Culture / Film

A silver fox of the silver screen: The best Willem Dafoe films for your viewing pleasure

willem dafoe films

Crushes come and go but Willem Dafoe is forever. Mostly, because he's been around forever. The actor (and more recently, model) has a back catalogue that could keep you busy for an entire week – or weekend depending on how keen you were. Which as far as we're concerned, is very keen indeed. But we digress. What we're really here to say is that we've been thinking about the actor more than we care to admit, especially since his appearance in the Palace x Calvin Klein campaign.

We're not alone either. The internet has gone so far as to crown Dafoe as its Daddy, which is a position we wholeheartedly stand by. His modesty, generosity, not to mention style (he's a Prada ambassador after all) is just the tip of the iceberg. But we'll let Daddy Dafoe's work speak for itself. Behold, 9 of the best Willem Dafoe films to chow down on – you can thank us later.

1. At Eternity's Gate (2018)

A full sensory experience, Willem Dafoe is transformed into Vincent Van Gogh, bringing all the stories, myths and facts about the painter to life in 0ne deeply compelling and immersive watch. Oscar Isaac presents as Paul Gauguin, Van Gogh's best friend and rival.


2. Mississippi Burning (1988)

Mississippi Burning is a flawed text, especially due to its failure to centre Black activists instead leaning on white saviour tropes. But as far as the acting is concerned Willem Dafoe does his duty well, which helps when you're joined by the force that is Frances McDormand.


3. The Lighthouse (2019)


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I don't care what anyone says, The Lighthouse is loaded with queer subtext. And who doesn't want what we see as basically erotica, especially when it comes from the likes of Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson? Although we'll admit its claustrophobic, grizzly and requires a whole lot of stamina to finish.


4. Spider-Man (2002)


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There's a reason Dafoe was asked back for Spider-Man: No Way Home and it's because that toothy smile was made to act the villain, or this villain at least. Oh, and that croaky voice is both terrifying and yet oddly seductive?


5. American Psycho (2000)

Chloë Sevigny, Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe...iconic. Who doesn't relish Dafoe in a position of the virtuous detective? Especially when his performance is this good. In all three interview scenes between Patrick Bateman and Detective Kimbo, director Mary Harron had Dafoe act each out thrice, one from the perspective that he thought Bateman to be guilty, another thinking him innocent and the final approaching him with suspicion. The result highlights Bateman's paranoia and inability to read the social cues and situation.


6. Cry Baby (1990)

All I have to say is we'll pick Willem Dafoe to defend the public against Johnny Depp anyday. Just lose the blue suit and the southern accent.


7. The Florida Project (2017)


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Willem Dafoe dips into his tank of Daddy, (possibly Gran-Daddy energy?) for this role in heart-wrenching film The Florida Project. Leathery from the Florida sun and strapped into a range of different coloured tight fitting tees, he plays Bobby, a motel manager that doubles as a fierce protector and reliable figure for his tenants. In one drawn out scene he wards off a possible child molester, in another he protects the film's mother-daughter leads, Hailey and Mooney, from an angry man.


8. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004)


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There's a lot to say about this one. First off, it's a film that reminds you that yes, Dafoe is brilliant and charismatic, but he is also deeply funny. Which is a quality that often gets glossed over when speaking of the actor. The other thing is, Dafoe isn't the only Daddy to make an appearance, his Prada buddy Jeff Goldblum adds an extra level of pleasure to the whole film. And if that's not enough, well it's co-written by Noah Baumbach and it's a Wes Anderson film after all? What more are you searching for?


9. The Loveless (1981)


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We don't recall much of the plot of The Loveless and quite frankly we don't really care. All the entertainment we needed presented itself in the form of a young Dafoe dressed in a leather motorcycle jacket, white tank top with a slick hairstyle and a smouldering stare to really reel us in.


10. Togo (2019)


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You want to talk about range? Let's talk about range. Where other actors might turn their noses up at a live-action Disney role, Dafoe took the reins, quite literally in fact. In Togo, he portrays Leonhard Seppala, a musher who alongside his lead sled dog Togo, carried the weight of the famous Serum Run to Nome, Alaska in 1925. The film shines a light on Togo, who is often forgotten in the fabled story in favour of Balto who completed the last leg of the race and received much of the glory. So if you're looking to indoctrinate them young, this is the Dafoe film to start with.


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