thoughts//TOP TEN JOSH HARTNETT FILMS

TOP TEN

Remember when Josh Hartnett was supposed to be the Next Big Thing? He was on the cusp of heartthrob status in the late 90s and early 00s after appearing in the teen film The Faculty and O and leading man status after leading roles the likes of Black Hawk Down and Pearl Harbor. After box office failures like The Black Dahlia and Hollywood Homicide, Hartnett took a backseat to the Hollywood limelight. Though the actor appeared in studio-heavy films, he always seemed like more of a serious actor.

This Sunday, May 11, Hartnett returns in his first major starring roles in years in the Showtime series "Penny Dreadful." To celebrate his return, let's take a look at some of his best work:


1. BLACK HAWK DOWN (2001)
Directed by Ridley Scott

Based on the true life Somalian battle that took place in the early 90s between U.S. armed forces and Somali drug lords. Hartnett showed his acting chops as Eversmann, the humble hero of the film. Released shortly after September 11, the movie was a mixed bag of reactions, with many seeing it as a well-made film, but also finding it hard to watch. Since then it has become known as one of the best war films ever made. Stylistically, director Ridley Scott created a world not often seen in action films and, with that, he created a memorable place with memorable images not soon forgotten. The film boasts a great supporting cast, too.


2. LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN (2006)
Directed by Paul McGuigan

Stylish and unique, Lucky Number Slevin is a little-seen movie that packs a lot of punch. Hartnett is joined by a stellar cast, including Morgan Freeman, Bruce Willis, Ben Kingsley, Stanley Tucci, and Lucy Lui. Hartnett plays Slevin, a man mixed up in a war between The Rabbi and The Boss, two crime bosses in the midst of a street war. Director Paul McGuigan earns credit here for creating an astoundingly unique vision for the story. Everything from sets to costumes to character choices are so particular and peculiar that the movie is consistently eye-popping and engaging.


3. THE VIRGIN SUICIDES (1999)
Directed by Sofia Coppola

Director Sofia Coppola's first time at bat is a tale of intrigue and darkness hidden by blonde girls-next-door. Hartnett appeared in a supporting role here as Trip Fontaine, one of the guys fixated with the Lisbon sisters, a group of siblings sheltered by their overly-religious parents. The film showcases Coppola's innate ability to tell a story from a different perspective than you're necessarily expecting. It feels similar in style to other independent films like Donnie Darko. Its star Kirsten Dunst is a revelation and James Woods and Kathleen Turner are perfectly disturbing as the nice-on-the-outside parents of the girls.


4. SIN CITY (2005)
Directed by Robert Rodriguez

Hartnett has appeared in many stylistically unique films, but nothing tops Sin City. Based on the Frank Miller graphic novel of the same name, Hartnett played a somewhat small, but pivotal, role. He also stars alongside an incredible, and diverse, cast. Jessica Alba, Benicio Del Toro, Michael Clarke Duncan, Brittany Murphy, Clive Owen, and Mickey Rourke are just a handful of the countless appearances in the black-and-white crime thriller. It's a tale of corruption and a seedy town named Basin City where only the dirtiest and darkest of people survive.


5. THE FACULTY (1998)
Directed by Robert Rodriguez

Hartnett's first major film role was in this teenage thriller that is smarter than it has to be. Strange occurrences spark the minds of high schoolers. Teachers are acting weird. People are dying. It's the type of story that makes the creepy public school in your town even creepier. Hartnett co-starred with Jordana Brewster, Clea DuVall, Salma Hayek, Famke Janssen, Elijah Wood, and even Usher! While the teen horror genre was having a sort-of renaissance, The Faculty proved that sometimes quirkier was better. Rodriguez is an intense filmmaker, not afraid to do the things the way he wants, which is only a reward for audiences, as seen here. The film also boasts a pretty stellar soundtrack.


6. WICKER PARK (2004)
Directed by Paul McGuigan

I may be alone on this one (however, I think some people are embarrassed to admit they liked it), but Wicker Park was one of those movies that wasn't supposed to be as good as it was. Or, let me explain it differently. It was marketed as a Nicholas Sparks-esque film with a thrilling twist. It isn't. Thanks to director Paul McGuigan, the film has a clear focus in its take on this relationship thriller. Co-starring Rose Byrne (in a creepy early turn) and Diane Jruger, Hartnett really shows off his acting chops here. Everything is moving at a creepy, fast-paced energy the entire time. It doesn't let up and it doesn't care if takes multiple viewings to really get to the meat of the struggle. The use of Coldplay's "The Scientist" at the end is a great payoff, as well.


7. O (2001)
Directed by Tim Blake Nelson

Modern day adaptations of Shakespeare works were all the rage at the ends of the 90s and the beginning of the 00s. After hits like 10 Things I Hate About You, Tim Blake Nelson's O was supposed to be a huge box office hit. The teen version of Shakespeare's O struggled to find an audience. There are flaws here, but Hartnett is still incredible as Hugo Goulding, the film's version of Iago. Mekhi Phifer and Julia Stiles co-starred in the film. The movie was actually made prior to 10 Things, but was shelved for a couple of years due to the Columbine massacre. Like other films that have gone through similar situations, waiting doesn't always bode well. It's not the best Shakespeare adaptation, but it's a worthy try.


8. THE BLACK DAHLIA (2006)
Directed by Brian De Palma

This was supposed to be an Oscar frontrunner. It's cast includes Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Hilary Swank, and Aaron Eckhart. It's set in 1940s Los Angeles, the height of the golden age of Hollywood and swanky jazz clubs and cool cars and words like "toots." The costumes are perfect. The sets are impeccable. The story is the right kind of gossip-column meets newspaper. And, it's a true story. So, what went wrong? I'm not sure. The movie feels a little overly long and more complicated than it should be. Directed Brian De Palma is a seasoned quality director, but maybe he was trying to hard? We'll never know. It's worth seeing for the first time. And, if you like the filmmaking process, it's interesting to see all of the parts. As entertainment, though, it's a tough watch all of the way through.


9. PEARL HARBOR (2001)
Directed by Michael Bay

I'm a little embarrassed placing a Michael Bay film on a top ten list, but Pearl Harbor has pieces that are worth noting. Hartnett stars alongside Ben Affleck as two best friends from childhood that grow up to become military men right as the Pearl Harbor attack destroys and empowers the human spirit. Kate Beckinsale shows up as a nurse both men have rendezvous with (sparking the ultimate love triangle twist) and even Jennifer Garner shows up in an early role. 2001 was a big year for Hartnett and Pearl Harbor is definitely one of his biggest box office films. The movie was supposed to be the next Titanic and didn't quite live up to that, but it's a fun fluff action epic. While Michael bay loves explosions a little more than most people, he allowed the true story to not get completely overshadowed by Hollywood effects.


10. 40 DAYS AND 40 NIGHTS (2002)
Directed by Michael Lehmann

While Hartnett seems like he'd rather spend time investing in serious indies, he allowed his leading man status to thrust him through a few more mainstream films. Even those have a hint of uniqueness, which is refreshing. 40 Days and 40 Nights is like the more mature teenager version of an American Pie. Or, maybe even the college version. Hartnett plays a guy who is down on his luck after a breakup. He decides to give everything sex related for Lent, which is funny because he meets the girl of his dreams as soon as the religious tradition begins. Without anything to do, he must find a way to woo her without getting physical. The film hosts a few hilarious sight gags and a clever premise that works because Hartnett and his costars treat the film with the ultimate care. Shannyn Sossamon is great as his new love interest. Where did she go? 

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