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From Peter Jackson to Ridley Scott: The 10 best films starring Sean Bean

“Sometimes, all you need is a big leap of faith.” 

Sean Bean, for Game of Thrones fanatics, is the revered Lord Eddard Stark. Lord of the Rings geeks, meanwhile, would put up a fight to insist that Yorkshire’s favourite son is Boromir, the greatest redemption they have ever seen. With his bearded face, rough Northerner features exuding raw charm, Sean Bean’s capacity to portray varied roles with effortless ease is enviable.

Born on April 17, 1959, in the suburbs of Sheffield, Bean eventually won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 1981. Graduating in 1983, he made his professional debut as Tybalt in a theatrical production of Romeo and Juliet. A member of the Royal Shakespeare Company for two years, he enacted in various plays which garnered fame. His debut film, however, Caravaggio, showed his raw talent and his ability to enact any role with daring and charm. 

A regular within the real of film and TV series, even when assigned a small role, Bean shines through. He has been very vocal about how his favourite role of all time was that of Sharpe: “Sharpe is my favourite role of all that I’ve played. He’s a very complex character,” the actor once explained. “He knows that he’s a good soldier, but he will always have to fight the prejudice of aristocratic officers because of his rough working-class upbringing. On the battlefield, he’s full of confidence – but off it, he is unsure, a bit shy and ill at ease.”

Humble and down-to-earth, Bean is often misinterpreted to be somewhat unpolished. A man of few words, he has often talked about how “a common misperception of me is… that I am a tough, rough northerner, which I suppose I am really. But I’m pretty mild-mannered most of the time. It’s the parts that you play I guess. I don’t mind it. I’m not a tough guy. I’d like to act as a fair, easy-going, kind man at some point.”

On his 62nd birthday, we celebrate this incredibly talented actor’s prowess by taking a look at the 10 best films he has starred in. Let’s get to it.

10 best films starring Sean Bean:

10. The Hitcher (Dave Meyers, 2007)

Jim and Grace are on their way to meet friends for spring break when they encounter a suspicious-looking hitchhiker who wants a ride. Although they ignore him, he encounters them at the gas station later and asks for a lift. As soon as they agree, the hitchhiker, who calls himself John Ryder, reveals his sinister motives. Although Jim and Grace try their level best to stay alive and outwit him, Ryder evades it and forces them to embark on a journey of torture and bloodshed. 

It is not a psychological thriller, the immense gore and torture in the film might make the audience squeamish. While we believe that eyers could have done a far better job with the storyline, Sean Bean as the horrifying hitchhiker adds emotiveness to the film. He shoulders the film forward. 

“Living on the edge of a broken dream. Live to live another day.”

9. Troy (Wolfgang Petersen, 2004)

The film retells the legend of the Trojan War and is based on Iliad by Homer. The film portrays the lusty Trojan prince Paris seducing Helen while they are on a mission in Sparta and taking her back to Troy, disrupting peace negotiation. This enrages Helen’s husband Agamemnon who lays a massive siege to the impenetrable Troy and the mission is headed by the mighty Achilles. However, Troy, too, has the brave prince Hector who would go to any lengths to protect his family honour. 

A visual delight, this film abounds in splendour and grandiose of costumes and sets. Although Homers characters are larger-than-life, the flawed characterisation in the film makes them appear too human. For instance, Brad Pitt was nowhere near as buff as Achilles was supposed to be. Sean Bean portrays the King of Ithaca, Odysseus, who was introduced in a more humorous scene in the director’s cut. Odysseus is the one who persuaded Achilles to lead the mission to Troy and played a major role in the course of events as he instructed the building of the gigantic Trojan Horse to infiltrate the city.  

“You have your swords. I have my tricks. We play with the toys the gods give us.”

8. Caravaggio (Derek Jarman, 1986) 

This film is a fictional retelling of the life of the celebrated 17th Renaissance painter Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio. This follows his journey of flirtations and blasphemy as he rises to the status of being a painter under a patron and uses drunkards, homeless people and prostitutes as his muses. His portraits garner praise and attention as well. However, he is attracted to a street fighter named Ranuccio, who has a passionate lover named Lena. Lena is found murdered and soon, despite his successful career, Caravaggio spirals into a troubled life due to his attraction towards the lovers. 

Caravaggio is reckless, Ranuccio is elusive and the film shows a bunch of men clad in loincloths seducing people, involved in messy love triangles that reek of lust, blood and deceit. This was Sean Bean’s major film role after having spent two years with the Royal Shakespeare Company and he goes all out with guns blazing to portray his character of Ranuccio with intense passion and charm. Although he dies for the first time on-screen, this film also sees a beardless Sean bean which is definitely a rare scenario! 

“The price of the painting is my knife.” 

7. Black Death (Christopher Smith, 2010)

Set in 14th century medieval England when the bubonic plague millions of lives, a young monk, Osmund, is separated from his secret lover Averill. He is assigned the duty by a knight named Ulric to lead soldiers through the perilous marshes into a mysterious village haven where according to buzzing rumours, a mysterious necromancer is raising the dead plague victims. Osmund has other intentions as well; he wants to find his lover who is missing. As they continue their journey, they encounter unimaginable darkness and sinister forces. 

Smith called the film “a medieval guys on a mission movie”. The film raises uncomfortable and unsettling questions regarding one’s moral ambiguities. The setting is ancient and ominous, the visuals retro and the overall atmosphere claustrophobic and dark. Bean plays the knight named Ulric who in the end, brings plague to the village. 

“I am ugly and I am Christian and that’s not a good combination in here…piss off.”

6. GoldenEye (Martin Campbell, 1995)

After James Bond narrowly escapes death at the hands of Soviet Russians trying to arm international terrorists with dangerous chemical weapons, his fellow compatriot Alec Trevelyan is seemingly captured and killed. However, years later, a satellite system is missing and Bond is the only one who can put his skills to use to stop it. He discovers that Trevelyan, disillusioned and enraged with the British deception of his parents, is the new Janus Syndicate, a criminal base and in charge of the weapon. Bond must stop the power from being misused but it is indeed a difficult task as his old friend is calculative and aware of his every move. 

This was the debut Bond appearance for Pierce Brosnan as James Bond and he is one of the greatest James Bond to be played on-screen. In this riveting flick, Sean Bean portrayed the character of Alec Trevelyan who was Bond’s friend and a 00 officer, namely 006. Initially, the production team wanted to cast an older member like Anthony Hopkins or Alan Rickman; yet, pleased by Sean Bean’s performance, rewrote the role according to his own character. 

‘For England, James?”

5. Patriot Games (Phillip Noyce, 1992)

Jack Ryan is vacationing with his family when he intercepts an attack on the Minister of State for Northern Ireland. In this process of intervention, he kills a 16-year-old rogue while his brother Sean Miller simply watches. Sean vows revenge and tries to attack the minister once again while planning to eliminate Ryan and his family. They get involved in a cat-and-mouse chase which gets intense with every passing second.

With Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan, replacing Alec Baldwin from the prequel, the film gets a morale boost. With riveting chase sequences and a great narrative, the film will keep the viewers glued to their seats until the very last second. Sean Bean portrays Sean Miller who wishes to avenge the death of his brother yet dies, getting impaled on an anchor. While shooting, Ford accidentally struck Bean with a boat hook which resulted in a lifelong eye-scar. 

“Bloody proud of yourself, aren’t you? You stuck your nose in where it didn’t belong. And now you’ve killed my baby brother.”

4. Possessor (Brandon Cronenberg, 2020)

In an alternate version of 2008, an assassin named Tasya Vos is assigned the duty of inserting her consciousness into the implant of the host’s brain to force the host into completing a job before committing suicide. When the impersonations turn into an identity crisis for Vos and hinder her daily domestic life, her boss talks about how a lack of emotional and familial attachments would benefit her. When one of her hosts, Tate, does not successfully complete the mission, she is trapped inside his body causing a raging conflict that also threatens her existence. 

In this psychologically unsettling body horror film, the audience might feel squeamish and disoriented due to the gruelling exploration of the body and the mind. It is an intricate commentary on the society we live in. Although Sean Bean has a relatively small role as John parse, the mean-spirited CEO father of Ava Parse, Tate’s girlfriend, Tate’s inability to kill John and subsequently not commit suicide is what triggers the events in the film. Although he has a smaller role, the film is sinister and unforgettable. 

“Just think, one day your wife is cleaning the cat litter and she gets a worm in her, and that worm ends up in her brain. The next thing that happens is she gets an idea in there, too. And it’s hard to say whether that idea is really hers or it’s just the worm.”

3. Wolfwalkers (Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart, 2020)

In a Celtic world where magic and superstitions gain precedence, wolves are portrayed as vicious, demonic entities that need to be tamed. When Bill and his daughter Robyn are summoned to Ireland, Bill is entrusted with the duty to exterminate the wolves. Robyn, however, in an attempt to help her father, saves a wild native named Mebh whose wolf spirit bites her and makes her a wolfwalker. Very soon, their friendship leads Robyn into the fascinating world of the wolfwalkers and she is determined to make her father understand the true nature of the wolves to prevent him from wiping out the very thing she herself has turned into.

With a unique animation style that seems like we are watching a painting in motion, this ethereal fantasy world comes to life with the brilliant characters who stay etched in our minds. Released online due to the pandemic, the film boasts of epic voiceover work from actors. Sean Bean plays Bill Goodfellow, the hunter and Robyn’s father who gradually comes to realise and embrace his new identity.  

“We must show them the wolves are no threat, they are just beasts.”

2. The Martian (Ridley Scott, 2015)

After a fierce storm on the Martian soil, Mark Watney is presumed to be dead and is left stranded by the other astronauts. Whitney struggles to fight for his survival in this hostile environment as he lives off meagre supplies and uses his ingenuity and spiritedness to sustain himself while NASA works relentlessly to facilitate his return. His fellow crewmates undertake a daring plan of their own to rescue him. 

As the whole world comes together in bravery to see Mark Watney, the audience watch Matt Damon’s finest on-screen performance. The film is realistic and never does it romanticise the idea of surviving on a foreign planet. It can be interpreted as a sort of horror flick that deals with the consequences of a planetary invasion. Sean Bean portrays Mitch Henderson, the flight director of the Hermes who is shocked when he gets to know that NASA has not told Watney’s crew members about him being alive to keep them focused on their mission yet has divulged this information to the world via press release. 

“I am definitely going to die up here…if I have to listen to any more god-awful disco music.”

1. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Peter Jackson, 2001-2003)

In a world of fantasy, this Lord of the Rings universe abounds in Elves, Dwarves and Men as well as Hobbits who live in fear of the evil Dark Lord Sauron. They are all concerned with the One Ring which is bestowed with the legendary adventurer Bilbo Baggins who bequeaths it to his nephew Frodo before leaving the Shire for one last adventure. Gandalf the Grey, a wise wizard, who knows the true nature of this Ring sends Frodo and his best friend Samwise Gamgee and two other rogue Hobbits, Merry and Pippin on a perilous mission. On their way to Mordor, they are joined by Aragorn, Boromir, Gimli and Legolas who all have their own interests to cater to. 

Adapted from J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous and posthumously successful trilogy, the film features a reprising ensemble cast. Sean Bean was cast to play the role of Boromir, a prince of the Stewards of Gondor, who accompanies the Fellowship towards Mordor. Although Bruce Willis wanted the role and it was subsequently offered to Liam Neeson, Bean eventually bagged the place and did a brilliant job with it.

Peter Jackson revealed some fun shooting secrets with Sean Bean in an interview. Bean’s famous dialogue “One does not simply walk into Mordor” became a viral Internet meme; Jackson revealed that the script for the scene was impromptu and had been written the night before. Bean had no time to memorise it and taped it to his knee which is why he can be seen glancing towards his knee every now and then if watched closely. Besides, Jackson also let the world know how Sean Bean’s fear of flying brought minor changes to the shooting schedule. While the entire crew took a helicopter to another location, they would glance down and see “this tiny black speck climbing the cliff- Sean Bean, dressed as Boromir, like a human fly on the wall”. 

“It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing. Such a little thing.”

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