Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider

Dennis Hopper
, who passed away from prostate cancer on May 29, 2010, at 74, was one of our most recognizable stars who managed to turn a string of perennial outsiders, misfits, and deranged characters into the embodiment of our worst nightmares and sometimes even our own best hopes. Anytime he appeared on screen, he was an outright scene stealer, the visual equivalent of walking into a gas station with a lit match. His characters weren't always pleasant, but they never let us look away. Here are 10 roles that stood out.

News: Dennis Hopper dead at 74.
Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider

Dennis Hopper
, who passed away from prostate cancer on May 29, 2010, at 74, was one of our most recognizable stars who managed to turn a string of perennial outsiders, misfits, and deranged characters into the embodiment of our worst nightmares and sometimes even our own best hopes. Anytime he appeared on screen, he was an outright scene stealer, the visual equivalent of walking into a gas station with a lit match. His characters weren't always pleasant, but they never let us look away. Here are 10 roles that stood out.


10. 'Rebel Without a Cause' (1955)
As one of the goons in the gang that torments James Dean, a very young, blond Hopper doesn't have that many lines. But he's a threatening presence all the same, especially in the famous knife fight scene at Griffith Park Observatory as he lies splayed on the roof of Dean's car, getting as close to the action as possible without actually committing the crime. Offscreen he made an even bigger mark, befriending Dean and getting in a car crash with Natalie Wood that managed to damage the reputation of America's sweetheart.

9. 'Giant' (1956)
Appearing once again with his buddy James Dean, Hopper plays Bick Benedict, the grown-up son of Rock Hudson's imperious cattle rancher. Of course, this was Dean's last film, as the actor was killed in September 1955 shortly after filming wrapped, an event which shattered Hopper.

8. 'Cool Hand Luke' (1967)
Another in a string of vaguely threatening roles, Hopper plays the bet-taker Babalugats in the epic Paul Newman prison drama. Just before Newman has to make good on his bet to eat 50 eggs, Hopper trails along behind Newman and George Kennedy clutching the cash, acting like the perfect sycophant in the shadow of greater men. His time would come.

7. 'Apocalypse Now' (1979)
As the nameless photojournalist, Hopper has a somewhat tender moment when he quotes a line from T.S. Eliot's 'The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock.' Francis Ford Coppola's harrowing adaptation of 'Heart of Darkness' is yet another case of Hopper finding a way to attach himself to, and distinguish himself in, some of the era's most important films -- a talent that would never desert him.



6. 'True Grit' (1969)
Hopper plays an outlaw named Moon, one of the miscreants that John Wayne's Marshal Rooster Cogburn chases down. Off screen, they had similar chemistry: Wayne was seen chasing the obstreperous (and then left-leaning) Hopper around with a loaded gun while Hopper hid in Glen Campbell's trailer. Just another day on the set with a Hollywood wild child.

5. 'Speed' (1994)
Sure, Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock were the nominal stars, but Hopper stole the show as disgruntled, hell, demented ex-cop Howard Payne, who uses his hi-tech know-how to wreak havoc in buildings and on buses. And it's certainly one of Hopper's more quotable movies, as in, "Nothing tricky now. You know I'm on top of you! DO NOT attempt to grow a brain!"

4.
'True Romance' (1993)
Hopper's greatest moment in this drug-and-mobster tale written by Quentin Tarantino is the famous "eggplant scene," where Christopher Walken tortures Hopper for information on Patricia Arquette and Christian Slater's whereabouts, only to have Hopper turn the tables and expound profanely (a Hopper specialty) on Walken's dubious Sicilian ancestry. It's six minutes of Hopper's finest work.

3.
'Hoosiers' (1986)
'Hoosiers' is not only one of the great sports movies of all time, but it also contains one of Hopper's most complex characters. As Shooter, the high school basketball hero turned town drunk, Hopper gives a heart-rending performance of uncanny subtlety. Between lurching onto the court in a drunken stupor (achieved by spinning for 10 seconds before the cameras rolled) and Shooter's finding redemption as an assistant coach, Hopper draws an unforgettable portrait of a man crawling back from the edge.

2. 'Easy Rider' (1969)
For a dramatized snapshot of the hippies of the late '60s, look no further. It's ironic that Hopper ended up a staunch Bush supporter, because to some fans he will always be remembered for his role as Billy, the ultimate counterculture character. With a buckskin coat and floppy hair modeled after David Crosby, Billy rode alongside Peter Fonda in a hallucinogenic haze, trying to become one with the universe while remaining totally oblivious to the fact that the gun-toting Moral Majority had guys like him squarely in their sights.


1. 'Blue Velvet' (1986)
Frank Booth. Just the name gives you chills. In David Lynch's nightmarish tale, Hopper's Booth is a vile, evil creation who snorts up copious amounts of amyl nitrate and has a propensity for violent, ritualistic rape. An indelibly disturbing character, Booth drops F-bombs with nearly every sentence, and serves as an example of the potential depths of man's depravity. If you have any friends who like to quote this character, run away. Very fast. It would be the ultimate tribute to Hopper, an actor of singular intensity the likes of whom we may never see again. Check out Hopper's famous Pabst Blue Ribbon scene here.

News: Dennis Hopper Dead at 74
CATEGORIES Features, Movies