best film:  Pulp Fiction (1994) is Christopher Walken’s best film and that is saying something because his filmography includes Annie Hall (1977), The Deer Hunter (1978), Heaven’s Gate (from 1980 – and yes, Michael Cimino’s follow-up to The Deer Hunter belongs in this company). It is tempting to pick The Deer Hunter because Walken just has a few minutes in both Woody Allen’s Annie Hall and Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction – but Walken is so memorable in those two (2) films. Walken’s deadpan “oncoming traffic” monologue (as Duane – Diane Keaton’s character’s brother) in Annie Hall is so damn funny – a great scene.  And Walken’s “The Gold Watch” chapter monologue (noticing a monologue trend here already?) in Pulp Fiction is even better – a key scene – and Walken absolutely slays it. Walken plays a bigger part in Cimino’s two (2) films, and then a little further down the path – is Pennies from Heaven (1981) and then At Close Range (1986) and Sleepy Hollow (1999).


from Pulp Fiction – a bit of nice homage casting with Walken as a former prisoner of war (tapping into Nick from The Deer Hunter) – supreme short story writing and performance


best performance: As mentioned, Christopher Walken’s contributions to The Deer Hunter are more substantive than Pulp Fiction and Annie Hall of course. Walken walked away with the supporting Oscar win for the 1978 Vietnam War film. His Nick character transforms so completely from the opening chapters at home in Pittsburgh. Walken’s Nick so sure of himself and genuinely happy at that wedding (a glorious set piece wedding that never ends – it is actually roughly twenty minutes longer than the wedding scene in The Godfather) – and then the shoe drops in Vietnam with the unfathomable terror of the Russian roulette sequence. Nicks arc has a third act as well – he is an empty zombie of a man from that point forward in Vietnam. This is a very worthy best performance.


Walken’s crucial film (The Deer Hunter) and performance (his character Nick) came in 1978 when he was in his mid thirties


stylistic innovations/traits:  Christopher Walken is a New York City born actor who broke through in the late 1970s.  Walken semi-famously has a “never say no” policy to vetting roles so one would like to see a few more archiveable films than the fifteen (15) he currently has. Still, few actors, if any, can do eerie (The Dead Zone, King of New York) and villainous (At Close Range, True Romance) like Christopher Walken. Yet, as a testament to his versality – he can be truly compassionate – is there any character more sympathetic than Walken’s Frank Abagnale (the father) character in Catch Me If You Can? Walken is also known for dancing (and he is a great dancer) in just about every role (like Dustin Hoffman or Tom Cruise running and Brad Pitt eating food) he is in. One has to imagine that Walken was pretty easy to convince to be a part of in Pennies from Heaven (where those dancing chops are on full display). He is also in Wedding Crashers and is pretty regular on the comedy sketch show Saturday Night Live. So, if we are scoring this at home – Walken is known for 1. dancing, 2. being funny, 3. being eerie 4. playing a lot of villains and 5. delivering monologues – quite a healthy mix for his legacy. The phrase “iron sharpens iron” is often true with acting – and Walken has excelled often when paired with some of the best. It does not get much better than Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep of course for The Deer Hunter. Walken probably outduels Leonardo DiCaprio (Catch Me If You Can) and Sean Penn (At Close Range).


directors worked with:  Michael Cimino (2), Abel Ferrara (2), Woody Allen (1), David Cronenberg (1), Paul Schrader (1), Quentin Tarantino (1), Tim Burton (1), Steven Spielberg (1)


The blue light from skyscrapers of the windows in The Plaza hotel – from King of New York (1990) . Abel Ferrara uses many actor friendly close-ups here. He even lets Walken (playing the gang leader Frank White) get away with a little dancing. Frank sees himself as New York City’s Robin Hood.  Poor Victor Argo does not stand a chance against Walken in the film – Walken blows Argo off the screen in their confrontation showdown scene set in Argo’s character’s apartment. And though Nosferatu is in the text – and Walken has definitely show off his inner vampire from time to time in his career – this is largely an urban western.



top five performances:

  1. The Deer Hunter
  2. The Dead Zone
  3. At Close Range
  4. King of New York
  5. Catch Me If You Can


archiveable films

1977- Annie Hall
1978- The Deer Hunter
1980- Heaven’s Gate
1981- Pennies from Heaven
1983- The Dead Zone
1986- At Close Range
1990- King of New York
1990- The Comfort of Strangers
1993- True Romance
1994- Pulp Fiction
1996- The Funeral
1999- Sleepy Hollow
2002- Catch Me If You Can
2005- Wedding Crashers
2012- Seven Psychopaths