Dennis Hopper's awesome (and awesomely bad) sci-fi roles

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Dec 14, 2012, 4:09 PM EST

Movie legend Dennis Hopper passed away on May 29 from cancer. Most people will probably remember him as the mad bomber in Speed or the creepy villain of Blue Velvet. He was in Apocalypse Now and directed as well as starred in Easy Rider, the ultimate '70s free-spirit biker movie.

His 46-year career has something for everyone. At SCI FI Wire, here we remember Hopper's trips to the future, battles with monsters and just plain weird stuff from other dimensions.

The best-known sci-fi movie Hopper was in was probably Waterworld. He was, of course, the villain, a big bald leather-clad leader of the "smokers." He commanded armies of jet-skiers to capture Kevin Costner, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Tina Majorino. In a classic evil display, he promised not to kill someone, then ordered one of his henchmen to do it for him.

It's also worth noting that Hopper was the Big Bad on the first season of 24. Victor Drazen was the first evil warlord who Jack Bauer yelled at and interrogated. It was a pretty A-list coup for the beginning of a series and went a long way toward making 24 a credible action/fantasy show. Hey, he paved the way for James Cromwell and Powers Boothe!

Hopper went up against a legendary movie monster in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. Lt. Lefty Enright (Hopper) goes after Leatherface and his cannibal family and ends up chainsaw-a-chainsaw with Leatherface himself. We won't tell you who wins. You'll have to see Dennis Hopper clanking chainsaws with Leatherface for yourself.

Land of the Dead, George Romero's fourth zombie film, kept Hopper away from the monsters most of the time. Hopper played an evil landlord in a futuristic high rise for rich people, while the poor hid from zombies in the alleys below. You see, with Romero, it's about the class system. And zombies. And Hopper's a bad guy again.

One of the more unfortunate entries in Hopper's sci-fi career was Super Mario Bros. The movie version of the video game again made him the villain, King Koopa. It's not as awesome as it sounds (and Dennis Hopper playing King Koopa sounds AWESOME). The movie didn't look anything like the game, and Hopper wasn't a giant turtle. Hopper shared the embarrassment with Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo. It's been a while since we've seen this one. Maybe after Uwe Boll, Super Mario's not so bad.

He played a character named Lovecraft in the witchcraft mystery Witch Hunt. He narrated a series of children's fairy tales called Rabbit Ears. An episode of The Twilight Zone, spoilerifically titled "He's Back," had Hopper visited by the ghost of Hitler! Night Tide had him romancing a mermaid. Las Flores Del Vicio is a Spanish movie we can only find online, but it features a child-sacrificing village practicing magic. He was a science teacher who traveled through time with the boys of My Science Project. Space Truckers had him flying a spaceship, even if it was low-budget.

Recently, the spoof An American Carol and the straight-to-DVD The Crow: Wicked Prayer slipped under the radar. He also starred in TV versions of Firestarter 2: Rekindled and Jason and the Argonauts.

Dennis Hopper may be gone, but at least he left behind hundreds of great and just plain weird credits to remember him by.

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