Film Lists

Top 5 Great Tim Curry Performances

Let’s talk about Tim Curry.

The man has had a hell of a career in film and TV, stretching from 1968 through to 2017 he has over 200 acting credits to his name on IMDB. TWO HUNDRED. That’s a busy, busy man. But which are his BEST roles? Which are the most iconic, the most mentioned, the most talked about? I have no idea. What do you think I am, Wikipedia?

But what I can do is highlight my personal favourites, the ones that I think are his most iconic, or the most fun, or the most over the top. Let’s take a look, in no particular order, at my top five performances by this amazing actor.

1. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) – Frank-N-Furter

You knew it had to be on here. For a lot of people, when anyone mentions Tim Curry this is probably the performance they think of. He steals every scene he’s in as the gloriously, unabashedly over the top alien transvestite mad scientist from the planet Transsexual in the galaxy of Transylvania. And hot DAMN does he make that outfit look good. I wish my legs looked that good in stockings. Sadly I have what could be politely referred to as “kilt wearing legs” – thick’n’hairy. Anyway, in this role he manages to be both playful and menacing, seductive and creepy, singing and laughing one minute, serving up former lovers for dinner the next and who could forget singing numbers like ‘Sweet Transvestite’ and ‘I Can Make You a Man’? Just brilliant from start to finish.

Magenta: I ask for nothing, master.
Dr. Frank-N-Furter: And you shall receive it. IN ABUNDANCE!

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2. Clue (1985) – Wadsworth

Ah, Clue. Of all the movies based on board games, this is by far the best. A great script, snappy dialogue and a cast at the top of their game. Clue tells the story of a dinner party where everyone at it goes by pseudonyms, specifically the ones from the boardgame. When the aptly named “Mr Boddy” is murdered, suspicion falls on everyone and the night eventually devolves into frantic dashing about, screaming and puns by the bucketload. There’s even multiple endings to leave you guessing to the very end who killed who, where and with what. Who is Tim Curry in all this? He’s the faithful Butler, Wadsworth. What does he do? He buttles, naturally. Curry is on top form here, damn near every line loaded with a dry, scathing wit that’s just a delight to watch.

Colonel Mustard: Are you trying to make me look stupid in front of the other guests?
Wadsworth: You don’t need any help from me, sir.

3. IT (1990) – Pennywise the Clown

We’re back to the more psychotic side of his performances as we move from film to TV and the miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s IT. Here he plays Pennywise, a clown with a thing for small children. Specifically for dragging them into drains, eating them and ripping their limbs off. This is another role where one moment he’s laughing and joking and the next he’s truly quite terrifying as he torments, taunts and tortures the children he feeds from. It’s a very different take on the character than the more serious and out and out creepy look they’ve gone for with Bill Skarsgård’s performance in the more recent adaptation. In the original TV version, Curry acts far more like a clown or a buffoon while Skarsgard acts more like what he actually is, a terrifying alien pretending to be a clown. I still prefer Curry’s over the top antics, though. For me, of the two performances, Curry’s is going to be the one that stands the test of time.

Pennywise: Take your pick, B-b-b-Billy boy. Oh, except for the one on the end, that’s already taken. Sorry.
Bill Denbrough: I remember you, and I remember we beat you. I’m not afraid of you.

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4. Legend (1985) – Darkness

An interesting performance here, and one where he is mostly lost beneath layers and layers of makeup and prosthetics. Hell, it was years before I even realised it was him underneath all the red paint and horns. In this fantasy yarn about good vs evil, the loss of innocence and the last unicorns, he plays the personification of evil – Darkness. Huge, red, cloven-hooved and horned, he not only physically dominates every scene, the sheer charisma and power he portrays is just epic. With the limitations of the cumbersome prosthetics, his motions are slow and deliberate, speaking of restrained power and threat and yet he still manages to come across as seductive and menacing in equal measure.

Princess Lily: You are nothing but an animal!
Darkness: We are all animals, m’lady.

5. Command & Conquer – Red Alert 3 (2008)- Premier Cherdenko

A slightly left-field choice here as we move from movies to video games. Specifically to the bonkers strategy game series – Command & Conquer. The Red Alert series of games are where the developers have a little fun, and this particular instalment featured an alternate timeline where the Russians have developed time travel, with Tim Curry serving as the Russian leader. It also has giant robot samurai and George Takei as the Emperor of the new Empire of The Rising Sun. Tim Curry hams it up in every scene, with one of the most stereotypical Russian-esque accents you’ve ever heard. Mostly he just berates/praises the player depending on the mission, but his performance has become legendary because of one specific cut scene, one moment where he is obviously trying DESPERATELY not to laugh as he delivers the line. That one line, a single word, has guaranteed that Tim Curry will live forever online.

Premier Cherdenko: I’m going to the one place not yet corrupted by Capitalism. SPACE!

So there we are. Five choices, all entirely my own, feel free to agree or disagree! Do you prefer him in Congo, or maybe his turn as the villain in Ferngully is more to your tastes? Regardless of your personal favourites, Tim Curry is a fabulous actor who has done his best to never get stuck in a rut, never staying too long in one type of role or one genre. If you’ve never looked into his work, the four films (and one game) listed here are a great place to start.

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