Fred Ward's 6 Greatest Movie Roles


icon-slides Created with Sketch.

Paramount | Universal

Sadly, Fred Ward passed away May 8 at the age of 79. The longtime actor had one of those faces you just loved to see pop up in a film. He was a soldier — a supporting star, usually typecast as a tough guy, who would put the work in. Ward looked the part. He was a boxer in his youth and a lumberjack. He was in the Air Force. Ward lived a full life before he ever became an actor and his knack for down-to-earth, realistic characters came from that place. He'll be missed. But he left behind a prolific legacy, almost 100 films. These are his best roles.

Henry Miller

6 / 6


Henry & June (1990)

Some were surprised to see Ward cast as Tropic of Cancer author Henry Miller in the 1990 period drama Henry & June. But Ward showed he could travel back in time easily. He also showed he could turn on the charm when needed. Ward's Miller is at the center of a love triangle in the NC-17 rated film and he does well as a portrait of masculinity.

Sergeant Hoke Moseley

5 / 6

Orion Pictures

Miami Blues (1990)

Ward is perfect as washed-up, creepy, but still mentally sharp, police sergeant Hoke Moseley in Miami Blues. It's a supporting role, but a scene-stealing one. Mosely is the loser cop to Alec Baldwin's criminal, Junior, in the film. But he keeps coming back. Junior steals his badge (and dentures), but he knows he'll slip up. Ward gives the broken-down sergeant a knowing smile that predicts the ending.

John Anglin and Rocco Dillon (tie)

4 / 6


Escape from Alcatraz (1979), Naked Gun 33+1⁄3: The Final Insult (1994)

Ward's big-screen filmography began in Clint Eastwood's Escape from Alcatraz as prisoner John Anglin, one of the guys who breaks out. It's a steady, workmanlike role and one Ward would repeat throughout his career. He was always a fine soldier.

Years later, Ward poked fun at himself, in the third Naked Gun movie, as another prison escapee, Rocco Dillon. Ward plays it completely straight, giving the film's ludicrous story — about a bomb plot at the Oscars — an element of danger. He's a natural villain, tough and ruthless, and, perhaps most telling, you don't question Anna Nicole Smith as his girlfriend, at all.

Officer Sam Makin / CURE Agent Remo Williams

3 / 6

Orion Pictures

Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985)

A rare starring turn for Fred Ward, Remo Williams was supposed to be another '80s action star but it didn't turn out that way. The movie bombed, and it is terrible — full of corny dialogue, whitewashed characters, and terrible special effects. But Ward goes for it as the hero, a NYC cop recruited to be a secret agent. After some intense training, he targets the bad guy and takes him out. And there's plenty to enjoy about Ward's performance. He's got some Chuck Norris in him.

Earl Bassett

2 / 6


Tremors (1990) and Tremors 2: Aftershocks (1996)

Ward plays Graboid-killer Earl Bassett in Tremors, with Kevin Bacon as his partner, and in the direct-to-video sequel Tremors 2, in which he's the star. Ward is perfect as the rough-and-tumble Earl, who lives the outcast life in a Nevada desert town. The actor, who was 48 at the time of the first film, is a natural hard-ass. But Ward also understood the humor in Tremors. He doesn't overdo it — you can tell he's having plenty of fun with the killer worm material.

Gus Grissom

1 / 6

Warner Bros.

The Right Stuff (1983)

"F***in' A, bubba." Fred Ward's greatest performance comes in his greatest movie, The Right Stuff, as astronaut Gus Grissom, who has the movie's best one-liners. Ward reeks of cool confidence and down-to-earth pragmatism as a guy who knows he's being used by the Man to be a human guinea pig, but says "f*** it, let's do it anyway." That's real courage. And you buy it from a guy like Ward, who looks like he's seen a thing or three.
Related Stories