best film:  Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) is an artistic behemoth – an epic – and it lands as the best film of Viggo Mortensen’s career. Jackson’s magnum opus adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien is one the seminal works of the 21st century and it is fruitless to talk about the differences between the three separate films except for when it comes to description. Mortensen has collaborated often with David Cronenberg of course – and their bet work together is 2005’s A History of Violence followed by 2011’s A Dangerous Method. Mortensen’s contributions to high quality films in the 1990s like Brian De Palma’s Carlito’s Way (1993) and Jane Campion’s A Portrait of a Lady (1996) are minor in comparison. Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line (1998) is infamous for the actors who were left on the cutting room floor – Viggo amongst them.


best performance:  Again, it is The Lord of the Rings and a lot of David Cronenberg here in this category. Viggo plays Aragorn in Tolkien’s film – a role that calls for an action lead, romantic lead, intelligence and virtue – and Viggo provides it all – in spades. His Tom Stall (A History of Violence) and Nikolai (Eastern Promises) are both complex men with a secret to reveal. There is a fair amount of depth here as well. Viggo plays Tony Lip in Green Book and the film is a greater accomplishment for the actors involved than the film itself. There are plenty of scenes to chew on and chemistry for the two talented actors: Mahershala Ali and Mortensen. Viggo – ever the dedicated actor – clearly relished the attempt at the weight gain (he is eating in every scene) and accent work to add to his already impressive resume.


Viggo as Aragorn in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings – the performances are exemplary across the board  – especially Ian McKellen, Viggo and the pioneering work of Andy Serkis.


stylistic innovations/traits:  The New York City born Viggo Mortensen definitely paid his dues over the decades. Witness is his actual debut in 1985 and he is largely a supporting player coming up the rest of the 1980s and into the 1990s. There is actually more to his part in Crimson Tide (1995) than many may remember – Viggo’s role is pretty meaty as chief of the boat – but again he is not getting a look at the Denzel Washington or Gene Hackman part(s) in the 1990s. All that would change in 2001 with The Lord of the Rings – Viggo became a star at that point. To his credit, he used that juice or cache to align himself with David Cronenberg and together they have forged quite the second act to their career. If an actor had just one of either – the Cronenberg collaborations or Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings – it may not be enough to crack the top 100 – but when one combines them both – his Viggo’s place is assured.


Viggo as Tom Stall in The History of Violence – the first of four (4) archiveable collaborations to date with David Cronenberg.


directors worked with:  David Cronenberg (4), Peter Weir (1), Brian De Palma (1), Jane Campion (1), Peter Jackson (1)


A Dangerous Method shows off David Cronenberg’s and Viggo’s genre range – sharply pivoting from the Russian mob crime film Eastern Promises and diving instead into early 20th century Vienna and the world of Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud (played superbly by Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen respectively). This marks the third pairing of auteur and actor with Cronenberg and Viggo. Again, it is as if Viggo took at that goodwill and clout he earned from the financial (and surely artistic) success of The Lord of the Rings and decided to put it to good use working with one of the greatest directors of the previous few decades. Viggo shows up at the 22-minute mark (in just a 99-minute film) and is commanding in his screen presence. He is also convincing in portraying genius (and some paranoia) – Viggo is a truly versatile actor.


top five performances:

  1. The Lord of the Rings
  2. A History of Violence
  3. Eastern Promises
  4. A Dangerous Method
  5. The Road


archiveable films

1985- Witness
1991- The Indian Runner
1993- Carlito’s Way
1995- Crimson Tide
1996- Portrait of a Lady
2001-The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Rings
2002- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
2003- The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King
2005- A History of Violence
2007- Eastern Promises
2009- The Road
2011- A Dangerous Method
2018- Green Book
2022- Crimes of the Future
2022- Thirteen Lives