Sadly, it’s not possible to make a ten best list for Senator Fred Thompson, dead at 73. However, we can come up with four great movies he played in and, adding that to his eight years in the U.S. Senate, we’d say he had a pretty interesting and successful career.
Thompson was most usefully cast as a government employee, probably because he actually worked as a Congressional lawyer, and had no problem exuding power and confidence. Here are the four films that top the list of his CV:
No Way Out (1987): Thompsons plays the Director of the CIA in this Pentagon suspense drama starring Kevin Costner, Gene Hackman and Sean Young. Well written and engaging, Thompson is perfectly cast as a political chess player.
The Hunt for Red October (1990): Here as an Admiral commanding a Navy fleet, Thompson is hired for his gravitas and delivers perfectly in this Cold War Action/Suspense film based on the Tom Clancy novel.
In The Line of Fire (1993): Clint Eastwood stars in this movie about a Secret Service agent trying to stop a presidential assassination and expiate old ghosts. Thompson effortlessly plays the president’s stubborn and arrogant Chief of Staff.
Secretariat (2010): This time he doesn’t work for the government. Instead, Thompson is the owner of the famous race horse in Disney’s feel-good sports movie starring Diane Lane and John Malkovich. As with all four of the movies listed here, Thompson is a supporting actor.
Fred Thompson’s career is a living example of the axiom that there are no small parts, only small actors. Thompson cast a giant shadow in his short on-screen appearances, delivering exactly what his director’s needed to advance the story. Hollywood’s greatest films are filled with just these types of performances.
Rest in Peace Fred Thompson.