best film: Pulp Fiction and that’s saying something because Walken has been in some great films. The nearest contenders to Tarantino’s masterpiece are the back to back Oscar winners for best picture in 1977 and 1978: Annie Hall and Deer Hunter.  You may think I’d just pick Deer Hunter here as he’s not a large part of Pulp Fiction but I think it’s worth noting his work in Pulp Fiction because it’s a monologue, a key scene, and Walken absolutely slays it. He’s fantastic in that scene. Annie Hall (another top 100 all-time) has another small and unforgettable performance as Walken plays Dwayne—Diane Keaton’s brother who tells Woody he thinks about driving head first into oncoming traffic. Great scene.

best performance:   Walken’s third masterpiece is much more substantial than Pulp Fiction and Annie Hall. It’s Deer Hunter and that’s his best overall performance. Walken walked away with the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor but the epic is so long, and he’s central to much of it (though not as much as De Niro) that it feels like a lead. He transforms. The performance has everything. He’s cocky and happy at the wedding (that never ends and I never want to end), there’s unfathomable terror in the Russian roulette sequences, and then he’s an empty zombie of a man from that point forward. It’s a worthy best performance.

stylistic innovations/traits: Few, if any, actors can do “eerie”(Dead Zone, King of New York) and “villainous” (At Close Range, Heaven’s Gate) like Walken. Yet, as a testament to his versatility he can do likeable (is there anyone more sympathetic than him in Catch Me If you Can?). I’m a believer that how you do in other scenes with great actor is a strong testament to how good you are and Walken is excellent when paired with some of the best. In separate films he out acts both Dicaprio (Catch Me If you Can) and Sean Penn (At Close Range) and nobody can tell me he doesn’t at least match their greatness with Streep and De Niro in The Deer Hunter.

directors worked with:   Cimino (2) and perhaps his career would be slightly different if Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate wouldn’t have ended Cimino’s career. Abel Ferrara (2) and then once with Woody Allen, Tarantino, Cronenberg, Spielberg, and Paul Schrader.

Top 5 Performances:

  1. Deer Hunter
  2. The Dead Zone
  3. At Close Range
  4. Catch Me If You Can
  5. The King of New York

Archiveable films

1977- Annie Hall
1978- The Deer Hunter
1980- Heaven’s Gate
1981- Pennies From Heaven
1983- The Dead Zone
1986- At Close Range
1990- The King of New York
1990- The Comfort of Strangers
1993- True Romance
1994- Pulp Fiction
1996- The Funeral
1999- Sleepy Hollow
2002- Catch Me If You Can
2005- Wedding Crashers