The Best James Caan Movies You Might Never Have Seen

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The end James Caan had a tremendous amount of work with some truly exceptional gems that may have flown under the radar for some. Having starred in a number of film and television projects early in his career, Caan had his breakthrough performance in Francis Ford Coppola. The Godfather, playing Sonny Corleone, the brash brother of Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone. From there, Caan’s career took off, landing a number of important roles that would cement him as a true Hollywood star.

Born in New York City in 1940, Caan has had a long career as gruff, intemperate and rebellious characters, whether gangsters, hitmen, cops or otherwise. The actor had a great year in 1975, alongside Barbara Streisand in the hit funny ladyRobert Duvall in The killer eliteand Maud Adams and John Beck in the sci-fi action movie Roller. He would go on to appear in films by Steven Spielberg, Rob Reiner, Warren Beatty, Wes Anderson, James Gray, Christopher McQuarrie, Jon Favreau, and Lars von Trier, among others.

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James Caan died July 6 at the age of 82, leaving behind a diverse legacy of work. Best known to modern audiences for his work in the long-running television series Vegas and his role as the father of Buddy the elf in Elf, Caan has many hidden and forgotten gems in his filmography, many of which have served to make him the household name that he is. Below are some of his notable roles that are often overlooked or rarely seen, but left an indelible mark on his career.

Rollerball (1975)


james caan in 1975s roller skating

Directed by Norman Jewison and based on a screenplay by William Harrison, Roller was a big hit for Caan, made even bigger when he won his first and only Oscar for the role. Set in a violent corporate-controlled world where the game of rollerblading is king, Caan played Jonathan E., a star player in the sport who rebels against those who want to keep him (and the world) in his place. Caan showed an emotional toughness that went beyond just being an unbeatable action hero. This gave Jonathan E. essential depth to the story, which revolved around individualism and the power that a single person can represent. bloody and brutal, Roller is considered a classic of the genre, still superior long after its time, with John McTiernan’s 2002 film not even coming close to surpassing the original James Cann film.


Thief (1981)


james caan in michael mann's thief

Directed by Michael Mann (Miami Vice, Heat, Collateral), Thief features Cann as a master thief who tries to retire after one last big score for the crowd. Things get complicated when his closing contact is murdered by a local mobster and he is forced to work for him in order to get his money back. It was a strong neo-noir feature for Mann, who would later exhibit this style of cinema with the miami vice Later TV series and movies, which make extensive use of the criminal underworld filled with anxious tension and explosive violence. A haunting score from Tangerine Dream helps illuminate the film, along with Caan’s performance, playing a man caught between his criminal lifestyle and a family life he desires. It all culminates in a beautifully orchestrated finale that lets Caan shine in the director’s dark and violent aesthetic, which made Thief an underrated Michael Mann gem.


Alien Nation (1988)


james caan in extraterrestrial nation

In alien nation, Caan plays Matthew Sykes, a gruff LA cop who must show his new alien partner, Sam (Mandy Patinkin), the ropes as the city integrates its otherworldly visitors into their daily lives. Played like a buddy-cop action flick, the alien invasion concept works beautifully here, bringing standard tropes to life with a fish-out-of-water story as Sykes and Sam bond over life, family and work, while being two completely different species. Terence Stamp is brilliant as the main villain, and the movie capitalizes on Caan and Patinkin’s charisma and interactions, making it one of Caan’s best team-up movies of his career. The action is strong, the concept inspired, and Caan shines as the wise but rebellious cop. Playing a bit like a lethal weapon-with extraterrestrials, alien nation would later spawn a television series and put another feather in the hat for Caan’s career.


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Misery (1990)


james caan misery with kathy bates

Based on Stephen King’s novel, Caan plays Paul Sheldon in Misery, a novelist who travels to a remote area of ​​Colorado to finish his latest book in a long series, but finds himself stricken and injured on the way out. He wakes up in an isolated house belonging to Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates), an obsessed fan who crashed the author in order to make him a prisoner in her home. Wounded and battling a psychopath, Sheldon de Caan must find a way to escape, creating a dilemma that unfolds with palpable intensity from director Rob Reiner. Caan is most vulnerable here, playing through a myriad of emotions in a cat-and-mouse game of survival under overwhelming circumstances. Bates deservedly won an Oscar for his role in Misery as Wilkes and Caan play against her with precision in one of her most memorable and distinctive roles that moved away from the badass persona to a more relatable all-man type character.


The Way of the Gun (2000)


james caan and benicio del toro in gun lane

This James Cann film is Christopher McQuarrie’s first directorial effort after writing The usual suspects. The way of the gun is one of the best crime thrillers of recent decades that often gets overlooked. Starring Ryan Phillippe and Benicio del Toro as Parker and Longbaugh, two guns for hire who become involved in a kidnap-for-ransom of a pregnant surrogate (Juliette Lewis) who is carrying the baby for a high-level criminal (Scott Wilson ) . What follows is a dangerous back-and-forth that puts Parker and Longbaugh up against an army of hitmen led by Caan, with the price being the ransom. Caan has some amazing scenes here, playing the wizened old hitman who tries to make things easier for Parker and Longbaugh, showing a sense of shared perspective with them, but also a window into what they could become. Caan is a rock in The way of the gunwhich also features one of the best final gun battles ever filmed (and often forgotten).

Elf (2003)


james caan in elf with will ferrell

Jon Favreau’s Christmas comedy, Elf is a staple of the genre, watched endlessly by millions every holiday season. Starring Will Ferrell as Buddy the Elf, a human raised as an elf in the North Pole who travels to New York to find his real father, Walter Hobbs, played by Caan. In what would seem like a pretty stereotypical role, Caan ends up serving as the film’s heart, as Hobbs has to come to terms with his selfish and emotionally unavailable ways, as it begins to affect everyone around him once Buddy arrives. The film’s comedy is top-notch, especially from Ferrell, but James Caan delivers good dry humor and a really heartfelt performance that helps make Elf the Christmas comedy classic that it is. As sad as it is to say goodbye to such a great actor, it’s a treat to know that audiences will continue to enjoy his work every year with Elf, as well as his other remarkable films spanning over 60 years. year.


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