Other actors get more credit for being transformational, but in his own understated way, Val Kilmer has put together one of the most versatile filmographies in Hollywood. He’s out-cowboyed John Wayne, brought gleeful camp to sci-fi and fantasy, and effortlessly shifted between seductive and silly. In every performance his velvety voice is recognizable yet ever-so-slightly different, as if he’s lending his windpipe to a different man.
Now, that voice has been all but silenced; muted by a throat cancer that has threatened his career and life. But Kilmer has found new ways to express himself. In the upcoming documentary Val, his son Jack narrates his words, speaking about the illness with a frankness that he rarely mustered with his own mouth. “It’s difficult to talk and be understood,” he says through Jack. “But I want to tell my story more than ever.”
So do we. There’s never been a better time to celebrate Kilmer’s greatness, and in that spirit we’ve assembled this list of his 10 most iconic performances. These aren’t the ‘best’ in a traditional sense, and in fact, some have been nominated for Razzies for Worst Actor. Instead, this is a collection of the most quintessentially Kilmer-esque roles, where his commitment doesn’t waver, his surprises never cease, and he’s never anything less than unforgettable.
— Wren Graves