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Ten Deep 12.26.13: Top Ten John Goodman Roles
Posted by Mike Gorman on 12.26.2013

"Top Ten John Goodman Roles"

Larger than life in more ways than one, John Goodman always makes an impact when he appears in a film or on television. Two weeks ago he made his 13th appearance hosting Saturday Night Live tying Steve Martin's record for most hosting gigs. It was that appearance that inspired this week's dissection of the Top Ten Roles of Mr. Goodman's career. As you will see, he has certainly taken on some very unique and memorable characters during his tenure in the acting spotlight.

10. Delbert McClintock in Arachnophobia

Arachnophobia was a movie that was certain to have film goers squirming in their seats based on the subject matter alone. I mean, who doesn't get creeped out by the idea of an invasion of oversized spiders??? If you don't, you need help! The filmmakers made fantastic choices by adding comedic elements to the film to balance that creepiness and one of the best additions was John Goodman's turn as Delbert McClintock. McClintock, the overconfident and not easily spooked exterminator, brought laughs whenever he appeared on the screen. Goodman brought a balanced wackiness to the role that had even the most arachnophobic viewers laughing.

9. Fred Flintstone in The Flintstones

The casting of John Goodman as Fred Flintstone in The Flintstones was perhaps one of the only good things about the film. The movie itself was filled with a lot of disappointments, I am looking at you Halle Berry, but John Goodman seemed born to take on this cartoon icon. Boisterous in body and personality, Flintstone was a character that Goodman stepped into with ease and could have truly brought to life if the film around him was just a bit stronger. He did however nail the Yabba-Dabba-Do's!

8. Big Dan Teague in O Brother, Where Art Thou?

In 2000 the Cohen brothers brought us their blue grass infused satire loosely based on Homer's Odyssey, O Brother, Where Art Thou? The film captured the attention of many audiences with its very unique overall feel and stand out performances. One of those performances that was not exactly long lived but did indeed stand out was John Goodman as the cyclopsian bible salesman, Big Dan Teague. Teague may eventually meet a fiery demise, but his impact is felt mostly due to the skilled work of Goodman.

7. Lawrence Woolsey in Matinee

The phrase "larger than life" will probably seem overused in this week's countdown but there is no spot that it is more deserved than here at number seven. Goodman brings to life film promoter Lawrence Woolsey in Matinee with a hilarious, over the top energy that infuses the entire production. He is a huckster at his best winning over the other characters with his over the top promotions and ideas as the country stands on the brink of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

6. Charlie Meadows in Barton Fink

Barton Fink is one of the first films that truly brought the Cohen brothers to the attention of the American film-going public. It is a grand and surreal film that seems to skip across genres with elements of noir, horror and the fantastic dancing together in a well orchestrated performance. Here Goodman plays insurance salesman Charlie Meadows who first appears to be a close ally to Barton Fink and is eventually discovered to be a deadly animal of a man. The Cohen brothers are said to have written the role with Goodman in mind playing off of his generally accepted persona as a beloved, caring man. In this role the script is truly flipped when Goodman reveals Meadows true nature.

5. John Chambers in Argo

The subject matter of the film Argo was grounded in a harrowing true story and often that can lead to films that focus heavily on the drama at hand at the expense of some of the more human elements at play. It was Goodman's performance as Hollywood make-up artist turned CIA contact John Chambers that brought some humor and humanity to the film. Director Ben Affleck described Goodman's work here as follows when he was interviewed by USA Today, "He manages to do very funny comedy while retaining a perfect sense of reality, which is rare."

4. Sulley in Monsters, Inc.

As Sulley in Monsters, Inc., John Goodman injects a lot of emotion and feeling into his performance as the oversized monster who is terrified at first by the small child, Boo. Goodman's Sulley is not your typical scary beast and he is able to overcome the challenges of voice work to bring true growth and development to the character's story arc as the film progresses. By the film's climax he makes you believe that Sulley would do anything to keep Boo safe.

3. Al Zimmer in The Artist

Goodman is said to have taken the role of Al Zimmer in The Artist because he was intrigued by the idea of a role where there were no lines to learn. It turns out Goodman was the perfect choice to include in this award winning silent film because he is a true master of his own physicality. He can do more with his eyes and his smile than many actors can do with pages of dialogue. Zimmer is a not a huge part of the film but thanks to Goodman he is one of the movies more memorable characters.

2. Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski

I am pretty sure that many of you will lambast me for not giving Goodman's performance as Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski the top spot this week. I hope you will cut me some slack when you see that this is indeed my highest ranked film performance of his career. Again we're in the world of the Cohen brothers and again Goodman is an a sidekick role. This time he is the best friend of the Dude and Goodman soars as Sobchak handling his swings from explosive energy to passive aggressive calm. Goodman finds depth in Sobchak that another actor might have mistakenly tried to play as more over the top and cartoonish.

And lastly…

1. Dan Conner on Roseanne

Traditionally when you explore an actor's career that has featured some TV work but has been dominated by film, the TV roles tend to either fall by the way side or be eclipsed by their more developed performances on the big screen. With John Goodman, I found the opposite to be true. As I brainstormed this list I kept coming back to the fact Goodman's most nuanced and touching work came during his nine seasons as Dan Conner on Roseanne. Yes the series and performances suffered during the final seasons but when it was good, the show was fantastic and often that was due to the work of John Goodman. He brought to life a real world father who did not always make the best decisions but always showed love for his family, even when they were at their most frustrating. The show broke ground for many family comedies to follow where parents were finally able to be shown to possess flaws that in no way detracted from their ability to show care and love. Goodman's Dan Conner was certainly a man with his flaws and we were able to see them, relate to them and be entertained by them on a weekly basis for many years. The scene below is one of the series most intense and truly displays Goodman's mastery of this character.

In this interview, Goodman reflects on his time on Roseanne.

Did I miss your favorite performance from Goodman's filmography? Let me know!

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