Sam Neill has been acting in films since 1975, making his debut in Landfall. Born in Ireland, Neill moved to New Zealand at a young age. Neill is regarded as an international actor, a man who has crossed continents and worked with directors from all over the world. Neill continues to act in independent dramas while pursuing more mainstream opportunities in films such as Peter Rabbit and Thor: Ragnarok.
Neill is best-known for playing Dr. Alan Grant in Jurassic Park. Neill reprised his role in Jurassic Park III, and he will be returning for the forthcoming Jurassic World: Dominion. Neill’s dynamic career also includes roles in multiple iconic horror films, like Event Horizon, In the Mouth of Madness, Possession, and Dead Calm. Neill, it seems, does it all: drama, comedy, horror, science fiction, and action.
Updated on June 6th, 2022, by Shawn S. Lealos: Sam Neill will be one of the three lead characters from the first Jurassic Park movie to return to the final installment of the Jurassic World franchise this year. Along with Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum, the characters from the old and new will reunite for the conclusion. This makes it a good time to look at those three actors’ illustrious careers. For Sam Neill, this goes back to the 1970s and he has so many critically acclaimed movies under his belt, that it is easy to see 15 or more that all rank over 80% positive on the Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer.
15 My Brilliant Career (1979) – 86%
- Streaming now on HBO Max and The Criterion Channel.
Based on the classic novel by Miles Franklin, My Brilliant Career stars Judy Davis as a young woman who lives in rural Australia and wants to one day be a writer. However, these dreams are disrupted by social circumstances and also by a budding romance.
Sam Neill stars as Harry Beecham, a man who she begins to fall in love with. However, she soon realizes that her career dreams take precedence over all else. The movie picked up Oscar and Golden Globe nominations and Davis won the BAFTA Award for Best Lead Actress.
14 Skin (2008) – 86%
- Streaming now on Prime Video, Fubo, Vudu, Tubi, Kanopy, Crackle, Pluto TV. and Plex.
Skin was a movie that took place in South Africa and starred Sam Neill and Alice Krige as a couple who raised three children. However, their daughter Sandra looked mixed-race and when they enrolled her at school with her brother, she was kicked out for not being a white child.
While the parents won in court, Sandra grew up and realized she would never pass for white. However, when she fell in love with a black man, her father disowned her and she had to make it through life without the love of her family, something she wanted fiercely. The movie won several awards, including many for Sophie Okonedo, the actress who played Sandra.
13 Until The End Of The World (1992) – 88%
- Streaming now on The Criterion Channel.
Wim Wenders’s sci-fi road trip film stars William Hurt and Solveig Dommartin as a pair on the run from the law who happens to be in possession of a device that records dreams and visions. Neill co-stars as the former lover of Dommartin’s character Claire, a man who follows her around the world.
Until the End of the World also involves a subplot about a damaged Indian nuclear satellite colliding into the Earth. Max von Sydow also makes an appearance as the father of Hurt’s character Trevor.
12 The Hunt For Red October (1990) – 88%
- Available to rent now on Prime Video, Google Play, YouTube, Vudu, Microsoft, Redbox, AMC on Demand, Apple TV, and DirecTV.
One of the highest-grossing releases at domestic box offices in 1990, The Hunt for Red October is based on the novel of the same name by Tom Clancy. It is the first to feature Clancy’s signature character: Jack Ryan, who is played by Alec Baldwin.
Set in the Cold War era, this star-studded drama tells the story of a rogue Soviet naval captain who tries to defect to the United States. Neill stars alongside Sean Connery as the captains of their titular Soviet submarine.
11 Possession (1981) – 88%
- Streaming now on Metrograph.
Possession was a horror movie released in 1981 that saw Sam Neill star as an international spy named Mark who returns home from a mission in West Berlin. However, when he gets home, his wife Anna asks for a divorce, and then she begins acting very strangely after they separate and he begins to worry about their son’s safety.
This leads to a series of events that prove that there is something supernatural at work here, all based on a tragic event that happened while Mark was gone. The movie has become a cult classic and Isabelle Adjani won at Cannes for Best Actress for her performance.
10 Dean Spanley (2008) – 88%
- Streaming now on Starz, DirecTV. and Spectrum on Demand.
Dean Spanley is a British fantastical comedy directed by New Zealander Toa Fraser. Set in Edwardian England, the film is inspired by Lord Dunsany’s 1936 novella My Talks with Dean Spanley.
Neill plays the title character, an eccentric clergyman who crosses paths with members of an uptight family known as the Fisks at a lecture hosted by a visiting swami. Jeremy Northam and Peter O’Toole co-star as members of the Fisk family.
9 The Piano (1993) – 92%
- Streaming now on DirecTV.
Neill returned to New Zealand to star in Jane Campion’s period drama, a tale of forbidden love set in the country’s outer limits during the 19th century. Holly Hunter plays Ada McGrath, a mute Scottish woman who is sold by her father to a frontiersman in New Zealand, Neill’s character Alisdair Stewart.
McGrath, an accomplished pianist, communicates through music. She develops a secret romance with Harvey Keitel’s character George Baines, a fellow frontiersman who has adapted many indigenous Māori customs.
8 Little Fish (2006) – 90%
- Streaming now on Peacock, Roku, Vudu, Tubi, Kanopy, realeyz, Pluto TV, and Freevee.
In an Australian drama, Little Fish stars Cate Blanchett as a former heroin addict who tries to raise funds to buy a computer game shop. When her character Tracey’s ex-boyfriend Jonny (Dustin Nguyen) returns to town, he convinces her to get involved in a drug deal that could give her the money she needs.
Hugo Weaving plays Tracey’s drug-addicted stepfather in this gripping narrative about trauma, loss, and recovery. Neill plays a Sydney drug kingpin, Brad “The Jockey” Thompson.
7 Rams (2020) – 91%
- Streaming now on Hulu, Hoopla, and Kanopy.
Sam Neill starred in the comedy-drama movie Rams in 2020. The movie takes place in Western Australia where two estranged brothers are in conflict. Neill plays Colin while Michael Caton plays his brother Les, the siblings raising separate flocks of sheep bred from their family’s prized flock.
The two brothers then have to join forces as the local authorities order all their sheep killed when one ram has a rare, lethal illness. The movie is a remake of an Icelandic movie made in 2015 and it received several nominations at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards, including a Best Actor nomination for Neill.
6 Jurassic Park (1993) – 91%
- Streaming now on HBO Max, DirecTV, and Spectrum on Demand.
Steven Spielberg modernized big-budget action films with his epic sci-fi cautionary tale about a genetic scientist who decides to bring dinosaurs back from extinction. Neill’s character Dr. Alan Grant is one of a handful of experts invited to get a sneak peek of Dr. John Hammond’s new theme park.
Needless to say, all hell breaks loose after the park’s electrical system malfunctions. With its cutting-edge special effects, well-paced action sequences, and memorable cast (including Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum), Jurassic Park is a big-budget action movie classic.
5 Thor: Ragnarok (2017) – 93%
- Streaming now on Disney+.
Sam Neill’s role in Thor: Ragnarok was not a big one, but it was a memorable appearance. In the movie, Thor returned to Asgard after defeating the demon Surtur only to find things not quite right. He came upon a stageplay on display for Odin, and he watched in amazement as it was a dramatic play about the sacrifice Loki made.
In the play, there were some great cameos. Matt Damon played Loki, Luke Hemsworth took the role of Thor, and Neill played Odin. It was a very funny series of MCU cameos for the three actors that the production was able to keep under wraps.
4 A Cry In The Dark (1988) – 93%
- Streaming now on The Criterion Channel.
This film is a fictionalized retelling of the real-life story of Lindy and Michael Chamberlain, a New Zealand couple who claimed in 1980 that their infant daughter was kidnapped by a dingo (or wild Australian dog) while they were camping. Meryl Streep and Neill play the couple, who was scrutinized by the media for their claims.
The Chamberlains were put on trial for the death of their daughter, where they were forced to plead their innocence to a public who didn’t believe them. Streep earned an Oscar nomination for her performance.
3 The Dish (2001) – 96%
- Not currently streaming right now.
An Australian comedy set in 1969, The Dish explores the Parkes Observatory’s role in broadcasting footage of humanity’s first steps on the Moon during the Apollo 11 mission. The telescope, located in New South Wales, shows how NASA relied on Australian staff at the facility to make television history.
Despite being based on true events, the film’s characters are fictionalized. Neill plays Cliff Buxton, the pipe-smoking “dishmaster” at the Parkes Observatory.
2 Sweet Country (2018) – 96%
- Streaming now on Prime Video, AMC+, Roku, Vudu, Tubi, Kanopy, DirecTV, Crackle, and Sundance Now.
Harsh and unforgiving, Sweet Country is an Australian western set in 1929. The story’s events unfold in the Northern Territory’s outback, where European settlers and Aboriginal Australians are embroiled in a bitter battle for land.
Neill plays a farmer and preacher named Fred Smith, a white colonizer who employs Aborigines. Through its intense character studies, the film provides ample sociopolitical commentary.
1 Hunt For The Wilderpeople (2016) – 96%
- Streaming now on Netflix, Fubo, Roku, Hoopla, Tubi, Kanopy, Pluto TV, and Plex.
Hunt for the Wilderpeople is one of New Zealand director Taika Waititi’s comedic gems. Based on Barry Crump’s Wild Pork and Watercress, the film tracks the trials and tribulations of a young orphan who moves with an eccentric foster family.
Neill plays Hec Faulkner, and Julian Dennison plays his ward, Ricky. Trouble finds them, and the two are forced to flee into the bush to escape their captors.
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