Best Willem Dafoe Movies Till 2023 and Beyond: That Shouldn’t be Missed

Soumya Nair

Written by Soumya Nair

Updated On December 28, 2023

willem dafoe movies
Willem Dafoe Movies

It gets hard to talk about veteran actors who have portrayed a long list of impressive characters on screen. Willem Dafoe is one such actor who has been a part of the industry for over three decades and it’s safe to say he has efficiently utilized his time here. From being a part of some successful commercial films to carrying some budget indie movies, Dafoe has done it all. There are a lot of other successful names in Hollywood but what makes him stand out is the graph of versatility portrayed in Willem Dafoe movies. 

Though Dafoe has been nominated four times for Oscar awards, the much-deserved winning luck has not been in his favor yet. His notable performances include his portrayal of real-life characters like Jesus Christ in The Last Temptation of Christ and Vincent Van Gogh in At Eternity’s Gate. From his vast spectrum of impressive projects, we have shortlisted some of the best Willem Dafoe movies that are not to be missed. 

The Florida Project (2017)

The Florida Project

The first movie we have listed in the Willem Dafoe movies list is The Florida Project. This movie showcased the life of children who are born into families that survive on welfare. Dafoe’s character, Bobby, is a motel owner and most of his tenants are on the verge of homelessness. The plot revolves around Halley, played by Bria Vinaite, and her six-year-old daughter Moonee, played by Brooklynn Prince

Dafoe’s character has a subtle warmth and sympathizes with children like Moonee who are trapped in a world. Where they are trying to make the best out of what’s offered to them. The actor was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe award for his work. Bobby becomes the paternal figure in Moonee’s life that somewhere Halley has failed to be. 

IMDb Rating: 7.6/10Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 96%

Watch the trailer for The Florida Project:

Platoon (1986)


Young Willem Dafoe witnessed mainstream success and recognition with the 1986 war film, Platoon. The movie is to date considered one of the best war-based movies with Willem Dafoe that depicted the most realistic war scenarios. Platoon focuses on the emotional dilemma of a soldier, Chris Taylor, who had to participate in the Vietnam War against his will. 

Dafoe stepped into the character of Sergeant Alias who keeps his humanitarian side intact on the ruthless war ground. He takes a troubled Chris under his wing and tries to guide him through the mental conflict. The actor was nominated for Academy Award in the best supporting actor category. The scene where Alias is killed gives me goosebumps no matter how many times I have watched the movie. The movie also starred Johnny Depp in a supporting role and can be counted as one of the best movies of Johnny Depp.

IMDb Rating: 8.1/10Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 89%

Here is the trailer for the movie Platoon:

The Lighthouse (2019)

The Lighthouse

The movie is roughly based on Edgar Allan Poe’s unfinished short story of the same name. This Willem Dafoe movie is a masterpiece by Robert Egger that does not seem to fit into a box and is the kind of story that will linger in your mind for a long time. The black-and-white cinematography is brilliantly executed and adds a touch of mystery and a soul-wrenching vibe.  

Dafoe plays the character of a veteran lighthouse keeper who guides a young man, Ephraim Winslow, played by The Twilight Series actor Robert Pattinson regarding his duties as a lighthouse keeper. Everything seems perfectly fine but when men from different generations are left alone in an isolated building for too long, each other’s company frustrates them and the story quickly takes an eerie turn. 

IMDb Rating: 7.4/10Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 92%

Enjoy the trailer for The Lighthouse:

At Eternity’s Gate (2018)

At Eternity’s Gate
As an admirer of Van Gogh and his art, seeing Willem Dafoe playing the artist somewhere made me feel more connected to Van Gogh’s art. That is the level of realistic portrayal Dafoe has done in the movie. The movie feels like a tribute from one artist to another and there is not one flaw that can be pointed out in the whole movie. 

Dafoe looked so convincing in the character and fits perfectly with the image of Van Gogh that we have all seen in his self-portraits that it’s hard to differentiate the actor from his character. The movie follows the final years of Van Gogh’s life and sheds light on his mental struggle in the world. This Willem Dafoe movie is a masterpiece that deserves much wider recognition. 

IMDb Rating: 6.9/10Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 79%

Check out the trailer for At Eternity’s Gate:

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

 The Last Temptation of Christ

Playing Jesus Christ comes with a lot of pressure in itself but The Last Temptation of Christ was a controversial movie for various other reasons. As the title suggests the storyline has a twist where Jesus is tempted by human desires. Sure this one’s Willem Dafoe movies struck a lot of controversies but the actor showcased an award-winning performance that unfortunately got overshadowed.

The movie is based on Nikos Kazantzaki’s novel of the same name and can be considered a masterpiece considering the cinematography, casting, and execution. Dafoe convincingly played the part of Jesus as he is tempted by impure thoughts and faces the dilemma of being the messiah or leading a normal life like a good man. 

IMDb Rating: 7.5/10Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 82%

Watch the trailer for The Last Temptation of Christ:

Spider-Man (2002)


By 2002 Dafoe was part of many successful projects but what gave him the much-deserved international fame was his villainous character of Green Goblin in Spider-Man. Tobey Maguire played the character of Spider-Man in the 2002 version. This is still one of my favorite spider man movies with Willem Dafoe. 

There could not have been a better choice to play Green Goblin as Dofoe brings out the character’s villainous and human side on the screen creating the perfect balance. The character stood the test of time and Dafoe was cast again in the latest addition to the franchise, Spider-Man: No Way Home

IMDb Rating: 7.4/10Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 90%

Trailer for the movie Spider-Man:

The English Patient (1996)

The English Patient

The movie is set during World War 2 and the aftermath that follows. The characters are well-written and have their own story of how the war has altered their life forever. The movie focuses on Hana, a combat nurse who lost her boyfriend to the war. She decides to spend time caring for the survivors and nursing them.

When a pilot is admitted with severe burns and no memory, she decides to stay by his side during his last days. But the movie soon takes an interesting turn when David Caravaggio, a Canadian Intelligence Corps, arrives and disregards the pilot’s story of memory loss. Soon the pilot opens up himself and his life is revealed through flashback scenes. The movie is gloomy and dark but that is exactly what is needed for such plots. 

IMDb Rating: 7.4/10Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 86%

Watch the trailer for The English Patient:

Shadow of the Vampire (2000)

Shadow of the Vampire

Shadow of the Vampire is based on the making of a controversial German classic horror movie from 1922 titled Nosferatu-Eine Symphonie des Grauens. It was the first horror movie ever made and was based on the story of Count Dracula.

The German movie surrounded a lot of controversies including the mysterious disappearance of the crew members and even the death of some of the artists. It was ordered by the court to destroy the copies of the movie. Willem Dafoe played the character of Max Schreck who played Count Dracula. The movie earned Dafoe appreciation from the audience as well as critics. 

IMDb Rating: 6.9/10Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 81%

Check out the trailer for Shadow of the Vampire:

John Wick (2014)

 John Wick1

Sure John Wick is one of the most renowned movies of Keanu Reeves and has grown into a franchise with four movies so far, but the plot originates with Willem Dafoe’s character of Marcus. He served as a mentor to John and the storyline highlighted their bond of how Marcus taught John everything and stood by his side during his difficult days. 

The movie marks one of the most successful franchises of the last decade and has helped Willem Dafoe become a household face for the international audience. Dafoe has done action roles before but this one introduced him to the younger audience.

IMDb Rating: 6.9/10Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 81%

Watch the trailer for John Wick:

Inside (2023)


Almost all of us now have the experience of isolation after the pandemic. This is one of the latest Willem Dafoe movies that explored the topic but in a totally different way. Dafoe plays the character of, Nemo, an experienced art thief who gets trapped in a high-tech New York penthouse while trying to steal from a renowned art collector. 

Nemo reaches the penthouse in search of three art pieces by Egon Schiele but when he fails to find them, his attempt to escape gets him locked in the penthouse with no food and water. What follows is the desperation for survival and Nemo’s realizations regarding his life so far.

IMDb Rating: 5.5/10Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 62%

Enjoy the trailer for Inside:

The Northman (2022)

The Northman

The historical action thriller The Northman is based on Norse mythology. Though the movie was heavily criticized for the plot and heavy usage of CGI. The plot revolves around the story of a Viking prince, played by Alexander Skarsgard, who sets out to avenge the death of his father. Years later the Prince comes back to claim whatever was taken away from him, including his kingdom, and no one can stop him not even the God. 

IMDb Rating: 7/10Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 89%

Check out the trailer for The Northman:

Nightmare Alley (2021)

Nightmare Alley

The neo-noir movie, Nightmare Alley, explores the dark alleys of drug abuse and addiction in a raw form. The movie is based on William Lindsay Gresham’s novel of the same name. The cinematography and storyline were appreciated by the critics for adapting the novel without losing the essence of the story. 

The plot revolves around the character of Stan, who runs away from his home after burning it down. While on the run he discovers a circus group and asks them to take him in and is offered a job. What follows are some ugly revelations from the past but can Stan continue being a part of the circus or will his past follow him everywhere?

IMDb Rating: 7/10Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 81%

Enjoy the trailer for Nightmare Alley:

Mississippi Burning (1988)

Mississippi Burning

Mississippi Burning is a crime thriller loosely based on the real-life case of the murder of three civil rights workers based on race. The movie stars Willem Dafoe and Gene Hackman in the lead as two investigating officers who are assigned the task of investigating the civil rights workers. 

Despite facing protests from some activists the movie was well received by the critics and was nominated for Academy Awards in seven categories, winning Best Cinematography. The movie handled the sensitive topic with much maturity and successfully portrayed the criminal side of racism. The gloomy and dark cinematography just adds to the realistic appeal of the movie.

IMDb Rating: 7.8/10Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 85%

Check out the trailer for Mississippi Burning:

Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)

Spider-Man No Way Home

The biggest box office hit among Willem Dafoe movies include Spider-Man: No Way Home. As the 27th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, no way home had big expectations from fans, especially since it was released in the post-endgame era. 

The movie starred Tom Holland as Spider-Man and Zendaya as his love interest, MJ. The movie was a blockbuster hit and for the audience who did not know much about the movies of Willem Dafoe, this worked as the perfect exposure of the actor’s brilliant work. 

Dafoe reprised his role of Norman aka Green Goblin. The actor once again proved his irreplaceable talent by getting back into the costume after almost two decades. He proved he still has it in him what takes to be a supervillain and steal the limelight even while sharing the screen with the most famous young actors. No Way Home is considered one of the best movies from Zendaya & Holland’s career, but everyone knows that Dafoe stole the show as the Green Goblin

IMDb Rating: 8.2/10Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 93%

Watch the trailer for Spider-Man: No Way Home:

Finding Nemo (2003)

Finding Nemo

Dafoe playing a gang leader is nothing new anymore but Finding Nemo has to be our favorite till now as he plays the leader of a fish gang, called the Tank Gang. In this animated movie, he voiced the character of Gill and sounded oh-so-perfect with his raspy voice. All the fishes live in an aquarium at a dentist’s office and Gill encourages Nemo and everyone to escape from the aquarium.

IMDb Rating: 8.2/10Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 99%

Enjoy the trailer for Finding Nemo:


Willem Dafoe’s movies have never disappointed the audience and it should be safe to call him the audience’s actor. From Zack Synder to Wes Anderson, the actor has worked with a wide range of characters and genres. Willem Dafoe’s upcoming movies include Poor Things and Gonzo Girl which are set to release by the end of this year. While we wait for his future projects don’t forget to go through the actor’s most loved movies to date. 

Author: Soumya Nair

Soumya Nair is an entertainment industry enthusiast who loves to write and bring in all the gossip and news to everyone interested. She always make sure to keep a keen eye on everything that goes behind the glam and glitter of the industry.

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