The 16 Best Christopher Walken Movies, Ranked

Christopher Walken is one of the most unique character actors of all time. Walken is renowned for his idiosyncratic mannerisms and has reinvented himself for audiences of many different generations. He has attracted some younger viewers with his frequent appearances on "Saturday Night Live" and Fatboy Slim's infamous "Weapon of Choice" music video.

Although Walken is largely associated with his comedic roles, he has delivered many riveting dramatic performances. At 79, Walken hasn't shown any signs that he is slowing down. He has recently found success on television with his roles as Burt Goodman on Apple TV+'s acclaimed science fiction series "Severance" and Frank Sheldon on Amazon Prime Video's crime series "The Outlaws." It was recently announced that Walken will be joining the cast of "Dune: Part Two" as Emperor Shaddam IV. It will be exciting to see Timothée Chalamet's Paul Atreides face off against the most fearsome antagonist in the "Dune" universe. Here are the 16 best Christopher Walken movies, ranked.

16. The Jungle Book (2016)

Disney's recent trend of adapting classic animated films into live-action has been generally disappointing, but Jon Favreau's remake of "The Jungle Book" actually improved upon its predecessor. Although it features photo-realistic CGI animals, the beloved characters come to life thanks to a deep bench of voice acting talent. Baloo the Bear is even funnier when he's voiced by Bill Murray, and the tiger Shere Khan is more terrifying thanks to Idris Elba. However, nothing can compare to the glory of hearing Christopher Walken's voice come out of the massive Gigantopithecus King Louie. Walken turns the ape into what sounds like the jungle's version of a mob boss.

Although "The Jungle Book" remake cuts out a lot of the musical numbers, Walken got to perform his own version of "I Wan'na Be Like You." His strange accent makes the scene slightly unnerving in a comedic way, where neither the audience nor Mowgli (Neel Sethi) knows if they can trust Louie entirely. The animators of "The Jungle Book" even modeled Louie so he would have some of Walken's facial features. Walken comes in at just the right time in the story and teaches Mowgli to stand up for himself, even after briefly parting ways with Baloo. That can't be easy when you're listening to Walken's raspy voice come out of a giant ape.

15. Jersey Boys (2014)

"Jersey Boys" tells the story of how a young Franki Valli (John Lloyd Young) became friends with Bob Gaudio (Erich Bergen), Nick Massi (Michael Lomenda), and Tommy DeVito (Vincent Piazza), forming one of the most iconic musical groups of all-time: The Four Seasons. Although there's joy in seeing the musical numbers treated with such reverence, the film does not overlook the controversies in the band's life and their relationship with the mafia. This made Christopher Walken's performance as the Genovese Family mobster Angelo DeCarlo critical to strike the right tonal balance.

DeCarlo has a complicated relationship with the band where he is able to help clear some of their debts when they become successful, but there's no question that he is the one in command. Walken adds a sense of menace without making the story too dark. His broad depiction of a real mobster, coupled with the film's fourth wall breaking, suggests that "Jersey Boys" isn't sticking entirely to the facts. It's clear that the film is being told from the perspective of the band, so it makes sense that Walken's performance is larger-than-life. Given the youthfulness of the primary cast, having an actor as experienced as Walken came to the benefit of "Jersey Boys." It can get a little irritating watching these arrogant young men get into mischief for over two hours, so having a veteran comic star diversified the film's sense of humor.

14. Hairspray (2007)

"Hairspray" gave Christopher Walken the chance to show off his singing abilities. Prior to his most well-known film roles, he began his career in musical theater. This adaptation of the acclaimed stage musical incorporated the story from John Waters' original film from 1988 with the musical numbers that had been so successful on stage. The film had a difficult task ahead of it, needing actors who could carry a tune but had the gravity to handle the film's more emotional scenes. While "Hairspray" does tackle serious issues like segregation and bullying, it still takes place in a heightened version of reality. Walken's dainty, charming performance fits perfectly within the film's plane of existence.

The film tells the story of the teenager Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky) as she tries to make it as a dancer in Baltimore in 1962. Tracy is relentlessly bullied at school for being overweight, but finds that her father Wilbur (Walken) and mother Edna (John Travolta) accept her for who she is. Wilbur is hardly a perfect man, but his warm attitude toward Tracy makes him one of the more endearing characters in the film. Walken is particularly moving in the musical number "You're Timeless To Me," which he sings with Travolta. After Edna is angered by his infidelities, Wilbur talks about his love for her and professes his devotion. It was actually Travolta who suggested that Walken would make a perfect co-star because "it was easier to react flirtatiously towards him."

13. Sleepy Hollow (1999)

Washington Irving's story of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" has been a popular Halloween fable for generations, but Tim Burton's 1999 film managed to inject new life into the classic tale. Although "Sleepy Hollow" has no shortage of jump scares, it grounds the story in a sense of realism that makes it even more disturbing. The Headless Horseman is not some fantastical creature of unexplainable origins, but a Hessian mercenary whose bloodlust was cut short. Christopher Walken appears in a flashback scene as the ruthless mercenary who is beheaded and transformed into the "Headless Horseman" that would haunt the village of Sleepy Hollow for the next few decades.

Although he's only briefly in the film, Walken is unforgettable. He captures the rage of a cruel man who will stop at nothing to satisfy his taste for destruction. Thanks to the incredible makeup work by Kevin Yagher, Peter Owen, Liz Tagg, and Paul Gooch, Walken has razor-sharp fangs and even sharper blue eyes. Of course, Walken is so inherently expressive that he didn't need prosthetics to look entirely deranged. Ray Park performed the rest of the scenes with the Horseman, but the audience is left to imagine that it is Walken's essence that still guides him. Putting a human face on this monstrous creature made him even more unnerving. 

12. A View To A Kill (1985)

James Bond films live and die based on the quality of their villains, and "A View To A Kill" is sadly one of the weakest installments in the franchise. Roger Moore was far too old for the role, and the film's surprisingly graphic violence is at odds with the wackier elements. However, Christopher Walken's performance as the villainous psychopath Max Zorin is so completely ludicrous that it makes the film worth watching. He is so much fun that the film transcends the "so bad it's good" category.

To start off, Zorin's plan is the type of plot that feels lifted straight out of "Austin Powers": He is a wealthy industrialist who plans to destroy Silicon Valley so he can create a monopoly on the California economy. There are also a few vague references to the idea that he was created by a Nazi experiment that is never explained in depth. Walken has a blast chewing the scenery whenever he gets to talk about his goals. That self-serious delivery of the dialogue makes the implausible story even funnier. Zorin shows up everywhere in style, concocting his evil plans from a giant blimp. In one of the most amusing scenes, Walken ejects one of his henchmen from the craft and then quips, "anyone else want to drop out?"

11. Wedding Crashers (2005)

Even though he began his career working alongside an older generation of comedy stars, Christopher Walken proved that he could still hold his own against the top comic actors of the 21st century. Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn have never had a better collaboration than 2005's "Wedding Crashers," but Walken still manages to steal the screen whenever he gets the chance. The movie is so absurd that Walken's goofy behavior feels almost sentimental.

Wilson and Vaughn co-star as John Beckwith and Jeremy Grey, two best friends that enjoy crashing formal weddings to meet women. Although they aren't looking for long-term relationships, John and Jeremy end up falling for two sisters named Claire (Rachel McAdams) and Gloria (Isla Fisher). The sisters' father just so happens to be the Secretary of the Treasury, William Cleary (Walken). Their dad carries himself with formality, which immediately unnerves John and Jeremy. It's particularly amusing to watch Wilson and Vaughn freak out when they're faced with Walken's intimidating glare. In fact, director David Dobkin stated that he cast Walken in the role because he knew that he "wouldn't have to lift a finger to make people scared of him." "Wedding Crashers" relies on a lot of crass humor, but the emotional beats are still very effective. The scenes towards the end of the film where Cleary has a heart-to-heart discussion with his daughter about her future is genuinely touching and set the stage for a crowd-pleasing conclusion.

10. The Dead Zone (1983)

David Cronenberg's "The Dead Zone" is a movie that cannot be pinned to just one genre. Is it a science fiction adventure? Political thriller? Horror film? Social satire? The answer to all of those questions is "yes." A film so undefinable required a versatile lead performance at its center, and Christopher Walken was just the man for the job. He gives one of his most emotionally earnest performances as Johnny Smith, a kindly school teacher who is gifted with the power to read thoughts and see into the future. Johnny emerges from a coma and discovers his powers, but realizes that his girlfriend Sarah Bracknell (Brooke Adams) is now married to another man. This immediately shows the burden that Johnny now carries, since his special abilities prevent him from living a normal life, and Walken indicates that Johnny is grieving throughout the film. 

The film proceeds at an elegant pace as Johnny begins to discover the secrets of his home in Castle Rock, New Hampshire. His naturalistic reactions to what he discovers ground the supernatural elements in emotional realism, with Walken exemplifying the spirit of an outsider. Johnny has trouble relating to his old colleagues after the accident, and he struggles with the responsibility of his knowledge. Walken isn't given many scenes of emotional yearning, but his reserved nature shows Johnny's sensitivity. It makes him very empathetic when he realizes that he must save Castle Rock from the fascist U.S. Senate candidate Greg Stillson (Martin Sheen).

9. At Close Range (1986)

Although he's often associated with his more outrageous, over-the-top performances, Christopher Walken proved in the gritty crime thriller "At Close Range" that he could be utterly terrifying. Walken embodies both the diligence of a career criminal and the terror of an abusive father. His inability to connect with his son makes the film even more heartbreaking. It's clear that his character, Brad Whitewood Sr., isn't someone that any child should look up to.

Whitewood's estranged son Brad Jr. (Sean Penn) is struggling financially and looking for work. After being impressed by his father's apparent wealth, Brad. Jr attempts to join his father's crime syndicate. Although Walken never indicates that Whitewood is genuinely concerned about his son's livelihood, he gives a few hints of encouragement to Brad. Jr., who perceives these overtures as compassion. In reality, he is nothing more than another tool that his father would discard without a second thought. Even if you love seeing Walken pop up on the screen, he manages to be completely unlikeable. The emotional centerpiece of the film is a conversation at gunpoint between the two Whitewoods. The father's misguided words of reason show how utterly detestable the character is, only willing to reach out to his son to spare his own life.

8. Wayne's World 2 (1993)

Comedy sequels are extremely challenging. It's easy to become repetitive, but if a film diverts too far from the formula it can alienate viewers who enjoyed the first film. That wasn't a problem for "Wayne's World 2," the sequel to the surprise 1992 hit that is even more ridiculous and packed with guest stars. In the first film, Wayne (Mike Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey) managed to outwit the shady television producer Benjamin Cane (Rob Lowe). It only made sense that in the sequel, they would have to go up against an even more intimidating villain: Christopher Walken's Bobby Cahn.

Bobby is a similar character to Benjamin and has virtually the same evil plan to profit off of Wayne and Garths' show and seduce Cassandra Wong (Tia Carrere). While Lowe characterized Benjamin as a cheerful novice within the entertainment industry, Walken indicates that Bobby is a veteran swindler. Benjamin is almost charming in some scenes, but Bobby is clearly malicious from the very beginning. It becomes increasingly hilarious throughout the film that no one seems to suspect that he has ulterior motivations.

7. King of New York (1990)

"King of New York" isn't Christopher Walken's first appearance in a mafia-centric film, but it's a much different type of role than you might expect. The film begins with a seemingly traditional premise: a powerful drug lord named Frank White (Walken) is released from prison and returns to New York City and immediately meets with former colleagues to resume his business. However, Frank isn't just trying to get back into the game to get revenge on the new drug lords, he's also trying to give back to his community and atone for his sins.

Although the screenplay doesn't give much insight into Frank's crimes before he was imprisoned, Walken shows that he regrets the damage that he's caused. He personifies the spirit of a lifelong New Yorker, and in many ways, the film feels like a love letter to the Big Apple and all those who live in it. There is compassion within Frank, but that doesn't mean he's left all aspects of his criminality behind. Walken is genuinely frightening during Frank's fight with the New York Police Department Lieutenant Roy Bishop (Victor Argo) towards the film's end.

6. Annie Hall (1977)

It takes a great actor to make the most of a brief scene. Christopher Walken doesn't have a lot of screen time in "Annie Hall," but he's part of one of the best visual gags in the history of cinema. Walken gives one of his most memorable comedic roles as Duane, the demented brother of Annie Hall (Diane Keaton).

Woody Allen's films tend to focus on awkward, uncomfortable conversations between unusual characters. As Alvy Singer (Allen) attempts to connect with his girlfriend's family, Duane takes him aside for a private conversation in his room. In one of the most bizarre monologues in the film, Duane describes his odd fantasies to Alvy, confessing that he dreams about driving in his car directly into oncoming traffic. Walken plays the scene entirely straight, which makes it both hilarious and slightly unnerving. This joke comes back when Duane drives Alvy to the airport during a rainstorm. Alvy's horrified expression is just priceless.

5. Batman Returns (1992)

"Batman Returns" is more than just a superhero movie. Tim Burton's 1992 DC comic book adaptation deconstructed the tragic essence of the "outsiders and freaks" that live in Gotham City. All of the characters in the film are victims of trauma who never had a proper family. Bruce Wayne/Batman (Michael Keaton) lost his parents when he was a child, Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) has been taken for granted her entire life, and Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin (Danny DeVito) was abandoned by his family when he was an infant. However, none of these characters are quite as terrifying as Max Shreck (Christopher Walken), a scheming businessman whose greed is without limits.

It's odd that in a movie with so many outrageous figures, the most disturbing character is a man who feels plucked out of reality. Walken portrays Shreck as a ruthless industrialist whose political connections allow him to avoid consequences. In 2022, that's even more terrifying than ever. While Shreck adds a foreboding nature to the film, that doesn't mean that he's not just as unusual as the rest of Walken's characters. There's a particularly hilarious scene where Shreck attempts to convince Cobblepot that he's an ideal candidate to run for mayor.

4. Pulp Fiction (1994)

Quentin Tarantino's 1994 masterpiece "Pulp Fiction" is so jam-packed with memorable moments that choosing a favorite scene is no easy task. However, many Tarantino fans would argue that the single scene featuring Christopher Walken is among the film's strongest. During a flashback to Butch Coolidge's (Bruce Willis) childhood, the veteran USAF Captain Koons (Walken) explains how Butch's father came into possession of a gold watch during the Vietnam War. Given that this is a Tarantino movie, Walken's monologue is peppered with crude descriptions of the situation overseas and the enemy Viet Cong soldiers.

Walken may have only been in the film for a single scene, but his importance cannot be overstated. This is a memory that has seared itself in Butch's head, explaining why he is so desperate to protect the watch later in the film. The larger-than-life quality that Walken brings is perfect for the role, as if he's embodying what a child imagines a figure of authority to be.

3. Seven Psychopaths (2012)

"Seven Psychopaths" feels like it was written specifically for Christopher Walken's peculiar sense of humor. The film is hilarious in a very dark way, but there's a strange reflective quality that makes it quite moving. The film tracks the writing process of the frustrated writer Marty (Colin Farrell), who struggles to come up with a story for his screenplay also titled "Seven Psychopaths." Marty draws inspiration from the various criminals and odd characters that he meets, including the partners Hans Kieslowski (Walken) and Billy Bickle (Sam Rockwell). Hans and Billy work together to steal dogs and collect the money when they're returned to their owners.

This is such a strange con that Walken pulls off with conviction. His expressions of genuine concern when the dogs are returned is just priceless, particularly as he's thanked for his generosity. While this could have been nothing more than a quirky goofball character, Walken shows that Hans has a dark side. During a grim monologue, Hans tells Billy about his past as a brutal criminal called "The Quaker." Walken is able to gingerly change the tone of the film, establishing that these selfish men will have to pay the price for their greed.

2. Catch Me If You Can (2002)

Steven Spielberg's 2002 biopic "Catch Me If You Can" allowed Christopher Walken to show a mature version of the mischievous characters that he usually plays. The film tells the incredible true story of Frank Abagnale Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio), a con artist who traveled the world in different disguises while he was a teenager. Walken plays the role of Frank's father, Frank Sr., who inadvertently inspires his son's behavior. It's a subtle and heartbreaking performance that earned Walken an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actor.

Frank Sr. is the ideal man in his son's eyes. Walken shows how his sly behavior in pulling various cons is exciting to a young boy, and why Frank Jr. would want to emulate the lifestyle that his father leads. There's genuine compassion to their relationship. A scene when he acts surprised when his son gives him a gift is very moving, and Walken's slight smile of bemusement seeing his son impersonate a teacher is the type of nuance that makes him so singular in the role.

1. The Deer Hunter (1978)

Not every actor wins an Oscar for their best performance, but that wasn't the case with Christopher Walken's victory for "The Deer Hunter." His moving work in the beloved anti-war film is just as powerful today as it was in 1978. An epic about the lasting effects of war and service on the citizens of a small town, the film follows Nick Chevotarevich (Walken) on every step of his journey. He transforms from a charming young romantic into a grief-stricken veteran, unable to forget the scenes of violence that he has witnessed.

It's disturbing to watch the emotional and physical transformations that Walken makes during Nick's struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder. His proposal to Linda (Meryl Streep) is particularly charming, and Walken's optimism makes the eventual breakdown of their relationship even more devastating. Walken projects a hypnotic stare when Nick becomes obsessed with Russian roulette after his experiences overseas, making it evident that he is not the same man he once was. Although "The Deer Hunter" is stacked with terrific actors, it's Walken's soul-piercing fall from grace that serves as the film's heart.