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5 Great (Mostly) Forgotten Woody Harrelson Films

Woody Harrelson began his career on the small screen, most notably as the country boy bartender on the hit comedy series Cheers. From there, the versatile actor jumped to movies in and starred in a number of successful films, working with many acclaimed directors and actors. His unique look and considerable charisma has made him a favorite in film, while he continues to create interesting and diverse characters in all kinds of genres. Here are 5 great (mostly) forgotten films by Woody Harrelson you need to see.

Doc Hollywood (1991)

Woody Harrelson
Woody Harrelson (Doc Hollywood, 199

Harrelson plays Hank Gordon, a local insurance salesman in the small town of Grady, South Carolina, where a D.C. doctor named Benjamin Stone (Michael J. Fox) has an accident and is forced to stay for community service as a town doctor. The doc, who was heading to L.A. to be a rich plastic surgeon, finds the quaint county living a little hard to get used to, though when he meets Vialula (Julie Warner), the lovely ambulance driver, he has a change of heart.

Directed by Michael Caton-Jones, this comedy was not a big hit for Fox, but is still a funny and touching little movie. Harrelson plays a slick, polite, but edgy character who has a thing for Vialula, hoping to marry here, and confronts Stone about his intentions. A supporting role, Harrelson is great as a city boy trapped his whole life in the backwoods, looking for a way to make a difference. And he hates tight hats. A long forgotten film, this is well worth discovering.

Palmetto (1998)

Woody Harrelson
Elisabeth Shue, Woody Harrelson (Plametto, 1998)

Harrelson plays Harry Barber, a former reporter who was framed for accepting a bribe when he was covering a local government case of corruption. When he’s released two years later, he comes back to town and tries to make a new start with his girlfriend Nina (Gina Gershon). Unable to find work, he loafs around at a tavern where he meets a powerfully attractive woman named Rhea Malroux (Elisabeth Shue) who tempts him with a scheme that could get him $50,000 cash. All he needs to do is help her fake a kidnapping. But when her husband turns up dead, all evidence points to him.

Direct by Volker Schlöndorff, this noir thriller is really under-appreciated, with some really stylish direction and great cinematography. Shue is breathlessly seductive, but Harrelson is perfectly cast as the naive yet clever Barber snared in a seemingly hopeless trap. A great script and plenty of surprises, this in a must see Harrelson film.

The Big White (2005)

Woody Harrelson
Woody Harrelson (The Big White, 2005)

Harrelson plays Raymond Barnell, the long missing brother of Paul (Robin Williams), who uses the corpse of a body he discovered in a dumpster to trick police into believing it is his brother so he an collect the insurance money. The problem is, the body was left by hitmen and now they want it back, so they kidnap Paul’s Tourette Syndrome suffering wife Margaret (Holly Hunter) and arrange an exchange. Then Raymond shows up and demands part of the money, causing even further chaos in Paul’s extraordinary problems.

Directed by Mark Mylod, this critically panned film is wholly misunderstood and is far funnier and darker than the it looks. Williams is fantastic and Hunter is surprisingly funny (and even touching) as his wife. Harrelson is darkly intimidating and yet finds the perfect off-kiltered comedic tone to the character, helping to make this one an admittedly odd but satisfying film. Check it out.

Transsiberian (2008)

Woody Harrelson
Woody Harrelson (Transsiberian, 2007)

Money Train isn’t the only film Harrelson made on a train. Here, Harrelson plays Roy, traveling with his girlfriend Jesse (Emily Mortimer) on the Trans-Siberian train from Beijing to Moscow. They meet an exotic, globe-trotting couple named Carlos (Eduardo Noriega) and Abby (Kate Mara), who Roy immediately takes to chatting with but Jesse is less enthusiastic. On a stop, when Roy misses the train, Jesse is left alone with the couple as she plans to ride to the next station and wait. Once there, Carlos convinces Jesse to join him in a short trek beyond the station while they wait. In the snow, they encounter the ruins of an old church and a terrifying incident occurs that sets Jesse on a new path.

Directed by Brad Anderson, this exceptionally well directed and acted thriller is beautifully photographed with a terrific sense of tension and mystery as the train naturally offers a claustrophobic inescapable feeling of dread, and the wide open expanses of the landscape are bitter and hostile. With a great cast (Ben Kingsley shows up in a suspicious role), this story of drug smuggling, betrayal, and survival is top-notch. Harrelson makes for a good action star and really brings the sharp script to life. Lost in the shuffle, this little gem is a great weekend rental and must for Harrelson fans.

North Country (2005)

Woody Harrelson
Woody Harrelson, Charlize Theron (North Country, 2007)

Harrelson plays Bill White, a local lawyer who takes on the first class action sexual harassment case in the United States, surprisingly more recent that you might guess. Charlize Theron is Josey Aims (based an actual person), who, after leaving her abusive husband, takes a job at a mine in Minnesota, a job that is so predominately male, she and the very few other women there are both hated and lusted after for taking the positions. It becomes standard practice at the job for the women to be belittled and subjected to outright abuse. It escalates until Josey is eventually attacked. When it’s over, she quits and contacts a lawyer for help.

Directed by Niki Caro, this moving, challenging drama is one of Theron’s best performances (she was nominated for an Academy Award) and yet has slipped off the radar and become forgotten. Harrelson, who comes in as support is electrifying as the attorney who initially wants nothing to do with the case, fearing there is no chance for victory, but comes around and instead ignites the courtroom with his impassioned commitment to the cause. A terrific performance, this is a great movie and should be on your list.

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