best film:  Russell Crowe’s prime is something to behold. He did not miss often between 1997 (L.A. Confidential) and 2003 (Master and Commander) and going back even before that – Sam Raimi’s The Quick and the Dead (1995) is much stronger any anyone remembers (and it is Russell Crowe, not Leonardo DiCaprio, who looks more like the talented actor on the rise here). Ultimately though, Michael Mann’s dramatic saga – The Insider (1999), featuring heavyweight performances from Crowe and the great Al Pacino, is Crowe’s best film. Number two (2) and number three (3) on Crowe’s best film list are L.A. Confidential and Master and Commander – those bookends to his run from 1997 and 2003. L.A. Confidential is not auteur cinema – but the narrative absolutely sings – the writing and acting are spectacular – and timeless. This is a film (perhaps minus some of the language) that could have come out and stood out in any decade in cinema’s history. Peter Weir’s Master and Commander has a confident Crowe at the helm – and it features those astonishing J. M. W. Turner- like cinematic paintings.


best performance: The Insider. Cinephiles were floored by Crowe’s transformation in 1999 (this is one of the great films of that extraordinary year) as Jeffrey Wigand. He has white hair, glasses, a few extra pounds… but Wigand also requires Crowe’s physical presence (“I don’t like to be pushed around”) and strength. Still, it is hard to believe that in only a few months later, Crowe will be starring in Gladiator (2000). There is no reason to insult either film (The Insider and The Gladiator) or performance, and it is fair Crowe won the Oscar for at least one of them –  but his best work between the two films is Mann’s film. Crowe’s Bud White character from L.A. Confidential might actually be Crowe’s second best accomplishment as an actor.


Crowe as Jeffrey Wigand in Michael Mann’s The Insider (1999). Both he and Pacino are given the floor to emote plenty – and deliver magnificent performances.


stylistic innovations/traits:  The New Zealand-born Russell Crowe has eleven (11) films in the archives. In the late 1990s and early 2000s it looked like Russell Crowe was on his way to being a lock for a top fifty (50) spot on this list – if not higher. One should never take an actor for granted when he is truly in the zone – a special stretch – like Crowe was from 1997 to 2003. Crowe was nominated in three consecutive years (1999, 2000, 2001) winning for Gladiator. Crowe’s intensity – that furrowed brow and piercing eyes – are his trademarks. He can shine when playing the intellectual (The Insider, A Beautiful Mind) and the bruiser (L.A. Confidential, Cinderella Man) both.



Crowe starred in five (5) films in just 7 (seven) years that were nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. And this is before the category expanded in 2009. This is back when there were only five (5) best picture nominees total. Crowe as Bud White here in the first of these films – 1997’s L.A. Confidential.


directors worked with:  Ridley Scott (2), Ron Howard (2), Michael Mann (1), Peter Weir (1), Tom Hooper (1)


Crowe as Maximus Decimus Meridius in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator (2000). Crowe is certainly one of the most gifted, action leads in contemporary cinema. And in Gladiator, Crowe is given enviable lines like “What we do in this life echoes an eternity” – and knocks them out of the park.


top five performances:

  1. The Insider
  2. L.A. Confidential
  3. Master and Commander: Far Side of the World
  4. Gladiator
  5. A Beautiful Mind


archiveable films

1995- The Quick and the Dead
1997- L.A. Confidential
1999- The Insider
2000- Gladiator
2001- A Beautiful Mind
2003- Master and Commander: Far Side of the World
2005- Cinderella Man
2007- 3:10 To Yuma
2007- American Gangster
2009- State of Play
2012- Les Misérables