Ten Best Tommy Lee Jones Movies

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Tommy Lee Jones is one of Hollywood's top actors. Jones' best movies are The Fugitive, The Executioner's Song, In the Valley of Elah, Men in Black, Coal Miner's Daughter, The Missing, JFK, The Amazing Howard Hughes, U.S. Marshals and Space Cowboys.

Tommy Lee Jones is one of Hollywood's most respected actors. Born in San Saba, Texas, on September 15, 1946, Jones made his motion picture debut as Hank Simpson in Love Story (1970). Five years later Jones made his dramatic television debut as Dr. Jim Medford in the Barnaby Jones episode "Fatal Witness," telecast on November 14, 1975.

Here are ten movies that no Tommy Lee Jones fan should ever miss. Are you ready to run with the big dog?

The Fugitive (Warner Bros., 1994)

Tommy Lee Jones plays Samuel Gerard, a United States deputy marshal who's given the task of bringing in escaped murderer Dr. Richard Kimble (Harrison Ford). Jones establishes his authority immediately, taking charge of the manhunt following a prison bus-train collision that freed Kimble and sent him on the lam. Tough, caustic, witty and relentless, Jones' Gerard pursues Kimble with almost religious fervor, cornering the desperate Kimble in a storm drain high atop a dam, whereby the good doctor takes a spectacular plunge into the swirling waters below. The Fugitive, a taut, high-octane crime thriller, affords Jones one of the best "supporting" roles of his career. Supporting?

Academy Award nomination: Best Supporting Actor (won)

Great Tommy Lee Jones line (on the escaped Kimble): "So he showed up not dead yet. Let that be a lesson to you, boys and girls. Don't ever argue with the big dog, because the big dog is always right."

Director: Andrew Davis

On DVD: The Fugitive Special Edition (Warner, 2001)

The Executioner's Song (NBC, 1982)

Tommy Lee Jones plays real-life killer Gary Mark Gilmore in this acclaimed made-for-TV movie originally telecast in two parts on November 28-29, 1982. Jones is riveting as the brooding, manipulative Gilmore, a career criminal who after serving a long stretch for armed robbery commits two senseless murders. Condemned to death, Gilmore actively lobbies for his own execution by firing squad, with Utah authorities duly obliging him on January 17, 1977. Based on the book by Norman Mailer, The Executioner's Song also features fine support from Christine Lahti, Rosanna Arquette, Eli Wallach and Steven Keats.

Emmy Award nomination: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Special (won)

Great Tommy Lee Jones line (after the judge asks him his elected method of execution): "I prefer to be shot." 

Director: Lawrence Schiller

On DVD: The Executioner's Song Director's Cut (Paramount, 2008)

Tommy Lee Jones as Gary Gilmore in The Executioner's Song (1982)

In the Valley of Elah (Warner Independent Pictures, 2007)

Tommy Lee Jones stars as Hank Deerfield, a retired military investigator who discovers that his Army specialist son Mike (Jonathan Tucker) is missing. Mike had just returned from a tour of duty in Iraq, with his badly mutilated and burned body later turning up outside an Army base. With the help of police detective Emily Sanders (Charlize Theron), Hank pursues the case, interviewing Mike's soldier buddies and later discovering the awful truth. Jason Patric, Susan Sarandon, James Franco, Barry Corbin, Josh Brolin and Frances Fisher also appear, ably complementing Jones' outstanding performance. Written and directed by Paul Haggis, In the Valley of Elah was inspired by a similar true-life event as reported by journalist Mark Boal in his magazine article "Death and Dishonor" (Playboy, May 2004).

Academy Award nomination: Best Actor

Great Tommy Lee Jones line (to Victor Wolf's Private Robert Ortiez): "Why don't you come over here! I'll show you what the devil looks like!"

Director: Paul Haggis

On DVD: In the Valley of Elah (Warner, 2008)

Men in Black (Columbia, 1997)

Tommy Lee Jones appears as Kevin Brown/Agent K, who with new partner James Darrel Edwards III/Agent Jay (Will Smith) investigate all matter of alien activity on Earth. This is a fun role for Jones in this hilarious, offbeat sci-fi comedy, as he and Will Smith employ high-tech weapons against their scary (but mostly silly) extraterrestrial adversaries. "Tommy Lee Jones, never more serious, unsmiling and businesslike, stars as K, the veteran agent of Division 6, whose members dress, as William Morris agents used to, in black suits and black ties," reported Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times. 

Great Tommy Lee Jones line (to Will Smith's Agent Jay): "All right, kid, here's the deal. At any given time there are approximately 1,500 aliens on the planet, most of them right here in Manhattan. And most of them are decent enough, they're just trying to make a living."

Director: Barry Sonnenfield

On DVD: Men in Black Deluxe Edition (Columbia Tristar, 2002)

Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith in Men in Black (1997)

Coal Miner's Daughter (Universal, 1980)

Tommy Lee Jones plays Oliver Doolittle "Mooney" Lynn, husband of Loretta Lynn (Sissy Spacek) in this well-received biopic of the "Queen of Country Music." Jones sparkles as the hard-drinking country boy, who buys his wife a guitar for their wedding anniversary, setting the stage for her climb up the country music ladder. The real Mooney hadn't cared much for Jones portraying him on the silver screen until the actor got into a bit of trouble with the law. Prior to the beginning of filming in Butcher Holler, Kentucky, Jones got lit up on the local moonshine, tore through the town in a rented jeep, and landed in jail on drunken driving charges and resisting arrest. That, the real Mooney Lynn figured, earned Jones a pass to play him in the movie.

Great Tommy Lee Jones line: " Loretta, I'm leavin' Kentucky. Goin' out west somewhere, find me another job. That damn coal mine about to kill me. There ain't nothin' in Kentucky for me except a chest full of coal dust and being an old man before I'm forty; ask your daddy, he'll tell you."

Director: Michael Apted

On DVD: Coal Miner's Daughter 25th Anniversary Edition (Universal, 2005)

The Missing (Columbia, 2003)

Tommy Lee Jones plays Samuel Jones/Chaa-duu-ba-its-iidan, who returns to his family in 1885 New Mexico hoping to mend things with his now grown daughter Maggie (Cate Blanchett). But Maggie is not in a forgiving mood, blaming him for the early death of her mother. Things change, however, when renegade Apaches led by Pesh-Chidin (Eric Schweig) massacre settlers and take their daughters captive. Tracking the Apaches is a determined Jones, Maggie and several other people. Highly reminiscent of John Ford's The Searchers (1956), The Missing also features Val Kilmer, Evan Rachel Wood and Jenna Boyd. "Jones is interesting, an actor for whom the very act of acting seems an indignity, wearing his long Indian braids with deadpan resignation, but then occasionally surprising an audience with an unexpected line reading..." observed Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Great Tommy Lee Jones line (to Cate Blanchett's Maggie): "There's an Apache story about a man that woke up one morning and saw a hawk on the wind. Walked outside and never returned. After he died he met his wife in the spirit world. She asked him why he never came home, he said 'Well, the hawk kept flying.'"

Director: Ron Howard

On DVD: The Missing (Sony, 2004)

Tommy Lee Jones as Samuel Jones in The Missing (2003)

JFK (Warner Bros., 1991)

Tommy Lee Jones plays Clay Shaw, a New Orleans businessman implicated in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) believes he has uncovered a conspiracy surrounding the assassination, and places the hapless Shaw on trial. JFK is a combustible mixture of fact, fiction and conjecture, with Jones' coy portrayal of the real-life Clay Shaw (1913-1974) one of the highlights of the movie.

Academy Award nomination: Best Supporting Actor

Great Tommy Lee Jones line (to Kevin Costner's Garrison, who has asked if he was a contract agent for the CIA): "And if I was, Mr. Garrison... do you think I would be here today...talking to somebody like you?"

Director: Oliver Stone

On DVD: JFK Director's Cut Two-Disc Special Edition (Warner, 2008)

The Amazing Howard Hughes (CBS, 1977)

Tommy Lee Jones stars as Howard Hughes (1905-1976), the eccentric American billionaire industrialist, aviator and Hollywood producer/director in this made-for-TV movie originally telecast in two parts on April 13-14, 1977. Based on the 1971 book by former Hughes insider Noah Dietrich, The Amazing Howard Hughes chronicles the fascinating life of one of America's greatest movers and shakers, from his early years in Houston as heir to the Hughes Tool Company to his final days as a paranoid recluse holed up at the Desert Inn in Las Vegas. Look for Tovah Feldshuh as Katharine Hepburn, with Lee Purcell as Billie Dove and Marla Carlis as Jane Russell. The Amazing Howard Hughes has been called the film that "made" Tommy Lee Jones.

Great Tommy Lee Jones line (on playing Howard Hughes): "When you play someone like Hughes, there is a wealth of information about almost every day in his life. For a recluse, he was probably the most documented hermit in the world."

Director: William A. Graham

On DVD: The Amazing Howard Hughes (Anchor Bay, 2002)

U.S. Marshals (Warner Bros., 1998)

Tommy Lee Jones returns as Chief Deputy Marshal Samuel Gerard from his 1994 The Fugitive days. This time, Jones' Gerard is back in the hunt again, tracking down fugitive Mark J. Sheridan (Wesley Snipes) who is on the lam following a spectacular plane crash. But Sheridan's shadowy past is complicating matters, with Gerard uncovering details that cast doubt on the escapee's alleged criminal misdeeds. There's excellent interplay here between Gerard and Robert J. Downey Jr.'s John Royce, a special State Department agent assigned to the manhunt.  

Great Tommy Lee Jones line (to a group of country boys, asking who their best tracker is in the swamp): "Alright, which one of you is the ugliest, most inbred country son of a bitch out here?"

Director: Stuart Baird

On DVD: U.S. Marshals Special Edition (Warner, 1998)

Tommy Lee Jones as Samuel Gerard in U.S. Marshals (1998)

Space Cowboys (Warner Bros., 2000)

Tommy Lee Jones plays Colonel William "Hawk" Hawkins, who with his fellow "over-the-hill" gang comprised of Frank Corvin (Clint Eastwood), Jerry O'Neill (Donald Sutherland) and Tank Sullivan (James Garner) finally get their chance to blast off into space in order to fix a Russian satellite. It seems Corvin is the only one who can repair the antiquated guidance system, one he originally designed, and insists his former astronauts-in-training from 1958 accompany him. "Mr. Jones, nearly 20 years younger than Mr. Garner but with a face that says otherwise, has the most complex role, since Hawk is not only the hot-headed foil for Frank's glowering stoicism, but also the film's romantic lead and its tragic figure," reported A.O. Scott of The New York Times.

Great Tommy Lee Jones line (on growing older): "Have you noticed how everybody seems to be dead lately?"

Director: Clint Eastwood

On DVD: Space Cowboys (Warner, 2001)

Ten More Tommy Lee Jones Movie Favorites

Rolling Thunder (1977)

The Package (1989)

Cobb (1994)

Under Siege (1992)

No Country for Old Men (2007)

Batman Forever (1995)

The Client (1994)

Stranger on My Land (1988)

In the Electric Mist (2009)

The Hunted (2003)

Tommy Lee Jones as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell in No Country for Old Men (2007)


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