best film: I think Norton has been in 12 archiveable films and five of them are masterpieces. I’m throwing out his work with Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom and Grand Budapest) as he’s just not a big enough part of those films (I hope a future, bigger part in a Wes film is coming up). That leaves Birdman, Fight Club and The 25th Hour. I’m going to say Birdman is his best film but I haven’t seen it since the two things in theater in 2014 (way overdue) so I look forward to verifying and confirming this. Fight Club I’ve seen 20 times over 20 years and it keeps getting better- that could easily be my answer when I update this in 5 years.
best performance: To me 1-4 are virtually tied. He’s a possessed tour-de-force in American History X but the stakes aren’t as high as the film isn’t close to the quality of the other three. He might not even be the best performance in Fight Club (Pitt) or Birdman (Keaton) but he’s on in those films—and they’re spectacular. The 25th Hour is one of the most underrated films of the 21st century and Norton is at the crux of it. That’s my choice but I wouldn’t fight anyone who wanted to select another option.
stylistic innovations/traits: He’s been excellent in three masterpieces in each of the last three decades (Fight Club, 25th Hour, Birdman). He has range; his transformation in American History X and then a Woody musical, courtroom drama and a bipolar (faux) role in a psychological thriller all before the turn of the century. However, his career has slowed down and the promise of his start from 1996-2002 has not come to fruition even if he’s worked with Wes (these are not major achievements for him). The outlier during this down stretch is this utter brilliance in Birdman. I hope there’s more of that to come because his resume, at the top, is up there with any other actor of his generation—he just doesn’t have their depth.
directors worked with: Wes Anderson (2) and then once he’s worked with Woody Allen, Fincher, Spike Lee, Ridley Scott and Iñárritu
Top 5 Performances:
- The 25th Hour
- Fight Club
- American History X
- Primal Fear
|1996- Everyone Says I Love You|
|1996- Primal Fear|
|1996- The People Versus Larry Flint|
|1998- American History X|
|1999- Fight Club|
|2002- The 25th Hour|
|2005- Kingdom of Heaven|
|2006- The Illusionist|
|2012- Moonrise Kingdom|
|2014- Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)|
|2014- The Grand Budapest Hotel|