Ethan Hawke’s 11 Best Genre Roles (So Far)

Ethan Hawke’s 11 Best Genre Roles (So Far)

Ethan Hawke is a versatile talent who’s been Oscar-nominated for both acting and writing, in works as diverse as Richard Linklater’s “Before” trilogy and the bombastic Training Day. As part of his multi-decade career, he’s also popped up in his share of sci-fi and horror, including two projects that’ve brought him back into the spotlight lately: Marvel’s Moon Knight Disney+ series and Scott Derrickson’s The Black Phone, which opens next week.

We’re including The Black Phone even though it’s not out yet, since it showcases Hawke in a particularly creepy role: he plays a child killer who favours masks and goes by “the Grabber.” Going by just that information, we’re confident it makes the list — along with the other 10 included here — of Hawke’s most intriguing genre roles to date.

Gattaca (1997)

In a noirish, futuristic world driven by eugenics, Hawke plays a man who fakes genetic perfection in order to land his dream job as an astronaut — a stressful situation to begin with, but the ruse becomes even more agonizing to maintain when some of his flawed DNA is discovered at a murder scene.

Moon Knight (2022)

Image: Gabor Kotschy/Marvel Studios
Image: Gabor Kotschy/Marvel Studios

Playing a Marvel villain just seems way more fun than playing a Marvel hero, doesn’t it?

The Northman (2022)

Image: Aidan Monaghan/Focus Features
Image: Aidan Monaghan/Focus Features

Hawke’s other big 2022 project cast him as a Viking king whose murder sets the whole plot in motion… though later we discover he wasn’t exactly the hero his vengeance-driven son (Alexander Skarsgård) believes him to be.

Valérian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

Screenshot: EuropaCorp Distribution
Screenshot: EuropaCorp Distribution

Luc Besson’s sci-fi fantasy passion project looked great but felt hollow, and didn’t exactly set the box office on fire. However, Hawke has an amusing cameo as “Jolly the Pimp,” who briefly sleazes around as the accompanist for a glamorous shapeshifting entertainer played by Rihanna.

Predestination (2014)

Sci-fi legend Robert Heinlein’s short story “All You Zombies” informs this brain-twisting flick from twin directors the Spierig Brothers, in which Hawke plays a cop (a “temporal agent”) who travels back and forth in time ostensibly trying to capture a dangerous bomber, but then becomes entangled in an even greater mystery contained within himself.

Explorers (1985)

Joe Dante’s sci-fi adventure marked the film debuts of both Hawke and River Phoenix, playing suburban kids who build a spaceship and venture out into the galaxy. Though it wasn’t a hit when it was released (occupying the same box-office window as instant smash Back to the Future didn’t help), it’s since gained a cult following.

Daybreakers (2009)

Vampires! The Spierig Brothers also directed this one, featuring Hawke as a bloodsucker who refuses to drink human blood; he’s also a hematologist who becomes caught up in the quest to find a cure for vampirism. As an added bonus, the great Sam Neill plays Hawke’s vampire boss, the ruthless CEO of a pharmaceutical company who’s been gleefully lining his pockets with profits from their proprietary blood substitute.

Waking Life (2001)

Hawke is part of the ensemble cast of this experimental film from Richard Linklater — who also directed the actor in the “Before” trilogy, as well as Boyhood — which uses rotoscope animation to make its trippy narrative feel even more dreamlike.

The Purge (2013)

Never forget Hawke starred in the first Purge movie, which went on to spawn a blockbuster franchise (five films plus a TV series) while preying on some not-that-unbelievable fears about America’s darkest desires regarding utter lawlessness and brutal violence.

Sinister (2012)

Hawke’s first collaboration with director Scott Derrickson casts him as a true-crime author whose quest for bestselling inspiration exposes his family to a horrific evil — unleashed by some very unsettling home movies he discovers hidden in the attic of his new home. It’s a genuinely startling film, and suffice to say we are more than ready for fresh nightmares from these two. The time has almost arrived: The Black Phone opens June 24.

Want more Gizmodo news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel and Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.

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