The Top 10 Val Kilmer Movie Roles


It’s been an argument of my buddy Nick that Val Kilmer is the best actor of our generation.  And by our generation I’m referring to guys between the ages of 27-33ish.  That’s a pretty bold statement because you’re pitting him up against the likes of guys like Ed Norton, Leonardo Dicaprio, and Matt Damon.

But then again, when I look at Val’s resume, it’s pretty damned impressive.  And when you look at his best performances in movies, they are right up there with these other guys.

While I don’t think he’s necessarily the best, Kilmer’s had some damned good roles.   Here are my top ten.

10.  Nick Rivers – Top Secret


People might put this role higher up but you’re lucky I even put it on here.  When you see this movie as an adult it’s just not that funny.  I’m sorry.  Still though, Kilmer definitely carries this film.

9 .  Elvis/Mentor – True Romance


You might not see his face, but you certainly feel his presence.

8 .  Simon Templar – The Saint


Very solid role and I know all you internet/techy movie people will want this role higher but it’s just impossible for me to put this role ahead of the ones you’re about to read.

7 .  Madmartigan – Willow


People always forget about this role.  Do you realize how cocky and awesome Madmartigan is in this flick?  “You ARE great!”  Guy can fight hoards of people while drunk and still take care of a little baby in one hand.  He’s the man.

6 . Chris Knight – True Genius


Personally this might be my favorite role of Val Kilmer ever.  No it’s not his best acting performance but anyone who knows Val Kilmer knows how awesome this role is.  Not to mention the T-shirts!

5 . Ice Man Ted Kzinski – Top Gun


If you take out all the homoeroticism in this movie, Ice Man is a classic character that will always be remembered.

4. Chris Shiherlis – Heat


This is another role that goes overlooked.  A broken down criminal who is addicted to gambling and is constantly pushing away his beautiful wife.  Kilmer nails this role and you can tell the man definitely did his research and preparation for it.

3 . John Holmes – Wonderland


These last three roles is when you can tell Kilmer actually gets overtaken by his character.  This is where you truly believe that Kilmer is the character you see in the movie.  It’s pretty scary.  And in all honesty these three placements could all be number one.  Anyone who hasn’t seen Wonderland really should solely for Kilmer.  Kate Bosworth is damned good too.

2. Doc Holliday – Tombstone


I thought Kilmer was amazing as Doc Holliday.  Probably the best portrayal of Holliday by any actor.  His detail in the alcoholism and sheer badassness of his gunfighting is truly a sight to see.

1. Jim Morrison – The Doors


The fact that Kilmer had to go to therapy after this role goes to show how far one will go to “get it right.”  Amazing singing voice and there are parts in this movie where you have to think that Kilmer was actually on drugs.  It was incredible.

*Honorable mention – That afterschool special called “One Too Many” where he gets hit by a car.  That was awesome.

  • frank

    Madmartigan is by far my favorite

  • Tyler

    Oh man, how could you leave out Detective “Gay” Perry from Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang! Awesome role for Val! Another underappreciated role was as Danny Parker in The Salton Sea.

  • Madison

    @ Tyler

    Good call on Perry.

    @ frank

    Madmartigan is my favorite, too. Peck!

  • Tyler

    @ Madison – Thank you!

    I have always thought that Val never got enough credit for everything he does. My gang of friends and I are always quoting Top Secret and Real Genius lines by Val to this day! “Your mom puts license plates in your underwear? How do you sit?” 😉

  • Charley

    “It’s been an argument of my buddy Nick that Val Kilmer is the best actor of our generation. And by our generation I’m referring to guys between the ages of 27-33ish. ”

    You’re really limiting an understanding of your readers ages 😉 and also you should better define “Actors of Generation” considering Kilmer is 50 years old and precedes your generation twice over.

    Regardless, this is an excellent list and well-defined document.

  • F.Q.

    Nice compilation of some of the worst movies of the recent past.

    I started boycotting Oliver Stone movies after seeing The Doors. Man, that was bad.

    It’s a given- if your movie has Val Kilmer, Tim Curry, or Shaq in it, it sucks.

    P.S. I have to hand it to your friend, he must smoke some excellent weed.

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  • DarthCorleone

    Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Spartan, and Salton Sea easily trump The Saint, True Romance (great film and all and nice cameo – but c’mon!), and Top Secret.

  • noah

    I gotta agree with Tyler, both awesome movies with good performances and great characters in each

  • Laura

    I saw this article and first character that came to mind was Gay Perry. I love love love Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. He had too many good lines.

    Kilmer in Heat made guys with long hair look hot.

  • Josh

    Personally, I loved Mindhunters. And his death in that movie was so insane, it was awesome.

  • ryan

    Kiss Kiss Bang Bang getting excluded off of lists like this is exactly why we’ll never see a movie as brilliant as it again.

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  • ChristianH

    #1 = “Gay” Perry from Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.

    COME ON!

  • Bert

    Yup, another vote for Gay Perry. Val and Robert Downey together in that film were unstoppable.

  • Junkie1

    No “Real Genius?”

  • DeadSerious

    I’m with you on most of them, and I agree with the others about Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, but how could you leave off Spartan??

    @Junkie1: Real Genius was #6. He just got the heading wrong.

  • Pantera

    Real Genius….not True Genius

  • Charles

    I just have to comment to ‘lol’ at the fact you said Matt Damon was one of the top actors of our generation… Heh… The movies he is in are okay, but.. 0% because of him, he piggybacks.

  • Aubrey

    The main reason I chose to read this list was to see which “Gay” Perry clip you had posted — disappointed.

  • kLooTCh

    First of all its Real Genius not True Genius.
    Second of all, in Heat he is not an addicted gambler, did you even watch the movie? That’s just the front for his wife for what he really does (robbing banks and such)

  • dc

    Heat was so awesome, i searched kilmer and this page came up. i would take top gun off the list. he was in that movie for maybe 5 mins. i would add the batman movie he starred in. nevver seen salton sea, but i will check it out now :)

  • Miguel Vilhena

    His interpretation of the role of Doc Holliday is trully amazing.


    Gay Perry in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Danny Parker in The Salton Sea, The Real McCoy, At Real Sight and The Ghost In The Darkness belong on here. I agree with Heat, Tombstone, Wonderland, The Doors, Real Genius, Top Gun and maybe Top Secret but I would definitely replace the others with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, The Salton Sea and it’s pretty close between The Saint and At Real Sight but for me At Real Sight was a more impressive performance that once again showed Kilmers versatility and commitment to every role he plays.

    01. The Salton Sea (watch the film and then tell me it doesn’t deserve to be number one)
    02. Heat (pretty self explanatory)
    03. Tombstone (robbed of an Oscar nomination and more than likely an Oscar if nominated)
    04. Wonderland (I agree this performance was frightening to watch in a good way but it’s still not number one)
    05. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (under appreciated performance that stole every scene he was in and his chemistry with Robert Downey Jr. and impeccable witty dialogue only made it that much better)
    06. The Doors (Easily another Oscar worthy performance! He embodied Jim Morrison completely! Critics don’t know what acting is if they really want to say that was a bad performance. If you didn’t know that was Val Kilmer, you would think its the real Jim Morrison. Bonus Points for actually singing and sounding like Morrison as well. Tell me again why he wasn’t nominated for this performance!!!)
    07. At Real Sight (The only reason this movie isn’t on the list is because it was overlooked and forgotten. But you need to watch this movie and see how truly amazing Kilmers performance is. Tackling being blind while still comedic, romantic, heartfelt, dramatic, enjoyable, emotional, heartbreaking and triumphant all in one. That’s not an easy feat for any actor and Kilmer makes it look effortless in this film. One of my all time favorites)
    08. Real Genius (An 80s cult classic that belongs with the best of them)
    09. The Saint (it was a toss up of several different choices that all could’ve easily made it on here but The Saint has a slight advantage)
    10. Top Gun (The film that gave Val Kilmer his big break as Ice Man. This ones a no brainer. Have you figured it out yet ? Who’s the best pilot!?)
    Honorable Mentions: Top Secret, The Real McCoy, The Ghost And The Darkness, True Crime, Willow and Entourage Season 1 Episode 4 Guest Spot. We’ll forget Kilmers admirable one time feat as Bruce Wayne/Batman in Batman Forever. Good as Bruce Wayne. Dark and broody yet intelligent with plenty of charisma and charm. Not believable as Batman like Michael Keaton was. There was no distinction between him as Bruce Wayne or The Caped Crusader and that is unfortunate. Val Kilmer is indeed a great character actor and once leading man with more than enough talent to back it up. I had the pleasure of meeting Val during my Junior year of HS and competed in the same festival competitions he once did so I hold a very soft spot in my heart for him. It’s unfortunate he’s now doing low budget B movie action flicks that do nothing for his career or show any growth in his acting ability and that is a shame cause he’s a same good one but if Michael Keaton, Mickey Rourke and Robert Downey Jr. can revive their careers then maybe there’s still hope for Val one day. All it takes is that one role that separates from the rest that no one can resist or deny and it’s back on top. Till that day comes Val Kilmer, I’ll be sticking with the classics reminding me that it will one day happen