A new firefighter movie is on the way, with the upcoming film No Exit casting Josh Brolin and Miles Teller as the lead roles (with Jeff Bridges and Taylor Kitsch in supporting roles). It is based off the true story of the horrific 2013 wildfire in Prescott, Arizona that nearly killed an entire crew of firefighters. It is known as the Yarnell Hill Wildfire and it is considered one of the worst firefighter disasters in American history. Over 600 firefighters were deployed and the wildfire grew to over 8,400 acres. Out of the 20-person crew, nineteen were killed after becoming trapped by the fire. This will surely make for a memorable film, with powerful performances, as both Josh Brolin and Miles Teller have proven themselves to be capable of such in the past (see No Country For Old Men and Whiplash). This got us thinking of firefighters in film. Which actors playing firefighters have given some of the most memorable performances? These movies don’t necessarily need to be about firefighters specifically. The character simply needs to be a firefighter by profession (otherwise, this list would be severely limited, as you can see in our list of best firefighter movies, there are not that many significant and memorable movies with firefighting itself as a central focus). He are some of the most memorable movie firefighter performances.
Frank Sullivan (Frequency) - Played by Dennis Quaid, Frank Sullivan is the father of John Sullivan in the 2000 film Frequency. Frank and John communicate through time and space with the help of an old ham radio being used during the occurrence of an aurora borealis. In the beginning of the movie, Frank has been dead for decades, tragically having died in a warehouse fire while on duty. John sees an opportunity to play G-d and change the past when he sees he can communicate with his deceased father. It is a heart wrenching story at times and Dennis Quaid plays a Frank as a warm, committed, and caring father, and has you rooting for a father-son reunion from beginning to end. Currently, there is a TV adaptation of the film airing on the CW.
Gordy Brewer (Collateral Damage) - Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Gordy Brewer, a firefighter who is aiming for revenge after his wife and son are killed by a guerrilla commando. He travels to the congo to personally hunt down those responsible. As always, Arnold is entertaining to watch. Whether he is in a kitschy role such as his portrayal of Mr. Freeze in 1997’s Batman and Robin or in a more serious role such as his performance as Wade Vogel in the 2015 film Maggie, Arnold Schwarzenegger is always a joy to see on screen. While the film was not so well received, (only 19% on Rotten Tomatoes and 33/100 on Metacritic), Arnold doing his action-movie thing is something that never grows tired.
Jack Morrison (Ladder 49) - Joaquin Phoenix, an actor that can disappear into any role he’s placed into, plays Jack Morrison in this 2004 firefighter flick. Known for his roles in the movie Her and Gladiator, Phoenix shines in this role, as he tends to do. He literally overcame his fears for this role, as before the film he was afraid of heights and wasn’t even able to slide down the 20-foot fire pole. After his training, he was able to hang off the side of a 20-story building by a rappelling rope. He trained for a month at a fire academy as well as another month with the firefighters of Baltimore’s Truck 10, even becoming an honorary member. He was even nearly seriously injured while filming, as he almost got burned during one of the scenes. While this isn’t one of Phoenix’s most memorable roles, it is one of the more memorable performances by an actor, playing a firefighter.
Stephen ‘Bull’ McCaffrey (Backdraft) - Kurt Russell plays Stephen ‘Bull’ McCaffrey in this 1991 film about two Chicago firefighter brothers who must work together to catch a dangerous arsonist. It is a fun action movie to watch, getting nominated for Oscars for best sound, sound effects editing, and special effects. Russell is no stranger to action, as he is famous for his roles in The Thing, The Hateful Eight, Death Proof, and Escape From New York, among many others. He did many of his own stunts and even went to firefighter boot camp to prepare for the role, as director Ron Howard described his approach as “aggressive, but entertaining and totally honest.”
Do you agree with this list? What other memorable performances would you include? Sound off in the comments section down below and let us know your thoughts.
Barak Bacharach, SkySaver Content Manager