The late, great Christopher Plummer is one of the greatest actors of all time, and though an Academy Award is the highest honor an actor could ever receive, it’s a shock that Plummer only ever won one.
Right up until his death, Plummer was acting his heart out, and he was one of the few actors who could ever transition from a villain to a hero so interchangeably. For his whole career, which was for the better part of 70 years, the actor had been playing menacing, mustache-twirling villains, and at the same time, wise, heartfelt old heroes.
10 Hero: National Treasure (2004) – 6.9
Though he isn’t in it for long, Plummer plays Benjamin Franklin Gates’ grandfather, and in what is a sort of prelude to the proper movie, he tells the story that would inspire Gates’ mission.
Plummer is typically wise, and he tells the story with such passion and grandeur that it would have been great to see him in it more, as he’s arguably underused. National Treasure is a movie that critics hate but fans love, and Plummer’s charm in the movie is undeniably part of the reason as to why.
9 Hero: Murder By Decree (1979) – 6.9
There have been so many portrayals of Sherlock Holmes throughout history, whether it’s Robert Downey Jr’s depiction in the Hollywood blockbusters or Benedict Cumberbatch in the beloved BBC series. However, one portrayal that often goes overlooked is Plummer’s take on the iconic detective in Murder By Decree.
Unlike most other Sherlock Holmes stories, Murder By Decree is actually based around true events, as it sees Holmes and Doctor Watson trying to solve the murders committed by Jack the Ripper. It’s a fun movie, and Plummer is perfect for the role, which is why it’s a shame there wasn’t a sequel.
8 Villain: The Return Of The Pink Panther (1975) – 7.1
The Return of the Pink Panther was the first time that Peter Sellers returned to the role of Inspector Clousseau in 11 years. Many claim that it was this that helped revive the series and bring it back on top form, as the third movie in the series underperformed at the box office.
However, that success could also be attributed to Plummer taking over from David Niven, playing the iconic villain, The Phantom. Not only that, but it’s also arguably better than the original movie, and it features some of the series’ funniest quotes.
7 Villain: Nicholas Nickleby (2002) – 7.1
It isn’t the first time the Charles Dickens novel has been adapted, as The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby has been depicted on screen countless times over the decades. However, the 2002 period drama is one of the most well put together of them all.
In the movie, Plummer plays Uncle Ralph, who is tough on Nicholas and treats him terribly. And just as he does with so many other roles, Plummer played Uncle Ralph different from anybody else who came before him. Plummer made the character seem so much more complex than he had ever been portrayed, even compared to how he was written in the novel.
6 Villain: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) – 7.2
Though many people don’t remember, not just because it was so long ago, but also because it’s such a deep cut in the Star Trek canon of movies, Plummer played General Chang in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
Though the film is far from perfect, the indisputably best thing about the movie is Plummer as the villain. Plummer wasn’t afraid to get hammy with it, as he is so theatrical in the way that Chang quotes lines from Shakespeare plays and fine dines with Captain Kirk.
5 Villain: Inside Man (2006) – 7.6
It’s hard to believe that Inside Man, Spike Lee’s most overt action movie, is turning 15 this year, but for a heist movie, it remains as fresh and inventive as it did when it was first released. There hasn’t been a heist movie like it since, and as most Spike Lee movies feature political undertones and social commentaries, Inside Man is no different.
The movie examines how each character has racial prejudices, and that’s no more clear than with Plummer’s portrayal of Arthur Case. Arthur is a billionaire bank owner with a dirty secret, which is that he built his wealth off of making deals with the Nazis, and it’s one of the actor’s most sadistic roles ever.
4 Hero: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (2011) – 7.8
It seems like nobody knows that Plummer can easily play both a villain and a hero better than celebrated thriller director David Fincher, as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo plays on that very fact.
At the beginning of the thriller movie, Henrik Vagner hires a journalist to find a woman who has been missing for 40 years, and when they first meet, Henrik tells the journalist to suspect everyone, even himself, with a slight grin on his face. Not only is Plummer heroic and at the top of his game in the thriller, but it’s also the first collaboration with Daniel Craig too, with the second one being yet another thriller.
3 Hero: Knives Out (2019) – 7.9
Though the movie is getting a sequel with an almost completely new cast, there’s no topping Plummer’s performance as the wealthy mystery writer Harlem Thrombey in Knives Out. Giving his life just so he could have Marta’s back is perhaps the most heroic thing any of Plummer’s characters has ever done.
The scene in which it happens is so exciting and heartbreaking at the same time. The wise mystery writer is thrilled by the whole scenario and how it could potentially make a great novel, while at the same time coming to terms with the fact that he’s about to die. It’s what makes Plummer such an incredible actor, as so few others could have pulled those two contrasting emotions off at the same time.
2 Hero: The Sound Of Music (1965) – 8.0
Though for most of the movie he was clearly the antagonist, as he was unabashedly strict on his children and was cruel to many of the other characters, Captain Von Trapp is one of the greatest heroes in a musical ever.
After he leads his family to Switzerland to evade the Third Reich, his character and the film itself left audiences astonished, and it was the very first movie the introduced most of the world to Christopher Plummer. The Sound of Music remains one of the greatest musicals of all time.
1 Villain: Up (2009) – 8.2
Though it’s completely animated, there’s no mistaking Charles Muntz for anyone other than Christopher Plummer. Even the way Charles is animated and the facial expressions of his are characteristically and classically Plummer.
But most of what makes Muntz a classic villain is that he is greatly admired by Carl due to being a famed explorer. So it’s just another heartbreaking scene in a movie full of them when the truth about him is revealed. And as there’s a Disney+ spin-off featuring Carl and Dug, it’s unknown as to whether Muntz will make a return, but one thing’s for sure, Plummer is irreplaceable.
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