Very few have had the incredible career arc of Russell Crowe.
With our current view of Crowe, one which allows him to believably lead the larger-than-life biblical epic “Noah,” it’s hard to believe that he actually started out his career with a bunch of pretty-boy roles (not that he wasn’t pretty enough for it). Yes, the man who led the revolt of Roman slaves actually started as a simple, good-looking love interest before he became one of our best dramatic leading men.
Crowe’s 20-plus year career is full of great movies, strange choices, and, like everyone, a couple stinkers. We’ve ranked all 36 of his most notable movies (based on movie quality, not his performance). You might agree, you might not. But, as Crowe would say, “Are you not entertained?”
36. “Winter’s Tale”
Crowe plays an evil … you know, with this one, let’s just not.
35. “Breaking Up”
Remember the ’90s? Russell Crowe does, though with this movie, I’m sure he wishes he didn’t. We promise, it gets better.
34. “No Way Back”
It’s like “L.A. Confidential,” but without everything good about that movie. Also, apparently double-strapping was cool in the early ’90s.
33. “Hammers Over The Anvil”
Once you see Russell Crowe riding a horse naked, you can never unsee it.
32. “The Crossing”
Russell Crowe’s girlfriend cheats on him, so he challenges the other man to a drunken race for her affection. Seriously. That’s a plot.
31. “The Efficiency Expert”
a.k.a. “Spotswood.” I’m too bored by either title to go into the specifics of this one.
30. “Rough Magic”
Crowe would probably rather just make this movie disappear. “Rough Magic” would be a way better Skinemax title, anyway.
29. “The Man With The Iron Fists”
Almost in the guilty pleasure category, though Crowe is at his least engaging.
Crowe in over-the-top villain mode. More like “Mediocrity,” am I right, people? Ah, you don’t know, you’ve never seen it.
27. “Broken City”
OK, nothing too bad about this one, just nothing too good either.
26. “Body Of Lies”
Somehow a movie co-starring DiCaprio and Crowe managed to be kind of boring. It’s this low mostly for wasted potential, though there’s no fault on Crowe for that.
25. “Heaven’s Burning”
This is when Crowe was in his “hot bad-boy” stage, but it’s right on the cusp of his superstardom.
24. “The Next Three Days”
Crowe and Liam Neeson in a revenge thriller from Paul Haggis, it’s actually better than it was received at the time.
23. “The Silver Brumby”
A Brumby is a horse. #themoreyouknow.
Despite the title, the movie’s about a policeman who thinks a teen murdered his family. Crowe loves his revenge thrillers, especially when he gets to don some unique facial hair.
21. “For The Moment”
This one’s from when Hollywood tried to make Crowe the romantic lead. It’s “Pearl Harbor” without all the Michael Bay (which is both good and bad).
20. “Les Miserables”
That time we found out Crowe doesn’t have a great singing voice, it’s the most polarizing of his acclaimed movies.
19. “A Good Year”
Crowe is excellent though he is saddled with a wandering script in the underseen Ridley Scott movie.
18. “Robin Hood”
Crowe’s great as the title character, though the movie takes itself way too seriously.
17. “Prisoners Of The Sun”
Look at that boyish drink of water on the right! Fun fact: Locke from “Lost” and George Takei were higher-billed than him.
16. “Man Of Steel”
Crowe gets 20 minutes to be a badass sci-fi action star, and, despite dying, has a big role the rest of the movie thanks to hologram technology. The movie itself is pretty good until a very long, repetitive final act.
Crowe befriends a blind Hugo Weaving (Agent Smith!) in this small but acclaimed Australian film.
14. “The Sum Of Us”
Crowe is at his early dramatic best in this complex film about homosexuality.
13. “Mystery, Alaska”
Should this movie about amateur hockey players who face off against the Rangers be this high up in the list? No. Have I watched it a billion times? Yes.
12. “The Quick And the Dead”
Crowe’s lesser Western is still a lot of fun.
11. “Proof Of Life”
How many people star in multiple movies with the word “proof” in the title? Seriously, I’m asking, I didn’t look it up. “Bourne” scribe Tony Gilroy wrote this one before he got big, as Meg Ryan hires Crowe to save her kidnapped husband.
10. “Romper Stomper”
Now we’re getting to the really good stuff. Crowe plays a skinhead as only he can: charming, intense, and terrifying. The movie was one of Crowe’s best-received early works, and helped propel him to more parts Stateside.
9. “State Of Play”
One of Crowe’s best recent dramas, it’s definitely one to catch on cable if you missed it in theaters (which you probably did).
8. “American Gangster”
Crowe and Denzel reunite after “Virtuosity” for this sprawling crime epic chronicling kingpin Frank Lucas and the cop who brought him down. Crowe’s fantastic as Richie Roberts a.k.a. “the incorruptible cop.”
7. “Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World”
Crowe was given an unenviable task in this one, having to carry a movie that’s almost entirely about naval strategy. He somehow pulls it off, as his Captain Jack Aubrey is gripping to watch every second he’s onscreen.
6. “A Beautiful Mind”
“A Beautiful Mind” gets a lot of flack, but it’s a very solid movie centered on an engrossing, singular performance by Crowe as the delusional genius. It might not have been deserving of four Oscar wins, but it’s a good flick, and Crowe’s performance makes it rise above that.
5. “Cinderella Man”
When you want a big, intimidating presence who still has a heart buried beneath huge pecs, you go for Russell Crowe. Here he plays Jim Braddock, a Depression-era boxer who comes out of nowhere to defeat champion Max Baer. The performance is almost effortless for Crowe, who shows that no one combines charm and aggression as he does.
4. “The Insider”
Crowe and Al Pacino match wits and acting chops in this Oscar-nominated movie about the consequences of a “60 Minutes” expose of Big Tobacco. It’s 157 minutes long, but don’t let that stop you as the movie is intense enough that you’ll think 60 Minutes was the run-time.
3. “3:10 To Yuma”
Now this is a Western! Crowe is at his anti-hero best as the outlaw being taken in by Christian Bale for a reward. The movie is gorgeous to look at, incredibly fun and packs some emotional punch thanks to the gravitas of Crowe and Bale, who are great together. One of the best modern Westerns.
Pretty much everyone was entertained by “Gladiator,” which launched Crowe into international superstardom. Crowe carries the film as Maximus, who finds his family, and his Emperor, killed, and is forced into slavery, eventually rising to become Rome’s most successful gladiator. The movie famously won Best Picture without getting a director nomination, and earned Crowe his only Oscar win. The movie has also aged very well, and is one of Ridley Scott’s most meticulous productions. It doesn’t hurt that Crowe’s incredible presence is a joy to watch, whether he’s killing lions, shouting at crowds, or sharing the screen with Joaquin Phoenix.
1. “LA Confidential”
Is there anyone who doesn’t love “L.A. Confidential?” It’s got a 99 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes, so I guess one person doesn’t. It has a ridiculous cast that features Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey, Kim Basinger at her height, and a bevy of other stars. It’s bloody, sexy, suspenseful, and just the right amount of pulpy to keep it entertaining until the end.
While Pearce probably has the most screen time in the film, it’s Crowe (at his most clean-shaven!) as the hot-headed but vulnerable Bud White who gives the film its dramatic weight and its most complete character arc. Bud doesn’t get the world. But, as the movie says, he does get an ex-hooker and a trip to Arizona, which ain’t too shabby. And what does Crowe get? To be the central force in one of the best movies of the ’90s.