I don’t know what I love more about Udo Kier, the fact that he has one of the best, most recognizable faces in cinematic history, or that, with more than 200 roles to his name, he manages to make most all of them memorable. Whether it’s big budgets, tiny indies, cult sensations, or iconic classics, no role is too big (or, more importantly) too small for Kier to own.
It’s funny, although Udo Kier is often typecast as The Foreboding German Man, there’s an eclectic variety to his body of work that I find immensely appealing. Now, although I am a fan of Kier’s work, I certainly haven’t seen everything he’s done (hell… has anyone?). The roles below are simply my favorites of the ones I’ve seen. As always, feel free to share some of your preferred Udo Kier characters in the comments.
Flesh for Frankenstein (1973)
Baron von Frankenstein
With his role as Frankenstein (and as Count Dracula in the similarly-produced Blood for Dracula released the next year), a cult sensation was born.
My Own Private Idaho (1991)
Either way, because Kier is often typecast, it’s great to see him go all in and seriously ham it up in a movie like My Own Private Idaho. Thank God Van Sant had the nerve to approach Kier about this role in the first place. No other actor could pull it off the way he did.
Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done (2010)
Michael Shannon) holds people hostage inside his San Diego home, Lee tells the police of Brad’s slow descent into darkness.
One thing I love most about Udo Kier is his sense of restraint. Lee Meyers is well groomed, put together, and frequently reluctant to tell the police more about Brad than he has to. There’s a particular refinement to Kier’s best roles that I’m always drawn to. I only hope he has the chance to make more films with Herzog. The two were born to work together.
The Best of the Best
Breaking the Waves (1996)
I saw Breaking the Waves before any of the five Kier performances above, which means, while I knew Udo Kier, I didn’t really know what he could do. I knew him as the corporate vampire in Blade, the humble billionaire in Ace Ventura, the shrink in Armageddon – I knew him as the guy with the unique face who occasionally popped up in popular American films. It wasn’t until Breaking the Waves that I became fully aware of his command.
In the film, Kier plays a menacing sailor who orders an unwilling prostitute (the fearless Emily Watson) to have sex with another man in front of him. Now, the second I saw Kier come on screen in this film, I knew to be afraid. With his bald head, sweaty face, and determined stare, I knew this actor was capable of far more than throwaway roles in blockbuster films. I knew he was a force to be reckoned with, and I only wanted to see more of him. Breaking the Waves opened my eyes as to what Udo Kier can do, and that is one hell of a memorable feat.
Other Notable Roles
Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980)
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994)
The Kingdom (1994)
Johnny Mnemonic (1995)
Barb Wire (1996)
The Kingdom II (1997)
The End of Violence (1997)
End of Days (1999)
Dancer in the Dark (2000)
Surviving Christmas (2004)
Grindhouse – Segment: Werewolf Women of the SS (2007)
Iron Sky (2012)