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The 11 best Woody Harrelson movies and shows, ranked

Harrelson can make you laugh and cry in these career-best performances

Woody Harrelson in Zombieland
Cinematic Collection / Columbia Pictures / Alamy

Woody Harrelson is the type of actor you’ve probably seen multiple times throughout his career no matter what type of shows or movies you enjoy taking in. From being a goofy bartender to a psychotic killer, Harrelson has the range to portray just about any role in any genre. This is a task that not many actors can achieve successfully, especially as both a lead and a supporting actor.

Harrelson may not possess the star power of Tom Cruise, but he makes up for that with chameleon-like versatility and willingness to change depending on the project he’s involved in. We’re here to celebrate the Texas native by ranking the 11 best Woody Harrelson movies and TV shows.

11. War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

11. War for the Planet of the Apes
140m
Genre
Drama, Science Fiction, War
Stars
Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Karin Konoval
Directed by
Matt Reeves
Watch on Hulu
War for the Planet of the Apes is a sci-fi action film set in a world where apes have gained intelligence and humans are struggling to survive. The movie takes place two years after the events of the previous film, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. The conflict between humans and apes has intensified into a full-blown war. Caesar, the intelligent ape leader played by Andy Serkis, is forced to deal with the brutality of the war. He grapples with his desire for peace while facing a ruthless human colonel (Woody Harrelson) leading the opposing forces. After suffering devastating losses among his ape community, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and embarks on a quest for revenge. The film builds toward a final confrontation between Caesar and the Colonel, with the outcome determining the future of both species and the fate of the planet.

10. Champions (2023)

10. Champions
124m
Genre
Comedy
Stars
Woody Harrelson, Kaitlin Olson, Cheech Marin
Directed by
Bobby Farrelly
Watch on Apple TV+
Sports movies are not unfamiliar territory for Woody Harrelson, and this most recent dabbling in the genre is a surprisingly funny and feel-good approach to basketball. Harrelson plays a basketball coach who is tasked with helping a team of players with disabilities to the Promised Land. Harrelson is the main star of this one instead of playing a supporting role as he does in many of his other movies and shows, and Bobby Farrelly goes solo as a director for the first time here.

9. Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)

9. Zombieland: Double Tap
99m
Genre
Comedy, Horror
Stars
Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Emma Stone
Directed by
Ruben Fleischer
Watch on Apple TV+
We decided to go with the sequel here instead of the original Zombieland, because the second movie is wholeheartedly better than the first outing. Zombieland: Double Tap raises the hilarity, the zombie gore, and the satire to new levels, leaving audiences fully satisfied after a 10-year wait since the first movie. Harrelson’s sense of humor shines through as per usual, stepping into the shoes of Tallahassee once again.

8. Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

8. Solo: A Star Wars Story
135m
Genre
Science Fiction, Adventure, Action
Stars
Alden Ehrenreich, Joonas Suotamo, Woody Harrelson
Directed by
Ron Howard
Watch on Disney+

Star Wars isn’t a franchise that is especially kind to its actors; many of the stars of these films receive unwarranted backlash online from rabid fans. Although Solo as a film was a box office bomb, critics and fans can agree that the story of a young Han Solo was actually executed pretty well. Harrelson plays one of the main supporting roles, Han’s mentor named Beckett. He’s a mashup gunslinging Western character trope that Harrelson has so often played to perfection, and he does a nice job once again in this spinoff.

7. White Men Can't Jump (1992)

7. White Men Can't Jump
115m
Genre
Comedy, Drama
Stars
Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson, Rosie Perez
Directed by
Ron Shelton
Watch on Hulu
There’s no way around it: white people often aren’t as good at basketball as their Black counterparts. This hilarious, classic sports film was one of Harrelson’s first starring roles that let him show off his love of basketball while poking fun at stereotypes around racial bias within the sport. Harrelson’s chemistry with co-star Wesley Snipes is exquisite. There is set to be a remake of White Men Can’t Jump that came out in May 2023 on Hulu with rapper Jack Harlow playing a role similar to Harrelson’s character.

6. True Detective (2014)

6. True Detective
tv-ma
4 Seasons
Genre
Drama
Stars
Jodie Foster, Kali Reis, Fiona Shaw
Created by
Issa López, Nic Pizzolatto
Watch on Amazon
When you think back to the loaded Golden Age of TV in the last couple of decades, HBO reigns supreme with a variety of mega hits. True Detective is one of the crime shows that really goes under the radar, mainly because only its first season was acclaimed. Woody Harrelson plays one half of a detective duo that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the entire season, and there’s really nothing like the twists and turns of this series once it gets rolling. Harrelson was nominated for an Emmy Award for his performance.

5. Natural Born Killers (1994)

5. Natural Born Killers
118m
Genre
Crime, Thriller, Drama
Stars
Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Robert Downey Jr.
Directed by
Oliver Stone
Watch on Amazon
A controversial movie due to its incredibly high amount of blood and gore, Natural Born Killers remains a cult classic of the crime genre from the 1990s. Harrelson stars alongside other big names like Robert Downey Jr. and Tommy Lee Jones. The plot is inspired by a story originally from the mind of Quentin Tarantino, so I’m sure you can imagine where the style and substance of the film lead to.

4. The Hunger Games (2012)

4. The Hunger Games
142m
Genre
Science Fiction, Adventure, Fantasy
Stars
Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
Directed by
Gary Ross
Watch on Netflix
Star Wars isn’t the only famous franchise that Woody Harrelson has played a major role in. The Hunger Games series was pretty much the biggest media property on the planet in the early part of the 2010s. The uber-popular dystopian story follows Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence), a 16-year-old girl tasked with fighting other teens to the death in a futuristic and fictional North America. Harrelson plays Haymitch Abernathy, an alcoholic and former winner of the tournament who works with Katniss throughout her own quest for success. Harrelson reprised his role in subsequent movies in the franchise.

3. The People vs. Larry Flynt (1996)

3. The People vs. Larry Flynt
130m
Genre
Drama
Stars
Woody Harrelson, Courtney Love, Edward Norton
Directed by
Miloš Forman
Watch on Apple TV+

One of the most critically acclaimed performances of Woody Harrelson’s career, The People vs. Larry Flynt is a keenly aware biographical drama depicting the ins and outs of life in the pornography business told through the eyes of the titular Flynt. The main plot revolves around Flynt going to court after being sued for libel by televangelist Jerry Falwell. The movie can still be very educational today in a world where discussions over the First Amendment are alive and roaring.

2. No Country for Old Men (2007)

2. No Country for Old Men
122m
Genre
Crime, Drama, Thriller
Stars
Javier Bardem, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin
Directed by
Ethan Coen, Joel Coen
Watch on Amazon
The Coen brothers may not be everyone’s favorite directing team, but there’s no doubting the objective greatness of their storytelling techniques. Their best film is arguably No Country for Old Men, and Woody Harrelson is a major highlight of the movie despite not being one of the three main actors credited first. This adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel focuses on a variety of themes, such as psychosis and morality, while traveling across a sprawling Western landscape. Harrelson plays a bounty hunter named Carson Wells, and his short time on the screen is just as memorable as any of the other actors. The movie went on to become an Academy Award darling, winning Best Picture and several other accolades.

1. Cheers (1982)

1. Cheers
tv-pg
11 Seasons
Genre
Comedy
Stars
Ted Danson, Kirstie Alley, Rhea Perlman
Created by
Glen Charles, Les Charles, James Burrows
Watch on Hulu
Even after appearing in Hollywood blockbusters and directing Broadway plays, Woody Harrelson’s best project remains his breakout role in the classic NBC sitcom, Cheers. Harrelson became a main character in the show starting in the fourth season, and he immediately added an extra layer of levity and witty line delivery that pushed the famous Boston bar-romp to the edge of greatness. Cheers remains the pinnacle of friendship shows on television, depicting not only the place where everybody knows your name, but the location where lives are made, broken down, and reborn in the presence of the people who love and adore you. Three decades after its climactic finale, the sitcom still airs in syndication and is garnering new generations of fans who connect with the working-class struggles of the patrons the show focuses on.
Movie images and data from:
Shawn Laib
Shawn Laib is a freelance writer with publications such as Den of Geek, Quote.com, Edge Media Network, diaTribe, SUPERJUMP…
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