Ethan Hawke seems to have been in movies as long as we at Movie Fanatic can remember. We first met him in Dead Poet’s Society in 1989 and there was something about his soft eyes and commanding screen persona that has not abated as the decades have passed.
Hawke is back on screen in two movies, The Purge – which opens June 7 – and Before Midnight (which has opened in New York and L.A., and will expand nationally June 14). Both movies could not be more different and further show how vastly talented the actor is in his ability to triumph onscreen, regardless of the movie’s genre.
In honor of this invasion of Hawke movies, Movie Fanatic looks back at his esteemed career that has included both blockbusters and indies and we present our Top 10 Ethan Hawke Movies.
Hawke went down the haunted house hallway for the first time in 2012 and came out with his latest hit movie. The horror flick from uber-producer Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity movies) found Hawke’s true crime writer moving to a community where a horrific multiple murder has taken place. What he didn’t tell his family was that the rental home they moved into… was where the ghastly terror took place. Yes, it's as Sinister as it sounds.
Alive is one of those movies that is a must-see, but most likely one that will never be seen again. In some ways, that’s unfortunate because it is an inspiring story of survival and every bit of it is true. Sure, the thing people remember the most about the South American soccer team whose plane crashed is that as food ran out, the survivors had to eat the dead. But, what should be the memorable scene is the one where they finally get rescued. It's one of Hawke's best, but is it one of our Top 10 biopics? And don't get me started on the spectacular plane crash!
Before he found Sinister, Hawke dazzled in the horror genre in 2009 with the vampire tale Daybreakers. The Spierig brothers presented the most original of blood sucker stories in the midst of a vampire craze that left Hollywood gasping for something fresh in a genre gone incredibly stale.
7. Reality Bites
Reality Bites defined a generation. The “slackers” that were into grunge music were thought to be a lost cause. Generation X was actually shown to be much more insightful, intellectual and intuitive, thanks to Ben Stiller’s film that featured Hawke as a dear friend who wants more from Winona Ryder.
6. Before Sunset
The second film in the “Before” trilogy found our lovebirds re-connecting when it was thought all was lost. The magic between Hawke and co-star Julie Delpy was electric in Before Sunrise and audiences could not get enough. The fact that director Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused) and his cast were allowed to make a sequel to a romantic film showed the power this trio had over audiences. Before Sunset is probably the third best of the series, but is clearly one of the ten best of Hawke’s career.
5. Training Day
Nobody wins an Oscar acting in a vacuum. And that was never truer than when Denzel Washington took home his first Best Actor trophy for his work in Training Day, opposite Hawke as a corrupt Los Angeles cop. Antoine Fuqua crafted an instant classic in his story of a newer detective who is paired with Washington’s firebrand.
It becomes quickly apparent that Hawke is the moral compass of the story and his interactions with Washington are explosive and one could argue that part of that Oscar trophy sitting in Denzel’s house is a tribute to Hawke’s performance as well.
4. Dead Poet’s Society
Although it wasn’t his first role, Dead Poet’s Society introduced most of us to the talents of the young actor. Hawke was a student in Robin Williams’ class who soaked up the knowledge emitted by his revolutionary teacher and it is as resonant today as it was when it arrived two decades ago.
3. Before Sunrise
Before Sunrise is the one that started it all. Two people meet on a European train, fall in love and spend the entire night talking, and talking… and talking. And you know what? We love them for it. The trio of Hawke, Delpy and Linklater created a romantic masterpiece that showed that audiences are hungry for rich, passionate dialogue performed by actors with immense talent.
2. Before Midnight
Where Before Sunrise introduced our lovebirds and Before Sunset reconnected them, Before Midnight showed us how real romance lives and breathes. It’s not as easy as they portray it in the movies. And in the third “Before” movie, Hawke and Delpy’s characters have been together for nine years, have twin daughters and grapple with the same issues most couples do… all with that we’ve come to expect it brilliant dialogue.
Watching these two navigate the realities of life while still affirming their love of love and each other is nothing short of brilliant. As our Before Midnight review states, do not miss this film when it lands in theaters nationwide June 14.
Gattaca is one of the most underrated sci-fi masterpieces. Andrew Niccol wrote and directed the story of a future world where only the pre-selected genetically live lives to their fullest. A genetically inferior man (Hawke) aspires to more, and cons his way into the genetically advanced world.
Stunning on so many levels, the film will stick with you years after the credits have rolled. Uma Thurman and Hawke’s chemistry pops off the screen and it’s easy to see how they became a couple off it.
Honorable mentions: Assault on Precinct 13, Fast Food Nation, The Purge, Waking Life and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead.