Top 10 Harvey Keitel Performances

Written by George Cimurt With his trademark Brooklyn accent and his portrayals of no-nonsense tough guys, this Oscar-nominated actor has turned in his fair share of acting gold. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 Harvey Keitel performances. For this list, we’re taking a look at those performances that show off this actor at his finest and/or most memorable. Special thanks to our user jkellis for submitting this idea via our Suggestions Tool at WatchMojo.comSuggest
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Written by George Cimurt

Top 10 Harvey Keitel Performances


With his trademark Brooklyn accent and his portrayals of no-nonsense tough guys, this Oscar-nominated actor has turned in his fair share of acting gold. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 Harvey Keitel performances.

For this list, we’re taking a look at those performances that show off this actor at his finest and/or most memorable.

#10: Lt. Ray Donlan
“Cop Land” (1997)

Harvey Keitel shows off his acting chops as corrupt Lieutenant Ray Donlan in this ensemble crime drama. Affectionately referred to as Uncle Ray by his friends, Donlan is a cocky New York police officer that also happens to have mob connections. Keitel carries the smug portrayal well and brings to life some of “Cop Land”’s most striking lines – as showcased in particular in this barroom scene

#9: Hal Slocumb
“Thelma & Louise” (1991)

This classic American road picture features Keitel in the familiar role of a cop, but this time, with a more sympathetic spin. As Hal Slocumb, he’s the lone Arkansas detective who knows the true predicament of the titular pair of female fugitives and promises to keep them safe. His sensitive performance won him the National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Supporting Actor.

#8: Mickey Cohen
“Bugsy” (1991)

He’s part of the Jewish mafia, and did we mention that he’s a merciless killer? One of Keitel’s few portrayals based on a real-life figure, the grim-faced Mickey Cohen of the crime-film “Bugsy” knows how to kill as well as he wears his signature white suit. Keitel’s portrayal of the harsh mobster nabbed him both an Oscar and Golden Globe nomination.

#7: Jacob Fuller
“From Dusk till Dawn” (1996)

It was this cult action horror that transformed Keitel into ex-Baptist minister Jacob Fuller. the church after his wife’s untimely death, he decides to take his family, and their mobile home, south. Before they can do so, they encounter a pair of violent criminals; get taken hostage, battle with vampires… Yeah, it’s complicated.
In his Saturn Award-nominated role, Keitel switches easily between vulnerable and mild to lean and mean.

#6: Charlie
“Mean Streets” (1973)

In this dark crime flick, Keitel plays Charlie, a young man looking to get into the mafia business. However, he is hindered by his irresponsible friend Johnny Boy, played by a youthful Robert De Niro.
In love with Johnny Boy’s cousin and haunted by the idea of hell, Keitel’s complex portrayal of an Italian-American struggling to pull himself and his friends together in Little Italy is pure movie magic – with special thanks going to Martin Scorsese’s incomparable directing.

#5: The Lieutenant
“Bad Lieutenant” (1992)

Often referred to as one of his greatest screen performances, Keitel bares all as the disturbed police officer addicted to gambling, drugs, alcohol, and girls. After he sinks into a life filled with anger and depravity, it takes a battered nun for the Lieutenant to finally convince him to reflect on whether redemption is possible. Both disturbing and moving, Keitel’s brutally honest portrayal won him an Independent Spirit Award for Best Male Lead.

#4: Winston Wolf
“Pulp Fiction” (1994)

A classic among Tarantino fans, “Pulp Fiction” sees Keitel holding his own among an all-star cast as Winston Wolf, a master concealer and cleaner of messy crimes. While his screen time may be brief, Keitel truly shines in the part written specifically for him, in which he professionally and matter-of-factly handles the interior of a bloody car.

#3: George Baines
“The Piano” (1993)

It’s not for no reason that Keitel won the Australian Film Institute Award for Best Actor with his role in “The Piano.” In the story of shyness, suppression and isolation, Keitel plays a former whaler and lonely neighbor of a mute woman and piano player who yearns for something more than just music. Keitel’s portrayal of the worn and weathered man is equal parts passion and quiet reserve, and is perfect for the film.

#2: Matthew ‘Sport’ Higgins
“Taxi Driver” (1976)

Although the movie is better known for De Niro’s compelling acting, Keitel is more than solid as the pimp of Jodie Foster’s character in the 1976 classic crime film. Always nervous and always looking for his next fix, the drug-addicted and violent Matthew “Sport” Higgins fits just right into in Scorsese’s filthy, fierce cityscape.
And without his award-nominated persona, “Taxi Driver” just wouldn’t have been the same.


Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

- Judas Iscariot
“The Last Temptation of Christ” (1988)
- Augustus ‘Auggie’ Wren
“Smoke” (1995)
- Ben
“Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” (1974)
- Jack Crawford
“Red Dragon” (2002)


#1: Mr. White
“Reservoir Dogs” (1992)

We know you saw this coming. Topping our list of Keitel performances is the actor’s turn in Quentin Tarantino’s debut, which Keitel also co-produced. Playing a cool, collected, and trusting criminal, Keitel gives us a skillful portrayal of a tough guy with a strong moral core. Sure, the movie’s got plenty of violence, swearing and more, but the cult hit also gave us the unforgettable Mr. White – a man who believes one must kill when necessary but also that waitresses should be tipped.

Do you agree with our list? Which Harvey Keitel performance is your favorite? For more great top 10s, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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