Top 10 Best Kiefer Sutherland Performances

Written by Liam Hillery

This actor has had an extensive career in both film and television, but which of his roles is his best? Is it his iconic turn as Jack Bauer in 24, David in the Lost Boys, or the Caller in Phone Booth! WatchMojo presents the Top 10 Kiefer Sutherland performances. Watch to find out what we picked for the number one spot!

Big thanks Liam Hillery for suggesting this idea, and to see how WatchMojo users voted, check out the suggest page here: http://WatchMojo.comsuggest/10%20Top%20Kiefer%20Sutherland%20Performances


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He can be a world-saving, badass hero, a downright terrifying villain… really, he can be whatever you need him to be. Welcome to and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Kiefer Sutherland Performances.

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

#10: Robert Doob
“Eye for an Eye” (1996)

Many of Kiefer’s roles see him scaring the living daylights out of us. His portrayal of Robert Doob in “Eye for an Eye” is no exception. In a supporting role, Sutherland plays a rapist and murderer let off on a technicality. The psychological thriller follows the mother of the deceased, Karen, who fails to move past the murder, dedicating herself to finding justice. Kiefer epitomizes creepy, drifting into scenes silently, stalking his prey. Balancing disturbing and scary, Sutherland sends chills down your spine as an intimidating presence that, as a delivery driver, could find his way into any of our lives.

#9: John ‘Ace’ Merrill
“Stand by Me” (1986)

1986’s “Stand By Me” was a gift to the cinematic world. Standing the test of time, “Stand By Me” is universally regarded as a classic, and the film surely wouldn’t have found a place in our hearts without its primary antagonist, Kiefer Sutherland’s Ace Merrill. A vicious local gang leader, Ace is the opposing force of moral corruption to main characters Gordie, Chris, Teddy, and Vern, and their fading innocence. It’s Kiefer’s actions as Ace that tests the boys and encourages their emotional growth. With a stare of death that penetrates souls and a menacing switchblade, Kiefer gave us a timeless sinister villain.

#8: Freddie Lee Cobb
“A Time to Kill” (1996)

Alongside major Hollywood names like Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, Sandra Bullock, and a young Matthew McConaughey, you would excuse Kiefer if he’d failed to make an impression in a relatively minor role, but that wasn’t the case. As Freddie Lee Cobb, Kiefer plays the brother of a white supremacist who rapes and attempts to murder a young black girl. Throughout the film, Kiefer’s Cobb threatens and intimidates McConaughey’s character, a lawyer defending Samuel L. Jackson, after the latter murdered those who raped his daughter. In his brief time on screen, Sutherland develops a strong, nuanced portrayal of a despicable white supremacist criminal.

#7: Josiah Gordon ‘Doc’ Scurlock
“Young Guns” (1988)

Kiefer’s tenure in Hollywood has seen him take a wide variety of roles, and while a decent amount have been as villains, he also makes one fantastic hero. In “Young Guns,” Sutherland takes a step back through the history books and enters the Wild West. Beside fellow famous names of his generation, Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen, Kiefer plays Josiah Gordon “Doc” Scurlock, a member of the vigilante Regulators, a group of gun-hands hell bent on avenging the murder of the innocent rancher who’d hired them to work his ranch. Kiefer was a natural fit for a bad boy hero, and it speaks volumes about his talent that they chose his smooth voice to narrate final moments of the film.

#6: Nelson Wright
“Flatliners” (1990)

Venturing into science fiction, Kiefer turns fairly dark, yet not villainous, as Nelson in “Flatliners.” Following the credo, “today is a good day to die,” Nelson is a med student determined to play god… or at least discover him. Nelson leads a team of fellow students to help him experience death by flat lining his heart and getting a glimpse at what lies beyond, only to be resuscitated back to life. Though the film received mixed reviews, the cast - Sutherland most of all - was praised for their intense portrayals of young, arrogant characters testing the limits of the world.

#5: Dr. Daniel P. Schreber
“Dark City” (1998)

Taking another stab at genre film, Kiefer lends his talents to what may be his strangest role to date. A neo noir science fiction film, “Dark City” has one hell of a complicated plot, and while we won’t dive into that here, we’ll just say there are quite a few twists and turns throughout the movie. Those pivotal moments rely heavily on Kiefer’s Dr. Schreber, who holds the most knowledge and ability amongst the protagonists in this strange world. From the first scene – when he provides a mysterious warning, to the climax, which we won’t spoil here, Kiefer maintains the mystery of his character while bringing urgency to the film’s changing world.

#4: Lieutenant Jonathan James Kendrick
“A Few Good Men” (1992)

Most people know the, “you can’t handle the truth,” line, but watch the whole movie and you’ll catch a fantastic performance by Kiefer as Lieutenant Jonathan James Kendrick. Alongside Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, Demi Moore, and Kevin Bacon, Kiefer delivered an inspiring portrayal that contributed to the film’s critical and cultural success. One of the movie’s antagonists, Lt. Kendrick is accused of ordering soldiers to haze and torment a fellow soldier. Kiefer delivers an angry performance that contributes to the intense tone of the film. Like so many of his roles, his character’s actions are a fulcrum for action in the movie; it wouldn’t be as good without him.

#3: The Caller
“Phone Booth” (2002)

It’s one thing to be able to play a villain - the dark, menacing glares, the violent, stalking movements; it’s a refined art form. 2002’s “Phone Booth” had Kiefer dig deeper to realize his villain, as right up until the end of the movie, we never saw him, only hearing his character over the phone. Spending the film tormenting Colin Farrell’s Stu mentally, emotionally, and physically by trapping him in a phone booth, Kiefer develops a rich character through inflection and tone alone. Without showing his face, Kiefer is creepy, terrifying, and downright brutal with his sniper rifle. His anonymous caller will surely go down as one of the most unique villains to grace the silver screen.

#2: David
“The Lost Boys” (1987)

Don’t let the current generation of weak, Twilight-style vampires fool you; night walking blood suckers are cool, and perhaps no fang-sporting character better proves that than Kiefer’s David. In the coastal California town of Santa Carla, missing person signs cover telephone poles, and you can put the blame squarely on our lost boy David. The leader of a local gang of vampires, Kiefer’s character goes from cool to vicious in an instant, craving the taste of blood on his lips, and thinking nothing of killing the innocent. Kiefer’s performance as David is manipulative, imposing, and wholly frightening, solidifying Kiefer as a master of evil… well, in movies at least.

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

President Thomas ‘Tom’ Kirkman
“Designated Survivor” (2016 -)

“The Three Musketeers” (1993)

Bob Wolverton
“Freeway” (1996)

#1: Jack Bauer
“24” (2001-10; 2014)

YES! YES, Jack! Go shoot those terrorists! Stop that nuclear strike! Say, “damn it!” The role that earned Kiefer and “24” an Emmy, but perhaps more importantly spawned its very own drinking game, was always going to top this list. Jack Bauer, a career defining role, drew on every talent in Kiefer’s acting arsenal: at times he was an action hero, other times emotional and dramatic, and even occasionally villainous in his confrontational behavior and disregard for protocol. Even among a cast of talented actors and beloved characters – Chloe O’Brian, David Palmer, Tony Almeida, Michelle Dessler - there’s only one person that comes to mind when you think of 24: the CTU’s Jack Bauer.

Do you agree with our list? What do you think is Kiefer’s best role? For more interesting Top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to

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