Movie Reviews

William Hurt's 10 Best Movies, Ranked According To Letterboxd

William McChord Hurt was an actor for more than fifty years, with a career that spanned from theatre to the screens both big and small. He was an award-winning performer no matter what medium. Though he was often cast as the ‘smart guy’ in films, such as the 1998 film Lost in Space, he was a flexible and powerful actor.

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Hurt passed away at the age of 71, and audiences can look back at his career to remember and honor his life. As a prolific actor, Hurt is a recognizable face across many films and shows, but his more well-known performances are not necessarily his best. Fans on Letterboxd have taken the greatest films he was a part of and helped parse through his best performances.

1998’s Dark City is a science fiction and noir movie that is far beyond the norm of what one might expect from a William Hurt movie. Starring Rufus Sewell as an amnesiac serial killer named John Murdoch, the film explores the identity of both him and the eerie city he is pursued through. Audiences should be warned that this classic sci-fi movie begins with a noir introduction, but the film quickly becomes much more ethereal.

Hurt is the antagonistic Frank Bumstead, a police inspector who is pursuing Murdoch. Hurt’s performance in this role is what makes the film; his hard-tack personality and drive give the film the perfect noir kick. His performance provides much-needed grounding to a film that quickly becomes very outlandish.

In Smoke, Hurt portrays a widower and writer who frequents a little cigar shop. This independent film is a beautifully touching look at the lives of a group of people who are connected by the Brooklyn Cigar Co., who become more and more intertwined despite their seemingly disparate lives.

The story winds through the lives of characters played by several other fantastic performers, including Harvey Keitel and Forest Whitaker, but the main thread of the film is held by Hurt. His central role provides an emotional core for the story. Hurt is notable for his ability to stand out among such an incredibly powerful cast, each of whom provides their characters with unique and intimate touches.

As one of the most critically acclaimed titles in his filmography, A History of Violence was nominated for dozens of awards. The central role is that of Tom Stall, a small-town father and husband who kills two robbers with surprising and suspicious ease. As more people pry into his past, Stall finds the attention further stressing his marriage and home life.

William Hurt himself won an Acadamy Award for his portrayal of Richie Cusack, a mafia boss from Philadelphia. Hurt stands across from one of the best performances by Viggo Mortensen and manages to hold his own. The hardened criminal that viewers see in Hurt’s performance is powerful and driven, but not without his emotional connections.

In one of his earliest film performances, William Hurt stars in Body Heat as a poor southern lawyer who begins an affair with a wealthy man’s wife. When they hatch a plot to kill her husband, this film’s flair for the dramatic only goes up. The soap-opera twists and turns provide Hurt and co-star Kathleen Turner many opportunities to flex their acting chops.

Neo-noir films are something that Hurt built his career on, and for good reason. His performance in this film is exactly the kind that one could build a career upon – a plain, almost simplistic, character who finds themselves wrapped in an ever-more-complicated plot.

This is the film most people will recommend from Hurt’s filmography, and with good reason. Kiss of the Spider Woman is a film based on an Argentinian novel and follows the story of a pair of prisoners who share a cell during the Brazilian military’s dictatorship in the ’60s. The emotional core is the relationship that builds between them.

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The film is painful, dark, and brutal at times. While some of the written portrayals have not aged well, Hurt’s performance is raw and emotional. While there is much to be said about a straight performer portraying a gay character, taking this role was a brave risk for Hurt – one that could have ended his career if he had not given such an incredible and award-winning performance.

Into the Wild is a biographical film that follows the true story of Christopher McCandless. The young man set out on a post-graduation journey to live in the wilderness of Alaska, and the film follows this journey alongside flashbacks to his relationships with family and friends. While there are many films like Into the Wild, few feature performances are as good as the ones that Hurt and Emile Hirsch give.

McCandless’ father, Walt, is given life by Hurt in this film. This patriarch is a complicated man, whose mistakes and actions incite Christopher to take on his new life. It is difficult to give such a person the depth they deserve, but Hurt provides the man with a firm bit of realism that further grounds the film.

This science-fiction film is a complicated and fascinating adventure that Hurt’s noir experience matches perfectly. As the title would suggest, Until the End of the World is an apocalyptic film that follows a woman who is trying to distract herself from romantic troubles when she is caught up in the panic of a falling nuclear satellite.

Hurt’s performance in this film is remarkably funny for the dark setting and character. Hurt’s character is very complicated, but he gives such an earnest performance that it feels simple. Audiences should note that this film has multiple versions, and director Wim Wenders’ style can be difficult to adjust to.

In Avengers: Endgame Hurt gives one of his final performances as General Thaddeus Ross. His portrayal of the military general is likely where most viewers first learn of Hurt. Hurt first portrayed General Ross in the 2008 film The Incredible Hulk and would not reprise the role until 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.

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Hurt had an incredible ability to be imposing and commanding, which are (obviously)  required for the role of a military commander. Unlike many other actors, this presence was not forced, but it was not taken for granted either. Hurt’s performance as a long-time military commander was believable thanks to the ease with which he did not demand respect; he simply had it.

Broadcast News is a key piece of proof that Hurt was one of the most talented and flexible actors of his time. This film follows a team of news broadcasters that tries to adapt to network changes. What follows is an oddly charming mix of comedy and drama with a dash of romance in the mix. Holly Hunter, Albert Brooks, and William Hurt give this film a powerful amount of talent in front of the camera.

Hurt is a star in this film, in which he portrays a young, charismatic, hotshot sports anchor who is interested in breaking out of his comfort zone. While Hurt’s other performances tend to be intelligent or dark, this excellent performance might be referred to today as a ‘himbo.’ His charm and comedic timing are a nice relief after the tension of his other films.

Unsurprisingly, the most highly-rated film in Hurt’s career is Avengers: Infinity War. Continuing from Civil War, Ross holds a special place in the Infinity Saga. As the man who is largely responsible for the government’s involvement with the Avengers, his position is critical to the state the Avengers are in when the terrifying space-tyrant Thanos finally turns his sights fully on Earth.

While Hurt’s presence is slight in these films, it manages to carry a long-lasting impact, and while Ross might not be a major part, it speaks to Hurt’s powerful presence that he provides life to a single man who stands out so well in a world full of superheroes.

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