The 7 Best Jon Voight Movies
Jon Voight’s career is a fascinating one. From Midnight Cowboy to Mission: Impossible and from Heat to National Treasure, Voight’s body of work has no shortage of laudable films. The directors he has worked with is enviable: Michael Mann, Brian De Palma, Francis Ford Coppola, Jonathan Demme, Mike Nichols, Michael Bay and more. The father of Angelina Jolie — a superstar celebrity in her own right — he has led a full, interesting life. Even an iconic episode of Seinfeld was even based around Voight as a celebrity, and whether or not he owned a particular car. In recent years, he has taken on a significant role in the popular show Ray Donovan as Liev Schreiber’s titular character’s father Mickey. Voight was and continues to be a public personality to watch. Here are his seven best films.
Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Midnight Cowboy was a cultural marvel upon release. It was the first and only X-rated film to ever win an Academy Award in the 22 years that such a rating existed in the United States. It captivated audiences with its gritty, dark portrayal of people in desperate situations. Joe Buck (Voight) moves from Texas to New York City with the hopes of becoming a prostitute for lonely, wealthy women. This turns out to much easier said than done and through his struggles, he forms a symbiotic relationship with street smart, lifelong New Yorker “Ratso” Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman). The bond the two form provides the emotional center of the affecting film.
There is no argument. Heat is one of the greatest American films of the last 25 years. It is Michael Mann’s magnum opus. Al Pacino Robert De Niro—each massively talented actors—give some of their best performances ever as the two leads. Set in contemporary Los Angeles, with beautiful cinematography from Dante Spinotti, Mann pits Pacino’s lawman Lt. Vincent Hanna against De Niro’s unrelenting criminal Neil McCauley. Voight, for his part, plays Nate, McCauley’s fence. Nate was based on real-life criminal seller Edward Bunker, who assisted Mann in the filmmaking process as a consultant.
Mission: Impossible (1996)
Brian De Palma’s Mission: Impossible film is a pop masterpiece. Voight plays Jim Phelps — a key character from the original show — who is the leader of an Impossible Mission Force team. Members of the team include his wife Claire (Emmanuelle Beart) and Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise). When a botched job results in the deaths of most of the team members, Ethan is left with the blame. He is forced to go on the run and prove his innocence through unconventional ways. Even after five sequels — so far — with many of them receiving wide critical acclaim, De Palma’s first film continues to be the pinnacle of the franchise.
Michael Mann teamed up with Voight once again with his biographical film about the great Muhammad Ali. Will Smith plays the eponymous cultural icon in the ten most important and controversial years of his life from 1964 to 1974. Following his fighting successes and conversion to Islam as well as the larger anti-Vietnam War and Civil Rights movements, the film is sprawling and moving. Voight gives one of the most memorable performances of his career as Howard Cosell, one of the most important sports broadcasters of the era and an open supporter of the Civil Rights movement. Both Smith and Voight were — rightfully — nominated for Academy Awards for their respective roles.
National Treasure (2004)
Until the last few years, the Walt Disney Company often failed to capture audience imagination with their live-action films as they could with their animated ones. Two notable exceptions, however, were National Treasure and Pirates of the Caribbean (and their respective sequels). The former starred Nicolas Cage as Ben Franklin Gates, an American history-obsessed treasure hunter searching for the mythical treasure of the Knights Templar. With his buddy Riley Poole (Justin Bartha), his father Patrick Henry Gates (Voight) and a clever archivist named Dr. Abigail Chase (Diane Kruger) in tow, Ben finds himself in a race to find the treasure while preserving the United States’ most beloved artifacts.
The Manchurian Candidate (2004)
Jonathan Demme’s The Manchurian Candidate remake performed poorly at the box office in spite of being an intelligent and worthwhile update of the film to speak to modern audiences. A Gulf War veteran named Major Ben Marco (Denzel Washington) finds himself and former member of his team, Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber) unwitting participants in a political conspiracy after being taken captive and escaping years ago. Voight, for his part, plays Tom Jordan, a U.S. Senator who finds himself thrust into the conspiracy as well. It is well-executed, arguably better than the original film or the novel upon which it is based.
National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007)
In the years since the original film, Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) and Riley Poole (Justin Bartha) have seen a downturn. Ben and Abigail (Diane Kruger) have split up. Riley’s precious Ferrari has been repossessed. To make matters worse, Ben’s ancestor is now being accused of conspiring with John Wilkes Booth to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln. In order to clear his family’s name, he and his friends — along with his father Patrick (Voight) and his mother Emily (Helen Mirren) — must find a document. The document in question? The “Book of Secrets” which is passed down from U.S. President to U.S. President ad nauseam. National Treasure: Book of Secrets, like its predecessor, is a whole lot of ahistorical fun.
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