Born on May 12 1950 in Dublin, Byrne had several careers including teaching and archaeology and even considered being a priest at one point. At the age of 29 he joined Dublin’s Focus and Abbey theaters and two years later he was cast in a recurring role in the famous Irish TV show, The Riordans. Only in 1981 did Byrne make his big screen debut in Excalibur. His TV and silver screen career has gone from strength to strength since.
In honor of his birthday we got curious and turned to the film review aggregator, Rotten Tomatoes, to take a look at Byrne’s top ten most popular movies of all time:
1. Defence of the Realm (1985)
This movie got full marks (100%) from the Rotten Tomato critics. The political thriller takes its title from the 1914 Defence of the Realm Act (DORA), which was passed in the United Kingdom at the start of World War One. This act gave the government executive powers to suppress criticism, imprison people without trial and commandeer economic resources. Byrne plays Nicholas 'Nick' Mullen, a journalist writing an expose.
2. Miller's Crossing (1990)
This Coen Brothers directed and produced neo-noir gangster movie with elements of black comedy follows the power struggle between two rival gangs and how the protagonist (Byrne) plays off both sides. TIME magazine voted it one of the top 100 greatest films ever made, in 2005.
3. Little Women (1994)
In the 1994 movie adaptation of Little Women, the Louisa May Alcott novel, Byrne plays Friedrich Bhaer, a German professor who challenges and stimulates her intellectually, in New York.
4. The Usual Suspects (1995)
Easily the most famous of Byrne’s role he plays the role of Keaton a criminal alongside Benicio del Toro, Kevin Pollak, Chazz Palminteri, Pete Postlethwaite and Kevin Spacey. The movie follows the interrogation of Roger “Verbal” Kint a small time conman who gets caught up in a massacre. The move won two Oscars and ranks on the Writer's Guild of America ranks the film as having the 35th greatest screenplay of all time.
5. Spider (2002)
Byrne plays the role of Bill Cleg in this Canadian / British, David Cronenberg directed, psychological thriller. The movie follows a mentally disturbed man (superbly performed by Ralph Fiennes) who takes residence in a halfway house. His mind gradually slips back into the realm created by his illness, where he replays a key part of his childhood.
6. Excalibur (1981)
This Arthurian romance, directed, produced and co-written by John Boorman, gave Byrne his big break. The movie is based solely on the romance, Le Morte d'Arthur by Thomas Malory. The film has been acknowledged for its importance to the Irish filmmaking industry and for helping launch the film and acting careers of a number of Irish and English actors, including Liam Neeson, Gabriel Byrne, Neil Jordan, Patrick Stewart, Helen Mirren and Ciarán Hinds.
7. Into the West (1993)
An Irish classic this magical realist film about an Irish Traveller family and their horse was written by Jim Sheridan and directed by Mike Newell. The movie, in which Byrne plays the two lead character’s father, Papa Reilly, was one of the major movies to come out of Ireland during the 1990s.
8. Frankie Starlight (1995)
This move is described in its own trailer as “My Left Foot’s Little Brother.” Based on the best- selling novel The Dork of Cork it tells the story of Frank Bois a man looking back over his life. Byrne plays a kind-hearted customs agent who allows Bois’ mother to enter Ireland illegally.
9. Dead Man (1995)
This American Western movie, by Jim Jarmusch, star Johnny Depp, Billy Bob Thornton, Iggy Pop, John Hurt and others alongside Byrne. The “psychedelic” western follows accountant William Blake on the run having murdering a man. He encounters a strange North American man, named Nobody, who prepares him for his journey into the spiritual world.
10. Louder Than Bombs (2015)
This movie is only being released in April 2016 in Ireland but it’s already receiving rave reviews. It tells the tale of a fractious family of a father (Byrne) and two sons (one of whom is Jesse Eisenberg) as they confront their different feelings and memories of their deceased wife and mother, a famed war photographer.
H/T: Rotten Tomatoes.