Ray Liotta at the 65th Annual Cannes Film Festival in 2012

Ray Liotta at the 65th Annual Cannes Film Festival in 2012 (Photo by Denis Makarenko on Shutterstock)

Few actors have gained the amount of respect and acclaim that Ray Liotta has garnered throughout his career. His powerful film performances, such as “Goodfellas” and “Field Of Dreams,” only solidified his reputation as a versatile and admired actor. Known for the intensity he brought to his roles, no matter the genre, he proved he was one of the best and always at the top of his game. The New Jersey native started his career in the late ’70s on television before moving to Los Angeles. There, he would star in only one movie before getting his break in the film “Something Wild,” earning critical acclaim and multiple accolades come award season for the newcomer at the time. What would follow would be a career built on a one-of-a-kind personality and talent, making up some of the best Ray Liotta movies of all time. His ability to bring complex characters to life with depth and authenticity is what set him apart from his peers, making him a true legend in the industry.

After graduating high school, Liotta went on to get his bachelor’s from the University of Miami, where he studied acting. While there, he starred in multiple plays and even musicals throughout his time, learning and honing his craft. He would then move back to the northeast, where he appeared as Joey Perrini on the soap opera “Another World,” in which he starred for four years. Liotta then decided to give Los Angeles a try and quickly nailed a role in the 1983 film “The Lonely Lady,” working steadily in TV before his big break in 1986. Of course, after that, the rest was history.

Liotta quickly became a household name, appearing in numerous iconic ’90s films and continuing to get work throughout his life. He even welcomed the changing tide within the film industry, appearing in series on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Apple TV+, as well as films like “Marriage Story,” also on Netflix, and “The Many Saints of Newark” on Max.

With the magic of Ray Liotta, many are at least semi-familiar with the actor’s filmography. Luckily, we at StudyFinds are also fans and have taken it upon ourselves to research across multiple expert sources to bring you the top five best Ray Liotta movies of all time. Don’t agree with our list? We would love to hear from you in the comments down below.

Ray Liotta's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Ray Liotta’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (Photo by Walter Cicchetti on Shutterstock)

The List: Best Ray Liotta Movies, According to Fans

 

1. “Goodfellas” (1990)

Exploring the true story of a former mobster turned informant comes “Goodfellas,” “regularly recognized as one of the great cinematic classics. For the uninitiated, it follows the life story of Henry Hill, from a kid running errands for a local fence on the streets of Brooklyn to the upper ranks of the local mafia. It is not only a benchmark for storytelling from legendary director Martin Scorsese; it is also a career-defining role for Liotta. It is hard to argue against ‘Goodfellas’ being placed at the top of the list for Ray Liotta’s greatest film achievement. Liotta’s youthful charm and rugged looks help create an allure for the mafia lifestyle. He disarms us, making the more intense scenes hit harder. The actor’s range was put on full display; we saw him be tender and loving, menacing and unhinged, paranoid and vulnerable, and everything in between,” raves Looper.

“Goodfellas” (1990)

“Liotta leads the testosterone-filled cast that includes Oscar winners Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci (who won supporting actor for his work in this film) and remains one of the most egregious misses for the film, aside from best picture (which it lost to ‘Dances With Wolves’). His boisterous laugh echos in the chambers of silver-screen history and remains his most wondrous cinematic gift of his time here on Earth,” adds Variety.

“Of course, the best and most memorable role of Liotta was going to be as Henry Hill in ‘Goodfellas.’ Everyone knows this film. Ray Liotta stars as a man who grew up infatuated with the criminal lifestyle of a Mafioso. Hill becomes a respected gangster in the Lucchese crime family in New York. Through Hills’ own narration, the character recounts his rise and eventual fall, going from a man of respect to an average Joe in the witness protection program. The film made Liotta’s career as a narcissistic gangster. The image of Liotta laughing surrounded by other mobsters lives on eternally as a meme, with the sound of his boisterous cackles echoing through film history. Fans can debate whether the actor would have become as known without this film, but his contribution is a gift that fans have enjoyed and will continue to enjoy for many generations to come,” says MovieWeb.

2. “Something Wild” (1986)

Remember that previously mentioned film that made Liotta a star? Well, look no further than 1986’s “Something Wild.” “Explosive out of the gate, Liotta immediately strikes a balance between menace and sensitivity in his breakout role as a lovelorn ex-con—a turn that crystallized a lot of what was to come. (Martin Scorsese was a huge fan.) Part of that had to do with working with a director like Jonathan Demme, who rarely did straight-up villainy,” states EW.

“Something Wild” (1986)
“Something Wild” (1986)

“Liotta nabbed himself a Golden Globe nomination for best-supporting actor for his work as the ex-convict and husband in Jonathan Demme’s classic comedy, alongside the likes of Jeff Daniels and Melanie Griffith. He’s always excelled at demanding the viewer’s attention, no matter who he’s sharing the scene with, and this lighter role had him delivering some of his finest acting moments,” writes Variety.

“Ray Liotta could literally change the course of a movie. Just look at his second film. Even before Liotta appears, ‘Something Wild’ is something wonderful. Directed by the irreplaceable Jonathan Demme, it’s an action comedy full of tonal twists and turns. Its primary romance is singular, sleazy, and tons of fun. Then Ray Liotta shows up and turns it into an altogether different film. There’s no genre that the movie won’t touch, no grace note, it won’t play like a virtuoso, and all of it hinges on Liotta and his fireball presence. It’s something wild, indeed,” writes SlashFilm.

3. “Field of Dreams” (1989)

“Field of Dreams” is a 1989 film directed by Phil Alden Robinson revolving around an Iowa man who hears a mysterious voice urging him to build a baseball field. “‘Field Of Dreams’ is a relatively popular sports-fantasy movie that even a lot of audiences long after its release are probably familiar with. The film also made it into the Library Of Congress as being culturally significant. The film stars Kevin Costner as a father who is estranged from his own father and believes he’s communicating with Shoeless Joe (played by Ray Liotta), a baseball player that his father used to idolize,” describes ScreenRant.

“Field of Dreams” (1989)

“No, he didn’t look anything like the real ‘Shoeless’ Joe Jackson. He batted right and threw left when the real Shoeless Joe did the opposite. Liotta’s Jackson did not speak with a Southern accent, and nor was he as ‘slow’ as the real Jackson was purported to be. But Liotta’s performance resonated emotionally, within the context of the film itself, in a way that’s made grown men cry for more than 30 years,” writes Tilt.

“‘If you build it, he will come.’ That’s the message that inspired Iowa’s Ray Kinsella to build a baseball diamond. The identity of the actor who provided ‘The Voice,’ who speaks to Ray throughout the film, has always remained a mystery. Some believe it’s either Costner or Liotta (some even say it’s Ed Harris). Regardless, Shoeless Joe Jackson is someone that means a lot to many, and we remain eternally grateful to Liotta for him,” adds Variety.

4. “Narc” (2002)

“Narc” is another film that allows Liotta to do what he does best, as he thrives with characters who are surrounded by a corrupt society. Starring Liotta as a police detective, “‘Narc’ never really found as much success or acclaim as some of his other work, but that’s not to say that it isn’t still a fantastic movie. Written and Directed by Joe Carnahan, it tells the story of Detroit narcotics detective Nick Tellis (Jason Patric) and officer Henry Oak (Liotta), who must team up in order to investigate the apparent murder of Oak’s partner, undercover officer Michael Calvess,” describes GameRant.

“Narc” (2002)

“‘Narc’ is a dark film that proves effective in the unapologetic way it tackles the police force, crime, and the drug world. It is brutal, harsh, cynical, and realistic, making it a particularly thrilling crime drama. Not only that but Liotta and Patric are at their very best in this film. Patric is emotionally scarred from his work in the field, while Liotta is an unstable man who will stop at nothing to get vengeance for his partner. The two make an unlikely duo, but their stellar performances, the dark tone of the film, and thrilling pace make this an exceptionally good crime thriller,” says The Mary Sue.

“‘Narc’ made it to the top of our list because once you hit the play button, you’ll be hard-pressed to want to pause this classic. Liotta is quite at home as a crooked police officer, and his role as Lieutenant Henry Oak wasn’t much of a departure from that idea. As a rogue officer with a penchant for revenge, Liotta and his co-star Jason Patric tell a dark tale with distinctly human moments,” explains DirectTV.

5. “Unlawful Entry” (1992)

Starring Liotta once again acting as a corrupt, crazed cop, he really gets to show off his skills against an all-star cast in “Unlawful Entry.” This 1992 crime thriller gets rave reviews as “Liotta’s villainous cop has more depth than appears on the surface. Opposite Kurt Russell and Madeleine Stowe, his growing obsession with a woman following a home break-in showcases complex acting skills. In one of the pivotal scenes, in which he finds the intruder, his near-convincing plea for Michael to beat the man mercilessly has Liotta unloading his acting arsenal to impeccable resolve,” describes Variety.

“‘Unlawful Entry’ is a chilling and thrilling story that makes you question who you can trust. It capitalizes on everyone’s worst fear that a simple kind gesture to a stranger will suddenly turn deadly. Meanwhile, Liotta’s performance is the true backbone of the series. He truly embodies the ‘cop from hell’ persona and holds nothing back in his unhinged performance,” states The Mary Sue.

“The script of ‘Unlawful Entry’ has strong elements of other stalker thrillers of the early ’90s, but the major difference here is that our stalker is the cop. It makes the premise somewhat scary because the man who has to protect our couple is the one who turns against them. However, in such thrillers, there’s a certain formula and expected beats here and there. They’re crucial, but under the strong direction of Jonathan Kaplan and terrific performances by the trio of Kurt Russell, Ray Liotta, and Madeleine Stowe are what make the movie. In every sequence of the film, Liotta’s dark magnetism is on full-on display. He’s terrifying, scary, and always interesting,” concludes Taste of Cinema.

 You might be interested in:

Sources:

Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.

Lea la versión en español en EstudioRevela.com: Mejores películas de Ray Liotta: Las 5 interpretaciones que definieron su carrera y que más recomiendan. los fans

 

About Jilly Hite

Janelle is a freelance writer from New York. Her writing focuses on parenting, tech, business, interior design, education, and telling people’s inspiring stories. Janelle has written for Mustela and Newton Baby and has bylines in Pregnant Chicken, Syracuse Woman Magazine, the Baldwinsville Messenger, and Family Times Magazine. She holds a master’s degree in literacy from the State University of New York at Oswego.

Our Editorial Process

StudyFinds publishes digestible, agenda-free, transparent research summaries that are intended to inform the reader as well as stir civil, educated debate. We do not agree nor disagree with any of the studies we post, rather, we encourage our readers to debate the veracity of the findings themselves. All articles published on StudyFinds are vetted by our editors prior to publication and include links back to the source or corresponding journal article, if possible.

Our Editorial Team

Steve Fink

Editor-in-Chief

Chris Melore

Editor

Sophia Naughton

Associate Editor