Academy Award-winning actor Russell Crowe has returned to the nation’s movie screens in Joel Edgerton‘s latest acclaimed film, “Boy Erased,” in which he plays a small-town Baptist minister, who, upon learning that his son is gay, orders him to undergo conversion therapy. After seeming to be starring in every other film in the early 2000s, Crowe has become more selective in recent years, so that when he does appear onscreen in a film, it feels like more of an event.
Crowe is one of only a handful of actors to have been Oscar-nominated for a leading role in three consecutive years — 1999’s “The Insider,” 2000’s “Gladiator” (win) and 2001’s “A Beautiful Mind,” all of which were also nominated for Best Picture (with “Gladiator” and “A Beautiful Mind” winning). He has also been nominated for five Golden Globe Awards and 10 Screen Actors Guild Awards (winning in both cases for “A Beautiful Mind”). The SAG nominations in particular demonstrate the range of Crowe’s work, with nominations for his performances in a heavy drama (“The Insider”), a Western (“3:10 to Yuma”) and a musical (“Les Miserables”).
To celebrate his return to our movie screens, take a photo gallery tour of his 12 greatest film performances, ranked from worst to best.
12. THE QUICK AND THE DEAD (1995)
Crowe’s first big Hollywood breakthrough was this Sam Raimi Western starring Sharon Stone, who fought for the little-known Crowe’s casting over Sony’s objections. Gene Hackman co-stars as the movie’s bad guy Herod, a town boss who organizes a quick-draw elimination contest in which gunfighters kill each other off until only one remains. Crowe portrays Cort, one of Herod’s former henchmen who left to became a preacher.
11. THE NICE GUYS (2016)
Crowe is not exactly known for his comedic stylings, but in Shane Black‘s action/buddy comedy, he is delightful playing straight man to Ryan Gosling‘s goofball of a private detective as Jackson Healy, an enforcer hired to keep Gosling’s Holland March from tracking down a missing woman. But when circumstances change, the one-time rivals are forced to work together side-by-side, and, seemingly against all odds, Crowe and Gosling display a sharp comic chemistry together.
10. ROMPER STOMPER (1992)
Crowe first came to international attention in Geoffrey Wright‘s violent Australian film which focuses on a neo-Nazi group in Victoria led by the brutal skinhead Hando (Crowe), who has a particular gripe with the growing immigrant Vietnamese population. Despite his violent disposition, Hando finds himself falling in love with Gabrielle (Jacqueline McKenzie), a woman who becomes so determined to save Hando from a further live of crime that she just may betray him.
9. AMERICAN GANGSTER (2007)
In Ridley Scott‘s gangster epic, Crowe plays straight-arrow NYPD cop Richie Roberts, who is ostracized by many of his crooked colleagues for handing over $1 million found in a gangster’s car. Richie is given the unenviable job of tracking down suave drug smuggler Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), and the two begin a deadly game of cat-and-mouse. As part of the “American Gangster” ensemble, Crowe earned his ninth Screen Actors Guild Award nomination.
8. 3:10 TO YUMA (2007)
Crowe once again has a six-gun at his side in James Mangold‘s remake of the 1957 “3:10 To Yuma,” one of the few instances so far this century of a remake being better received critically than the original. Crowe plays ruthless outlaw Ben Wade who is captured and convicted for a murder during a stagecoach robbery. Destitute rancher Dan Evans agrees to escort Wade to a nearby town and get him on the 3:10 train for Yuma Territorial Prison. His ensemble from this movie was up against the one for “American Gangster.”
7. LES MISERABLES (2012)
Although Crowe was singled out by some critics for his less-than-melodic live singing, he made a powerful impression as Inspector Javert, a police detective who becomes obsessed with recapturing escaped convict Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman). Objectively, Javert’s obsession comes close to madness, but Crowe plays him as a man determined to see that justice is done. As part of the ensemble of “Les Miserables,” Crowe earned his 10th Screen Actors Award nomination.
6. MASTER AND COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD (2003)
Crowe is squarely back in hero mode in Peter Weir‘s film based on the seafaring adventures of Royal Navy Captain Jack Aubrey (Crowe) and the battles he fought during the Napoleonic Wars. Aubrey’s ship, the overmatched HMS Surprise, is ordered to fire on the powerhouse French privateer Acheron, and Aubrey, aided by his friend Dr. Stephen Maturin (Paul Bettany), a physician and a spy, soon realizes that he is in for the fight of his life. For his performance as Capt. Aubrey, Crowe was nominated for his fourth Golden Globe Award.
5. CINDERELLA MAN (2005)
Crowe reunited with his “A Beautiful Mind” director Ron Howard for this biopic of heavyweight boxer James J. Braddock, who inspired a nation with his rags-to-riches story of an underdog boxer who kept winning his way to the top and who used a portion of his winning to repay the government for the money paid to him in unemployment benefits. Crowe’s performance was a complex combination of the actor’s physicality balanced with his sensitive character work. For his performance as Braddock, Crowe earned his fifth Golden Globe nomination and nabbed his seventh nomination for the Screen Actors Guild Award.
4. L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997)
Crowe first got on Hollywood’s awards radar in his breakout role as LAPD Officer Bud White, a tough cop who is not averse to using violence, particularly against men who beat women. White takes an instant dislike to by-the-book cop Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) who volunteers to testify against fellow cops, including White’s partner, in a case that exposed rampant police corruption. It’s only a matter of time when White and Exley manage to go head-to-head against each other. As part of the ensemble of “L.A. Confidential,” Crowe received his first nomination for a Screen Actors Guild Award.
3. GLADIATOR (2000)
Are you not entertained? Crowe won his first Academy Award as Maximus, a once-powerful general who is reduced to slavery and must fight his way back to freedom via the gladiatorial arena in Rome AD 180. In 2000’s Best Picture Oscar winner, Maximus’ quest is to avenge the deaths of his family and the rightful emperor who was slain by his power-hungry son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix). For his performance as Maximus, Crowe also earned his second Golden Globe nomination and his third and fourth Screen Actors Guild Award noms.
2. THE INSIDER (1999)
Based on real events, Michael Mann‘s hard-hitting investigative film stars Crowe as Jeffrey Wigand, a former executive at the Brown & Williamson tobacco company, who comes to the attention of “60 Minutes” producer Lowell Bergman, who senses that Wigand knows more about the tobacco industry than he’s telling. Bergman and Wigand find that they have to team up as CBS and Brown & Williamson seek to suppress and discredit any potential whistleblowing on Wigand’s part. For his performance as Wigand, Crowe was nominated for his first Academy Award, his first Golden Globe Award and his second nomination for the Screen Actors Guild Award.
1. A BEAUTIFUL MIND (2001)
Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of Howard’s Best Picture Oscar winner — I still have problems with writer Akiva Goldsman‘s distortions of John Nash‘s life that throw off the narrative. However, Crowe’s performance as Nash is arguably his best work on film, subtly revealing the depth of the famed mathematician’s paranoid schizophrenia and the delusional episodes that come from them. For his performance as Nash, Crowe won his first Golden Globe Award and his first Screen Actors Guild Award, as well as receiving his third nomination for an Academy Award.