The Best and Worst Films of Christopher Walken

There's no Walken away from this list.

Stuart Berkowitzby Stuart Berkowitz

Christopher Walken’s celebrated career has made him one of moviegoers’ most favorite actors. There is nothing common about him and his onscreen appearance is always a welcome one. He has the uncanny ability to play both a virtuous hero or vile villain without any modulation of his recognizably unique voice, tone and delivery. Yet somehow, the love we feel or fear we have towards his characters are both palpably intense. And because we revel so much in the best he has to offer us, it is that much harder to witness his worst. Here we rank the top five examples of both from the prolific star.

THE BEST

No. 5 – A View To A Kill (1985)

People don’t usually characterize Roger Moore’s tenure as 007 as the heyday of James Bond films and there’s a lot to forget about “A View To A Kill.” Christopher Walken is not one of them. As a bleach blond byproduct of a Nazi human engineering experiment hellbent on wiping out Silicon Valley by coaxing an earthquake out of the San Andreas fault, he brings a delightful madness to the coveted role of Bond villain. And while gloriously paired with Grace Jones as his henchwoman, had they not gotten mixed up with Britain’s greatest spy ever, we might have actually rooted for their success. (Photo credit: MGM/UA/Photofest)

No. 4 – Batman Returns (1992)

Over the decades, the live action film versions of “Batman” have shown us a cavalcade of colorful villains. From Joker to Bane, costumed madmen and women have attempted to bring Gotham City and the Caped Crusader to their knees. And while a long Jack or Heath debate could come from the question of who played the best of them all, there are many voices out there that might firmly settle the discussion with another answer — Christopher.

Walken’s Max Shreck did not need a themed costume or disfigurement to be a menace to Gotham City. Just a lust for money, power, and the destruction of anyone who stood in his way. Christopher Walken can still bring delightful chills to those watching him in this homicidal role, more effectively even while standing right next to Danny DeVito’s heavily made up and wardrobed, snarling Penguin. (Photo credit: Warner Bros./Photofest)

No. 3 – The Dead Zone (1983)

Christopher Walken playing a beloved school teacher sounds a bit strange. Christopher Walken playing a beloved school teacher re-emerging from a long term coma with new psychic powers sounds more like it. “The Dead Zone” is arguably one of the best Stephen King adaptations around and much of that credit goes to its lead actor. There are no monstrous clowns or rabid dogs to bring thrilling terror to the screen. Just Walken as an unwitting party to supernatural powers that can change the course of history. (Photo credit: Paramount Pictures/Photofest)

No. 2 – True Romance (1993)

He’s only in one scene here, but it’s a doozy. It’s taught, tense and claustrophobic, with just the right amount of unexpected humor thrown in which has become the staple of anything penned by Quentin Tarantino. Seeing a mob boss trying to uncover the whereabouts of his stolen drugs by any means necessary is an intense enough scenario, but when that mob boss is Christopher Walken and the man standing in his way is Dennis Hopper, we wouldn’t expect anything less than a seismic event. And we got one. Watching Walken endure an unappreciated lesson in genealogy instead of receiving the simple information he’s seeking and Hopper enjoying every last moment as that lesson’s instructor, knowing those moments will be his last, is not just a seminal moment in this 1993 blockbuster, but film history itself. (Photo credit: Geffen Pictures)

No. 1 – The Deer Hunter (1978)

The ’70s were an unparalleled period for powerful films, and “The Deer Hunter,” for which Christopher Walken won an Oscar, is one of his finest performances. Acting alongside Robert DeNiro and Meryl Streep is no easy feat, but Walken easily shines among them in a story steeped in despair and darkness. The horrors of the Vietnam War became a recurrent film subject in the years and decades following its conclusion and “The Deer Hunter” was one of the first examples. Yet, Walken’s fresh and ferocious portrayal as a man broken by that experience is largely responsible for making it, to this very day, one of the best. (Photo credit: Universal Pictures/Photofest)

THE WORST

No. 5 – Hairspray (2007)

It was a great John Waters movie. It was a great Broadway musical. But movie musical? Not so much. And though Travolta put on a wig, fat suit, and strange Baltimore accent to play the film’s matriarch, Christopher Walken was saddled with the task of playing her husband in this muddled mess of an iteration. It had a standout cast, and Walken stood out among them, working hard to bring fun to the festivities. But as much as he tried, this Broadway blockbuster adapted into a big screen disappointment. (Photo credit: New Line Cinema/Photofest)

No. 4 – The Stepford Wives (2004)

Regrettable remakes. A great subject for a future post maybe. But presently, unfortunately, another example of a Christopher Walken misfire. The dark ’70s original thriller was a true highlight in that decade’s canon and a highly influential film. Though star-studded, its remake was just a silly forgettable triviality. Campy and over the top, the A-list cast, including Walken, tried to ham up it for laughs, a disappointing disservice to its dark source material. If we wanted our robots to be funny, we’d watch “Futurama” instead. (Photo credit: DreamWorks/Photofest)

No. 3 – Click (2006)

While “Saturday Night Live” has brought out the best in Christopher Walken’s comedy chops, a big budget comedy starring one of “SNL’s” most bankable alumni seems to have had the opposite effect. He plays a mad scientist with a maddeningly strange New Jersey accent who bestows Sandler with a remote control that can rewind and fast-forward real time. While film has taught us that people should stay away from mad scientists and their creations at all costs, the same advice should really be given to great actors about Adam Sandler. (Photo credit: Sony Pictures/Photofest)

No. 2 – Kangaroo Jack (2003)

Christopher Walken, Jerry O’Connell, and a CGI marsupial. What’s the worst that could happen? “Kangaroo Jack”, of course. Here, Walken is again a homicidal mob boss, but this time one attempting to have his stepson and stepson’s best friend murdered. Somehow a kangaroo thwarts that plan and leads the two targets on a chase through the Australian Outback. Walken is clearly not at the top of his game with this ridiculous material, perhaps the worst thing to come from Down Under since Vegemite or Mel Gibson. (Photo credit: Warner Bros. Pictures/Photofest)

No. 1 – Gigli (2003)

That stench we all smelled back in 2003 came from “Gigli,” a mob “comedy” that quickly cemented itself into the history books as one of the worst films ever. Christopher Walken played only a supporting character here, but no one, possibly not even the Key Grip, escaped the shame of involvement in this bomb. And his performance complements this Razzie-sweeper accordingly. Most of the blame though went to then celebrity power couple of the moment, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez – did we really once call them “Bennifer?” – whose tabloid travails were much more entertaining than anything they brought to this horrible movie. (Photo credit: Columbia Pictures)