Ray Liotta was one of the greatest dramatic actors of the 90s and the 21st century, and he sadly passed away while shooting Dangerous Waters in the Dominican Republic. While Liotta had become an amazing supporting actor and starred in tons of popular crime thrillers, he pulled off what so few actors could ever do, which was to become a well-known actor based on just one movie.
Goodfellas put the actor on the map, and he’ll forever be remembered as Henry Hill, one of the most iconic film gangsters ever. But the actor has a filmography full of other colorful characters too, and he always played to his strengths, as most of his roles are as crooked cops and killer criminals.
10 Identity (2003) – 3.33
Identity is an isolated horror movie, as it takes place in one location, a motel, where the 10 strangers are getting picked off by a serial killer one by one. Like The Hateful Eight, Buriedand other whodunnit movies that mostly take place in one location, Identity is underrated and deserves more attention.
The 2003 film does something unique with the formula and is full of twists and turns. And though he isn’t the lead, Liotta has the most interesting role, as he plays an escaped convict who is pretending to be the correctional officer that was transporting him between prisons. Interestingly, the film has a much more positive response from IMDb users, as the film has a 7.3 on the movie database.
9 No Sudden Move (2021) – 3.34
Steven Soderbergh is one of the most prolific directors ever, as he has dozens of movies under his belt and he often directs two movies in a single year. However, with that many movies in his filmography, Soderbergh has some overlooked releases too, and No Sudden Move is unfortunately destined to become one of them.
The HBO Max exclusive movie sees Soderbergh doing what he does best, as it’s an epic crime movie with a terrific ensemble cast. Liotta is a key part of it, and he plays Frank Capelli, yet another Italian gangster in yet another period movie. 2021 was a great year for Liotta, as not only did he feature in No Sudden Movebut he also had two roles in The Sopranos movie spin-off, The Many Saints of Newark.
8 Narc (2002) – 3.41
Narc is one of the best 2000s crime thrillers not directed by visionary author and go-to thriller director David Fincher. The 2002 movie was clearly inspired by Fincher’s work, such as Se7enas its neo-noir aesthetic and the way it follows two detectives as a wedge is lodged between their working relationship is almost paint-by-numbers Fincher.
But the film also stands on its own, and it sees the undercover cops become more unethical as more time passes in order to catch a serial killer. Like Identity, Narc is full of surprises, and Liotta gives an Oscar-worthy performance in one of his few 2000s lead roles.
7 Blow (2001) – 3.43
Blow is one of the best examples of Liotta taking a small role as far as he possibly can. In the movie, the actor plays Fred Jung, the father of George, who ends up in prison for dealing millions of dollars worth of cocaine. The movie is bookended with two of the film’s most compelling and emotional scenes, both of which are thanks to Liotta’s presence.
The film begins with Fred filing for bankruptcy and telling his son that money isn’t important. And it ends with George being denied a furlough to visit his dying father. While the biographical crime drama is alluring in the way that it tells a story of a young man growing a drug empire, it’s those emotional sequences with his father that viewers remember best.
6 Cop Land (1997) – 3.51
Going off the movie’s title alone, Cop Land sounds like a movie that would be missing something if Liotta wasn’t in it. By this point in time, Liotta had long been typecast as a criminal in gritty dramas. But Cop Land doesn’t just star Liotta, as almost the whole cast is a who’s who of Martin Scorsese collaborators.
Featuring a cast that includes Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro, and Liotta, as well as a spectacular dark neo-noir aesthetic, it’s an incredible imitation of a Scorsese-directed gangster flick, and it’s almost as good as the real thing. The 1997 release is one of James Mangold’s earliest movies, and it showed just how much potential the director had so early into his career.
5 Field Of Dreams (1989) – 3.55
Liotta had quite an eclectic and varied filmography before Goodfellasand some of his roles before being typecast are incredibly interesting. Field of Dreams is one of the last movies of the 20th century that saw the actor in a non-mafia role. It has a strange and fantastic premise that sees a farmer’s DIY baseball field attract the ghosts of deceased baseball players.
Against all odds, the film is a wonderful and uplifting sports drama unlike any other. In the 1989 movie, Liotta plays the ghost of the real-life baseball player Shoeless Joe Jackson, and the actor’s performance helped the film become one of the best baseball movies ever.
4 The Place Beyond The Pines (2012) – 3.73
Liotta is just a piece of a very large puzzle in The Place Beyond the Pines, as the film is an epic made up of three different stories that crossover in an extraordinary way. In the 2012 movie, the actor plays Deluca, a corrupt cop who takes bribes, hides contraband, and is willing to commit the most heinous acts to keep from getting caught.
Between Liotta’s portrayal of the character and the way the character is written, Deluca is surprisingly three-dimensional despite having minimal screen time. And while many of Liotta’s roles could be described as intense, Deluca is one of the most quietly frightening characters that the actor has ever played.
3 Something Wild (1986) – 3.77
In the pre-Goodfellas world, Something Wild was the biggest breakthrough Liotta had, as he starred alongside Melanie Griffith and Jeff Daniels. The 1986 movie is a screwball road trip comedy where each scene spirals out of control, as Lulu (Griffith) convinces stranger Charlie (Daniels) to go on a wild trip to New Jersey.
Few other comedies were as daring, outrageous, or clever at the time, and it has the feel of a Coen brothers-directed movie. On top of that, it proves that Liotta was habitually attracted to criminal roles, as he plays an ex-con who hasn’t learned his lesson and continues to rob convenience stores.
2 Marriage Story (2019) – 3.99
Marriage Story is an outlier in Liotta’s 21st-century filmography, as the actor plays Jay Marotta, one of Charlie’s divorce lawyers. The movie is a departure from Liotta’s usual type of film in many ways, as Marriage Story is about heartbreak more than anything. And while it’s always great seeing the actor play to his performance strengths, it’s refreshing seeing him in the role of a less violent and less corrupt character for a change.
However, though he isn’t exactly corrupt, Marotta is as dastardly of a divorce lawyer as they come, and Liotta plays the character hilariously blunt and crass. Though Liotta isn’t the main character, Jay Marotta is a late-career highlight and Liotta is the MVP of the movie.
1 Goodfellas (1990) – 4.42
There’s no denying how amazing Goodfellas is, and it’s a perfect blend of Martin Scorsese’s kinetic filmmaking, a rock soundtrack, snappy dialogue, and most of all, the jaw-dropping performances. Though the film didn’t put Liotta on the map, as he had led movies before 1990, it was Goodfellas that made him a movie star and earned him even more lead role offers following the film’s release.
The movie follows the real-life gangster Henry Hill from when he was just a teenager and admiring the gangsters he grew up around to becoming that very kind of person and hating himself for it. It’s hard to picture any other actor portraying the cocaine-addicted thug other than Liotta, and him not being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor is an unforgivable oversight.
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