The Best, Most Definitive & Most Underrated Walken Performances

It’s hard to think of any other American actor comparable to Christopher Walken. In the 40 years since his amazingly bizarre and hilarious cameo in Annie Hall, Walken has given us everything. He’s done Oscar-caliber performances, played every brand of weirdo and psycho (including the angel of death), and shown an amazing knack for comedic roles.

Outside of the movies, he’s been in music videos, a slew of ads and commercials (like this recent Super Bowl spot), and he’s crushed it on SNL multiple times (giving us this oft-quoted line). He’s become a parody of himself—the source of impressions, fantastic memes, and this great appearance on The Simpsons. And yet he’s never actually become a parody of himself.

With his intense stare, off-kilter vocal pattern and unwavering strangeness, Walken does not seem at all interested in endearing himself to us. And for that we find him endearing. We love him unconditionally. Everything he does is great. And that’s what makes pinpointing his “greatest” so tough…

Nailing Down the Quintessential Christopher Walken Roles

On a recent episode of the podcast, we dug deep to pick from over a 100 prominent feature film roles to choose Walken’s most notable and significant movies and performances. While everyone likes their Walken served in a different fashion (funny, scary, intense, satiric, etc.), here’s where we landed.

The DEFINITIVE Walken performance

Take 1: Pulp Fiction & True Romance

It’s a tie. Walken’s doing the same thing in both of them—delivering fantastic monologues—though he’s playing very different characters. Both films are written by Tarantino (though only Pulp Fiction was directed by him). And Walken is just one of those actors who excels at Tarantino dialogue. He has his Walken-esque way with it. And it’s both highly effective and enjoyable.

Take 2: Balls of Fury  & The Dead Zone

In the 2007 comedy Balls of Fury, Walken plays a notorious criminal and ping-pong enthusiast. It’s Walken having fun and showing off his comedic chops. He’s essentially playing a characterization of himself. You know, just Walken being Walken. And he makes you smile in every scene. The Dead Zone gives us an entirely different and contrasting Walken. It’s not the “cowbell” version of Walken. It’s a serious, simmering performance that makes the movie work.

Balls of Fury Walken

The BEST Walken performance

Take 1: The Deer Hunter

Walken is so intense in this movie it’s almost unworldly. He won an Oscar for his performance here, and deservingly so. While he has a juicy role that another actor may have been good in; no other actor could give a performance quite like Walken does. If you made a list of the top 50 film performances of all time, this would easily crack that list.

Take 2: Pulp Fiction

It’s such a joy watching Walken “walk in” to this movie and deliver the show-stopping monologue about the gold watch that sparks the entire plot of the Bruce Willis storyline. His vocal stylings are so good here and he lands the punchline like few other actors could.

Pulp Fiction Walken

The MOST UNDERRATED Walken performance

Take 1: The Rundown

Walken, The Rock, and Stifler make one of the most unusual acting trifectas in movie history. But it works. Playing the big bad guy here, Walken does what he does so often—he brings joy, energy and eccentricity to a movie where another actor would have probably just faded into the background. He also delivers another one of his great movie monologues. This one about the Tooth Fairy to a group of people who don’t speak the same language and have no idea what he’s saying. It’s a highlight.

Take 2: Weapon of Choice music video

There are few joys in life as great as watching this video. This doesn’t have Walken being Walken as we know him. It’s something entirely different. With no dialogue, Walken’s iconic intonation is nowhere to be found. Instead it’s all done through facial expression and dances moves (and Walken has moves). And when Walken actually takes flight in this video, your heart rises right with him.

Walken Weapon of Choice

Hear our Walken podcast discussion, which includes some impressions…