Willem Dafoe’s Best Performances – on his birthday!

Willem Dafoe on Becoming Vincent Van Gogh for 'At Eternity's Gate ...

In honor of William James “Willem” Dafoe’s 65th birthday, I wanted to look back over my personal favorite performances he’s provided us over the last three decades. Willem is one of the most talented, risk-taking, handsome (yeah, I said it) and versatile actors working today. It was pretty difficult trying to put together a list of my favorites because Dafoe has worked in all genres and collaborated with countless master directors. I, somehow, narrowed in on ten performances I adore and Willem looks beautiful in…

10. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Dafoe is a frequently collaborator with Wes Anderson over the last decade. In The Grand Budapest Hotel, he joins an all-star cast in a drama about a unique hotel whose concierge becomes entangled in a conspiracy involving a precious piece of art. Dafoe plays a relentless thug chasing after the concierge. Dafoe is technically our “bad guy” in the movie, but his performance makes you miss his character when he isn’t on screen.

Da-fine-ness Rating: 5/5

9. Platoon (1986)

I know most people would have this ranked higher, but I’m not a big war movie person. Platoon did earn Dafoe his first Academy Award nomination in 1987. Dafoe plays a kind solider in this Vietnam Oliver Stone film. He starts to lose his faith and truly not understand what he’s doing in this war. Spoiler alert…

Dafoe has one of the most iconic death scenes in movie history ever in Platoon.

Da-fine-ness Rating: 4.5/5

8. Antichrist (2009)

Lars Von Trier might not be for everyone, but Dafoe has worked with him numerous times. This is his first leading role in a Von Trier film and boy, does this film prove why Dafoe is so popular among such wide range of directors. Dafoe gives such a brave performance in Antichrist that many actors may not have pulled off (or wanted to for that matter…)

Da-fine-ness Rating: 3.5/5

7. Spider-Man (2002)

The 2002 Spider-Man movie is one of the only CBM I have ever seen (hold your yelling!) and maybe it’s because I don’t think anything could top it. The cast is stacked with Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco and our villain, Willem Dafoe. Sam Raimi is an expert at mixing horror and comedy, which becomes most evident in the mirror scene, where it is slightly comedic due to how over-the-top it is, but at the same time, it is completely frightening. Only an actor with an immense talent like Dafoe could pull it off.

Da-fine-ness Rating: 4.5/5

6. The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

In Martin Scorsese’s controversial masterpiece, Dafoe delivers one of his most powerful and strongest performances. He captures the half human, half divine position of Jesus by playing him as a man not fully content in either manner. Unfortunately, the controversy around the movie dampened Dafoe’s awards run, but it is one of his most powerful performances.

Da-fine-ness Rating: 3.5/5

5. Shadow of the Vampire (2000)

The premise of this movie is a little strange, but Shadow of the Vampire is a great combination between hilarious and terrifying. The plot of the movie dives into what if “Nosferatu” actor Max Shreck was a real vampire, which could easily not work, but Dafoe’s remarkable performance creates such a haunting atmosphere, the film takes off. While typically the Academy Awards shy away from horror films, Dafoe received his second Academy Award nomination for his performance.

Da-fine-ness Rating: 2/5

4. Wild at Heart (1990)

In Dafoe’s first collaboration with David Lynch, he plays a creepy, disgusting man named Bobby Peru (like the country!). While his character is not someone I want to look at for very long, Dafoe plays him in such a fascinating manner, I can’t wait for him to appear on screen. The film is filled with some creepy characters, but none as far removed from humanity as Dafoe’s.

Da-fine-ness Rating: 1.5/5 (I’m sorry to this man)

3. Inside Man (2006)

This may not be a greaaaat performance, but it is one of my favorites. Inside Man rules. The movie is also Spike Lee’s highest-grossing movie. Dafoe plays a cop in the background to our leading men, Clive Owen and Denzel Washington. While he’s not in the forefront of the movie, Dafoe still has some of his famous facial expressions at their best and his hair has never looked better.

Da-fine-ness Rating: 5/5

2. The Lighthouse (2019)

HAAARK! Dafoe gives one of the best supporting performances of the decade in The Lighthouse. His performance is captivating, hilarious, terrifying, commanding and extremely unsettling. Dafoe stars alongside Robert Pattinson in Robert Egger’s creepy black and white tale about two lighthouse keepers who must contend with their clashing personalities, stormy weather and maybe some sexual tension.

Da-fine-ness Rating: 4/5

1. The Florida Project (2017)

The small story of The Florida Project is exquisitely told with mostly non-actors sharing the screen with Dafoe. The film centers on 6-year-old Moonee who lives in the hotel managed by Dafoe. His character is a kind, protector who just wants to make his customers’ lives easier. Dafoe is incredible in a role that earned him his last Academy Award nomination.

Da-fine-ness Rating: 4.5/5

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