By Stephen Aspeling17 August 2023
7 movies in Ethan Hawke’s cinematic universe, ranked
Ethan Hawke has starred in more than 50 films, including Dead Poets Society, Reality Bites, Before Sunrise, Training Day, Boyhood and First Reformed. The first choice for Doctor Strange, Hawke somehow managed to avoid being inducted into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Born in Texas, Hawke has been acting since the early 80s until his breakthrough role in Dead Poets Society catapulted him into the spotlight. Having started his film career in his teens, he’s been at it for almost four decades with just as many Academy Award nominations. Hawke’s still in his prime and doing some of his best work today. A dark horse and humble actor, he raises the profile of any film he headlines, which has prompted us to rank seven of his films now streaming on Showmax.
1. Training Day
Ethan Hawke plays Jake opposite Denzel Washington as Alonzo in Antoine Fuqua’s devastating action crime drama, Training Day. This visceral day-in-the-life cop drama led Washington to an Oscar, spurred on by Hawke’s fresh-faced supporting performance. In a baptism by fire, a rookie narcotics officer gets shown the ropes by an unorthodox detective with dark secrets.
Now a renowned director himself, David Ayer’s script bristles with intensity, starting like a buddy cop movie and ramping up as police corruption and skullduggery get dredged up. Seesawing between friend and foe, Jake quickly discovers that his new assignment may be alongside the devil incarnate as he’s tempted to bend the law to his whim every step of the way to a gut-wrenching showdown.
2. The Northman
Robert Eggers is a visionary director, the mind behind the artful, eerie and surreal films The Witch and The Lighthouse. Having risen to a place where he can choose who he works with, Ethan Hawke bolsters the filmmaker’s stellar cast led by Alexander Skarsgård, Anya Taylor-Joy and Nicole Kidman. His role as Aurvandil gets the oars rolling, summoning up the majesty of a Viking king returning from war only to find treachery.
The ancient tale of Amleth inspired Shakespeare’s Hamlet. If the anagram doesn’t impress, perhaps Hawke’s casting may, having played Hamlet in the film adaptation many moons ago. Now a warrior king in a key performance that sets the bloody, beautiful and visceral The Northman in motion, the actor’s likability draws a degree of misunderstood empathy that compels his son on a decades-long quest for revenge.
3. Black Phone
Ethan Hawke worked with writer-director Scott Derrickson on the horror mystery thriller Sinister, which, based on a 2020 study, is regarded as one of the scariest horrors of all time. The duo have a wonderful working relationship that could have led to Hawke and his goatee to starring as Doctor Stephen Strange in a role that eventually went to the equally brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch.
Black Phone finds the pair in sync again as a disturbing short story about a kidnapper known as The Grabber gets its film adaptation. Playing a deranged masked serial killer in the 70s in this creepy and dark tale, Hawke breaks type. Shedding his meek, mild-mannered and likeable act, he takes to the shadows as a magician with a basement full of ghosts. While his face is often obscured, Hawke uses his eyes and voice to express his character’s hobgoblin tendencies.
Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece Seven Samurai has been lauded as one of the greatest films and stories ever committed to film. Remade as the western The Magnificent Seven, the remake has now been remade by Training Day’s Antoine Fuqua, Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke. In another gritty and violent expedition, Chris Pratt and Vincent D’Onofrio are added to the posse as the gunmen who make it their mission to protect a small town from a private army.
In a team effort, Hawke leans into his spirited role as tarnished legend, Goodnight Robicheaux. The revisionist refresh finds greater diversity and representation, harnessing its stellar cast to add extra sizzle to this wild and entertaining underdog tale. Fuelled by gunpowder and bravado, The Magnificent Seven captures epic landscapes and the gung-ho spirit of the seemingly lawless times.
Ethan Hawke is a strange cat, who’s been known to take on some pretty outlandish and quirky roles, from Jolly the Pimp to Nikola Tesla. He’s not afraid to poke fun at himself, venturing into the absurd crime caper Stockholm with the same reckless spirit as charming rogue Lars Nystrom. This semi-biographical heist thriller explores the historical 1973 bank job the New Yorker claims as the origin of what’s termed Stockholm Syndrome.
Starring opposite Noomi Rapace, the co-leads find out what can and does happen when a hostage’s empathy develops into something more for their captor. Hawke brings a live-wire spontaneity to match his Texan-American get-up as a reckless gun-toting villain. A rambunctious and entertaining one man show, it’s curious to see how his secret good guy vibrations begin to charm us as well as his favourite hostage, Bianca.
There seems to be no limit to the type of roles Ethan Hawke can muster. He’s such a likable and dependable star that we just want to believe him, whoever he’s playing. While it wouldn’t be surprising to see him in a Fast and Furious movie, he’s behind the wheel of a much grittier affair in Getaway. Hawke takes on the role of disgraced race car driver Brent Magna, at the mercy of a mysterious villain who’s kidnapped his wife.
Forced to commandeer a custom Shelby Super Snake Mustang, Magna’s tasked with one do-or-die mission after the next in a citywide rampage and race against time. Real and intense stunt driver action dominates in this high-octane mystery thriller as Magna discovers the meaning behind the mayhem with help from an unlikely ally.
Abel Ferrara is a cult director best known for The Driller Killer, Bad Lieutenant and King of New York. Shot during the pandemic, Zeros and Ones channels some of the madness by tracking a US soldier stationed in Rome who tries to uncover an unknown enemy and worldwide threat. Moving from sleazy to poetry, this brooding mystery thriller keeps you guessing with a defiant lead performance from Ethan Hawke.
A bold, experimental and even elusive film, Ferrara’s trademarks are in effect, using guerilla shooting style and slow-motion sequences. A consummate professional, Ethan Hawke gives his all in playing brothers on either side of the war. Delving into government, religion and philosophy there’s a level of intrigue, furthered by Hawke’s impassioned performances.
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