best film: The Silence of the Lambs is the sole Hopkins masterpiece.  Howard’s End is fantastic, as is The Elephant Man and Nixon (all top 10 worthy in their year) but the choice here is simple. The film (and his performance, which I’ll get to in a second) is a behemoth. It became part of the culture (which actually holds no weight for me so I have no idea why I’m mentioning), reinvigorated (or invented) a sub-genre, swept the main categories at the Academy Awards (picture, director, writing, actor, actress) for only the third time in history (it happened one night, one flew over the cuckoo’s nest). Sometimes the academy is dead wrong and we end up with an overrated film/performance. And other times we have circumstances just like we do here with Silence of the Lambs– a deserving masterpieces that is incredibly well directed by Demme.

best performance:   I’m going to surprise some people here and go with his work in the Merchant/Ivory film…. no— I’m kidding—it’s The Silence of the Lambs. Don’t get cute or overthink it. When you’re Hannibal Lector and win the Oscar in a masterpiece it’s probably going to be your best performance and as good as Hopkins is in the rest of his work he’s never topped (or come that close) to his career-changing performance here as Hannibal the Cannibal.  Demme’s penchant for close-ups serves Hopkins’ dedicated (non-blinking) performance incredibly well but it’s Hopkins’ distinct and exacting vocal rhythms and diction that put it over the top. It’s genius.

stylistic innovations/traits: Hopkins had a very unique career. He’s excellent trading barbs with legends like Katharine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole in 1968’s The Lion in Winter then largely disappeared until David Lynch’s The Elephant Man in 1980. He’s very good here as well but it doesn’t stop him from largely disappearing (I think doing theater work for most of the time) until 1991’s Silence of the Lambs. That changed everything and his career, from a film acting standpoint, took off. at age 54. In total he has 13 archiveable films and 8 of them are in the 1990’s. All 4 of his Academy Award Nominations are in the 90’s and 4 of his top 5 performances are in the 90’s. It’s an incredible run. The work with James Ivory is monumentally important, he succeeds at playing two US president’s (for Oliver Stone and Spielberg).

directors worked with:  Ivory (2), Attenbourough (2), and then once with David Lynch, Demme, Francis Ford Coppola, Stone and Spielberg.

Top 5 Performances:

  1. The Silence of the Lambs
  2. The Remains of the Day
  3. Howard’s End
  4. Nixon
  5. The Lion in Winter

Archiveable films

1968- The Lion In the Winter
1974- Juggernaut
1977- A Bridge Too Far
1980- The Elephant Man
1987- 84 Charing Cross Road
1991- The Silence of the Lambs
1992- Bram Stroker’s Dracula
1992- Chaplin
1992- Howard’s End
1993- The Remains of the Day
1994- Legends of the Fall
1995- Nixon
1997- Amistad