How many movies were made better by the presence of the late Rutger Hauer? Across 173 film and television credits, Hauer found the time to appear in just about every conceivable type of film. Genre fans love him best for the likes of The Hitcher or Blade Runner. However, a deeper look at Hauer’s resume reveals the actor showed up in so many other types of films.
His intensity, which included the ability to create a deep, decidedly human conviction beneath everything he did as an actor, allowed him to work successfully at just about everything he did, which included romantic dramas, ridiculous comedies, surreal arthouse, and so much more. He also often brought a distinctive element of the unpredictable. His most memorable characters conveyed with a disarming ease the desire to make you feel just slightly off-center in their presence. Rutger Hauer’s best movies featured characters who could go in a dozen different directions. Inevitably, it would be the one you least suspected.
I obviously didn’t know Hauer when he was alive. At the same time, I will miss his unmistakable presence in film and TV, as will so many others. While I didn’t know him, I would like to think I know enthusiasm when I see it. Rutger Hauer brought an almost intimidating enthusiasm to his art. Furthermore, his enthusiasm was wholly unique. It will never exist in that exact form again.
As we celebrate the best Rutger Hauer movies, that might be the most mournful part for those of us who loved his work.
1. Soldier of Orange (1977)
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Before he went to Hollywood, Paul Verhoeven directed some of the most intense, conflicted films ever made in the Netherlands. His early works offer some of the best early performances of Rutger Hauer, as well.
Soldier of Orange can be a little difficult to track down, depending on where you live. I’d say it’s well worth the effort. The story of students fighting pathetic, feral Nazis in Holland during World War 2 can certainly have some resonance in 2019. At the same time, the movie also offers a magnetic, decidedly complex performance from Hauer at the center.
If nothing else, it’s a shame Verhoeven and Hauer didn’t work together more often.
2. Blade Runner (1982)
Director: Ridley Scott
Blade Runner came out just one year after Hauer’s memorable U.S. debut in Nighthawks. However, at the point of Blade Runner, arguably his most iconic role, Rutger Hauer had been appearing in films since 1969.
That experience may or may not have helped him play the replicant Roy Batty, who charges at his haunted existence like a desperate, brilliant child prodigy with a very short lifespan. Hauer played eccentrics throughout his career. He rarely played the same character twice. No other character in Hauer’s filmography would be exactly the same as the terrifying, affecting Roy.
You can recreate Blade Runner’s stunning, evocative climax in every possible way. The only thing that won’t feel like it belongs is your lack of Rutger Hauer as Roy Blatty. The whole thing falls apart. Rutger Hauer brought that quality to far more movies than he ever got credit for while alive.
3. Ladyhawke (1985)
Director: Richard Donner
Ladyhawke is more than just a great example of 1980s cult classics. It’s a fun, fairly unique fantasy film from the era, as well. Part of its uniqueness comes down to its cast, which includes Michelle Pfeiffer and Matthew Broderick. Rutger Hauer, who in fact replaced Kurt Russell, is arguably the movie’s secret weapon.
Without his presence, which gives us one of the most likable heroic figures to be found in the decade’s long list of fantasy offerings, I just don’t think Ladyhawke would be as much fun. Hauer was in fact supposed to be the villain. As good as his bad guys can get, even in the most painful examples of direct-to-video schlock, his approach to heroes is sometimes much more interesting. That might be from having played them so infrequently, but I’d like to think it has more to do with seeing someone that intense displaying noble convictions.
Or it’s just that Hauer’s scenes with Broderick, playing a young thief, are hilarious. Even in 2019, there are a lot of ways you can appreciate Ladyhawke.
4. Escape From Sobibor (1987)
Director: Jack Gold
Rutger Hauer won a Best Actor in a Supporting Role Golden Globe, his most significant U.S. film award, in this surprisingly enduring British TV film. This story of an uprising in the Sobibor concentration camp during World War II thankfully has a good cast with strong characters to offset the limitation of a TV movie from this time period.
Hauer and Alan Arkin play two of the key figures in the revolt that would lead to the destruction of the camp. Each individually brings something grounded to the proceedings, but it is the fierce determination of Hauer as Lieutenant Aleksandr ‘Sasha’ Pechersky that gives the film some of the most inspired, riveting moments.
Despite playing several Nazis in his career, it was generally more satisfying to see Hauer on one or another opposing side. Escape from Sobibor is a good example, while simultaneously being of Hauer’s best performances.
5. Hobo with a Shotgun (2011)
Director: Jason Eisner
We have largely had to skip the long, long list of horror movies, genre cult classics, and diamond-in-the-rough direct-to-video flicks Hauer populated in the 80s, 90s, 2000s, and 2010s. We have had to skip such worthy contenders for this list as The Hitcher, The Legend of the Holy Drinker, Blind Fury, Split Second, Bleeders, Sin City, and quite a few others.
The best Rutger Hauer movies can take on you on not just a journey of the man’s underrated range. It also shows you just how many different types of ridiculous movies have been made through the years. Rutger Hauer is in a lot of them. He is memorable, or better, in almost every movie he did.
Hobo with a Shotgun is a summation of his work in unique, often challenging projects. It is a silly, sometimes heavy-handed story of a homeless man who wages a one-man war against the hideous human gods of a hellscape masquerading as a city in economic crisis. It also gives us Rutger Hauer as a character who can potentially be described as the Batman we actually deserve.
Hobo with a Shotgun presents a world without hope. It suggests hope in the form of Hauer’s hobo. As much fun as the movie can sometimes be, that concept of hope just wouldn’t have come across as well with anyone other than Rutger Hauer.
Of course, that notion of hope provides a balance the movie needs to be more than just a weird Troma clone.
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