Anton Yelchin was a gifted and charismatic young actor whose recent tragic death robbed the film community of a bright talent. Coming from a refugee family fleeing Soviet Russia, Yelchin was six months old when he moved to California.
Starting his career at just nine for the indie flick A Man is Mostly Water before methodically moving through the independent landscape, Yelchin delighted audiences with his charming personality and everyman appeal.
After a respectable climb towards the forefront of indie radars, including a Best Performance nomination for his role in Hearts in Atlantis at the Young Artists Awards, he landed his big break in the cult-classic Charlie Bartlett.
He would go on to star in increasingly promising roles that included the high profile part of Checkov in J.J. Abram’s Star Trek reboot and opposite Felicity Jones in Drake Doremus’ Like Crazy.
He was almost unanimously considered a rare genuine gem within the cinematic industry and certainly was on the path towards even greater success. Here is a list of ten noteworthy films that demonstrate his infectious spirit and knack for performance.
10. Fright Night by Craig Gillespie
Playing apart yet another set of vampires in Fright Night, Yelchin stars in the raucous thriller-comedy as the heroic Charley Brewster. The fate of the neighborhood is in the hands of Charley after the sinister Jerry moves next door, who secretly is a vampire intent to corrupt others to be like him.
In another installment which is comparatively heavy among his resume, Yelchin demonstrates the ability to pull off an action roll with the necessary vivacity and grit.
Nearly single handedly saving the day with the help of his jeopardized girlfriend and mentor Peter, the film provided Yelchin with the opportunity to perform physical choreography and fight scenes in an exhilarating climax. His ability to perform perilous combat in hopes of defeating the villainous Jerry was larger than life, especially with the film’s wide release in 3D.
9. The Beaver by Jodie Foster
Jodie Foster is famed for un-conventional cinematic offerings and The Beaver is certainly no different. Following the descent into insanity of a man who relies on a beaver hand puppet to communicate and delegate most decisions in his life, the movie concentrates on the effects of mid-life crisis and loss of identity.
In it, Yelchin plays Porter, the son of the suffering Walter Black (appropriately played by Mel Gibson.) His unshakeable performance provides a stronghold against Gibson’s character’s attempt to re-enter their family life, entreating his mother to get a divorce.
Ultimately, Porter’s acceptance is the key element missing for his father’s recovery and Yelchin plays the resisting, resentful Porter with appropriate delicacy and believability.
8. Rudderless by William H. Macy
Playing the encouraging young music enthusiast who collides upon a grieving’s father nose-dive following his son’s death, Yelchin is mesmerizing in Rudderless. The 2014 directed William H. Macy is a wrecking character piece that follows events which are hauntingly relevant in recent years.
After his son’s death among a deadly college shooting, father Sam lives reclusively and nearly always inebriated. Yelchin’s character, Quentin, unleashes a new chapter in Sam’s life that the film will follow- encouraging Sam to expand upon the song Quentin heard him playing locally, which is actually a work of his deceased son’s.
The film is a lovingly made study of the process of grief among difficult circumstances, especially considering the true nature of Sam’s son’s death which sends everyone into a tailspin.
Yelchin plays the figure who ostensibly assumes the position of son figure to Sam, idyllically focusing on the promise of their music rather than Sam’s numerous short-fallings. Quentin retains his principles through the difficult narrative arc of the film and is yet again an impressive sampling of Yelchin’s emotional spectrum.
7. Only Lovers Left Alive by Jim Jarmusch
Nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and immersed in a tangle of dark mythology and pop culture, Only Lovers Left Alive was another foray of Yelchin’s into the experimental underbelly of the indie scene.
Playing a gullible rock and roll savant, Yelchin’s Ian is drawn into the ancient dysfunction of a small circle of vampires living in 21st century California. He perpetuates the pure, unassuming type-cast that frequents his career in a naïve role that plays right into vampire Ava’s, played by Mia Wasikowska, recklessness and his ultimate murder.
The film in general is a seedy, seductive portrait of an eroding portion of humanity in a fictional universe, with Yelchin representing an untainted youthfulness that is doomed for destruction.
6. Like Crazy by Drake Doremus
Drake Doremus’ 2011 film is partially based off his own youthful affair with a woman from London, and was well received at the Sundance Film Festival, receiving the coveted Grand Jury Prize.
It follows the relationship between an American student, played by Yelchin, and a British exchange student who is barred from re-entering the US due to over-staying her student visa.
Reminiscent of similar off-beat romances such as 5oo Days of Summer, the film follows the ensuing complications of long distance relationships and the challenges and rewards of falling in love. Yelchin plays half of the central duo with great sensitivity that as ever yields a realness to his character that was in great part molded by him alone.
One of the distinguishing production strategies of the film was to provide only an outline of the narrative and allow the actors involved to improv as they went for the majority of the shooting.
This approach yielded further opportunity for Yelchin to stretch his legs, so to speak, into blending his own sensibilities with that of his character. He seems to be able to seamlessly introduce aspects of himself while retaining the integrity of a disparate character, a talent which is flawlessly exercised in one of his most well-recognized roles.