The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) won all eleven Academy Awards it was nominated for, but should have won another, for supporting actor for Viggo Mortensen who became a star with the trilogy. When you at the list of all Viggo Mortensen movies, you realize that Audiences were always aware of Mortensen for many of his fine character performances in major and minor studio films, but his performance as Aragorn defined him as an actor and made him a superstar. Oddly he has not had the sort of career as a superstar choosing to do what he wants to do, both in films and in his life. He created a publishing house, the Perceval Press to work with young writers and continues to write poetry and fight for his various causes. Those in the know, critics and historians admire his work and wish (me for sure) he would work more often. He is the sort of actor who elevates all those around him, gives an honest performance and does so without ever going the top.
His dance with the Academy has been an odd one, with no nominations coming for his fine work in The Lord of the Rings trilogy (01-02-03), nothing for gangster turned family man in A History of Violence (2006) and not even a nomination for his performance in The Road (2009) which was the finest by an actor in any film I saw that year. He deserved to be nominated for supporting actor for his performance as Freud in A Dangerous Method (2012), again working with David Cronenberg who guided him in A History of Violence (2006) and as a cop undercover in Eastern Promises (2007) which brought him his only Oscar nomination thus far. Hopefully, we will see him among the nominees again this year and if not I hope there are more great performances coming from this astounding actor. Below is the list of top Viggo Mortensen films. You can also watch some of these Viggo Mortensen movies on Netflix or Amazon Prime.
1. The Road (2009): In a post-apocalyptic world, a father tries to keep he and his son alive as they make their way to Florida hoping for warmer weather. The earth is dying all around them, and people (some roaming gangs) have resorted to cannibalism, which is their nightmare. Mortensen anchors the film as a weary man, having seen far too much death and destruction, saddened by the fact his son might never know the simple joys he did. A found can of Coca-Cola is like a treasure as he hands to his son anxious to see the child’s reaction. Ravaged by radiation sickness, struggling each day to make it through he is paranoid of strangers, ferociously protective of his son, and haunted by the memories of his wife. Mortensen should have won the Oscar for his work, which is simply astonishing throughout.
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2. Eastern Promises (2007): For his performance as an ambitious Russian driver-bodyguard (and a great deal more) to a Russian mobster, Mortensen was nominated for an Oscar as Best Actor. Watchful, cautious, dangerous he is superb in the film, and it is a courageous performance with a prolonged nude scene in which he fights for his life. Approached by a young midwife to help find the father of a child whose mother, an exploited young hooker who has died, his world is turned upside down and becomes one of the contradictions and doing the right thing, not something he is accustomed to doing. It is an intensely quiet performance that is done mostly through his eyes, but we cannot take our own eyes off the man. Riveting.
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3. A History of Violence (2006): As Tom Stall, the small-town diner owner, well-liked family man, Mortensen is superb, leaping into action when bad guys come to his place and threaten her and the customers. Without hesitation he kills them, bringing to the town mob killers who tell he and everyone who will listen his name is Joey and he was a mob enforcer back in Philadelphia. Could he be? Could this soft-spoken family man, deeply in love with his wife, be a cold-blooded killer? The manner in which he dispatches anyone who comes close to his family tells us long before we know for sure. Again with a flicker of his eyes, Mortensen tells us everything we need to know about his character. Where was the Academy? How did they miss this??
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4. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy: Offering his sword to protect the little hobbits challenged with destroying a powerful ring, the true king proves himself a faithful and true warrior time and time again. Faced with the possibility the hobbits have died in their quest, he glances back at Gandalf, and whispers “for Frodo” before running to what will be certain death at the hands of an army of vicious orcs, Mortensen brought something very rare to the screen as Aragorn, true valor. When finally wearing his crown, he does not take the credit for the destruction of the ring on his own, but he, the king bows to the hobbits telling them “My friends, you bow to no one”. He was nothing short of magnificent.
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5. Captain Fantastic (2016): In his newest film, as Ben, an unconventional father who loses his wife, Mortensen is superb and should be nominated for an Oscar next January. He brings to Ben just so much heart and love, wanting to do right by his late wife, wanting to prepare his children for the world, believing in what he believes but allowing them the chance to choose for themselves. He is a purely good and decent man, yet not above showing the kids hot to shoplift to provide food when they get hungry. It is a magnetic and beautiful performance that proved a reminder f what a forceful and breathtaking actor he can be.
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6. A Dangerous Method (2012): As Freud, he brought extraordinary intellect to the performance without ever seeming smarmy or arrogant. There is something deeply sad about the character, as though he knows more than he wishes he did because of what it has done to his view of the world. Why does he break with Jung? Is it because the young man is no longer merely his student, and they are equals? Another fine collaboration with Cronenberg.
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7. The Prophecy (1996): No one has ever portrayed the devil, as well as Mortensen, does here in this small film, a huge success on video and DVD. Quiet but deadly, his eyes long since dead, he talks of how he was once beloved by God but turned against him when God became fascinated with mankind. Still, cold, and obviously dangerous, and cruel it is a remarkable performance that stops the film with all eyes to Mortensen whenever he is on screen. He will haunt you long after the film is over, with his matter of fact cruelty.
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8. Appaloosa (2008): As Everett, the former gunfighter who teams with Ed Harris as one half of a marshaling duo, Mortensen is the more mysterious of the two, therefore the more dangerous. Carrying a long rifle with which he is deadly, we keep waiting for the gunfight to show off his skill with a pistol and it comes, at the end of the film. The strong silent type, he is a loyal friend to Harris, more than the man knows.
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9. GI Jane (1996): In the tricky part of Master Drill Sargeant, Mortensen walks the line of being despised for his treatment of the female trying to make the Seals, and being fair to make a soldier out of her. He knows more than anyone that anything he does to her in training is nothing compared to what she will encounter in the real world on a mission. Thus the physical violence is actually a compliment to her because he sees her not as a woman but as a soldier and believes, I think, from the beginning that she can do it.
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10. On the Road (2012): Walter Salles finally got the Jack Kerouac novel to the screen with mixed results, but Mortensen is outstanding as a William Burroughs surrogate, a family man, who loves his kids, but is hooked on heroin. There is one frightening image. He sits in slumber, a child on his lap also sleeping but just waking, and in Mortensen’s arm is a needle, drained of heroin, its effects in his eyes. The film does not quite work as a whole but has several terrific performances.
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