Ray Liotta died on May 26, and the world lost a great character actor and an icon of gangster cinema.
At the time of his death, Liotta starred in over 80 movies, and he even has two others completed and awaiting release. He was shooting a movie at the time of his death called Dangerous Waters in the Dominican Republic.
Throughout his career, Liotta has picked up a Primetime Emmy for his work on the television show ER and a Golden Globe nomination for the movie Something Wild.
However, Liotta was best known for his work in the gangster movie genre, where he didn’t win many awards, but he was a memorable face that anyone with a love for the genre will instantly recognize.
Here is a look at the best movies to watch to celebrate Ray Liotta’s career.
Something Wild (1986)
Ray Liotta got his start on television, starring in the soap opera Another World as Joey Perrini before moving on to shows like St. Elsewhere, Casablanca, and Our Family Honor. That led to 1986 and his breakout debut in the movie Something Wild.
Directed by Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs), the movie was a comedy about an investment banker named Charlie (Jeff Daniels) who meets a woman named Lulu (Melanie Griffith), who proceeds to turn his life upside down.
Liotta starred as Ray Sinclair, Lulu’s violent ex-convict husband who then shows up and puts both of their lives in danger. The movie was critically acclaimed, has a Criterion Collection release, and earned all three main actors Golden Globe nominations, although none of them won.
Something Wild is currently streaming on Hoopla, The Criterion Channel, Tubi, Redbox, and Pluto TV.
It would be a crime not to suggest that Ray Liotta fans watch Field of Dreams (1989), the Kevin Costner baseball movie. However, he only appeared as Shoeless Joe Jackson in minor scenes and was only a small part of that movie.
One year after that appearance, Ray Liotta had the biggest role of his career and one that few actors could ever dream of matching. He starred as Henry Hill in the Martin Scorsese crime drama Goodfellas.
“As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.”
The movie had Liotta as a low-level gangster who rose up the ranks but ended up turning on his friends in the mafia to turn over evidence and take on an assumed role in witness protection.
The movie was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, and Joe Pesci won for Best Supporting Actor. As for Liotta, it cemented his status as a gangster movie legend.
Goodfellas is currently streaming on HBO Max.
Unlawful Entry (1992)
In 1992, Ray Liotta took on a very dark and demented role in the thriller Unlawful Entry, and this was a good place to see him at his worst.
The movie starred Kurt Russell and Madeline Stowe as a couple who befriends a lonely police officer. Liotta is that police officer, but when he starts to become fixated on the wife, he becomes dangerous and deadly.
The couple ends up fighting for their lives. The movie was a huge success, with positive critical reviews with Roger Ebert praising the “realism” and Liotta even earned the MTV Movie Award nomination for Best Villain.
Unlawful Entry is available to rent on most major platforms.
Cop Land (1997)
In 1997, Sylvester Stallone starred in a masterpiece that film lovers might remember, but a movie that has gone forgotten by much of the general public.
This movie is the crime thriller Cop Land. In the movie, a group of police officers found a loophole that allows them to live outside NYC as “auxiliary transit cops.” This also made them untouchable to the NYPD Internal Affairs and with the help of the local sheriff, they can do anything they want.
Stallone plays the local sheriff, while Ray Liotta plays a cop named Gary “Figgsy” Figgis. Also starring in the movie is Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro, Peter Berg, Robert Patrick, Michael Rapaport, Frank Vincent, and more.
Directed by James Mangold (Logan), the movie deserves a revival.
Cop Land is currently streaming on HBO Max, Max Go, DirecTV, and Spectrum on Demand.
Blow is based on the real life of George Jung, a cocaine smuggler who made $100 million before his downfall.
The movie, directed by Ted Demme, starred Johnny Depp as Jung and Penelope Cruz as his co-lead. The movie followed his life from a 10-year-old until his imprisonment.
Ray Liotta starred as George’s father, Fred, mostly in flashback scenes, although it was his words that hit George the hardest when he was in prison and realized he would likely never see his daughter again.
Blow is currently streaming on Netflix.
Released in 2002, Joe Carnahan wrote and directed the crime thriller Narc, which starred Ray Liotta and Jason Patric.
Patric is Detective Nick Tellis, a cop who wants off the streets after accidentally shooting a pregnant woman, causing her to miscarry. When he is tasked to investigate the murder of an undercover officer, he agrees if it means he can get moved to a desk job and can team with Detective Henry Oak, played by Liotta.
However, he quickly learns that Oak is not a stable police officer and he has a belief that the department wants the case buried. However, the case turned out to be much more complicated than expected.
The relationship between Oak and Tellis was great and the chemistry between Liotta and Patric makes this a movie all crime thriller lovers should seek out.
Narc is currently streaming on Fubo, Showtime, Paramount+, DirecTV, and Spectrum on Demand.
Identity is not like any other movie on this list.
John Cusack stars in this neo-thriller as a former Los Angeles police officer named Ed who is stranded at a roadside Nevada motel. With him are nine other strangers, one of which is Ray Liotta’s escaped convict.
When someone starts to kill each of the ten, one by one, they realize one of them is the killer and have to figure out who it is and stop him before they all die.
However, there is something ominous bubbling under the surface as a convict is awaiting his execution for mass murder and is speaking to his psychiatrist about a journal found that was not used in his case.
This entire movie is a mind-twisting journey and is one that a person would want to watch twice to see all the twists and turns play out after seeing the shocking conclusion.
Identity is currently streaming on Netflix.
Smokin’ Aces (2006)
Smokin’ Aces was another Joe Carnahan movie that Ray Liotta starred in, and this was an explosive balls-to-the-walls thriller.
A Las Vegas magician (Jeremy Piven) is in hiding as he is the key witness in a major case against a mob boss. This causes the mob to put a $1 million bounty on his head.
With that, an entire cadre of assassins descends on Lake Tahoe wanting to cash in – with hitmen played by Chris Pine, Tommy Flanagan, Alicia Keys, Taraji P. Henson, Kevin Durant, and more.
Ray Liotta is an FBI Special Agent and the partner of Ryan Reynolds, as they are assigned to protect the witness at all costs.
Smokin’ Aces is currently streaming on Starz, DirecTV, and Spectrum on Demand.
No Sudden Move (2021)
A Ray Liotta movie that a lot of people might not have heard of arrived in 2021 as an HBO Max release. This was No Sudden Move and it had a critically acclaimed director in Steven Soderbergh (Oceans Eleven).
This was another gangster movie, with Don Cheadle in the lead role as a gangster who wants to leave town and takes one last gig with two other gangsters to threaten a man to turn over some business plans for a crime boss.
However, things go wrong and soon he learns that he and one of the other gangsters were set up to take the fall and he tries to right the wrongs.
Ray Liotta plays the crime boss, Frank Capelli, who contracted the scheme to begin with.
No Sudden Move is currently streaming on HBO Max.
The Many Saints of Newark (2021)
It would make sense that one of the final major Ray Liotta movies released before his death would be one where he took on a role from the greatest gangster television show in history.
Liotta starred as two people in the prequel movie to The Sopranos – twin brothers, Aldo “Hollywood Dick” Moltisanti and Salvatore “Sally” Moltisanti.
The movie takes place in the 1960s and 1970s and focuses on a young Tony Soprano as he breaks into the family business and learns that there are people he can’t trust and those that he has to win over himself.
The Many Saints of Newark is currently streaming on HBO Max.
After watching these movies, there is plenty of TV shows that Ray Liotta appeared on as well.
Make sure to go back and check out the Prime Video series Hanna, the NBC series Shades of Blue, and of course his three-year run on Another World.