by making him one of the most known faces in young Hollywood.
3. Natural Born Killers (1994)
Quentin Tarantino wrote the story for the 1994 psychedelic crime drama Natural Born Killers, which stars Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis as two young lovers who kill 52 people on a cross-country crime spree in order to be together, making them both terrifying serial killers and cult heroes.
Aside from the stellar ensemble, which includes Robert Downey Jr., Tom Sizemore, and Tommy Lee Jones, the best thing about Natural Born Killers is that it’s as relevant today as it was when it was released in 1994. Oliver Stone’s controversial thriller is both disturbing and enlightening in its critiques of society’s preoccupation with serial killers and the media’s “if it bleeds, it leads” mentality.
4. The People Vs. Larry Flynt (1996)
When Milo Forman released a biographical film about Hustler magazine founder and provocateur, the late Larry Flynt, on Christmas Day 1996, it was an unexpected gift to the world of filmmaking. For his role in The People vs. Larry Flynt, Woody Harrelson portrays the infamous pornographer as he and his lawyer Alan Isaacman (Edward Norton) fight for their right to free expression in a case involving decency laws all the way to the US Supreme Court.
Given Woody Harrelson’s Academy Award-nominated performance, The People vs. Larry Flynt is a biopic worthy of the major media figure, especially with his commitment to the larger than life role.
5. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri tells the story of Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand), a mother whose daughter was raped and murdered many months ago and who will stop at nothing to bring her daughter’s killer to justice. Hayes takes out three billboards outside of town in an attempt to gain the attention of the town’s police chief, Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson). Here’s what happens in the face of evil and injustice: a narrative of courage and redemption in a Midwestern community
When Woody Harrelson’s character is forced to face his own death and the greatest professional crisis of his life, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (which was won by co-star Sam Rockwell). Harrelson’s performance is gorgeous, if not a little heartbreaking, despite the character’s lack of likability.
6. True Detective (2014)
There are two timelines in the first season of True Detective, which follows the investigation of a young prostitute who was brutally murdered by Louisiana State Police investigators Rustin Cohle (played by Matthew McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson). During the course of their investigation, the two detectives are confronted with the truth about the case, the people involved, and the emotional and spiritual toll that doubt and cruelty take on the investigators.
For a crime anthology series, the first season of HBO’s Nic Pizzolatto’s No Time to Die has some of the best writing, directing (by Cary Joji Fukunaga), and acting in the 21st century.
7. No Country For Old Men (2007)
Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) is on a typical day of hunting in the West Texas desert when he discovers the remains of a drug deal gone awry. Chigurh (Javier Bardem) is the hunted when the Vietnam War veteran discovers a bag of cash. No Country For Old Men is a cat-and-mouse chase through the little villages and wide-open regions along the U.S.-Mexico border that follows.
Carson Wells (Woody Harrelson) makes his big debut as a hired gun brought in to recover the missing money and take out Chigurh, even if it’s only for a few minutes in No Country For Old Men..
8. The Messenger (2009)
Will Montgomery (Ben Foster) is a wounded Iraqi War veteran who joins the U.S. Army’s Casualty Notification program with Tony Stone (Jason Biggs) in The Messenger (Woody Harrelson). Families don’t want to hear the bad news about their children, so the two work together to deliver it. In an already challenging profession, Will crosses the line with the widow of a deceased soldier.
In Tony Stone, Woody Harrelson won numerous nominations for his portrayal of a war-torn and emotionally scarred character. His mentor-mentee relationship with Ben Foster contributes much of the tragic modern war film’s emotional weight.
9. Kingpin (1996)
Roy Munson (Woody Harrelson) is a bowler who lost his hand in a con-gone-wrong, but he has a second chance at stardom and riches when he mentors Amish bowler Ishmael Boorg (Randy Quaid). Despite this, Munson comes face-to-face with Ernie McCracken, the guy who ruined his baseball career all those years ago (Bill Murray).
This is one of the few Farrelly Brothers films you should not miss, despite the fact that it isn’t much discussed. It also stars Roy Munson and Ernie “Big Ern” McCracken, two of the most despicable characters from 1990s cinema.
10. Zombieland (2009)
The 2009 horror comedy Zombieland stars Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone, and Abigail Breslin as a group of four survivors who drive across the country in an attempt to get to Los Angeles, where they believe they have a better chance of surviving the undead nightmare. After all, they’re looking for a sense of protection and security, but they’re also looking for a family.
Zombies, zombies, and more zombies. That’s what makes Zombieland one of the best movies of the year, and it’s not only because of its stellar ensemble or that brilliant cameo at the end. You’ll never see Twinkies the same way again.
11. The Edge Of Seventeen (2016)
Nadine Franklin (Hailee Steinfeld) is an uncomfortable and melancholy high school junior in the 2016 coming-of-age film The Edge of Seventeen, who struggles to establish a new support system when her closest friend and older brother begin dating. Nadine (Woody Harrelson) embarks on an intensely personal journey after developing a bond with her instructor, Max Bruner (Jake Johnson).
The combo of Woody Harrelson and Hailee Steinfeld elevates Netflix’s The Edge of Seventeen to greatness. You feel as though you’re seeing an actual student and teacher open up to one another, rather than two actors on a set, because their performances are so convincing.