Best: Blade Runner (1982)
Ridley Scott’s grungy, beautifully tactile glimpse into a post-apocalyptic future would be nothing but an attractive empty shell without Hauer. The director cast the Dutch actor without even asking him to audition, basing his decision on previous Hauer performances he’d caught.
As replicant Batty, Hauer’s at once terrifyingly intelligent and physically a force to be reckoned with. Even Philip K Dick approved, commending Hauer as “the perfect Batty - cold, Aryan, flawless”, while Hauer himself singles the film out as his favourite.
Worst: Turbulence 3: Heavy Metal (2001)
Now this really is scraping the bottom of the bargain bin. Turbulence 3 seems like a surefire premise – er, terrorists hijack a plane that’s broadcasting a rock concert over the internet, or something – and squanders it completely.
Really, Hauer should have known better than to take on a movie that had a ‘3’ in the title. As the plane’s roughian pilot, Hauer’s still being given Vietnam-referencing dialogue. It looks like a straight to video movie – which is because it is one. When something’s trying this hard to be hip, it just ain’t hip.
Best: Batman Begins (2005)
Hauer adds a dollop of class to Christopher Nolan’s already-pretty-swish Batman dress-down, which hit the reset button after Joel Schumacher gave our mopey hero nipples. Yes, nipples.
Hauer crops up as William Earle, the CEO of Wayne Enterprises, who handles business while Bruce Wayne is off brooding and being afraid of winged things. Begins was one of two comic book movies that Hauer graced with his presence in 2005, the other being Sin City .
Worst: Hemogoblin (1997)
You’ve got to respect the gall of a man who goes from high quality filmmaking like Blade Runner to absolute trash like Hemogoblin (or, if you prefer its alternative title, Bleeders ). And when we say trash, we mean it.
Need proof? Hauer plays a doctor who encounters a man with a rare blood disease. Along the way, we discover that he’s actually related to the Van Dam family of deformed inbreeders (no, seriously) who need to eat human flesh to survive. Sounds like Hauer had some bills to pay.
Best: The Hitcher (1986)
Hauer was on a short trip to LA when he got whiff of this bare-knuckle thrill ride. “I thought, ‘If I do one more villain, I should do this,’” he remembers. “I couldn't refuse it.”
And it’s a good thing he didn’t – Hauer’s performance in The Hitcher is alongside Blade Runner as one of most important, impressive and iconic to date. He plays the titular hitchhiker, a ride-bumming serial killer who offs the innocent well-wishers who pick him up on the side of the road. Mean and lean, Hauer's compulsively watchable.
Worst: Bloodhounds Of Broadway (1989)
Just because your character has a cool name and a hat doesn’t mean you should take the part. In this sorry musical dramedy, Hauer plays The Brain, a broad-hoarding gangster living in 1928. He’s targeted by a journalist on New Year’s Eve.
The fact that the film went into nationwide release with one reel missing (and no-one noticed) says a lot for the film’s quality. Of course, the real tragedy of Bloodhounds is that its director Howard Brookner died of AIDS before he got to see it released.
Best: Nighthawks (1981)
Hauer’s first American feature, the actor chose working with Sylvester Stallone on Nighthawks over a part in The Sphinx - even though the latter was a far bigger production that offered him double his Nighthawks salary.
The Dutchman plays Wulfgar, a terrorist who bombs a London department store. Sly is the NYPD cop who’s dispatched to stop him – but can his street cop experience match the machinations of a media-courting mad man? The movie itself is undeniably silly, but Hauer is a memorably commanding presence as the sadistic evil-doer.
Worst: Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1992)
As a flamboyant vampiric villain, Hauer is just one of the many casualties in this lame, uninspired movie version of Buffy The Vampire Slayer . Movie legend has it that Buffy creator Joss Whedon’s script was completely changed by director Fran Rubel Kuzui, so it’s likely Hauer signed on for a part that became far camper than originally conceived.
He’s Lothos, a centuries old vampire (in a massive cape) who takes a liking to the titular slayer (here, Kristy Swanson). The role does Hauer few favours – and it’s testament to the hackjob directing that even the Dutchman’s reliable charisma can’t save the film.
Best: Blind Fury (1989)
And they say there are no original parts in Hollywood. In Blind Fury , Hauer plays perhaps the most awesome part ever created – a blind, sword-wielding Vietnam veteran – and he does it in a seriously cool pair of ‘80s shades.
Fury won’t win any awards for believably orchestrated drama, but it does feature a fine comedic turn from Hauer. He’s clearly having fun as the daring hero who drives trucks, nonchalantly steps over alligators and carves bugs in half with a sword even though he’s blind as a bat. “A strong man is never afraid to cry,” he wisely intones. Oh Hauer, give us a hug.
Worst: Beyond Justice (1992)
Beyond justice? Beyond Excuse would have been a more fitting title. A bum-numbingly long action thriller (it’s an unnecessary two hours in length), Justice has Hauer playing Tom Burton (no, really), a mercenary recruited by a worried mother when her son’s kidnapped by the leader of a Moroccan tribe.
Justice is a clichéd, cheesy bore; if there really was any justice in the world, Hauer would’ve skipped it entirely.
Best: The Osterman Weekend (1983)
A typically violent offering from Sam Straw Dogs Peckinpah (the director's last before his death a year later), Osterman had Hauer rubbing shoulders with even more A-list talent (John Hurt, Dennis Hopper) as a man convinced by the CIA that his closest friends are really Russian spies.
Hauer plays his confused hero with characteristically gung-ho physicality, memorably emerging from a swimming pool in one scene armed with a crossbow. Yes, a crossbow. The film was criticised for being structurally unsound, but Hauer makes up for that with his spirited turn.
Worst: Beyond Forgiveness (1995)
These titles are just asking for trouble, aren’t they? So pants that it doesn’t even have its own Wikipedia page, Forgiveness may have helicopter stunts and a plot involving the harvesting of human organs, but it’s as systematic and charmless as the worst of Steven Seagal’s back catalogue.
Hauer makes his entrance as an evil surgeon, doing little more than striking dastard poses and challenging people to fencing matches. Forgiveness takes ridiculousenss to a whole new level.
Best: Flesh + Blood (1985)
A Hollywood resurrection of Rutger Hauer and director Paul Verhoeven’s 1969 Dutch TV series Floris , the script for Flesh + Blood recycled unused material from the TV show. Set in 1501 Italy, it tracks the movements of a group of mercenaries who rape, rob and murder with gleeful abandon.
Hauer plays Martin, who discovers a statue of Saint Martin of Tours, which prompts the mercenaries to hail him as their new leader. The result is a gory, sinewy film that entirely foregoes any overt sentimentality in favour of rapturous violence. Amid the chaos, Hauer is on top charismatic form.
Worst: Goal II: Living The Dream (2007)
Having learnt nothing from surrendering himself to Turbulence 3 , Hauer crops up in another low-hitting sequel. It’s crud like this that makes you realise even the best actors have off days. And Goal II definitely needs to be sent off.
A fictional account of the 2005-2006 football season, the film follows Santiago Muñez’s (Kuno Becker) transferral to Real Madrid. Cue lots of kicking a ball around and complicated domestic dramas. Hauer, you can do better than this.
Best: Ladyhawke (1985)
Hauer take a break from the violent action flicks to star in this magical fantasy. He plays Captain Navarre, who’s in love with Isabeau d'Anjou (Michelle Pfeiffer). The two have been cursed, though, by a jealous Bishop, so that Navarre turns into a wolf at night, while Isabeau becomes a hawk by day.
Clobbered in an impressive suit of armour and handling yet another crossbow (that must be in his contract somewhere), Hauer brings dramatic gravitas to what could easily have become an overly cheesy role, striking a fine balance between the romantic and the outrageous.
Worst: Happiness Runs (2010)
No, that's not Hauer doing his best Glenn Close impression. In this trippy hippie drama (based on a true story apparently), he's having a ball playing with his bad boy image. Trading in the firearms and shades for a floaty hippie outfit, Hauer plays guru Insley, who hypnotises and then seduces women in a close-knit community.
Sadly, the resultant film isn’t as much of a ball to watch. The cinematography is often beautiful, but the script frequently fails to match it with decent characters. In the end, Happiness wastes any opportunities it has at real drama. The result? An audience full of naval gazers.
Best: Split Second (1992)
Hauer goes Terminator on us. Or as close to Terminator as you can get without muttering “I’ll be back” every 10 minutes. Armed with a massive firearm, he’s cop Harley Stone, who’s being hunted by the same ravenous creature who's just killed his partner.
Set in the year 2008 (oooh, futuristic), Split Second has Hauer a playing take-no-prisoners anti-hero with a gun permanently glued to his hand. It’s basically Predator without the Predator, which makes for a pleasingly melodramatic monster B-movie.
Worst: The Rite (2011)
A so-so Exorcist retread, The Rite suffers from truly lethargic pacing and a noticeable lack of real chills and spills.
Hauer plays Istvan Kovak, appearing briefly in a cameo role. This film, after all, belongs to Anthony Hopkins. But Hauer just doesn’t get anything to do other than look stern and deliver lines in Hungarian. Oh, and fondly dead hands, apparently.
Best: Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind (2002)
It’s a collision of past and present Batman stars in George Clooney’s directorial debut, with Clooney, Drew Barrymore, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Hauer having all appeared in a Bat film at some point during their career.
Here, Hauer plays Keeler, a transcontinental German-American spy, and veteran of World War II. He’s not a headliner this time, merely adding flavour to a starry ensemble, but Confessions gives Hauer a chance to combine comedy and badassdom as the bullshit-free spy.
Worst: Moving McAllister (2007)
“If you touch her, I will break every bone in your body.” Hauer delivers threats like that with the same icy believability as ever, but this time he’s in a purposefully wacky, OCD teen road movie. Hauer, what were you thinking?
We’d suggest it was the promise of co-starring with Mila Kunis and Jon Heder that reeled Hauer in, but it’s doubtful he recognised them as sparky young things back in 2007. Making a brief appearance as Kunis’ uncle – intimidating bossman Maxwell McAllister – Hauer looks like he just stepped in off the set of another movie. And he probably wishes he had.
Best: Sin City (2005)
Hauer’s second comic book adap of 2005, Sin City is Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez's visually lush CGI update of the former's beloved publication.
A bald Hauer appears in the film’s third story ‘The Hard Goodbye’ as the tough-as-old-boots Cardinal Roark (who in the comics was actually a dwarf). Roark arranged the murder of Goldie (Jaime King), and ends up a bloody mess when a vengeful Marv (Mickey Rourke) comes calling. It's a small but pivotal role that reminds us just how cool Hauer's capable of being.
Worst: Wanted Dead Or Alive (1986)
An odd blip on Hauer’s pretty much blemish-free ‘80s CV, Wanted promises everything you want from a movie starring the Dutchman – Hauer head-to-toe in black, toting a very mean-looking firearm.
This time, Hauer’s playing the hero, and that’s perhaps where the main problem lies. As Nick Randall, he’s an LA bounty hunter tasked with tracking down a terrorist.
Hauer’s on brilliantly bad-ass form (the finale has him shoving a grenade in said terrorist's gob), but the material lets him down. Flat lines and boring set-pieces make Wanted little more than a mildly diverting curio.