Kevin Spacey has established himself as a chameleon of the acting world, proving in every role that he has the capability to transform into completely contrasting characters. He began his acting career on Broadway in 1981, although he didn’t make his way into film until Heartburn (1986), where he obtained a minor role as a mugger. However, Kevin Spacey didn’t receive a starring role until Consenting Adults (1992) in which he played a devious man named Eddy Otis. His career began to boom and in less than a decade, he became a household name. He holds a reputation as one of the greatest actors of the past twenty years, earning a Tony, two Academy Awards, and Best Actor of the Decade in 1999 from England’s Empire Magazine. Kevin Spacey used to say about his art:
I’m supposed to convince you, for two hours, that I’m somebody else. Now if you know everything about my life, if you think you’ve got me figured out and you think you know all my dark secrets, how am I ever going to convince you that I’m somebody else?
10 – K-Pax (2001)
Kevin Spacey stars as Prot, a patient in a psychiatric hospital who believes he’s an extraterrestrial from the planet K-Pax, which is located approximately a thousand light years away. He is assessed by psychiatrist Mark Powell (Jeff Bridges), who doubts Prot’s story and labels him as delusional. Over time, Dr. Powell slowly begins to doubt his initial diagnosis as begins to tell him accurate information about the solar system that only an elite group of astrophysicists know. Dr. Powell and Prot delve into a journey to discover which is true, that Prot is simply a man on a psychotic break or that he’s a visitor from a different universe.
This science fiction film is rife with magnificent cinematography, compelling storyline, and incredible acting. Both Bridges and Spacey are excel as their characters and give wonderful, nuanced performances. K-Pax is a well-written and captivating film that keeps you constantly guessing which theory about Prot is true.
9 – Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)
In this film, a sales motivator (Alec Baldwin) sets up a sales competition between a group of desperate real estate agents in which the top two salesmen will either win a Cadillac or a set of knives and the losers will be fired. The salesmen attempt, and fail, to use the leads they have, until one agent hatches a plan to break into the office, steal the leads, and sell them to rivals. The film features an A-List cast such as: Jack Lemmon as an elderly deadbeat, Al Pacino as sales leader of the office, and Kevin Spacey as the agitated office manager.
Based on the play by David Mamet, who based the characters and dialogue from people he worked with when he was a salesman. The crass humor and cursing makes the film feel genuine and quotes from the film are instantly memorable. The cast gives excellent, unforgettable performances, especially Kevin Spacey, Alec Baldwin, and Al Pacino, the latter of which was nominated for an Academy Award.
8 – Swimming with Sharks (1994)
Guy (Frank Whaley) is a naive, newly hired assistant for powerful movie producer Buddy Ackerman (Kevin Spacey). Every day, Guy’s subjected to endure Buddy’s constant abuse and humiliation in and out of the office, which he tolerates in hopes of eventually getting a promotion. But when Guy learns an upsetting personal secret involving his girlfriend and Buddy, he’s snaps, driving him to kidnap and torture Buddy in his own home.
Kevin Spacey completely steals every scene he’s in during the course of this dark drama-comedy. He expertly portrays a malicious, ego-maniacal film producer and delivers memorable lines while yelling and throwing fits over trivial things such as Guy bringing him Equal instead of Sweet-N-Low. He reprises the role of the vile, ruthless boss in Horrible Bosses (2011).
7 – L.A. Confidential (1997)
This film, set in Hollywood in the fifties, tells the tale of police corruption and sleaze. Three cops each work in their own way to solve crimes: Bud White (Russell Crowe), a hothead, who uses violence to get answers; Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), who tries to do everything by the book; and Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey), who rather enjoy keep up his appearance on his television show instead of solving crimes. But after someone close to Vincennes is murdered, he joins Exley and White on their hunt to find the truth.
Hailed by critics as the Chinatown of the nineties, L.A. Confidential is an incredibly clever film with a brilliant script, complex subplots, and phenomenal acting. Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce and Kevin Spacey give outstanding performances and create convincing three dimensional characters. James Ellroy, the author of L.A. Confidential, described Spacey’s performance as “some of the best self-loathing I’ve ever seen on screen”. This film won two Academy Awards: one for Kim Basinger’s performance in a supporting role and best screenplay.
6 – Beyond the Sea (2004)
In this passion project, Kevin Spacey stars in this enchanting biopic as volatile, ambitious Bobby Darin who is a perfectionist and believes he’s living on borrowed time. Darin slowly builds his way up to stardom, but soon begins to struggle balancing his career, health, marriage and family life. Kevin Spacey not only stars in this film, but he directed, produced, co-wrote, and even did all of his own singing. Although this film was highly criticized for Spacey was considered to be ‘too old’ to play a character in his twenties, his performance makes it incredibly easy to suspend disbelief. His singing stunned audiences with how similar his voice matched that of Bobby Darin’s. When asked why he wanted to star as Darin, Spacey responded:
When I heard they were making a movie, or trying to make a movie at Warner Brothers, I thought, ‘This is the part for me. I’m born to play this part. I’ve got to play this part.
5 – Wiseguy (1987)
Vinnie, using his reputation developed as a result of infiltrating the Steelgrave crime family, made contact with a hitman/assassin named Roger Lococco (William Russ). However, Vinnie soon discovered a much bigger target: Roger’s boss, the (mentally unstable) multi-billionaire international criminal mastermind and arms dealer Mel Profitt (Kevin Spacey), and his sister Susan (Joan Severance). Mel had an addiction to prescription medication (often administered to him by Susan) which further contributed to his unstable emotional state. He was also a believer in Malthusian economics. After much international intrigue involving Mel, Susan and Lococco (who turned out to be a CIA agent, under even deeper cover than Vinnie), the entire organization was destroyed. The arc alluded to an incestuous relationship between Mel and Susan.
After everything collapsed around him, Mel suffered a complete mental breakdown and asked Susan to “send him home”. She obliged him by injecting him with a lethal dose of heroin and amphetamines and giving him a Viking funeral, and eventually went insane (through no help of Lococco, who began torturing her) and was committed to a mental facility. As it turned out, the Profitt connection was part of a much larger plot by the CIA to train mercenaries and install a puppet regime in the Caribbean. Lococco’s training officer and immediate superior Herb Ketcher proved to be behind the plot and after Vinnie and McPike infiltrated the operation, the entire thing was exposed as a front for an American corporation and Lococco turned state’s evidence. Shortly after his testimony, Lococco went off the grid. Ketcher, after being exposed, would take his own life before consequences were dealt to him.
4 – Se7en (1995)
In this film, a rookie (Brad Pitt) and a veteran detective (Morgan Freeman) attempt to hunt a serial killer who chooses and torments his victims according the way of the Seven Deadly Sins. They try to track down John Doe (Kevin Spacey) who always seems to be one step ahead of them. His deliberate clues left behind at the horrifying crime scenes are one of the only things that helps them track the killer down, but the detectives are unaware that they are becoming a part of his diabolic scheme.
David Fincher masterfully created this disturbing and clever thriller that is rife with suspense and incredible acting. Kevin Spacey is mesmerizing as the insane John Doe, and gives one of the most convincing performances of all time, despite only being in the film a mere thirty minutes. The script, cinematography, and camera work are all spectacular. The chilling, mysterious mood stays consistent throughout which causes you to stay on the edge of your seat until the very end.
3 – The Usual Suspects (1995)
After an apparent drug heist goes horribly wrong leaves dozens of people dead, the sole survivors are a badly burned Hungarian criminal and Roger ‘Verbal’ Kint, a con man with cerebral palsy. Verbal is interviewed by police and as his recollection of the story begins to unravel, it seems as though legendary criminal mastermind, Keyser Soze, is pulling the strings. The Usual Suspects is pivotal piece milestone in movie making as it completely changed mystery films. Kevin Spacey is completely convincing as Verbal Kint, and to help get into character, he filed down his shoes to help him walk with a limp and glued his fingers together on his left hand.
Although he only had a minor role, Benicio Del Toro gave a memorable performance as Fenster and completely came up with the character’s unintelligible dialect and mannerisms. Gabriel Byrne, Stephen Baldwin, and Kevin Baldwin are all outstanding in this film as well. This film is one of the few that is more enjoyable watching the second time around.
2 – House of Cards (2013-2017)
Francis Joseph Underwood is a fictional character and the protagonist of the American adaptation of House of Cards, portrayed by Kevin Spacey. He is depicted as a ruthless politician who rises from House Majority Whip to President of the United States through treachery, deception and murder. He is based on Francis Urquhart, the protagonist of the British novel and television series House of Cards, from which the American Netflix series is drawn. He is married to Claire Underwood (Robin Wright), and also had a sexual relationship with Zoe Barnes (Kate Mara) in season 1. He made his first appearance in the series’ pilot episode, “Chapter 1“.
Underwood is from Gaffney, South Carolina. He graduated from The Sentinel (a fictionalized version of The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina) in 1981 and, subsequently, Harvard Law School in 1984. Some of Underwood’s dialogue throughout the series is presented in a direct address to the audience, a narrative technique that breaks the fourth wall. The character speaks with a Southern accent. During season 1, he is the Democratic Majority Whip in the United States House of Representatives. In season 2, he is the newly appointed Vice President of the United States, before becoming President of the United States in the season finale.
Underwood has been described as conniving, Machiavellian, and a symbol of political corruption. Throughout the series, he manipulates and destroys several people, including those he calls friends, for his own ends. Among other crimes, he personally commits murder twice, signs off on another murder committed by a subordinate, orders the deaths of two former employees, critically injures a member of his cabinet to prevent her testifying against him, and indirectly allows the murder of a civilian for political ends.
1 – American Beauty (1999)
In this psychological drama, a middle aged father named Lester Burnham is experiencing a midlife crisis. He suffers every day at the hand of his malicious, narcissistic wife and angsty teenage daughter, who both think he’s a failure. Lester is given very little respect at home and in the workplace. But after becoming infatuated with his daughters best friend, he snaps out of his catatonic state and begins to living life to the fullest.
American Beauty was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won five, including the award for Best Actor. The acting in this film is remarkable and both Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening give mesmerizing performances in roles that almost seem to be written for them. American Beauty expertly displays the dysfunction in suburban life through relatable and realistic characters. This is a film that stays with you long after the credits roll.
Source: Taste of Cinema
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