If Liam Neeson had never made another film after 1993 he would forever be known as Schindler in Steven Spielberg’s powerful masterpiece Schindler’s List (1993). That was the sort of life altering, iconic role that comes along once in a career. So great is the shadow of his work as Oskar Schindler that it stands over even his finest performance as Alfred Kinsey the brilliant sex therapist. That said, there is no question that there are other great Liam Neeson movies too. In fact, often is also the best thing in weak movies. His tall, looming presence brings something unique to each role, but it is his willingness to give himself over to each part that defines him as an actor. With that said, here is the list of top 10 Liam Neeson movies. I hope that his upcoming films will expand this list. You can watch some of these best Liam Neeson movies on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.
10. Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
Who else could provide the voice of the Jesus like lion Aslan? Neeson was perfect, bringing such gentle strength to his character, and dare I say noble? Voice acting has never been given the respect it so deserves, but here he drew attention to that fact. There is genuine heartbreak in his voice as he is led through the forest to his doom, but magnificence in his sound when resurrected. No one could do what Neeson did with this fine work.
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9. A Monster Calls (2016)
When a lonely child calls out for help, despaired that his precious mother is dying and there is nothing he can do about, a giant tree rips free its roots and storms to his window. Voiced by Neeson the giant tree becomes his life mentor, challenging him to deal with the bullies at school, and yes, his mothers impending death. With the tree at his back the boy finds he can do anything, except his mom, but even then the lesson comes from the tree, who seems to be the spirit of his grandfather. Again a voice performance, some stunning motion capture acting, and a brilliant performance.
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8. Gangs of New York (2002)
Though his role is very small, his presence as Priest Vallon hangs over the film, him being the only worthy opponent Bill the Butcher ever had. We encounter Vallon at the beginning of the film, shaving, sharing what will be his last hours with his son, preparing for battle against the Butcher and his rival gang. We sense, we know, Vallon to be a man of Honor, just as we know the Butcher is a homicidal maniac obsessed with pure blood Americans. Neeson gives the doomed man a sense of melancholy honor, which we feel throughout the film. He seems present even in the final fight, though he has been dead many years.
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7. Taken (2008)
When his daughter is kidnapped while on vacation in Europe, former CIA operative portrayed with taut fury by Neeson who makes it clear to the kidnappers he has very special skills that are about to be put to use. He heads over to Paris and begins his hunt for her, very quickly making contact with the men who took her for a high-priced sex slave auction. He prows through anyone and everyone that stands in his way, using guns, knives, and his lethal hands to tear them apart. Neeson is a spectacular force of nature in the film, the reason, the only reason worth watching. It is one of those stupid movies that are elevated by the performance of the lead.
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6. Silence (2016)
Released in 2016, Scorsese’s fine film is an excellent adaptation of the famous book about Jesuits being run out of Japan. Neeson portrays a Jesuit who has disappeared, and his fellow priests grow concerned and come looking for him. A mentor to the two younger men who come looking for him, there is a question as to whether he has renounced his faith. Who could blame him after seeing what the Japanese do to those who will not? Neeson brings a great of dignity to the role, and courage because in the end he has the courage to do what is necessary. I wish there had been more of him.
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5. Michael Collins (1996)
Pegged as an Oscar film, the trouble here is that the film just never connected with audiences, and with the presence of a dethroned sweetheart Julia Roberts, was mistaken as a love story. Truth be told it is a love story, but between a man and his country, Collins and Ireland. As the big fella, as Collin was known, Neeson is spectacular in the film, by far the highlight of the movie but the film is under written and not sure what it wishes to say, or be about, which weakens the story. In many ways it reminded me of Chaplin (1992) a great actor giving a great performance in a film not worthy of him.
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4. Rob Roy (1995)
In this splendid, sweeping adaptation of the famous book, Neeson is magnificent as the hero of the piece, Rob McGregor. An honest, good man he is forced to ask for a loan from the local lord, only to have the funds stolen by a vicious nephew of the lord. This erupts into a clan war, bringing the lords men to Rob’s homeland where they pillage his farm and rape his wife. Lashing back in one of the greatest sword fights put on film, Ron kills the evil nephew portrayed by Tim Roth. The film was a sweeping grandeur to I with stunning Scottish location, but it is Neeson that holds the film together with her fierce, loving performance. So great is his love for his wife, that when told she is with child and it could be that if the Beast who raped her, he does not bat an eye, making it clear it will be their child, raised with goodness and love.
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3. The Grey (2011)
A surprisingly powerful performance in a sleeper of a film that no one saw it coming. Neeson is cast as a sharpshooter hired to keep the Wolves, literally, from the workers in a remote northern workplace. When their plane goes down on the way to vacation, they are stranded in the northern forest with Wolves on the hunt for flesh. An expert on the vicious beasts, Neeson makes it clear they are all in terrible danger, and he is right. It is a great physical performance, the first of many from the actor in the later stages of his career, following the massive success of Taken (2008). Again, the eyes, which become, without surprise, predatory. In many ways Neeson becomes the wolf.
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2. Kinsey (2004)
As the man who unlocked the door to human sexuality, both male and female, Dr. Alfred Kinsey struggled with his own personal demons most of his life. Raised by a puritanical father who looked down on all sexual behaviour, at least he said he did, Kinsey grew up fascinated by sexuality. He would explore it through thousands of interviews with average Americans, discovering that people had long accepted sex was for pleasure as much as pro-creation. The good doctor explores both sides of the fence, sleeping with his assistant to try to understand homosexuality, much to the chagrin of his loyal wife. The look on his face, in his eyes during one of his last interviews when he realizes he saved the life of a woman by making it ok for her to be gay after years of marriage. A beautiful performance that was cruelly snubbed for an Oscar nomination Neeson richly deserved, his Kinsey never judged, not even when he should have.
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1. Schindler’s’ List (1993)
Of course. How could this not the top this list? His portrayal of factory owner Oskar Schindler, a member of the Nazi party, but above all a maker of money, which was what he truly believed in. As the Nazis were taking everything from the Jews, he went to a group of a Jewish businessmen and convinced them to invest in his factory. Instead he took them under his protection, protecting them, more than eleven hundred from certain death. Where we think it changes for him is witnessing the massacre which takes place during the evacuation of the ghetto. A child moving through the chaos like a drop of blood, dressed in a red coat gets his attention, and later he sees that same red coat pulled from a mass grave. At that point it becomes more than about making money, so much more. Enigmatic, mysterious, it is a superbly guarded performance richly deserving of the acclaim it received. Something feels oddly forced about his breakdown at the end, contrived, but as a great actor he made it work.
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