When an actor is lucky enough to get a big, iconic break as part of a major franchise, it can be difficult to ever shake that same identity. Just look at the likes of Daniel Radcliffe from the Harry Potter series, Arnold Schwarzenegger from The Terminator or indeed Elijah Wood from Lord of the Rings. Whilst each of these three actors have managed to establish impressive careers since their time in their respective franchises, each one remains inextricably tied to their typecast.
Elijah Wood has perhaps suffered from this most significantly, with Radcliffe and Schwarzenegger both managing to find fame elsewhere, whilst Wood remains sidelined by the industry. The Lord of the Rings trilogy directed by Peter Jackson certainly established him as a household name over twenty years ago, though the same series also limited the actor to being seen as a calm, timid performer.
It isn’t that Elijah Wood hasn’t been starring in great films, however, it’s more so that people simply haven’t been registering the excellent films that he’s starred in. A diverse and dynamic actor, Wood has taken to films of all genres including comedy, horror and wrought emotional drama, so whilst ignoring the Lord of the Rings trilogy let’s take a look into the actor’s five best performances.
Elijah Wood’s five best films:
5. Maniac (Franck Khalfoun, 2012)
In this massively overlooked horror remake from Franck Khalfoun, Elijah Wood plays the titular murderer and maniac, Frank Zito, with terrifying, unsettling realism, utilising his charm to offset the viewer.
Playing the murderous owner of a mannequin shop, much of Maniac takes place from the perspective of Wood as Frank, piling on the expectation of the actor to give a vibrant performance in the mostly invisible lead role. Balancing themes of misogyny and voyeurism whilst crafting a compelling splatter horror, director Franck Khalfoun also deserves credit for creating a creepy modern horror that has no right to be as good as it is.
4. Sin City (Robert Rodriguez, Frank Miller, 2005)
Shining as part of the impressive ensemble cast that includes Jessica Alba, Benicio del Toro, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke, Bruce Willis and Brittany Murphy, Elijah Wood walks away as one of the most compelling characters despite only having a minor supporting role.
In Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez’s stylised noir comic-book anthology, Wood plays a cannibal who is hunted down by Mickey Rourke’s Marv after he kills his prostitute lover. Stashing the heads of his victims in his basement, Wood’s character is an enigmatic cold-blooded killer in a suave, sexy and stylish modern crime classic that was world’s away from Middle Earth.
3. The Ice Storm (Ang Lee, 1997)
Appearing in Ang Lee’s 1997 film before his life in the Lord of the Rings franchise, Elijah Wood features as the son of a troubled upper-class family living in New Canaan, Connecticut in 1970s America.
Starring alongside the likes of Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Jamey Sheridan, Sigourney Weaver, Tobey Maguire and Christina Ricci, Wood appears as a young, thoughtful boy, Mikey, who becomes affected by the behaviour of his classmate Wendy (Ricci). As the story reaches a head during a domestic argument during an ice storm, the sub-plot between Wendy and Mikey becomes integral and Wood excels as the sensitive, entrancing young boy.
2. No Man of God (Amber Sealey, 2021)
Elijah Wood’s latest on-screen performance is one of the finest of his career, playing Bill Hagmaier in Amber Sealey’s biographical crime drama about the final days of serial killer Ted Bundy.
Based on real-life transcripts from conversations between the FBI analyst Hagmaier and Bundy, No Man of God details the pair’s complicated relationship during the serial killer’s time on death row. Detailing a truly chilling trip inside the mind of an infamous murderer, Wood plays the FBI agent with simple sincerity, with much of his excellent performance coming through the dialogue between him and Bundy that winds down a terrifying road that flirts with the terror of insanity.
1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
Though many will remember Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet in Michel Gondry’s modern romantic classic, Elijah Wood also played a minor role in the film as Patrick, a creepy employee at the memory-wiping firm Lacuna.
In this heart-wrenching love story for the 21st century, Clementine (Winslet) and Joel (Carrey), once passionate lovers, choose to have their memories erased in order to help them get over their relationship with each other. Though this doesn’t prove to be so easy for Joel who tries to preserve the best memories he had with his ex, all whilst Elijah Wood’s Joel tries to enter Clementine’s life posing as Joel.
Perfectly playing his role as a sleazy, desperate employee, Wood helps to bring Michel Gondry’s extraordinary romance to life, questioning the love that remains and ebbs from existence following a break-up.