best film:  The Silence of the Lambs is the only masterpiece Anthony Hopkins appears in.  Howard’s End is sublime – as is The Elephant Man – and Oliver Stone’s rapid montage aesthetic is still producing high quality artistic work in 1995 for Nixon, but the choice here is simple. The Silence of the Lambs (and Hopkins’ performance – more on that in the category below) is a behemoth. It became part of the culture, (which is more of an observation more so than something that carries evaluative weight for this category or the larger list in general) reinvigorated a sub-genre (the serial killer thriller), and swept the so called main categories at the Oscars (Best 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 Oscars are dead wrong – resulting in an overrated film and/or performance. And other times (like is the case here), the Oscars select if not the best film of the year, at least a deserving masterpiece (in this case, one that is spectacularly directed by Jonathan Demme).


best performance:  Easy answer here – best not to get cute or overthink it – The Silence of the Lambs is Anthony Hopkins best performance. This is not only his best performance and best film – but it changed the arc of his career. Demme’s penchant for close-ups serves Hopkins’ dedicated (non-blinking) performance  well – but it is also Hopkins’ distinct and exacting vocal rhythms and diction that put it over the top. It is genius.


The Silence of the Lambs – Hopkins’ performance lives up to the hype. It is an unflinching and uncompromising performance. It would be impossible to duplicate this performance without Jonathan Demme’s visual strategy (those jaw-dropping, face the camera close-ups). Hopkins diction is just immaculate to add to it — words like “tedious” and of course popular ones like “chianti.”


stylistic innovations/traits:  Anthony Hopkins had a very unique career. He is excellent trading barbs with legends like Katharine Hepburn and Peter O’Toole in 1968’s The Lion in Winter but the distance from his debut to him becoming a name every movie fan knows may be the longest in movie history (aside from child actors). The Silence of the Lambs came along in 1991 and changes the trajectory of his career at the age of 54 (fifty-four). Hopkins has twenty-one (21) archiveable films overall (eight more than he did prior to this last update of this list) and thirteen (13) of them come from the age fifty-four (54) on. All six (6) of his Oscar nominations (with two wins) come post 1990. The Merchant Ivory collaborations were so important to Hopkins as well. They helped prove he had range – he is going from serial killer thriller to Merchant Ivory buttoned-up period piece and revered novel adaptations in just one years time. They keep the momentum going on his career at this point in 1992 and 1993 respectively. Lastly, they also serve as his second and third best performance (making all three of his best coming in the early 1990s) which is plainly vital to any actor’s resume. Hopkins excels at Shakespeare (Titus), playing two United States’ Presidents (Nixon, Amistad), and a Pope of course (The Two Popes). But there is also that early, eccentric work in Audrey Rose and Magic where Hopkins is far better than the film he is playing in, that are worthy of study just to see a young artist at work.


from The Remains of the Day (1993) – Hopkins can do detachment and reserve unlike any other actor – there is a phenomenal scene with a teal blue doorway/wall in the background and Thompson and Hopkins in the foreground in shadows as she delivers to him the bad news that his father has died – “My father would wish me to carry on with my work. I can’t let him down” -powerful. There are long flashbacks and letters between Hopkins and Emma Thompson that formulate the narrative structure. Both actors collaborated with Merchant Ivory in 1992’s Howards End– and are in top form and amongst the best in the world at that time. The Merchant Ivory trademark – a crest on the titles – importance, upper class, regal. The film was nominated for eight (8) Oscars . The details he puts into a performance is a Hopkins staple. His walk is impeccable – he is a servant, but very proud.


directors worked with: Richard Attenborough (3), James Ivory (2), Robert Wise (1), David Lynch (1), Jonathan Demme (1), Francis Ford Coppola (1), Oliver Stone (1), Steven Spielberg (1), James Gray (1)


Hopkins from 1992’s Howard End – it is in an incredible few years and late career renaissance started by Silence of the Lambs the year before. Hopkins plays


top five performances:

  1. The Silence of the Lambs
  2. Howards End
  3. The Remains of the Day
  4. The Father
  5. Nixon


The Father (2020) is the debut film for Florian Zeller, Parisian director and playwright (this is based on his own play). He wrote the film with Anthony Hopkins in mind. Hopkins plays a character named Anthony – and when his character gives his birthdate – it is Hopkins’ own. Hopkins won the best actor Oscar here at age 83 making him the oldest actor to ever win. He also won in 1991 for The Silence of the Lambs. It is an acting showcase for Hopkins – it is more than that, but it IS that. He gets a “you’re abandoning me” moving monologue delivered to his daughter Anne played by Olivia Colman. He also gets a scene where he, painfully, regresses to a child near the end of the film. Olivia Williams (two Olivias playing into this at all with the duality here?) plays “the woman”- and part of the narrative formal genius here is the actors and settings slightly fluctuate here and there mimicking the strands of Anthony’s memory. Hopkins’ Anthony is not entirely sympathetic either (adding to the rich complexity of the role and performance) – he is edgy, paranoid and often cruel. It is a very rich characterization and nuanced performance.


archiveable films

1968- The Lion in the Winter
1974- Juggernaut
1977- A Bridge Too Far
1977- Audrey Rose
1978- Magic
1980- The Elephant Man
1984- The Bounty
1987- 84 Charing Cross Road
1991- The Silence of the Lambs
1992- Bram Stroker’s Dracula
1992- Chaplin
1992- Howards End
1993- The Remains of the Day
1994- Legends of the Fall
1995- Nixon
1997- Amistad
1999- Titus
2017- Thor: Ragnarok
2019- The Two Popes
2020- The Father
2022- Armageddon Time