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Dennis Hopper Films

Movies, Current Events | By The Top 13 on May 29, 2010

Last week, Dennis Hopper, who is gravely ill with prostate cancer, was honored with a well-deserved star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Given that recognition and Hopper's health, we take a look at this film legend's sizable legacy. The wild Hopper, also an accomplished painter and photographer, appeared in more than 150 films, acting with everyone from James Dean to Jack Nicholson to Marlon Brando, and directed several terrific movies, including his well-known classic, Easy Rider. Along the way, he picked up a pair of well-deserved Oscar nominations. Without further ado, here are the Top 13 Dennis Hopper Films. Editor's note: This list was originally published on March 29, 2010. Hopper passed away on Saturday, May 29, 2010.

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Easy Rider

1

Easy Rider

1969

The film for which Hopper is best known, he co-wrote, directed, and starred in this landmark counterculture movie about two motorcycle riding drug dealers (co-writer and producer Peter Fonda plays Hopper's companion) who travel through large swaths of the country in a search for freedom. For his work, he was honored with an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay and won the Best First Work Award at the Cannes Film Festival.

Blue Velvet

2

Blue Velvet

1986

Hopper delivers a stunning performance as the monstrous psychopath in David Lynch's dark and innovative cult classic thriller. Indeed, Hopper was so good that many speculated that his Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination in 1986 was actually recognition for this film, which many speculated might have been a bit too disturbing for the Academy, instead of the movie next on this list. Blue Velvet is perverse and unsettling but remains one of Lynch's best films and might be Hopper's career defining acting performance.

Hoosiers

3

Hoosiers

1986

Hopper received his second Academy Award nomination (for Best Supporting Actor) for his turn as a basketball loving alcoholic who sobers himself up to be an assistant coach for his son's high school team. Hoosiers, which stars Gene Hackman as the head coach, is loosely based on a real small town Indiana high school team that won the state title. The film is deservedly considered one of the best sports movies of all time.

Out of the Blue

4

Out of the Blue

1980

Stepping in at the last minute to direct his first film in eleven years, Hopper earned critical acclaim for both his direction and his turn as Don Barnes, an alcoholic recently released from prison after serving a five-year bid for killing kids when he crashed his truck into a school bus. Out of the Blue devastatingly depicts Barnes' relationships with his rebellious teenage daughter and estranged drug addict wife. Hopper received his second nomination for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, but the movie barely saw North American theaters.

Apocalypse Now

5

Apocalypse Now

1979

Though his role was relatively small, Hopper's turn as a seriously manic freelance photographer in Francis Ford Coppola's blockbuster classic Apocalypse Now returned him to the spotlight for the first time since Easy Rider's success a decade earlier. Hopper's character in this epic Vietnam film anchored by Marlon Brando and Martin Sheen is reportedly based on the life of a real life photo journalist who went missing in Cambodia during the war.

Colors

6

Colors

1988

The only film on this Top 13 in which Hopper does not appear, this movie represents his complete return to prominence in American cinema after his self-created exile from mainstream Hollywood in the early 1970s. With Colors, Hopper - along with excellent co-stars Sean Penn and Robert Duvall - created a tense classic, authentically depicting the gang wars in South Central Los Angeles during the 1980s.

Speed

7

Speed

1994

In the undisputed box office champion on Hopper's filmography, he is as amazingly crazy as ever playing a mad bomber out for a payday and revenge against a pair of LAPD cops, more-than-competently acted by Keanu Reeves and Jeff Daniels. Hopper won an MTV Movie Award for Best Villain for his part in this perfectly paced action film that takes place mostly on a runaway bus.

Red Rock West

8

Red Rock West

1992

In this criminally underappreciated western thriller from Rounders director John Dahl, Hopper stars as hitman Lyle from Dallas along side Nicolas Cage, Lara Flynn Boyle, and J.T. Walsh. The plot is perfectly complicated in that there are many moving pieces, but Dahl makes it all seem straightforward. Hopper plays the professional killer with his standard edge, but balances it with a bit of surprising self-doubt.

The American Friend

9

The American Friend

1977

German director Wim Wenders' laudable adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel Ripley's Game features Hopper as the sociopathic Tom Ripley, a role played by several others over the years, including Matt Damon. Hopper - the only American actor in the film - is excellent as Ripley, who serves as the middleman between a French gangster and a terminally ill picture framer whom Ripley dupes into working as a hitman for the gangster.

Basquiat

10

Basquiat

1996

An underrated biopic, this film is based on the life of Brooklyn born neo expressionist artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. It stars a fantastic Jeffrey Wright in the titular role and boasts an awesome supporting cast, including David Bowie, Christopher Walken, Gary Oldman, and, of course, Hopper. He plays with recognizable vigor and great accuracy the noted Swiss art dealer Bruno Bischofberger.

Elegy

11

Elegy

2008

A rare adaptation of a Philip Roth novel, Elegy is a remarkably elegant and intelligent film about frequent Roth character David Kepesh, an aging professor with serious commitment issues. Hopper plays Kepesh's Pulitzer Prize winning friend, George O'Hearn, who tries in vain to reason with his old pal. Hopper's understated performance is a welcome respite from the jittery, over-the-top characters that often are considered his trademark.

River's Edge

12

River's Edge

1986

In this critically acclaimed film loosely based on the aftermath of a 1981 rape and murder of a 14-year-old California girl by a classmate whom she had teased, Hopper is electric as Feck, a reclusive drug dealer and friend of the teenagers at the center of the plot. Feck himself had murdered his girlfriend, yet he remains tortured by this act years later. This makes his character a powerful counterbalance to the teens who seem so cavalier about the murder of one of their own.

True Romance

13

True Romance

1993

Hopper is a member of the impressive ensemble cast of this stylish Quentin Tarantino-penned crime film, playing Clifford Worley, the ex-cop father of the main character, played by Christian Slater. In perhaps the best scene in the entire movie, Hopper meets his end in a classic confrontation with a gangster, played by Christopher Walken, who is looking for Worley's son and a suitcase of cocaine he has stolen.

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Comments Leave a comment

ajay ★★

I haven't seen enough of these. Elegy is a beautiful film, but I actually found Hopper's scenes to be the weak point, though not because of Hopper.

Also, Super Mario Bros.

8:31 AM   Mar 29, 2010

stillathreat ★★

Love Red Rock West and Out of the Blue. Where's Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 - might have been a bad movie, but Hopper was great. Also, he was great on 24.

8:34 AM   Mar 29, 2010

johndoeaa 

"Giant" needs to be on this list. Playing the son of Liz Taylor and Rock Hudson, he steals a lot of scenes, out acting Hudson.

9:41 PM   Mar 29, 2010

hulk 

Heineken?! F**k that s**t!! PABST BLUE RIBBON!!!

3:51 AM   Apr 01, 2010

tloveisready ★★

That scene in True Romance is soooooo perfect. RIP Dennis. You will be missed.

2:15 PM   May 29, 2010

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