best film:   David Cronenberg’s Crash shines as the brightest beacon here in the ranking of Holly Hunter’s best film. This makes Jane Campion’s The Piano runner-up and puts the two Hunter collaborations with the Coen Brothers (O Brother, Where Art Thou? Raising Arizona) in the third and fourth spot. Cronenberg’s best film of the 1990s comes from J.G. Ballard’s novel and Hunter plays the role of Helen Remington. Hunter is opposite James Spader and Elias Koteas.



best performance:  It is not by a landslide (Raising Arizona, Broadcast News in Hunter’s magnificent 1987) but The Piano is Holly Hunter’s strongest performance. She is mute but sets the tone with the almost mystic-like voice-over at the beginning (with a quick coda bookend). Needless to say, for the length of the film she gives us a mesmerizing pantomime performance. Harvey Keitel and the young Anna Paquin’s performances are not far behind in support.


after her big breakthrough of a year in 1987, it is Hunter’s work as Ada McGrath in Jane Campion’s The Piano that cements her placement on this list



stylistic innovations/traits:   Holly Hunter is short (5’2) with a Southern accent. She has clear comic talents (Raising Arizona, and parts of Broadcast News) but can push back and stand tall with the best of them despite her small stature (as evidenced in The Piano, The Big Sick). She famously won the Oscar playing a mute character (only speaking in a very memorable voice-over). She had big years in 1987 (giving maybe the two best performances of the year by a female actor) and 1993 (getting two Oscar nominations- one for lead and one for supporting).


Hunter opposite William Hurt and Albert Brooks in James L. Brooks’ Broadcast News– part of Hunter’s brilliant 1987 year.



directors worked with:    Coen Brothers (2), Sydney Pollack (1), Janes Campion (1), David Cronenberg



Hunter as “Ed” in The Coen Brother’s sophomore feature: Raising Arizona




top five performances:

  1. The Piano
  2. Broadcast News
  3. Raising Arizona
  4. The Big Sick
  5. Thirteen



archiveable films

1987- A Gathering of Old Men
1987- Broadcast News
1987- Raising Arizona
1993- The Firm
1993- The Piano
1996- Crash
1997- Contact
2000- O Brother, Where Art Thou?
2003- Moonlight Mile
2003- Thirteen
2005- Nine Lives
2017- The Big Sick