Sir Christopher Lee was an actor of outstanding gravitas, he had a booming voice and an astonishing presence every time he appeared on screen. Christopher Lee was an exceptionally versatile actor with a knack of playing diabolical villains from vampires to wizards and cult leaders to Jedi Knights who crossed the path over to the dark side but whenever the script called for him to do so he could play heroes and sympathetic characters with great pathos.
The most amazing thing about Christopher Lee was the impact he had on many generations. The older generation were frightened by his performances in the Hammer Horror films whilst the younger generation found his talents compelling in the blockbuster franchises of the Lord of the Rings series and Star Wars. Both generations found him to be a captivating onscreen presence.
Lee and his close friend Peter Cushing were icons of Hammer Horror and their contribution to the horror genre will never be forgotten. Outside of his acting his career, Lee was a war hero, Nazi hunter, musician and author. Here are five great performances from a staggering list of over 250 film credits.
At a towering height of 6 foot 4, Christopher Lee made an incredibly imposing Dracula. His presence and striking height was enough to strike terror into even the bravest vampire hunter. Dracula (1958) is the most iconic and perhaps the best film that combined the talents of Terrence Fisher, Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. Performances in films with limited dialogue like Dracula, The Mummy and Frankenstein proved that Christopher Lee was a great physical actor capable of playing terrifying characters with limited dialogue. He could also portray sympathetic characters and display emotion without speaking a word.
The Devil Rides Out
Another great Hammer Horror film, and one Christopher Lee regards as his best with the studio, sees Christopher Lee move away from playing villains to play a hero with dashing charm. His scenes with Charles Grey (also an ex James Bond villain) are juicy.
The Wicker Man
The Wicker Man was hardly a big hit back when it was released in 1973 mainly because it didn't fill the studio with confidence. As a result it was released as a second feature to Don't Look Now (double bill horror perfection) but Robin Hardy's horror film is the definitive cult film. Christopher Lee's performance in the often restored horror classic is charming and charismatic but has definite undertones of menace, exactly how a cult leader should be played. Along with Dracula, Christopher Lee’s menacing performance puts Lord Summerisle high on a plinth of memorable horror villains. If you have yet to see this film, it is time to make your appointment with The Wicker Man.
The Man with the Golden Gun
It may perhaps be the worst film in the entire Bond franchise, but it does contain the franchise's best stunt and the best villain. Christopher Lee was Ian Fleming's cousin and was always tipped to play Bond. It was a role he would have undoubtedly nail but instead it went to Sean Connery. The camp Roger Moore era would have never suited Lee, instead he went on to play the finest of villains bringing some dignity and threat to the Roger Moore era.
I could go for the obvious two suggestions (Star Wars and Lord of the Rings) but I'll go for something else instead. Death line also sees Lee act alongside a former Bond villain in the shape of Donald Pleasence. Lee himself is only in this film for two minutes but it only takes two minutes for Lee's sinister MI5 agent, Stratton-Villiers, to leave a massive impact.
However, for all his great performances, Lee considers his most important work was when he played the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in Jinnah. Sadly, this film a difficult one to find and not widely seen.