Why Alec Baldwin? Well, especially as a supporting player, the man has had somewhat of a resurgence lately. With roles in the last two Scorsese films and the new “Running with Scissors,” as well as TV’s “30 Rock,” Baldwin is everywhere. It’s almost as if he’s intent on reclaiming the family surname back from his formerly famous brothers. (William was pretty sweet in “The Squid and the Whale,” though!) So without any further ado, here’s our lists of the favorite Alec Baldwin performances.
- Miami Blues (1990) : Baldwin plays a psychotic ex-con who steals a cop’s badge and gun and runs around impersonating him, to hilarious results. This came out a month after his breakout movie “The Hunt for Red October,” and made about $110 million less. A complicated crime comedy, “Miami Blues” uses his natural charm and magnetism to darker purposes. (This film was also #4 on my list of Top 10 Overlooked Movies.)
- Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) : David Mamet reportedly wrote the role of Blake, the profanity-spewing, scenery chewing, hard-assed corporate boss specifically for Baldwin when he adapted his own Pulitzer prize-winning play for the big screen. Baldwin is a standout (although Al Pacino was the only one nominated) in one of the best ensemble casts ever, one that also included Jack Lemmon, Ed Harris, Kevin Spacey, Alan Arkin, and Jonathan Pryce.
- The Cooler (2003) : Another hard-nosed character gave Baldwin his only Oscar nomination so far. He earned a Best Supporting Actor nod for playing the casino boss who will do anything to keep William H. Macy and Maria Bello apart. Again, it shows how he can make unlikable characters strangely likable.
- The Aviator (2004) : Howard Hughes’ rival Juan Trippe, the head of Pan Am airways, is another classic Baldwin heavy. In Martin Scorsese’s epic, Baldwin alternates between sneaky and conniving, but always gentlemanly. The scene where he converses with Leonardo DiCaprio’s reclusive Hughes from outside a door is one of his best.
- State and Main (2000) : Baldwin plays Bob Barrenger, another jackass you love to hate. Like “Glengarry,” this is another David Mamet ensemble piece, but this one is a broad comedy following a troubled film production in a small town. Baldwin is hilarious in a tricky role as the leading man whose unfortunate predilection for young teenage girls forces the entire shoot to move to a new location.
- The Usual Suspects (1995) : The entire story in Bryan Singer’s contemporary clasic crime drama is told by one very unreliable source that throws into question the truth of everything that came before it. This means that even though the credits say that the part of hot-headed thief McManus was played by Alec’s brother Stephen, I refuse to believe it. If everything Verbal Kint (Kevin Spacey) says in the movie is a lie, then that must be too, because Stephen Baldwin was never as good as Alec. I want to believe!
- The Hunt for Red October (1990) : Author Tom Clancy’s beloved Jack Ryan character originated on film with Baldwin in this submarine thriller, directed by John McTiernan (on a roll from “Die Hard”). A great popcorn movie full of intruigue and suspense, it was a box office smash, but for some reason Baldwin turned down the opportunity to continue playing Ryan in subsequent films. Obviously he knew something Harrison Ford didn’t know, because although “Patriot Games” and “Clear and Present Danger” were money-makers, they never matched the intensity of Ryan’s first filmic adventure.
- The Departed (2006) : “I love the Patriot Act!” Coming from a notorious liberal bullhorn like Baldwin, this was the funniest of many great moments for Special Investigations Unit Captain Ellerby. In a movie widely noted for being intense and dark, Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg give Scorsese’s latest crime thriller some much-appreciated comic relief. It’s a small role, but a memorable one.
- Team America: World Police (2004) : Speaking of being a notorious liberal bullhorn, Baldwin gets the “South Park” treatment again (the Baldwin Brothers were all blown up in “South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut”) as Canadian voice actor Maurice LaMarche does his best baritone Alec impression for Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s riotous, marionette send-up of gung-ho American action films. As the leader of the Film Actors Guild (FAG), Baldwin tries to bring the world together at a star-filled function for peace. Only problem? It’s sponsored by Kim Jong Il, and Baldwin and a slew of other liberal celebrity puppets (pun intended, I’m sure) end up fighting against Team America’s overzealous freedom fighters. Notable also for Kim Jong Il’s stirring ballad during the end credits with these unforgettable lyrics: “You fucked up my whole plan and now Xiron is smeared with Balmac pollen/
Your garbage needs some haulin’ and you’re worthless Alec Baldwin.”
- The Getaway (1994) : Appearing with his then-wife Kim Basinger, Baldwin takes on the role originally held by Steve McQueen in a remake of the 1972 Sam Peckinpah film. Since this one was made 22 years after the original, this movie was able to be more true to the violent, sadistic nature of the Jim Thompson novel (but still didn’t get the couple’s story arc right). Some steamy sex scenes with Baldwin and Basinger don’t hurt either.
- Glengarry Glen Ross (1992): Very possibly the highest impact cameo performance of all-time. In a room full of the heaviest bats in Hollywood from the old guard and the new – Lemmon, Pacino, Arkin, Harris and Spacey – Baldwin steals the show with a monologue about coffee. Powerhouse moment if there ever was one.
- The Hunt for Red October (1990): Alec should have continued in the central role as Jack Ryan. The first film, “The Hunt for Red October,” is by far the best of the Tom Clancy written Ryan series, no points for Harrison Ford’s forgettable stint as Ryan or the Afflecking that came later. Opposite Sean Connery, Baldwin was a perfect fit for the character. Top five military movies for me, “The Hunt for Red October” is a classic.
- Elizabethtown (2005): As Orlando Bloomâ€™s boss, a billionaire shoe impressario, unaware of how to deal with abject failure, Baldwin kills in his 5 minutes of screentime from Cameron Croweâ€™s â€œElizabethtown.â€ Although “Elizabethtown” wasnâ€™t a critical success – and admittedly had some issues – as the years go by, this maligned film will be remembered much more fondly. Baldwinâ€™s signature delivery adds humor and swagger to the already exaggerated storyline.
- The Aviator (2004): â€œThe Aviatorâ€ is, in my opinion, Martin Scorceseâ€™s finest work, there I said it! DiCaprio and Baldwin absolutely shine going toe to toe as Howard Hughes and Juan Trippe head of Pan-American Airlines. Baldwin proves again he can swing with the big boys and is a force to be wreckoned with in another phenomenal supporting role.
- The Royal Tenenbaums (2001): â€œThe Royal Tenenbaumsâ€ is top 20 all-time films for me – at the moment. Baldwinâ€™s voice-over narration is most definitely a significant additional character in this brilliant piece from director Wes Anderson. Somehow Andersonâ€™s ridiculously stylized New York couldnâ€™t have a better voice than Baldwinâ€™s, and something integral would be missing without it.
- Beetlejuice (1988): Baldwin is so young in Tim Burtonâ€™s ghostly classic â€œBeetlejuice,â€ he is hardly recognizable, not entirely unlike Barry Bostwick in â€œRocky Horror Picture Show.â€ Burton is a genius and there hasn’t been a movie like this before or since.
- Ghosts of Mississippi (1996): Opposite Whoopi Goldberg and William H. Macy, Baldwin plays Assistant District Attorney Bobby DeLaughter in the landmark trial for the murder of civil rights activist Medger Evers. â€œGhostsâ€ was directed by Rob Reiner.
- The Edge (1997): Anthony Hopkins, Alec Baldwin, Elle MacPherson and a bear. Need I say more? Baldwin delivers again with a David Mamet screenplay. Itâ€™s been a while since I viewed â€œThe Edge,â€ but at the time I remember thinking it wasnâ€™t half bad. Particularly watching Hopkins and Baldwin kick up a little dust, and of course there was the bear.
- The Departed (2006): Baldwin plays a South Boston police captain in â€œThe Departed.â€ It may be a good script and no cue cards away from a SNL sketch, but Baldwin competently plays the third-string support role and comes out as memorable as any of the A-list stars.
- Saturday Night Live (1990-2006): In honor of Baldwin’s 13th time hosting “Saturday Night Live” I’ve decided to include all his “SNL” performances as my #10. He is one shy of the all-time record for number of hosting appearances right below Steve Martin’s 14 and just one above John Goodman. Baldwin has given us some ridiculously memorable moments, who can forget his “Schwetty” balls.