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Soulful Center To a Whole Bevy of Epic Dramas

Liam Neeson is one of the highest-grossing actors of all time, but how do his movies rank from worst to best? From prestige dramas, to iconic appearances in franchise epics, to his late-career resurgence as an action movie headliner, Neeson has proven himself the definition of versatility.

Born in 1952 in Northern Ireland, Neeson began his career in 1976 with the Lyric Players’ Theatre in Belfast, before transitioning to supporting roles in films throughout the 1980s. His 1993 breakout in Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List kicked off a decade of success as the warm, soulful center to a whole bevy of epic dramas. He’s played a Jedi master, voiced Aslan, and recently been enjoying a career third act almost entirely comprised of action thrillers, springboarded by his now-iconic turn in Taken.

There’s no doubt this actor has a “particular set of skills,” from the warm, steely timbre of his voice, to the gentle wisdom that makes him such an ideal onscreen mentor, to the pure physical commitment that makes him so believable in any fight scene. Here are his major films, ranked from worst to best.

The Nut Job

Liam Neeson may be most well-known as a prestigious dramatic actor-turned-action star, but his worst film sees him voicing an evil raccoon in an uninspired animal caper about mob machinations among rodents. Sometimes it can be nice to root for non-Pixar animated offerings, but this one gives little to champion.

Battleship

Neeson is hardly in this sinking ship of a movie. Perhaps his straight-faced, action movie swagger could’ve lent some much-needed charm to this punchline of a title, which aims for Jumanji but just winds up an unwatchable mess. Stick with the board game instead.
Taken 3

There’s a lot to not like about this one. Whether it’s overly-edited action sequences clearly covering for the aging star or the film’s cruelty toward its female characters, this is an unnecessarily dark, clumsy mess of a sequel, and a far cry from the surprising fun of the original.

Taken 2

After the surprise hit that was its predecessor, Taken 2 sees Neeson returning as retired CIA agent Brian Mills, whose “particular set of skills” helped him rescue his daughter two years prior. Diehard fans of the franchise are sure to love this entry, but for everyone else, there’s little more than an overblown rehash that would verge on goofy if it weren’t for Neeson’s committed performance.

The Other Man

In this 2008 film, Liam Neeson plays a computer executive who finds out his wife (Laura Linney) has been having an affair with a handsome Italian man (Antonio Banderas) after she goes missing on a business trip. An inspired cast led by a prestigious director (The National Theatre’s Richard Eyre) can’t save this under-cooked, hackneyed mystery from slipping into the realm of boredom.

The Haunting

Shirley Jackson’s haunting source material was recently given a splendid Netflix treatment, but back in 1999 Twister director Jan de Bont used it as a jumping-off point for a visual effects showcase that squandered its scares and its stars. Neeson stars with Owen Wilson and Catherine Zeta-Jones, but they can’t compete with the overblown spectacle of this horror film, which forgets that sometimes what’s scariest is the unseen.

Crossing The Line

Neeson plays a miner-turned-illegal-boxer in this self-serious, overwrought drama. He acquits himself well, particularly physically, but the film never manages to pack much of a punch.
Honest Thief

Released in the midst of COVID, this Mark Williams actioner doesn’t give much reason to leave the couch and brave a global pandemic to return to the movie theater. Neeson is solid as a bank robber attempting to return the stolen money for a light sentence, and there’s fun villain turns from Jai Courtney and Anthony Ramos. However, the film’s action is underwhelming and it has an extremely inflated sense of how compelling its characters are.

Men In Black International

This unnecessary follow-up from the original Men in Black series transitioned from inspired to dull over the course of three films struggles supporting its existence. Neeson mostly is onhand as a Rip Torn replacement, but like the film’s leads Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth, he’s completely wasted in a film that tries to copy the original’s effortless charm, with weak results.

Gun Shy

Maybe one of the most curious entries in Neeson’s filmography is this dark comedy co-starring Sandra Bullock and Oliver Platt, which sees an undercover DEA agent joining therapy to cope with the stresses of his job. Unfortunately, the film’s attempts at humor are largely crass, relying on fart humor and gay jokes more than what can usually be expected from a Neeson vehicle.

Under Suspicion

This twisting thriller sees Neeson as a private detective, who helps couples get divorces by photographing his wife having fake affairs with the husbands. It’s a bizarre concept given a fairly rote treatment, but Neeson provides a solid anchor to the goofy genre proceedings.

After.Life

In this thriller, Christina Ricci plays a young woman who awakens after a car accident to find a mysterious mortician (played by Neeson) preparing her for burial. It’s a novel setup, with lots of creepy potential, but unfortunately it’s not too long before it becomes an underwhelming Saw imitation, trapping two interesting actors in typical horror genre roles.

Third Person

Paul Haggis, director of Crash, revisits his love of interconnected narratives with this glorified travelogue that synchronizes three tales of love, one at the beginning of a relationship, another at the middle, and the third at the end. There are some solid performances here, but the labyrinthine artifice of the enterprise winds up weighing it down and strangling the life out of it.

Clash Of The Titans

This overblown 2010 rehash of the groundbreaking and charming Desmond Davis and Ray Harryhausen original was Neeson’s first post-Taken action film. Attempting to cash in on the public’s obsession with fantasy visuals made popular by Avatar, Clash of the Titans only succeeds as a giant, lumbering mess, a 3D CGI eyesore that not even Neeson’s small turn as Zeus can save.
Wrath Of The Titans

This head-scratcher of a sequel is made perhaps mildly more watchable by the simple fact that there’s more of Neeson’s Zeus. His team-up with Ralph Fiennes, as Hades, is the high point of a movie mostly consisting of deep, deep lows.

The Marksman

Neeson’s latest isn’t out to redefine the Western, nor will it become a staple of the genre anytime soon. He goes full Eastwood here, wandering wide open plains with a rifle, but neither his performance nor the by-the-book direction comes close to the highs of the actor’s action catalog. Western fanatics will dislike the lack of depth, and Neeson fans looking for high-octane thrills are likely to leave bored.

High Spirits

This clunker of a comedy at least has an inspired premise – a hotel manager attempts to fill the vacant rooms in his property by convincing the public they’re haunted, soon finding his charade made true by the appearance of two actual ghosts, played by Daryl Hannah and Neeson himself. A bottom-shelf Halloween oddity, the film mainly underlines the oft-held theory that its director, Neil Jordan, never made the same film twice.

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