Top 5 Edward Norton Films by Dave

Without a doubt, Edward Norton is my favourite actor. I first discovered Norton whilst watch Rounders, a cult film directed by John Dahl surrounding the world of underground high stakes poker. Norton’s acting was incredible and unique; his portrayal of ‘Worm’- formally, Lester Murphy- was extremely convincing. He has a knack for building great rapport with the audience irrespective of his character’s nature in the script- whether he plays  ‘good guy’ or the ‘bad guy’. Let the countdown begin…

5. The Illusionist (2006)

Directed by Neil Burger

The Illusionist Poster In this film Norton plays a distant and complex illusionist. The film first premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival, and was distributed in limited release originally, before going mainstream shortly afterwards. Dick Pope, the director of photography, earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Cinematography. Over time, the film easily exceeded its (approx) $17 million budget,  grossing $87 million worldwide and, interesting, performing extremely well in DVD form- earning close to $36 million in rental revenue in the first 5months of release in 2007.

4. Rounders (1998)

Directed by John Dahl

Rounders PosterIn 2003 an ‘amateur’ poker player won the World Series of Poker main event. His name was Chris Moneymaker; he walked away with US$2.5 million. This has been given credit as the official start of the poker boom, as television programs like the ‘World Poke Tour’ gained a massive following- and card games trickled down to clubs, pubs, and gatherings between friends like never before.

During this time, poker enthusiasts sought- vehemently- for mainstream media that shed light on this phenomenon. Rounders fit the mould exactly. It offered a first person insight into the world of high stakes underground poker. If you have never sat around a poker table and mumbled a quote from Rounders… well, you obviously have not seen the film. May I encourage you to do so, promptly.

Norton is brilliant. He plays the role of the scoundrel perfectly. You want to hate him. You would sometimes like to sit him down and explain the tenets of moral virtue. His portrayal was powerful without stealing the limelight from Damon who, I might add, plays his character to a tee.

3. Primal Fear (1996)

Directed by Gregory Hoblit

Primal Fear poster

This film was Norton’s first major hit, undoubtedly his breakout role. He supported Richard Gere- a high-priced lawyer, Martin Vail- as a boy accused of murder. Norton’s character, Aaron Stampler, is complex. His portrayal is devilishly clever. A few key scenes highlight Norton’s exceptional acting ability, as he presents the façade  of a multiple personality illness to avoid a jail sentence. This film is intriguing and intense.

Norton was nominated for a plethora of awards for supporting actor, including an Academy Award, a BAFTA as well as an MTV award for ‘best villain’. I am so tempted to fast-track this film to the top of the list, but due to Norton’s relatively minor role, I will not. This, however, is classic Norton!

2. Fight Club (1999)

Directed by David Fincher

Adapted from novel written by Chuck Palahniuk

Fight Club PosterFight Club is a potent comment on materialism and self-worth. It’s one of the few films I know that has been adapted very well from book to screen.

Interestingly, it performed quite poorly at the box office, only grossing $US37 million domestically (in the US)  from a $US63 million budget. Yet when released on video and DVD, sales and rentals boomed.

It has since become a ‘must-have’ for any serious DVD collection- particularly if you are male between the ages of 18 and 30.

The cinematography broke new ground. The themes polarized audiences: they either loved it or hated it. If you have no seen this one, shame on you! But as a warning, due to some graphic violence it’s now restricted to 18+, so maybe not the best to watch whilst chomping on a lamb chop.

1. American History X (1998)

Directed by Tony Kaye

American History X PosterThis drama starring Edward Norton and Edward Furlong is nothing short of touching. It raises some very powerful issues along the lines of race, hatred, brotherhood, and family. The film is a combination of ‘real time’ and flashbacks.

If you were looking for a feel-good flick to bring a smile to your face, this is probably not for you. It has a high level of emotional intensity- and that’s an understatement.

Norton captures an emotional transformation in a way that I have not seen before. It’s sincere. He was nominated for an Academy Award for best Actor. Need I say more?

On reflection, I am more convinced of my preference for Norton as my favourite actor. He is unequivocally versatile. The way he connects with his audience seems unrivaled. My only concern is that his ‘prime time’ seems to have been between 1996 and 1999. I am eagerly awaiting another script that is receptive to Norton’s elite abilities.

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3 Comments on “Top 5 Edward Norton Films by Dave”

  1. Neil Says:

    25th Hour & Red Dragon is also exemplary

  2. filmstank Says:

    Dear Neil,

    Thanks for the comment. I am in complete agreement about 25th hour. I only watched it in the last 12 months and was shocked to find that it underperformed at the box office. I thought it was a unique script. Further, the cinematography was outstanding in my opinion.

    There is a very good monologue that Norton executes with such vigour. Also, the shots are generally very long in duration. There seems to be a very natural feel about the conversations- they are never cut off short. Rather they are left to finish of their own volition.

    On reflection, I’d like to put 25th hour into my top 5. Yet I’m also convicted to stay strong with my original thoughts. Let me just say, I hold it in high regard.

    Regarding Red Dragon, I thought Norton was decent. I did not, however, like the colour choice for his hair. Minor point? Perhaps, but a a poor choice in my opinion.

    Dave @ filmstank

  3. Prudence Says:

    That’s way more clever than I was epxeitcng. Thanks!


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