7 of the greatest Russell Crowe performances
Russell Crowe 310 to Yuma

Russell Crowe turned 50 this week – and his impressive turn in biblical epic Noah is just the latest in a long line of acclaimed big screen appearances.

Looking back at the actor’s gem-studded CV, Mark Butler picks out seven great performances that have defined his career.

Russell Crowe 310 to Yuma
[Outstanding Outlaw – Crowe in 3:10 To Yuma]

Romper Stomper (1992)

As the leader of a vile gang of brutal, aggressive neo-Nazi skinheads in Geoffrey Wright’s unflinching drama, Crowe is nothing short of terrifying.

Utterly driven by hate, a thirst for violence, and the extremely troubling certainty that what he is doing is in some ways noble, he dominates the screen in every frame he appears – both an imposing physical presence, and an attention-demanding psychological one.

LA Confidential (1997)

In a sensational noir thriller overflowing with fine performances, Crowe nonetheless manages to impress even more than those around him. His troubled detective is a complex figure: noble of intent and often heroic, yet quick of temper, short of wit and a participant in police brutality.

He and Guy Pearce make a great, contrasting double act. And with the subtlest of facial expressions and physical tics, Crowe skilfully allows us to see both the formidable tough guy in Bud – and the scared little boy we find out he once was.

The Insider (1999)

In a much more understated but just as laudable performance, the star carries off phenomenal quiet intensity as a sorrow-eyed academic who becomes a whistleblower on the tobacco industry.

As the tension mounts, and the pressure builds on him and his family, we really do get the sense of an individual completely conflicted and under-siege from forces beyond his control. Crowe picked up his first Oscar nomination for this – and deservedly so.

Gladiator (2000)

On Ridley Scott’s command, he unleashed hell. Crowe’s charismatic, powerful turn as a depossessed and enslaved general turned arena fighter made him one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. And with good reason.

It’s an intoxicating mix of emotional anguish and formidable, muscular masculinity, perfectly capturing the character’s grief, sorrow, fury and determined lust for vengeance. When he utters that famous line, you feel the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Another year, another Oscar nomination, with Crowe earning yet more plaudits by stepping impressively into the shoes of real-life Nobel Prize winner John Nash, whose academic brilliance was tempered for many years by devastating mental illness.

Delivering a startling portrait of a man struggling to hold his life and career together while plagued by paranoia, delusions and hallucinations, it’s a genuinely poignant and gripping portrayal.

Master and Commander (2003)

Standing at the helm of one of the most under-appreciated movies of last decade, Crowe is on swashbuckling form as Captain ‘Lucky’ Jack, an assured Naval veteran who inspires all of those under his command.

There’s energy, charisma and warmth in spades, but also a steely edge and occasional ruthlessness that makes him utterly believable in the role. You feel you really would follow this man into full-on battle if asked.

3:10 to Yuma (2007)

Probably one of the most ambiguous roles Crowe has played, Ben Wade is – by his own admission – a ruthless outlaw and remorseless killer.

And yet, there’s still a sense of humanity about the brutal character, something Crowe teases out brilliantly as Wade spends more and more time in the company of Christian Bale’s determined rancher and his teenage son. You both admire and distrust the gunslinger. You root for him, and hope he fails at the same time. It’s a sensational quandary in a cracking Western.

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