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10 Unforgettable Movies From The Late, Great Sam Shepard (1943-2017)

Some talents are just so enormous that they cannot be contained by a single medium. Sam Shepard was one such talent. Fans of the theater knew Sam Shepard as the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of Buried ChildTrue West and Simpatico, but movie lovers will also know him as the ruggedly handsome, intelligently masculine star of classic movies ranging multiple decades.

Sam Shepard died this weekend at the age of 73, leaving behind him a legacy of artistic accomplishments that would be the envy of anyone. His writing was superlative but his screen presence was almost otherworldly, as though a figure had emerged from a painting that represented American life, dignified and flawed and probably wearing a hat. Over the course of his cinematic tenure he became one of those indelible figures who could, in every single role, be trusted to imbue his films with sincerity and, at turns, sensitivity and grim determination.

As we mourn the passing of the late, incredible Sam Shepard, us film lovers will think back to our favorite movies and remember the profound impact his work has had on the medium, and in our personal lives. Let’s look back at the Sam Shepard movies that everyone should see, and nobody should forget.

Ten Unforgettable Sam Shepard Movies:

Terrence Malick's masterpiece stars Richard Gere and Brooke Adams as lovers who decide to con a wealthy, dying farmer, played by a young Sam Shepard, out of his land. But when Shepard marries the young woman, he starts getting healthier, and the plan goes disturbingly awry. Gorgeously photographed and impeccably acted.

Photo: Paramount Pictures

Sam Shepard co-starred with Jessica Lange, who earned an Oscar nomination for playing the title role in this tragic biopic about the life of actress Frances Farmer, who endured great hardships in her lifelong struggle with mental illness.

Photo: Universal Pictures

Philip Kaufman's celebrated, all-star story about America's first astronauts is, by now, officially an American classic. Sam Shepard stars as Chuck Yeager alongside Barbara Hershey, Ed Harris, Scott Glenn, Dennis Quaid, Fred Ward and Lance Henriksen.

Photo: Warner Bros.

Wim Wenders' drama about an amnesiac who wanders out of the desert in search of his old life is one of the celebrated motion pictures of the 1980s. Sam Shepard co-wrote the screenplay to Paris, Texas along with L.M. Kit Carson.

Photo: 20th Century Fox

The beloved adaptation of the hit play, about a group of fascinating, funny, emotional and powerful women who bond at their local hair salon, co-stars Sam Shepard as the husband of Dolly Parton's character. They may seem like an unlikely pair, but the two actors have earnest, natural chemistry.

Photo: TriStar

Ridley Scott's immersive and intense war drama stars an enormous ensemble cast of great actors, with Sam Shepard leading the way as Major General William F. Garrison, who has to coordinate an unthinkably FUBAR situation after a simple operation explodes into death and chaos.

Photo: Columbia Pictures

The biggest tearjerker of the 21st century co-stars Sam Shepard as the father of Ryan Gosling's character, as the young man falls in love with Rachel McAdams, unaware that their passion will take unexpected, tragic turns. Nicholas Sparks movies have never been Nicholas Sparksier.

Photo: New Line Cinema

Sam Shepard stars as Butch Cassidy - yes, the Butch Cassidy - in a sequel (of sorts) to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Shepard's version of the historical outlaw survived the infamous shootout, but gets caught up in one last adventure after he's robbed in an ambush. A smart, slick western that gives Shepard an opportunity to play up his rugged on-screen persona, and subvert what we think about a classic western.

Photo: Magnolia Pictures

Michael C. Hall kills a thief, and the thief's father - played by Sam Shepard - is looking for revenge in this acclaimed but little seen crime thriller from director Jim Mickle, adapted from a novel by Joe R. Lansdale  (Bubba Ho-Tep).

Photo: IFC Films

Sam Shepard played a small but pivotal role in Jeff Nichols' acclaimed drama Mud, but his reunion with the filmmaker yields an even more interesting performance. Shepard plays the leader of a cult who will stop at nothing to rescue/kidnap a boy he thinks is the messiah, and who may have supernatural powers. Smart and exceptional.

Photo: Warner Bros.
Top Photo: Paramount Pictures

William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and Canceled Too Soon, and watch him on the weekly YouTube series What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.