Willem Dafoe is likely one of the most persistently partaking, versatile, and respectable actors within the movie business for the reason that Eighties, and its superb to have a look at his unbelievable output over everything of his profession. In 2021 alone, Dafoe appeared in Zack Snyder’s Justice League, the arthouse thriller Siberia, Wes Anderson’s newest ensemble dramedy The French Dispatch, the psychological thriller The Card Counter, the criminally underrated Nightmare Alley, the documentary River, and the largest film of the yr with Spider-Man: No Means House. Between large blockbusters, microbudget indies, and award season contenders, Dafoe is just in all places. He’s been nominated for 4 Academy Awards all through his profession, however has sadly by no means had the victory that he so clearly deserves.
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Willem Dafoe made his cinematic debut in Heaven’s Gate, an infamously disastrous manufacturing that was cited as one of many worst movies ever made upon its launch, but reclaimed as a masterpiece by subsequent reevalutations. The remainder of his profession has been simply as eccentric. Whereas Dafoe is a favourite of arthouse administrators like Anderson, Abel Ferrara, Lars von Trier, and Werner Herzog, he’s additionally among the many uncommon group of actors who has performed main roles in each Marvel and DC franchises.
Narrowing down Dafoe’s greatest work isn’t any simple process, however listed here are just some of his best performances.
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Raven in Streets of Hearth (1984)
Picture by way of Common Photos
Certainly one of Dafoe’s earliest roles got here in Walter Hill’s cult basic Streets of Hearth, which by some means manages to deliver collectively motorcycling tradition, the punk scene, submit apocalyptic science fiction, motion, romance, and Nineteen Fifties nostalgia into one outrageous package deal. The action-packed journey is generally upbeat in its tone because of the fixed musical numbers, however Dafoe turns in a genuinely menacing efficiency because the ruthless thug Raven.
Sergeant Alias in Platoon (1986)
Willem Dafoe obtained his first Academy Award nomination for Greatest Supporting Actor in Oliver Stone’s Greatest Image profitable masterpiece Platoon, a movie that has stood the take a look at of time as one of many best Vietnam motion pictures ever made. Whereas his superior (Tom Berenger) is extra ruthless in his barbaraism, Dafoe’s Sergeant Alias reveals an empathetic and relatable aspect to the numerous males drafted into service towards their will. The picture of Dafoe kneeling, wounded, in the course of battle stays one of the haunting moments in cinematic historical past.
Ward in Mississippi Burning (1988)
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Mississippi Burning is unfortunately a movie that feels extra well timed than ever. On this fearless investigative thriller based mostly on a real crime, Dafoe stars as Ward, one of many two FBI brokers dispatched to a small city to analyze the disappearance of three activists. Ward is shocked to appreciate that the native cops are completely corrupt and probably tied to the Klu Kulx Klan. Dafoe’s geeky, but decided angle makes the significance of the story evident.
Jesus in The Final Temptation of Christ (1988)
Right here’s maybe one of the difficult roles of all-time, as taking part in Jesus Christ is of course going to invoke infinite controversies. The Final Temptation of Christ was Martin Scorsese’s try to wrestle along with his personal religion by displaying the painful endurance of Jesus as he’s tempted by human wishes; Dafoe’s heartbreaking, fearless efficiency is much extra relatable than anybody may have imagined.
John LeTour in Gentle Sleeper (1992)
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In one among his many collaborations with Schrader, Dafoe stars because the veteran drug vendor John LeTour that makes an attempt to go clear in Gentle Sleeper. It’s one other efficiency the place Dafoe proves that he can add humanity to almost any character; it’s difficult to observe LeTour try to make a brand new life for himself solely to be drawn again into the identical routine by the sins of his previous.
Caravaggio in The English Affected person (1996)
Whereas The English Affected person is usually dinged as being one of many dullest Greatest Image winners ever, Anthony Minghella’s transferring tapestry on the ramifications of army service is particuarly affecting for people who grant it the eye it deserves. Dafoe’s efficiency as Caraviggo, a Canadian veteran who initally seeks revenge on the Germans that brutalized him, is a riveting examination of the scars that by no means heal.
Norman Osborn in Spider-Man (2002)
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Despite the fact that the superhero style has now been fashionable for over twenty years, few comedian e book villains have ever been fairly as completely forged as Dafoe in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy. Dafoe chews the surroundings within the goofy Inexperienced Goblin costume, however provides simply sufficient nuance in his scenes along with his onscreen quickly, Harry (James Franco), to make Norman a dynamic character. Spider-Man: No Means House merely solidified that he hadn’t misplaced his contact in any respect.
Martin David in The Hunter (2011)
You’ll have not even heard of this intimate Australian thriller, however The Hunter is one among Dafoe’s most melancholy and emotional movies ever. The story follows the mercenary Martin Davis, a veteran prizehunter who’s employed to kill a uncommon tiger in Tasmania solely to seek out himself taken in by the area people.
Bobby in The Florida Undertaking (2017)
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Dafoe obtained one other Oscar nomination for Greatest Supporting Actor for his loveable efficiency because the lodge supervisor Bobby in Sean Baker’s heartbreaking A24 movie The Florida Undertaking. Bobby is the kind of paternal determine that the younger children on the lodge want when their mother and father are both neglectful, irresponsible, or too busy attempting to supply for his or her themselves. His reluctant heat in direction of younger Moonee (Brooklyn Prince) as her mom’s (Bria Vinaite) night time life grows extra harmful is touching, notably in direction of the movie’s devastating emotional ending.
Vincent van Gogh in At Eternity’s Gate (2018)
Dafoe obtained his fourth Oscar nomination (however the one one within the lead class) for his uncommon, but deserving efficiency because the legendary painter Vincent van Gogh. As any artwork historical past scholar would know, the artist behind “Starry Night time” was laid low with persecutors, critics, and his personal darkish ideas throughout his personal lifetime, and Dafoe reveals glimpses of that anguish in a transferring efficiency. Nonetheless, we additionally get to see the fantastic thing about inspiration and the dedication van Gogh pays to his craft; At Eternity’s Gate shouldn’t be your typical biopic in any sense.
Thomas Wake in The Lighthouse (2019)
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The Lighthouse is likely one of the most absurd, demented, hilarious, and difficult movies of the previous decade. Is it a horror film? A psychological thriller? A treatise on insanity? A buddy comedy? Robert Eggers’ fashionable masterpiece is all of these issues. In case you’ve ever needed to observe Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson steep into madness as they work in a seemingly haunted lighthouse collectively, the movie merely takes the prospect to let two of the business’s most unusual actors bounce off of one another’s loopy power in a confined house.