Ok so I started this knowing my to position and thinking it would be easy to round out the 5. Through further investigation there are at least 7 quality performances along with several good ones.
As an Aussie I can make excuses for Mel's bad behaviour to a point but some of his bizarre rants even have me baffled. But you know what, when I'm watching his movies I'm usually so immersed that I just enjoy the movie. This is particularly the case for these 5 movies. I'm also going to take into account Mel's performance and not necessarily the films as well as how much I enjoyed the performance. For Example in The Man Without a Face, Mel was pretty good and the movie ok, but I wasn't grabbed by much by either so it doesn't rate a mention here. Ergo you don't have to play a gimp/mentally incapacitated gay man to rank in my top 5. This is not the academy awards.
I'm surprised that some people just didn't connect with this flick. Sure it has all the hallmark syrup of a Roland Emmerich movie but a great cast including stand out performances by Heath Ledger, Adam Baldwin, Jason Issacs, Tom Wilkinson and Chris Cooper it rises above it. For Mel to so openly dominate shows he was perfect for the role. Mel plays Benjamin Martin in a relatively common patriarchal hero who was brave back in the day and but is trying to raise kids (usually sons) in a time of unrest and stay out of trouble. (see. Legends of the Fall) Mel particularly stands out when dealing with grief and his parental responsibilities. I total believe Mel has this haunted past and he deftly shows us when he takes out several officers with brains and hatchet. On a side note Robert Rodat wrote this script as well as Saving Private Ryan which also has a remarkable male role model.
When I first started this list I assumed this would be top 2 material but Mel plays Max Rockatansky more than adequately but compared to the top 3 just doesn't have the range. Some would argue that this role is limited in what Mel could do with it and it is but that's the way cookie crumbles. The next 3 roles are much juicier and therefore Mel is able to really show his chops. Mel very successfully pulls off being the stone-cold hard cops dealing with life in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where petrol is the main currency.
This is by far Mel at his most charismatic. Sure it's easy when you know what women are thinking but this is Gibson at his Cary Grant smoothest. Nancy Meyers is the queen of directing 40 somethings rom-coms and this is one of her best. Mel plays a vast array of emotions and situations here ranging from cocky ladies man, to vulnerable boss and out of his element (donnie) father of a teenage girl. I rate this so highly because I've seen many great actors try this suave charming guy and fail. Mel plays all of his roles very well particularly the well-aware heart throb. Bonus points for his Sinatra dance including props such as a hat rack, a chair and a bottle of red.
In the wrong hands this could have been a camp parody of a character with no heart and funny yet crazy eyes. Mel manages to create one of the most iconic good/bad cops in Martin Riggs that went on to carry 3 sequels with varying degrees of success. The task Mel had to bring this character to life is very underrated. Just think who would be capable of being a suicidal cop with a mullet but we also have to care for him. Not many if any would be my guess! This is also one of the best black/white good/bad cop combinations ever!
Well what can I say? This is one of the best movies and one of the best directing jobs of all time also. This is a perfectly executed piece of cinema and is held together by William Wallace. I'm not going to go into how historically correct it is. I watch this for the entertainment otherwise I can go to the History Channel. Mel has given himself the tough task of playing a man mourning his true love and leading thousands into battle and probable death. And you know what? I would have followed him too! Mel hits this role pitch perfect with different emotive ranges required. His final scene of being disemboweled and screaming "Freedom" has been mocked and reused and is very well known, it could have been a cringe worthy moment but was a perfect ending to what has thus far been Mel's finest achievement.
Honourable mentions must go to Gallipoli, Lethal Weapon 2, Man Without a Face, Maverick, Air America, Forever Young, Signs and Edge of Darkness. (Haven't seen The Beaver yet.)
Until then hail to the Icon!