As we learned the sad news of Christopher Plummer’s death today we recalled the many times he brought characters to life and told stories on our screens to delight, educate, and entertain us throughout the past 60+ years. To boil down a career as long and far-ranging as Plummer’s to 10 selections is impossible. He holds 115 feature-length credits according to IMDB and scores of other short releases, TV appearances, documentaries, and a storied 5-decade stage career. So, I’ll preface this by saying it’s certainly not a list of Christopher Plummer’s 10 best movies, but just 10 that I will remember him by.
Twelve Monkeys, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, The Man Who Invented Christmas, Oedipus the King
Plummer voices the villain in Up, Pixar’s 2009 hit. His character, Charles Muntz, is a cast study in the old adage to “never get to know your heroes.” Plummer growls and schemes with his golden, but aging voice, and deftly navigates the child-oriented humor of the role while maintaining some gravitas.
9. All the Money in the World
As I’m sure is being written all over the world today, Plummer took this role for director Ridley Scott at the last possible minute due to the fall from grace of formerly cast lead Kevin Spacey. While the film will always have that series of events hanging over it, Scott’s choice to call Plummer was brilliant. Plummer’s extraordinary talents were on display, as he filled in the gap and played the Senior Getty with his trademark gravity.
8. The Man Who Would Be King
Plummer narrates the legendary John Huston’s Rudyard Kipling adaptation, ostensibly playing the esteemed author. While this film is primarily notable for the performances by Connery and Caine in the main two parts, Plummer’s handling of the telling of the story frames it nicely.
7. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
There are better Star Trek films and even better Star Trek villains, but Plummer’s Chang has the added dimension of combining the typical Klingon warlord with a Shakespearean actor – no doubt patterned after Plummer himself. One ham-fisted recitation after another plays delightfully across from the ever so melodramatic Shatner.
6. A Beautiful Mind
In the multi-Oscar-winning biography of schizophrenic mathematician John Nash, Plummer plays the psychiatrist working with Nash. Plummer represents the competing aspects of the metal health system as an obviously deeply concerned person who’s techniques are seemingly uncaring and problematic. As with many of his other roles, Plummer isn’t there to steal the show, but keeps the acting at a high level in his scenes.
5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The the brilliantly dark David Fincher adaptation of Stieg Larsson’s novel, Plummer plays one of the mysterious and fascinating Vanger brothers with the equally as compelling Stellan Skarsgård. As with any murder mystery, the more layered each character is, the more satisfying the unraveling of the pieces will be and Plummer’s presence enhances this feature.
4. Hector and the Search for Happiness
I think this film is disappointingly underrated, and Plummer provides both some narration and one of the more interesting characters, Professor Coreman. Plummer’s ability to turn a pithy phrase without it sounding cheap is the Professor’s primary trait and a key aspect of the film.
3. An American Tail
Plummer’s part in the Don Bluth-directed animated immigration tale is small but meaningful. The main character, little Fievel, has been separated from his family on the way to America. He arrives, scared and alone, and meets an eccentric French pigeon, voiced by Mr. Plummer. The image of welcoming shores, the land of opportunity, and hope that America provides immigrants was entrusted to Plummer’s pigeon and he delivers.
2. Knives Out
He did two films in 2019, The Last Full Measure was a fine film about the trauma of war and he was his usual able self, but it was the Rian Johnson blockbuster hit that will likely be the lasting image of Mr. Plummer. He is fantastic as the paterfamilias in the both unique and cliché-laden murder mystery. With a glint in his eye and a knowing smile he seemingly said goodbye.
1. The Sound of Music
There’s little I can say about Plummer’s turn as The Captain in his Hollywood breakout role that hasn’t already been said. Suffice to say, it’s his greatest screen role and truly brilliant.
What roles will you remember Christopher Plummer by?