Ed Harris is simply one of the greatest actors to never win an Academy Award. He’s been nominated four times over his sterling four-and-a-half decade career, although it’s been nearly 20 years since his last official nod (The Hours). However, Harris has won two Golden Globes for his work in The Truman Show and Game Change.
Of course, Harris is currently part of the epic Westworld ensemble, for which he has also earned a Primetime Emmy nod in 2018 as The Man in Black. As he is set to star alongside Tom Cruise in Maverick: Top Gun this summer, let’s check out Ed Harris 10 Greatest Roles of his career!
10 Dave Moss – Glengarry Glenn Ross (1992)
To be cast in David Mamet’s Pulitzer-Prize winning play Glengarry Glen Ross is a massive feat in its own right. But when you get cast as one of the key characters who drive the plot, it must be rewarded appropriately. So here we are!
The film follows a company of cutthroat real-estate agents desperate to sell new leads to potential buyers. Harris plays Dave Moss, a broodingly disgruntled malcontent who schemes his way into pawing the new leads. Moss implicates George (Alan Arkin), a quite nebbish afraid of breaking the law.
9 John Glenn – The Right Stuff (1983)
Harris left Earth as the real-life astronaut John Glenn in his first major breakout role in The Right Stuff, a sprawling epic about the Mercury 7 space programmers.
Directed by Philip Kaufman from the celebrated Tom Wolfe book, the film tells the history of the U.S. Space Program, from Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier to the experimental methods of the Mercury 7 astronauts. With no clue how to proceed, the trial by error account is equal parts thrilling and humorous.
8 Dave – Jacknife (1989)
It’s no easy task to steal scenes from the great Robert De Niro. Yet, in Jacknife, that’s precisely what Harris did as Dave, a Vietnam war vet wracked by severe PTSD. As a result, Harris earned the first Golden Globe of his career and the only the film received.
The drama centers on Megs (De Niro), a fellow veteran who strikes up a romance with Martha (Kathy Baker). Martha is the sister of Dave, a drunken PTSD-riddled comrade of Megs during the war. As Martha and Megs grow closer, Dave’s destructive and despondent demeanor threatens their livelihoods in more ways than one.
7 Miles Roby – Empire Falls (2006)
The 2006 HBO miniseries Empire Falls placed Harris front and center as Miles Roby, the goodhearted patriarch of an idyllic New England family of restaurateurs. For his performance, Harris earned a Golden Globe and Primetime Emmy nomination.
As the manager of a local diner, Miles tries to keep his family and friends in order during a time of great change. Many challenges arise included family illness, tempestuous bosses, economic downturn, and the like.
6 John McCain – Game Change (2012)
In staying with the HBO family, Harris earned some of the best reviews of his career for playing The Maverick John McCain in the 2012 film Game Change. As a result, Harris won a Golden Globe and earned Primetime Emmy nod for his work!
The film charts the historical political campaign of Arizona Senator John McCain, who controversially elected Sarah Palin (Julianne Moore) to be his running mate in the 2008 Presidential race. As you know, McCain got walloped in real life by Barack Obama.
5 Richard Brown – The Hours (2001)
Harris earned his fourth and most recent Academy Award nod for his role as Richard Brown in The Hours, Stephen Daldry’s adaptation of the Michael Cunningham novel.
The literary tale weaves together three separate female narratives, all of which surround the novel, Mrs. Dalloway. One such strand follows Clarissa Vaughn (Meryl Streep), a woman arranging a party for her moribund, AIDS-stricken husband, Richard (Harris).
4 The Man In Black – Westworld (2016-)
While he flashes a similar sentiment in his own directorial effort Appaloosa, Harris has taken the western villain to the next level as Westworld‘s The Man in Black. Truly terrifying!
Westworld concerns a futuristic theme park for adults which allows them to indulge in their most dangerous fantasies. William, aka The Man in Black, has been frequenting the park for decades, becoming the most prized customer of all. As he searches for the maze at the center of the park, he risks losing his life permanently.
3 Jackson Pollock – Pollock (2000)
Ed Harris directed one of his own all-time best performances as real-life artist Jackson Pollock in the splendid 2000 biopic. For his work, Harris earned the third Oscar nod of his illustrious career!
Pollock tracks the rise and fall of the famed expressionist painter, beginning with his boozy beginnings in a cramped NYC apartment with his brother. Pollock’s life changes forever when he meets Lee Krasner (Marcia Gay Harden), who becomes his biggest champion, lover, spouse, and caregiver.
2 Gene Kranz – Apollo 13 (1995)
As Gene Kranz in Apollo 13, Harris collected the first Academy Award nomination of his career. He also landed a Golden Globe nod for the splendid supporting role.
Ron Howard’s enthralling true tale of NASA’s desperate mission to return three endangered astronauts to Earth following major spacecraft malfunction is what big-budget moviemaking is all about. Harris plays the Flight Director who has to make the most difficult decisions on how to proceed.
1 Christof – The Truman Show (1998)
For his performance as the Godlike puppeteer Christof (of Christ?) in The Truman Show, Harris earned the most amount of award nominations for any single role of his career.
Indeed, Harris was nominated for an Oscar, BAFTA, and Golden Globe for his work as a power-parched TV exec manipulating the life of an ordinary citizen for higher ratings. Christof produces a groundbreaking reality TV program in which viewers watch the life of Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) during a continuous 24/7 loop. When Truman finally discovers the hidden cameras invading his life, Christof is put in a precarious position.
NEXT: 10 Best Quotes From The Truman Show