From ‘Alien’ Host to War Doctor: Remembering John Hurt in 10 Genre Performances

We lost an acting legend this week with the passing of John Hurt at age 77. He starred in almost 150 films and made numerous television appearances in a career than spanned more than five decades.

In his many, many roles Hurt featured in a number of science fiction and fantasy films. And so in honour of this acting icon we will be counting down ten of his genre roles. Let’s get to it:

#10 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Dr Harold Oxley

Aliens? I hate aliens!

The fourth installment of the Indiana Jones franchise was a below average movie and a disappointment to a beloved franchise. But Hurt’s quirky Dr Oxley is one of the few redeeming aspects.

#9 Hercules, Cotys King of Thrace

I look good with a crown

Hurt was born to play kings and in this surprisingly good Hercules movie starring The Rock we see him in all his regal glory.

#8 Snowpiercer, Gilliam

I gave an arm and a leg to get on this train

In this sci fi gem he plays the leader Gilliam who has sacrificed his very limbs to save others. It is brief role but, as is always the case with Hurt, quite memorable.

#7 V for Vendetta, High Chancellor Adam Sutler

What do you have to say for yourselves, little men?!

More than 20 years after he played the victim of an oppressive totalitarian system Hurt played the leader of an oppressive totalitarian system. And his vigourous hate and spewing of venom is a sight to behold.

#6 Contact, S.R. Hadden


Hurt gave us a bald look for this eccentric and reclusive billionaire industrialist. This kooky character helps Jodie Foster’s character with her quest to contact aliens.

#5 Hellboy, Professor Bruttenholm

I think you spent too long on that tanning bed

Hurt ventured into the comic book world for his role as the aging director Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defence. He looks a bit like Albert Einstein and is both a leader and father figure to the titular hero.

#4 Nineteen Eighty Four, Winston Smith

Oh Big Brother, how I love thee, let me count the ways

Hurt copped some awards for his starring role in this adaptation of the George Orwell classic about a dystopian future. His everyman character carries the weight of the world on his shoulders and Hurt gets you invested in his quest for some semblance of a life.

#3 Doctor Who, The War Doctor

What does this button do?

British sci fi show ‘Doctor Who’ is as old as Hurt’s acting career. When he was retconned as a previously unknown incarnation of the titular hero, known as the “War Doctor”, he delivered a beautifully haunted and deep character. He only appeared in one full episode but that was enough to endear him to fans.

#2 Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 & 2, Garrick Olivander

Have I got a wand for you

It seems that every British actor alive appeared in the cultural juggernaut that was the Harry Potter franchise and Hurt was not going to be left out. He appears as a genial wand seller who sells Harry his first wand in the first film, and then an older version in the final two films.

#1 Alien, Kane

Kane immediately regretted ordering the “Fish Taco Surprise” last night

When you are talking genre and John Hurt the one role that everyone knows is that of Kane in Alien. The scene where this executive officer of the Nostromo salvage ship has an alien burst through his chest is one of the most iconic in all science fiction. It was so iconic that Kane reprised the role in sci fi parody Spaceballs with the hilarious line “not again”. John Hurt you will be missed.

So what is your favourite John Hurt genre role? Feel free to mention in the comments. For my Gene Wilder film tribute you can click here

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