In Memoriam: Top 5 Gene Wilder Film Roles

Written by Jesse Gelinas September 02, 2016

"Would you like to see?"

“Would you like to see?”

We were all saddened by the passing of Gene Wilder this past Monday. He had spent decades of his life entertaining audiences young and old with his iconic characters, and wonderful mix of slapstick and deadpan comedy. We’ll all miss him dearly. To honour this legend of the screen, I’ve put together a countdown of Wilder’s best and most entertaining films roles, each a classic in its own way.

 

5. Dave Lyons, See No Evil, Hear No Evil (1989)

Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor in "See No Evil, Hear No Evil"

“Today I threatened to shoot a naked woman with my erection.”

This one has always been a personal favourite of mine because I love the chemistry between Pryor and Wilder. This buddy-tale about a blind man and a deaf man teaming up to clear their names of murder charges is just so silly. But oh-so entertaining. Watching his Dave tear into Pryor’s Wally for screaming in his ear to “test is deafness” is fantastic. Wilder also wrote the script here, showcasing another aspect of his comedic genius. It may not be the most memorable film in either actor’s career, but it deserves some love.

4. Jim “The Waco Kid,” Blazing Saddles (1974)

Gene Wilder in "Blazing Saddles"

“What’s a dazzling urbanite like you doing in a rustic setting like this?”

Now, we enter the Mel Brooks phase of this countdown. As the drunk, depressed, but still lightning-fast former gunslinger, “The Waco Kid,” Gene Wilder gets to shine in Brooks’ terrific western parody, while also satirizing the racial tensions of the time. The film contains an ensemble of great performances, but the Wace Kid is such an entertaining throwback to the western heroes of old, that he steals most of the spotlight. This one is a must-see.

3. Leo Bloom, The Producers (1968)

Gene Wilder in "The Producers"

“I’m in pain, and I’m wet, and I’m still hysterical!”

The film that put Gene Wilder on the map, also garnered him his first Oscar nomination (Best Supporting Actor). Alongside Max Bialystock, Wilder’s Leo Bloom sets out to make the biggest flop Broadway has ever seen, and cash out before the investors are any the wiser. Before the 2005 remake, or even the Broadway musical, this film was making audiences laugh at hilarious Nazi dance numbers. Wilder’s first major role was an absolute homerun, and led to multiple iconic collaborations with Brooks. Including…

2. Dr. Frederick Frankenstein, Young Frankenstein (1974)

Gene Wilder in "Young Frankenstein"

“Are you saying that I put an abnormal brain into a seven and a half foot long, fifty-four inch wide GORILLA?”

Gene Wilder co-wrote this 1974 along with Mel Brooks. This offbeat retelling of Mary Shelley’s horror classic, finds a descendent of the mad doctor (not going by “Fronkensteen”) inheriting the family home in Transylvania and reluctantly continuing his grandfather’s work of reanimating the dead. The movie is ridiculous and full of innuendo and dick jokes, and it’s just tremendous. Wilder’s transformation from bookish professor to mad-eyed scientist and back is a comedic tour-de-force, and well worth looking back on for fans of any of his or Brooks’ other works.

1. Willy Wonka, Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory (1971)

Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka

“The snozzberries taste like snozzberries!”

This one shouldn’t come as any surprise. Wonka is certainly Wilder’s most well-known and beloved role the world over. His whimsical zaniness, sharp wardrobe, and half-office cemented him in the minds of filmgoers everywhere. He was able to evoke terror in his chocolate river tunnel, and absolute wonder with his glass elevator. He surprised us time and time again, right from the first trick at the gates of is factory, keeping us on our toes for the duration of the tour. It’s a classic performance of a larger than life character, who reminds us in song that if we want to view paradise, simply look around and view it. That is his legacy.

We’ll miss you, Mr. Wilder. Thanks for everything.

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About Jesse Gelinas

After years attempting to escape the Matrix, Jesse has accepted his fate as a writer and Senior Editor. Now that's he finished with his film degree, it gives him something to do while waiting for the machines to get careless.

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