Liam Neeson’s career has gone through a few different phases. He starred in contemplative true-to-life dramas like Schindler’s List and Rob Roy in the ‘90s, but in more recent years, with films like Taken and Non-Stop, he’s pioneered the “geriaction” genre that has inspired older movie stars to turn to action-oriented roles. Plus, Neeson’s appeared in big-budget blockbusters like Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace and Clash of the Titans (“Release the Kraken!”). With such a disparate filmography, Neeson’s career has inevitably had some ups and downs, but he’s made some really great movies along the way. Here are Liam Neeson’s 10 Best Movies, According To Rotten Tomatoes.
10 A Monster Calls (86%)
Liam Neeson provided the voice and motion capture for the titular “Monster” in the young-adult dark fantasy movie A Monster Calls. He’s not a bad guy, though. In fact, that’s sort of the point — just because someone or something looks like a “monster” (i.e. “different”), it doesn’t mean they should be feared. This movie is heartwarming, with positive themes, and it should’ve done better at the box office. During shooting, director J.A. Bayona brought in Tom Holland as a stand-in for the Monster for a week during production when Neeson wasn’t available, but the motion capture was mostly done by Neeson himself on the set.
9 The Dark Knight Rises (87%)
Christopher Nolan had his work cut out for him, following up the phenomenal success of The Dark Knight with an even larger-scale superhero adventure that could somehow wrap up the trilogy in a satisfying way. Tom Hardy’s Bane might not have been as chilling or unforgettable as Heath Ledger’s Joker, but he’s certainly iconic.
Nolan’s pastiche of A Tale of Two Cities following a social uprising in Gotham is a suitably epic tale, while the return of Liam Neeson’s Ra’s al Ghul tied the trilogy together. Neeson had originally played the role in Batman Begins, training Bruce Wayne alongside the League of Shadows.
8 Kinsey (90%)
Before directing two Twilight movies and remaking Beauty and the Beast in live-action, Bill Condon helmed this biopic of Alfred Kinsey starring Liam Neeson. Kinsey is notable for being one of the early pioneers in the field of sexology (the study of human and animal sexuality). John Lithgow, Tim Curry, and an Oscar-nominated Laura Linney provide strong support, while Condon’s script manages to turn the publication of a scientific study into a riveting cinematic plot. Condon wrote the script based on a biography given to him by producer Gail Mutrux, combined with his own research into the life of Alfred Kinsey.
7 TIE: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (91%)
Liam Neeson’s segment in the Coen brothers’ Netflix western anthology movie The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is arguably the darkest of the bunch (and there are some dark ones). Credited simply as "Impresario," Neeson's character travels around the Old West with his son, who has no arms and legs, and charges people to marvel at him. The impresario then uses the profits to sleep with prostitutes, turning his son away while the services are rendered. When a fellow traveling showman comes along with a chicken that can do math and people lose interest in his limbless son, the impresario simply tosses him in a river to drown.
6 TIE: Widows (91%)
Steve McQueen directed Widows, crime thriller based on the ITV miniseries of the same name. Liam Neeson isn’t the film’s star; that distinction goes to Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Elizabeth Debicki. Widows starts off as a typical heist movie, with a gang of dudes pulling off a robbery. However, they’re all swiftly dispatched by the police, who blow up their van following a sting operation. Their wives are left behind with a ton of debt to a powerful crime lord, so they have no choice but to pull off a robbery of their own. There are shocking plot twists along the way, blending Hollywood spectacle with arthouse subtext.
5 Ponyo (92%)
Ponyo tells the story of a boy’s friendship with a goldfish princess who yearns to be human. Studio Ghibli is one of the greatest animation houses in the world, regularly turning out beautiful movies that hit you in the feels with a hit rate as successful as Pixar. The studio’s films are so popular around the world that the makers of the English dubs are able to hire A-listers like Liam Neeson to fill the roles. Neeson joined such popular Hollywood stars as Tina Fey, Matt Damon, and Cate Blanchett in Ponyo’s English dub, replacing George Tokoro from the original Japanese version in the role of Fujimoto.
4 Husbands and Wives (93%)
One of Woody Allen’s more dramatic works, Husbands and Wives is also one of the director’s finest films, especially given its placement in the decline of his movies’ overall quality. The film is a poignant look at modern marriage, as one married couple takes stock of their own relationship when their married friends announce that they’re getting a divorce. Liam Neeson only has a supporting role in the film, but he still delivers a strong performance. There’s an added layer of emotion to the scenes involving Allen and Mia Farrow, as the pair were going through a real-life breakup during the shoot.
3 The LEGO Movie (96%)
No one expected The LEGO Movie to be any good. On the surface, it seemed like a shallow cash grab. However, what Phil Lord and Christopher Miller gave us was a fun movie filled with humor and heart that’s ultimately about what makes LEGO so great: encouraging creativity. Liam Neeson only has a supporting role in the movie, playing Good Cop/Bad Cop, a police character with two sides to his head (like some LEGO figures have) — a smiling face and an angry face. During interrogations, he switches between the two, so he can use the “good cop/bad cop” dynamic by himself.
2 Schindler’s List (97%)
Steven Spielberg directed this powerful drama about Oskar Schindler, a German businessman and member of the Nazi Party at the outbreak of World War II who becomes aware of the horrors of concentration camps and starts hiring Jewish refugees to work at his factory to save them. Schindler’s List has long been considered to be the most definitive film about the Holocaust.
Spielberg depressed himself so much during shooting that he had to watch Seinfeld to cheer himself up every night. The movie ends on a thoughtful note — Schindler isn’t happy about all the lives he saved; he simply regrets not saving the ones he didn’t, and thinks he could’ve done more.
1 Ordinary Love (100%)
This romantic drama premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival a few weeks ago and was immediately met with rave reviews from critics. It won’t hit theaters across the world for a few weeks, but according to early reactions — and the fact that it has already achieved an ultra-rare 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes — it could be an Oscar contender, though the Rotten Tomatoes rating may change when more critics have a chance to see the film.
The film stars Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville as a couple in what has been described as an extraordinary look at ordinary love (that’s the meaning behind the title). They’re just a regular couple, and that’s what makes it so beautiful.