Liam Neeson is one of the most versatile actors in film. From his early smaller roles to his breakout success in historical dramas and large-scale blockbusters, Neeson has made his mark in nearly every genre. The Irish actor has played key historical figures including freedom fighters and scientists, and he’s been a pivotal presence in franchises like Star Wars and The Chronicles of Narnia. In the later part of his career, he’s become a go-to action star in lean, propulsive B-movies, including the Taken series.
Neeson brings gravity and emotional heft to all of those roles, whether in strange sci-fi worlds or in hand-to-hand combat with street criminals. His greatest work ranges from popular hits to lesser-known releases. Here are the seven best Neeson movies you can stream right now.
Neeson received his only Oscar nomination for playing the title role in Steven Spielberg’s Best Picture-winning Holocaust drama. The heavy subject matter and three-hour-plus running time make Schindler’s List a difficult watch, but it’s also deeply rewarding, and Neeson’s performance as German businessman Oskar Schindler is essential to its success.
The movie tells the true story of Schindler’s efforts to keep his Jewish workers from being rounded up and killed by Nazis during World War II, which requires increasing amounts of bribery and deception as the war goes on. Neeson captures Schindler’s journey from a callous playboy who hired Jews merely because they were cheaper to a righteous crusader for justice, even at his own expense. Neeson never downplays Schindler’s arrogance, which makes the character’s eventual sacrifices that much more meaningful.
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Everyone has their favorite storyline in Richard Curtis’ multi-pronged ensemble romantic comedy, but Neeson’s is the most wholesome, pairing him with a young Thomas Brodie-Sangster for a sweet father-son tale. It’s really a stepfather-son tale, as Neeson’s Daniel is struggling to connect with his stepson Sam (Brodie-Sangster) following the death of his wife, Sam’s mother. They find common ground when Sam reveals that he has feelings for a classmate, and Daniel helps him navigate his first crush.
While other storylines focus on romantic entanglements, Daniel and Sam’s interactions are more about their growing bond as parent and child. Teaming up to help Sam approach the girl he likes helps both of them process their grief, showing them a way forward as a family after such a devastating loss. It’s a lovely little family dramedy amid the gooey romances.
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Neeson has made so many forgettable action movies that they tend to get lumped together, but this thriller from director and co-writer Joe Carnahan sets itself apart with its focus on psychological anguish and wilderness survival. People remember the image of Neeson gearing up to punch a wolf in the face, but that’s only a brief moment in an otherwise subdued, tense drama about men braving harsh winter conditions in Alaska.
Neeson plays a depressed widower who finds himself leading a group of oil workers when their plane crashes and strands them in the mountains amid packs of deadly wolves. The savage wolf attacks are secondary to the meditations on masculinity and the relationship between humans and the natural world. Neeson is just as good at conveying his character’s sorrow as he is at taking down wolves.
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A Walk Among the Tombstones
It’s a shame that A Walk Among the Tombstones wasn’t a bigger hit, because Neeson could have led an entire franchise featuring private investigator Matthew Scudder. Author Lawrence Block wrote 19 Scudder books, and writer-director Scott Frank adapts one of the later entries with this movie about Scudder tracking a pair of killers who target vulnerable family members of drug traffickers.
Frank delivers the requisite thrills, chases, and violent confrontations, but he also delivers a sophisticated character study about former cop and recovering alcoholic Scudder, who’s haunted by actions he took during his days on the police force. Neeson embodies the weariness of a man who knows he can never truly find redemption but continues to do all he can to seek it.
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Neeson plays a supporting role in director Martin Scorsese’s somber historical drama, but his presence makes a major impact on the story. Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver star as a pair of Jesuit missionaries from Portugal who travel to Japan to search for their missing mentor (Neeson) and spread the word of Christianity. In 17th-century Japan, Christianity is outlawed, so the missionaries are detained and ordered to renounce their faith or suffer torture and death.
Garfield and Driver both give powerful performances as devout men wrestling with the value of faith in the face of such horrific consequences, and Neeson adds to that power when he returns later in the movie as the former priest who has since abandoned Christianity and adopted a Japanese name. His gaunt figure and despondent expression demonstrate the torment that comes with a loss of faith.
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Oscar nominees Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville pair up in this quiet portrait of a long-term marriage. Tom and Joan have been together for many years. They live an unremarkable life with a remarkable love. Their routine is disrupted when Joan finds a lump in her breast in the shower one day.
After she’s diagnosed with breast cancer, the couple faces the adversity together. Challenges test their relationship, but through it all, they find the humor and grace to survive. This is also one of the few recent Liam Neeson movies where his character doesn't rack up a body count.
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Brian Mills (Neeson) is semi-retired, but drawn back into killing lots of folks when something from him is ... taken. In this case, it's his daughter (Maggie Grace) rather than his dog, and Neeson shoots his way through Paris trying to find her.
Part of the success of Taken lies in the fact that Neeson is so unassuming you wouldn't take him as an ex-special forces type, capable of dispatching assassins and would-be abductors with ease. And, the 90-minute Taken is a very taut action movie that moves along at a nice, brisk pace. It was so popular that it spawned two sequels, but the original is still the best.
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