Another beloved tough guy of the genre, Bean has also become a source of parody of his neverending streak of continually dying on-screen. Nevertheless, his reputation precedes him and he’s done quite a ton of memorable work that deserves a ranking so I dare traverse the maze that is his ten best cinematic roles. (Please note that I’ll save up Sean’s TV show roles for another time)
10. The Island
While underused, this makes for another fun “playing God”/Total Recall type role in this cyberpunkish, post-Matrix escapade. Sean gets a neat end fight scene and instead of going for all-out menace, sticks to just shit-eating grins and mixing promises with ordering around. But being sly instead of blunt is definitely what makes his a better role for him instead of being just another scenery chewer.
As a leader of a vigilante team, Bean’s character speaks for all of their radical actions and how they let all the misdeeds by the UK criminals eat them all up inside to where they will go crazy if the crime rates continually persist. Hunted by the police as well, this is a great installment also for co-stars Lennie James and Bob Hoskins and the film manages to have some neat perspective on what goes into this type of justice-seeking without forcing an agenda or overstaying its violent welcome. Aside from a neat character study and welcome slugfest, it doesn’t waste anytime with the basics while also surprising the viewer (in a good way) when needed.
A minor role (and one that doesn’t end in a fatality for his character), Bean gets some good material to state and some dark humor to emit. He also ends up stating some of what’s on the criminal recruit’s minds that they’re not willing to say but due to his cockiness and surprising fear of dying, he does get some scene-stealing moments before the opening shoot-out.
As a federal operative, this political spy thriller gets plenty of brutal moments but Sean’s character (and his narration) seal the deal as a man, who’s so used to stopping terrorist attacks, that he just lets his actions do the talking instead of reminisce over right vs. wrong methods and just gets to trying to outwit the next instance of violence from the mysterious sleeper cell. The film isn’t rocksteady at first but it’s not scattershot in its narrative either. It takes out the trash in unusual ways while also being a welcome gory addition to any genre collector’s film library.
6. Black Death
This fun Action-Horror fest makes use of its medieval setting and accomplishes most of it what it envisions as a whole. It’s neat seeing Sean lead the knights around and be the secondary hero to root for. He gets some neat kills and looking around unsure of what evil awaits his regime but the film never stands on just his shoulders, he’s just complimentary to the rather gory fun proceedings.
5. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Easily his most morally conflicted role still to date, it’s neat having him play an imperfect hero who could give into evil temptation at any time. Following the film’s various fake-outs and what-ifs scenarios, Sean was perfect casting for this as he becomes one of many characters which the viewer has to second guess if he’ll make it to the sequel. It’s 2020 so likely you’ve seen all these films by now but boy howdy was this a compelling if emotionally draining role. Nonetheless, the finale (assuming you’re not noobs and have seen all these films) is easily one of the best brutal finales of the ’00s still to date!
4. Bravo Two Zero
Portraying the real-life SAS leader Andy McNab, Sean encompasses most of the plausible military training and typical cockiness that’s entailed. After much quick yet efficient shoot-outs, Sean’s McNab has to endure the various capture and prison interrogation. It’s hardly dull and while cliche, it’s neat seeing a real-life Rambo type tale with plenty of the military slang and strategy being seen on-screen in stunning fashion. While a telefilm, it still has theatrical perks to merit seeing on a big-screen arguably and is def a role that Bean did proud.
3. Fool’s Gold: The Story of the Brink’s Mat Robbery
A rather solid telefilm with reasonable tension (if not many surprises) throughout with the documenting being rather reasonable and Bean getting to truly dig into the role of that real-life theft mastermind who knew how to pull it off and had no shame in getting caught at the end of the day. The film could’ve been tidied up a tad but hardly comes off as restricted to the TV format, let alone reliant on the cast of then-unknowns to generate thrills and dramatics.
As 006, the renegade MI6 agent, Sean managed to add onto an already beyond wild James Bond villain by getting plenty of catchy lines, unusual henchmen to boss around and the most outrageous scheme of latter-day plots for this franchise. By helping make the absurdity stick more and getting to fight newbie 007 Pierce Brosnan, it still makes for a wickedly fun cat-and-mouse thrill-ride outside of just a beyond enjoyable installment.
1. Patriot Games
Yes, the very much feared IRA criminal Sean Miller could’ve only been portrayed by Sean. Similar to Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber and one of the best examples of how to have an effective antagonist successfully steal the movie’s spotlight away from the otherwise interesting hero, the film is still a taut exercise and unleashes every bit of tension it has to display. Years before every movie wanted to be like The Dark Knight, I preferred the early ’90s days where every film/show had to feel like this or Speed and it’s still sorely missed!
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