Ethan Hawke has done it all. Since his debut in 1985 with Explorers, Hawke has expertly crafted a successful career that spans multiple genres and mediums. Hawke encouraged us to seize the day in Dead Poets Society, became a Gen X heartthrob in Before Sunrise, went toe-to-toe with Denzel Washington in Training Day, and taught us about the importance of family in Boyhood.
At 52, Hawke has become one of his generation’s finest actors. With over 50 film credits, Hawke’s minor movies tend to get pushed aside. Yet, these smaller films are still worthy of your time. Below, we offer three underrated Ethan Hawke movies you should watch.
One of Hawke’s frequent collaborators is director Richard Linklater. The duo is best known for their work on the Before trilogy and Boyhood. One of their lesser-known partnerships happened in 1998 with The Newton Boys. Based on Claude Stanush’s 1994 book, The Newton Boys depicts the lives of the notorious Newton Gang, a group of outlaws from Texas who robbed banks and trains in the 1920s.
The preeminent members of the group were the four Newton brothers – Willis (Matthew McConaughey), Joe (Skeet Ulrich), Jess (Hawke), and Dock (Vincent D’Onofrio). The film depicts a series of successful robberies as the Newton boys stole from the rich banks and refused to kill anyone who got in their way. The lasting memory of the film is the cast, making The Newton Boys an interesting film to revisit, especially when you know where McConaughey, Hawke, and D’Onofrio will go in their careers.
Hawke tends to play the hero. Or a morally conflicted character with flaws. However, there is no debate on what type of character Hawke plays in the spooky thriller The Black Phone. Hawke is the villainous man known as The Grabber, a masked killer who abducts and kills children. One day, The Grabber abducts 13-year-old loner Finney (Mason Thames) and brings him to a soundproof basement.
On the wall is a disconnected black rotary phone, and much to Finney’s surprise, the phone rings. On the other end of the line are the voices of the Grabber’s previous victims, who tell Finney how to survive and escape the basement. As an actor that audiences have rooted for since the 1980s, it’s refreshing to see Hawke as a villain, an archetype he should revisit in future roles.
Stream The Black Phone on Prime Video.
The 2005 remake of Assault on Precinct 13 was never going to be better than John Carpenter’s 1976 film of the same name, and rightfully so. However, there’s enough action and twists to make the 2005 film a compelling B-level popcorn thriller. Jake Roenick (Hawke) is a guilt-ridden police sergeant at the short-staffed Precinct 13 on New Year’s Eve. Roenick was assigned to a low-level desk job after an undercover sting operation went wrong, resulting in the death of two officers.
During a snowstorm, a prison transport carrying four criminals, including crime boss Marion Bishop (Laurence Fishburne), is rerouted to Precinct 13. Shortly after the criminals arrive, gunmen attack the prison and set out to kill Bishop. With few allies, Roenick is forced to team up with Bishop and the other criminals to survive the night.
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