Russell Crowe is one of the few actors in their 40s and 50s who can still pull off a variety of roles. In recent years, the Australian has been able to seamlessly go from leading man to supporting actor. The actor recently made the leap from the big screen to Showtime’s “The Loudest Voice,” where he played Fox News founder Roger Ailes, and his directorial debut with the World War I epic “The Water Diviner.” While his outlandish performance in 2020’s road rage thriller “Unhinged” may have earned him some of his worst reviews ever, it showed a willingness to experiment that is refreshing.
It’s difficult to pick out just a few of Crowe’s best pieces. With two consecutive best picture awards, one of which also earned him a best actor award, he’s starred in everything from romantic comedies to inspirational sports flicks to grim criminal thrillers. Russell Crowe’s filmography is diverse since he doesn’t specialize in any one genre. In light of this, we’ve compiled a list of his top 13 films, listed from best to worst.
13. Romper Stomper
That Crowe was able to get into the acting world being such an unlikable jerk is quite astonishing. “Romper Stomper,” a drama from Australia in 1992, featured Crowe as the brutal neo-Nazi leader of a bloodthirsty skinhead crew. In this picture, Crowe is unsettling due to his proclivity for psychotic conduct and irrational outbursts.
Hando is portrayed by Crowe as a fearful brute who is surprised by the increase of diversity in his neighborhood. In spite of the fact that he isn’t given a human face, Crowe’s reality adds weight to the cast, which does include some evolving and changing characters. Even so, watching Crowe’s portrayal of a white supremacist in “Romper Stomper” can be difficult at times.
It’s a weak film that relies too heavily on “Reservoir Dogs” style flourishes, but Crowe improves the material, particularly when Hando’s fears are put to the test at the end of the movie. Because Crowe would go on to starring in some of the greatest films ever made, “Romper Stomper” is a worthwhile watch because you can see him redeem the film.
12. Boy Erased
It’s one of Crowe’s most admirable attributes that he’s willing to play little roles and make the most of his limited screen time. A good example is “Boy Erased.” Actor Russell Crowe’s performance as a respected auto dealer and Baptist preacher who sends his gay son Jared (Lucas Hedges) to conversion therapy provides depth to a character that may at first look one-note.
However, it is Crowe who is the most interesting character in the film because he does not appear to harbor any anger towards his son. Crowe’s father-son clash is set up by his mistaken empathy, which leads to a tense father-son relationship. It’s a heartfelt performance that never trivializes Jared’s plight or appears to condone prejudice.
He complements his co-star Nicole Kidman onscreen by threatening to kill her if she doesn’t give up her power. Jared’s father’s words of thanks are hollow, given that Jared has refused to apologise for his actions. Crowe elevates “Boy Erased,” despite not playing a central role.
11. The Insider
For his portrayal of tobacco industry expert Dr. Jeffrey Wigand in Michael Mann’s suspense thriller “The Insider,” Russell Crowe was nominated for an Academy Award for best actor. Wigand reluctantly divulges devastating information to journalist Lowell Bergman of “60 Minutes” (Al Pacino). Because of this, his life is turned upside down by spies working for his previous employers who are spying on him.
Big Tobacco’s denial of the health concerns associated with its products and the industry’s ties to government agencies first bother Wigand, but the dread of disturbing his family life exceeds any hopes for justice. Much more interesting than watching a brave hero face the repercussions of his deeds is watching a reluctant hero struggle with them.
To play the character, Crowe ditches his typically confident image and plays up the neuroses and antisocial impulses of the character. Furthermore, the depiction of Wigand’s daily duties as a father makes it the more unsettling when spies and analysts disrupt them. This is a taut, scary thriller, and Crowe is perfectly cast as the film’s neurotic lead.
10. Body of Lies
“Body of Lies” stars Leonardo DiCaprio as CIA field operative Roger Ferris, who is accompanied by Ed Hoffman (Crowe), the CIA’s top official, on a perilous operation to infiltrate a terrorist organization in Jordan. Ferris’ rebellious spirit begins to rub off on Hoffman as he learns that the United States government is deliberately distributing false information.
For much of his time, Crowe stands on the sidelines and monitors operations from his base. As Hoffman is forced to make difficult decisions and fights off the formidable powers hoping to silence anyone who discloses official secrets, Crowe plays to Hoffman’s fears. This means that Crowe’s scenes are just as tense as DiCaprio’s, even though the latter is more action-oriented.
It’s apt that Crowe adds comedy to the mix, as Hoffman is so focused on detail-driven statistics that Ferris often takes the dangers he takes for granted. Despite the fact that the two stars rarely appear on screen together, their romance is well-developed. “Body of Lies” is an underappreciated picture, yet neither Crowe nor Scott should be regarded as lesser actors.
9. State of Play
He has no qualms about playing iconic characters, and he did a fantastic job reimagining journalist Cal McCaffrey in the film adaptation of the acclaimed BBC limited series “State of Play.” An idealist in the world of cynics, Cal grows fascinated with the suspicious death of Congressman Stephen Collins’ (Ben Affleck) young mistress.
Despite his doubts that his efforts would have little impact, Crowe represents the insatiable curiosity of a career writer. In spite of his doubts, Cal is open to listening to Collins’ explanation of events. While Crowe doesn’t make Cal too cynical, he also enables McCaffrey and Della Frye (Rachel McAdams) an interesting connection that allows McCaffrey to display his skill while revealing the human side of the austere character. The American remake of “State of Play,” which stars Russell Crowe, is a suitable companion to the original British version.
8. Cinderella Man
Cinderella Man” is one of the best boxing dramas in recent memory, and Ron Howard’s film is no exception. As James J. Braddock, a light-heavyweight who returns from injury to challenge for the world title, Crowe plays the role. Joe Gould, Braddock’s longtime friend and trainer, persuades Braddock to return to boxing after he had given up the sport because of the strain it had on his wife Mae (Rene Zellweger) and their young son Jay (Connor Price) (Paul Giamatti).
In the midst of the Great Depression in 1930s New Jersey, Russell Crowe effectively portrays a man who finds himself becoming an inspiration to everyone around him. Even when Braddock progresses to the last stages of the competition, Crowe remains humble. During a heartwarming sequence in which Braddock has Joe confess to his theft, we see him as a strict yet loving parent.
While “Cinderella Man” is consistent in its authenticity, its combat is savage. Crowe reshaped himself physically and made the boxing sequences exciting. We see why so many people looked up to Braddock during a time when there wasn’t much hope for the future after his title fight.
7. American Gangster
“American Gangster,” another collaboration with Ridley Scott, is a 157-minute epic cat-and-mouse game. As Newark police detective Richie Roberts, Denzel Washington plays Harlem mob lord Frank Lucas, whose ascent to fame as a rare Black gangster fascinates Crowe.
Crowe has the difficult task of portraying a character who is absolutely overwhelmed by Lucas’ influence, and he does so in a way that allows Denzel Washington’s natural charisma to come through. To make matters worse, Robert’s colleagues in law enforcement refuse to accept his well-informed explanations for why “the Black Godfather” has been so effective in such a racist community.
During the divorce procedures, Roberts and his ex-wife (Carla Gugino) spar in a side story that only adds to Roberts’ sense of helplessness. Even though Robert and Lucas are on opposing sides of the law, there is a surprising amount of respect that develops between them. A movie like this calls for two very excellent stars, and thankfully Crowe and Washington deliver.
6. 3:10 to Yuma
3:10 to Yuma” is James Mangold’s reinvention of the classic western, and like “State of Play,” it’s a good remake. While Christian Bale plays an innocent rancher who accidentally captures famed gunman Ben Wade, Russell Crowe steps into Glenn Ford’s shoes to depict what happens when the two team up to elude Wade’s men as they make their way to the titular train stop.
Characters such as Crowe and Bale’s in “3:10 to Yuma” are updated versions of classic Western types. With Bale’s worn-out performance as a wounded warrior, Crowe portrays Wade as a byproduct of his upbringing rather than an independent thinker. An unjust government that is too slow to distribute resources has allowed a criminal cult to flourish, which is the root cause of his atrocities. To put it another way, Crowe isn’t an over-the-top evil, but rather a pragmatic one.
The gang’s unwavering loyalty to Wade is on display early on, and when the outlaw comes to the assistance of the rancher and his son, it sets up an intriguing clash. Crowe’s leadership of his men, particularly his top lieutenant Charlie Prince (Ben Foster), is demonstrated. “3:10 to Yuma” is a western masterpiece in its own right, despite the fact that it borrows from the original.
5. A Beautiful Mind
John Nash, a great mathematician, is the subject of Crowe’s second best picture victory, “A Beautiful Mind.” With his portrayal of the neurotic genius, Crowe once again proves that he has the ability to provide depth and empathy to people who are marked by their social awkwardness and later by their schizophrenia.
Respectfully, Crowe doesn’t go beyond with peculiarities that would devalue or diminish the hardships Nash had to overcome. “A Beautiful Mind,” on the other hand, avoids the use of negative stereotypes when it comes to dealing with mental illness. For the audience, it’s a surprise to learn that Nash has delusions, as we had been made to assume that his perceptions were accurate. We witness this via Nash’s eyes. By focusing on Nash’s perspective, director Ron Howard expertly conveys the symptoms of Nash’s disease.
The film’s authenticity is guided by Crowe’s genuineness, which avoids biographical clichés. For the most part, the romance between Nash and Alicia (Jennifer Connolly) feels genuine, and the “inspirational finale speech” in which Nash refers to Alicia’s love as his “anchor point” is heartfelt. When compared to other best picture winners, “A Beautiful Mind” is light, but Crowe’s performance is nonetheless outstanding.
“Gladiator,” one of the most enduring cinematic epics of the twenty-first century, garnered Crowe the Academy Award for Best Actor for him. When Marcus Aurelius promises Maximus Decimus Meridius the title of Emperor, Crowe wrings every dramatic ounce from this lowly Roman general, who is then murdered and sold into slavery by Marcus’ furious son Commandus (Joaquin Phoenix). In order to accomplish justice, Maximus must ascend the ranks of the gladiatorial arena, as implied by the film’s title.
When it’s done this well, an old-fashioned approach to a classic narrative of grief and vengeance is anything but stale. Ridley Scott’s thrilling action moments have an epic grandeur, but Crowe keeps it grounded emotionally because his loss leads him to play violent games. When it comes to fighting, Maximus has no experience with the filthy, intimate savagery of gladiators, which is wonderfully played by Crowe.
Phoenix’s sniveling performance just adds to the tension leading up to the final combat, which is sure to be emotionally draining for everyone involved. In “Gladiator,” Russell Crowe is the heart of the story, and the rich historical context and subtle language don’t get in the way of the film’s triumphs and tragedies.
3. The Nice Guys
Crowe is underappreciated as a comedian. He makes a great straight man in comedies thanks to the same straightforward steadfastness he brings to tragic performances. One of the best examples is Shane Black’s under-appreciated buddy police picture, “The Nice Guys.” Crowe portrays an intimidating heavy named Jackson Healy, who grudgingly teams up with an alcoholic private eye named Holland March (Ryan Gosling).
This is a wild, Buster Keaton-level comedic performance from Gosling, and Crowe is terrific as his dead serious counterpoint. In order for Crowe to steal all of Gosling’s passion, Gosling must deliver Black’s excellent phrases as eccentrically as possible. As a result of Gosling’s ability to injure himself in a variety of hilariously violent ways, Crowe stands out as a more physically gifted actor.
Crowe exhibits real depth when connecting with Holland’s daughter, Holly, in a way that avoids being caricatured (Angourie Rice). Crowe manages to make these moments heartwarming without being overly sentimental, and it’s fascinating to watch the trio grow closer together as a team throughout the course of the investigation. Crowe and Gosling’s chances of reprising their roles in sequels were scuppered by the film’s dismal box office earnings.
2. L.A. Confidential
It’s a more serious noir story than “The Nice Guys,” but “L.A. Confidential” still has a lot of laughs in store for you. By focusing on police brutality and Crowe’s complicated portrayal of LAPD officer Bud White and Pearce’s nerdy analyst Ed Exley, the film noir method is modernized.
However, “L.A. Confidential” plays their inquiry into the blackmail of important Hollywood characters very straight, which helps to add some humor to the proceedings. During the film’s opening depiction of “Bloody Sunday,” Crowe’s unexpected and violent outbursts put pressure on Pearce to rein him in. The protagonists are so consumed with their responsibilities that they rarely express their gratitude to one another, but the growing familiarity between them serves as a bright point in the film’s murky conclusion, which suggests that corruption will persist despite their best efforts.
For her performance as high-end prostitute Lynn Bracker, Kim Basinger was awarded an Academy Award. Crowe’s romance with the femme fatale is a timely updating of the conventional relationship between the femme fatale and the brooding detective that offers both characters agency. “L.A. Confidential” subverts a number of noir cliches, including Crowe’s emotionally stunted rulebreaker.
1. Master and Commander: Far Side of the World
Fans of “Master and Commander: Far Side of the World” have been clamoring for a sequel for nearly two decades now, despite the film’s underwhelming box office performance. Despite its meticulous and gripping depiction of naval combat, and Russell Crowe’s performance as literary hero Jack Aubrey, the film has endured as a favorite.
HMS Surprise Captain Aubrey is a seasoned battle veteran, but he is put at risk by his daring operations to catch French pirates and weather extremes. While he enjoys spending time with his staff, Crowe retains a professional distance from them, despite the fact that he enjoys their company. He has witnessed the deaths of guys he cares about in battle, and the loss of even one member of the crew breaks his heart.
To be sure, Peter Weir’s massive sets and jaw-droppingly loud action sequences are impressive, but the team makes every single fighting decision. During these tumultuous episodes, the titular leader, played by Crowe, is tasked with providing guidance and inspiration. Master and Commander: Far Side of the World may not have spawned an ongoing series, but it is still Cameron Crowe’s finest work to date.