Top 10 Dennis Hopper Performances

Script written by Joe Jatcko Pop quiz, hot shot. In this video counts down our picks for the top 10 Dennis Hopper performances. For this list, we’re taking a look at those performances that show off this actor at his finest and/or most memorable. Made famous thanks to his role in "Easy Rider," Hopper earned his Hollywood stripes playing many memorable villains and all-out crazy guys. Just as good in the quiet scenes as he was in the loud, Hopper was a first-class actor. Special thanks to our user offbeat08 for suggesting the idea on our suggestion tool over at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Script written by Joe Jatcko

Top 10 Dennis Hopper Performances

Pop quiz, hot shot. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 Dennis Hopper 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: Jordan Benedict III
“Giant” (1956)

Following his big screen debut alongside James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause,” Dennis Hopper joined the young star, as well as Hollywood royals Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson, in George Stevens’ southern drama, “Giant.” Practically unrecognizable to fans of his later work—due to his youth and understated demeanor—Hopper portrays the son of a larger-than-life rancher and oilman. And, this performance shows a more sensitive side of an actor who later became known for playing less-than-stable characters.

#9: Father
“Rumble Fish” (1983)

Throughout his career, Hopper took on a string of scene-stealing supporting roles. His part in this 1983 Francis Ford Coppola film is no exception. Playing the father of two of the most infamous members of a local Tulsa gang, his appearance midway through the movie after having disappeared on a bender paints the picture of a life in which the boys were left to fend for themselves. Hopper is careful not to villainize his character, and opts to tragically emphasize his flaws instead.

#8: Lyle from Dallas
“Red Rock West” (1994)

In this little-seen 1994 gem, a drifter walks into a local bar and is assumed to be Lyle from Dallas. The only problem is this is actually Lyle from Dallas. Even in this low-budget and ultimately straight to video crime flick,Hopper never takes a scene off—and reminds us that possibly no one on the planet is scarier with a gun in their hand.

#7: Feck
“River’s Edge” (1986)

Famous for several epic career comebacks, 1986 may be remembered as Hopper’s best year. He appeared in seven different film and television roles back then, with the most underrated perhaps being his turn in Tim Hunter’s moody teenaged drama. In a cast of eccentric characters including those played by Crispin Glover, Daniel Roebuck, and Keanu Reeves, Hopper outdoes them all with his role as a shut-in pot dealer who maintains a relationship with an inflatable sex doll.

#6: Howard Payne
“Speed” (1994)

From “Waterworld” to “Super Mario Bros.,” Hopper has played his share of unhinged action villains, but perhaps never as convincingly as in this 1994 blockbuster. Taking what could have been a generic bad guy, Hopper turns in an in-depth character study of a disillusioned ex-cop who was, at the very least, underwhelmed by his retirement gift. We won’t ruin it for you, but his final scene is one for the ages.

#5: Clifford Worley
“True Romance” (1993)

Hopper’s performance as Christian Slater’s father in this dazzling 1993 Tony Scott film is largely remembered for this key scene opposite Christopher Waken, who plays a dangerous gangster. While just about any conversation between these two is bound to be fascinating, Hopper shows his character’s humanity even while ruminating on what is generally unpleasant subject matter. As a former cop who’s loyal to his son to the end,Hopper is definitely superb.

#4: Shooter Flatch
“Hoosiers” (1986)

Hopper earned an Oscar nomination for playing the alcoholic father of one of the players of an Indiana high school’s basketball team. In the sports film, the small town is appalled when the school’s new coach approaches him to be an assistant, but Hopper’s Shooter slowly wins them over. One of the most grounded performances of his career, Hopper’s acting opposite Gene Hackman helped define one of the greatest sports movies of all time.

#3: Photojournalist
“Apocalypse Now” (1979)

Hopper is perhaps the greatest testament to the adage, “there are no small parts…” In just a few minutes of screen time, Hopper’s role as an American photojournalist drawn in by the charismatic—but insane—Colonel Kurtz is compelling enough to make you want to sign up too. Hopper’s ability to stand out in one of the greatest film spectacles of all time is no small feat.

#2: Billy
“Easy Rider” (1969)

Directing and starring alongside Peter Fonda, Hopper’s breakout film is the ultimate road tale through a country on the brink of a culture war. If Fonda’s free-spirited, flag-clad Captain America represented the idealism of the ‘60s, then Hopper’s far more volatile Billy represented things to come. And while Fonda’s performance may be the most well known, this is in large part due to Hopper acting as his foil.

Before we reveal our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
- Goon
“Rebel Without a Cause” (1955)
- Babalugats
“Cool Hand Luke” (1967)
- Moon
“True Grit” (1969)
- Don Barnes
“Out of the Blue” (1980)
- Tom Ripley
“The American Friend” (1977)

#1: Frank Booth
“Blue Velvet” (1986)

Maybe the most terrifying character ever brought to the screen; Hopper takes the role of a small-time criminal and turns him into something unspeakably evil in this David Lynch mystery thriller. More than the bad things he actually does, Hopper succeeds in making the audience even more afraid of what he might do. The performance helped re-launch Hopper’s career and stands as one of the best bad guys in film history.

Do you agree with our list? What Dennis Hopper performances make your eyes pop out of your head. For more entertaining top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to

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