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The Best Kurt Russell You Can Stream Right Now

Few people have been working in Hollywood longer than Kurt Russell. Russell was a child star in the 1970s and managed a fairly seamless transition into movie stardom following his success in the world of Disney. In the years since, Russell has built a brand for himself that combines a goofy, broad persona with all the humanity required to deliver great performances. Russell is not regarded as one of the great actors of his era, but he is undoubtedly one of the great movie stars.

Russell may be most famous for his collaborations with director John Carpenter, and there’s good reason for that acclaim. Even so, Russell has done consistently great work for years and has proven that age does not have to mean you become irrelevant. He’s made great movies across a wide variety of genres, but these are the very best ones that you can stream right now.

The Thing (1982)

The Thing
57 %
Genre Horror, Mystery, Science Fiction
Stars Kurt Russell, Keith David, Wilford Brimley
Directed by John Carpenter
There are few movies better than The Thing, and Kurt Russell is the anchor that makes it all work. The movie, which follows an Antarctic crew who discover a shape-shifting alien that can kill and then replicate any member of the crew, is a perfect thriller premise set against a cold, brutal setting. Russell is the crew’s leader, the rugged individual who survives the escapade and lives to fight another day. What’s brilliant about the movie, and about Russell’s performance in particular, though, is that there are moments when you think he might be an alien, and you have no way of knowing for sure.
The Thing Official Trailer #1 - Keith David Movie (1982) HD

Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

Big Trouble in Little China
53 %
Genre Action, Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy
Stars Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun
Directed by John Carpenter
Russell’s collaborations with director John Carpenter were incredibly fruitful, and they were never sillier than in Big Trouble in Little China, which allows Russell to make a total fool of the archetypal heroes he usually plays. Russell stars as Jack Burton, a truck driver who, through a series of coincidences, finds himself wrapped up in a strange, mystical tale. He fights off some ancient spells, knocks himself out a couple of times, and is in general pretty useless. Russell may be the movie’s ostensible star, but what makes Big Trouble so hilarious is that he has almost no impact on the plot of the movie. He’s a bystander, and a pretty stupid one at that.
Big Trouble In Little China Trailer HD

Escape from New York (1981)

Escape from New York
76 %
Genre Science Fiction, Action
Stars Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine
Directed by John Carpenter
Escape from New York was Russell’s first collaboration with John Carpenter, and it also may be the one he’s best remembered for. Russell plays Snake Plisken, an indelible antihero who is tricked by a totalitarian government into saving the president from a dystopic version of New York City. Russell can go big, but here he plays Snake’s reserve perfectly. Snake is cool and calculating, and Russell knows exactly how to bring the menace necessary to make the part work. He may be a good guy at heart, but Snake’s exterior is all muscle, and that’s what he shows to the rest of the world. 
Escape From New York Official Trailer #1 (1981) Kurt Russell, John Carpenter HD

Miracle (2004)

68 %
Genre Drama, History
Stars Kurt Russell, Patricia Clarkson, Noah Emmerich
Directed by Gavin O'Connor
In less expert hands, Miracle would be a pretty straightforward sports movie. It follows the 1980 U..S Olympic hockey team and its coach, Herb Brooks, as they take on a heavily favored Soviet team and eventually win gold. Miracle is an underdog story, and it’s expertly told. Russell’s performance as Brooks is one of the most powerful of his career, in part because of how he makes it so clear that Brooks put everything on the line to prove that his team of non-professionals had what it takes to win. The actual miracle at the heart of the movie is expertly filmed, but what makes the movie work is that Russell has made you so invested in the outcome, not just because of what it means for his country, but because of what it means for him.
Miracle - trailer

Tombstone (1993)

50 %
Genre Western, Action
Stars Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Sam Elliott
Directed by George P. Cosmatos
Russell didn’t make all that many westerns, but Tombstone is still remembered fondly. He plays a version of legendary sheriff Wyatt Earp in the film who has retired and settled down with his brothers. Of course, that retirement doesn’t last long, and before he knows it, Wyatt has been called out of retirement to bring order to a lawless frontier. Russell is great at playing already iconic people, in part because he carries himself like a living legend. His portrayal of Wyatt Earp works precisely for that reason, and it proved that Russell could bring his swagger to bear on pretty much any genre. 
"Tombstone (1993)" Theatrical Trailer

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
67 %
Genre Adventure, Action, Science Fiction
Stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista
Directed by James Gunn
The tone of the Guardians of the Galaxy universe was a natural fit for the broadest mode of Kurt Russell. Russell is a guy who knows how to ham it up, and as Ego, the living planet, he gets to go big. After all, Ego, the movie’s eventual villain, wants to consume the entire universe, and the only thing in his way is a plucky band of outsiders, one of which is his son. Russell is wonderful throughout the movie, and especially when we get the heel-turn reveal that he is this movie’s villain. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 is one of Marvel’s smartest movies, and casting Russell as Chris Pratt’s father was just the cherry on top.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Teaser Trailer

Used Cars (1980)

Used Cars
68 %
Genre Comedy
Stars Kurt Russell, Jack Warden, Gerrit Graham
Directed by Robert Zemeckis
Before he made Back to the Future and Forrest Gump, director Robert Zemeckis was making gritty comedies starring people like Kurt Russell, who was then known primarily as a child star. Kurt plays an unscrupulous used car salesman who will do just about anything to juice sales. Russell is opposed by a more professional, corporate lot across the street, and large chunks of the movie are taken up by their antics as they attempt to one-up one another. Russell is thoroughly charming in the central role, even though the character he’s playing is pretty scummy. One of Russell’s great gifts as an actor is making bad people lovable, and that talent was on full display in Used Cars
Used Cars (1980) - Official Trailer

The Hateful Eight (2015)

The Hateful Eight
68 %
Genre Crime, Drama, Mystery, Western
Stars Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Given his skills and his legendary career, it’s a little surprising that Russell and Tarantino didn’t cross paths sooner than The Hateful Eight, but when they finally did, the results were magnificent. Russell plays a bounty hunter who gets trapped in a remote lodge during a snowstorm and is forced to contend with the people trapped with him, including the criminal he’s captured. Russell is all showy bravado in the film’s early scenes, but as the film goes on, it becomes clear that Russell’s bounty hunter is putting on a show. Part of The Hateful Eight‘s genius is its ability to pit its characters against one another, and Russell makes an excellent scene partner with every member of the cast. 
The Hateful Eight Official Teaser Trailer #1 (2015) - Samuel L. Jackson Movie HD

Swing Shift (1984)

Swing Shift
60 %
Genre Drama, Romance, War
Stars Goldie Hawn, Kurt Russell, Christine Lahti
Directed by Jonathan Demme

The production of Swing Shift may not have been the smoothest process in the world (director Jonathan Demme had his name removed from the credits after it was added without his approval), but the movie gets bonus points for being real-life couple Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell’s first on-screen pairing. Russell plays a mechanic at a local airplane factory during World War II who has been declared unfit for service. When his character falls for Hawn’s, sparks fly until Hawn’s husband returns from the war. The love triangle is fizzy and filled with life, and although the movie isn’t perfect, Russell is excellent in it.

SWING SHIFT - Original Theatrical Trailer

Furious 7 (2015)

Furious 7
67 %
Genre Action, Thriller, Crime, Adventure
Stars Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson
Directed by James Wan
Is Kurt Russell a necessary component in the Fast & Furious universe? Absolutely not, but it’s great that they managed to get him. In Furious 7, Russell plays Mr. Nobody, a nameless government agent who contracts Dom Toretto’s gang to help him procure an elite hacker. Russell’s role is not central, but he’s excellent in it, in part because he has enough charisma to make a nameless bureaucrat interesting. It’s also a great passing of the torch, as Russell plays a supporting role in a film spotlighting Vin Diesel and the Rock, two of the biggest action stars of our current moment. 
Furious 7 | Trailer | Own it on 4K, Blu-ray, DVD & Digital

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Joe Allen
Joe Allen is a freelance culture writer based in upstate New York. His work has been published in The Washington Post, The…
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