best film: John Hurt has worked with some great auteurs here from 1966 to 2016—a long career but his best film comes down to three choices:  Alien, Dead Man or Melancholia. I think, by a sliver, I’m going to go with Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man as his best film. Hurt isn’t lead in any of the three prime candidates (he’s lead in only four of the 22 films below in the archives) but he’s a great addition to all of them.

best performance:   The two candidates are Midnight Express and The Elephant Man. If I’m forced to pick I’ll go with Midnight Express. He plays “Max” the wildly eccentric, hashish-addicted, prison veteran. Hurt is mesmerizing. He’s equal to his work in Midnight Express two years later in 1980’s The Elephant Man where he plays the title character, John Merrick. Hurt vanishes here into his character. It’s a strong vocal performance (alters his voice to match the disfigurement) and physical one as well.

stylistic innovations/traits: He often played eccentrics in strong supporting role trusted by some of the greatest auteurs of the last 40 years. Hurt was busy- having over 200 IMDB credits (207) and is in 22 archiveable films. He’s not here without his pair of Oscar-nominated performances (they got his right if they were only going to single him out twice) leading the top 5 below. However, I also don’t think he’s here without the 6-10 other dynamite smaller performances in works like Alien or Only Lovers Left Alive. It is also telling of his talent to see he could carry a lead when called upon it (The Hit, 1984).

directors worked with:   Oddly enough the only one more than once here is Jim Jarmusch (2) with both Dead Man and Only Lovers Left Alive. Other auteurs he worked with once include Ridley Scott, David Lynch, Michael Cimino, Robert Zemeckis, del Toro and Von Trier—quite a lineup.

Top 5 Performances:

  1. Midnight Express
  2. The Elephant Man
  3. 1984
  4. The Hit
  5. Owning Mahowny

Archiveable films

1966- A Man For All Seasons
1971- 10 Rillington Place
1978- Midnight Express
1979- Alien
1980- Elephant Man
1980- Heaven’s Gate
1984- 1984
1984- The Hit
1990- The Field
1995- Dead Man
1995- Rob Roy
1997- Contact
1997- Love and Death On Long Island
2003- Owning Mahowny
2005- The Proposition
2008- Hellboy 2: The Golden Army
2011- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
2011- Melancholia
2011- Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
2013- Only Lovers Left Alive
2013- Snowpiercer
2016- Jackie