5 Tony Soprano: “The Sopranos”
Regarded by many as the best HBO series of all time, “The Sopranos” is the jewel in the crown and perhaps the defining moment in the career of James Gandolfini. He plays mob boss Tony Soprano in a show that spanned 86 episodes over six seasons. Soprano was key to the plot uniquely as hero and villain, sometimes both at the same time in this influential drama. Tony Soprano is an oxymoron, a beloved family man with a big role in dark, criminal activity. Gandolfini’s portrayal of Soprano is a big reason he’s so hugely respected within Hollywood.
4 Mickey: “Killing Them Softly”
Short and sweet is the best way to describe the appearance of Mickey, portrayed by Gandolfini in “Killing Them Softly.” Mickey is a washed up, alcoholic hitman down on his luck and down in life. In time this may be argued as one of the biggest impact roles: despite only appearing in two scenes, the character sums up depression in the recession perfectly, displaying how low an individual can stoop. Some would argue the role of Mickey is not important in narrative development within the movie, but few would question Gandolfini’s highly believable individual performance.
3 Big Dave Brewster: “The Man Who Wasn’t There”
Gandolfini showcases depth in the supporting role as Big Dave Brewster in the Coen brothers‘ dark comedy “The Man Who Wasn’t There.” This slick black and white enigmatic movie set in 1940s places Brewster alongside Ed Crane played by Billy Bob Thornton. Gandolfini plays a pivotal role in the movie, with genuine emotional depth to the character. He takes the viewer on an emotional journey of deceit, betrayal, blackmail and revenge in this role, with disastrous consequences.
2 Lt. Gen George Miller: “In The Loop”
Playing General George Miller in the Armando Iannucci satirical classic “In the Loop,” James Gandolfini proved he was a big man with a big heart for comedy. General Miller is an anti-war campaigner trying to work against a pro-war lobby seemingly set on conflict in the Middle East. This role exhibits adaptability as he’s refreshingly cast as a campaigner for peace as opposed to a perceived criminal. One of the most memorable scenes of the movie involves a hilarious confrontation with the verbally aggressive Malcolm Tucker, played by Peter Capaldi.
1 Eddie Poole: “8mm”
Gandolfini stars, playing maybe the darkest of all of his characters in this Joel Schumacher movie. Gandolfini plays the part of sleazy pornographer Eddie Poole. The dark nature of his business is making snuff movies for a twisted clientele. Eddie Poole mixes violence with a spine-chilling lack of remorse. Poole’s relationship with private investigator Tom Welles, played by Nicholas Cage, is especially engaging, as the characters seem to breed genuine hate for one another.