Liam Neeson dazzles in The Grey, out this week. It is a powerful film that shows off all the reasons we adore the Irish actor. Neeson is commanding on screen, while still possessing a vulnerability and venerability that is untouchable in Hollywood currently. Since he first burst onto the acting world at large in the early 1980s, Neeson has compiled an impressive list of movies. But, what are his top 10?
Darkman essentially introduced Neeson to larger American audiences in the tale of a flawed hero who does what is necessary to achieve justice, and simply… to survive. The film arrived in 1990 and is largely a superhero origins story. Directed by Spider-Man’s Sam Raimi, Neeson caused chills with his portrayal of Peyton Westlake, a scientist who is attacked and left for dead only to survive and return for revenge.
9. The Bounty
Neeson had a tiny role in 1984’s The Bounty, and the film rivets. Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins headline the remake of the classic The Bounty which gives audiences a taste of what this Irish actor can achieve in the upcoming decades.
Taken announced Neeson as a full-blown action hero in this smash from 2008. The actor is a retired CIA agent who travels across Europe in search of his kidnapped daughter. Neeson rocked in the action sequences and launched a new angle on his career that continued with The A-Team, Unknown and now The Grey.
7. Batman Begins
The first of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight series, Batman Begins featured Neeson as Henri Ducard, also known in the Caped Crusader world as Ra’s al Ghul. His Ducard character would become one of Batman’s strongest enemies, and was once his mentor. Ra’s al Ghul has one mission: Purifying the human race and returning the planet to a more pristine state. Simply seeing Neeson as a bad guy was one of many joys that is Batman Begins.
6. The Grey
Neeson is in full survival mode in the story of a group of Alaskan oil workers returning to Anchorage from their Arctic workplace. Their plane crashes, a few survive -- including Neeson -- and then they must face off against a pack of grey wolves who seek to kill each one of them. The film is a jam-packed thriller and features one of Neeson’s best performances to date. Don’t miss our exclusive video interview with Neeson about the film.
5. Gangs of New York
Neeson scored with his first opportunity to work with legendary director Martin Scorsese in his tale of Irish immigrants in New York City in the 1800s. Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz and Daniel Day-Lewis were the headliners and Neeson’s participation shows what a selfless actor he is in playing a smaller role that, because of his presence, elevates the entire film.
In Kinsey, Neeson does something he has done quite a bit: Portray a real-life person. With this 2004 biopic, the actor is Professor Alfred Kinsey, the author of 1948’s Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. Kinsey was way ahead of his time and in the hands of Neeson, the film is one fascinating look at an individual who is largely credited with changing some of our sexual and social mores.
3. Rob Roy
1995 saw Neeson tackle the historical figure Robert Roy McGregor. He was a 1700s Scottish hero whose battles with feudal landowners in the Highlands are the stuff of legend. The film is powerful, with some scenes even too hard to watch. In the hands of the actor, Roy is an in-charge individual, who is one part inspiration, one part historical catalyst and all Neeson at his best.
2. Michael Collins
The role of the real-life Michael Collins is especially close to Neeson’s heart as he is a fellow Irishman who fought for his people’s freedoms. Collins was integral into the effort to have the monarchy of the British Empire allow the people of Ireland their first, albeit small, forms of freedom. Collins is largely credited with bringing the idea of an Irish state into the consciousness of the larger world for the first time.
1. Schindler’s List
It is a quintessential role and Neeson’s best film… period. Steven Spielberg directed the actor in the true story of a German business owner who took on the Nazis by hiding Jews from their grasp and saving thousands of lives. When he noticed the persecution of his Jewish workers by the Nazis, Neeson’s Schindler could no longer sit idly by and in the process became one of World War II’s shining lights. The film won best picture, best director and could not have achieved such glory without the casting of Neeson as the titular saving soul.