James Gandolfini became a household name thanks to his enigmatic portrayal of Tony Soprano in the hit HBO series The Sopranos, and his recent passing is heartbreaking for his fellow actors and fans alike. While on vacation with his family in Italy, he suffered a fatal heart attack at the age of 51. Gandolfini hit it big on the small screen, but this star has a diverse body of work ranging from Broadway to documentary production to movies. In honor of his immense contribution to the film industry, we’d like to look back on some of his most iconic performances.
1. True Romance (1993) - available in HitBliss
Gandolfini plays a hard-hitting thug hired to return a batch of stolen cocaine by star-crossed lovers Patricia Arquette and Christian Slater. This small but notable role marks his first big Hollywood appearance and sets the stage for the rest of his film career. Quentin Tarantino wrote the gritty tale, and Gandolfini is involved in two of the most memorable fight scenes in the movie, which includes Slater setting the actor on fire and Arquette exacting bloody vengeance.
2. The Mexican (2001)
Brad Pitt (who plays a bit part in True Romance) co-stars with Gandolfini for the second time. Taking time off from The Sopranos, Gandolfini portrays a gay hitman with a tender side who kidnaps (and ironically befriends) Julia Roberts and memorably cries for the first time in 12 years while they’re at a diner.
3. Killing Them Softly (2012) - available in HitBliss
The Pitt-Gandolfini pairing continues in this neo-noir crime film where the duo joins forces as hitmen. Gandolfini plays the heavy-drinker and womanizer Mickey, who quickly irritates Pitt, leading to his removal from the plot to restore order after a card game run by the mafia is robbed.
4. Get Shorty (1995)
Gandolfini shows his funny side as gangster/stuntman Bear in a film chock full of heavy-hitting actors, including John Travolta, Gene Hackman and Danny DeVito. In this comedic crime story, audiences get the fascination of seeing Travolta throw the future Tony Soprano down the stairs.
5. Where the Wild Things Are (2009)
In Spike Jonze’s take on the revered children’s book Where the Wild Things Are, James Gandolfini was cast as the lovable but tantrum-prone Carol – as surprise to some. His voice performance shows that he was the perfect man for the role bringing depth and sensitivity to the character. The film blends live-action and CGI to bring the cuddly wild things to life.
6. The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001)
The Coen brothers bring Gandolfini into their gritty world as a philandering department store boss Big Dave Brewster in a noir film starring Billy Bob Thornton, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand and Tony Shaloub. Due to his extramarital affairs, Big Dave gets caught up in a blackmailing scheme with shocking results.
7. Romance & Cigarettes (2005)
Gandolfini in a musical? Yes, this happened. And if you haven’t seen it, this is the perfect opportunity to get to know the lyrical side of this mob boss. He also gets to be in the middle of a love triangle featuring two of the most desirable women in Hollywood – Susan Sarandon and Kate Winslet. Romanze & Cigarettes was directed by John Turturro and stars Gandolfini as Nick Murder.
8. Down The Shore (2013)
In this independent film set on the Jersey Shore, Gandolfini plays a carnival ride operator who is grieving the loss of his missing sister when a mysterious man from France delivers her ashes to his front door. The story is less action-packed than the majority of Gandolfini’s other work, giving him the opportunity to show his range and subtlety in this emotional tale of lost love and past hurt.
9. The Last Castle (2001)
This might not be one of the best movies ever made, but it does have James Gandolfini and Robert Redford face off on opposing sides of a prison revolt. Gandolfini is a military Colonel in charge of a prison and Redford is a former Lieutenant General and newest inmate. What starts off as a friendly relationship between the two quickly escalates and rises to a climactic finish.
10. 8MM (1999)
Joel Schumacher directed this violent account of a private investigator (Nicolas Cage) who enters into the snuff film industry and eventually sets his focus on a group of corrupt players including talent scout Eddie Poole (Gandolfini). The film received a mixed response, but Roger Ebert was a fan, writing: “Not a slick exploitation exercise with all the trappings of depravity but none of the consequences. Not a film where moral issues are forgotten in the excitement of an action climax.”
What are your favorite James Gandolfini films?
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