10 Best Kurt Russell Movies

Best Kurt Russell Movies

Kurt Russell has had quite a career. For a time, he was John Carpenter’s muse—playing the main role in four of his best: The Thing, Big Trouble in Little China, Escape from New York and Escape From L.A. Once a king of campy science fiction/fantasy — in his later years, he’s taken on diverse roles. He’s found work with Quentin Tarantino with films such as Death Proof, The Hateful Eight and his upcoming Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. He has also become a small fixture of the blockbuster Fast and Furious franchise as a mysterious man named “Mr. Nobody.” He has returned to the sci-fi genre at least once this decade with his role in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 — but in general he continues to surprise fans with the characters he takes on. Here are the ten best films in his body of work.

 

The Thing (1982)

When an extraterrestrial lands on the Antarctic continent, it begins wreaking havoc on the bases located there. Russell plays R.J. MacReady, a cocky, bearded, heavy-drinking helicopter pilot stationed on the American base. Antarctica’s cold, isolated setting paired with John Carpenter’s groundbreaking practical effects and Ennio Morricone’s incredible soundtrack makes for the perfect claustrophobic horror film.

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Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

With Big Trouble in Little China, Carpenter turns a tired “white hero goes to the Far East with a bumbling Asian sidekick” dynamic on its head. Russell’s Jack Burton is a truck driver who quips and waxes poetic over his CB radio. This would-be cool guy skeptic, who is surrounded by Chinese gangs and mystics is instead revealed to be the buffoonish foil to his partner in the affair, Dennis Dun’s Wang Chi. Though it underwhelmed at the box office, it is an undeniably fun romp.

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Escape from New York (1981)

With Escape from New York, Carpenter imagines a dystopia in which the entire island of Manhattan has been turned into a prison where the nation’s worst criminals run amok. When domestic terrorists take control of Air Force One and force the president to emergency land within the borders of the prison island. Russell’s special operative-turned-criminal Snake Plissken is recruited by the U.S. government and given an ultimatum — rescue the president and receive a full pardon or go rogue again and die by tiny explosives embedded in his bloodstream. It is a sometimes-grim but ultimately fun, campy affair.

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Death Proof (2007)

The title of Tarantino’s underrated mid-career work Death Proof refers to what Russell’s character Stuntman Mike McKay says about his specially-designed stunt car — it’s death-proof, at least for its enigmatic, frighteningly reserved driver. While it is not one of Tarantino’s most-discussed films, it may very well be one of his best.

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Escape from L.A. (1996)  

Russell’s eye-patch-donning operator Snake Plissken returns over a decade later. Following an earthquake which severs Los Angeles from the rest of California. The new president is a theocrat and relegates any citizen who breaks any of his moral laws to the L.A. island. When the president’s communist daughter escapes to there with a powerful electromagnetic pulse emitter in hand — Snake is recruited once more to recover her and the device. Like the first film, Escape from L.A. toes that incredible line between dark and silly.

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The Hateful Eight (2015)

Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight is an ensemble western full of outlaws and neer-do-wells. One of these Reconstruction-era gunslingers is Russell’s John Ruth. He and seven other strangers find themselves holed up in a Wyoming haberdashery waiting out a harsh blizzard. Tension builds as none of them seem to be capable of keeping their mouths shut or their guns holstered. It’s an exciting slow-burner which features a sturdy performance from Russell.

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Tombstone (1993)

In Tombstone, Russell brings retired lawman Wyatt Earp back to life. He, his brothers (Sam Elliott and Bill Paxton) and his friend Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer) make their way to Tombstone, Arizona and find it overrun by the band of outlaws known as the Cochise County Cowboys. Earp must once again take up the mantle of peace officer to rid the town of the gang. It is an exciting film with great performances — especially from Russell and Kilmer.

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Miracle (2004)

In the Disney dramatization of the U.S. men’s hockey team in the 1980 Winter Olympics, Russell plays head coach Herb Brooks. Often referred to as “the Miracle on Ice,” the team were considered significant underdogs throughout their campaign for the gold medal. It is a moving film of which Russell provides the emotional core.

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The Fox and the Hound (1981)

The animated Disney classic The Fox and the Hound tells the story of two friends from different worlds: the hunters and the hunted. Russell gives voice to the eponymous hound, Copper. His unlikely friendship with a fox named Tod makes for timeless, bittersweet fare.

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Bone Tomahawk (2015) Sheriff Hunt


Bone Tomahawk is a gruesome western-horror in which Russell plays Sheriff Franklin Hunt. Hunt is forced to come face-to-face with brutal crimes against humanity in the old west. It is a gripping film, but not for the easily nauseated.

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Weekend: May. 30, 2019, Jun. 2, 2019

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