Earlier this week, actor Ray Liotta passed away in his sleep while he was in the Dominican Republic for a movie. Although Liotta was never a real box office sensation, he stood out Good people, one of the greatest crime films ever made. Time and time again, Liotta made some amazing performances that made the viewer stand out and notice. That alone makes Liotta’s roles the envy of any other performer. He accepted eclectic characters and added something special with his performances. This is a legacy that will last as long as there are movies.
To celebrate Liotta’s life and career, Digital Trends is highlighting 10 of her best screen shows. These are the movies we will remember when we think of Ray Liotta.
Something Wild (1986)
In only her second role on the big screen, Liotta really stole the show Something Wild. While Charles Driggs (Jeff Daniels) was courting a firecracker by a young lady named Audrey Hankel (Melanie Griffith), Audrey’s ex-boyfriend, Ray Sinclair (Liotta), wanted to do anything to get her back. Ray is apparently the bad guy and he even threatens at points. But Liotta is so funny in the role that it’s easy to overlook the darker side of Ray’s personality.
Before Liotta firmly established his menacing presence in the films, he had a more soulful performance as Shoeless Joe Jackson in the baseball fantasy. Field of Dreams. Due to his part in the 1919 Black Sox deception scandal, the real Shoeless Joe was banned from playing baseball for life. Farmer Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) gives Joe and other former, long-dead players a second chance when he hears a mysterious voice telling him to create a baseball diamond in his cornfield. JOE is one of the key characters in this story, and Liotta filled the legend with a lot of heart.
Good people is probably Liotta’s best film and it came quite early in his career. It is a Martin Scorsese crime epic for the ages based on the true story of Henry Hill (Liotta), who works his way into the mob and seduces his future wife, Karen (Lorraine Bracco), with his extravagant lifestyle. Liotta absolutely exudes charisma, even along with her co-stars Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci. It must be said that Henry is an absolute rogue. Anyway, at least I didn’t go down without explaining myself first. Now that’s the power of Ray Liotta.
For a pure threat, nothing beats Liotta’s rank as Officer Pete Davis in Illegal Entry. At first, Pete seems like a good guy when he helps a couple, Michael (Kurt Russell) and Karen Carr (Madeleine Stowe), after they are attacked in their own home. However, Pete’s obsession with Karen quickly makes him a bigger threat, and a really impressive figure throughout the film. How do you stop a criminal with a badge? Liotta makes it seem desperate to face Pete because of the power of his position and his absolutely carefree rage.
Liotta didn’t have many opportunities to be a romantic lead, but he did Corrina, Corrina. In this 1950’s film, Liotta plays Manny Singer, a newly widowed man whose daughter, Molly (Tina Majorina), stops talking after her mother’s death. Corrina Washington (Whoopi Goldberg) is hired to be Molly’s housekeeper, but she and Manny later discover that they have feelings for each other. However, Manny must first deal with his own inner turmoil, as well as the not-so-accidental racism in the city’s response to his newly found love interest.
In theory, Cop Land was supposed to be Sylvester Stallone’s Oscar moment. And Stallone is pretty good as Freddy Heflin, the sheriff of a small town with a heavy police population. But again, this is a movie where Liotta looks like a dirty cop named Gary “Figgsy” Figgis. After a scandal nearly exposes the city’s corruption, Figgsy suddenly finds himself hostile with Ray Donlan (Harvey Keitel) and his fellow crooked cops. To survive, Figgsy must turn to the morally conflicted Freddy. The great part is that Figgsy has never really been so remorseful for his actions. However, he is even more sympathetic than the cops who are fighting for his blood.
Even when Liotta is one of the “good guys”, he still carries a lot of darkness. Such was the case in Narc, where he plays Lieutenant Henry Oak, an officer under a cloud of suspicion. Detective Nick Tellis (Jason Patric) teams up with Oak to get to the truth about what happened to Oak’s late partner, Detective Michael Calvess (Alan van Sprang). Liotta and Patric really carry the film together, all the way through its powerful ending.
Identity is a thriller whose turn deserves to be protected even two decades after its release. So rather than give up the game, we’re just going to praise Liotta for her turn as Samuel Rhodes, a prison officer who is far more dangerous than he seems to be. Samuel is soon joined by Ed Dakota (John Cusack), Paris Nevada (Amanda Peet), Ginny Isiana (Clea DuVall), and other strangers who inexplicably share the same birthday. Liotta’s threatening performance is so good that you might miss the clues as to what’s really going on in this movie.
Honestly, Liotta is barely inside Date Night, and he deals with his former gangster characters in the role of Joe Milletto. But that’s what makes it so great! When an unhappy married couple, Phil (Steve Carell) and Claire Foster (Tina Fey), come into possession of Joe’s blackmail material, he becomes the film’s largely unseen villain. When Joe finally shows up, Liotta is just threatening enough to be taken seriously and yet not out of place in this action comedy.
Considering the influence that Good people clearly had on The Sopranosit is fitting that one of Liotta’s last major films was The Many Saints of Newarkprequel to the acclaimed HBO series. Liotta had a dual role as “Hollywood Dick” Moltisanti and his twin brother, Salvatore “Sally” Moltisanti. Hollywood Dick had a contentious relationship with his son, Dickie Moltisanti (Alessandro Nivola), shortly before Dickie killed him. It’s easy to understand why Dickie did that, because Hollywood DIck was such an unrepentant idiot. That’s why Liotta’s turn as Sally’s is so remarkable. He is a hardened criminal who is trapped behind bars, and yet Sally has the humanity and wisdom that his brother lacked. Sally also becomes Dickie’s unexpected confidant following the death of her brother.