The 10 Best Christopher Lee Movies
Christopher Lee was a classical actor in the truest sense. The early decades of his filmography are littered with adaptations of classic literature. He played characters in films based on the work of Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Charles Dickens, Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and more. Over the course of his career, he worked with a variety of talented directors, including Orson Welles, Martin Scorsese, Joe Dante, George Lucas, and Peter Jackson.
Lee and his friend Peter Cushing starred in 26 films together over their careers, most notably the 1958 film Horror of Dracula. In the film, Lee played the titular vampire and Cushing played his nemesis, Doctor Van Helsing. Though they never appeared together in the same film, both Lee and Cushing were alums of the Star Wars franchise. Cushing played Grand Moff Tarkin in the original 1977 film (and his likeness was digitally recreated with the help of actor Guy Henry for 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story). Lee, for his part, played Count Dooku in two of the Star Wars prequel films, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith.
Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)
Joe Dante — the director of Gremlins and its sequel — was a student of Roger Corman, a famous B-movie director. It only makes sense that he would hire an actor like Lee who was accustomed to the world of B-movies. In Gremlins 2: The New Batch, the main gremlin, Gizmo, finds himself in a New York city skyscraper with a myriad of businesses inside. One such enterprise is a genetics lab called “Splice-of-Life” led by Doctor Catheter (Lee). When the gremlins once again get loose, some of them find their way into “Splice-of-Life”, making for bizarre (and fun) results.
Horror of Dracula (1958)
Throughout his career, Lee played Count Dracula a whopping ten times on screen over the course of 18 years, from House of Dracula in 1958 to Dracula and Son in 1976. The first film — which stars Cushing as Doctor Van Helsing as well as Lee — stays mostly faithful to Bram Stoker’s source material. The resulting film is thoroughly campy and enjoyable.
The Man with the Golden Gun (1974)
Even today, Roger Moore holds the record for the most appearances as James Bond at seven. The Man with the Golden Gun, only his second outing as 007, he stars opposite Lee as Francisco Scaramanga, the eponymous golden gun possessor. Scaramanga is a mercenary who has set his sights on Bond and is as skilled as the Double-O himself. It may not be the best of the franchise, but it is undeniably enjoyable.
The Wicker Man (1973)
In many social circles, The Wicker Man is a punchline today because of its much-derided 2006 remake starring Nicolas Cage. The original film, however, was broadly lauded. A search for a missing child brings Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) to an island off the coast of Scotland. The island, named Summerisle for its leader, Lord Summerisle (Lee) is home to a strange people who practice pagan rituals unfamiliar to the officer. As he investigates, he finds there is something more sinister and supernatural underneath the surface. It is a film as chilling as it is intriguing.
Martin Scorsese’s late-period film Hugo is the director at his most whimsical. Based on the novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret, it pays homage to the groundbreaking silent-era science fiction-fantasy films of French filmmaker Georges Melies (played here by Ben Kingsley). Hugo (Asa Butterfield) is an orphan boy who lives alone in the corridors of a train station. Hugo’s mission in life is to fix an automaton his late father (Jude Law) found in the basement of the museum at which he was employed before his untimely death. In the film, Lee plays the kind but intimidating bookstore owner, Monsieur Labisse. Hugo is indeed saccharine, but worth watching for any Scorsese completionist.
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings adaptation was something of a marvel when it was released. It was an incredible feat of filmmaking in general and of practical effects specifically, and Jackson was rightfully lauded. His use of forced perspective to make the actors playing Hobbits appear smaller than their non-Hobbit costars was inspired. Not many could have brought to life the grand odyssey of Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) and his allies the way Jackson did. The sprawling series clocks in at a collective runtime of 9-plus hours for the theatrical cuts or 11-plus hours for the extended editions. In the trilogy, Lee plays key antagonist Saruman, a wizard who is corrupted by a desire for power and works to undermine the Fellowship of the Ring.
Star Wars: Episodes II & III
Though derided by many, George Lucas’ Star Wars prequel trilogy is a filmmaking marvel in and of itself. The three films together are far and away the most expensive independent piece ever created. They were the spoils of Lucas’ lifelong battle against the studio system. In them, he sought to show the ultimate downfall of the Galactic Republic and how it became the Galactic Empire that audiences came to know in his original three films. Lee rears his head for the first time in the second film Attack of the Clones as Count Dooku, the elegant and well-spoken follower of Darth Sidious. He helps his master collapse the republic from the inside and out. He is an antagonist to the heroes of the series, Jedi Knights Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), as well as Senator Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman). Dooku becomes a driving force for Anakin in particular as the series progresses.
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