Willie Nelson's Eight Best Movie Roles

Willie Nelson's Eight Best Movie Roles
Willie Nelson in Barbarosa

In honor of the Texas hero's 80th Birthday celebration and legendary 4th of July Picnic, we're celebrating Willie Nelson Week here on DC9 at Night. Check back for interviews, retrospectives and more.

Texas's greatest treasure, Willie Nelson, has been popping up in films since 1979, playing everything from a no-scruples music manager, a vicious outlaw to Willie Nelson. It's been a pretty interesting career for Willie in the movies, so we decided to offer up a retrospective of his best roles.

1. The Electric Horseman

Willie's first film appearance came in a Sydney Pollack film that starred Robert Redford and Jane Fonda that dealt with a man's quest to liberate a horse from the world of being a corporate mascot and return it to the wild. It's very much a '70s ode to screwing over the man. Pollack praised his mostly improvised performance, and Nelson's contribution to the soundtrack made it a hit.

2. Thief

Michael Mann's feature debut is the stylistic forebear for Drive. In fact, at times it seems like Nicholas Winding-Refin lifted shots directly from the film. Staring James Caan as a jewel thief looking to settle down, the film traverses the underworld, never letting Caan gain too much ground. In a role that's almost a cameo, Nelson plays Caan's incarcerated best friend, Okla, who sets Caan on the road to trying to settle.

3. Barbarosa

Nelson's second staring role holds the distinction of being one of the best Western films most people have never seen. The American directing debut of well-regarded Australian director Fred Schepisi, Barbarosa tells the tale of a Texas farm boy who has to flee to Mexico after accidentally killing his brother-in-law. In Mexico he hooks up with Barbarosa who shows the boy how to survive in the elements. Nelson plays the role of Barbarosa perfectly, all slyness and restrained fury. The movie also features a still sane Gary Busey in the role of Karl, the boy from Texas.

4. Wag the Dog

Barry Levinson's pitch black take on the machinations at work behind political scandals features Willie playing a Rhinestoned' version of himself, leading a group of singers in a quickie charity production of a "We are the World"-like song. It's not the films most cynical moment, but it's damn close.  

5. Half Baked

The exact moment Willie stopped acting, and just started randomly appearing in movies to make jokes and smoke pot.

6. Surfer, Dude

Willie Nelson, Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey made a movie about Surfing, and commercialism or some shit. Let's just admit that someone's dealer had a huge payday during this shoot.

7. The Dukes of Hazzard

In 2005 it was decided that the world needed a Dukes of Hazzard movie that stars the guy from Jackass, the guy from American Pie, Jessica Simpson's breasts and Willie Nelson making a bunch of corny jokes and smoking weed out of an apple. It wasn't the best thing in the world, but it was pretty entertaining, and man some of those jokes Willie makes are killer.

8. Beerfest

Another in the long line of films where Willie Nelson smokes weed and makes jokes. Best film career ever? I mean it's gotta be between him and John Cazale right?

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