Danny DeVito’s 9 Best Movies

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  01 Sep 2015 

Danny DeVito has been in a pair of long-running sitcoms, produced and directed some major hit movies, and turned in notable cameos in some of the most critically adored films of all time (including One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Terms of Endearment) — and all those achievements don’t even include most of his filmography, which expands this week to include his appearance in All the Wilderness. Clearly, this is the perfect time to pay tribute, and that’s exactly why we decided to (ahem) DeVote this list to the irascible, irrepressible Mr. DeVito.

actors
9 Batman Returns
imdb
rating

7.0

Batman Returns (1992)

Action, Crime, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Thriller

Initially reluctant to film a Batman sequel, Tim Burton was eventually persuaded to return to Gotham after wresting complete creative control from Warner Bros. The result was 1992’s Batman Returns, a casting dream that found Batman (Michael Keaton, donning the cowl for the final time) facing off against Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer, resplendent in leather) and the Penguin (a scenery-chewing DeVito). Though some critics (and parents) felt the film was too dark, most reviews were positive; in fact, before Christopher Nolan came along with Batman Begins, Batman Returns was the best-reviewed film in the franchise, something Desson Thompson of the Washington Post attributed to the fact that it “comes closer than ever to Bob Kane’s dark, original strip, which began in 1939.”

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Having defeated the Joker, Batman now faces the Penguin - a warped and deformed individual who is intent on being accepted into Gotham society. Crooked businessman Max Schreck is coerced into helping him become Mayor of Gotham and they both attempt to expose Batman in a different light. Selina Kyle, Max's secretary, is thrown from the top of a building and is transformed into Catwoman - a mysterious figure who has the same personality disorder as Batman. Batman must attempt to clear his name, all the time deciding just what must be done with the Catwoman.

actors:
Michael Keaton as Batman/Bruce Wayne   Danny DeVito as Penguin/Oswald Cobblepot   Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman/Selina Kyle   Christopher Walken as Max Shreck   Michael Gough as Alfred   Pat Hingle as Commissioner James Gordon   Paul Reubens as Mr. Cobblepot/ Penguin's Father   Michael Murphy as Mayor   Diane Salinger as Mrs. Cobblepot/Penguin's Mother   Cristi Conaway as Ice Princess  

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8 The War of the Roses
imdb
rating

6.8

The War of the Roses (1989)

Comedy, Drama, Thriller

DeVito and his Romancing the Stone castmates Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner teamed up for the third time in this pitch-black comedy about a wealthy married couple (Douglas and Turner) whose disintegrating marriage becomes a desperate, violent squabble over their shared possessions. Doing double duty as director and co-star, DeVito extended his directorial hot streak (begun with 1987’s Throw Momma from the Train), while Douglas and Turner took the love/hate banter they perfected during Stone and Jewel of the Nile and subtracted the love, fueling one of the most entertainingly venomous divorces in cinematic history. As Rob Vaux of the Flipside Movie Emporium put it, “For anyone who ever spent Valentine’s Day alone with a bottle of scotch, for anyone who ever watched the love of their life go stomping out the door, for anyone who ever gazed in hatred at the happy couple spooning in public? This is the movie for you.”

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The Roses, Barbara and Oliver, live happily as a married couple. Then she starts to wonder what life would be like without Oliver, and likes what she sees. Both want to stay in the house, and so they begin a campaign to force each other to leave. In the middle of the fighting is D'Amato, the divorce lawyer. He gets to see how far both will go to get rid of the other, and boy do they go far.

actors:
Kathleen Turner as Barbara Rose   Michael Douglas as Oliver Rose   Danny DeVito as Gavin D'Amato   Marianne Sägebrecht as Susan   Dan Castellaneta as Man in Chair  

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7 The Rainmaker
imdb
rating

7.1

The Rainmaker (1997)

Crime, Drama, Thriller

John Grisham has seen plenty of his books turned into movies, but in 2004, he told Entertainment Weekly that The Rainmaker was the best. It’s easy to understand why: with Francis Ford Coppola behind the cameras and an ace cast that included Matt Damon, Mickey Rourke, Jon Voight, and DeVito, it’d be hard to ask for a more skillfully assembled adaptation of the story of an idealistic young lawyer (Damon) who teams up with a resourceful paralegal (DeVito) to bring down an unscrupulous health insurance company. Although it failed to outgross many of them, it was, as Empire’s Ian Nathan argued, “A stronger bet than the previous 35 or however many Grisham movies before it.”

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When Rudy Baylor (Matt Damon), a young attorney with no clients, goes to work for a seedy ambulance chaser, he wants to help the parents of a terminally ill boy in their suit against an insurance company (represented by a ruthless Jon Voight). But to take on corporate America, Rudy and a scrappy paralegal (Danny DeVito) must open their own law firm.

actors:
Matt Damon as Rudy Baylor   Danny DeVito as Deck Shifflet   Jon Voight as Leo F. Drummond   Claire Danes as Kelly Riker   Mary Kay Place as Dot Black   Dean Stockwell as Judge Harvey Hale   Virginia Madsen as Jackie Lemancyzk   Mickey Rourke as Bruiser Stone   Randy Travis as Billy Porter   Roy Scheider as Wilfred Keeley   Red West as Buddy Black   Johnny Whitworth as Donny Ray Black   Andrew Shue as Cliff Riker   Teresa Wright as Colleen 'Miss Birdie' Birdsong   Danny Glover as Richter Tyrone Kipler   Wayne Emmons as Prince Thomas   Adrian Roberts as Butch  

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6 Hercules
imdb
rating

7.2

Hercules (1997)

Adventure, Animation, Comedy, Fantasy, Romance, Family

Before he was the Lorax, DeVito lent his pipes to Disney’s Hercules, appearing as the voice of the pugnacious satyr tasked with toughening up the titular Olympian (Tate Donovan) and assisting him in his quest to prove his worth as a true hero. Crafty and incorrigible, Phil gave DeVito the opportunity to walk away with many of the movie’s best lines — and entertained critics like Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times, who wrote, “Light on its feet and continually amusing, this free-spirited show-biz version of Greek mythology ranks with the best of modern Disney animation.”

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Bestowed with superhuman strength, a young mortal named Hercules sets out to prove himself a hero in the eyes of his father, the great god Zeus. Along with his friends Pegasus, a flying horse, and Phil, a personal trainer, Hercules is tricked by the hilarious, hotheaded villain Hades, who's plotting to take over Mount Olympus!

actors:
Tate Donovan as Hercules (voice)   Josh Keaton as Young Hercules (voice)   Til Schweiger as Hercules (Stimme)   Dominik Auer as Junger Hercules (Stimme)   Roger Bart as Young Hercules (singing voice)   Danny DeVito as Philoctetes (voice)   James Woods as Hades (voice)   Susan Egan as Meg (voice)   Bobcat Goldthwait as Pain (voice)   Matt Frewer as Panic (voice)   Rip Torn as Zeus (voice)   Samantha Eggar as Hera (voice)   Barbara Barrie as Alcmene (voice)   Hal Holbrook as Amphitryon (voice)   Paul Shaffer as Hermes (voice)   Amanda Plummer as The Fates (voice)   Carole Shelley as Lachesis (voice)   Paddi Edwards as Atropos (voice)   Charlton Heston as Narrator (voice)   La Chanze as Terpsichore the Muse of Dance (voice)  

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5 Get Shorty
imdb
rating

6.9

Get Shorty (1995)

Comedy, Crime, Thriller

DeVito strapped on his producer’s hat for Get Shorty, a $115 million adaptation of the Elmore Leonard novel about a loan shark (John Travolta) who dreams of leaving the business and turning his life story into a hit film for a big-time Hollywood star (DeVito). Sharp, funny, and stocked with an impeccable array of talented actors, including Gene Hackman, Rene Russo, and Dennis Farina, Shorty entertained critics and audiences alike — including Newsweek’s David Ansen, who pointed out, “Hollywood has been in love with mobsters since the beginning of movies. But the other side of the equation has seldom been considered. That is, until now.”

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A mobster travels to Hollywood to collect a debt and discovers that the movie business is much the same as his current job.

actors:
John Travolta as Chili Palmer   Gene Hackman as Harry Zimm   Rene Russo as Karen Flores   Danny DeVito as Martin Weir   Dennis Farina as Ray 'Bones' Barboni   Delroy Lindo as Bo Catlett   James Gandolfini as Bear   Jon Gries as Ronnie Wingate   Renee Props as Nicki   David Paymer as Leo Devoe   Martin Ferrero as Tommy Carlo   Miguel Sandoval as Mr. Escobar   Jacob Vargas as Yayo Portillo   Bobby Slayton as Dick Allen   Linda Hart as Fay Devoe   Jeffrey J. Stephen as Bones' Buddy (as Jeffrey J. Stephan)  

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4 Romancing the Stone
imdb
rating

6.9

Romancing the Stone (1984)

Action, Adventure, Comedy, Romance

Nobody plays “gleefully unscrupulous” quite like Danny DeVito, and he was given free rein with Robert Zemeckis’ Romancing the Stone, which found him playing a shady antique smuggler whose bumbling plot to get his hands on a treasure map put him at odds with a romance novelist (Kathleen Turner), a dashing explorer (Michael Douglas), and a murderous Colombian colonel (Manuel Ojeda). Loads of swashbuckling fun in a perfectly ’80s way, Stone raised more than $86 million at the box office, spawned a sequel, and won the admiration of critics like Tim Brayton of Antagony & Ecstasy, who called it “A grand example of the rarest combination of adventure, humor, and sexual chemistry which all crackle along with abandon.”

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Though she can spin wild tales of passionate romance, novelist Joan Wilder has no life of her own. Then one day adventure comes her way in the form of a mysterious package. It turns out that the parcel is the ransom she'll need to free her abducted sister, so Joan flies to South America to hand it over. But she gets on the wrong bus and winds up hopelessly stranded in the jungle...

actors:
Michael Douglas as Jack T. Colton   Kathleen Turner as Joan Wilder   Danny DeVito as Ralph   Zack Norman as Ira   Alfonso Arau as Juan   Mary Ellen Trainor as Elaine  

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3 Matilda
imdb
rating

6.8

Matilda (1996)

Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy, Family

For his first directorial effort since 1992’s Hoffa, DeVito did something altogether different: an adaptation of the Roald Dahl novel Matilda, about a bright young girl (Mara Wilson) with loathsome parents (played by DeVito and Rhea Perlman) and a budding set of telekinetic abilities. Dahl’s flair for dark storytelling was a perfect fit for DeVito’s sensibilities, and the result was a modest hit greeted by appreciative reviews from critics like Rob Thomas of Madison’s Capital Times, who wrote, “DeVito gleefully preserves Dahl’s dark comic tone, which should delight both kids and parents.”

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See the world from a kid's-eye view with Matilda, a modern fairytale that mixes hilarious humour with the magical message of love. Matilda is a super-smart little girl who's woefully misunderstood by her parents, her brother, and an evil school principal. But with the help of a brave best friend and a wonderful teacher, Matilda discovers she doesn't have to get mad to get even.

actors:
Mara Wilson as Matilda Wormwood   Danny DeVito as Harry Wormwood   Embeth Davidtz as Miss Jennifer "Jenny" Honey   Rhea Perlman as Zinnia Wormwood   Pam Ferris as Agatha Trunchbull   Paul Reubens as FBI Agent Bob   Tracey Walter as FBI Agent Bill   Brian Levinson as Michael 'Mikey' Wormwood   Kiami Davael as Lavender  

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2 Ruthless People
imdb
rating

6.9

Ruthless People (1986)

Comedy

An ’80s spin on O. Henry’s Ransom of Red Chief courtesy of the Zucker/Abrams/Zucker laugh factory, Ruthless People gave DeVito one of his most marvelously grotesque roles: Sam Stone, the millionaire fashion magnate who’s planning to murder his equally off-putting wife (Bette Midler) when she’s kidnapped by a vengeful fashion designer (Helen Slater) and her doltish boyfriend (Judge Reinhold). Seeing an opportunity to have his dirty work done for him, Stone cheerfully neglects to pay the ransom, setting in motion a chain of hateful behavior. “DeVito is the mainspring of Ruthless People, the engine of murderous intensity right at the center,” observed Roger Ebert. “His passion is so palpable that it adds weight to all the other performances in the movie.”

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A couple, cheated by a vile businessman, kidnap his wife in retaliation, without knowing that their enemy is delighted they did.

actors:
Danny DeVito as Sam Stone   Bette Midler as Barbara Stone   Judge Reinhold as Ken Kessler   Helen Slater as Sandy Kessler   Anita Morris as Carol Dodsworth   Bill Pullman as Earl Mott  

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1 L.A. Confidential
imdb
rating

8.3

L.A. Confidential (1997)

Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Danny DeVito almost certainly isn’t the first actor that comes to mind when you think of L.A. Confidential — that honor most likely goes to Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey, or Kim Basinger — but his character, publishing sleazemonger Sid Hudgens, was still crucial to the story, setting in motion some key moments in the storyline and serving as the film’s narrator. And while this might not be the definitive performance in DeVito’s career, it does illustrate his gift for choosing the right script; as Variety’s Todd McCarthy wrote, this Best Picture nominee is “An irresistible treat with enough narrative twists and memorable characters for a half-dozen films.”

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Three detectives in the corrupt and brutal L.A. police force of the 1950s use differing methods to uncover a conspiracy behind the shotgun slayings of the patrons at an all-night diner in this lush tribute to tough film noir crime films. Based on the multi-layered James Ellroy novel.

actors:
Kevin Spacey as Det. Sgt. Jack Vincennes   Guy Pearce as Det. Lt. Edmund Jennings " Ed " Exley   Danny DeVito as Sid Hudgens   James Cromwell as Cap. Dudley Liam Smith   Kim Basinger as Lynn Bracken   Russell Crowe as Bud White   David Strathairn as Pierce Patchett   Ron Rifkin as D.A. Ellis Loew   Matt McCoy as 'Badge of Honor' Star Brett Chase   Paolo Seganti as Johnny Stompanato   Elisabeth Granli as Mickey Cohen's Mambo Partner   Sandra Taylor as Mickey Cohen's Mambo Partner   Steve Rankin as Officer Arresting Mickey Cohen   Graham Beckel as Dick Stensland   Simon Baker as Matt Reynolds  

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