Born in Englewood, New Jersey, in 1950, Ed Harris had a long and profitable career in Hollywood. Starting in 1976 – Harris was nominated for four Oscars and three Emmys. He has had a varied career that spanned multiple genres and formats. He eventually found success in all of them. He even directed some successful films, with Appaloosa and Pollock.
Ed Harris once said this about acting: “Acting is a lifelong situation…until you drop dead.” In many ways, Ed Harris is an actor of an actor. He may not be the biggest name in the game, but he always gets great, memorable performances. This list highlights the best of his long and successful career. With Top Gun: Maverick rocking theaters, it’s safe to say Ed Harris isn’t leaving the silver screen anytime soon.
5 Snowpiercer (2013)
Ed Harris doesn’t have many lines in snowpiercer, but it still remains one of the biggest parts. His character is an integral part of the plot and has a lot of mystery and intrigue around him. He is an almost mythical figure, and his performance had to be memorable or the audience would be disappointed by the revelation. In an interview with Collider, Harris had this to say about the role: “It was really seeing director Bong’s films that made me want to work with him. I would have played any role if he asked me to, just because I really enjoyed his work. But, the fact that he wanted me to play this guy who talked the whole movie, and who is The Wizard of Oz behind a curtain, appealed to me.”
The dynamic between director and actor is an important part of putting together a successful film. Bong Joon-ho is an incredible director – but Wilford is not an easy role to play. Despite all the complexities, Ed Harris made it look easy. It might not be the most lauded performance in the film – but it should be.
4 Westworld (2016 – Present)
Westworld has had many ups and downs since the beginning of its first season. What his legacy will be after the final season has yet to be decided – but something no one can argue with is how incredible Ed Harris has been as the villainous and intriguing Man in Black. Hyper-violent Western science fiction has plenty of despicable characters, but perhaps none more so than the character of Ed Harris. The television format is perfect for fleshing out a character that may have been relegated to a thug wearing a black hat in other westerns, but Westworld it gives the audience time to think about a character and see all the paths that helped create who he is.
Harris is no stranger to playing villains. He’s done this deftly his entire career. This might be his best to date. The story isn’t even over yet, with season four just around the corner.
3 Apollo 13 (1995)
Apollo 13 set the world on fire when he left. It had so many iconic lines and moments, and is still considered by some to be one of the best films of its generation. Ed Harris may not have been the star of this one – but he stole the show.
It’s an all-star cast, but Ed Harris remains Flight Director Gene Kranz. The filmfollows the real-life story of the Apollo 13 launch and the subsequent disaster that occurs. Gene is the head of mission control, and Harris plays him with a strong hand. Apollo 13 was nominated for nine Academy Awards. Ed Harris would eventually miss out on the award, but like many of these other entries, it could be argued that he was the most deserving in a very packed year of performances.
two The Hours (2002)
The hours is one of the most praised films in which Ed Harris has participated. He made over $100 million on a small budget and would be nominated for nine Academy Awards. One of them, as it turns out, would be for Ed Harris. His acting is charismatic and engaging, but totally rooted in a sense of reality and compassion.
Set across three different timelines, Harris plays a poet named Richard Brown. Richard has had a long and rewarding career, but he was recently diagnosed with AIDS. Harris plays this character perfectly, showing the ins and outs of this fight. Her onscreen chemistry with Meryl Streep worked really well, and it’s a surprise she wasn’t nominated as well. Harris had many opportunities to win an Oscar, and this should have been one of them.
1 The Truman Show (1998)
Often considered one of Jim Carrey’s best performances, The Truman Show should not be known just as a Carrey project. Ed Harris, playing Christof, is a revelation, and earned him one of his four Oscar nominations. He probably should have won for that too. It is one of his more complex roles, as Cristof is a charismatic figure with a God complex. His monologue to end the film is one of the most iconic monologues of its era, and one of the best endings as well. The music and direction do a lot of heavy lifting, but Harris absolutely nailes the pitch. Without it – the finale’s impact might not have resonated as well as it did.
Ed Harris has taken on many complex and interesting characters throughout his career. While this list only highlights a small number, any one of them could have made the list as well. It’s hard to find an actor without too many faults, but Ed Harris can be included in this small team.