Best: Back To The Future (1985)
Zane shoots out of the holding gate with a stellar debut role in this adored ‘80s classic. Though it’s a tiny role with nary a single line, he’s pivotal as Match, one of mean guy Biff’s lackies.
Perfectly suited to the ‘50s era in which the majority of the film is set, Zane utterly convinces with his jutting jaw and slicked back hair. Without his cronies, what would Biff be? Nowhere near as cool, that’s for sure.
Worst: Bloodrayne (2006)
Why Zane would choose to work with Worst Director Of All Time Uwe Boll is beyond us – perhaps it was the promise of a swords and sorcery action film. Or perhaps he was just a fan of the video game it’s based on.
Because yes, not only is Bloodyrayne a Boll film, it’s also a video game adap. It was doomed from the beginning. Zane plays the father of Michelle Rodriguez’s vamp-fighter Katarin. He’s in league with Vampire King Kagan (Ben Kingsley).
While co-star Michael Madsen has since disowned the film, Zane’s expressed a pleasure in working with such a divisive director.
Best: Dead Calm (1989)
Sticking with his bad boy image, Zane plays a slippery mass murderer who makes life a living hell for a vacationing couple aboard their yacht.
Sailing out in the wake of their son’s death, John (Sam Neill) and his wife Rae (Nicole Kidman) find themselves under attack from the malicious Hughie (Zane), who attempts to seduce Rae as her husband lies bleeding in another boat. Zane's electrifying.
Worst: The Roommate (2011)
They could’ve called it Single White Co-ed , which would have been just as fitting for this charmless update of the equally contrived Single White Female . Gossip Girl ’s Leighton Meester stars as a college freshman who becomes obsessed with her beautiful new roomie.
Zane pitches up as, of all things, an interior design professor, who makes a move on Meester’s roomie. Luckily, Meester’s onhand with a concealed recording device to tape the whole thing. Playing up his propensity for sleazy characters, this is nothing new for Zane.
Best: Titanic (1997)
The big one, in numerous ways, that led to Zane becoming the loved/hated crush object of many confused teenage girls. They hated that he basically doomed Leo DiCaprio to an icy death, but they loved how deliciously baaaad he was.
In James Cameron’s megabuck disaster epic, Zane plays Cal, the richboy fiancé of Kate Winslet’s miserable Rose. When she meets peasant Jack (DiCaprio) aboard the doomed Titanic, they fall in love – much to Cal’s chagrin. Zane plays the bad guy with a slithery, slimy brilliance.
Worst: Love N Dancing (2009)
Zane’s still playing bad as the inattentive fiancé of dancer Jessica Conovan, who finds a new dancing partner in Jake Mitchell – a fleet-footed fella who happens to also be deaf.
Zane gets comedy glasses, steers clear of the dancefloor and reprises his jealous lover archetype from Titanic while the film itself is stuffed full of tired clichés that bog it down. A pale imitation of Dirty Dancing that takes itself deathly seriously.
Best: Orlando (1992)
Adapted from Virginia Woolf’s Orlando: A Biography , Zane stars opposite Tilda Swinton’s titular Orlando as Marmaduke Bonthrop Shelmerdine. Directed by Sally Potter, the film received kudos for its sensitive and authentic portrayal of the Elizabethan era.
Playing up Swinton’s inherent androgyny, Orlando follows the events after the death of Queen Elizabeth I (Quentin Crisp), who has left Orlando a plot of land and a castle. But when Orlando is revealed as a woman, a bitter war breaks out.
Worst: Memory (2006)
Zane stars opposite Dennis Hopper in this crime thriller, which owes a thing or 10 to a whole host of other (better) crime thrillers that came before it.
Dr Taylor Briggs (Zane) is a medical researcher and memory consultant who is asked to inspect a patient found in the Amazon. But during the inspection, he unlocks memories in his mind that belong to a killer. Daft doesn’t even begin to cover it.
Best: The Believer (2001)
Winner of the Grand Jury prize at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, this gritty drama is loosely based on the true story of Ku Klux Klan member Daniel Burros, who committed suicide in the 1960s after exposing a New York Times reporter as a Jew.
While Ryan Gosling gives a dazzling performance as Daniel, Zane holds his own as Curtis Zampf, a fascist who advocates killing Jews. Another rich, seedy manipulator with dark agendas, it’s a role that Zane plays with unbridled relish.
Worst: Sniper (1993)
Taking up a rifle, Zane plays SWAT member Miller - who has no confirmed kills. He's teamed up with sniper Master Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Beckett to kill a Panamanian rebel leader.
Sort of like an Arnie action wannabe, Sniper has its moments, but its action moments are too watered down to be any sort of drawing point. It’s also dated badly – which is probably why a remake is in the works. John Cena will play the Beckett role...
Best: Tombstone (1993)
A rootin-tootin’, gun-slingin’, dust-clouded Western, Tombstone isn’t necessarily up there with The Good, The Bad And The Ugly as a classic of the genre, but it’s got enough action, silly moustaches and grand-standing performances to keep it thoroughly entertaining.
Zane again appears as the member of a gang, this time a theatre troupe who arrive in the small Arizona town of Tombstone. It’s a modest role in a film dominated by Val Kilmer, Michael Biehn and Charlton Heston – but doesn’t he look good in those chaps?
Worst: Posse (1993)
Made the same year as Tombstone , this Western afforded Zane a bigger role, but ultimately couldn’t reach the guilty pleasure heights of the actor’s other Wild West offering.
Zane plays Colonel Graham, a corrupt racist who kills in cold blood anybody who deserts him. Those deserters are a group of black American soldiers who have broken rank thanks to the callous Colonel. Zane excels in his role, but the film itself delivers its morals with such heavy-handedness that it gets completely bogged down in them.
Best: Memphis Belle (1990)
Zane brings his bravado charisma to the role of Lt. Val Kozlowski in this World War II drama. It follows the final 25th mission of the American B-17 bomber called Memphis Belle as it completes its last drop during World War II.
Zane is perfectly cast as Val, whom everybody believes is a doctor, but who it is revealed only attended a few medical classes before joining the war movement.
Worst: I Woke Up Early The Day I Died (1998)
Zane associates himself with another terrible director with this camp misstep, which resurrects the last unfilmed script by Ed Wood and finally transforms it into a feature film.
This being a Wood script, of course Zane ends up cross dressing as The Thief. He escapes from Casa de la Loco Sanitarium and decides to kill everybody present at a funeral where he lost all of his money. Zane’s typically gung-ho, but this was a script that should have stayed buried.
Best: Zoolander (2001)
“You rock,” says Ben Stiller. “No, you rock,” returns Billy Zane. They’re both models, which means this is the catwalk equivalent of a football smack on the buttocks.
Zane shaves his hair off and is noticeably beefed up as an unnamed male model who moves in the same model-y circles as amazingly perfect-looking poser Zoolander. It’s a small bit-part, but it shows Zane’s not always about playing high-class villains.
Worst: Silver City (2004)
A political satire that is so limited in smarts that it becomes little more than a transparent attack on George W. Bush’s time in office, Silver City stars Chris Cooper as an inept Republican candidate who more than slightly resembles Dubyah.
Zane plays a lobbyist and land developer who is in numerous peoples’ pockets. He walks around looking suave and mean. Another Cannes debutante, the film was criticised for its dull stretches and having a wildly uneven tone.
Best: Critters (1986)
Just a year before Zane lost out on the lead part in Dirty Dancing (the one that went to Patrick Swayze) thanks to a lack of discernable aptitude for actually dancing, Zane appeared briefly in this schlocky, campy, seriously fun ‘80s horror.
He’s a bad boyfriend and one of the first characters to be savaged to death by big-mouthed, Gremlin-like nasties from outer space - affectionately known as Critters. Zane proves he can play out a good death scene, even if he is being ripped to shreds by big balls of fluff. Makes a change from the critics.
Worst: Fishtales (2007)
Zane breaks the cardinal rule of filmmaking – never work with your partner – for this sloppy mermaid story, in which he stars opposite then-fiancée Kelly Brooke.
She’s a fish-tailed beauty living near the Greek island Spetses. He’s a widowed professor who’s studying, uh, ancient love spells (like you do). When he travels to Spetses and recites a love spell with the mergirl, they fall in love. Premiering at the Cannes Film Festival, the film received an overwhelmingly negative reaction. The couple separated soon after.
Best: The Phantom (1996)
Zane took up the dumbbells for a whole year in preparation for slipping into the skin-tight purple cat-suit of comic book superhero The Phantom. Though the film was trampled on by critics, it’s not without its own kitschy charm, and is a work of art compared to some of the clunkers in Zane’s career.
He plays the immortal crimefighter who’s descended from African heroes, and who travels to New York to lay the smackdown on a criminal genius. Sadly, the film’s failure at the box office (it barely scraped back $17m on a budget of $45m) meant that Zane’s surefire entrance into the A-list was swiftly and near-silently stifled.
Worst: Journey To Promethea (2010)
Zane finds himself really scraping the bottom of the barrel with this made-for-TV movie, which is clearly attempting to cash in on last year’s sword-and-sandals outings Clash Of The Titans and Prince Of Persia .
Sadly, Promethea suffers the same problems as the films it’s been inspired by. Though Zane stands out as a ray of light amid a struggling cast of unknowns, he still seems to just be going through the motions as evil King Laypach. Pair that with sub-par special effects, and small wonder this has now disappeared into obscurity.
Best: Demon Knight (1995)
Another guilty pleasure – could there be a pattern emerging here? Zane certainly seems to find the most success in schlocky fare, as evidenced in this loving, macabre and completely silly entry in the Tales From The Crypt series of feature films.
Zane plays the charismatic Collector, a high-level demon who’s on the trail of a key that can open the gates of Hell. Playing up the bloody horror aspects, Zane revels in a larger-than-life character and shows he’s got the chops to pull off insidious with aplomb. More of this, please.