If Viggo Mortensen ever wins a lifetime achievement award at any of the major Hollywood award ceremonies, chances are, the character they focus on the most will be that of Aragorn from The Lord Of The Rings. Those three movies will probably go down as the actor's most notable appearances, but they're not all the Danish-American has to offer.
Throughout his lengthy career, Viggo Mortensen has given us some of the most fascinating characters. That got us thinking - what are some of Mortensen's best roles outside of his appearances in The Lord Of The Rings? To answer that question, we put together this list.
A History Of Violence (2005)
Fans of Viggo Mortensen's work in The Lord Of The Rings were in for a rude awakening when they went to see A History Of Violence in the fall of 2005. In David Cronenberg's adaptation of the 1997 graphic novel of the same name, Mortensen portrays Thomas "Tom" Stall, the owner of a small-town diner whose past catches back up with him after he confronts two robbers in self-defense.
Mortensen's portrayal of man caught between the past he thought he'd escaped and the family that knows nothing of the man he used to be makes for one of the most emotionally harrowing credits to the actor's name. The squeaky clean appearance and wholesome nature presented by the former Lord Of The Rings star throughout the early goings of this action thriller make what happens in the second half that much more unnerving. Hold on because this movie is an emotional and physical tour de force.
Eastern Promises (2007)
Viggo Mortensen and David Cronenberg would team up again two years later for Eastern Promises, a gangster film about a midwife by the name of Anna Ivanovna Khitrova (Naomi Watts) who discovers the baby of a teenage Russian prostitute who died in childbirth and learns that the mother was forced into prostitution by the Russian Mafia in London. Throughout this 2007 gangster thriller, Mortensen portrays Nikolai Luzhin, a "cleaner" for the Russian Mafia who takes it upon himself to protect both Anna and the child.
With traditional Russian gangster tattoos, a thick accent, and the physicality that would make even the most fearsome of Middle Earth's orcs shake in their boots, Mortensen puts on one of his best performances in this brutal piece of cinema. It should be no surprise that the actor was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor after this performance, especially after the fight scene in the bath house or the major revelation that is revealed following that iconic scene.
The Road (2009)
Personally, The Road is my favorite of all of Viggo Mortensen's performances. Based on Cormac McCarthy's Pulitzer Prize winning 2006 novel of the same name, this post-apocalyptic survival film was brought to life by celebrated music video director John Hillcoat. This 2009 adaptation tells the story of a father and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) as they try to make their way south after a global cataclysm has sent the world into disarray.
Throughout the bleak and intimate story of survival in the face of death, Mortensen's character is forced to do everything in his ability to protect the life of his young son and see that he makes it to safety. This is no easy task because all that is left of the gray and ash-covered landscape is full of empty cupboards, dire conditions, and bands of cannibalistic marauders. There are times where you hate the father and there are times where you understand his reasoning, but regardless of how you see the man, you feel and see the pain behind his eyes.
Crimson Tide (1995)
Viggo Mortensen finds himself stuck between a rock and a hard place aboard a nuclear submarine in the 1995 military nail biter that is Tony Scott's Crimson Tide. Starring alongside Denzel Washington as Lieutenant Commander Ron Hunter and Gene Hackman as Captain Frank Ramsey, Mortensen plays a small, yet vital role in his portrayal of Lieutenant Peter Ince, also known as WEPS for weapons officer.
The story becomes a battle of wills when Hunter and Ramsey disagree on how to proceed with a threat of a nuclear attack by a Russian separatist group, leaving the young Ince as the man in the middle how must make a decision whether to stand down or attack. While most of the crew of the USS Alabama loses their cool, Ince remains cool, calm, and collected as he tries to rationalize what is transpiring around him. Mortensen's quiet and stoic demeanor help bring this character alive in this tense military drama.
Captain Fantastic (2015)
In his 2015 family dramedy Captain Fantastic, writer and director Matt Ross (of Silicon Valley fame) asks the question - what would happen if a family who lived off the grid was forced to enter normal society? Well, this movie starring Viggo Mortensen as family patriarch Ben Cash answers that very question with a heartwarming and hilarious depiction of an isolation family who has to leave the comfort of their home in the wilderness after his wife and the mother of his children dies.
Throughout Captain Fantastic, which netted Mortensen a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor (his second), Ben Cash gives the other characters (and the movie's audience) more than enough opportunities to both love and loathe his unconventional and anarchistic ways of bringing up a family. Through confrontations with his father-in-law, Jack Bertang (Frank Langella) and his own children, Ben's worldview begins to shift to see that civilization isn't the evil beast he once thought it out to be. By the time everything is wrapped up, Ben is a new man.
In 2008, Viggo Mortensen gave audiences one of his most subdued and violent performances in Appaloosa, a western based on the 2005 novel of the same name. Directed by Ed Harris, the film tells the story of lawman Virgil Cole (Ed Harris) and his deputy Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen) after they are hired to protect the small town of Appaloosa, New Mexico in the late 19th Century.
Although not as memorable as the last time the two actors shared the screen (A History Of Violence), Appaloossa tells a quiet and tense story of a small western town, the people who call it home, and the outlaws who see the town as their personal playground. Most of the action throughout the movie comes from interactions between Hitch and the ruffians on the other end of his shotgun. And when the girl he pines over (Renée Zellweger as Allie French) falls for Cole, Hitch hides his pain in his quiet resolve.
A Dangerous Method (2011)
Having not collaborated enough with their first two movies, Vigo Mortensen and David Cronenberg worked together for a third time in the 2011 historical drama, A Dangerous Method. Starring Mortensen as Carl Jung, Michael Fassbender as Sigmund Freud, and Keira Knightley as Sabina Spielrein, the film follows the three famed psychologists as they navigate their personal and professional lives on the heels of World War I.
Mortensen was nominated for the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor — Motion Picture for his portrayal of the founder of analytical psychology as he and his contemporaries travel about and develop the methods for their respective fields of psychology. And while A Dangerous Method lacks the explosive moments of violence found in previous two collaborations between the actor with Cronenberg, his period piece is just as cerebral and painful at times.
Green Book (2018)
There is a lot that can be said about the 2018 Academy Award-winning historical drama Green Book, but despite the controversy that surrounded this film upon its release, there's nothing that can take away from the electric performances from its two stars, Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali, who would take home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
In the movie, Mortensen plays Tony Lip, a New York City bouncer who is hired to be personal driver for acclaimed classic pianist Dr. Don Shirley on the musician's tour of the American south. What follows is a buddy road trip movie about two men from completely different backgrounds with totally different experiences learning from one another. And while the film does have some iffy moments sprinkled throughout, Mortensen and Ali do their best with the material.
G.I. Jane (1997)
Years before the world would come to know Viggo Mortensen for his performance in The Lord Of The Rings, he showed up in Ridley Scott's 1997 military drama G.I. Jane. The movie centers around Lieutenant Jordan O'Neil (Demi Moore) who is chose to participate in a trial of a program that would allow women to join the U.S. Navy. Through her training, O'Neil meets Mortensen's Master Chief John James Urgayle, who pushes her to brink of physical and mental exhaustion.
Mortensen goes most of the movie doing his best to mimic real life Navy drill sergeants, but begins to show his more tender side as he begins to respect O'Neil for her determination. This is even more evident after O'Neil saves Urgayle's life in the climax of this military action drama.
And finally, there's Hidalago. Directed by Joe Johnston, this biographical epic follows the lives of famed long-distance rider Frank Hopkins, played by Viggo Mortensen, and his horse, Hidalgo, as they take part in the 3,000-mile "Ocean of Fire" race in the Najd desert.
The film was Mortensen's first feature after the release of the third and final installment of The Lord Of The Rings trilogy, and involved a lot of the same activities acted out by the actor in his previous role. Despite the similarities with horseback riding, Mortensen's Frank Hopkins is nothing like the Aragon we had come to know and love in the years prior to the film's release. Nevertheless, Hidalgo remains a fun, action-packed addition to the actor's filmography.
There are just 10 of Viggo Mortensen's roles that prove that he is more than just Arragon. Do you agree with our list or would you add something else? Let us know in the comments.
Philip grew up in Louisiana (not New Orleans) before moving to St. Louis after graduating from Louisiana State University-Shreveport. When he's not writing about movies or television, Philip can be found being chased by his three kids, telling his dogs to stop yelling at the mailman, or yelling about professional wrestling to his wife. If the stars properly align, he will talk about For Love Of The Game being the best baseball movie of all time.
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