Few actors have the range of Val Kilmer. Movies on the great end of the spectrum like Heat and Tombstone. Movies that'll keep you laughing the entire time, like Real Genius and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
And, yeah, a whole bunch of movies of which we should never speak again. (We're looking at you, Batman Forever.
But as we await the sequel to Top Gun and the return of Iceman — and a rare appearance by Kilmer since he began battling throat cancer — it's worth revisiting just a few of the best flicks that Val Kilmer (yes, like Tom Cruise you have to use the full name all the time — it's the law) has been in.
Top Secret! (1984)
A rock 'n' roll singer gets caught up in a caper in Europe? Sign us up! Seriously, though, this World War II send-up has some killer scenes. It's goofy. It's funny.
And it was the perfect platform for Val Kilmer to launch his career.
Real Genius (1985)
It was a real downer when I discovered that college isn't anything like this. But it still makes for a great movie. The CIA is developing a space-based laser system. The only problem is it doesn't have the laser.
Enter the big brains at Pacific Tech. Val Kilmer is Chris Knight, a genius who burned out and reached peak IDGAF status just in time to mentor a young teenaged Mitch. They know they're making lasers — they just don't know what for. But when they find out?
Top Gun (1986)
The Iceman cometh! Val Kilmer and his pecs are perfect as the wingman who leads Top Gun qualifying and points out that it's not Maverick's flying that's the problem, it's his attitude. And then he totally needs Maverick quickly remember all the mistakes he made earlier in the movie and hurry up and save his ass at the end.
But, still. Iceman is awesome. I will fight you on this. And he's revisiting the role in the Top Gun sequel.
Plus: Volleyball scene.
The Doors (1991)
This movie was single-handedly responsible for an entire generation of kids discovering their parents' record collections, and we're all better off for it. Val Kilmer is Jim Morrison.
It's a great Oliver Stone flick with an incredible performance from Kilmer, an even better soundtrack, and it's a must-watch for any music fan.
Good luck coming down from this one, though.
Look, The Doors was incredible. But if you want to argue that Tombstone truly is Val Kilmer's best role, we won't argue with you. (For too long, anyway.) His take on Doc Holiday is as effortless as it is painful at the end. The mustache is perfect. The drawl is — well, it's maybe a little weird hearing that from the face of Chris Knight and Jim Morrison.
But the end result is an incredible movie.
This isn't a Val Kilmer Vehicle. Sorry, but anytime the names Pacino and De Nero are on the bill, that's just the way it's going to be. But he's also nowhere near a bit player in this Michael Mann heist film.
The ponytail, eh, it's a thing.
But if you've never seen Heat, fix that today.
Red Planet (2000
Look, Red Planet is not a great movie. It's barely a good movie. It's probably as much about seeing Carrie-Anne Moss in her first post-Matrix role as it is anything about Val Kilmer.
But I'd argue that without Red Planet we wouldn't have The Martian — another film about being stranded on Mars and trying to find a way off.
And it's worth suffering through this one just for the finger and the line "Fuck this planet."
This is one of those films you might well have missed, and you're worse off for it. First, it's a David Mamet thriller. That should be enough. But it's also a great role for Val Kilmer.
Plus: Ed O'Neil and Clark Gregg co-star, and I can watch them all day long.
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
Shane Black's meeting of Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer and Michelle Monaghan is brilliant. It's a mess and it's funny and it's at times painful to watch because the boys are just so dumb.
But that's what makes it great. Kilmer is a former detective-turned-movie consultant who's there to teach Robert Downey Jr. how to play a cop, which is funny because he's actually on the run from the cops.
Just ... just go with it.
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