With Top Gun: Maverick Booming in theaters on May 27, 2022, acclaimed Hollywood actor Val Kilmer is set to reprise one of his most iconic roles as Admiral Tom “Iceman” Kazansky. Besides the dazzling aerial stunts, the film has garnered praise for its gripping story, especially for the way it rekindles old rivalries while introducing new characters and pushing the mythology forward.
With over 100 acting credits since his big screen debut in 1984, Val Kilmer has given the world a slew of memorable and diverse film characters, often going hand in hand with the biggest movie stars and accomplished actors. The real question is, does Top Gun: Maverick attract both Letterboxd users and the rest of the world?
ten Bad Lieutenant: New Orleans Layover (2009) – 3.5/5
In Werner Herzog’s polarizing crime sequel Bad Lieutenant: Stopover in New Orleanss, Val Kilmer plays Stevie Pruit, a Louisiana police officer teaming up with a corrupt partner. Nicolas Cage plays his cheeky partner, Terence McDonagh, a drug-addicted, authority-abusing lawman who goes on a self-destructive descent after saving a man’s life during Hurricane Katrina.
Hailed on Letterboxd for its cautious and nightmarish portrayal of the psychological degradation of drug addiction, Herzog’s lively direction, and Cage’s insane performance, Kilmer’s role as Stevie may be lighthearted, but his actions in the story lead directly to McDonagh’s salute at the end. Hopefully Kilmer and Herzog will work together again in the future.
9 True Genius (1985) – 3.5/5
Released a year earlier Top Gun, a real genius marked the second feature film of Kilmer’s career. The underrated ’80s teen comedy follows Chris Knight (Kilmer), a bright-witted teenager with a penchant for partying and pranks who teams up with a much more serious college student to build a high-tech laser. Despite his inexperience, Kilmer is charming, charismatic, and extremely likable in the role.
With several positive comments on Letterboxd, Graham J perhaps said it best, adding “Val Kilmer elevates this 80s teenager to something almost magical. His comic book delivery is damn near perfect and when he’s at the screen (which is thankfully a lot), Real Genius kicks into high gear.”
8 Top secret! (1984) – 3.6/5
Believe it or not, Top secret! was Val Kilmer’s very first film. The hilarious parody of the slapstick spy movie continues to be one of the funniest outings of Kilmer’s career, which makes his glaring lack of comedies over the next two decades so mystifying. Story-wise, Kilmer plays Nick Rivers, an Elvis Presley-like American rocker who becomes ensnared in a spy plot while performing in East Germany.
Loaded with sight gags, silly puns and ridiculous one-liners, Letterboxd user Patrick Willems got nearly 600 likes for saying “the opening credits are set to a Beach Boys parody song about shooting clay pigeon while riding surfboards. This film is high art.”
seven Val (2021) 3.7/5
Featured as the subject of his own documentary, Val chronicles Kilmer’s 40-year career through his daily routines. Ting Poo and Leo Scott deliver the unflinchingly intimate portrait of the entertainer who gave his life to entertain the masses, using decades of house footage to piece together a compelling insight into a misunderstood movie star.
Narrated by Val’s son, Jack Kilmer, the documentary explores the personal and professional ups and downs Kilmer has experienced, including his recent battle with cancer. Honest and vulnerable as can be, Letterboxd user Mathijs Breedveld calls the film “a wonderful insight into the wonderful mind of Val Kilmer”.
6 Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) – 3.7/5
Written and directed by Shane Black as one of his best films, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one of the most underrated crime films of the past two decades. Kilmer stars as Gay Perry, a stylish private detective who reluctantly teams up with bumbling thief Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.) to help him land an acting job, only to have the pair embroiled in a hard murder mystery. The chemistry between Kilmer and Downey is truly special.
With crackling dialogue, genre-defying humor, and a playful spin on retro crime drama, Kilmer has rarely been more fun or in command of his character. Yagagme on Letterboxd is spot on, saying “it was such a fun watch. The chemistry between RDJ and Val Kilmer is such a treat throughout the movie, they have so easy fun together I’ve loved it every time they were on screen together.”
5 Tombstone (1993) – 3.8/5
Kilmer gave one of his most memorable performances as the drunk Doc Holliday in tomb stone, the highly acclaimed western biopic. Set in Tombstone, Arizona, Doc joins his old friend Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell) and his brothers to prevent the hostile takeover of a ruthless gang known as The Cowboys. Cue the rapid carnage, murderous mayhem and epic tomb stone movie quotes.
Fittingly, much of the praise for the film on Letterboxd points to Kilmer’s commanding performance, with Papupo stating that “only Val Kilmer could make a gamer dying of tuberculosis almost above the main character” , and Silent J adding “imagine Jack Sparrow was in a western. It’s Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday in Tombstone. It’s even more awesome than it sounds.”
4 The Prince of Egypt (1998) – 3.9/5
Even Val Kilmer’s biggest fans may have forgotten that he played the roles of Moses/God in DreamWork’s animated film. The Prince of Egypt. His fans on Letterboxd certainly haven’t forgotten, especially when it comes to how the musical soundtrack remains one of the best around.
Essentially a story from the Book of Exodus, the love for The Prince of Egypt ranges from the former movie buff saying “every song in this movie slaps the face”, to James saying it’s “basically the best animated movie ever made”, and Mattie Witty adding “absolutely one of the best biblical movies made without no doubt”.
3 True Romance (1993) – 3.9/5
While his face is partially obscured, Kilmer’s small role as the imaginary Elvis Presley in true romance remains one of his most famous performances to date. With perfect vocal inflection and precise body language that remains compelling nearly 30 years later, the masterpiece directed by the late Tony Scott deserves all the applause it can get. The casting alone is one of the things that still holds today.
Written by Quentin Tarantino, the story follows Clarence (Christian Slater), a loner who meets Alabama (Patricia Arquette) on his birthday and becomes entangled with his boyfriend’s drug associates as well as the Italian mob. Whenever Clarence is in trouble, his imaginary friend Elvis consoles him and restores his confidence. Although her role was minor, Kilmer once again worked with Tony Scott for the first time since Superior gun.
2 Top Gun: Maverick (2022) – 4.1/5
While the original Superior gun didn’t quite make it, its superior sequel Top Gun: Maverick definitely ranks as one of Kilmer’s most beloved films to date. Directed by Joseph Kosinski this time around, Kilmer rekindles his old rivalry with Pete Mitchell (Tom Cruise) as Iceman, one of the most famous movie characters of the 1980s. Kilmer said AND Canada resuming Iceman was “like being reunited with a long-lost friend”. Fans feel the same.
Aside from the jaw-dropping aerobatics in the film, Letterboxd users were quick to notice how exhilarating the last 20 minutes of the film were and how compelling the character arcs were. For example, hisnameisbleu bluntly calls the film a “masterpiece” and adds “Tom Cruise never disappoints”.
1 Heat (1995) – 4.2/5
Considering the important role he plays and the tremendous performance he gives, it seems fair to find Heat named Kilmer’s best film. Director Michael Mann’s sprawling LA crime masterpiece follows skilled thief Neil McCauley (Robert De Niro) and his team testing fate by winning one last job with Lt. Hanna (Al Pacino) hot on their trail. Kilmer plays Chris, Neil’s cool, charming, sexy and ultra-faithful accomplice, caught between the love of his life and the code of the streets.
Without missing a round of applause for the film on Letterboxd, the best response came from David Sims, who received 1,600 likes for simply repeating Kilmer’s most emotionally resonant line in the film: “To me the sun rises and sleep with her, man.” This is the line that marks the point of no return for Chris and Neil.
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