Gene Wilder Best Films Ranked
Gene Wilder, born Jerome Silberman in Milwaukee on June 11th, 1933, was a beloved actor who worked mainly in the ’70s and ’80s. Not only that but he directed and wrote several films and wrote a few books including his 2005 memoir. Sadly, he died in 2016 on August 19 in Stamford, Connecticut from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. During his career he worked with Mel Brooks in three movies, Young Frankenstein being his favorite, his pal Richard Pryor in four movies, and started Gilda’s Club which honored his late wife Gilda Radner of SNL fame.
Let’s take a look at some of our favorite films.
Behold the Wonkamobile
Of course, he is perhaps best known as Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971). Based on the book by Roald Dahl, he is still considered the best Willy Wonka by many after several remakes of the film. The film was not very popular at first but has since amassed a cult following. The movie earned Wilder his first Best Actor nomination for a Golden Globe Award. While he didn’t win, it is no surprise that his whimsical take on such an iconic character truly lives on forever.
My Name Is Jim. But Most People Call Me… Jim.
Another one of Wilder’s top roles was in Mel Brooks’ film Blazing Saddles (1974). The film is extremely politically incorrect and that’s what often makes it hilarious. Wilder proved that he had the comedic chops in this Wild West parody film. While it is certainly not a film that would be remade today, fans can appreciate it for what it was. Silly, goofy, and meant to be insulting with a satisfying ending.
Wilder and Richard Pryor teamed up in 1976’s Silver Streak. He plays a book editor named George Caldwell who gets on the train, the Silver Streak, to head to his sister’s wedding. Unfortunately, he finds himself all caught up in a murder scheme. At first, fans didn’t really see the chemistry between Pryor and Wilder but once they saw the film, they knew it was magic. It led to two more films starring the pair including Stir Crazy and See No Evil, Hear No Evil.
In one of his earlier films, Wilder played accountant Leo Bloom in The Producers (1967). His character works with Broadway producer Max Bialystock (Zero Mostel) to come up with a musical called Springtime for Hitler that will earn them big bucks but just for one night. Unfortunately, the show becomes a campy hit and chaos ensues. This was one of Brooks’ first films as well and won him an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
It’s Pronounced “Frankensteeen”
Wilder and Brooks worked together again in Young Frankenstein (1974). It was a black-and-white spoof of horror films from the ’30s. Wilder co-wrote the script which saw him play Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Frankensteeen) who tries to reanimate a monster. Wilder got another Oscar nomination for co-writing the script and many people still love this movie and consider it one of Brooks’ and Wilder’s best.
For more on Gene, the documentary Remembering Gene Wilder came out earlier this year. It is currently doing the movie festival circuit and is hoped to be streaming later this year or early next year. You can follow us on social for any screening updates.