Veteran actor Brad Dourif has been in a hell of a lot of movies — everything from Mississippi Burning to Critters 4. It’s not easy making a list of his best, most interesting or intense performances, but in celebration of the actor’s 67th birthday, we at PopHorror compiled a list of our favorites. I can say this much: He’s one of those actors who always improves whatever project he’s in, and frequently brings an intensity to roles that lingers in the mind.
Let’s gets started, in a roughly estimated descending order:
8. Gríma Wormtongue — The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
Even if you’re not hugely into Lord of the Rings, there’s a good chance you’ll remember Dourif’s performance as Wormtongue, henchman of the power hungry wizard Saruman, and corruptor of King Théoden. Here Dourif acts as a “witless worm,” helping to cast an evil spell on an old king. While his screen time is relatively short, Brad does a lot with it. Wormtongue, you so crazy!
7. Adam Rain — Criminal Mind‘s (TV Series) episode “The Lesson” (2012)
Dourif plays a brain damaged serial killer named Adam Rain and breathes life into a twisted tale. Adam Rain’s father was a puppeteer who was killed in a robbery and Adam witnessed the whole thing. If that’s not traumatic enough, Adam’s mother died in a car accident. He had actually been in a similar accident himself, damaging his brain and rendering him childlike and fascinated by fantasy. The fantasy in question? Re-enacting his father’s puppet shows using actual, unwilling human beings. Pretty crazy, right? Sure, but it’s some pretty crazy good acting from Mr. Dourif. He surely pulled the strings of Criminal Minds’ viewers as well.
6. Stan — Death and Cremation (2010)
What can one say about Stan? Stan is a mortician with an interesting side hobby — he likes to cremate bullies. Stan also has a high school protégé named Jarod (Jeremy Sumpter) who is himself faced with bullies. As you might guess, the two make an interesting pair, and the fires keep a’roaring as the story moves along.
5. The Gemini Killer — The Exorcist III (1990)
Although Exorcist III is a convoluted, weird and far-fetched tale, Dourif’s performance as The Gemini Killer really elevates the film. In fact, his performance is perhaps one of the few ways one can approximate understanding the film, as some essential plot points are confidently and emphatically revealed through The Gemini’s disturbed narrative. In the process, we don’t question the utterly outlandish story as much. We just soak in the performance. Without Dourif, this movie wouldn’t be nearly as appreciated by critics. Grad A performance!
4. Luther Lee Boggs — The X-Files episode “Beyond the Sea” (1994)
FBI agents Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) and Mulder (David Duchovny) have had many strange cases, but Luther Lee Boggs was rather personal for Scully. While investigating claims that Boggs could psychically solve a kidnapping case if his death sentence is commuted, the maniac Luther Lee Boggs related to Scully messages about her recently deceased father. While Gillian Anderson gives a powerhouse performance, it didn’t hurt that she had someone like Brad Dourif to play off of. Critics tried to be cool by comparing this to Silence of The Lambs, but the episode is different enough to be appreciated on its own.
3. Deputy Clinton Pell — Mississippi Burning (1988)
As you can plainly see, Brad Dourif is pretty good at playing bad guys, and Deputy Clinton Pell is no exception. Pell is based on a real life Klansman Cecil Price, who helped murder three civil rights workers in the 1960s. As the film progresses, Pell not only seems more evil, but increasingly more pathetic. As Willem Defoe and Gene Hackman’s characters put pressure on the Klan, we see how they in turn attack by going after innocent, defenseless human beings. Yet again, a lot of the craziness shows up in Dourif’s eyes. The more intense and psychologically damaged Brad Dourif’s eyes look, the more intense your story is getting.
2. Charles Lee Ray / Chucky (voice) — Child’s Play franchise
How could this list not include Chucky? It simply could not. While all of these films/TV shows exhibit Brad Dourif’s skills, his recurring role as Chucky is just as iconic — albeit not quite as serious. Whether it’s the first Child’s Play or the less serious, self-parodying sequels, there’s something to be said about that voice. Chucky has become the dominant killer doll in horror, and it’s hard to imagine anyone truly taking his place. As Chucky himself famously said, “Don’t fuck with the Chuck!”
1. Billy Bibbit — One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
Some people don’t know Billy Bibbit was played by Brad Dourif. However, I know it, IMDB knows it, and so do the opening and closing credits of this cinematic masterpiece. While Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher and Will Sampson seem to dominate people’s memories most, Cuckoo’s Nest would be nothing without Brad Dourif’s performance as a shy, stuttering, troubled young Billy. You know what? While some might not agree, the final scenes featuring Billy could be considered horror — they certainly are horrifying, given how gentle and impressionable Billy Bibbit originally was. Seeing any type of chaotic, self-destructive transformation in Billy left viewers stunned. And this was Dourif’s first credited film acting role!
This concludes our list of Brad Dourif’s top roles. Do you agree? Let us know your favorites in the comments!