The 7 Best John Malkovich Movies

The 7 Best John Malkovich Movies

John Malkovich is a widely-praised character actor. No matter how big or small the role, he leaves a memorable impression on any film he steps into. Prior to breaking out in the industry of Hollywood, Malkovich starred in a variety of stage performances. Throughout his illustrious career in cinema, he has worked with directors of varying voices and styles. His collaborators include Spike Jonze, Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen, Michael Bay, Clint Eastwood and the Coen brothers. Though he has never won an Academy Award, he has been nominated a handful of times. Deservedly so. John Malkovich is truly talented. Here are his seven best films to date.

Being John Malkovich (1999)

Charlie Kaufman is always one for unconventional storytelling, and Spike Jonze is the man for the job to tell it. Jonze, prior to Being John Malkovich had only directed music videos. In the film, John Cusack plays Craig Schwartz, an unfulfilled puppeteer. By chance, he finds a doorway through which he can enter the mind of the eponymous actor. This bizarre and unchecked power becomes a form of income for Craig and his coworker Maxine Lund (Catherine Keener). However, things get out of hand—especially romantically—for the two as well as Craig’s wife, Lotte (Cameron Diaz).

Burn After Reading (2008)

Burn After Reading is a hilarious farce about intelligence agencies and dullards from the Coen brothers. Malkovich plays Osbourne Cox, a CIA analyst who is suddenly let go. He is disgruntled by the experience and hopes to turn the stories of his career into a bestselling memoir (which he pronounces in a pretentious, overemphasized French accent as “mem-wah”). A fallout with his wife (Tilda Swinton) results in his memoir falling into the hands of two employees of a local gym (Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand), who think it may be valuable intelligence. With a strong cast and a great script, it is perhaps the Coens at their funniest.

Con Air (1997)

Con Air is a 1990s pop classic. Nicolas Cage plays recently-paroled ex-Army Ranger Cameron Poe. To get home to his sweetheart and their young daughter, he must take a plane ride with some of the most dangerous prisoners in the United States. During the flight, some of the prisoners escape their shackles and hijack the plane so that they can fly to a country with no extradition. The masterminds of this plan are “Diamond Dog” (Ving Rhames) and Cyrus “The Virus” Grissom (Malkovich). It is up to Poe and U.S. Marshal Vince Larkin (John Cusack) to foil their plan.

Empire of the Sun (1987)

Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun is a dramatic and drawn out period piece. Set in the midst of World War II, a young Christian Bale plays a wealthy British boy named Jamie Graham living in the British and American colony of Shanghai when Japan invades the city. Jamie is separated from his parents in the chaos. To get by, he befriends an American named Basie (Malkovich). The relationship turns out to be mutually beneficial and the two remain in touch. The film follows Jamie (now nicknamed “Jim”) through the ins and outs of how he survives the war. It is yet another piece of worthwhile viewing from Spielberg.

The Killing Fields (1984)

The Killing Fields dramatizes the Cambodian Civil War through the eyes of a group of journalists. Two Americans—Sam Waterston as Sydney Schanberg, a writer for the New York Times and Malkovich as Al Rockoff, a photojournalist—and one Cambodian—Haing S. Ngor as Dith Pran, an interpreter and local reporter. As the violence escalates, the group find themselves amidst danger at every turn. Based on the real Sydney Schanberg’s nonfiction book The Death and Life of Dith Pran, the film is chilling and emotionally powerful.

Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

Malkovich delivers a memorable performance in Stephen Frears’ film adaptation of Choderlos de Laclos’ novel. The film tells a story of lies, deception and—most importantly—seduction in pre-revolutionary France. Starting with the Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close), who seeks to embarrass the Comte de Bastide, the man who dumped her. She hopes to do so by coercing her acquaintance Vicomte de Valmont (Malkovich) into deflowering his virgin fiancee (Uma Thurman). With supporting performances from Michelle Pfeiffer and Keanu Reeves, it is a provocative film.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

Douglas Adams created an imaginative world with his novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but Garth Jennings brought it to the silver screen. When the world ends, unremarkable human Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) is saved by his friend Ford Prefect (Mos Def) who—previously unbeknownst to him—is an alien journalist working on a guide to the galaxy. The duo hitches a ride with Ford’s semi-cousin Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell), the president of the galaxy and his cohorts, Trillian McMillan (Zooey Deschanel) and Marvin the Paranoid Android (Alan Rickman). Malkovich plays yet another bizarre character, Zaphod’s opponent in the upcoming presidential race, Humma Kavula.