In Ed Harris‘s over-40-year career he has surprisingly never won an Oscar or an Emmy, despite four nominations from the motion picture academy and two from the TV academy. Emmy voters can start to make up for that this year as the second season of HBO’s “Westworld” premieres on Sunday, April 22. In honor of his return to the small screen, let’s take a look back at some of his best big-screen performances. Tour through our photo gallery above of Harris’s 15 greatest films, ranked from worst to best.
Harris received his first Oscar nomination in 1995 after almost two decades in front of the camera: Best Supporting Actor for “Apollo 13.” He subsequently competed for “The Truman Show” (Best Supporting Actor in 1998), “Pollock” (Best Actor in 2000), and “The Hours” (Best Supporting Actor in 2002). He didn’t win any of those, and he hasn’t been nominated since, despite acclaimed performances in such films as “A History of Violence” (2005) and “Mother!” (2017).
On the TV side, Harris contended for Emmys for his work in “Empire Falls” (Best Movie/Mini Actor in 2005) and “Game Change” (Best Movie/Mini Supporting Actor in 2012), but he didn’t win those either. However, Harris has managed to pick up two Golden Globes in his career (Best Film Supporting Actor for “The Truman Show” and Best TV Supporting Actor for “Game Change”), so he hasn’t gone completely unrewarded.
Take a look through our gallery of Harris’s greatest films, including a few for which he should’ve received Oscar nominations.
15. ‘Walker’ (1987)
When it was released in 1987, Alex Cox’s “Walker” was greeted with jeers by critics who found it to be a pretentious, violent, unfunny mess. More than three decades later, it’s gained cult status as a biting satire of American imperialism and manifest destiny. Harris stars as William Walker, an American mercenary who became dictator of Nicaragua in the 19th century. Cox throws in several anachronistic touches and reflexive filmmaking techniques to constantly draw comparisons between “Walker’s” period story and today’s world, making for a hallucinatory, utterly non-conventional biopic. Thankfully, Harris’ career survived the film’s critical pummeling and poor box office performance.
14. ‘Gone Baby, Gone’ (2007)
Harris gives a memorable supporting performance in Ben Affleck’s adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s bestselling crime novel. The film centers on two Boston private detectives (Casey Affleck and Michelle Monaghan) who team up with a pair of local cops (Harris and John Ashton) to investigate a little girl’s kidnapping. Amy Ryan scored an Oscar nomination as the missing girl’s drug-addicted mother. Affleck proves himself a capable hand behind the camera with his directorial debut, capturing the rhythms of the city and bringing out the best in his all-star cast.
13. ‘Places in the Heart’ (1984)
“Places in the Heart” likely holds a special place is Harris’ heart, since it was while filming Robert Benton’s Depression-era drama that he married his wife and Amy Madigan. The film centers on Edna Spalding (Sally Field in an Oscar-winning performance), a single mother who struggles to save her Texas farm with the help of a black drifter (Danny Glover) and a blind boarder (John Malkovich). Harris costars as Wayne Lomax, who’s cheating on Spalding’s sister (Lindsay Crouse) with another woman (Madigan). Benton’s original screenplay gives each character a full arc, and as a director, he displays a great feel for the story’s very specific time and place (he based most of it on his own memories of growing up during the Depression).
12. ‘Mother!’ (2017)
How to adequately describe Darren Aronofsky’s “Mother!”? Let’s just say that Jennifer Lawrence stars as a woman devoted to repairing her home as well as her marriage to a brilliant poet (Javier Bardem). Their relationship is tested by the arrival of two strangers (Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer), and it all gets weird from there. Part Biblical parable, part climate change metaphor, and all head-trip, “Mother!” is undoubtedly one of the most divisive films this century. Love it or hate it, you’ll certainly never forget it.
11. ‘The Abyss’ (1989)
Harris became an action star with James Cameron’s deep sea thriller. He plays Bud Brigman, leader of a civilian diving team searching for a lost nuclear submarine. While in the depths of the ocean, they must fight for their lives against an alien aquatic species. “The Abyss” is probably best known for its stunning, Oscar-winning visual effects, including a water creature that was an early example of CGI. The film found a second life on home video with a special edition director’s cut, which added an extra 25 minutes to the already 145 minute runtime.
10. ‘Nixon’ (1995)
Harris is just one of several A-listers giving support to Oliver Stone’s massive biopic about disgraced U.S. President Richard Nixon (Anthony Hopkins). The film follow’s Nixon’s life from his childhood in California to his Presidency, which ended in scandal and resignation during the Watergate investigation. Harris plays E. Howard Hunt, one of the President’s best “plumbers.” Given Stone’s reputation as a liberal rabble-rouser, it’s surprising how much empathy he engenders for this deeply flawed, controversial figure. Harris competed at SAG as part of the film’s ensemble, while Hopkins scored a Best Actor Oscar bid and Joan Allen contended as Best Supporting Actress for playing Nixon’s long-suffering wife, Pat.
9. ‘A Beautiful Mind’ (2001)
Harris reunited with “Apollo 13” director Ron Howard for this Oscar-winning biopic about the brilliant and tortured mathematician John Nash (Russell Crowe). The film follows Nash from his early days at Princeton in 1947 through his battle with paranoid schizophrenia, which causes great pain for himself and his devoted wife Alicia (Jennifer Connelly). Harris plays William Parcher, a mysterious government official who recruits Nash to help crack a code in a Soviet plot; later, Parcher is revealed to be one of Nash’s delusions. Despite some glaring omissions and inaccuracies, the film remains a powerful examination of genius and unconditional love. The film won four Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director (Howard), Best Supporting Actress (Connelly), and Best Adapted Screenplay (Akiva Goldsman).
8. ‘The Hours’ (2002)
Harris earned his fourth Oscar nomination for Stephen Daldry’s adaptation of Michael Cunningham’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. The film focuses on how the novel “Mrs. Dalloway” affects the lives of three different women in three different time periods: the novel’s author, Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman); a 1950’s housewife (Julianne Moore) reading the book; and a modern day Mrs. Dalloway (Meryl Streep) who’s planning a party for her friend Richard (Harris), a poet dying of AIDS. Harris is devastatingly powerful as a brilliant, passionate man railing against the illness that will cut his life short. “The Hours” won an Oscar for Kidman as Best Actress and competed for nine other trophies, including Best Picture. Harris lost his Supporting Actor bid to Chris Cooper (“Adaptation”).
7. ‘The Rock’ (1996)
You wouldn’t expect Harris and Michael Bay to be a winning combination, yet the actor has proven to be a good luck charm for the usually critically-derided director. In “The Rock,” Harris gives one of his best performances as General Francis X. Hummel, the renegade commander of a rogue military unit who threaten a nerve gas attack from Alcatraz prison against San Francisco. It’s up to a mild-mannered chemist (Nicolas Cage) and an ex-con (Sean Connery) to stop this madman before it’s too late. Harris brings a level of gravitas and surprising empathy to what could’ve easily been a one-note villain. The two reunited years later for “Pain & Gain” (2013), proving that Harris is perhaps the best muse Bay has.
6. ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ (1992)
“Glengarry Glen Ross” could easily be described as the movie that launched a thousand audition monologues. James Foley’s big screen adaptation of David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play about real estate salesmen is filled with so many great performances that it’s nearly impossible to pick a favorite. There’s Harris as Dave Moss, a hotheaded realtor who conspires with a fellow salesman (Alan Arkin) to steal the prized Glengarry leads and sell them to a competing firm. Then there’s Jack Lemmon as Shelley “The Machine” Levene, a once successful peddler who’s desperate to save his job. And let’s not forget Alec Baldwin as Blake, the motivator sent by corporate to put some fire under the their asses with the threat of termination. Surprisingly, Al Pacino was the only member of the A-list cast to receive an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor for playing Ricky Roma, the office’s top “closer.”
5. ‘A History of Violence’ (2005)
Harris is frighteningly good as a nasty bad guy in David Cronenberg’s meditation on our history of violence. Viggo Mortensen stars as Tom Stall, a mild-mannered diner owner in small town America who becomes a local hero after preventing a robbery. But after his act of heroism gains national media attention, a gangster (Harris) with a scarred eye arrives, alleging that Tom is actually a Philadelphia mob enforcer named “Joey.” Harris creates a sense menace and unease through little gestures, making Carl Fogerty a quiet man with sadistic violence lurking underneath. Sadly, Harris was omitted from the Oscar Best Supporting Actor lineup in favor of his costar William Hurt, who has a memorable cameo as Tom/Joey’s mobster brother. If only voters could’ve found room for both performances.
4. ‘Apollo 13’ (1995)
Twelve years after “The Right Stuff” (1983), Harris returned to the space race with Ron Howard’s rousing adventure story. The film recounts the true story of the failed Apollo 13 mission, in which NASA had to devise a plan to bring three astronauts (Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, and Bill Paxton) back to Earth after their spacecraft is damaged. Harris plays Flight Director Gene Kranz, the tough-as-nails leader of the rescue mission. “Apollo 13” is old fashioned entertainment at its finest, with first-rate special effects and a crowd-pleasing finale. Harris won the SAG Award as Best Supporting Actor, yet lost the Oscar to Kevin Spacey (“The Usual Suspects”).
3. ‘The Right Stuff’ (1983)
Harris is eerily uncanny as John Glenn in Philip Kaufman’s epic biographical drama. This adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s nonfiction bestseller recounts the electrifying story of the original Mercury 7 astronauts during the early days of the space program. Harris costars alongside Fred Ward as Gus Grissom, Scott Glenn as Alan Shepard, and Dennis Quaid as Gordon Cooper, to name a few. “The Right Stuff” gives audiences an inside look at the daring, dangerous lives of these pilots-turned-cosmonauts. The film took home four Oscars (Best Film Editing, Best Score, Best Sound, and Best Sound Effects Editing) and competed for Best Picture. Harris was overlooked in Best Supporting Actor, however, in favor of Sam Shepard as pilot Chuck Yeager.
2. ‘The Truman Show’ (1998)
Perhaps no other film better predicted our obsession to document our lives with cameras than “The Truman Show,” Peter Weir’s comedic drama about an ordinary man (Jim Carrey) who discovers that his life is actually the subject of a television show. Harris plays Christof, the mysterious creator of the reality series. As he watches over Truman from a control room high above the artificial world, he functions almost like a all-seeing God, manipulating the lives of those below him. “The Truman Show” raises several profound questions about the meaning of existence while still managing to be a thoroughly entertaining satire. Harris was widely favored to win the Oscar as Best Supporting Actor after snagging the Golden Globe, yet lost to James Coburn (“Affliction”).
1. ‘Pollock’ (2000)
For Harris, “Pollock” represents the culmination of a 10 year labor of love. After reading a biography about American abstract painter Jackson Pollock, the actor decided to both play the lead and make the film his directorial debut. His passion for the project is evident in every frame, particularly in his towering performance as the tortured, brilliant artist. Though he made a name for himself in the Postwar New York art scene, Pollock was unable to conquer his alcoholism, and his life ended in a drunk driving accident. Yet “Pollock” is not a grim portrait of addiction, but instead a lively tribute to a creative and complicated individual. A great deal of the film, in fact, is dedicated to Pollock’s painting, all of which Harris did himself. Marcia Gay Harden won an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress for playing Lee Krasner, Pollock’s long-suffering wife. Harris contended as Best Actor, but lost to Russell Crowe (“Gladiator”).
Be sure to make your Emmy predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their TV shows and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before nominees are announced on July 12. And join in the fun debate over the 2018 Emmy taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our television forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.