13 Essential Christopher Walken Movies That Prove He’s An Acting Giant

Christopher Walken was actually born to Scottish and German immigrants in Astoria, Queens, despite his well-known acting roles as an Italian-American mobster from New York City. He and his brothers, who were all child actors in the 1950s, were all born in 1943, and Walken received training in dance and musical theater. Despite being accepted to Hofstra University, Walken only enrolled for a year before leaving in 1963 to star opposite Liza Minnelli in an off-Broadway musical. Before making his film debut, he spent the following ten years performing on the NYC stage.

Choosing Christopher Walken’s finest film roles over the course of his illustrious 50-year career as a screen actor is a difficult task. In his filmography, he has appeared in enough scene-stealing cameos that Stan Lee would blush. This is not to suggest that his leading performances aren’t brilliant, subtly dramatic, and life-changing, but Walken has been known to pull off all of these feats in as little as six minutes of screen time, shining through an otherwise top-notch cast. On the other hand, he has a reputation for giving outstanding performances in films that would otherwise be forgettable. Where does one settle on his best, most iconic film roles when the pendulum swings?

We believe we have found the reward after carefully going through all of his considerable credits. Here are the parts where Walken excelled the most and left the biggest impression on viewers over the years.

Bonus: Various appearances, Saturday Night Live

The only treatment for my fever is more cowbell, Even though they weren’t in one of his movies, these may very well be among Walken’s most well-known quotes. Every time Walken steps foot on the stages of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, his comedic skills are on full and magnificent display between his roles as music producer Bruce Dickinson in the aforementioned “More Cowbell” comedy and his stint as the hammy romantic “The Continental.” You’re missing out on a genuine piece of Walken Americana if you’ve never seen any of Walken’s sketches on Saturday Night Live.

Burt, Severance (2022)

The main character of this highly acclaimed and Emmy-nominated science fiction thriller is Lumen, a business that implants a chip in your brain that “severs” all of your private memories while you’re at work. The resulting series is deft, clever, startling, and uncannily similar to emerging technology in our reality. Walken plays Burt, a Lumen worker from a different department in Severance, who meets John Turturro’s character Irving, a “severed” employee. As a result of Burt and Irving being pulled to one another, Walken gives a performance that is exceptional in terms of heart and subtlety. It merited Walken his first Emmy nomination in a little more than 30 years.


Captain Koons, Pulp Fiction (1994)

Walken makes a fleeting appearance in Quentin Tarantino’s landmark Pulp Fiction to provide a wild four-minute oral history, continuing his long history of mesmerising cameos in Academy Award–winning movies. Walken’s Captain Koons tells how he kept a fallen soldier’s wristwatch safe after he passed away in the Vietnam War, but only in a flashback. At its climax, what starts out as a sombre and nuanced performance quickly takes a Tarantino-esque left turn, leaving the audience in awkward stitches. This sequence is the perfect example of Walken’s range of abilities and distinctive weirdness, presented to us all in a single monologue.

Duane, Annie Hall (1977)

Walken’s depiction of Duane, the slightly deranged brother of Diane Keaton’s titular Annie Hall, is acerbic and humorous despite having less than four minutes of screen time. Duane establishes the tone for what will turn out to be a lengthy comedy career for Walken by having him deliver crazily absurd speech at point blank range while maintaining a deadpan demeanor. Even though he only had a little part in the numerous Oscar-winning movie, Walken manages to make Woody Allen’s life-threatening terror as he drives them home just as unforgettable as anything else on screen.

Frank Abagnale, Sr., Catch Me if You Can (2002)

Playing Leonardo DiCaprio’s father in Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me if You Can earned Walken his second Oscar nomination. Aside from the now-famous “Two Mice” tale, Walken portrays the part from a variety of perspectives, leaving the audience in the dark about the character’s true nature. Is he the dishonest con man who served as an example to his son but was arrested at a young age? Or is he merely a sharp-witted working-class guy who irked the IRS? You can never be certain of Frank’s intentions because of Walken’s constant code-switching. It makes sense why this part is regarded as one of his best performances.

Frank White, King of New York (1990)

In essence, King of New York is a Robin Hood story retold through the lens of The Wire. Frank White, played by Walken, is just out of prison and wants to restart his drug empire, but instead of hoarding the money, he wants to rehabilitate the neighbourhood and help those who are most in need. However, despite his pals and lieutenants, Walken has a large number of opponents, including corrupt police officers, making his mission seem almost Sisyphean. Walken portrays the character just as he should: stealthily cunning and shockingly brutal. Not to mention, it was in this role that Walken became known as the archetypal crime boss of New York City, a reputation that would follow him for years.

Gabriel, The Prophecy (1995)

The Prophecy, written and directed by Highlander creator Gregory Widen, is one of Walken’s most odd and out-of-the-ordinary characters, and that’s saying a lot. Walken, who portrays the real Archangel Gabriel, arrives in a little Arizona town with a dark agenda: He needs the soul of a deceased US Army general to put a stop to a conflict that has been going on in Heaven for a very long time. Although The Prophecy was poorly reviewed when it was first released, it has since gained cult status and even inspired four more movies. Walken even had a role in the first two despite them being direct-to-video because he felt so strongly about the character and the plot.

Hans, Seven Psychopaths (2012)

Martin McDonagh (In Bruges) wrote and directed Seven Psychopaths, an eccentric dark comedy about, well, a few things. Walken plays Hans, who together with Sam Rockwell spends his time stealing people’s dogs and eventually bringing them back in exchange for money. But they end up taking the puppy of a wild criminal (played by Woody Harrelson), which leads to mischief. The emotional range of Walken’s character is wide-ranging; at moments he is incredibly kind and considerate while other times he is humorously careless about his own safety, dismissing threats of death as if they were unimportant jabs. Additionally, it’s perhaps one of his most heartbreaking roles as well, on top of everything else.


Johnny Smith, The Dead Zone (1983)

Despite being one of David Cronenberg’s less popular films, His rendition of Stephen King’s The Dead Zone in a Cronenbergian film nevertheless has a terrifying and eerie aesthetic. Walken portrays Johnny Smith, a teacher who suffers a vehicle accident and spends five long years in a coma. He quickly discovers after waking up that he has the psychic ability to vividly view the tragic circumstances of someone’s life after he or she is touched. Over the course of the movie, Walken’s initially upbeat performance eventually deteriorates into one in which Johnny is damaged, unpredictable, and paranoid—but with good reason, given what he’s been through. Another tragic and outstanding performance by Walken, it has weathered the test of time with no problems.

Max Shreck, Batman Returns (1992)

In contrast to the German actor of the same name who portrays Count Orlok in the movie Nosferatu, Walken’s Max Shreck is almost identical to Tim Burton’s Max Zorin from A View to a Kill. A cunning businessman with sinister intentions? Check. Willing to murder someone? Check. Perfect suit choice and swept-back hairstyle? Please confirm. The role of Shreck in Batman Returns may have been the first one Walken ever really got to enjoy because he was encouraged to go all out and be outrageous. In addition, his firing of Michelle Pfeiffer’s Selina Kyle at the close of the movie is still remembered as one of his funniest screen appearances.

Max Shreck, Batman Returns (1992)

Tony Scott’s True Romance (with a writing by Quentin Tarantino) might win the prize for the most memorable cameos in a single motion picture, if such a prize could ever exist. The conversation between Walken’s Vincenzo and Dennis Hopper’s Clifford is remains memorable despite the large number of bodies there. Knowing he won’t survive the conversation, Clifford chooses to mock Vincenzo rather than accede to his requests. Even though Walken portrays a frozen coating of ice underlying Vincenzo’s exuberant laughter in response to the taunting, the spectator is acutely aware that the mob consigliere is not feeling joy in his heart. It features Walken at his most criminal.

Max Zorin, A View to a Kill (1985)

The veteran Bond actor stars opposite Christopher Walken’s tech tycoon and lunatic Max Zorin in Roger Moore’s final Bond film, A View to a Kill. Zorin, who was created as a result of Nazi experimentation to create a super race, is intelligent but also psychopathic. Walken even bleached his hair blonde for the part to more closely resemble the Aryan/Nazi ideal. The part of Zorin allowed Walken to transition from his more independent films and made him more widely known. The film is pure, distilled 1980s pulp with a Duran Duran title song and Grace Jones as a co-star. It is also one of Walken’s most financially successful projects to date.

Nick, The Deer Hunter (1978)

The Deer Hunter by Michael Cimino is a masterwork of tension and interpersonal relationships, best known for its heart-pounding scenes of Russian roulette. Three buddies (DeNiro, Walken, and John Savage) who enlist to serve in the Vietnam War and are forever changed are the subject of this outstanding cast, which is led by Robert De Niro. The Pennsylvanian trio are permanently damaged on a physical, psychological, and spiritual level because of the recurring theme that “War is Hell.” But the act that truly steals the show belongs to Walken as Nick, who was once the light of the party but is now a broken shell of a man. He even won his first and only Academy Award for his outstanding performance.

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