Top 13 Val Kilmer Film Roles

For this week's Ranked!, we decided to take a look at our favorite Val Kilmer film roles. Did your favorite make the cut? Here are our thirteen favorites:

13. Batman, Batman Forever

12. Danny Parker, The Salton Sea

11. Scott, Spartan

10. Imaginary Elvis Presley, True Romance

9. Madmartigan, Willow

8. John Holmes, Wonderland

7. Chris Shiherlis, Heat

6. Iceman, Top Gun

5. Jim Morrison, The Doors
Did you see Frost/Nixon? Frank Langella played Richard Nixon, a historical figure and cultural icon burnt into our collective memory. His features, mannerisms, and cadence are immediately recognizable to millions of people across generations, and as amazing as that Academy Award-nominated performance was, you never once thought that Frank Langella actually was Richard Nixon. That would be really fucking hard.

But that is exactly what Val Kilmer does with Jim Morrison in The Doors.

For just over two hours, I had no doubt that I was observing Jim Morrison go about his twisted, brilliant life. And for a musician with one of the most recognizable faces, personalities, and life-stories in the history of popular music, that's quite a feat. He so embodied the persona and mystique of Jim Morrison that it was almost jarring to see him playing music with Kyle McLachlan or wooing Meg Ryan, because they didn't belong there. And even though you knew what was going to happen and where the story was going, Val found a way to humanize him, transforming him from an enigmatic, semi-religious persona into a relatable human being you actually cared about, even when he was dragging us into the desert to follow that crazy dream Indian.

In a year when Warren Beatty and Nick Nolte got best actor nominations for Bugsy and The Prince Of Tides, (Remember those? Me neither until just now.), Val Kilmer got totally jobbed. The Academy must have been stoned immaculate. --CroutonBoy

4. Nick Rivers, Top Secret!
When I saw Airplane!, my life changed. For some reason, the style of humor in that movie just did it for me. The literal jokes, the subtle (and not so subtle) visual stuff going on in the background almost constantly--it just struck me as the funniest thing ever. And after Airplane! I just had to have more. The early '80s were filled with Airplane! wannabes, some good and some not so good. Top Secret! was one of the former, and much of its success comes from the performance of its (then) unknown leading man.

In his first movie role, Val Kilmer was Nick Rivers, a rock star from the United States whose song, "Skeet Surfin'" was taking the world by storm. (The music video for the song plays under the opening credits, setting the tone for the movie by showing the sporting sensation set off by the song--a combination of surfing and skeet shooting where surfers armed with shotguns blast clay skeet (and send innocent bystanders running) while riding waves.) Anyway, Nick's song is so popular that he's chosen as a Cold War liaison to East Germany, where he is to bring rock music to the oppressed masses behind the Iron Curtain. When he gets there, he gets caught up with the French Resistance as they attempt to rescue a famous scientist from prison. Along the way, Nick falls for the scientist's daughter, Hillary, only to find that her long lost love is the leader of the Resistance. As Hilary says, "It all sounds like some bad movie."

Sending up everything from World War II films to spy thrillers to The Blue Lagoon, the story is both far-fetched and very funny. A lot of credit goes to Val Kilmer, who plays Nick completely straight-faced and earnest through the whole movie. He also does his own singing, and he's pretty good at it. The songs are hilarious, of course (and are on my iPod to this day).

Honestly, despite that fact that he was really good in this movie, I never expected Val Kilmer's career to amount to anything. I found Top Secret! to be very funny, but it wasn't exactly a box office sensation. Nevertheless, I guess the right people must have noticed, since Kilmer went on to play some pretty great roles, both comedic and straight over the years.

But I have to say--no matter what part he's playing, I always find myself humming "Skeet Surfin'" at some point during the movie. For better or worse, Val Kilmer will always be Nick Rivers to me. --Dave

3. Gay Perry, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
If you haven't seen the film Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, you need to. I think it's an overlooked film with some stellar performances by Robert Downey Jr, Michelle Monaghan, and Val Kilmer. It's hard to really describe but I'll give it a shot - it's a pulpy-film-noir-buddy-cop-satire. It's directed by first time director Shane Black who is best known as a screenplay writer. The man pretty much DEFINED the buddy cop/action genre - he's written Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, and The Long Kiss Goodnight.

While everyone in the film is outstanding, it's Val Kilmer that we're talking about today and he shines the character, "Gay" Perry, a tough, gay, cynical, witty private eye working as an acting consultant to actor/petty larcenist/human disaster Robert Downey Jr. It's one of the films in which you watch Val and think "man, this guy just owns the screen." Val and Robert are so damn funny together that the dialogue just crackles. Val is terrific at serious dramatic roles, but I swear the man is a born comedian. He can do a dry wit delivery like nobody else - and he's charmingly handsome to boot.

Check out Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and then tell me the man's not flat out brilliant, I dare ya. --Archphoenix

2. Chris Knight, Real Genius
Let's not mince words here: Val Kilmer's Chris Knight is a jerk.

Knight is a senior at Pacific Tech, a university for extremely intelligent kids. When he first entered Pacific Tech, he was on his way to becoming the next Einstein until he got a haircut realized the whole "All work, no play" thing is the truth. Chris spends most of the movie trying to pass this knowledge onto the new brain on the block, Mitch, before he snaps like Lazlo, the guy living in his closet.

The plot is a typical '80s screwball comedy that couldn't possibly happen in real life, but what holds it all together is Kilmer. His Knight, equally acerbic and lovable, commands your attention. And he's totally quotable: "Was it a dream where you see yourself standing in sort of Sun God robes on a pyramid with a thousand naked women screaming and throwing little pickles at you? Why am I the only one who has that dream?"

If you haven't seen Real Genius, you really should. It's a moral imperative. --Chag

1. Doc Holliday, Tombstone
"I'm your huckleberry..."

Val Kilmer has always been an intense presence on screen, even during some of his lighter roles, but never has his intensity been so well used as when be brought Doc Holliday to life in one of cinema's most underrated Westerns, Tombstone. His powerful gaze, paired up with a gruff voice stole just about every scene he was in. Not only was Kilmer's Doc Holliday the coolest cowboy on screen, but he was the movie's comic relief too—a very tough balancing act.

Without Val Kilmer, Tombstone might have ended up another middling, forgettable Kurt Russell movie. Instead, it became a classic and Val Kilmer's best role to date. --Daddy Geek Boy


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