Remembering Harry Dean Stanton in his best roles

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Lucas Siegel
Sep 16, 2017

Actor Harry Dean Stanton passed away yesterday, after 91 years of life and 63 years of professional acting. After working consistently for decades, his career took off like a rocket in the 1980s, when he became one of the most in-demand character actors in Hollywood.

With such a long career, there's a lot to remember Stanton for, so we're taking a look at five of his best roles.

"I knew these people..." (Paris, Texas) - with subtitles

Paris, Texas - Travis Henderson

A rare leading role for Stanton, Travis disconnects himself from his emotions - but Stanton turns them back on in subtleties every time he speaks. The "I knew these people" scene showed his ability to carry a scene; he delivers the lines so evenly, you could accuse him of being monotone if you only listened to a sentence or two, but his tiny inflections land on key words, punching you in the gut with pain and rage and years of sadness built up.

Pretty in Pink (3/7) Movie CLIP - Andie Confronts Her Father (1986) HD

Pretty in Pink - Jack

An intensely powerful performance, playing Molly Ringwald's character's father, Stanton delivers as a hurt, broken man. His emotional parenting - especially in this particular scene - shows a very different side to the actor's ability, as we see him move between emotions so naturally and with such ease. When his breakdown finally comes, it's completely earned.

Escape From New York (2/2) Under Siege on Broadway (1981) HD

Escape from New York - Brain

There's no one we'd rather have backseat driving with us than Brain. A truly supporting character here, Stanton sells the scenes and the scenery, and drives the story along considerably with expert advice-giving. We'd love this guy as a mentor!

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992) - "These people are confusing."

Twin Peaks - Carl Rodd

First appearing in the prequel film, "Fire Walk With Me," Stanton's character got to say out loud what everyone watching the film (and the show that preceeded it) thought at least once: "Damn, these people are confusing." After being in just a couple minutes of the film, he came back for the new season this year, and got to add a richness to his character people probably didn't expect from a lonely old trailer park owner. And hey, he had a nice old singing voice, too, didn't he?

Alien (3/5) Movie CLIP - The Alien Appears (1979) HD

Alien - Brett

"Right." If it wasn't for Brett, we would've had a much harder time buying the Nostromo was run by regular working-class folks. He may have been looked at by his crewmates as "some kinda parrot" at times, but he brought smiles to faces, and he went out looking for Jonesy. Funny, likeable, and a cat lover? Perfect.