Sometimes eclipsed by his fiery temper and telephone-throwing skills, Russell Crowe is quietly putting together one of the most impressive acting career of our era. The New Zealand-born Australian began his career in 1986 but it wasn’t until he appeared in 1997′s LA Confidential that most movie fans on this side of the Pacific were introduced to him. He has since collected 3 Academy Award nominations and become one of Hollywood’s brightest A-list star. So trust me when I say that it wasn’t easy to come up with a top ten list with so many great performances on his resume. Without further ado, here are Russell Crowe’s top 10 performances:
10. Cort in The Quick and the Dead
One of Russell Crowe’s first foray into Hollywood cinema, Sam Raimi’s western The Quick and the Dead also starred Sharon Stone, Gene Hackman and Leonardo DiCaprio. Stone had been impressed by Crowe’s fearless work in Romper Stomper and actively advocated for his casting in the movie despite him being nearly completely unknown in America at the time. In this campy western, Russell Crowe plays Cort, a peaceful religious preacher who is forced into a shoot-out contest despite himself.
9. Capt. Jack Aubrey in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
As Captain Jack Aubrey, Russell Crowe is outstanding as a leader of men, displaying the ability to be a strong yet caring leader. While Peter Weir’s movie received 10 Academy Award nominations, Master and Commander might not be the type of movie that you want to see over and over again. Nonetheless, it’s a beautifully shot movie with a compelling story loosely adapted from Patrick O’Brian’s The Far Side of the World. This may well be Crowe’s most underrated film of his career.
8. Cal McAffrey in State of Play
People often complain that Hollywood doesn’t make smart adult movies but the critically acclaimed State of Play came and went at the box office without much notice. Based on the popular BBC mini-series, this political thriller stars Russell Crowe as an old-school investigative journalist investigating a murder and uncovering a potentially far-reaching conspiracy to privatize homeland security. While his slovenly character likes to do his job the traditional way, Crowe has to contend with his frenzied editor Helen Mirren and bright-eyed blogger-turned junior journalist Rachel McAdams. Sporting a beer gut and looking disheveled, Crowe shows off his versatility as the old-guard journalist who knows he is one of the last dinosaur in the room. He is utterly believable despite all the larger-than-life characters he has played throughout his career as shown in one scene in which he runs away from the bad guy, terrified for his life.
7. Ben Wade in 3:10 to Yuma
Crowe shows off his charisma and charm as the ruthless outlaw leader Ben Wade in James Mangold’s remake of the 1957 western. He is able to bring depth and humanity to an amoral and cunning villain by dropping hints of gentleness and sensitivity while maintaining the viciousness and threatening nature of his character just below the surface. Wade is a scripture-quoting gangster who is able to act like a gentleman and remember little details about all the people he has met. Yet, he is savagely stabbing a man in the face with a kitchen fork in the next scene. It’s seemingly effortless but really quite an overlooked performance if you think about it.
6. Hando in Romper Stomper
Featuring one of Russell Crowe’s most indelible performance of his career, Romper Stomper follows the rise and downfall of a Nazi skinheads group in suburban Melbourne. Despite displaying a shaved head, imposing tattoos and a hate-filled glare, Crowe gave his Mein Kampf-reading character Hando an incredible amount of swagger, magnetism and raw power. He is so repellant and evil and yet, you can’t take your eyes off him. Incredibly violent and ruthless, Russell Crowe’s depiction of Hando is truly mesmerizing and may well be one of the greatest portrayals of pure evil ever put on film. For his efforts, he was rewarded with the Australian equivalent of the Oscar for Best Actor.
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