Can you believe that nearly seven years have passed since the sudden, shocking, and supremely saddening death of James Gandolfini? The immensely talented New Jersey native was just entering the prime of his post-Sopranos movie career before suffering a fatal heart attack in 2013 at the age of 51.
Indeed, Gandolfini earned a Golden Globe and Primetime Emmy Award for his searing portrayal of Tony Soprano on the universally beloved HBO mob-drama. And yet, for iconic as the role has become, Gandolfini also starred in a number of well-received movies over his decorated acting career. For a clearer picture, here are James Gandolfini’s 10 Best Movies, According to Rotten Tomatoes!
The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001) 81%
It’s every actor’s dream to work with the peerlessly talented Coen Brothers. For Gandolfini, he landed a juicy role Joel and Ethan Coen’s supremely slept-on neo-noir, The Man Who Wasn’t There.
Ed Crane (Billy-Bob Thornton) is a laconic barber in small-town California during the late 1940s. When Ed discovers his wife’s secret affair with her department store boss, Big Dave Brewster (Gandolfini), he tries to use the info to blackmail money to invest in a dry-cleaning business. Of course, the simple plan backfires to the tune of cold-blooded murder!
Get Shorty (1995) 87%
Who can forget the bearded Bear (Gandolfini), the burly goon and part-time Hollywood stuntman in the stylish gangster flick Get Shorty? One could argue that, without playing this role, Gandolfini may have never become Tony Soprano!
Barry Sonnenfeld’s slick mafia comedy follows Chili Palmer (John Travolta), a Miami wise-guy looking to break into the movie business (not unlike Christopher Moltisanti in The Sopranos). Chili must deal with an array of shady cons and mafia dons in order to sell his script, necessitating Bear (Gandolfini) to serve as a personal protector.
Crimson Tide (1995) 88%
In Tony Scott’s star-studded tale of post-Cold War escalation, two submarine commanders reach an impasse on how to proceed when an order to launch a nuclear missile gets lost in translation.
When Russian forces activate nuclear missiles, the USS Alabama submarine responds in kind. However, Captain Ramsey (Gene Hackman) resents the younger and more educated Hunter (Denzel Washington), who has is own ideas on how to proceed. Ramsey wants to launch without 100% confirmation while Hunter opts to wait until the orders are completely clear. Gandolfini plays Supply Officer, Lt. Bobby Dougherty in the film.
The Drop (2014) 89%
The final role Gandolfini played before passing away was that of Uncle Marv in the gritty heist film, The Drop, co-starring Tom Hardy, and Noomi Rapace.
Lonesome bartender Bob (Hardy) participates in an illegal racket by delivering stolen cash to various Brooklyn bars, where the loot can be laundered. However, when his most recent robbery goes awry, Bob finds himself under intense investigation from law enforcement. Bob’s boss and uncle, Marv (Gandolfini), sees to it that Bob keeps his mouth shut!
Zero Dark Thirty (2013) 91%
Gandolfini showcased a different side of his bossy demeanor as the C.I.A. Director in Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow’s sweeping true story of the U.S. mission to find and eliminate Al Qaeda terrorist Osama Bin Laden.
Jessica Chastain stars as Maya, a female operative who gains the most ground in the U.S. pursuit of Bin Laden in the embattled Middle East. Although reluctant to administer torture methods to gain vital intel, Maya also believes it’s the only way to find the truth. Her controversial methods draw ire and support among her superiors, the C.I.A. Director included.
12 Angry Men (1997) 92%
As Juror #6 in William Friedkin’s sterling remake of 12 Angry Men, Gandolfini joined the A-list likes of Ossie Davis, George C. Scott, Jack Lemmon, Edward James Olmos, William Petersen, and more!
When a panel of jurors quickly assumes a young Latino is guilty of murder, they plan to turn in their verdict in record time. However, Juror #8 (Lemmon) has an inkling of doubt regarding the man’s guilt and demands further deliberation. Slowly but surely, Juror #8 convinces his fellow jurists that The Accused (Douglas Spain) is innocent after all.
True Romance (1993) 93%
In just the fifth feature film of his career, Gandolfini stole the show as a hitman with a conscious in Tony Scott’s breathless crime film, True Romance. Gandolfini was so good Scott cast him again two years later in Crimson Tide!
Tasked with retrieving a suitcase of stolen cocaine from Alabama (Patricia Arquette), Virgil (Gandolfini) beats the woman up when she refuses to tell him where the stash is. Virgil then gives an epic monologue about how he felt the first time he killed a person. The speech gives Bama just enough time to grab a corkscrew off the floor and jam it into Virgil’s foot.
In The Loop (2009) 94%
Gandolfini once again used his commanding presence and powerful comportment to portray a Military General in the scathing political satire, In the Loop.
The film follows the desperate attempt between U.S. and U.K. officials to quell a potential war between the two nations, despite the good it may cause for both country’s economy. Gandolfini plays Lt. Gen. George Miller, the U.S. Defense Secretary’s top Military Assistant. The film earned an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, which was co-written by Armando Iannucci. Remember, Iannucci also created Veep, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who co-starred alongside in Gandolfini in…
Enough Said (2013) 95%
Enough Said! Indeed, Gandolfini showed us all a sweet and romantic side we rarely got to see in his more brooding dramatic work. In this HBO-reunion of sorts, Gandolfini and Louis-Dreyfus demonstrate pitch-perfect chemistry in a genuinely touching film.
In what proved to be Gandolfini’s antepenultimate movie role, he starred as Albert, a man with a soft center and rough exterior. Albert begins to court a woman named Eva (Louis-Dreyfus), who turns out to be his ex-wife’s best friend. What appears to be an unlikely match at first evolves to become a perfect pairing.
Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (2014) 99%
Chances are, if you’re an actor who appeared in the reverential documentary, Shoot Me, it’s almost certainly bound to rank as the highest-film in your filmography according to IMDB. Such is certainly the case for Gandolfini!
The film chronicles the decades-long highs and lows of comedienne, Elaine Stritch, who spent years doing one-woman shows on Broadway. Archival footage is spliced with interviews meant to highlight the massive impact the Tony and Emmy-award winner has had in show biz.