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Across a storied career like no other, Danny DeVito has worked in numerous eras of filmmaking. He has starred in, written, produced and directed several classic films, most notably comedies. However, as many will fondly remember, he first gained recognition when he played taxi dispatcher Louie in Taxi from 1978 to 1983.

DeVito’s film debut arrived as part of Robert Clouse’s Dreams of Glass, released in 1970, and five years later, he reprised a theatre role in the film adaptation of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.

After the series Taxi ended its run, DeVito focused his attention and talent on his film career through the big screen. His efforts paid off as he earned an Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations throughout his career. In 2011, to cement his legacy, the actor was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to entertainment.

With a film career tracing back to the 1970s, DeVito has a lot of classic films to offer. Here are six definitive Danny DeVito films as a beginner’s guide.

Danny DeVito’s six definitive films:

Ruthless People (Jerry and David Zucker, Jim Abrahams, 1986)

After a businessman cheats a couple, they retaliate by kidnapping his wife. However, in a comedic plot twist, this works out great for him as he is happy to see his wife gone, so things don’t go as planned.

Critic Robert Ebert summarised DeVito’s performance in this film perfectly when he described the actor as “the mainspring of Ruthless People“. DeVito manages to balance out his fellow cast members as “his passion is so palpable that it adds weight to all the other performances in the movie”.

Batman Returns (Tim Burton, 1992)

After taking down the Joker, Batman faces two new villains. Penguin, an outcast, teams up with a shady and corrupt businessman, Max Schreck. The two plot to take down the Dark Knight.

Many great actors were considered for the role of Osward ‘Penguin’ Copplepot, with Burton wanting veteran Marlon Brando and the studio requesting Robert DeNiro or Dustin Hoffman. However, once Jack Nicholson spoke to him about his experience playing the Joker, DeVito was convinced and went for the role. From this, he became part of one of DC’s most beloved films.

Hercules (Ron Clemments and John Musker, 1997)

A young mortal named Hercules sets out to prove himself a hero in his father’s eyes, the great God Zeus. After forming an alliance with a personal mentor Phil, Hercules conflicts with Hades, God of the Underworld.

When writing the role of wise-cracking Philoctetes, Clemments and Musker envisioned DeVito the entire time. However, he was hesitant to take the role at first. Red Buttons auditioned for the part but left, stating: “You’re gonna give this part to DeVito”. Following this, the directors approached the actor during a filming break of Matilda, and he eventually agreed to try it out.

Get Shorty (Barry Sonnenfeld, 1995)

Gangster Chili Palmer travels to Los Angeles and takes on a job a movie producer offered him to collect debts. To his surprise, the movie business is no different to his last line of work.

DeVito plays the meta-type role of an acclaimed actor in this crime comedy. He brings the script to life effortlessly and exemplifies what goes on in show business, both in front of and behind the cameras. He embodies the film’s comedy through inside jokes about movie making and its culture, exemplifying well-delivered sarcasm and awareness.

Matilda (Danny DeVito, 1996)

Matilda is an extraordinarily intelligent young girl from a cruel and uncaring family. Once she starts school and comes under the authority of a tyrannical headmistress, she taps into her powerful telekinetic gift.

DeVito is a triple threat in this timeless and beloved classic adaptation of Roald Dahl’s book. He directs, plays the unlikable Mr Wormwood, and provides a warm-hearted narration. All three of these roles embody Dahl’s book perfectly.

L.A Confidential (Curtis Hanson, 1997)

Three L.A. detectives use their distinct tactics to uncover a conspiracy behind a shooting at an all-night diner. While putting together the evidence, corruption within their own department comes to light.

Working alongside a strong and star-studded cast of Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kevin Spacey, and Kim Basinger, Devito manages to shine through. His role as publisher Sid Hudgens is a key part of the story as a narrator and catalyst for some significant moments.

Six Definitive Films: The ultimate beginner’s guide to Danny DeVito

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