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Top 10 John Goodman Performances

VO: Adrian Sousa WRITTEN BY: Laura Keating

Script written by Laura Keating

These performances are really good, man. From Lawrence Woolsey, to Dan Conners, to Howard Stambler, John Goodman has turned in some incredible performances over his long and well-respected career. WatchMojo counts down the top John Goodman performances.

Special thanks to our user Michael J. Gillespie for suggesting this idea! Check out the voting page at https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top+10+John+goodman+performances


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Script written by Laura Keating

Top 10 John Goodman Performances

He’s one of the most engaging character actors, or just plain actors, in the business, and it’s time to highlight some of his best roles. Welcome to, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 John Goodman Performances.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the most iconic and memorable performances from this big-voiced, larger than life thespian. Caution: spoiler alert.

#10: Delbert McClintock

“Arachnophobia” (1990)
In this early ‘90s creature feature, the little town of Canaima, California is plagued by an infestation of killer Amazonian spiders. After two people in town are left dead, exterminator Delbert McClintock is called in to lend his expertise in eradicating the arachnids. A fun little horror flick all around, it is Goodman’s performance that truly stands out. His laissez-faire attitude and smug affection for his work adds an element of comedy in the campy film. Also, he provides the reminder that even if their bite is deadly, when it comes to spiders the bottom of a boot will always get the job done.

#9: Big Dan Teague

“O Brother, Where Art Thou?” (2000)
In this interpretation of Homer’s “The Odyssey,” three convicts escape a chain gang and make their way home and to freedom. Like in the epic poem, along the way they encounter the cyclops – in this case, Big Dan Teague. When he believes they’re carrying riches, Goodman’s Teague invites them out for a picnic lunch in a secluded area, where he attacks them. They later encounter the big man again at a Klan rally, where he finally meets his maker. The richness of the performance comes from Goodman’s nuanced ability to portray people whose warm, outwardly likeable characteristics, are just a thin veneer covering their dark inner selves.

#8: Lawrence Woolsey

“Matinee” (1993)
Set against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, the owner of a kitschy cinema finds a way to drum up business for his new atomic-era creature feature. As everyone is already afraid, Lawrence Woolsey decides to exploit this fear and make the theater experience a more interactive, completely overblown experience. This passionate, larger-than-life, cigar-chomping producer character requires an equally theatrical showman to pull it off; and indeed great skill of Goodman’s is his capacity to play the mischievous mentor, the big guy who's really just a big kid at heart.

#7: Gale Snoats

“Raising Arizona” (1987)
In one of his earliest roles, John Goodman plays Gale Snoats in one of the many Coen brothers films in which he is featured. Gale and his brother Evelle are two convicts recently escaped from prison, who turn up on the doorstep of their old cellmate and buddy, Herbert I. "Hi" McDunnough. A wise fool with a better vocabulary than real intellect, Goodman gives the harebrained schemer, and two-bit robber, a real personality with his hilarious, bumbling performance. Hey, not every convict who crawls through a sewage pipe is an Andy Dufresne, we guess.

#6: John Chambers

“Argo” (2012)
While the Academy Award-winning film “Argo” is not entirely historically accurate (notably, the role of the Canadian government and embassy in Tehran was minimized to the point of history being rewritten), make-up artist John Chambers was very much a real person and an integral part of the audacious rescue plan. In collaboration with the CIA, Chambers, who had made disguise kits for the government agency in the past, helps put together a fake film to spirit the American diplomat hostages out of Iran. Goodman’s grounded performance in the face of the daring scheme keeps the whole thing less heist flick and more believable. Sometimes fact just really is stranger than fiction.

#5: James P. Sullivan

“Monsters, Inc.” (2001)
While he’s taken on a number of memorable animated voice roles, including that of Pacha in “The Emperor’s New Groove,” we just couldn’t pass on Sully. He’s just so loveable! The fluffy blue monster – top scarer and vigilant protector – needed an imposing speaker to carry the character, and John Goodman, much like Morgan Freeman, has got a voice that is basically a booming warm bath for the heart. Seriously, and we don’t take this lightly, it’s a toss-up between these two acting icons for whose dulcet tones would best narrate a bedtime story (fight it out in the comments!)

#4: Howard Stambler

“10 Cloverfield Lane” (2016)
This won’t be the last time on this list that Goodman wrangles a menacing character. Waking up in an underground bunker, Michelle meets Howard Stambler, a man who has a crazy story to tell her. Throughout the film, the unstable and intense Howard’s presence is nothing short of terrifying, a so-called protector who is perhaps an even bigger danger than anything that might lurk beyond the confines of the bunker. The fact that John Goodman gives off an endearing vibe in real life is what makes his villainous roles – which he is just so darn good at – so captivating and chilling. This man has got serious versatility.

#3: Charlie Meadows

“Barton Fink” (1991)
In yet another Coen brothers film, we have John Goodman playing character who is not all who he seems. The titular character meets Charlie Meadows after his move to Hollywood to write film scripts. While he seems like a generally okay guy at first, in a patented Coen Brothers twist, by the end, the audience discovers that he’s . . . not exactly who he says he is. Joel and Ethan Coen actually wrote this twisted character with Goodman specifically in mind, knowing that his friendly demeanor would lull audiences into a false sense of security.

#2: Dan Conner

“Roseanne” (1988-1997; 2018-)
Despite having already launched a film career, back in the late ‘80s Goodman accepted the role of Dan Conner, the everyman father of the blue-collar sitcom, “Roseanne.” While by the end of the nearly decade-long original run of this smash hit he had reduced his screen time to focus on other projects, for many years he personified the hardworking, down-to-earth family man. Goodman’s easy-going nature was perfectly in sync with the character who, while not the central star of the show, was just so relatable. The show wouldn’t have been at all the same without him in the role.

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

Robert Laybourne
“Community” (2009-15)

Roland Turner
“Inside Llewyn Davis” (2013)

Harling Mays
“Flight” (2012)

#1: Walter Sobchak

“The Big Lebowski” (1998)
In an iconic film filled with iconic roles, once again from the Coen brothers, there is perhaps no one quite like Walter Sobchak. Walter is one of cinema’s best characters, and is one of those roles that just would have been wrong if cast with anyone else. The passive-aggressive bowling-fanatic, Vietnam vet, and utter lunatic has some of the best lines in the film, and Goodman’s delivery is flawless. This unstable best friend of The Dude, in this slacker-noir, is endlessly quotable; and even those unfortunate souls who have not seen the zany miracle that is “The Big Lebowski” are likely to be familiar with this character.

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