A prolific character actor with leading-man chops and four Oscar nominations under his belt, Ed Harris has been entertaining audiences for decades — so when we saw his name in the credits for Run All Night, we knew exactly what we needed to do with this week’s list. From supporting parts to leading roles, from action to comedy to drama, Harris has done just about everything — and done it well. The Tomatometer agrees, giving us a top 10 that bottoms out at an impressive 88 percent. Which of your favorites made the cut? It’s time to find out, Total Recall style!


10. The Abyss (1989) 89%


1989’s underwater epic The Abyss required the construction of the world’s biggest tank of filtered fresh water, as well as newly designed watertight cameras and bleeding-edge special effects work from Industrial Light & Magic. It also required a lot of patience on the part of its cast (including Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, both of whom suffered emotional breakdowns during the grueling six-month shoot) and crew (including director James Cameron, who spent hours at a time under 50 feet of water) — and the studio had its own cross to bear, enduring millions of dollars in cost overruns and weeks of delays. In the end, The Abyss wasn’t as profitable as Cameron’s other epics, only bringing in around $90 million against a $70 million budget, but critics were generally kind, particularly to the longer version that eventually surfaced on home video (Widgett Walls of Needcoffee.com called the theatrical release “an abomination” and wrote, “For God’s sake, make sure you have the director’s cut”).

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9. Swing Shift (1984) 87%


It endured an infamously bumpy production period — during which stars Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell went over Jonathan Demme’s head to arrange edits and reshoots with a different director — but even if Swing Shift didn’t end up fulfilling Demme’s original vision, critics still felt it effectively told the story of a war bride (Hawn) who enters the workforce (and starts an affair) during WWII while her husband (Harris) is overseas. Although more than a few viewers have taken issue with its soft-focused treatment of adultery, the picture’s rich detail and well-written script impressed writers like Filmcritic’s Pete Croatto, who observed, “Sofia Coppola and Wes Anderson could learn a few things watching this. Or maybe they already have.”

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8. Sweet Dreams (1985) 90%


Although it was roundly criticized for taking liberties with the facts of its subject’s brief, fascinating life, the Patsy Cline biopic Sweet Dreams makes for a solidly compelling — if at times frustratingly inaccurate — film about the country star’s (played by Jessica Lange) early years, short career, and tragic death, as well as her tumultuous marriage to the unfortunately named Charlie Dick (Harris). Earning Lange a Best Actress nomination for her work, Dreams won praise from critics like Time Out’s Geoff Andrews, who wrote, “The two main performances are excellent: Lange plays the singer without a hint of condescension to her dreams of ‘a big house with yellow roses’, while Harris is persuasively menacing, with an inventively foul mouth.”

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7. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) 95%


You think the dynamic at your company is brutal? Try swimming with the sharks of Glengarry Glen Ross, a pitch-black, deeply profane case study in how quickly an office will disintegrate when a sales team is told that it’s about to enter a competition — and everyone who winds up lower than second place is going to lose his job. The result, as you might expect, is a bile-drenched free-for-all, brilliantly scripted by David Mamet (adapting his own Tony- and Pulitzer-winning play) and brought to painful life by an ace cast that included Harris, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey, Alan Arkin, and Al Pacino (who earned an Academy Award nomination for his work). It isn’t for the faint of heart, and it might provoke a few winces of recognition, but it is, in the words of Filmcritic’s Christopher Null, “An utter masterpiece.”

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6. The Truman Show (1998) 95%


Is it science fiction? A comedy? A drama? A psychiatric syndrome? Actually, 1998’s The Truman Show is all of the above. Jim Carrey stars as Truman Burbank, the unwitting star of a wildly popular reality series engineered by a producer named Christof (played by Harris), in which Truman’s life — complete with fake wife, fake friends, and a whole fake town — is lapped up by eager audiences. It didn’t net Carrey the Academy Award that many were anticipating, but The Truman Show has endured over the last 10 years, and predicted the overwhelming popularity of reality television in the years to come. In the words of Hollywood Report Card’s Ross Anthony, “this is clearly one of the decade’s cleverest, most original pictures.”

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5. Gone Baby Gone (2007) 94%


Ben Affleck made his directorial debut with this pitch-black thriller, adapted from the Dennis Lehane novel about a private investigator (Casey Affleck) who finds himself mixed up in the exceedingly shady case of a kidnapped girl. As he works with the cops (including Harris and Morgan Freeman) and his girlfriend/partner (Michelle Monaghan), it becomes clear that things are not what they seem. It’s a basic framework that pretty much any filmgoer will be familiar with, but in Affleck’s hands, Gone Baby Gone came alive; as Bruce Westbrook wrote for the Houston Chronicle, “A love-tolerate valentine to the city, it feels more real than the gangster-gorged mean streets of Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, and just as tortured as Clint Eastwood’s Mystic River.”

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4. Apollo 13 (1995) 96%


This dramatization of NASA’s aborted 1970 lunar mission combined one of star Tom Hanks’ biggest personal passions — space travel — with Hollywood’s favorite thing: a blockbuster prestige picture. With a cast that featured a number of similarly prolific actors (among them Harris, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, and Gary Sinise), Apollo probably would have made decent money even if it had played fast and loose with the real-life details of the launch, but director Ron Howard and his crew strove for verisimilitude, going so far as to shoot portions of the film in actual zero gravity. The result was a summertime smash that restored some of space travel’s luster for a jaded generation — and made for an exceedingly good filmgoing experience according to most critics, including Roger Ebert, who called it “a powerful story, one of the year’s best films, told with great clarity and remarkable technical detail, and acted without pumped-up histrionics.”

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3. Snowpiercer (2014) 94%


A little more than 15 years after he played a powerful man who manipulates lives in service of his own warped version of the greater good for The Truman Show, Harris offered a variation on that theme for Snowpiercer. One of the best-reviewed movies of 2014, it found director and co-writer Bong Joon-ho exploring the outer reaches of bizarro mainstream sci-fi with a dystopian class warfare thriller about the conflict between the unwashed masses (led by Chris Evans) against their pampered overlords (featuring Tilda Swinton acting as Harris’ cartoonishly awful enforcer) on a train hurtling non-stop around the post-apocalyptic ruins of planet Earth. Bracingly original during a summer season crowded with blockbuster fare, Snowpiercer earned raves from the vast majority of critics, including Slate’s Dana Stevens, who wrote that it “seems to have been sent back to us from some distant alternate future where grandiose summer action movies can also be lovingly crafted, thematically ambitious works of art.”

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2. Places in the Heart (1984) 89%


Sally Field won a Best Actress Oscar and John Malkovich earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination for their work in this 1984 drama, which tells the story of a widowed woman (Field) who struggles to keep her Texas farm afloat during the Great Depression while her sister (Lindsay Crouse) deals with her crumbling marriage to a carousing husband (Harris). The kind of film whose plot doesn’t seem to cover a lot of ground, but which deals with some unmistakeably weighty themes (in this case racism, adultery, and family commitment), Places in the Heart wasn’t necessarily one of the most exciting pictures of the year, but it was an Academy favorite — Field’s Best Actress win prompted her oft-lampooned “you like me” speech — and a source of admiration for critics like Vincent Canby of the New York Times, who wrote, “Out of the memories of his boyhood in Waxahachie, Tex., during the Great Depression, and within the unlikely tradition of the old-fashioned ‘mortgage’ melodrama, Robert Benton has made one of the best films in years about growing up American.”

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1. The Right Stuff (1983) 96%


It’s based on one of America’s most inspiring true stories, it features an ace ensemble cast, and it earned rave reviews from critics — so why did audiences turn their backs on The Right Stuff during its 1983 theatrical run? The fact that it’s more than three hours long probably had something to do with it, but in writer/director Philip Kaufman’s defense, it’s hard to think of a better way to tell the story of NASA’s famed “Mercury Seven.” As astronaut John Glenn, Harris held his own against talented co-stars such as Sam Shepard, Scott Glenn, and Dennis Quaid; together, they helped create the four-time Oscar winner that Combustible Celluloid’s Jeffrey M. Anderson recommended by writing, “Along with Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America it’s the last great American epic — the kind of film that couldn’t be made today.”

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Finally, here’s the trailer for Harris’s directorial debut, Pollock, which also earned him a Best Actor Oscar nomination:

On this abbreviated Memorial Day edition of RT on DVD, we’ve got a few decent choices to pick from, beginning with an early year thriller starring Sam Worthington and Elizabeth Banks. After that, we’ve got a few indies critics really liked, and another poorly reviewed thriller starring Amanda Seyfried. Lastly, Criterion is releasing a pair of Bergman films perfect for the season. See below for the full list!



Man on a Ledge

31%

Sam Worthington seems like a nice enough guy, and he’s certainly got some charisma on screen, but his biggest films continue to be flops (Avatar is a notable exception). The latest is Man on a Ledge, which follows one Nick Cassady (Worthington) as he inches his way onto the ledge of an NYC high-rise, seemingly to attempt suicide. As an NYPD negotiator (Elizabeth Banks) talks him down, it becomes apparent there’s more to the spectacle than meets the eye (no giant robots, unfortunately). At 31%, Man on a Ledge failed to impress critics, who said the film?s somewhat intriguing premise was wasted on inconsistent acting and some preposterous plot points.



Gone

12%

Speaking of likable actors who keep churning out Rotten films, how about that Amanda Seyfried? Her most recent misfire is Gone, a thriller about a young former kidnapping victim Jill (Seyfried) who comes home one night to find that her sister Molly has been kidnapped. Convinced that the person who nabbed Molly is the same one who took her a year ago, Jill sets out to get Molly back, at all costs. Critics were pretty brutal with Gone, giving it an 11% Tomatometer and calling it simultaneously far-fetched and predictable, many agreeing the main problem was with the script. Thrillers need suspense and tension; if audiences can see things coming from a mile away, then all you’ve got left is a bunch of people screaming at each other and trying to run each other over with cars.



We Need to Talk About Kevin

75%

Now that we’ve got the Rotten releases out of the way, let’s focus on the good stuff. First up is We Need to Talk About Kevin, the controversial film about a woman (Tilda Swinton) reflecting on the life of her son Kevin (Ezra Miller) after Kevin has been imprisoned for initiating a horrific school shooting spree. Based on the novel of the same name, We Need to Talk About Kevin impressed critics with its top notch acting — Swinton, in particular, was singled out for her stunning performance — and its masterful blend of drama and domestic horror. It’s a fascinating character study about a dark but timely subject, so be prepared for some heavy themes.



Goon

81%

Every once in a while, we get one of those rare “pleasant surprises,” and back in March, that pleasant surprise was Goon, the indie comedy about a quarrelsome bouncer (Seann William Scott) who impresses one hockey coach so much with his pugilistic prowess that he earns a spot on the team as its enforcer — despite the fact that he’s terrible at hockey and can’t skate worth a lick. Nobody was expecting a movie starring Stifler and the Sorcerer’s Apprentice (Jay Baruchel) to be great cinema, but much to the delight of all, critics found Goon to be crudely funny, with well-formed characters and a surprising amount of heart. Certified Fresh at 82%, this one might surprise you too.



Coriolanus

92%

After facing off against Harry Potter once and for all as Lord Voldemort, Ralph Fiennes decided it was about time he did some work behind the camera, and what did he choose for his first directorial effort? The risky task of modernizing a Shakespearean adaptation. For this, Fiennes chose Coriolanus, the story of an unpopular ruling Roman general (Fiennes) who is banished from the city after inciting a riot and must join up with his sworn enemy (Gerard Butler) in order to enact his revenge. With a distinguished supporting cast that includes Brian Cox, Vanessa Redgrave, and Jessica Chastain, Coriolanus impressed critics, who felt the themes explored in the tragedy worked splendidly in a contemporary context. It’s not one of Shakespeare’s better known works, but Fiennes makes it relevant and powerful, and Coriolanus is thus Certified Fresh at 93%.



Summer Interlude / Summer with MonikaCriterion Collection

Swedish legend Ingmar Bergman is one of the greats, known for films that artfully explore themes like death, memory, and faith, and he’s been a staple of the Criterion Collection since it came into existence. This week, Criterion is offering up new editions of two of Bergman’s earlier films, and being that it’s almost June, it’s appropriate that these two films are 1951’s Summer Interlude and 1953’s Summer with Monika. The former centers around a ballerina wistfully recalling a past romance and coming to terms with its tragic end, while the latter is an ill-fated love story about two working-class lovers who meet and steal away for a summer on the beach. Both films would set the tone for later Bergman masterpieces like The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries, and they’re available on Criterion DVD and Blu-Ray for the first time with new bonus features.

This week at the movies, we’ve got icy survival (The Grey, starring Liam Neeson and Dermot Mulroney), a tense negotiation (Man on a Ledge, starring Sam Worthington and Elizabeth Banks), and a bounty hunter (One For the Money, starring Katherine Heigl and Jason O’Mara). What do the critics have to say?



The Grey

79%

Liam Neeson is carving out a nice little niche as a middle-aged action hero, and critics say the smart and suspenseful The Grey offers further testament to his authoritative presence as a man locked in combat with nature. When a plane carrying a group of oil-drillers crashes in the unforgiving Alaska wild, Ottway (Neeson) must lead the survivors to safety through a stretch of wilderness that’s home to a particularly aggressive and bloodthirsty pack of wolves. The pundits say The Grey (which is Certified Fresh) is a visceral, sometimes unbearably tense survival tale with a surprising amount of emotional heft and existential angst, and even if it’s occasionally too talky, Neeson is typically awesome. (Check out our feature on Certified Fresh survival movies.)



Man on a Ledge

31%

Many thrillers require audiences to suspend their disbelief, but critics say the trouble with Man on a Ledge is that its plot is too convoluted and implausible to generate suspense. Sam Worthington stars as Nick Cassidy, a disgraced ex-cop who climbs out on a hotel ledge with the expressed purpose of jumping. However, as police psychologist Lydia Mercer (Elizabeth Banks) tries to talk him down, she suspects he may be part of a larger undertaking. The pundits say Man on a Ledge features some decent performances and plenty of twists, but it’s also overly busy and contrived. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down co-star Ed Harris’s best-reviewed movies.)



One for the Money

2%

It appears the folks behind One For the Money are afraid it isn’t one for the ages, since it wasn’t screened for critics prior to release. Based upon Janet Evanovich’s bestselling novel, the movie stars Katherine Heigl as a Jersey girl who takes a job as a recovery agent for a bail bondsman; soon, she’s tasked with bringing in a murder suspect who happens to be her ex-boyfriend. Kids, it’s time to guess the Tomatometer!

Also opening this week in limited release:

And finally, mad props to RedTuna for coming the closest to guessing Underworld Awakening‘s 30 percent Tomatometer.

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