JOE picks out the top five Kevin Spacey roles 9 years ago

JOE picks out the top five Kevin Spacey roles

Ahead of the screening of The Usual Suspects in Cork and Galway by the Jameson Cult Film Club, here are a few of our favourite characters played by the brilliant Kevin Spacey.

Lester Burnham - American Beauty


The role that landed Spacey an Oscar for Best Actor in 1999. American Beauty was the first film from Sam Mendes and won a host of awards, including five Oscars. Kevin Spacey delivered a virtuoso performance as Lester Burnham, a middle-aged magazine journalist who is in the midst of a mid-life crisis. He becomes infatuated with his daughter's friend, cheerleader Angela Hayes, played by Mena Suvari.

Spacey is renowned for playing dark, manipulative characters, so it was a change of gear for him to play a character who was pretty vulnerable and quite lonely behind all the bravado. He trained hard during the film too so a physical change happened before our very eyes as he went from quite flabby to very toned. His love-hate relationship with his wife, played by the brilliant Annette Bening is handled superbly and their on screen chemistry jumped off the screen.


He works out to impress the young  cheerleader, he buys a flash new car, he quits his job and threatens to blackmail the company all building to a climax where it looks like he is about to get the girl, when again there is a gear change. He finds out the object of his infatuation is a virgin and suddenly his paternal instincts kick in and the infatuation ends. It's beautifully played from start to finish by Spacey and fully deserving of all the accolades he has earned for the role.


John Doe - Seven

Not many actors can deliver menace and creepiness like Kevin Spacey. In the 1995 psychological thriller from David Fincher, Seven, he gives a performance so understated and withdrawn it only adds to the dark undercurrent of his character John Doe. Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman play a detective partnership in this rain sodden, dark thriller, but it is Spacey, who only features intermittently, who steals the show.


He plays the part of a sadistic serial killer who murders his victims according to the seven deadly sins, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, pride, lust and envy. All horrific murders, but it is his cool calm demeanour which is unsettling throughout building to a climax not many will forget. Spacey does bad good. This role is a perfect illustration of how much on screen presence he has as an actor.


Roger 'Verbal' Kint - The Usual Suspects

If you haven't seen this yet, and are heading to the screening STOP READING NOW. For the rest of you, the performance of Kevin Spacey as 'Verbal' Kint in this film is truly astonishing, in every sense of the word.


Spacey won an Oscar back in 1995 as Best Supporting Actor for his role in this classic film. On the surface he is the least threatening member of a gang being investigated following a massacre and fire on a ship docked in Los Angeles. He is one of two survivors. He plays a pretty pathetic character who is a cripple. He fools the police into thinking the crime was committed by a mysterious Hungarian underground criminal called Keyser Söze.


Using flashbacks and narration, it's Spacey's voice and performance which completely dominates the film culminating in a twist at the end which not many people saw coming. It's Kevin Spacey at his glorious best.

Dave Harken - Horrible Bosses

Great villain, average movie. Spacey lends his best menace to this functional comedy about three friends who decide to kill the bosses that are making their lives hell.

Spacey plays Dave Harken, a man who specialises in bringing the absolute worst out of Jason Bateman by denying him a promised promotion and making his life, well, pretty much unlivable.


Granted, the film stretches credibility the closer it gets to the finish line and even Spacey can't prevent Harken from slipping into caricature, but he's worth watching for the first half of the film alone.

Frank Underwood - House of Cards

A man of such deviousness and malice that he could easily have his own adjective - try 'Underwoodian' on for size - Spacey's Frank Underwood will probably be the role he's most closely associated with long after he's gone.


Played with stylish charisma and charm by Spacey, Underwood specialises in dealing, double dealing and double crossing anyone that gets in the way of his rise to power. While it appears on the surface that he's incapable of actual human feeling - the character himself would see such a thing as a foolish flaw - there's no doubt of his love for wife Claire and even his respect for the unfortunate Freddy, the owner of a shabby barbeque joint who (spoiler alert) learns the hard way not to be in league with his old buddy Frank.

Throw in the odd murder or two and you have a truly brilliant, despicable character.

The Jameson Cult Film Club is returning to Cork on 22nd April and Galway on 29th April for explosive screenings of the 1995 crime thriller, The Usual Suspects. Following on from the successful screenings of cult classics such as Jaws, Predator and Intermission, organisers are bringing the Jameson Cult Film Club experience back on the road.

Just click on the  Jameson Cult Film Club link to register and be in with a shot of attending what is sure to be a brilliant pair of nights.


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